Thursday, August 03, 2006

Op-Ed: Israel Loses the first round, By Neal AbuNab

Israel loses first round
By Neal AbuNab

Israel has lost the first round of this grueling match with Lebanon. Most observers agree that the current war will not be decided by a “knock-out” punch from either side. The two-day lull in the air campaign, last week, allowed both sides and the world to tally the points scored so far. Israel suffered its greatest loss in the humanitarian argument which gave Hizbullah the deciding points for this round.

When this war started there was so much temptation for escalation and Israel just could not resist. Its disproportionate response has passed the line of immorality to criminality. Lebanon today is the Kosovo of the Middle East. The massacre in Qana, this past week, reminded us of the massacre of 41 civilians in the Kosovo village of Racak by Serbian forces in January 1999. When the world saw that massacre there was a turning point in public opinion and Qana did that last week. The world just can not stand by idle watching the mangled bodies of innocent women and children.

By the end of March 1999 Nato forces were pummeling Serbia and cornering its criminal regime headed by Slobodan Milosovicz. The population of Kosovo was terrorized by the brutal Serbian forces, much the same way as Israel is terrorizing the Lebanese today, and millions left their homes and ran for the mountains of Albania. If we replay the images of that dispossessed population fleeing Kosovo in April 1999 it will almost replicate what happened in southern Lebanon last week. There is good and evil. But back then, the United States led by President Bill Clinton stood on the side of good and rallied the entire world against evil. Back then, Serbia stood alone with Russia against the world. Today, the United States stands alone with Israel against the world.

Israeli officials stress that there is no “moral equivalence” between their fight and Hizbullah’s. They are right. They are on the side of evil and Hizbullah is on the side of good. Hizbullah is defending its own civilian population from the merciless destruction of Israeli firepower. Israel has unleashed the flames of hell against defenseless civilians and even declared bridges as its enemy. Hizbullah is defending its own land and the right of Lebanese people to live in that land in peace and security.

Israel apologizes to the American people, who paid for its bombs, for killing Lebanese civilians in cold blood. But in the same breath it defiles the memory of these victims by blaming them for their own death. It sends leaflets to Lebanese civilians ordering them to leave their homes or else be killed. Israel believes that by warning these civilians it has obtained a moral justification to kill them.

Let’s turn this “moral equivalence” around and suppose that Hizbullah sent leaflets to all Haifa residents to evacuate or be killed. The world will react “disproportionately” in its outrage and condemnation of Hizbullah. Jews all over the world will accuse Hizbullah of trying to commit a “holocaust”; an idea monopolized by Jews and therefore Lebanese and Palestinians can never be the victims.

Israelis claim that all they want is to “live in peace” and live a normal life like Americans do. Isn’t that what the Lebanese and the Palestinians want also? But Israel’s concept of morality is discriminating and she sees that only Jews deserve such a basic human aspiration. How could they live in peace on a land they had stolen from Palestinians? Hizbullah sends its rockets to northern Israel to tell them that the land does not belong to them. Hizbullah is defending the rights of Palestinians who own Haifa, but instead had been forced to live in wretched refugee camps in Lebanon since 1948. Don’t they have a right to live in peace and live a normal life like Americans do?

When Hizbullah arrested two Israeli soldiers occupying its land the US called it a “kidnapping”. But when Israeli commandoes kidnapped five Lebanese civilians from a hospital 70 Km’s away from Israel, in Baalbeck, the media called it a “daring arrest”. But the US media has been playing this game of criminalizing any legitimate activity against Israel for the past 60 years. They twist the meaning of words so that Israel’s actions are shrouded in a cloak of legitimacy while the actions of Arabs are always suspect in nature.

However, the US media has not served American interests and has rendered the majority of Americans ignorant about the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The truth is as bright as sunshine and it will burn through the spin provided by the Bill O’Reilly’s of this world. Americans see hundreds of thousands of peace-loving defenseless people fleeing their homes, cities turned into rubble and atrocious massacres. What is the world doing about that? They ask and their President, George Bush, tells them: we’re sending humanitarian aid to the Lebanese and bombs to the Israelis.

Israel is fighting on the side of evil. Hizbullah is fighting on the side of good. God is on the side of good and so I don’t have a shred of doubt that Hizbullah will prevail in the end. The Qur’an says: “Anyone who pledges his allegiance to God; to His messenger and to the believers will have joined the Party of God that is destined for victory.” (Chapter 5, Verse 56). Of course, Hizbullah means the Party of God and its name was inspired by the Qur’an as its moral legitimacy.

Israel kills innocent civilians, apologizes and then blocks the United Nations from condemning its actions. A UN resolution passed last week called the Qana massacre “regretful” and it “deplored the violence”. Israel has lost the war for the hearts and minds of people and whoever loses the media war usually loses the morality war, the diplomatic war and eventually the military campaign.

A recent poll showed that almost 90% of the Lebanese people support Hizbullah and most Arab Americans reflect that sentiment. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, declared on Thursday that all of its military actions are a direct reaction to Israel’s aggression. If Israel stops attacking then Hizbullah will stop reacting just like it did in those two days. World public opinion has reached a critical mass and has become united in asking for an immediate cease-fire. Israel and the US stand alone bare and naked in their warmongering intentions. They are still convinced that they can smash Hizbullah and extract it from its roots.

Last Wednesday marked the 22nd day of this war and Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, rang the bell for round two of this match. He said that Israel will push its ground forces deep into Lebanon and will only give up the territory to an international force. Shortly afterwards, the highly anticipated massive ground invasion commenced and fierce battles raged with black smoke rising from towns all along the border.

I expect round two to bring an escalation in destruction and casualties on both sides and it may entice Syria to jump into the fray. This round will be longer than the first one and more gruesome in nature, as the stakes have been raised even higher. All this sits well with the embattled Republicans who will enter the upcoming election season united with Israel in a global war against “Islamo-fascism” and “terrorism.” May God save the American people from the ignorance perpetrated upon them by their own leaders.

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of “The War on Terror and Democracy”. A Palestinian-American. He’s been campaigning for a balanced US policy in the Middle East for the past 20 years. He advocates for peace and social justice. He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached at:

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