At this writing, Israel has killed six hundred civilians in Lebanon, including more than one hundred children, and killed another one hundred and fifty in Gaza. It has created hundreds of thousands of refugees and destroyed enough bridges and power stations and apartments to create misery for years to come.
Nothing is more dishonest than attempting to justify this barbarism with “Islamist fundamentalists declare their goal openly to destroy the state of Israel and kill Jews.”
There is no possibility that Israel can be destroyed by Islamic fundamentalists: the notion is simply a fantasy. This is so not just because of Israel’s ready willingness to bomb and kill, but because of great-power guarantees. It is so also because no Arab state believes any longer that Israel,s destruction is a sensible or possible goal, despite their leaders, public rhetoric. And it is true because the enemies Israel claims are so threatening, organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas, are militarily weak by any rational standard of calculation.
Israel began by moving into a bad neighborhood, and everyone involved understood this from the beginning, yet Israel behaves as though it should be normal to enjoy a pristine Disney-like suburb with white-picket fences. It reacts to activities in the bad neighborhood that disturb its fantasy with ferocious indignation. Israel’s destructive behavior is explained largely by this delusional expectation.
If Israel had spent half the resources it has spent on war over the last fifty years instead on helping its neighbors and building up their economies, the region would be a far better place today. And if Israel had been willing to make reasonable concessions to the needs of others in the region, there might well be lasting peace today.
The irony of Israel,s current destructive behavior is that a healthy, prosperous Lebanon is in Israel,s long-term interest, just as it is in Israel,s interest to have all of its neighbors prosperous and flourishing.
But, instead, Israel,s response to any provocation from any gang or individual is always war and maintaining “the iron wall” – an early Zionist phrase that has provided the foundation of Israeli policy for over half a century – against all outsiders with disregard for their interests or needs.
Deception is an important tool in any war, and Israel,s extensive use of it shows us how it regards neighbors and others it should have cultivated as friends. Look at the bombing of a UN observation post in Lebanon, killing four unarmed UN workers. Israel says it was an accident, but the post had been there for years, and it was well marked. Moreover, the UN workers were killed in a bunker, meaning that a certain kind of munition had to be used to kill them. According to a BBC report, the UN peacekeepers had contacted Israeli forces ten times about artillery shelling in the hours before they were hit by a precision-guided missile. How possibly can this have been an accident?
Could the failed international conference in Rome where proposals for an immediate cease-fire and an international force in Southern Lebanon were advocated have provided Israel,s motive? The cease-fire proposal was quickly killed by the United States to give Israel more bombing time. Was the proposal for an international force the target of Israel,s attack? Who would commit observers or troops if this is what would happen to them? We know Israel does not want outside interference in Lebanon. More broadly, Israel has shown intense hostility towards the UN for years, perhaps one of its closest bonds with Bush,s mob.
There is some evidence that the Israeli soldiers kidnapped at the beginning of the current bombardment were actually kidnapped inside Lebanon on a provocative mission. I have no idea whether this true, but it is far from improbable. The kidnapping has certainly provided an excuse for bombing the hell out of southern Lebanon.
Israel,s many past deceptions naturally enough leave one uncomfortable about any of its official statements on any important matter. First was the covert creation of a nuclear arsenal, a fact not acknowledged to this day. Then there was Israel,s secret assistance to apartheid South Africa, including still-unacknowledged assistance in creating and testing a nuclear weapon. There was Israel,s manipulation of events leading to the Six Day War, a war Israel knew it could handily win for great gains (see my March, 2003, article, Was Einstein Right? ). There was Israel,s attempt to sink the U.S.S. Liberty, an American spy ship, during the Six Day War, an event never meaningfully explained but likely intended to prevent evidence of atrocities against captured Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai being recorded. A large group of Israeli spies was arrested after 9/11, but their extensive activities in the United States leading up to that event have never been explained. Only a few weeks ago, before its attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, Israel mounted an effort claiming the munition which wiped out a Palestinian family on a Gaza beach belonged to someone else, when in fact a collected scrap of casing clearly showed its American origin, a type of munition not made available to anyone else in the region.
All gangs and individuals who rudely remind Israel that it really does live in a bad neighborhood are simply flattened, but flattening the perpetrators is never enough. Always Israel takes the lives of innocents and destroys their property, believing that such ruthlessness eventually will intimidate everyone around into a zombie-like peace, but this is simply another delusion.
The logic of Israel,s behavior taken to its limit would have a two- or three-hundred mile perimeter around Israel,s border (whatever that is) bulldozed and paved over. This would certainly provide complete security, but it is utter fantasy, just as impossible as the destruction of Israel.
What is the solution in the Middle East? It is found in so simple an act as Israel,s dealing fairly with its neighbors and negotiating to sort things out. Israel has never yet done this. It presents only an iron wall, bristling with weapons. When breakthroughs do come, as with the Oslo Accords, Israel,s establishment quietly ignores them or works actively against them while still talking about peace.
Israel has all the advantages. It has advanced weapons. It has great-power guarantees. It has billions of dollars in assistance every year. It has unmatched access to American intelligence and government. By comparison, Hamas and Hezbollah are pretty anemic forces.
Organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas owe their very existence to Israel’s past behavior. Hezbollah flourished as a guerrilla force opposing Israel’s previous invasion of Lebanon and its long-term partial occupation. It served also as an important charity in the midst of chaos. Hamas was created with the deliberate help of Israeli intelligence, intending to create a rival for the PLO and introduce instability into Palestinian politics. When Hamas was elected recently as part of the government of Palestine, it was only after innumerable excuses from Israel for not meeting with Abbas and after imprisoning and threatening Arafat for several years before his death. How are Palestinians to deal with an Israel that always has an excuse for not negotiating, for not even speaking, to its government? Israel has now kidnapped the cabinet of an elected government, but this is quietly supported by Bush,s democracy-loving mob.
Israel wants us to accept the simplistic assertion that organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas are proof of Islamist determination to destroy Israel. So long as this is the accepted view, greatly over-simplifying a truly complex situation, there can be no understanding and no sensible approach to peace. Refusing even to talk with the democratically-elected Hamas government and cutting it off from all connections and revenues was an act of war in response to party slogans. You can’t build peace on fantasy.
I said Israel could not be destroyed by anyone, but there is an important exception to that statement: Israel could well be destroyed by itself.
JOHN CHUCKMAN lives in Canada.