Saturday, July 22, 2006

Random Thoughts on Israel-Lebanon

1. Cease-fire. There's a lot of all-or-nothing talk regarding a cease-fire. Israel and its patron--us--say no cease-fire because...well...that would only help the Hezbollah terrorists who've "provoked" the current crisis. But why not call for a cease-fire concerning Beirut and all points central and north in Lebanon? There's justification for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon, where their power base is and from where they're launching rocket attacks into northern Israel. So why is the notion of a cease-fire being talked about as if it has to be a total cease-fire or none at all?

2. Disproportionate force. The Israeli bombing of Beirut has been way over the top, outrageous and immoral. There's anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million refugees and dislocated persons as a result, not to mention hundreds of civilians already dead from the attacks.

3. Forcing a crisis. The motive of Israel's over-reaching seems to be to provoke an international crisis. Israel probably thinks that absent a crisis of monumental proportions, Hezbollah would never be disarmed per the United Nations Security Council resolution 1559 and for the lasting peace of the Lebanon-Israel border generally.

4. The Bush-Rice response to the Israeli attacks has been despicable. Digby says Rice's They've put all the blame on Hezbollah, and talked about the group's attacks on northern Israel as if no broader, more destructive attacks on Lebanon were being conducted by Israel. Hezbollah did "start" the current series of events by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers. But the rocket attacks into northern Israel didn't start until after the knee-jerk air attacks on Beirut by Israel.

4a. Digby says: "The Bush administration are monsters. That is not hyperbole. There can be no other explanation as to why the secretary of state, the person in charge of American diplomacy, would be so crude and stupid... Jesus. They don't even know how to fake it anymore. Isn't it at least smart to pretend you care about the dying children?"

4b. What Glenn Greenwald says.

5. Media coverage. I generally only watch CNN and for the most part, it's coverage (except for Lou Dobbs) has been OK; they've paid attention to the refugee crisis and to the Israeli destruction of Beirut generally. They continue to raise the question of Israeli's disproportionate response. But the Bush administration and most American pundits have been tone deaf to the consequences of Israel's actions.

6. Lasting peace. I referenced Richard Cohen's op-ed yesterday in which the Wash Post columnist alluded to Israel's 1948 creation and location in the midst of Arab Muslims having been a mistake. I don't know if that is true. As I mentioned, Egypt and Jordan have ultimately established peaceful relations with Israel, so it doesn't strike me as completely impossible for the surrounding governments to peacefully accomodate the Jewish state. But lasting peace won't be possible if Israel destroys Lebanon and scatters half or more of it's four million people. And the damage has probably already been done now, regardless of whether an eventual cease-fire and international force in southern Lebanon is agreed to.

7. Long term implications. Although Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia's governments have issued official statements condemning Hezbollah, I can't help but think that the response on the Arab Street is and in the future will be, anything but further inflammation against Israel. I doubt any of us living well in the U.S. have any sense of what it's like to be living as most Arabs live in the Middle East. We had two skyscrappers and 3,000 people killed and we freaked out. Arab countries have the rough equivalent of 911 on an almost continual basis. If you think the nationalist response from Americans after 911 was significant, take that reaction to the nth power for a sense of how humiliated most Arabs probably feel, given the poverty most Arabs live under and how little their governments represent their aspirations (Bush is largely right on this point although the new "democracy" in Iraq he has helped create does not appear to be either stabile or supportive of our Israeli friends).

7a. James Wolcott says we're complicit in our government's contribution to the massacre in Lebanon, not to mention the civil war in Iraq. And he's right. I don't know if World War III has started, but I can see our unapologetic defense of Israel's savagery causing many of us who gave the administration a pass on Iraq to start taking to the streets and withdrawing our support and discontinuing our enabling of our society for sanctioning this new war.

8. If you don't know this already, Juan Cole is the preminent Middle Eastern commenter around these parts. Go read up. He's generally pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian. But if you want the Israeli view point, you can get that on just about any cable network.

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