I’ve tried to stay out of the raging debate over the current escalation in hostilities between Israel and Lebanon, primarily because it’s such a fraught issue. Before you read on, you should probably understand that my stance on Israel is that it does not have a right to exist. If this is an issue for you, I respect that, but I’d rather not discuss it with you. I’d also rather that you not call me an anti-semite, although I understand that’s a personal choice.
Although I would like to take a moment to explain what it means to be Semetic, since there seems to be some confusion: many Near Easterners are Semetic. The term originally referred to a language family which included Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, and a range of others. Only later did it come to be associated with a cultural and ethnic group as well. This means that not only are Israeli Jews Semetic, but so are Palestinians and Syrians. Being Jewish does not always mean you are Semetic–being Semetic does not always mean you’re Jewish. It’s amusing to me when I hear pro-Palestinian activists being called “anti-Semetic”. Kids, get your racial pejoratives right, ok? Thanks.
When I read on CNN, of all sources, that Israel and the United States refused to back a ceasefire when Hezbollah was supportive, I felt that the time had finally come to say something.
Clearly, Israel is facing some severe opposition in their current offensive on Lebanon. (Although it’s good to note that Israel and Lebanon have been at war since 1947.) Hezbollah has proved to be far more tenacious than was originally expected, and public opposition comment has also been quite vocal. Even people of my acquaintaince who were moderately pro-Israel before are having difficulty justifying the current military action, which to date has killed 425 Lebanese civilians and 51 Israelis. Here’s a graphical representation of what that looks like, link courtesy of BoingBoing.
The United Nations put out a call for a ceasefire, which Hezbollah backed.
Now, I’m a fan of violent revolution, it’s true. And I have some sympathy for the Arab cause. And Hezbollah does have some history of being socially active, not only resisting occupation but also running hospitals, schools, and agricultural centres. It has also has a political arm, which is active in Lebanese government. It’s not just about ending occupation–it’s about empowering your people to build lives for themselves. Yet, some arms of Hezbollah do commit acts of terror. But others contribute goods and services worth millions of dollars annually to the Lebanese, and a large proportion of the Lebanese population supports Hezbollah. It is a complex organization, and dismissing it as wholly terrorist is unwise.
I understand the desire to resist negotiations with terrorists, I really do.
But the thing is, a ceasefire or cooling off period is not really such a bad thing. Ceasefires allow you to evacuate unrelated civilians, wounded, non-citizens, and others from the war zone. They also allow time to negotiate, and have a table discussion. It’s difficult to have rational dialogue with a country that is bombing the living fuck out of you, destroying your painfully rebuilt infrastructure, and killing your people. Likewise, it’s difficult to have dialogue with a group which not only hates you, but also is shooting rockets at you.
The Bush administration refuses to support a ceasefire because they declare that Israel must sufficiently weaken Hezbollah or hostilities will only begin again, which demonstrates an utter lack of faith in any sort of peace process, although most people are aware the Bush administration doesn’t seem to have much faith in non-military efforts for peace. It’s clear that the administration isn’t terribly interested in cultivating a positive relationship with the Middle East, that’s for sure. Which is interesting, since Mr. Bush mentioned in a statement today that what happens in the Middle East affects our lives in the United States.
Israel resists a cease-fire because they claim they have opened a safety corridor for getting civilians out of southern Lebanon, and therefore a ceasefire is not needed for evacuation purposes. The funny thing is, Beirut is probably outside that safety corridor, and it happens to be Beirut which is getting slammed with Israeli missiles (bought with American dollars). Furthermore, a “safety corridor” may not cut it for delicate evacuations like those for the severely ill and wounded. And what are the specifics of this corridor? Is it actually safe? How do you access it?
The Mid-East crisis is not something to be easily solved, and I don’t claim to hold the answers. But I am disgusted by governments which will not agree to a ceasefire–of course Israel has also refused proposed ceasefires by Hamas, as well. What is Israel proving? A profound lack of compassion for those in urgent need of safe evacuation? A need to continue receiving billions of American dollars? A firm lack of understanding for why others in the neighborhood might be pissed?
Christ, one of the most famous Jewish men of all time, would have been ashamed.
As long as Israel occupies the Palestinian territories, neighboring Arab nations are going to be angry. And organizations fighting for Arab rights are also going to be angry–and that anger may express itself in civilian deaths, and that’s a damn shame. It’s a great pity that Israel continues to ride roughshod over the Middle East, expecting support from the West, and that we continue to support this illegal entity.