Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Israel and Lebanon: One War or Two?

Middle-eastern expert Juan Cole argues that we must distinguish between the land war in southern Lebanon and what is happening to the country as a whole. His thesis that that limited incursions to root out Hezballoh terrorists might be justifiable, but the bombing on Lebanon is a grave injustice. Key quote:

"I haven't complained about the Israeli border war with Hezbollah. I'm not sure it is wise, and I don't know how many Israelis Hezbollah even killed in, say, the year 2005. Is it really worth it? But I don't deny that Hezbollah went too far when it shelled dozens of civilian towns and cities and killed over a dozen innocent civilians, even in reprisal for the Israeli bombing campaign. (You can't target civilians. That is a prosecutable crime.) That is a clear casus belli, and I'd like to see Nasrallah tried at the Hague for all those civilian deaths he ordered. The fighting at Maroun al-Ra's and Bint Jbeil was horrible on all sides, but it was understandable, even justifiable."
This is interesting. I think it is possible to argue that such an invasion is compatible with just war ad bellum. Of course, whether it is just in bello is another story, as there is ample evidence that Israel does not hold civilian life in high regard. But anyway, on the attack on Lebanon itself, Cole is scathing:

"...the Israelis have kidnapped the 3.8 million Lebanese and are holding them all for ranson, while breaking their legs from time to time to encourage prompt payment. The horrible thing is that the Lebanese could not do anything about Hezbollah if they wanted to. Their government is weak and divided (Hezbollah is in it, and the Bush administration and Ambassador Mark Feltman signed off on that!) Their new, green army only has 60,000 men, and a lot of them are Shiites who would not fight Hezbollah. Lebanon was a patient that needed to be nurtured carefully to health. Instead, it has been drafted and put into the middle of the worst fighting on the battlefield.Then there is this: ' Brigadier General Dan Halutz, the Israeli Chief of Staff, emphasised that the offensive . . . was open-ended. “Nothing is safe (in Lebanon), as simple as that,” he said. 'In other words, Halutz, who is also said to have threatened ten for one reprisals, is openly declaring that he will commit war crimes if he wants to. Nothing is safe? A Christian school in the northern village of Bsharri? A Druze old people's home in the Shouf mountains? A Sunni family out for a stroll in the northern port of Tripoli? He can murder all of them at will, Halutz says."

"Meanwhile, while Nancy was singing and Brazil was scoring, Halutz and Olmert
were putting the final touches on their long-planned bombing campaign. They would go up and hit Tripoli's port, a Sunni area. They would hit the port at Jounieh, the trendy Christian city near Beirut. They would hit Beirut's port and its new shiny airport. They would hit the milk factory, the telecom towers, the roads, the bridges, and some clinics and hospitals for good measure. They would hit the fuel depots. It would be a total war on the Lebanese civilian population, setting 800,000 out of 3.8 million out from their homes or the rubble of their former homes, forcing them to other cities as homeless refugees, or abroad to Syria or Cyprus. They would reduce al-Dahiyah al-Janubiyah, the teeming Shiite slum to the south, to rubble and stray bloody fingers, feet and noses. They would say that these were all military targets, but they liedHezbollahah is a political party with 14 MPs in parliament. It has political party offices, soup kitchens, clinics, in those Shiite slums. A lot of times it seems to be these that the Israelis hit. They lied and said that missiles were launched from Beirut, when they never were.Israel's present policy toward Lebanon, of striking at so many civilian targets as to hold the entire civilian population hostage, is unspeakable."
Although Cole does not use religious language, he is effectively accusing the Israelis of invoking the lex talionis on steroids, engaging in collective punishment, and using an end-justifies-the-means moral calculus. Grave evils all. And as for proportionality, well....

One more thing: whatever you think of Cole, he knows Lebanon, and he knows the region. Do you think Bubble Boy Bush (who, almost alone among world leaders, thinks a ceasefire would be a bad idea) could even locate Lebanon on a map?


John Lowell said...


Yes, the most important single impression that reaches you in the news reporting from the Middle East is the "grave injustice" to which Cole refers. Yet even more reprehensible than Ohmert's turning Lebanon into a kind of modern Guernica is studied foot-dragging by Bush and Rice regarding a cease fire. You'd have to go back to 1944 and Stalin's non-response to the Warsaw Uprising to find a suitable parallel.

Cole's is an important voice in Middle Eastern commemntary.

John Lowell

Morning's Minion said...

Bush's response is indeed shocking, especially from a so-called "Christian". Then again, as we've known for a long time, he's exploited Christianity for political gain. What did Jesus say about people who did this? He used very harsh words if I recall!

shadhu said...

So, what are those words?

John Lowell said...


Bush's "Christian" support is found mainly among biblicist Evangelicals as you undoubtedly are aware. And even though hampered by erroneous and frequently bizarre theologies - premillenial dispensationalism among them - they are clear enough on the disproportionate moral responsibility of those to whom "much has been given" so as to avoid any misinterpretation whatsoever. Yet we hear this week of Christians United For Israel, a product of the Christian Zionist fantasies of pastor John Hagee, and its insistence that Israel be in no way restrained in the conduct of its military terrorism in Lebanon. Organizations along the lines of Chistians United For Israel - and there are many of them, lobbying, sponsoring the creation of provocative new Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and the like - are a kind of modern day Einsatzgruppen. Unabashedly they support the ethnic cleansing of the Middle East and the creation of an imagined biblical "Greater Israel". And these folks have a stranglehold on the Congress and on the conduct of our foreign policy. It's truly frightening. Yes, Bush's moral responsibility is very great here.

John Lowell