Orgy of destruction

Some commentary from South Africa, also noting the similarity between the Israeli hatred for all things Arab.

In May 1942, one of the Nazi regime’s most notorious mass murderers, Deputy Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich, was assassinated by Czech partisans. The Nazi response was to demolish the nearby village of Lidice house by house and either shoot its inhabitants or send them to death camps.

What, in principle, is the difference between the collective punishment visited on Lidice and the indiscriminate bombing of Lebanese roads, bridges, homes and apartment blocks, telecommunications and power infrastructure, airports, factories, food warehouses and medical facilities by Israeli armed forces? The same applies to the Gaza Strip, where 750 000 Palestinian civilians were forced to go without electricity after the kidnapping of a single Israeli soldier.

The official purpose of Israel’s orgy of destruction in Gaza and Lebanon is to root out Hamas and Hizbullah fighters — why, then, must the whole of southern Lebanon be bombed back to the Stone Age?

Leaving aside the tide of human misery in deaths, mutilations and displacements, a country recovering from decades of civil war has suffered up to $2-billion in infrastructure damage and a crippling blow to its resurgent tourism trade.

Gross lack of proportionality is one issue, but Israel’s central crime is, with cynical deliberation, to punish hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who have kidnapped no one, and have no hand in firing missiles at Israeli cities.

The official aim to force the Lebanese government to disarm Hizbullah fighters is a canard or a fantasy. Hizbullah is Lebanon’s best armed and most highly organised grouping, and enjoys unique credibility because of its role in ending the Israeli occupation of the south.

Premier Fouad Siniora has neither the military capacity nor the political power to act against it; it is a racing certainty that, when hostilities finally abate, the Hizbullah militia will still be there. Nor has the Israeli offensive any hope of goading Syria and Iran into withdrawing support for the Lebanese militants the response in both countries has been furious condemnation of Ehud Olmert’s government.

The apparent underlying purpose, as argued by Gush Shalom’s Uri Avnery in this edition of the Mail & Guardian, is to partition Lebanon and install a puppet government, and the signs are that the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers was a mere pretext for a military operation long in the planning. It is the generals, not Olmert and other elected politicians, who call the shots in Jerusalem.

But, as in South Africa, the inescapable reality is that neither force nor realpolitik can bring the lasting peace Israelis pant for. The response of ordinary Lebanese is not to blame Hizbullah for bringing this calamity on their heads, but intensified hatred of Israel and its rulers. Hizbullah and Hamas may be temporarily disorganised, but Israel’s persistent stoking of such hatred guarantees their continued ability to recruit and draw assistance from the Arab world.

The militants will sooner or later have to accept that Israel, backed by the world’s superpower, will not go away. But sooner or later, Israel will also have to accept that violence offers no permanent solution. Until it sits down with the Palestinians to negotiate the terms of a viable Palestinian state, its chronic insecurity will continue.

Mail & Guardian Online

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