18 July, 2006

I Take Sides

I'm afraid I can't just listen to the usual banter about two opposing sides, both needing to step back and take a deep breath so that the crisis can be sorted out. Why do people--in the United Nations, in leadership positions in Western and other countries--act as though there is some ambiguity about who is right and who is wrong, like the common playground scenario with little kids arguing over who started the fight?

If I can backtrack a little to illustrate my point:
  • Hamas abducts Israeli soilder, not so much as a provocation but with the hope of gaining a bargaining chip to force the Israelis into trading Hamas prisoners for the Israeli captive.
  • Israel responds with a totally disproportionate attack on Gaza, destroying power and other facilities, effectively bringing misery upon the whole population of Gaza.
  • In retaliation (and out of a sense of solidarity with Hamas) Hezbollah abducts two Israeli soldiers, thus, commiting an act of provocation.
  • At this point Israel magnifies its earlier response to the Gaza incident a hundred-fold and, suddenly and swiftly, attacks the whole of Lebanon, effectively pushing that country back to the miserable days of the 1980's period of anarchy.
How in the world can people look at this and talk about the two parties stepping back! One party here is soley responsible for raining carnage on an entire region. One party needs to be reigned in.

Peace is definitely needed, and I have my own thoughts on the broarder issue of Peace, but what is needed more in this case is for Israel to be taken to task by the United Nations, the United States and anyone else who can muster up enough authority to do so.

I know this isn't entirely a UAE Community issue, but we are in the general proximity of this mess and a lot of people here are certainly being affected by the crisis in personal ways.


Harsha said...

United States to do something.. nah...I'm sure it'll muddle with Bush's weekend plans

Anonymous said...

"act as though there is some ambiguity about who is right and who is wrong"

Because there is ambiguity about who is right and who is wrong, perhaps? I don't think there's any way you can say that this conflict, going back as long as it's been going on, including this last week's events, is without "ambiguity". To me it seems like that's at the very heart of why this is such a tricky problem, that it's not clear cut.

Doubleletter said...

We should ask ourselves the question: Does today's world run on Justice or on Economic Might ?

Its the latter. And this is not surprising. Israel's disproportionate (and unanimously condemnable) reaction is not surprising. This is the ground reality. Wake up. They're stronger, and they have stronger support. They're united, whereas their opponents in the middle-east aren't

Instead of adopting an attacking stance, Hezbollah or whoever opposes such injustice, should adopt a defensive strategy: I don't know what. All I know is that violence begets violence, in this case, disproportionately.

Tim Newman said...

How in the world can people look at this and talk about the two parties stepping back!

To answer this question you'll need to consider the current thinking of the Western leaders. I'll not make a comment on the Arab leaders who are strangely silent on this issue, but I can outline the line of thought that the Western leaders are taking on this at the moment.

1) They acknowledge and understand the enormous of Hizbollah being a private militia answering to Iran yet operating from Lebanese soil. Hizbollah has been told to disarm as per UN resolution 1559(?), yet this has not taken place. The Western leaders know full well that the Lebanese government cannot disarm Hizbollah, yet they have not acknowledged this in public and asked for assistance. In short, the Western leaders recognise the enormous problem Hizbollah poses for Lebanon.

2) The Western leaders probably see this as separate from the Israel/Palestine conflict. They have seen Israel withdraw from South Lebanon, an act they hoped would bring an end to Hizbollah attacks on Israel. But they have seen Israel subject to rocket attacks by Hizbollah from within Lebanese territory, an act which would in almost all cases be described as an act of war. They have seen Israel put up with these attacks without retaliation for some time, and note that each time Israel has withdrawn from a territory, that territory becomes a launchpad for further attacks on Israel. The Western leaders realise this is a problem which Israel should not and cannot put up with for long.

3) Having recognised the problem of Hizbollah and the constant rocket attacks from within Lebanese territory, they then understood that the Israelis cannot just stand by and allow their soldiers to be kidnapped from Israeli soil by Hizbollah operating from Lebanese soil. They understand very well that Israel has a duty to not only get its soldiers back, but to defend itself against further attacks.

4) So as far as Israel's aims in this case are concerned, the Western governments are more or less in full agreement with the Israelis, those aims being to get their soldiers back and prevent further attacks from Hizbollah. This is vastly different from the Israel/Palestine conflict, where most Western governments disagree with the aims and the methods of the Israelis.

