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Lebanon: frozen in the headlamps of history

05/10/2008

Watching the events in Lebanon from a safe distance provides a frustrating sense of deja vu. It happened in 1938 in Czechoslovakia, but that was before my time. It happened in Hungary again in 1956, and in Czechoslovakia again in 1968, and in Iran in 1979, and now it is happening in Lebanon. A people is being crushed, and the world looks on helpless. Never mind that nobody cares about the Lebanese people. Foreign relations and foreign policy are never really based on humanitarian sentiments and affection. That is just bumf to be written in speeches and schoolbooks. But it is shocking that nobody seems to care that Lebanon has taken one more step on the road it began to travel with the foundation of Hezbollah: the road to becoming an Islamic Republic. The Lebanese government itself, and those who should care about Lebanon, did not seem to have the sense to stop playing with the fire of Hezbollah when it was still possible to do so.

The creation of a separate Hezbollah communications network, allowing them to plot the overthrow of Lebanese democracy with their Syrian and Iranian masters, was only one more step in a continuous process. If the Lebanese government was going to challenge this step, it should have been ready with the military means and resolve needed to enforce its authority. Hezbollah gambled that the government was not ready to back its position, and Hezbollah was apparently right. The role of the Lebanese army in Beirut is unclear. Whatever they are doing, they are not doing their job. How can the Lebanese army announce that it is "neutral" when an armed militia challenges the authority of the government?

The vital interests of the West are threatened, but Western diplomats give off only hot air. US President Bush, defender of democracy and the true faith, could not be bothered, as he is preparing for his daughter's wedding. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, so solicitous of the welfare of the democratic government of Fouad Seniora when the Israelis tried to oust the Hezbollah in 2006, issued a meaningless statement:

"We will stand by the Lebanese government and peaceful citizens of Lebanon through this crisis and provide the support they need to weather this storm,"

It is not a storm, Ms Rice. A storm blows over and gives way to sunny weather. It is the coming of an ice age, with all the inevitability of a slow but certain catastrophic event, that has plainly been in the works since the creation of the Hezbollah. What is remarkable is that everyone stood about, powerless, while a handful of unscrupulous religious fanatics exploited Lebanese ills to convert Lebanon into a franchise of the Iranian Islamist revolution. If the US is going to provide the Lebanese with the support they need, yesterday was the time to do it. It is silly to speak about avoiding civil war now. The Hezbollah has set up roadblocks on all the roads to Beirut. They control the road to the international airport. That is an act of insurrection.

The Europeans too, and the Arabs, are consulting and talking and meeting, but where were they in December of 2006, when the Hezbollah began obstructing the workings of the Lebanese government? Where have they all been since then? And where was the Lebanese government and the Lebanese army? Everyone watched while the Hezbollah, the paws of the Iranian cat, played with the mouse of the Seniora government. By now the mouse is totally dizzy and fatigued, and the bystanders seem to be likewise befuddled. Israeli President Shimon Peres is a great man, and part of his greatness is that he can make very great mistakes. In a most remarkable statement, he "explained" that the crisis in Lebanon is an "internal split" of the Lebanese. That's right, the potential establishment of an Islamic Republic, a forward base of Iran, on Israel's northern border is just an "internal" affair of the Lebanese: "It has nothing to do with Israel. It's an internal split," quoth Peres. With wise men like that, who needs fools? But Peres was only saying what everyone else was thinking and doing, and the truth is, that there is not very much Israel can do, at least not openly. It is up to France, the USA, the Arab League and perhaps Turkey. But none of them seem to be concerned beyond the point of saying they are concerned.

Did the crisis begin in December of 2006, or did it begin in July of that year, when Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers and brought a war on Lebanon, and the Lebanese government did virtually nothing to stop them? Or did the crisis begin in 2000, when the Hezbollah kidnapped the first set of Israeli soldiers? Or did the crisis really begin when the Hezbollah was allowed to take over large parts of Lebanon and set up its state within a state? Where was the Lebanese government all this time, and where were the Western powers, who should have been ensuring that the government, and not the Hezbollah, provided the social services and political representation that the Shi'a population of Lebanon needed?

