"Stop that shit!"
July 18, 2006
A woman, an immigrant from Russia, throws herself on the ground
in total despair in front of her home that has been hit by a missile,
crying in broken Hebrew: "My son! My son!" believing him
dead. In fact he was only wounded and sent to the hospital.
Lebanese children, covered with wounds, in Beirut hospitals. The
funeral of the victims of a missile in Haifa. The ruins of a whole
devastated quarter in Beirut. Inhabitants of the north of Israel
fleeing south from the Katyushas. Inhabitants of the south of Lebanon
fleeing north from the Israeli Air Force.
Death, destruction. Unimaginable human suffering.
And the most disgusting sight: George Bush in a playful mood sitting
on his chair in St. Petersburg, with his loyal servant Tony Blair
leaning over him, and solving the problem: "See? What they
need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing that shit,
and it's over."
Thus spake the leader of the world, and the seven dwarfs - "the
great of the world" - say Amen.
SYRIA? BUT only a few months ago it was Bush - yes, the same Bush
- who induced the Lebanese to drive the Syrians out of their country.
Now he wants them to intervene in Lebanon and impose order?
31 years ago, when the Lebanese civil war was at its height, the
Syrians sent their army into Lebanon (invited, of all people, by
the Christians). At the time, the then Minister of Defense Shimon
Peres and his associates created hysteria in Israel. They demanded
that Israel deliver an ultimatum to the Syrians, to prevent them
from reaching the Israeli border. Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister,
told me then that that was sheer nonsense, because the best that
could happen to Israel was for the Syrian army to spread out along
the border. Only thus could calm be assured, the same calm that
reigned along our border with Syria.
However, Rabin gave in to the hysteria of the media and stopped
the Syrians far from the border. The vacuum thus created was filled
by the PLO. In 1982, Ariel Sharon pushed the PLO out, and the vacuum
was filled by Hizbullah.
All that has happened there since then would not have happened
if we had allowed the Syrians to occupy the border from the beginning.
The Syrians are cautious, they do not act recklessly.
WHAT WAS Hassan Nasrallah thinking of, when he decided to cross
the border and carry out the guerilla action that started the current
Witches' Sabbath? Why did he do it? And why at this time?
Everybody agrees that Nasrallah is a clever person. He is also
prudent. For years he has been assembling a huge stockpile of missiles
of all kinds to establish a balance of terror. He knew that the
Israeli army was only waiting for an opportunity to destroy them.
In spite of that, he carried out a provocation that provided the
Israeli government with a perfect pretext to attack Lebanon with
the full approval of the world. Why?
Possibly he was asked by Iran and Syria, who had supplied him with
the missiles, to do something to divert American pressure from them.
And indeed, the sudden crisis has shifted attention away the Iranian
nuclear effort, and it seems that Bush's attitude towards Syria
has also changed.
But Nasrallah is far from being a marionette of Iran or Syria.
He heads an authentic Lebanese movement, and calculates his own
balance sheet of pros and cons. If he had been asked by Iran and/or
Syria to do something - for which there is no proof - and he saw
that it was contrary to the aims of his movement, he would not have
Perhaps he acted because of domestic Lebanese concerns. The Lebanese
political system was becoming more stable and it was becoming more
difficult to justify the military wing of Hizbullah. A new armed
incident could have helped. (Such considerations are not alien to
us either, especially before budget debates.)
But all this does not explain the timing. After all, Nasrallah
could have acted a month before or a month later, a year before
or a year later. There must have been a much stronger reason to
convince him to enter upon such an adventure at precisely this time.
And indeed there was: Palestine.
TWO WEEKS before, the Israeli army had started a war against the
population of the Gaza Strip. There, too, the pretext was provided
by a guerrilla action, in which an Israeli soldier was captured.
The Israeli government used the opportunity to carry out a plan
prepared long before: to break the Palestinians' will to resist
and to destroy the newly elected Palestinian government, dominated
by Hamas. And, of course, to stop the Qassams.
The operation in Gaza is an especially brutal one, and that is
how it looks on the world's TV screens. Terrible pictures from Gaza
appear daily and hourly in the Arab media. Dead people, wounded
people, devastation. Lack of water and medicaments for the wounded
and sick. Whole families killed. Children screaming in agony. Mothers
weeping. Buildings collapsing.