5) This leaves only for the Western governments to disagree with the methods. And here they are in a bind. The Western governments, and indeed the likes of Russia, China, and the neighbouring Arab states have failed completely to help Lebanon solve the problem of Hizbollah, and their attacks on Israel. They have turned a blind eye, and shirked from taking to task Hizbollah's chief sponsors Iran and Syria. Any strong condemnation of Israel's methods of achieving their aims is likely to be met with a demand that the Western powers step in to solve the Hizbollah problem, which none of them want to do.

6) In summary, the Western powers don't want to get dragged into Lebanon and a proxy war with Hizbollah/Iran, so they are giving Israel a free hand to solve the problem which everybody except a few recognise. This is very unfortunate, because an international approach to solving the Hizbollah problem for Lebanon would be infinitely better than an Israeli invasion.

I know many people will not agree with this analysis, but I think this to be the most plausible explanation as to why the Western leaders are either silent or quietly supporting Israel in this matter: they are doing their dirty work for them.

Anonymous said...

DB... If you think this whole thing is about or as a result of 2 or 3 abducted soldiers, you are so wrong...

Tim, sounding like a true Whitehouse spokesperson..

stick to traffic, labor issue and your silly topics and don't get yourselves into something you know jack about

Tim Newman said...

Tim, sounding like a true Whitehouse spokesperson..

Given that I was trying to describe the current line of thought eminating from the White House (amongst other places), I would be rather irritated if I didn't. Duh!

Bloglingo said...

How in the world can people look at this and talk about the two parties stepping back! One party here is solely responsible for raining carnage on an entire region. One party needs to be reigned in.

Sorry, but I don’t agree. I don’t care who started this whole mess, but Hezbollah needs to step back just as much as Israel should.

Hamas abducts Israeli solider, not so much as a provocation but with the hope of gaining a bargaining chip to force the Israelis into trading Hamas prisoners for the Israeli captive.

No government should let themselves be bribed by some terrorist group. You can’t and should not bargain with them. Once they see it works, they are not going to stop.

I’m not taking sides. And I’m not justifying Israel’s attack on Lebanon. But I am trying to see this whole problem maybe a little more objectively.

Anonymous said...

"..act as though there is some ambiguity..."

BD: the clues is in the title--"I take sides". Maybe they don't.

Tim: Clearly and simply put...but then, who has the objectivity to see that...given that "I take sides..."

And Tim, I have to disagree with "...Arab leaders...are strangely silent on this issue..."

Actually, not all. Saudi Arabia, for example, described Hezbollah's actions as "uncalculated adventurism..."

Anonymous said...

Pity poor Lebanon, that has to put up with the likes of Hezbollah...

...they might as well just give up and invite Ahmadinejad to come and run their country for them, anyway...

Tim Newman said...

And Tim, I have to disagree with "...Arab leaders...are strangely silent on this issue..."

Actually, not all. Saudi Arabia, for example, described Hezbollah's actions as "uncalculated adventurism..."

Yes, thanks for pointing out my error. What I meant was that most Arab governments have either been silent or condemning Hizbollah, i.e. not speaking out against the Israeli actions.

I can only assume that this is more from a desire to see the Shias of Hizbollah and Iran clobbered than from any new-found love for Israel.

Anonymous said...

This disproportionate response has got something to do with the G8 meeting very conveniently at the same time....

John B. Chilton said...

Alternatively, it has also been suggested that Hizbollah ramped up its activities across the Blue Line prior to the G8 in order to shift the G8 away from action on Iran.

The G8 will have to stop meeting like this if it wants to control its own agenda.

marwan said...

Or the G8 will have to start meeting in secret underground lairs.

Anonymous said...

Don't put the U.S. in the middle of this issue, we have nothing to do with it.The problem is in your neighborhood and you all ( arab leaders) need to fix it.
When its all over then the US can come over and HELP Lebanon rebuild because by that time all the contractors in New Orleans would need new projects.


Anonymous said...

Sorry anon, to say that the US is not in the middle of this issue is just amazingly naive. The US has more or less openly supported Israel for years and years. And even if that wasn't the case, the US is a incredibly powerful country economically, politically, and militarily, and as such it is in the middle of this, whether dubya likes it or not.

