Bitching Brew

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The media punditry bit.

(This is a follow-up to my previous entry, and more precisely to a comment I received on it.)

Oh, I'm not equating them at all, except in the sense that I find both Hizbollah's and Israel's actions obnoxious.

Here's the media punditry bit:

  • Hizbollah committed an act of war against Israel. (I call it an act of war rather than an act of aggression because Hizbollah behaves like a quasi-state in southern Lebanon, i.e. it exercises quite a bit of sovereignty de facto, if not de jure.)
  • Israel has a right to defend itself.

I agree with both statements. Don't you? Leave aside the context and the back-story. Sometimes it's helpful to reduce complex events to a series of bullet-points! I think that's what passes for analysis these days. ;)
However, those two points don't tell the full story. In fact, they don't tell us very much. So how about another object for discussion? Let's turn the wheel a little.

  • Just because you were attacked first does not give you a carte blanche.

I presume you don't disagree with that either. Now, moving on just a tad, I said something that I think you misinterpreted:
Ultimately however, no one with the slightest regard for liberal values should want Hizbollah & Friends to overrun Israel.

I mean that sincerely. While I don't think Israel is the best advertisement for liberal values, Hizbollah actively opposes them. As an ordinary person seeking to exercise a bit of freedom, which ruling power do you think would be more congenial? I don't want to live in Israel. But I care about the individuals, not the particular authoritarian apparatus they live in. Let's put it this way - if Hizbollah scores a major victory over Israel, the body count is going to be a lot higher than if the reverse happens, and the freedom of the locals more circumscribed. Not only that, but Hizbollah fires its rockets without even the slightest regard for Israeli civilian casualties. That's an unequivocal war crime. So yes, ultimately, I'd support Israel in good conscience over Hizbollah, in the same way as I support the US against the nasties of the Iraqi insurgency.

However, having said all that... I must quote myself again. Nothing like a spot of self-reference to boost a hungry ego.
When is it morally acceptable to lob a grenade at a human shield?

I've heard Israelis and their apologists decrying Hizbollah for stationing their fighters and munitions in civilian areas. Damn right too. It's an appalling tactic which shows scant regard for the innocents they use, ineffectively, as human shields (another grotesque euphemism, eh?). It's terrible, the Israelis say, to put innocent civilians in the crossfire. Yes, it is. So what do they do? They bomb them anyway. I don't suppose much consideration was given to the other option.

I think Israel's response has been more than just "disproportionate". The deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure? "Surgical" strikes which always seem to kill innocent bystanders, and oh, perhaps a nasty terrorist or too, but that makes it all right, doesn't it.... (trails off in the smog). The Israelis aren't monsters. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they don't deliberately target civilians per se, and that they do regret the loss of innocent life. Yet it's been quite clear that, once the warning leaflets (if any) are dropped, that a Lebanese civilian life counts for nothing in the cold military calculus. Zero. Squat. Instead, we have an elaborate strategic framework weighing up the lives of Israeli soldiers and Israeli civilians vis-a-vis the deaths of Hizbollah fighters. I think that omission is obnoxious, and that some of the Israeli actions qualify (what a word!) as war crimes too.

I want to see an immediate ceasefire and a long-term comprehensive peace plan. I guess the chances of seeing either lie somewhere south of 'fuck all'.

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  • So I keep hearing about Israel's right to defend itself, but that's nonsense when one takes a fairer look at the events prior to the 'war'... Live war games by Israel which killed four Lebanese civilians a few weeks ago can also be considered a just cause for Hezbollah to defend it's electorate...

    In the Israeli 'Grapes of Wrath ' operation the bombing and invasion of Southern Lebanon was considered a defensive act also. But in reality Lebanese workers killed by Israeli rocket fire and a child murdered in a botched Israeli bomb was cited as the reason the Hezbollah launched missiles into Israel, the latter becoming the confused Israeli justification.

    In that operation and in the 1993 Operation Accountability one of Israel's stated aims was to displace refugees in order to pressure the Lebanese government. Any difference from the Hez. aim of pressuring the Israeli government through Israeli deaths?

    And what else can Hez. do but place its weapons and men in civilian areas? It's still a guerrilla army. It can survive it's buildings being blown up as long as it keeps it's civilian support structures in place. That's like telling the IRA to leave civilian areas in the North of Ireland so that they can fight with less British army collateral damage!

    It's not simply that Israel is getting away with mass murder and genocide that makes me despise the country more than any other in the world(so many other groups and states are doing far worse right now) but that world opinion is so confused as to this fact.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jul 26, 01:31:00 a.m.  

  • Hizbollah shouldn't even exist! You could make a case that it was legitimate resistance up until 2000, but since then, it should have been disarmed and disbanded (the paramilitary wing, I mean). They justify their continued existence on the Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms, which is an unfunny joke. The Shebaa Farms belonged to Syria in the first place, and were claimed dubiously by Lebanon. Yes, it's an issue that needs resolving, but it doesn't merit a paramilitary force.

    I'm concerned with the Israeli and Lebanese civilians caught up in this, not the two aggressive regimes confronting one another. I'm perfectly aware that Israel is a regional bully. The only reason they dared undertake this invasion is because of the manifest asymmetry of power. An unfortunate reality is that wherever asymmetries of power persist, bullying follows.

    I've said many times before that Israel should have been indicted over its actions in Occupied Palestine and in Lebanon over the past 25 years. That also holds true for some of its recent actions. But that doesn't let Hizbollah off the hook here. It's a paramilitary group with no legitimate raison d'etre, which indiscriminately fires rockets toward civilian areas.

    Yes, Hizbollah is a guerrilla army, and by stationing in civilian areas, it puts its own survival first. That's not an ethical justification. Fair enough - it's a standard tactic of any army to blend in when mounting a defensive operation. When they brazenly fire rockets into Israel from Lebanese town squares, that crosses the line. When they store munitions in crowded apartment buildings, knowing full well that Israel will strike anyway, that crosses the line. Just because it's a guerrilla army doesn't absolve it of ethical responsibilities.

    As for the assault on Gaza at the moment, well that's a different matter entirely... :(

    By Blogger Martin, at Thu Jul 27, 01:51:00 p.m.  

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