Saturday, July 15, 2006

Disguised Colonialism

For years now, Israel has been undermining and destroying the very Palestinian institutions of state that could bring about the stability that is required for peace. But whenever something goes wrong, whenever a Palestinian “terrorist” commits an act of violence against the Israeli state, Jerusalem points an accusing finger at whoever happens to be at the head of the ramshackle Palestinian “state” at the time. The blame takes two forms: either the Palestinian authority organized, facilitated, or condoned the attack, or it knew about it but didn’t do anything to stop it. Either way, Israel’s response has traditionally been to further erode and weaken the Palestinian authorities’ hold on the semi-autonomous state. It’s a little like blaming your neighborhood police station for every crime that is committed. And oh, as a consequence of failure to prevent every crime, we’ll destroy two of your patrol cars and cut your force by one third—that way you’ll do a better job protecting us. Or, to use another example of invidious accusation, it’s not unlike the Pentagon bombing the hell out of Canada whenever it suspects that its northern neighbor isn’t doing enough in the “war on terrorism.” Bomb the airport in Ottawa; blow up a couple of bridges; leave Petro Canada stations in flames; attack Rogers transmitters; and expect Canada to do a better job combating home-grown terrorism. And piss off the majority of Canadians in the process. Kill dozens of them, too. That’ll work.

The same fate is now being reserved for Lebanon, with Washington’s assistance. Following the February 14, 2005, assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, pressure was brought to bear on Syria to remove its military and intelligence officers from within Lebanese territory. Out! Leave Lebanon alone, please. No more influence, no more meddling. Thanks for ending the civil war there in the eighties, but now get the hell out, and don’t expect to be thanked for it. In place, a fledging anti-Syrian government came into power while international pressure continued on Hezbollah to lay down its arms. Given the weakness of the Lebanese government, along with no small amount of popular support for the group within Lebanon, there was no chance that a Hezbollah disarmament and demobilization would ever take place.

The U.S. and Israel are now blaming Syria for backing the cross-border raid on Wednesday (or failing to prevent it), and pressure is being put on its government to rein in Hezbollah. But… wasn’t Syria kicked out of the very territory Hezbollah operates in? Perhaps Israelis and Americans both failed geography in high school. How can you blame a tenant who moved out more than a year ago for a fire that broke out in the apartment last week? There is no need for a Syrian presence in Lebanon, and there isn't one substantial enough to speak of. Hezbollah is proficient and motivated enough to carry its own weight.

Furthermore, by repeatedly attacking Beirut International Airport (all flights canceled due to unusual atmospheric activity, as seen on the left), destroying roads, bridges, communication towers, gas stations and virtually isolating the country from the rest of the world—at great economic cost to the victim—Israel is weakening the very government that it blames for being unable to check Hezbollah’s power. The result is that Beirut now finds itself between a rock and a hard place: confront Hezbollah with very poor chances of success but the assurance of a costly civil war, or do nothing and get pounded by the strongest military in the region, which is backed by the most powerful military since the first monkey threw a rock at another monkey. Israel knows that, and so does the U.S.

In the end, Jerusalem and Washington are playing a dishonest game, one that undermines the very institutions that could generate the stability that is conducive to peace. Of course, this very instability can then be used to justify military incursions—witness the Gaza Strip, and now parts of Lebanon. It doesn’t matter that the failed or failing states are monsters that were created by the powerful members in the first place. It opens the doors. Ultimately, this is colonialism in everything but name.

Israel has a right to protect itself, chime Bush and his northern lap-dog. And what if Lebanon, if it had an army to speak of, were to retaliate in turn to protect itself against its neighbor’s aggression? Oh, but that would be terrorism, and surely Syria and Iran would have something to do with it. The situation is so skewed everything risks sliding into madness. Expect more of the same, if not escalation, for a while.


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