Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israel - Lebanon

Beirut (photo AP via the BBC)

Haifa (Getty via the BBC)

I spent much of friday, probably like many others who are interested in international affairs, discussing on an internet group what is happening between Lebanon and Israel. On this UK based site I seemed to end up as the minority supporting Israel's right to respond to Hezbollah's act of aggression against Israel. I have no problem in describing it that way: all the "mainstream media", who partisan Israel supporters are normally so willing criticise, describe it; Hezbollah launched rockets against a town in Northern Israel and having used that aggression against civilians as distraction, then crossed into Israeli territory to attack some Israeli soldiers, killing a number and grabbing the two others as prisoners. The leader of Hezbollah,Hassan Nasrallah, has said that the operation had been planned months in advance and therefore this can't be seen as anything but a provocative act of aggression. Hezbollah knew Israel wouldn't sit on it hands and politely say "please will you give us our soldiers back?" and therefore what follows is their fault.

And yet...

After the attacks Israel faced a choice - they could choose the level on which they responded. It is obvious that they would have to try and get their men back. No army will have morale if the soldiers think that they expendable to serve a political whim, and with a citizen-army such as Israel's this is even more the case. So intervention to try and stop the kidnapped soldiers being moved and to try to recover them was to be expected. Likewise who didn't expect the IDF to try and destroy the katusha rocket launchers that have been sending random death and destruction into northern Israel? But the scale and the extent of attacks and the blockade has gone too far for a number of reasons. I see this through two personal perspectives:

Firstly, I have a friend in Beirut. I know that she as a young, independent and assertive woman is no fan of Hezbollah who, as an Islamist party, can only be described as ultra-conservative on all social matters. She also comes from one of the other Lebanese confessional groups that make up the fragile balance in that country. I remember the excited emails she sent me a year ago as she and her friends went out to the streets night after night to join the anti-Syrian protests after the murder of Rafik Hariri. That democratic revolution, that the Bush administration with little justification tried to claim for its own, improved Israel's situation but we all know that the Lebanese situation is still far from perfect. There is a UN resolution requiring Hezbollah to disarm and the Lebanese government has done nothing to implement this, but as the air raids continue why does Israel want people like my friend to suffer? People who do not support the Hezbollah state within a state? Someone who in so many ways should be Israel's natural friend - but who can be a friend when they watch their city bombed by Israeli jets for the third or fourth time in their life?

Secondly I have another friend, this time a fellow Brit, living in one of the wealthy Gulf emirates. He lives in one of those parts of the Arab world that are getting called "the New Arab World", typified by oil wealth and many of the trappings of a western consumer society. He argues that in his experience of the Arab world is that it is split between what you could loosely describe as "rural" and "urban". The rural tends to be conservative, xenophobic, prickly and backward looking whilst the urban is riding the wave of globalisation and becoming - in a positive way - not so dissimilar from the rest of the world. He argues that Beirut in particular had become the central node of that forward looking, cosmopolitan section of the Arab world and therefore the bombing of Beirut airport
especially was symbolically significant and shocking to outward-looking wealthy and middle-class Arabs from all over the Middle East. He is somewhat nervous about the anti-Western backlash that he believes is likely to result. This will also not help Israel.

So I do not question Israel's right to react, but I do question her chosen methods. Here's hoping that all the people of both Israel and Lebanon see peace sooner rather than later.

1 comment:

KGS said...

If the Jewish state had to test the "Arab street" before it reacted to every Arab provocation, it couldn't do anything at all. Face it, Arab rage is there wether Jews defend themselves or not, just their mere existence is enoughto set them off.

Of course there are some moderate Arabs who don't feel that way, but they are the minority and never too far away from approving of the angry mobs just to stay alive.

This is a very stark example of the non-moderating effects of being in government has on a racist/intolerant entity, wether it be the Hamas or Hezbollah.