News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: History from the Twilight Zone of the Mideast

Friday, August 04, 2006

History from the Twilight Zone of the Mideast

The old cliche that there's always two sides to a story is one that should always remain in mind when dealing with such complex issues--especially those where innocents are killed and enemies are ready to perpetrate every barbarism known and unknown to man or beast.

The invasion of Lebanon by Israel is no less an instance where this cliche should be at the forefront of our reflection on causes and potential solutions to the killing. It is especially important to keep in mind in the Mideast where history's span extends to hundreds and even thousands of years. ...

The continual imagery and plot lines purveyed by the western press pastes together a scenario in which Israel is defending itself against aggressions by Hizbullah. The most immediate cause of the invasion of Lebanon, this scenario goes, it is to "root out," "cleanse," and otherwise destroy the Islamic extremist group Hizbullah and its ability to attack Israel.

What we lose in this contrived scenario is a proper historical perspective. You don't need to go back even a hundred years to figure out what's caused the present bloodbath. While all blame in the western press and in government circles is pinned on Hizbullah, there are those who are intimate with the details of the region and its recent history who see Israel as directly and consistently responsible for much of the violent reaction and instability.

In an excellent article that provides many of the often conveniently forgotten details, Mideast expert Anders Strindberg gives some insight into the very naked and undiluted circumstances that have shaped Israel and the violent reaction to its presence in the region.Writing in The Christian Science Monitor, Strindberg writes:

Since its withdrawal of occupation forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Israel has violated the United Nations-monitored "blue line" on an almost daily basis, according to UN reports. Hizbullah's military doctrine, articulated in the early 1990s, states that it will fire Katyusha rockets into Israel only in response to Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians or Hizbullah's leadership; this indeed has been the pattern.

In the process of its violations, Israel has terrorized the general population, destroyed private property, and killed numerous civilians. This past February, for instance, 15-year-old shepherd Yusuf Rahil was killed by unprovoked Israeli cross-border fire as he tended his flock in southern Lebanon. Israel has assassinated its enemies in the streets of Lebanese cities and continues to occupy Lebanon's Shebaa Farms area, while refusing to hand over the maps of mine fields that continue to kill and cripple civilians in southern Lebanon more than six years after the war supposedly ended. What peace did Hizbullah shatter?

Hizbullah's capture of the soldiers took place in the context of this ongoing conflict, which in turn is fundamentally shaped by realities in the Palestinian territories. To the vexation of Israel and its allies, Hizbullah - easily the most popular political movement in the Middle East - unflinchingly stands with the Palestinians.
Yet, Strindberg’s analysis does not stop with recent current events. He states that the present instability can be traced back to the very founding notions and strategies that went into the founding of Israel and that has formed the guiding principles of its policies towards its neighbors ever since.

According to Strindberg:
Since June 25, when Palestinian fighters captured one Israeli soldier and demanded a prisoner exchange, Israel has killed more than 140 Palestinians. Like the Lebanese situation, that flare-up was detached from its wider context and was said to be "manufactured" by the enemies of Israel; more nonsense proffered in order to distract from the apparently unthinkable reality that it is the manner in which Israel was created, and the ideological premises that have sustained it for almost 60 years, that are the core of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.

Once the Arabs had rejected the UN's right to give away their land and to force them to pay the price for European pogroms and the Holocaust, the creation of Israel in 1948 was made possible only by ethnic cleansing and annexation. This is historical fact and has been documented by Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris. Yet Israel continues to contend that it had nothing to do with the Palestinian exodus, and consequently has no moral duty to offer redress.

For six decades the Palestinian refugees have been refused their right to return home because they are of the wrong race. "Israel must remain a Jewish state," is an almost sacral mantra across the Western political spectrum. It means, in practice, that Israel is accorded the right to be an ethnocracy at the expense of the refugees and their descendants, now close to 5 million.

Is it not understandable that Israel's ethnic preoccupation profoundly offends not only Palestinians, but many of their Arab brethren? Yet rather than demanding that Israel acknowledge its foundational wrongs as a first step toward equality and coexistence, the Western world blithely insists that each and all must recognize Israel's right to exist at the Palestinians' expense.

Western discourse seems unable to accommodate a serious, as opposed to cosmetic concern for Palestinians' rights and liberties: The Palestinians are the Indians who refuse to live on the reservation; the Negroes who refuse to sit in the back of the bus.
I have maintained for some time that Israelis must acknowledge that its founders made numerous mistakes. I have also pointed out the growing racism within Israeli society. To maintain its stability–both internally and externally–Israel has engaged in an expansionist campaign that is intended both to gain territory but also to keep the Palestinians and those who might come to their aid off balance.

2 comments:

The Avid Reader said...

cynic, a very interesting analysis and one that matches the recent post on Israel annexation of Lebanon at the Asia Times.

I'm still unsure how this conflict will shape up, but Iran seems to be making taunting noises once more. Will Israel be drawn into hitting Iran or Syria, and will the American's get involved?

I don't know if Olmert's request for Germany to provide the peacekeeping force was some kind of sick joke, or if he expects a German force to allow the Israeli's free reign if a U.N. resolution is ever put in place. I have a feeling that things will get much worse before, or even if they ever get better.

the cynic librarian said...

Avid, I don't how this will all wind out. I do believe that there's immense pressure from inside the Israeli military establishment to push to the Litani and then maintain it--for geopolitical and water issues.

On the other hand, there's pressure from outside Israel--the US in particular--to push as close to Syria itself, no doubt to pick a fight there. The neocons want a naked invasion, but I am not sure that the Israeli public would stand for that, so some pretext will have to come about to invade.

I think the Americans are involved. I know that news reports say that Bush hasn't talked to Olmert, but someone is. How to explain all those arms shipments to Israel otherwise? Also, WH neocon liaisons with Israel are transmitting intelligence data to the Israelis. Supposedly that data only includes tracking arms shipments and supplies from Iran/Syria--but that could just as easily be information that would help to prepare for an invasion.

The German thing does sound off the wall a bit. What I find stranger--but that inspires some hope--is the Israeli ambassador to Singapore talking about getting the Indonesias/maysians involved in a multi-national force.

These would be comprised of mostly Moslem soldiers. To show the world that not all Moslems hate Israel and that two of the world's most populous Islamic nations support peace and are not extremists is a hopeful sign. But you have to look at the source: a low-level ambassador in an area of the world that I imagine many in the Israeli govt. could care less about.

No doubt the more extreme elements within Israel have no desire to promote any positive PR for moderate Moslems. Remember, Olmert himself talks about the conflict between Islamic and "western" values. This notion promotes the idea that Islam itself is immune to "civilized" behavior.