The Birth Pangs
in the Face of an Obstructed Labor
For the past four weeks Israel has wrought havoc
to Lebanon by indiscriminately bombing not only
Hezbollah stronghold in the south but civilian targets
in the north of the country as well. After a month
of relentless ground, sea and air assault Israel’s
success is far from certain.
It is a replay of what Israel has done many times
in the past. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon to kick
the Palestinians out of the country. It was accomplished
at the cost of 18,000 Palestinian and Lebanese lives
and destruction of much of Beirut. The present invasion
has already killed more than 400 Lebanese men, women
and children and has left more than 600,000 homeless.
Hezbollah was born during Israel’s 18-year
long occupation of southern Lebanon and it was Hezbollah
that eventually forced Israel to quit Lebanon in
2000. It is a grassroots organization that enjoys
widespread public support in Lebanon and across
the Arab world. The current operation might cripple
it to some extent but will not be able to eliminate
it completely. In fact Moshe Arens, former Israeli
Foreign Minister, thinks Hezbollah could emerge
from the conflict unscathed.
It is ironic that Israel refuses to negotiate with
Hezbollah for the release of captured soldiers even
though in the past Israel had negotiated with the
group and has exchanged prisoners. The negotiations
will eventually take place but much more damage
to Lebanon would have been done by then.
It is bound to further inflame Arab and Muslim world
against Israel and its main supporter and benefactor
the United States. These events will push more young
Arab men and women into the arms of militants and
The irony is that kidnapping of soldiers and civilians
has been a common occurrence in the Middle East.
The issue had always been resolved by direct or
indirect negotiations and the exchange of prisoners.
Israel has been kidnapping Lebanese and Palestinians
citizens at will. There are an estimated 9000 Palestinians
in Israeli jails, including members of Palestinian
parliament and some Hamas ministers. There are also
a small number of Lebanese in Israeli captivity.
These captured men, women and children have no recourse.
Why did Israel respond so ferociously to Hezbollah’s
Hezbollah has been a constant source of worry and
irritation for Israel because of its military prowess,
its links with Iran and Syria and its influence
and power in Lebanese politics. According to a recent
report by Mathew Kalman in San Francisco Chronicle,
Israel started planning for the current operation
soon after its withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
The plan, shared with the US and other key allies,
spelled out the current three-week operation in
Israel had expected worldwide condemnation of its
exaggerated and out of proportion response to Hezbollah
provocation. It is, as it has always been, oblivious
to and dismissive of world opinion. Thanks to the
awesome influence of the Jewish lobby in America
Israel can get away with anything. The Bush Administration’s
callous attitude to the carnage in Lebanon and a
lopsided 410-8 vote in the House of Representatives
cheering Israel for its actions speaks volumes about
the impotency of the United States.
And various Arab countries are impotent as well.
Many years ago by making separate peace deals with
Israel and becoming dependent on American aid, Egypt
and Jordan have taken themselves out of the equation.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
recently gathered to debate Lebanese carnage where
its members made pathetically hollow speeches and
sent a delegation to the UN to talk to the members
of the Security Council. It did not get them anywhere.
These resplendent presidents, kings and sheikhs
are an embarrassment to their people. They are totally
incapable of altering the course of events set by
Israel and the United Sates.
Israel wishes to redraw the map of the Middle East
at the expense of Arabs and Palestinians. The first
part of that strategy was the occupation of Iraq
on false pretexts. While Iran and Syria had also
been singled out as genuine targets, the Iraqi quagmire
has derailed that process. On her recent visit to
the region Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State,
justified widespread destruction caused by Israel
as the birth pangs of a new Middle East. Unless
the world finds an equitable and honorable solution
to the 58-year old Arab-Israeli conflict this is
going to be a long, protracted and fruitless labor.
The Jewish historian Isaac Deutscher who lost part
of his family in the Holocaust compared Israel to
Prussia and rendered this observation: ‘The
Germans have summed up their own experience in the
bitter phrase man kan sich totseigen meaning you
can triumph yourself to death’.