Last autumn, when I wrote about the forgotten agony of Lebanon, the problem was already acute, and the international silence about Lebanon was deafening. I concluded, 'As for the Hezbollah, they are providing a sterling example of how Jihadists can "adapt" to "democracy."' Was I wrong? But the vast majority of Lebanese media and international experts continued to babble that the Hezbollah had the national interests of Lebanon at heart. Even now, when the Hezbollah overran the Lebanese capital and seized control of the roads and Hezbollah general Secretary Nasrallah blames the government for interfering in his private army, pundit Rami Khouri told Al Jazeera that a "mediator" is required:

Commenting on Nasrallah's speech, Rami Khoury, editor-at-large for Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, said Nasrallah had been careful to present Hezbollah as acting out of self-defence.

"He's made it clear that the government has declared war on Hezbollah and Hezbollah is defending itself," he told Al Jazeera.

"What you need now is some credible, expert mediator - probably from the Arab world - to step in."

The psychopath who begins shooting the hostages when the SWAT team advances may also make it clear that he only acted in self-defense. Should a neutral mediator be appointed to adjudicate the claims of the psychopath versus those of the police? The Arab world mediator, the expert, did step in, may we remind Rami Khouri. The Arab League tried to negotiate a settlement, but the Hezbollah and their bosses in Tehran and Damascus refused it. The UN, also a neutral mediator, called for disarmament of Hezbollah and implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, but since the UN was not willing to enforce its decision, the Hezbollah turned a deaf ear. Lebanon has run out of neutral mediators. There is no neutral mediator whose judgment would be accepted by Syria and Iran. There is no expert on international law who will rule that it is OK to maintain an armed militia within a state, that it is legal to allow the murderers of Rafiq Hariri to get away with murder. and that it is right for Bashar Assad to pick the next president of Lebanon. Those are the only judgments that Hezbollah and its masters would accept. The Hezbollah are in defiance of the Lebanese government and of international law. The case could not be clearer. Bandits only obey the law when they are forced to do so. By now, even Rami Khouri should understand that. What is needed is a neutral mediator with enough battalions to enforce their decisions, and the will to do it. The UN and the Arab League are unwilling to back their decisions with force.

But can we really blame them? The Lebanese army exists, but it is unwilling or unable to act. Doing nothing in the face of insurrection is not avoiding civil war, it is simply surrendering in the civil war that is already a fact. The Lebanese government has not issued a clear call for armed support, nor has it directed the army to dismantle the Hezbollah, nor has it asked the help of UNIFIL to do so. Pundits like Khouri call for more "mediation." If the Lebanese are not willing to help themselves, then who will help them? If they will not defend themselves, then who will defend them? Nobody wants to get mired in the mud of Lebanon again.

Of course, when a Lebanese journalist or a Lebanese politician says anything, it is sometimes hard to know if they are saying what they think, or what they need to stay alive. Given the number of journalists and politicians that have already been assassinated because they dared to speak out against Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, it is fair to conclude that there is a sort of Darwinian selection at work in Lebanon, for tact and discretion. Brave politicians like Walid Jumblatt, and brave journalists like Michael Young are in increasingly short supply in Lebanon. Perhaps if there were more of them, international support would be more substantial, and perhaps if international support was worth something, more Lebanese would be willing to speak out.

The French and the Italians have finally acted decisively, and they have acted true to form, as we learn from these headlines:

France plans for possible Lebanon evacuation

Italy readies evacuation plan from Lebanon

The French and the Italians are, of course, prudently preparing the retreat, what else could one expect? When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Everyone, without exception, seems to be frozen in the headlamps of historical inevitability. Like characters in a Greek tragedy, they may see the looming catastrophe, but they render themselves powerless to stop it. By the time the Arab league meets and discusses, the UN discusses and decides to "remain seized of the matter," the French conclude their discussions and deliberations, and the Italians conclude their evacuation plans, it will be over - Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian masters will have established one more fact on the ground. The unacceptable will be accepted, just as the 1.5 year paralysis of the Lebanese government was accepted.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

Is Israel really independent?

It depends on the United States for $3-5 billion a year. It depends on the vast majority of Jewish voters in New York and Florida to keep getting that money.

Israel's economy depends on it's security and it's security depends on the Palestinians and how angry they feel about the pogrom committed against them in 1948, and the more gradual pogrom against them over the last 60 years.

