Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lebanon Today: The Root Problem

In his July 28 press conference, and repeatedly since Israel invaded Lebanon, President Bush has refused to support a cease fire that fails to get to the "root" problem. In his most "teacherly" tones, he explains to us, "See, the root problem is terrorism." And he names Hizballah. And Hamas. And the worldwide terrorist "problem" which his administration is supposedly fighting in Iraq, as well as in its attempts to provoke a war with Iran and/or Syria. Citing always its firm support by Arab governments like Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, America¹s stalwart partners in the war on terrorism and in condemning Hizballah. In response to this, the press corps, and the uninformed American public nods, and dutifully parrots their president: 'yes, the root cause of the conflict in the Middle East is terrorism.' Which is meant to be understood as those inhuman Arabs/Muslims who attack innocent civilians.¹ What Americans, especially the press and America¹s so-called leaders in Congress, totally ignore is the fact that the real root of the problem is Israel¹s historic refusal to negotiate with anyone who truly represents the Palestinian people. The reason they won¹t, or can¹t, is that if they did, Israeli leaders, Zionists all, would have to talk about their illegal, criminal theft of the land of Palestine from its legitimate residents in order to make their Zionist state. In order to create Israel in the years before and just after World War II, that is, the Zionists had to become terrorists. They had to form Irgun, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Menachim Begin. They had to initiate guerilla war against the British mandate authority in Palestine; they had to attack and destroy Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin‹in all more than 400 villages--thereby terrorizing and massacring enough civilians to pressure the rest into leaving. And 750,000 Palestinian villagers did indeed leave, hoping, in the more innocent age of 1948, to return once the fighting stopped. They have never been permitted to return. And the right of return is a fundamental part of the "root" problem, which neither Bush nor Israel will ever talk about because they know that if they did, it would undermine the very legitimacy, the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state. So Israel and her supporters keep complaining that the Palestinians, the Arabs, these terrorists like Hamas, will not recognize Israel¹s right to exist. Let¹s examine this. First of all, how can a people, the Palestinians, recognize the rightness of the nation, Israel, which stole virtually their whole country, destroyed their homes, and which since 1967 has maintained a brutal occupation of the little land they have left, uprooting their trees, destroying their farms, surrounding them with walls, turning them into refugees‹and whose announced aim is to seize the rest of the country that was, and is theirs? This is the Zionist aim, never renounced: that God promised to the Jews, his chosen people, all of the land known as Palestine, which must be theirs. They call it Eretz Israel. Greater Israel. Here is what David Ben-Gurion, Israel¹s first leader, and Menachim Begin said in 1948, when accepting the U.N.-recommended partition of Palestine into two states, Israel for Jews and Palestine for Arabs:
Ben Gurion: The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan; one does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today, but the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them. Begin: The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel] will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever. (Both quotes from The Fateful Triangle, by Noam Chomsky, South End Press, 1983, p. 161.)
Secondly, even with all that, the PLO and other organizations, including Hamas, have implicitly recognized Israel as a state by agreeing to negotiate with them. It is Israel that has always been the refuser. Israel, which each time a settlement seems imminent, finds a way to destroy the process, or the leaders who agree to the process. Israel, which all along has trumpeted its willingness to negotiate with any "Arab state," i.e., Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia‹quislings and puppets all, governments which have all along, from even before Israel was a state, been willing to negotiate with what was then called the Jewish Agency in order to preserve their own territories. And thereby sacrifice the Palestinians. This was the position from the very beginning of King Abdullah of Jordan. Who, even as Israel was making formal war on the Palestinians for the first time in 1947 and 1948, in public pretended to be a part of the Arab League fighting Israel¹s takeover, and in private was dealing with Zionist leaders to allow them to decimate the other Arab armies, in exchange for allowing him to have the West Bank and use the expelled Palestinians to swell the size of his nation of Transjordan! This then‹Israel¹s refusal to negotiate with or even acknowledge the existence of Palestinians as a people‹is the "root problem." It¹s plain to see for anyone willing to read the history. (See, among many others, Ilan Pappe: The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951, I.B. Tauris: 1992.) But of course Americans, most specifically the American President, do not read. They respond to propaganda. And the propaganda insists in hundreds of ways each day that Israel is the aggrieved party in the Middle East‹poor Israel, always being attacked by lawless, Arab terrorists. And so we have the fictional "root problem." And so we have Palestinians living in hovels that are routinely destroyed by Israeli bulldozers and planes and tanks. And now we have the entire nation of Lebanon being destroyed by an unopposed Israeli Air Force‹an Air Force dependent on the $3 billion American taxpayers give them each year to… what?… to destroy children and villages and whole countries to attack the "root" problem? It is a lie. A calculated, heinous lie which can lead only to suffering, bloodshed, and, given Israel¹s known possession (not just plans, as in Iran, but possession) of nuclear weapons, continuing injustice that may end, ultimately, in a conflagration that every sane person must contemplate with horror.
Lawrence DiStasi

Fashion in Lebanon

Armageddon, the sequel
Or is it the prequel
Of Kingdom Come
And Hell on the run
With Bush crudely chewing
Grabbing Merkel for all viewing
And Condi just sitting
And waiting on fittings
While refugees struggle
And children snuggle
With parents in strife
While praying for life.

