Sunday, August 13, 2006

They Started It

Any rationalization of Israel's behavior is always predicated with the argument that Hezbollah initiated this conflict. Factually correct, it was Hezbollah that began the horrible chain of events, although I disagree that this completely justifies Israel's reaction. However, if the question is really "who started it", in my mind you can't isolate a single date. In fact, the sad part is both sides have a sense of validity for their positions, and neither is without fault.

On the surface, when you hear Hezbollah or Hamas advocating the destruction of Israel it seems an unacceptable notion. But, I would argue that this perspective is entirely western in nature, failing to acknowledge history from the Arab point of view. Afterall, anyone would be hard pressed to demonstrate how the creation of Israel has benefited non-Jews in the Middle East. I think it entirely reasonable that a young Palestinian, who's only contact with Israel is one of occupation and suppression could develop the view that Israel is a scourge. Hatred of Israel isn't an innate condition, but more a learned response, just as some Israeli's develop a contempt for their Arab neighbor's because of their hideous actions.

I think we spend far too much energy debating the effects, when any solution must address the underlying causes. People like Nasrallah are inevitable products of a warped environment. The rise of Hamas is an entirely logical response to third-world conditions, largely as a function of occupation and suppression. These people hate Israel, because Israel has brought nothing but hardship, a loss of dignity and continued repression. Maybe we in the western world can't understand why the "Arab on the street" sympathizes with the hideous tactics of Hezbollah, but then again we haven't "walked a mile in their shoes".

The Washington Post has an interesting story titled "Young Muslim Rage Takes Root in Britain". There is an analogy to the middle east with what is happening in Britain. No accident that Britain's frontline role in the unjust war in Iraq has spawned resentment and alienation. Britain's situation serves as concrete proof that violence begets violence, occupation invites a response. A "firm resolve" only exasperates hatred and fuels radicalization. Misguided policies become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the ever expanding war on terror.

Israel's tactics have emboldened Hezbollah, turned otherwise Lebanese critics into overt supporters and provided more evidence for those that see Israel as a neo-colonist, bent on killing Muslims. Massive violent reaction acts as a boomerang, it has everytime in the past. Let's not forget that Hezbollah grew out of the last occupation. How many little Nasrallah's are now tattooed with horrific memories that will shape their opinions? Will we really be shocked when a few to decide to act in the future?

What if Israel actually gave back the disputed land, pulled back all settlements and took the bold step of making Jerusalem a "shared" city with the Palestinians? What if negotiations were held that treated the other side as equal partners, with all the dignity that entails? Who would benefit from real engagement, a true sense of understanding- extremists or moderates?


Anonymous said...

It is the Christian Zionists that hate anything Muslim. The Christian Zionists are in U.S.A, in with the Evangelical Christians, running the government, and goodness know the U.S. government is against the Muslims also.

Mike said...

Well said Steve.

Ironically, the idea of destoying Israel is being confused with "killing all the Jews". Certainly some would advicate that deranaged and unacceptable position, but for some, the "destruction of Israel" means creating a fair, equal society for both Muslims and Jews in the Middle East.

People like Avraham Burg, in their own way, advocate for the destruction of Israel as it now stands, and for the creation of a fair country.

Failure to see the other side as human and to empathize with their plight has always been the biggest problem in that region.

Steve V said...


Thanks for the link. I especially liked this quote:

"That's what the prime minister should say to the people. He should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racialism or democracy. Settlements or hope for both peoples. False visions of barbed wire, roadblocks and suicide bombers, or a recognized international border between two states and a shared capital in Jerusalem."