And the Israelis are dependent upon the hatred exhibited by the Jewish settlers. Polls show that most Israelis want to abandon the settlements if it will bring peace and security. But the settlers are intransigent and apparently they have a lot of influence on the Israeli government since the settlements are not only not decreasing, they are still increasing.

The settlers also are the force behind various Israeli terrorist groups that you don't hear much or anything about in the US corporate media; groups such as Kahane Chai, the Jewish Defense League, Kach and the Committee for Safe Streets.

Israel is very much dependent on our corporate media to keep the American taxpayers ignorant about these terrorist groups, and ignorant about the terrorist groups that were instrumental in the formation of Israel in 1948; terrorist groups such as the Stern Gang and the Irgun. Some would also include the Haganah which was a much larger militia than the Stern and Irgun gangsters.

I believe it was Haganah that planned the bombing and sinking of a boat full of Jewish civilians who were trying to leave Palestine. I guess the terrorists wanted to make the point that ALL Jews need to stick together in Palestine, IN ISRAEL. At that time it was called Palestine.

Apparently there were some leaders in Haganah who were against the bombing of this civilian vessel. But there are also some Muslim terrorists who are against targeting Iraqi civilian collaborators.

In those pre-Israel days, Zionists were dependent on terrorists like these because they did not have US tanks and F-15s as they do now. In fact, to this day, Israel must face the reality that their creation could not have happened without Zionist terrorists. Israel would not be a Jewish state without these terrorists ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from Palestine.

The Israelis are dependent on this negative legacy. They have to cover it up and deny it and rationalize it.

An abuser cannot be trully emotionally independent until he or she makes amends to their victim. The abuser must do this in order to forgive themselves. Until repentence this ugly mark hangs around the neck of the abuser. It creates an inner, self-directed, subconscious hostility that the abuser cannot get free from.

It also creates a negative karma that haunts the abuser. When things go wrong, deep inside the abuser wonders if the negative happening is a result of their negative actions. This self-doubt can cause the abuser to make poor decisions, like Israel's decision to bomb civilians in Lebanon.

Unrepentence inhibits the spiritual growth of an individual and a nation.

But from a less abstract perspective, there are hawks in Israel I suspect who would like to be less dependent on money from America. They realize this money inhibits Israeli policy. For example, if Israel kills too many Palestinian children the money from America might be cut off. Although America does not often tell Israel what to do there have been times when American presidents have stood up to the Israeli lobby. Like when the first and wiser President Bush told Israel to slow down the building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. And I think Israel had to comply with his wishes, at least to a certain extent.

And now the current, not wise President Bush realizes finally that he needs to make a peace deal between Israel and Palestine if he wants to save his legacy and his failed occupation of Iraq. This puts further contraints on Israel whether they admit it or not.

The Israeli hawks hate this predicament they are in. A state at war has to have a lot of money. And Israel has always been a state in a state of war. And it always will be until it practices the art of repentence, something which does not look very likely at this point.
Which means it will probably never be independent of American taxpayers. It will always be a welfare state. Are welfare recipients independent?

The early Zionists helped bring about the Balfour Declaration which led to the eventual creation of Israel and the theft of Palestinian land. But the intentions of the Zionists were good. They believed Israel would become an independent state, a lighthouse that would show the world that Jews are not evil and in this way end anti-semitism. There was one very wealthy Zionist (whose name I don't recall at this time) who demanded that they put some wording in the declaration that respected the rights of the Palestinians. They did put somethinglike that in there and then the Zionists ignored it once they set foot on Palestinian soil. This one wealthy and righteous Zionist was prophetic. For the terrible way the Zionists have treated the Palestinians has worked against the stated and positive goal of the early Zionists.

Instead of decreasing anti-semitism, the state of Israel--the welfare state of Israel--has actually increased anti-semitism, in my opinion. The one thing that decreased anti-semitism was the Holocaust unfortunately.

A mature and independent people, a grown-up nation, would have used that empathy created by the Holocaust to do good and positive things, to bring good out of evil.

It is my hope that Israel will some day grow up and do just that. I am not holding my breath though.

Posted by scottsoperson @ 05/14/2008 08:27 AM CST


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