From the Editor: Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui

August 11, 2006

Courage to Compromise & Reconcile

As the battle rages in the Middle East with renewed ferocity and the number of casualties multiplies, sanity and reason appear to have become a casualty too. Anger and anguish mount on both sides. Arguments are no longer restrained or muffled. The hate campaign gains in intensity and the call for vengeance is shrill and pronounced.
Noted military historian and Fellow for the Middle East & Terrorism with the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College — Dr. Earl Tilford — tackles the issue of “proportionality,” which has been raised following the tragic deaths of fifty-seven innocents at Kfar Qana in southern Lebanon and the charge that Israel has employed a “disproportionate use of force” in his article entitled “Proportionality in Wars with Terrorists.” Dr. Tilford’s argument is that “overwhelming force to achieve a total war aim is the stuff of total war.” He also notes that “[g]rowing sympathy for the sufferings of the Lebanese people must be tempered with the understanding that Lebanon accommodated Hezbollah socially and politically while Beirut did nothing to prevent Hezbollah from attacking Israel from its border strongholds. Dance with the devil; you pay the devil his due.”
Dr Tilford elaborates: In the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln understood that if the Southern rebellion was not crushed the union of states would be undone with the bifurcation of the Republic. Accordingly, during the war’s closing months, General Grant hurled his armies at the Army of Northern Virginia incurring — but also inflicting — horrendous casualties until the rebels were incapable of further resistance. Meanwhile, General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” eviscerated the South, economically striking at its political center of gravity in the strongly secessionist states of Georgia and South Carolina. The totality of objective was the preservation of the United States and it garnered a butcher’s bill tallying half of all Americans killed in wars from colonial times to the present.
This argument mirrors the mood of many today. But there are always exceptions to the general rule: Adam Werner, 24, who is currently studying for his BA in Tel Aviv University, majoring in history and political science, in his article “Second Thoughts on Israel’s War Fever” distributed by the New America Media seems to think differently. It reads:
TEL AVIV, Israel: Moments after the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah it was clear to me and other Israelis that outbreak of war on Israel’s northern border was inevitable. I anticipated the unleashing of Israel’s military might -- and the fact that I might be called up for reserve duty -- not because I willed destruction but because I saw no other alternative.
The simple and logical view of most Israelis is that Hezbollah is a fundamentalist, terrorist organization that violated our sovereignty, captured two of our boys and killed eight more in the battle that ensued. We had not provoked Hezbollah, we were not occupying Lebanon and therefore there could be no plausible justification for their actions... so they must be punished.
However, after weeks of dreadfully following the fighting from the relative safety of Tel Aviv, I have reached the sobering conclusion that there is a point where justice transforms into vengeance, and vengeance cannot be justified. To vengeance there must be an alternative.
As the war wears on and casualties on both sides accumulate, each of us must take a moment to ponder at what price must justice be served. How just is the displacement of over half a million Lebanese civilians? If we tear an entire village to the ground, even if it does harbor terrorists, is that justice?
The public consensus in Israel is quite simple: yes. Security above all else. Sometimes I wish that my country’s current surge of patriotic pride would overtake me, but regretfully I see the ongoing conflict in blinding shades of gray.
I cannot help but wince when I see my city adorned in billboards proclaiming “WE WILL WIN” -- a national rallying cry to a war that can bear no decisive winner. I cannot rejoice when I hear of a “successful” air force operation that wiped out an entire neighborhood in Beirut. I cannot miss the irony that this Lebanon war followed the retreat of Israel from Gaza, a retreat many Israelis viewed as a sign of national weakness. In a similar way, the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 took place only two months after the evacuation of Yamit, the largest Jewish settlement in Sinai, which was returned within the framework of the Israel-Egypt peace accords -- also seen as capitulation by many in Israel.
In this part of the world, exerting your power is believed to be the only means of survival, and showing restraint is an unquestionable weakness. I cannot bear the thought that Israel is waging a war that endangers thousands on both sides for the sake of flexing its military muscle to all those who oppose it.
Israel is caught up in war fever. Slogans visible everywhere include “A United Israel to Victory” and “Let IDF win.” It’s an understandable phenomenon, as we are constantly rushing into bomb shelters and our loved ones are called up to fight against the source of all this chaos. I absolutely relate to the fever, but I cannot march blindly to its beat. I shiver with each news report of another salvo of Katushya rockets into Israel, another air force bombing in Lebanon, another action, another reaction -- and who will remember who started it all when we are busy counting the dead?
My greatest fear is that the democratic values on which we pride ourselves will be threatened by this war fever. Ninety people protested in Haifa against the operations in Lebanon last week. They endured verbal and physical abuse from a much larger group of onlookers and were ultimately arrested for conducting an illegal protest.
I did not attend or witness the protest -- I am not brave enough to voice anti-war sentiments at a time when the country is fighting what the public perceives as a battle for survival -- but I believe its outcome serves as a warning. Even in times of national adversity, we must not sabotage Israel’s democratic foundations and drown in patriotic sentiments. It is crucial to take a moment to listen to the other side -- what it says might actually make sense.
Opinions like mine are marginalized in this fever-ridden country. I thought I was a traitor for thinking these thoughts. Maybe I am a traitor, but at least I know that here I can publish these views without fear of being arrested for treason. It is this right that Israelis must fight with equal passion to preserve -- even in times of war. (Article ends)
In this swiftly spiraling human catastrophe the question of paramount importance, as we stated earlier, is: Does Islam or Judaism preach violence and should the losses suffered by the followers of the two Abrahamic faiths be incurred on such a large scale given the fact that both Muslims and Jews have stakes in the region and neither one could succeed in surviving at the expense of the other? Israel is a reality. No sane Muslim grudges its existence today.
In his memorable address to the World Jewry and American Jewish Congress (AJC) in New York, President General Pervaiz Musharraf demonstrated both vision and individual courage when he made a solemn urging to Tel Aviv: “I have always believed that courage required to compromise and reconcile is far greater than that required to confront and I appeal to Israel to show that courage.”
With its marked military superiority and active backing of the United States, Israel is undeniably better poised to take the initiative. It must realize, as well-known peace negotiator George Mitchell observed vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict earlier, that “a military victory is an illusion” and the two parties should “get back to the negotiating table.”



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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.