Sunday, August 06, 2006

OK, I guess it's time

I've been avoiding writing about the situation between Israel and Hezbollah for a couple of reasons, mostly because I feel so pulled in multiple directions about it. Here are some thoughts:

A. A country has the right to defend itself from attackers. No question. Anyone who suggests otherwise is engaging in either massive self-deception or in what I like to call the The Arrogance of the Unaffected. "I live in LA, I make 6 figures a year, I'm Protestant, I haven't had one day in my long life that could remotely be considered 'dangerous' unless you include that time I dropped acid in '93. But from my safe little high-rent cocoon, I feel qualified to tell another nation that it should not respond with force to rocket attacks on its people; that it should not respond to an act of war with war, lest I label THEM a terrorist state." I have an idea: let's move your mom and dad and sister to Israel, and then let's see how you'd like their new government to respond to rocket attacks on their city. With an olive branch? A "measured" response? What form would that measured response take? And how would you suggest your family's government deal diplomatically with an organization whose sole existence is predicated on annihilating your country and people from the earth--ie, your mom, dad and sister? If you're honest with yourself, you know that the answers aren't as easy as you want to pretend they are in the name of "peace." Peace for whom? And at what price?

B. At the same time, any competent general will tell you that simply winning the firepower war will not secure victory. You cannot win if you have lost the hearts and minds of the people. You cannot win if you think that simply killing many people will remove the scourge of terrorism. The enterprise that is terrorism (of which Hezbollah is a clearly well-funded subsidiary) is a many-headed hydra. Cut off one head alone and you will not kill the beast. Cut off some heads and new ones appear. You have to drive a stake through its heart. Its heart. How? By politically and strategically maintaining the upper hand psychologically. Not with those who support Hezbollah and its ilk, who will never change, but with those who (I maintain) represent the worst elements of this battle: selected parts of Europe and the USA and their apologists for terror in the name of peace. Those who wanted a "measured" response, those who compare Israelis to Nazis. Those whose countries are so creaking under the weight of unassimilated, young, jobless Muslims that they themselves are perhaps only months or scant years from becoming religio-cultural powderkegs in their own right.

Israel would say that they are done taking orders from people they don't trust, that "measured" responses have historically emboldened the very people they were trying to stop. True and true. But, there is such a thing as a Pyrrhic Victory, and I fear that Israel is well on its way to winning one.

C. A movement's fault lines show when it must resort to framing the guilty. To wit, if those who oppose Israel's response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of its soldiers and its rocket attacks from Lebanon really had faith in their position, they would not have to lie to make it resonate. Take Qana. Do I mourn the deaths of 28 people any less than I'd mourn the deaths of 58? Why lie about the number? Why add obviously fake smoke funnels to an already compelling photo of the Beirut bombing? If you have to lie when the truth will do, you obviously don't really believe in the power of what you're selling.

D. It's time for the Anti-Israel But Not Anti-Semitic Club to do a purge of its membership rolls. From the Wall Street Journal: "A study in the current issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution ( by Yale University scholars Edward Kaplan and Charles Small offers solid statistical evidence that the harsher one's views of Israel, the likelier one is to be an anti-Semite...Five thousand people in 10 European countries were asked to agree or disagree with 11 statements about Jews: for instance, that "Jews are more willing than others to use shady business practices" or that "Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind." (Agreeing with more than five of the questions qualified one as an anti-Semite, according to the ADL.) The respondents were also asked to agree or disagree with four questions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as whether Israel's treatment of Palestinians was similar to South Africa's treatment of blacks during apartheid.

The results were remarkable. Among those who held the most negative views of Israel, some 60% also believed that Jews engaged in shady financial practices, and more than 70% thought that Jews had too much business power. Whatever the respondents' religion, nationality, sex or income level, the more intense their dislike of Israel, the likelier they were to be anti-Semitic. Altogether, 56% of those harboring strong anti-Israel feelings were also anti-Semitic. (For the record, the survey found that Spain was the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, with 22% of respondents qualifying as anti-Semites, while Denmark and the Netherlands, at 8%, were the least.) This does not mean, of course, that even the most strident opponents of Israel are necessarily anti-Semites. But in a telephone interview, Mr. Kaplan explained the significance of his findings this way: "Say you're at one of those anti-Israel rallies. Say you ask them whether they are anti-Semitic. Say all of them say no. Statistically speaking, more than half of them are lying."
It's saying that I could scratch more than half of those who are anti-Israel and find an anti-Semite, which means that it behooves those who are truly just simply anti-Israel to do a vast and thorough housecleaning of those who would hijack the movement and who contribute to the lack of trust engendered by this conflict. The litmus test question I'd ask? Were you as outraged when Hezbollah killed Israeli people (both Jewish and Arab) with their rockets as you were when Israel killed Hezbollah members and Lebanese people? Do you see the nonstarter of the argument that Israel is so well-funded and militarized and their adversaries are not (Hello Iran and Syria!)? Are you willing to allow for the fact that you have not walked a mile in the shoes of anyone living in Israel, be they Muslim, Jewish or Christian, and therefore may not have the solution at your fingertips from your digs in Rancho Palos Verdes or Minneapolis?

So what to do? Hell if I know. What I do know is this: it's not world war three, even though the evangelicals would love it to be in order to herald the rapture's approach. It's not going to go away easily, and it's not going to be solved by requiring Israel to abdicate its responsibility to its citizens, nor by allowing the fighting to continue unabated. If I had the solution I'd be over there right now making it happen. Instead I'm sitting here, feeling terrible for the loss of life of civilians on both sides, knowing that much of the anti-Semitism we're feeling is connected intimately to the rising tide of anti-Americanism, and wishing we had a shred of foreign policy strength or credibility as a country to help stop this conflict.

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