The Cradle of Civilization is rocking again. This time, Israel is destroying a rebuilt Lebanon while the civil war in Iraq raises the daily toll to a hundred or more civilians each day. Hizballah is meanwhile taking on a couple of roles that would normally be seen as incompatible. They are clearly tweaking the Israeli nose and helping refugees escape to safety in bomb shelters and even to Tyre, although that has recently become a bombing target. Incidentally, the terrorists are also feeding the Lebanese in the bomb shelters. I mention this, because, while our administration appeared to be managing a redux of Hurricane Katrina, other countries acknowledged the crisis and began early evacuation of their citizens without having them sign promissory notes.
We have seen this before, and yet there appears to be a shrill tone to the shrieking from the Fox in the Bush. Fox is calling this WW III. The administration is clearly not interested in a cease-fire while claiming that it wants only a permanent solution. It also indicates that it will not talk with Hizballah despite the fact that Israel used the two prisoners Hizballah captured as the rationale for attacking Lebanon. Neither will the Bushies talk with Syria or Iran. At about this time, you may ask, “just who are they talking with?” Try Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have a vested interest in actively avoiding Shiite power waxing in the region. Now that we have enabled a Shiite theocracy in Iraq and are struggling with the Taliban in Afghanistan again, the Saudis are engaged to protect their Sunni interests. While most diplomats would agree that the crisis is serious, I find it difficult to believe that any diplomat or statesman would try to deal with it by non-engagement. A cease-fire is not a solution, but there is no long term solution possible until the shooting slows down enough for people to sit down for negotiations, so a cease-fire is normally a pre-condition for either military insertion of peacekeepers or for negotiation. Israel blames Lebanon for not stopping Hizballah and yet has targeted Lebanese military barracks and civilian housing and business apart from Hizballah. The West has given no help to the Lebanese but Hizballah has. So if you were Lebanese and being bombed by the Israelis while Hizballah guided you to bomb shelters and gave you food, water, and medical care for your injuries, how interested would you be in pointing out Hizballah to the bombers? Strangely, that premise underlies the Bush-Rice approach. We are preparing another generation for retaliation. While all sides are talking the peace talk, nobody is walking the walk. Without praising terrorists who kill indiscriminately as a habit, we need to acknowledge that Hizballah serves a purpose for the people of Lebanon. Similarly, without praising Israel for its violent response to the capture of 2 soldiers, we need to understand that military force has protected Israel and it keeps Israelis together. We expect people to act in their immediate self-interest. We have offered Lebanon a few million dollars for humanitarian aid, while the current damage already exceeds $20 Billion (most of it in Lebanon).
The surprise is that the US is not acting in United States interest. By openly supporting Israel and not calling for a cease-fire, we have placed the UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in jeopardy. In fact, they took casualties on 23 July and needed medical evacuation. On 26 July, they suffered 4 killed. We are allowing, if not encouraging, Israel to “finish the job” before Condi puts her fashion boots on the ground to support a cease-fire. Just how much support can we expect from civilians in the region or from anywhere in the world with over 400 civilians killed on the Lebanese side and over 40 on the Israeli side. The Lebanese, Syrians, Iranians, Jordanians, Afghanis, Turks, or even continental Europeans will not see us as “honest brokers.” On an even more limited basis, if we want to gain cooperation of the majority Shiites in Iraq to help their government work, this American inaction will serve as inspiration to 15 million (Shiite) Iraqis to support the resistance. Being the bully or appearing to support a bully only generates resentment and resistance. The Sunni minority already uses the image of unfairness to recruit in Iraq. Now we encourage Shiites to do likewise. Visualize Uncle Sam pointing from a poster saying ”I want you as my enemy. “ It is our latest government promotion and smacks of Bush-n-Boots diplomacy.
The image this last week was an uncanny enactment of George Orwell’s Animal Farm with the Fox pundits repeating the message of the Pigs that WW III was here. The Pig-in-Chief was talking with his mouth full like he was in a sty instead of the White House and using barnyard language while groping a female chief of state for the whole world to see. What useful purpose does this talk of WW III serve? Perhaps this is a cover for a failed Iraq policy and civil war there? Perhaps it is the early justification for the pending nuclear attack of Iran! That attack is building unless we can turn the zealots from doing it and by telling FOX that the Armageddon of WW III and the following Rapture will have to wait. I believe in the world according to B.F. Skinner; that behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated. Let us ensure that we citizens of the Animal Farm vote out the Pigs. We cannot reward them for their incompetence, greed and callous disregard of human life any longer. Pax Condileeziana is not peace. Maybe the devil does wear Prada.
26 July 2006