Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah
|By David Newell
||July, 27, 2006
The recent rally of attacks between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon is yet another round
in the last half century or so of violence and unrest between Israel and its neighbors. So
who is right?... A simple question, isn't it?
Well, you can go back to the post-WWII era and say that Israel should never have been
established in the Palestine area and therefore they should leave. Then again, you could
go just a bit further back and say that the United States should rescind its rights to its
territory and give it back to the Native American tribes. Hey, if we keep going back,
Israel has a right to their current territory. The point is, even though arguments can be
made along this line in relation to the current Middle East situation, such arguments are
not worthwhile or practically useful. The best we can hope for is to preserve some version
of the status quo and try to keep the peace. This rules out abolishing Israel, but it also
leaves room for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
So what about now? Who should do what, given the current situation? Well, first off,
Israel does have a right to defend itself. This defense, however, cannot be without
bounds. On the other hand, no matter what Hezbollah's or anyone else's qualms may be, it
never justifies targeting or attacking civilians. The targeting of civilian non-combatants
over military targets is, in my mind, what separates the rebels, revolutionaries, and
freedom fighters from simple terrorists--so no, I don't buy the clichÈ that one person's
terrorist is another's freedom fighter.
Another issue to consider is that it really does matter who started what, in the short-term.
Going too far back is fruitless, just as it is with claims to territory. But, given the status
quo and efforts to preserve peace again, we cannot accept initiations of violence, despite
what some may say about previous engagements where someone else started something
else. Again, if we go to far back, the whole world would be at war with itself.
Where does all this leave us? Well, it means that Hezbollah, if it claims to be a freedom
fighting-variety organization (and not a terrorist group, which is somewhat hard to accept)
can go ahead and kidnap Israeli soldiers, as long as it recognizes that Israel can go right
ahead and fire back, given their right to self defense. What is not acceptable is for
Hezbollah to attack civilians, as they have done, and for Israel to give a disproportionate
response to the kidnappings, which they have, debatably, done.
What needs to be done then? Well, Hezbollah should release the prisoners, if they are still
alive, and give up its arms and terrorist activities, as did the IRA recently. Israel should
then stop its attacks on Lebanon. But, this is the real world and this probably won't
happen. Left to themselves, several weeks of continued fighting will remain, and people
on both sides will die and eventually when Israel has decided that Hezbollah has been
sufficiently weakened, it will cease fire, unless Hezbollah continues its strikes.
I believe that what is really happening is that Hezbollah does not want to see peace
between a potential Palestinian state and Israel because this would mean an implicit or
explicit acceptance of the right of Israel to existence by an authoritative Palestinian body.
Hezbollah creating havoc adds fuel to the fire of the Israeli political right wing and gives
them (the Israeli right) the domestic support necessary to use military options against its
neighbors in Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, where Hezbollah, Hamas, and
other violent factions reside. Under such conditions, a Palestinian state will never rise and
thus there will never be a formal recognition of Israel's right to exist by Palestine.
First of all, I agree with an international peace keeping force, if for anything, just to stop
the fighting. Under such conditions, terms of peace can be laid out. Now, Hezbollah is not
a government or group with international status, and they very well should not be given
such status. So, they have to be dealt with vis-‡-vis the governments of the countries
where they hold power, specifically Lebanon and Syria. Mediating talks between Israel
and Lebanon concerning terms of peace would be a start. Israel could promise to stop
attacks and Lebanon could promise to crack down on Hezbollah. This would be a step in
the right direction and would have the added benefit of adding legitimacy to the
struggling Lebanese government because it would require lending outside help--the
Lebanese governments cannot do this on its own--in working to make Hezbollah give up
its weapons and tactics and become a political faction, which would, in turn, bolster the
Lebanese governments domestic power. Furthermore, pressure should be brought to bear
on Syria, which supports Hezbollah, to stop harboring and aiding terrorist activities.
This combination of efforts would leave the Israeli political right with little reason to use
brute force and forego talks with the Palestinian Authority, would increase the power of
Lebanon to resist influence from Hezbollah and Syria, and would decrease the status and
ability of Hezbollah to act against the process of Palestinian statehood and Middle East
Copyright © 2006 by David Newell