Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid reports that in Beirut, “politics are conflating with identity” — singularly troublesome when looked at in relation to the phenomenon of terrorist-militant-group-turned-political-factions like the so-named Party of God (Hizb’ollah).

In his survey of the common population’s outlook (“Barrage Reopens Wounds of a Fractured Beirut,” 16 July 2006), Shadid writes that Hizbollah “provided schools, hospitals, pharmacies and dental clinics, spending millions of dollars — made possible by Iran” and its theocratic machinations.

[Such ‘social services’ were allegedly key to the political ascendancy of Hamas — euphemistically dubbed the Islamic Resistance Movement — as opposed to the weak and reportedly corrupt Fatah.]

Personally, it is very interesting how Lebanon can be so deftly transformed from a supposed bastion of democratic heroism (as in the beloved Cedar Revolution) pitted against sinister Syrian occupiers, into an existential enemy of a fundamentally embattled Israel — which, in turn, is portrayed in Arab news media as a monstrous aggressor.

Thomas O’Dwyer, a former Jerusalem Post foreign editor and current contributor to openDemocracy, asks whether Hizbollah fatally “miscalculated” by abducting Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers. O’Dwyer quotes Tel Aviv University political science professor Shaul Mishal as registering his own surprise that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — reportedly something of a politico-military novice — “was ready to take such a risk, (in) account of the fact that Israel was going to suffer from missile attacks against its population”, perhaps a predictable result coming from a roguish set of militants hell-bent on ‘resisting’ foreign ‘domination’ as Hizbollah.

The reactions abroad seem instructive. Israel is engaging in “disproportionate” use of force, says the European Union. Hizbollah, for its part, is roundly condemned by the Arab League for “irresponsibly” dooming the Lebanese to the might of the IDF. And only very recently has the U.S. sent out a State Department delegation to the region, though has so far rejected talk of any ceasefire, which ought to be mutual, unequivocal and immediate.

Ari Shavit, in an opinion piece from the premier Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, explains that laying down arms “would serve to redefine what is now mistakenly perceived as a savage war between two savage and bloodthirsty tribes” (“Start Over,” 17 July 2006). Shavit adds, without a hint of doubt, “We are killing and being killed for our border. We are killing and being killed for our liberty … for our very existence as a free society.”

The words of Knesset member Yossi Sarid are worth heeding:

Deterring capability [with which to fight terrorism] consists not only of military might, but also of moral might. After all, Bush himself, and not the defeatist bleeding hearts, often talks in the name of the Moral Majority and world morality and cites it as the culmination of his vision. … The president himself is violating human and civil rights by ordering mass wiretapping, by the wholesale penetration of private bank accounts and by unrestrained assaults on journalists who are faithfully doing their job. Most of these phenomena are of course not foreign to Israel, which encountered difficulties when, in the biblical metaphor, it did the deed of Zimri and demanded the reward of Pinhas.[*] This is … joining the evildoers and strengthening them and their arguments.”

As Yigal Sarena notes in Yedioth Ahronoth, “‘A cat pushed into a corner becomes a panther,’ goes the Arab saying.” From the first front, “The miserable Gaza panther fires its annoying tin-can Qassams as a call of poverty from those choking, those who lack answers.”

*This story (to the best of my understanding, anyway) refers to violent moments of zealotry, to which the antidote is clear, calm thinking. Scholarly, rabbinical commentary from Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom, a humanistic religious Zionist group, provides this interpretation. In “The Deed of Pinhas and the Breaking of the Tablets,” Pinchas Leiser puts it this way: “Even though Pinhas’s intentions were pure,” Israel protecting its people in Sarid’s analogue, “there is no guarantee that the zealot’s soul will emerge unscathed by zealous killing, even if that killing appears to be justified.”

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