Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:41 pm 
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A crisis like the war on Lebanon always reveals that many Americans only know what the media tells them. They're easy pushovers for whatever spin the Bush administration wants to put on things. It's essential from Washington's point of view that Israel must always be considered the wronged party. It seems to be easily ignored that the Palestinians who still live on their former land are now confined to a vast prison divided into cantons, surrounded by walls and checkpoints, subject to "targeted assassinations" and now, bombardments. For Israel, it seems that the Arabs are alternately terrorists, or nonexistent. The ultimate responsibility for the perpetual hostility in the Middle East region goes back to Israel, and Israel is a country created by the western powers. It was a bad mistake to establish a Zionist-inspired Jewish "homeland" in the land of Palestine. People were already living there. When I reminded a friend of mine of this, he wrote back, "Oh yeah, nobody thought of the Palestinians at the time. . ." Of course that isn't accurate. Plenty of people thought of the Palestinians. Zionist terrorist groups worked ceaselessly to force the Palestinians off their lands and take them over. Western Europe was perfectly aware of the Arab inhabitants of the region at the time. But there was strong western pressure to appease the Jews (to somehow make up for centuries of persecution), and the Arabs in the whole Greater Syria region were dispersed and weak, so they were deliberately disregarded. You can say the Palestinians' interests were ignored.

"The Hezbollahs [sic]," my friend wrote, "are a dangerous group of people that are supported by Iran and Syria. They couldn't wait for the slightest offense to start shooting hundreds of rockets across the border. And they provoked the whole thing. So, while it's sad, the world would be better off without the Hezbollahs digging trenches and building bunkers, stocking rockets just miles off the border, and getting to do what ever they please while the government of Lebanon just watches helplessly."

"Hezbollahs" -- my friend seems to think they're like ayatollahs. At least he called them "a group of people," and not "terrorists" or "an army." Like Hamas, but unconnected to Hamas, they are a party with a military wing that has a record of clean popular governance in the region. They organized in 1982 to drive out the Israeli occupation which hung on there for twenty years. Many Israelis don't want their army to make the mistake of getting stuck there again, but that could be coming. Lebanon, small as it is, has always been factional, with pockets controlled by warlords. Arguably Hezbollah is needed, but many Lebanese have resented and feared their presence, obviously for good reason. It is the weakness of Lebanon's government that explains the continued presence of Hezbollah.

The chain of events

1. Israel. Back to Israel, because Israel with its militarism and irredentism is the underlying source of all this. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out Israel has a program of annexing all the valuable lands of the Palestinians on the West Bank, whether this is called "convergence" or "withdrawal", along with control of the resources, notably including water, dividing these lands into cantons and imprisoning the inhabitants. Israel on June 24 abducted two Gaza civilians. In retaliation the next day Gaza militants abducted an Israeli soldier (Gilad Shalit) This provocation has led to Gaza being bombarded by Israel ever since: collective punishment, almost a governing concept for Israel, though against international law. Since all UN sanctions against Israel are vetoed by the US, violation of international law has become standard procedure for the Israelis. As a result of the Gaza bombardments the already destitute population and its children are subject to disease and starvation as disabling of the electric power has cut off the water supply and sewage. This goes on unabated and is less noticed because of the flashier attack on Lebanon. Needless to say Hezbollah watched all this closely.

2. Hezbollah. It's believed the next abduction, of two Israeli solders by Hezbollah July 12, which customarily have been designed only to force a release of Lebanese prisoners by Israel, was meant this time to reduce the pressure on Palestinians in Gaza by forcing Israel to fight on two fronts simultaneously. The very heavy response of the Israelis is obviously something planned by Israel for a long time. Hezbollah is known to be assembling a sizeable supply of weapons, and Israel aims to "smash" or "wipe out" the Hezbollah installations. And the Bush administration appears to be in complete agreement on this, questionable though it is. In fact the weapons supply as well as the fighting capability of Hezbollah are proving to Israel to be larger and stronger than they realized; and the focus on materiel overlooks the likely failure of such a blitzkrieg to influence hearts and minds -- unless it's to bring in new recruits. The damage to Lebanon and its people is a crime which Hezbollah may have provoked, but Israel ultimately takes the blame.

3. Iran and Syria. As for Iran and Syria, they clearly have connections with Hezbollah, but whether they either initiated Hezbollah's rocket assaults on Israeli targets or have the authority to call a halt to them, as Bush has appeared to assume, are things we don't know. What we do know is that Israel has the ability to halt its destruction of Lebanon and killing and wounding of Lebanese civilians, and that the US could if it chose force Israel to do just about anything. But Bush has made clear that Israel is doing exactly what he likes by doing exactly as it, or Prime Minister Olmert, pleases. And it also appears that both Washington and Israel think that it's possible to "disable" or "wipe out" Hezbollah by continuing this assault.

Yes, "the world would be better off" without Hezbollah, as my friend wrote. More accurately, the world would be better off if the need for organizations like Hezbollah didn't arise. But that means that the world would be better off without Israel. It's Israel that has made half a million innocent people homeless and destroyed the bridges and infrastructure of a whole country. Hezbollah has inflicted a few casualties -- more than were expected -- and caused a few deaths of Israel civilians and even Israeli military -- more than were expected, but still a relatively tiny number compared to the damage Israel has done. And hence it remains hard to see, for anyone who looks at the statistics, how Israel is the wronged party.

Let's start at the top.

And this is all the fault of Hezbollah, as my friend said? Take a look at the facts from a neutral position. The fault is rarely all on one side. I would say that if you're doling out fault, the main fault goes to the United States, which largely created and almost wholly sustains Israel, and which is rushing in weapons to it even as we speak so it can keep up its steady assault on the Palestinians and the Lebanese and their respective infrastructures. You can't put much fault on the Lebanese, who lacked the strength to prevent this, and you can't put much fault on Hezbollah, which has only organized a resistance in response to decades of outside aggression and Israel's proven determination to dominate the whole region. And the original fault was in the western powers, which promised the Jews a "national home" in the 1917 Balfour Declaration and then chose Palestine as that home. Unfortunately, that land already belonged to somebody else. And 45 years of warfare and suffering have followed.

Maybe we should not try to assign blame in the Middle East. But if we do, let's start again at the top: Bush puts Bolton into the UN, disengages from the peace process. Sharon is replaced by Olmert. Syria is distanced from the Lebanese government and Siniora becomes prime minister. Bush threatens reprisals against new states for going nuclear, but in fact encourages nuclear proliferation by his warlike policies. The US is continually arming Israel to the teeth. And Israel is waging full-scale war on Lebanon while attacking Gaza and cantonizing the Palestinians. And all this -- it's the fault of Hezbollah?

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