Saturday, July 15, 2006


Lebanese/Palestinian/Israeli Conflict

Israel once again responds with collective punishment and disproportionate force. It appears the Israeli military thinks it can secure the release of its soliders by bombing everything in sight. Somehow, something tells me that won't be a very succesful strategy.

The blogosphere is alight with condemnation and outrage, so I won't repeat it. But I do feel that there is a lack of criticism of Hezbollah and Hamas. Don't get me wrong, I think what Israel is doing in both Lebanon is both barbaric and completely unacceptable. The Israeli ambassador to the U.N. based his defence upon the Israel's wish to rid the Lebanese of the oppressive Hizbollah. I agree that Hizbollah is oppressive, but simply bombing the hell out of all infrastructure in both Gaza and Lebanon is ridiculous. And initial reports suggest that the Lebanese are abandoning their weariness of Hizbollah and Syrian influence, and are moving towards rallying behind Hizbollah.

It is difficult to gauge public sentiment in a place as complex as Lebanon a time like this. On the flip side, there also appears to be a large number of Lebanese whom do not care for Hizbollah's cavalier attitude, but so far, most of those individuals are either Maronites or Druze. However, I am sure that there are others who feel that the actions of Hizbollah are not in the best interest of Lebanon as a whole.

In all the high drama, death and destruction, the Levantine psyche often reverts back to a monochrome or plays a crude number's game. It appears that we are neglecting an important query. How have the actions of Hizbollah (i.e. the kidnapping the Israeli soldiers) benefit the Lebanese people? It is a basic question, one that I don't think is as hard to answer as whether the actions of of Hamas benifited the Palestinian people, though they can both be answered with a resounding NO.

I understand that the actions of Hamas were not created in a vacuum. However, I refuse to believe that the Hamas and Hizbollah leaderships did not foresee Israeli retalliation. They knew that the kidnappings of the soldiers would have been seen as an escalation. It is not fair that thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese languish in Israeli jails and are ignored on the world stage. However, the actions of Hamas & Hizbollah are not benifiting the prisoners, and these anti-Israeli leaders knew that from the start. Of course, as Sabbah points out, there is a viable racial discourse here which is also often neglected.

But what governing and authoratitive bodies should do is engage in realpolitik and pragmatism, not political grandstanding that would ultimately lead to hundreds perhaps even thousands of needless deaths. Lebanon has been struggling for nearly a decade to rebuild, and is doing so with some success, but this latest conflict has already set the Lebanese back a few years with investors and tourists shying away. This development comes at an especially difficult time, given the fact that Lebanon is suffering from massive external debt which one of the reasons why Arab investors are now favouring Jordan instead of Lebanon.

Everyone in the area is aware of Israel's lack of inhibitions when it comes to retalliation, so why invite it? All over the blogosphere there appears to be too much subconscious exaltation, perhaps fuelled by the likes of Al-Jazeera. It seems that the "Arab Street" is obsessed with the idea of an epic struggle in which "honour" is regained. It is easy for the random person sitting in front of the computer to laud the heroic Lebanese or Palestinians without actually sharing the misery and pain. I would venture so far as to say that most Palestinians and Lebanese don't want constant struggle. I would say that what most Palestinians and Lebanese want is a chance to live their lives: for their kids to go to school, to go to their shops, take weekend excursions, and so on. Few desire a prolonged engagement with Israel in order to regain "honour." The fates ( in the form of Israel, Hamas and Hizbollah) are conspiring against them in a struggle for something that is not tangible.

In the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, no amount of suicide bombings, kidnappings or any displays of violence has brought the Palestinians an inch closer towards allowing people to live their lives without the threat of an Israeli airstrike looming.

What I ask for is that before anyone is encapsulated by feelings of patriotic fervour, one should remember that the people at the centre of these struggles really want their lives to go on and get better. So it is time we ask ourselves the question. Is what the so called "resistance" really helping the Palestinians, or are their actions dominated by a need for revenge, fuelled by foolish, passive onlookers in the rest of the Arab world?

Perhaps our mindset should be augmented to follow different solutions, new ideas towards ending the terrible conflict.

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