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The Thinking Lebanese

Link: The Thinking Lebanese.

An interesting blog that I found during a period of trying to find some new voices during this breakout of war. Read it for more substance I've seen others provide, and certainly what I can offer. It is written by Lebanese who are understandably angry at Israel's bombardment of their country but more angry at Hezbollah.

Here are a few thoughts, hopefully clear. I've been spending the last six months trying to write something lucid about the Middle East. What really pushed me was back in the spring when an English newspaper published an indulgent and sloppily argued citation from two American academics attacking America's support of Israel. It seemed indicative of an merging mindset between old-fashioned American "realists" with left-wing criticism of the Jewish state. Not totally surprising but, for my money, depressing. Short sighted because it tends to give the worst type of moral support to two people overly versed in victimhood, the Palestinians and us Jews. Let's make that three people, because I'll include the larger Islamic world caught up in this victimized mental model due to the failure of their own religious and political leadership to carry them into modernization.

The blind support of friends of all sides have traditionally served as their worst enemies. For the Israelis, those of us who feel committed to its existence are failing in not doing whatever we can (even if it's just more dialoague among other similar supporters) to acknowledge that the Jewish state is heading toward rascist directions on a scale that is frightening, namely in ignoring the systematic terrorizing of Palestinian farmers by Jewish settlers, something that is almost institutionalized by the lack of real response on the part of the army, police or courts. Other spooky things are Israel's Supreme Court refusing to acknowledge marriages between Palestinians and Israelis. All that might be said to be far removed from this latest violence, but it's not. It's part of a bigoted attitude creeping into the Israeli infrastructure. An "attitude" rather than a philosophy, which is much worse, because its based (and justified) on feelings that totally lack long range strategy. Just as I thought that ultimately the Arabs would become the worst victims of suicide bombing via their romanticization of it against Israelis, similarly a moribund and reactionary attitude that seems to be driving Israel's bureaucracy will come to haunt its own citizens.

All that said, there is a sickness within the so-called Palestinian "resistance" and those who cheer it. It's not a resistance. It's a pathology.  Same should be said, in spades, to those who speak of Hezbollah with the same reverence.  Yes, I know they do social good. Well, fascist organizations can often do "a lot of good." Especially in a vacumn created by the failure of institutional leadership amid a broader political landscape. In Lebanon that landscape seems to include some of its own intelligentsia. Take Rami Khouri. Interviewed constantly on NPR, Khouri is probably attractive because, beyond editing a Lebanese newspaper, he has that gentle, soft ferocity which is the hallmark of well-loved college professor, passionate, angry and seemingly reasoned. Yesterday he was interviewed and as he, and some other Lebanese academics have in the past, continued to speak of Hezbollah as "resistance."

When Israel is destroying a nation's infrastructure, and the only group who is firing back (with deadly force, it should be noted), I understand how that group might be positioned as resistance. But this was far from the first time Khouri described them as such. He's part of a larger cadre who didn't see Israel leaving Lebanon as having anything to do with a wiser Israeli position. Rather he decided (and I use this term "decided" consciously) that it would be better to spread the gospel that Hezbollah had driven the Israelis out. In a factual sense, he's right. But it's half a story and a fatally short sighted half. And so he continues to position Hezbollah as resistance to an Israel that may be holding three murdering psychopaths prisoner for killing Israelis, but otherwise had absolutely no desire to engage with Lebanon.  It's ludicrous.

So for him and his ilk, Hezbollah, acting as a heavily armed militia within a larger state is "resistance." So Hezbollah, who take on over 10,000 Iranian missiles and post them on that  nation's borders with Israel without any mandate from the Lebanese government and polity are a "resistance." So Hezbollah, acting against Israel when it has pulled back to UN-sanctioned borders, is "resistance." To what? If Israel's attitude is corrosive, Lebanon's adoption of Hezbollah resistance is intellectually sanctioned suicide. With such thinking of Hezbollah as "resistance," Lebanon is in the trouble it is now, namely having it country hijacked by a bunch of thugs. Worse, a bunch of thugs who are themselves proxy forces for bigger thugs, the dictator who rules Syria and the religious mullahs who lead Iran - who themselves are leading their own countries into deepening whirlpools of economic morass. If Khouri is, as he seems to be, suggesting that Hezbollah acts in Lebanese interests, I just wonder what Lebanon Khouri views himself representing, NPR thinks this man represents, and what they expect from Israel, short of diving into the sea for a swim towards... who the hell knows.

In writing this, I find myself moving into my own morass. Of thoughts. Here's a stab at a few other observations. Israel's response is depressing for so many reasons, chief among them is the potential for a new leadership to try to out-macho itself in proving themselves worthy. Defense Minister Peretz calling out Nasrallah yesterday is street theater of the worst type. Today, in The New Republic online, historian Michael Oren suggested Israel avoid a bigger war by bombing Syria. Read it to understand his logic. Honestly, terrible as it is, I think his smarter idea was posed a few days ago, when apparently he wrote Israel should avoid broad military actions at all, instead going directly after Hezbollah leadership. "Taking them out" one by one. Ugly as such murder would be, it would be less randomly murderous than the bombing of Lebanon's infrastructure. But perhaps that's not possible. Well, right now Israel seems to be doing Nazrallah the biggest favor of all, making him the entire Arab world's latest pop star. And it doesn't seem to me that the Israelis much care. Which may hold clues to a big part of the problem. Which is this:

For the best and worst of reasons, Israel has seemed to steadily move into a "unilateral" mindset.  From the 1980s until the famous Camp David meeting with Arafat in 2000, there were powerful forces leading Israel to reach out to the Arab world, including their brothers-in-blood, namely the Palestinians. They were trying to "become part" of their own neighborhood. That has changed since the second intifada, 9/11, the Iraq War, and an American government unwilling to do the diplomacy necessary to push all sides. The end result is you have something between a depression and complacency impacting the entire Jewish state. That is a big statement and I'll back it up in another post. For now, let's just say that Israel is part of the Middle East. Yet they seem to want to ignore that, isolating themselves in talk of unilateral actions. The sooner Arab intellectuals as well as the so-called "Arab street" recognize Israel as a nation, that the Arabs accept Israel as the Jewish state as Israelis define themselves, the better Arab countries may actually turn inwards, creating the type of intellectual and cultural vitality that actually leads to building their own polities into something other than fueled by an awfully bloody set of dreams. Similarly, if Israel is so eager to act awfully tough with Palestinians who threaten them, they better be willing to act with equally resolute force against Jewish thugs who terrorize the local Palestinian population over whom they have responsibility. They also better realize that living where they do in the world means accepting that Palestinians and Israelis will fall in love. May only more of that happen sooner.

Jonathan Field
July 17, 2006

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