Shame in the Middle East
The UN-sponsored cease fire in Lebanon, in effect for a week, has already been violated by an Israeli airborne raid on Baalbek, described by Israeli and American sources as a "Hizbollah stronghold", and the home town of Sheik Muhammad Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah leader and member of the group’s Shura Council. Numerous local residents described the raid as a total defeat for the Israeli force, though Israel asserts its objectives were met.
Who won matters little. The cease fire is shaky - - largely because of Israeli and American intransigence on its terms - - and the US appears likely to support Israel's right to continue violations and, possibly, resume the war.
I read the news and analyses with a profound sense of frustration, because it seems so clear that policy makers in both Israel and the United States are perceiving the world incorrectly, and responding inappropriately - - shooting themselves in the foot, as the old military adage would say.
No one ought argue that Israel has no right to exist. The tragic centuries of suffering from an anti-semitic world, the diaspora, the holocaust, all point to the esssentiality of a permanent, secure Jewish homeland. And the Holy Land is just as clearly where that homeland must be. Arabs and Muslims must accept this imperative, and millions do.
But the United States and Israel have dismally failed to understand that the Arab peoples of the Holy Land also belong there, and that they have rights and aspirations that must be heard, respected, and nurtured. Every high-handed action Israel takes, always with overt or covert American support, rubs more salt into festering, painful wounds to Arab pride, Arab well-being, and Arab aspirations.
Israel has arrogantly allowed aggressive Jewish settlers to establish communities on Arab land in the West Bank and the Golan heights. Israel has responded to Arab provocations with massive force that does far more harm to the innocent than to the provocateurs. Lebanon is only the most recent example.
Supporters of this dysfunctional policy - - that succeeds only in widening and deepening Arab resentment, and thus nurturing more suicide bombings and terrorist attacks - - retort that Israel only defends its people, that it has no option but to meet force with overwhelming force. But we must remember Gandhi's maxim: take an eye for an eye, and eventually everyone will be blind.
Israel does have options, as well as the unstinting protection of the world's wealthiest and most powerful nation. I cannot say exactly what those options are, and no one should say what they are until the Arab peoples, governmental and non-governmental alike, have been heard.
What is needed, however unlikely it may be, is for the US, the most potent player in the "game", to declare that it wants to see a just settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors that will guarantee both Israel's security and the just needs and aspirations of its neighbors. It should use its power to enlist the support of the world's great powers, through the United Nations, in a sincere negotiation process that begins with nothing on the table except these two goals.
Only this way can a just peace in the Middle East, fair to all parties, be achieved.
I recommend a recent article by Stephen Zunes for more detail and more authoritative commentary: http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/3423