The US has a major problem though, in that dubya invaded Iraq in the name of fighting terror(ism) so now they cannot be hard on Israel for saying they're doing the same.

John B. Chilton said...

Youssef Ibrahim writes: The attempt by Hezbollah and Hamas to drag the whole Arab world into their war with Israel in the past two weeks has drawn flak in the form of Arab public opinion that neither militant jihadist organizations anticipated.

Speaking in an unusually blunt tone, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain openly rejected what they described as unilateral "adventurism," telling both groups that they are on their own vis-à-vis Israel. More important, indications are surfacing that a long-silent Arab majority has had enough of being hijacked by extremists in its midst.

In a meeting of its 22 foreign ministers Saturday in Cairo, the League of Arab States did not mince words. "Behavior undertaken by some groups in apparent safeguarding of Arab interests does in fact harm those interests, allowing Israel and other parties from outside the Arab world (read Iran) to wreak havoc with the security and safety of all Arab countries."
. . .
The collective resistance spoken by Arab presidents, emirs and kings at the highest levels is echoed below among ordinary people. In Lebanon, for instance, it is evident that the people in the streets are blaming Israel, of course, but also Hezbollah for today's crisis.

Ironically, Hamas and Hezbollah's provocation of Israel, coupled with the Jewish state's retaliation, might have opened a new chapter in the greater Middle East discourse - but not the one these groups anticipated.

Seabee said...

but what is needed more in this case is for Israel to be taken to task by the United Nations, the United States and anyone else who can muster up enough authority to do so.

Whenever the UN Security Council criticises Israel the US vetoes it.

Only the US can solve the problem, but chooses not to.

Seabee said...

Just reading about the evacuation of foreign nationals and the thought crossed my mind that once they're gone the way is clear for a massive bombardment...

No, surely not, that's too cynical isn't it?

Isn't it?

bandicoot said...

BD (and others),
I doubt that this war is a simple outcome of the chain of events you described. Granted, they’re relevant, but it’s clear the plans and objectives have been in place for a while. There are of course the official reasons given by Hizbollah, namely the Lebanese prisoners who were expected to be released after the last prisoner exchange but Israel continued to hold on to them; and the Shebaa Farms issue. But it’s clear now the war is much more than a reaction to the cross border attack by Hizbollah 3 weeks ago.

The scale, ferocity, and duration of the Israeli “response” point to an international / regional dimension. The statements coming out of the G-8 summit and some Arab countries (who criticized Hizbollah) are evidence for this agenda. I think this is seen as another episode in the creation of the “Greater Middle East”, and idea that still dominates the thinking of Bush and some of his allies (despite it’s apparent failure so far.

It is interesting to note that throughout the Gulf Wars including the US and Coalition Forces succeeded in keeping Israel out of the fight, even when Israel was hit by Saddam’s scuds. Such sensitivities have gradually disappeared and the US (and others) don’t seem to have any qualms now about appearing in full cohort with Israel.

Just like Israel was given a free hand in Palestine since 2000, it has now been given another free hand in Lebanon, presumable to help enforce Security Council Resolution 1559. I don’t want to get into the specifics of this issue, but I’d like to observe here that 1559 is not the only Security Council resolution that hasn’t been implemented in the region. Israel happens to be the worst violator of UNSC resolutions. Israel has been in perpetual violation of resolutions 242, 446, and 1397, and none of the countries that have made 1559 their political obsession recently have shown a fraction of that concern about Israel’s violation of these UNSC resolutions; let alone to ask for them to be implemented by force.

I personally would like to see 1559 implemented, and to some extent Lebanon was moving into that direction. But this war cannot be justified as a war to enforce 1559 (or for any other reason). You cannot help a country by destroying it, killing its people, and creating a humanitarian catastrophe. This is a war against Lebanese its civilians, their institutions, infrastructure and private property. Most of the casualties are civilians; in case after case, civilians are targeted on purpose, or with criminal disregard to their lives; families buried under the rubble of their bombed houses, refugee caravans incinerated by Israeli shells, massive destruction of private property and public facilities, etc. And why?

