A Mideast Rerun
Yesterday was a a day of tragedy.
I will not second guess Israel's efforts at self defense because, unlike the Israelis, I don't have to live with the consequences of either action or inaction, but the fact that such actions may have been necessary does not minimize their tragic nature, it amplifies it.
Everybody knows what a Mideast Peace would look like and no one knows how to get there. Those on both sides who live in denial of these facts, including Gaza's Hamas rulers and most of the Lkud slate in next year's election (though possibly not Mr. Netanyahu) doom the world to more days like yesterday.
Most of the balance of what I would say about this matter, I said two years ago during a similar time--most of the material which is dated can be remedied by substituting the word "Hamas" for the word "Hezbollah."
The remaining portions which seem dated (except for the ill-advised jokes about DDDB) only reminds us that curing the very real suffering of the Palestinian people (if that can be done in spite of their leadership) won't necessarily solve the problem.
That being said, here's another Gatemouth rerun:
Give Peace A Chanceposted by Gatemouth
Thu, 08/10/2006 - 12:32am
We’re a left wing Zionist Movement, and we believe Israel has the right to defend itself, We’re not pacifists. Unlike in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel isn’t occupying Lebanese territory or trying to control the lives of Lebanese. The only occupier is Hezbollah, and Israel is trying to defend itself.”
Yariv Oppenheimer, General Secretary-Peace Now
“The Whole focus of debate in the country before the war was on withdrawal…the country had just elected for the first time a prime minister who promised voters to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank in return for nothing"
Yaron Ezrah (Israeli Political Theorist)
I am truly saddened by the death and devastation being suffered by both Lebanese and Israelis, but there is no evidence that the government of Lebanon, or any other Arabic or Islamic government has done anything to help the Lebanese people fight for their lives. If the governments of the Arabic and Islamic worlds were truly interested in helping the Lebanese, they would have seen to the compliance with UN resolutions, specifically the disarming of Hezbollah, rather than turning a blind eye to, or actually facilitating, its rearmament. Instead, they’ve behaved like Typhoid Mary who kept refusing to wash her hands before going to work in the City's kitchens. The consequences of this inaction have cost countless lives on both sides of the border.
Contrast this to that sad but stirring day in 1948 when David Ben-Gurion ordered Yitzhak Rabin to open fire on the ship full of weapons under Menachem Begin's command which Begin intended to use for his own private terrorist army. As Abba Eban pointed out, the sinking of the Altalena was the day on which Israel truly became a nation. When will the Arab world grow up and show the same maturity?
As an unrelenting critic of the Zionist Right, who's publicly called for a political quarantine of a powerful New York Rabbi, I certainly don't equate all criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism. But, those who support every national liberation movements except the one for the Jewish people can only be said to have a Jew problem; and those who find a rationale for every unspeakable act committed by homophobe Fidel Castro, or for the terrorist flavor of the month, can certainly cut Israel a little slack for overexuberance in the pursuit of survival, and if not, one has to ask troubling questions about their casual attitude towards Jewish life. There is a certain type of anti-Israel commentary which creates a rebutable presumption of anti-Semitism. When sincere critics of some of Israel's actions start repudiating such blood libel, I will abandon such presumptions.
Let’s face facts. Hezbollah is not a Palestinian movement; it is based in Lebanon, a country with which Israel has no border disputes, and, up until recently, it did not suffer occupation by unwanted Israelis. Israelis long ago had their fill of Lebanon, and would not be there if they had been left alone. To say Hezbollah opposes Israeli policies, or the Israeli occupation, misses the point; Hezbollah opposes Israel in any form and wants it wiped off the map. Hezbollah’s Syrian benefactors have barely expressed interest in Palestine, as they consider all of Israel to be a part of their manifest destiny. When one is attacked by a group which is committed to your destruction, and is without fear of death, the only proportional response is overwhelming force. Israeli defense doctrine, as formulated by David Ben-Gurion, is that tiny Israel should immediately carry the fighting “deep into enemy territory to protect its civilian rear”. Ensuring the survival and the security of its population are the sine qua non of a nation state; as Rabbi Hillel once said, “all the rest is commentary”.