The Arab regimes, which are all dependent on America, did nothing
to help. Since they are also threatened by Islamic opposition movements,
they looked at what was happening to Hamas with some Schadenfreude.
But tens of millions of Arabs, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian
Gulf, saw, got excited and angry with their government, crying out
for a leader who would bring succor to their besieged, heroic brothers.
Fifty years ago, Gamal Abd-el-Nasser, the new Egyptian leader,
wrote that there was a role waiting for a hero. He decided to be
that hero himself. For several years, he was the idol of the Arab
world, symbol of Arab unity. But Israel used an opportunity that
presented itself and broke him in the Six-day war. After that, the
star of Saddam Hussein rose in the firmament. He dared to stand
up to mighty America and to launch missiles at Israel, and became
the hero of the Arab masses. But he was routed in a humiliating
manner by the Americans, spurred on by Israel.
A week ago, Nasrallah faced the same temptation. The Arab world
was crying out for a hero, and he said: Here am I! He challenged
Israel, and indirectly the United States and the entire West. He
started the attack without allies, knowing that neither Iran nor
Syria could risk helping him.
Perhaps he got carried away, like Abd-el-Nasser and Saddam before
him. Perhaps he misjudged the force of the counter-attack he could
expect. Perhaps he really believed that under the weight of his
rockets the Israeli rear would collapse. (As the Israeli army believed
that the Israeli onslaught would break the Palestinian people in
Gaza and the Shiites in Lebanon.)
One thing is clear: Nasrallah would not have started this vicious
circle of violence, if the Palestinians had not called for help.
Either from cool calculation, or from true moral outrage, or from
both - Nasrallah rushed to the rescue of beleaguered Palestine.
THE ISRAELI reaction could have been expected. For years, the army
commanders had yearned for an opportunity to eliminate the missile
arsenal of Hizbullah and destroy that organization, or at least
disarm it and push it far, far from the border. They are trying
to do this the only way they know: by causing so much devastation,
that the Lebanese population will stand up and compel its government
to fulfill Israel's demands.
Will these aims be achieved?
HIZBULLAH IS the authentic representative of the Shiite community,
which makes up 40% of the Lebanese population. Together with the
other Muslims, they are the majority in the country. The idea that
the weakling Lebanese government - which in any case includes Hizbullah
- would be able to liquidate the organization is ludicrous.
The Israeli government demands that the Lebanese army be deployed
along the border. This has by now become a mantra. It reveals total
ignorance. The Shiites occupy important positions in the Lebanese
army, and there is no chance at all that it would start a fratricidal
war against them.
Abroad, another idea is taking shape: that an international force
should be deployed on the border. The Israeli government objects
to this strenuously. A real international force - unlike the hapless
UNIFIL which has been there for decades - would hinder the Israeli
army from doing whatever it wants. Moreover, if it were deployed
there without the agreement of Hizbullah, a new guerilla war would
start against it. Would such a force, without real motivation, succeed
where the mighty Israeli army was routed?
At most, this war, with its hundreds of dead and waves of destruction,
will lead to another delicate armistice. The Israeli government
will claim victory and argue that it has "changed the rules
of the game". Nasrallah (or his successors) will claim that
their small organization has stood up to one of the mightiest military
machines in the world and written another shining chapter of heroism
in the annals of Arab and Muslim history.
No real solution will be achieved, because there is no treatment
of the root of the matter: the Palestinian problem.
MANY YEARS ago, I was listening on the radio to one of the speeches
of Abd-el-Nasser before a huge crowd in Egypt. He was holding forth
on the achievements of the Egyptian revolution, when shouts arose
from the crowd: "Filastine, ya Gamal!" ("Palestine,
oh Gamal!") Whereupon Nasser forgot what he was talking about
and started on Palestine, getting more and more carried away.
Since then, not much has changed. When the Palestinian cause is
mentioned, it casts its shadow over everything else. That's what
has happened now, too.
Whoever longs for a solution must know: there is no solution without
settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And there is no solution
to the Palestinian problem without negotiations with their elected
leadership, the government headed by Hamas.
If one wants to finish, once and for all, with this shit - as Bush
so delicately put it - that is the only way.
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