Monday, July 17, 2006

Is Israel really our friend? Purity of weapons: these days not so much.

[ Note: this was written on Staurday]

I find it interesting that the American media is being ever so cautious not to be too critical of Israel, broadly accepting its line that it's justified in destroying civilian infrastructure and killing men, women and children, all in the name of 'self-defense.'

An Editorial in the NYT today says that Israel's "far-reaching military responses" are "legally and morally justified," but then goes on to politely suggest that such action might "end up advancing the political agenda of Hamas and Hezbollah." I guess, maybe they're worried the Lobby might come after them again like they did back in 2002 when they had the audacity to report what the Israelis were up to in Jenin.

The Lobby also mobilized a one day boycott against the NYT for the unspeakable crime of publishing a picture of a pro-Israel parade in Manhattan that showed a group of anti-Israel protesters in the foreground. [Independent] So the Times is probably a little gun-shy nowadays about going after Israel.

But this kit glove treatment of Israel's naked aggression is in stark contrast to European opinion pages. Yesterday, an editorial in the FT wrote that:

In the past, "situations similar to this have led to disaster. In 1982, Israel's stricken former prime minister Ariel Sharon, then its defense minister, used a flimsy pretext to invade Lebanon to crush the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The result was a two-month siege of Beirut that killed 19,000 people, destroyed Israel's reputation and gave rise to Hizbollah. Israel's last invasion of Lebanon was meant to crush Hizbollah. The Shia Islamist movement emerged greatly strengthened while Israel's image was further besmirched by the massacre at a United Nations base in Qana. Israel's reprisals this time are disproportionate, illegitimate under international rule that outlaw collective punishment of entire populations and have already resulted in the heavy loss of civilian life, especially children."

A case in the point, by the way, are the deaths of the Akkash family in the village of Douir. An Israeli strike killed Abdel Akkash along with his wife and ten children. I found it humorous that after Hezbollah fired one rocket at Haifa, which harmed no one, David Baker, an official in the prime minister's office, warned that; "Those who fire into such a densely populated area will pay a heavy price."

Yes, because Israel never fires missiles from Apache helicopters or drops 2000 lbs. bombs into densely populated areas. This is the Israel myth of Israel's 'purity of arms': Israel always does the right thing and if innocent Palestinians get killed it's always someone else's fault.

Turning back the clock 28 years:

In an interview from May 10, 1978 with the Israeli newspaper Al-Hamishmar, General Mordecai Gur, Chief of Staff during the 1978 invasion of southern Lebanon, was asked whether the Israeli army had bombarded Lebanese civilians "without discrimination. . ."

GUR: "I've been in the army thirty years. Do you think I don't know what we've been doing all these years? A million and a half refugees! Really, where do you live? Since when has the population of South Lebanon been so sacred? They know very well what the terrorists were doing. After the massacre of Avivim, I had four villages in South Lebanon bombarded without authorization."

Al-HAMISHMAR: "Without discrimination?"

GUR: "What discrimination? What had the inhabitants of Irbid [a non-Palestinian town in north Jordan] done to deserve being bombarded by us?"

AL-HAMISHMAR: "You maintain that the civilian population should be punished?"

GUR: "And how! I am using Sabra language: and how! I never doubted it, not for a minute. When I said. . . bring in tanks as quickly as possible and hit them from far off before boys reach a face-to-face battle, didn't I know what I was doing? I gave that order. Of course, that was not the first time that I had given that order. For thirty years, from the War of Independence to this day, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and towns and the question that accompanies us endlessly each time is from the beginning is whether or not to hit the civilians. . ."

Apparently, they don't agonize over it too much, though. Israel tends to be reluctant to put their soldiers in 'face-to-face' battles where they might suffer casualties, so they do most of their fighting from 20,000 feet or from miles away behind the protection of artillery pieces. That type of killing is much more civilized than what the terrorists do, right? Amnon Danker, an Israeli writer decried the attempt to distinguish the one type of brutality from another.

"The first kind. . . are the personal atrocities. This is condemned by all. Thus, for example, it is forbidden to kill prisoners of war, forbidden to shoot civilians once you can see them with your own eyes. On the other hand, the brutality that is far from sight is accepted and regarded as proper, though 'unpleasant.' The pilots throw bombs, the rest of the soldiers use long range cannon against the civilian population and they are not brutal, they are not performing atrocities, because they are not emotionally involved, they cannot see the 'clients' of their actions with their naked eyes. So you should say: a soldier who shoots an old Palestinian woman from a distance of two meters is a brute who has lost his human image and should be tried. On the other hand, the Phantom pilot who releases a 250 kg bomb over a civilian quarter or a soldier who fires a phosphorous shell that burns woman and children is not cruel but a good soldier. This attempt to distinguish between two kinds of war acts, which are both immoral, is an artificial attempt that can be accepted only by the meek minds that have been brain washed by the sticky mixture of Israeli piety." [Haaretz, August 5 1982]

[Exerpted from: "The Gun and the Olive Branch" by David Hurst]

We seriously need to get over this idea that Israel is always morally in the right; that somehow Israeli lives are worth more than Arab lives. I'm not ignoring the fact that 5 Israeli civilians have been killed by Hezbollah's indiscriminate rocket attacks in the north of Israel, but the body count in Lebanon is reaching over 70 dead and hundreds injured. Israel says in the last three days Hezbollah has fired 300 rockets into Israel and towns on the border have had to be evacuated, but for all those attacks only 5 rockets have found a target. In Gaza, since Israel pulled out last September, some 1,600 Qassams have fallen into Israel, killing 8 Israelis. By contrast, over a hundred Palestinians have been killed, many of them children, in Israel's reprisal attacks on Gaza.

Although, Hamas and Hezbollah definitely need to stop their attacks, because innocent people on both sides are being killed, neither group presents an existential threat to Israel, certainly not the type of threat that in anyway justifies the level of fire-power Israel is using against the Palestinians and the Lebanese. And for all the damage they've caused and all the suffering they've brought on these peoples, where are their soldiers? Have they stopped Qassams and Katushas from being launched? What has any of this accomplished?

What began as a rescue mission in Gaza and Lebanon, has now turned into a full scale offensive to finish Hamas and Hezbollah, once and for all. People are speculating on whether Iran gave to go-ahead for the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers or not, but what I want to know is; did the government of Israel bother to tell our government, their biggest foreign donor and supporter, what they were up to? They did pass it by W. before they presented him with a big fat crisis right in the heart of the Middle East? Because, we're a little busy right now dealing with: North Korea's missiles; Iran's nukes; the civil war in Iraq and the mess in Afghanistan.

I don't know, I just think before they went off half-cocked and started a war that has the potential to turn into a regional conflagration of biblical proportions, they'd pass it by us first. To me, this doesn't seem like the sort of thing a friend does to another friend when we're already up to our neck in troubles.

Here's a funny notion, maybe they're not such great friends after all.


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