Despicably, Hezbollah hides itself among civilian populations (the term innocents is, in some cases, debatable, as some of the civilian cooperation is voluntary). Responding to such an enemy is problematic, as one must choose between avoiding attacking them in their base or, in the alternative, killing civilians. For Hezbollah, it’s a win-win situation, as either they survive to kill another day, or force Israel to acquire bloody hands in front of an international audience; it’s all good. By contrast, Hezbollah enjoys no such Hobson’s choices, their whole aim is to commit murderous mayhem among civilian targets; causing the death of military personnel is almost an incidental bonus. There are no concessions Israel can make to Hezbollah to end the violence, as they have no grievances with Israel which can be addressed by anything but mass consumption by Jewish Israelis of Kool-Aid.
Has Israel made missteps? In an e-mail, left of center blogger Michael Bouldin, who I wish would write more on this topic, states “If I were Olmert, I would have extended an ultimatum to the Lebanese, to the effect 'You take care of Hezbollah, or we do'. That organization is as much of a concern, I think, to Beirut as it is to Jerusalem; at the least, an ultimatum would have made clear that the Lebanese can't handle them. Then, I would have refrained from hitting targets that look bad in the press, as cynical as it sounds; if it bleeds, it leads, as they say. I think Olmert's unquestionably in the right as to his objective; it's the execution that bothers me.” Ironically, the change in policy Bouldin advocates is primarily cosmetic. I wouldn’t quite call this pandering to world opinion hypocritical; just the opposite, in fact. Hypocrisy is famously “the tribute vice pays to virtue”; given that world opinion has the blood of more Jews upon its hands than Hitler, I would say this is more like “the tribute virtue pays to vice”.
In contrast to Hezbollah, Palestinians at least have a cognizable issue with Israel, and a cognizable end game. But, their grievance is really with their own “leadership". Palestinians are seemingly the only former British colonials who didn't learn the lessons of the Irish liberation.
Michael Collins was a hero because, though passionate for an Irish state, he understood the only realistic choice was partition, and abandonment of his dream of a united Irish state. He took a bullet for his trouble, but his people got their state, and those who killed him never managed any better.
Similarly the Indians also took partition, and got two (now three) separate states.
Ben-Gurion too understood partition as the only realistic alternative. Offered an unsatisfying mini-state; he said yes. The Palestinians said no, and for over half a century have continued to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Moreover, as has been noted, Ben-Gurion understood that statehood meant a monopoly of force, and ruthlessly dealt with those who did not go along. See above for the story of the Altalena; Ben-Gurion had learned the proper lesson about the death of Michael Collins.
Arafat learned all the wrong lessons. Like Collins giving up the dream of a united Ireland, Ben-Gurion gave up the dream of Greater Israel and got his people a state; his own rejectionists were coerced into submission by the barrel of a shotgun. By contrast, the Palestinians rejected partition and got nothing for their troubles but 20 years of Egyptian and Jordanian occupation, followed by 40 years' occupation by the Israelis. At Oslo, the Palestinians were offered as much as they were ever going to get from an Israeli leader (admittedly, much less than they would have gotten from the 1947 partition, but inaction has its consequences), but Arafat, fearing murder by his rejectionists, chose the certainty of avoiding death over the uncertainties of obtaining a nation for his people; of course, in the end he got neither. Never have a people been so ill served by their leadership; of course, they can proudly serve as role models for DDDB.
Up until recently, it looked as if the Israeli’s had taken the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections as a sign that there was no partner for negotiations. The question became whether one wanted to expend their blood and treasure defending borders quarantined behind a fence, or defending settlements of little strategic value. In their own election, the Israelis chose the former. The attrition from the 47 partition to the 48 state to Oslo and now the fence continued apace, with the Palestinian homeland shrinking bit by bit with each new rejection as the Palestinians continue to refuse to take “yes” for an answer, but always act shocked when the answer changed to “no”. But what’s left of the homeland is obviously still not small enough for Hamas, who began their own terrorist attacks from Gaza coinciding with those of Hezbollah from Lebanon. American soldiers bogged down in Iraq must be green with envy over Israel’s ability to make Sunnis and Shiites work together in harmony.
Now, as a result of battles at both fronts, Olmert, still convinced that unilateral withdraw is the only answer, felt compelled, more than would have been his right wing opposition, to send a message that withdrawal did not mean weakness, and that his plan would not put Israel into danger. If he cannot prove his case to the Israeli public, withdrawal of any kind is probably doomed for another generation. Those with any real concern for the national aspirations of the Palestinian people should be praying for an Israeli victory over Hezbollah.
(Gatemouth wishes to thank Michael Bouldin, without whose insights, not all of which I agreed with, this column would not have been possible)
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