The pattern that emerges here is one of a state that is intent on terrorizing the whole population of a country into submission, and the picture is one of unspeakable atrocities. Israel seems to be feeding on its own madness to kill and destroy with no regard to any human or principles. Its prime target is the defenseless people of the civilization that gave us the alphabet and, more recently, a society that is brilliantly energetic, modern, democratic, and diverse more than any other in the region, including Israel itself. This is a vicious, cruel, immoral and murderous war; and those responsible for it, Olmert and his Generals and a majority of Israelis who seem to be (at least temporarily) riding the wave of national superiority and vengeance are only making a mockery of the suffering they always claim as justification for the existence of their state in the first place.

BD said...

Bandicoot, I don't think anyone could have worded a better synopsis on the current tragedy. Although, I'm sure some will take issue with the harsh criticism of Israel, the commentary you offer is unemotional and offers a clearly stated argument as to why the issue is so complex and why what is presently going on must be condemned.

I concur with your suggestion that this is likely part of an orchestrated strategy involving Bush and others' vision of a new landscape in the Middle East. For its supporters, the greatest tragedy at present is not the masssive escallation of warfare perpetrated by Israel, but the fact that those most disagreeable elements--Iran, Syria and the various terrorist organizations--have not yet been smashed. Being so preoccupied, it is hard, I suppose, for them to appreciate the tragedy of the current bombardment faced by the Lebanese civillians caught in the crossfire.

bandicoot said...


Youssef Ibrahim said:

The attempt by Hezbollah and Hamas to drag the whole Arab world into their war… has drawn flak in the form of Arab public opinion…Speaking in an unusually blunt tone, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain openly rejected what they described as unilateral "adventurism."

Hmmm, I thought “public opinion” refers to the “public”, i.e. the people. It seems Mr. Youssef Ibrahim has confused the public with the governments!

I also wonder if he still thinks that this is just simply “their war”!

BTY, anybody seen surveys of the Arab public opinion on the current crisis (something more reliable than newspaper and TV Website polls)?

Anonymous said...

"...I personally would like to see 1559 implemented...You cannot help a country by destroying it..."

Good point. I don't think Israel claims to be "helping" Lebanon. On the other hand, Nasrallah might.

I understand this discussion to be partly about what triggered the current offensive. Like it or not, Nasrallah unlocked the doors to that. On the other hand, if it's all part of that worldwide conspiracy to create a "greater Middle East", then Nasrallah is integrally a part of that conspiracy or, as bad luck would have it, just happened by some strange and amazing coincidence, to time his little (mis)adventure to align with the G8 summit so that the world powers could then use this excuse to put their sneaky little plan into operation. In which case of course, innocent li'l baby Nasrallah ain't done nuthin wrong...

BD said...

I did hear on broadcast or internet news an Israeli govt. spokesperson or official trying to defend the bombing of Lebanon by saying that they were in effect doing the Lebanese a favor by helping to solve the Hizbollah problem. I'm sure from any Lebanese point of view it would be a resounding thanks, but NO THANKS.

bandicoot said...

anonymous, you're missing the point. The "Greater Middle East" is not a conspiracy theory; it's a corner stone of the Bush Administration Middle East policy. If you watch the news, you'll learn that it's as real as the War in Iraq and Bush's plans (read neo-cons) for regime change, fighting terrorism, and building democratic societies in the region. There is nothing sneaky about this, and there is a definite struggle between different forces on both sides of the divide. What I said is this is a more convincing reading of the situation (without necessarily excluding other factors) and this line of thinking now is not that strange.

You're right, to some extent Nasrallah unlocked the door, but clearly on the assumption that he would create enough disruption to undermine or challenge the Bush strategy and simultaneously deal a painful blow to Israel (and get the prisoners back). It is also clear that for 1559 (which must be seen as part of the new Bush doctrine) to be fully implemented Hizbullah has to be disarmed and thus weakened. This is the main goal of this war. For Nasrallh to be an agent of the Bush strategy, he has to unlock the events knowing full that he is going to lose; I don't think he believes that (and of course he could be fatally wrong).

Finally, the point of trying to analyze is not to prove that " li'l baby Nasrallah ain't done nuthin wrong;" The point is understanding what's going on...or at least to try to do that!

Anonymous said...

Big Pharaoh's dad weighs in.

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