Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israel's Latest Mis-adventure

Let’s begin with the obvious current event—Israel’s grossly disproportionate response to Hezbollah’s raid that culminated in the kidnapping of two soldiers. To me, the salient points around these events are as follows:

  • This has happened many times in the past, and Israel has always responded in a rather measured manner, exploiting the real-politick of this engagement, which is that since it holds many thousands of Lebanese prisoners, a few can be readily handed over in exchange.
  • “Soldiers” were abducted. They are combatants, and they operate in a war zone. There is nothing horrible or immoral about what Hezbollah did.
  • Hezbollah is not some rogue militia. It is a well-established political and military force, enjoys deep support among the majority of Lebanese people, and in recent years has become a legitimate and strong democratic force in the country’s political landscape.
  • Since Syria’s withdrawal a year ago, Lebanon has been taking baby steps toward strengthening its multi-party democracy. An active but fragile coalition government is in power, which has been working hard to ward building a consensus toward economic and political reforms.
  • Hezbollah is hardly a hard line Islamic party. The Shias of Lebanon, who form the core of the party’s support, are by and large middle of the road Muslims. Lebanon is light years away from ever becoming an Iran-style theocracy. Given that 40 percent of the population Christians and a vast number of Muslims are extremely secular, this is simply not in the cards

With these points as background, Israel’s recent actions defy reason. What objectives do its actions achieve?

  • Does bombing the civilian infrastructure hurt Hezbollah’s popularity? No! On the contrary this gives it a short tem popularity boost.
  • Can Israel inflict a death blow on Hezbollah through the bombing campaign? Hardly.
  • By repeatedly pointing the finger at Syria and Iran, is Israel going to create a regional conflict, which it hopes to win decisively, and thus somehow become more secure? No chance! Israel and its allies (i.e. the U.S. and U.K.) do not have the capacity to fight a mini-world war.
  • By being tough on Lebanon, does Israel weaken Hamas’ resolve? Zero chance of that happening. The anger and frustration in the occupied territories simply boils more as people see more death and destruction.

I think the current Israeli government is being extremely foolish in its ongoing campaign. Its lack of diplomatic sophistication is shocking. Given how experienced its politicians and military commanders are, the game played by them is foolhardy and bound for failure. Nothing substantive will come out of this campaign, but the death of hundreds of Lebanese, Muslims and Christians, as well as widespread destruction of the country’s infrastructure, will leave Israel devoid of cooperation from the most liberal democracy in the middle-east. With its latest actions and doctrine of disproportionate response, Israel comes across once again as an ugly, racist bully.

P.S. The press coverage has been APPALING! The pro-Israel bias in the print and electronic media is just sickening. Forget Fox; I expect nothing from it anyway. But CNN? NY Times?? NBC??? Can't the reporters and editors exercise some semblance of neutrality and balance??

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