"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

John Pilger, Hizbollah and Israel

The resistance to rapacious power, to epic crimes of invasion (which the Nuremberg judges called the "paramount" crime) is humanity at its noblest; yet the paradox warns us that no resistance is pretty; that each adds its own form of violence in order to expel an invader (such as the civilians killed by Hizbollah rockets); and this has applied to heroic partisans in Europe and heroic Kurds and those faceless, despised Iraqis who have succeeded in pinning down the American homicidal machine in their country.

So wrote John Pilger recently. The Arab-Israeli conflict is an agonising, bitter, protracted conflict, hope resolution of which has teetered and flickered for a long time. Deep and bitter wounds have gashed both sides. The Palestinian Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank live in often pitiful, dangerous conditions; they have no state of their own, they have little economic prospects or opportunity. Israel is a small democracy which has several times in its short existence come close to destruction upon being invaded with that express purpose by neghbouring states. There are no easy solutions to the conflict, despite the argument heard in many quarters: If only Israel would turn over the West Bank and Gaza and southern Lebanon to their rightful owners, then peace would be declared; its neighbours would lose their reasons for hostility. Well this decade has seen Israel depart from the last two areas, only to see its enemies (this time non-state terrorist groups) Hamas and Hizbollah use these areas as (quite literally) launching pads for further assaults upon it. Both groups operate in the governments of their countries, yet both operate private militias and have remained intent on attacking Israel. They declare their intent to destroy Israel. Fortunately they do not today have the means to carry out that threat. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is building a uranium cycle that would give it the capability to produce nuclear weapons, is a patron of both.

Against that background, Hizbollah (with, porbably, as I pointed out here, Iranian assistance) planned and launched a cross-border raid, killing eight Israeli soldiers, and returning across the border with their two companions as hostages. Southern Lebanon, as has often been remarked in recent days, is something of a "state within a state". It is run by Hizbollah, not the sovereign democratic government of Lebanon. The world has witnessed one major example recently of the same phenomenon. This was Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden's terrorist network trained its operatives and planned the events of September 11, 2001. The government there, the Taliban, could not and/or would not restrain or remove them. Quite the contrary. Now there is no evidence that the Lebanese government sanctioned or approved of Hizbollah's raid into Israel. There is no reason to believe they would have given approval, should Hizbollah have sought it.

The dilemma facing the attacked state is largely the same in both instances though. America's coalition simply swept the Taliban from power (although the country is not stable yet in significant places); Israel does not have the same option. It sought rather to remove the virus but leave the host intact. This was probably never likely to be accomplished without severe destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure and very large loss of life, to a larger degree than seen so far. That is assuming it was ever a viable proposition. I'm not convinced it was ever doable; Israel's generals seem to have quite hubristically in planning their offensive.

I don't deny Israel's right to defend itself. Quite the opposite; that right must be affirmed and the world bears historic responsibility to see that it is upheld. I simply seek to point that the problems it faces are deeply complex.

That is why I find articles like Pilger's so unhelpful, not to say repulsive. Unhelpful, because,a mong other things, he brushes over (indeed seems to praise) Hizbollah's complicity, and entirely ignores Iran's. Repulsive because he twice uses metaphors associated with the Nazis (Ribbentropp and Nuremberg) in his condemnation of America and Israel. I would have no thoughtful commentator would use such expressions in reference Israel. His quote above also fails to make any moral distinctions between insurgent/resistant movements. He fails to distinguish between Hizbollah, the Iraqi insurgency (with all its own strands and motivations), Eastern Europe's resistane to Communism and the Kurds' resistance to Saddam Hussein. I don't mean to defend everything Israel has done in the last few weeks. Indeed its targeting of the U.N. compound is very difficult to see as anything other than callous and disgraceful. (The evidence is stacked against that incident having been unintentional.) But painting Hizbollah like heroes and Israel as the opposite, as Pilger does, is a grotesque warping of reality.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No doubt about it. The problems in that part of the world go back, if you want to really look at it, thosands of years. Or else to the imposition of and break-up of the world's empires in the late 19th and early 20th century. Or it comes from just after the second world war, and all the horrors that that conflict inflicted on all races, particularly those groups or races targetted for 'extermination' by the Nazis. Or the 60's and 70's with the Arab-Israeli conflicts or... The list can go on until the next attack, bombing or slaughter.

However, I do think that Israel's campaign, especially at the start with it's bombing of Lebanon's infrastructure, bridges, power plants, roads, the airport, etc., seemed more concerned with damaging Lebanon than Hezbollah. They have a turned a country that was very much divided in its support for Hezbollah and Syria and turned them into supporters of them.

John Bolton, interim US ambassador to the UN, in a published but later retracted statement issued during his confirmation hearings, said that there is no moral equivalence between an Israeli civillian killed by terrorists and lebanese civillians killed by Israeli armed forces trying to kill hezbollah members.

Senior Israeli ministers claimed that a lack of agreement at the recent summit in Rome to call for a ceasefire amounted to approval for their actions

A warning to Lebanese civillians living in the South of the country that if they didn't leave within 24 hours they would be treated as hezbollah members took no account of the fact that the Israelis have bombed ambulances, bridges, roads, UN bases and other non-military targets. So the choice they are effectively giving these people is leave and you'll be under fire, stay and you'll be under fire.

These are all actions and statements that deserve to be condemned. Of course Hezbollah is wrong in what it is doing, its actions are a crime and don't deserve to be glorified, but if Israel, with the support of the US, hadn't reacted in such a disproportionate way, then Hezbollah would not be seen as being defending heros. Through their actions, the Israelis have, outside of the US, lost their morale high ground in this current conflict, they are now seen as agressors and that allows Hezbollah to portray themselves as defenders of their people, instead of the crazy religious fundamentalists they are.

Wed Aug 02, 01:05:00 PM GMT+1  

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