Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kisses in the Midst of War

As of Monday, the count was 381 dead and about 600,000 displaced. As fighting between Israel and Hezbollah continues in the south, the numbers will assuredly continue to rise. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice is visiting Lebanon to "show U.S. support for the Lebanese government and its people."

Forgive me if I play cat and choke on a hairball for a second, but how could this visit, which comes in the wake—sorry, in the midst—of thirteen days of utter savagery unleashed by a state that the U.S. not only backs and supports, but also supplies with approximately $5 billion worth of military equipment annually, possibly be construed as U.S. support for the Lebanese government and its people? Wasn't it the very same Washington that blocked, once again, a U.N. resolution that was meant to restrain the Israeli military as it irresponsibly pounded a civilian population, just as it did in Lebanon in 1982, in 1996, or in the past 39 years of military occupation of Palestine?

Rice, on a current "peace-making" tour of the Middle East, was greeted in Beirut by embattled Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora who, perhaps inspired by the impromptu Bush back-rubbing of German Chancellor Merkel, reportedly kissed her on both cheeks. Bombs fall, we kiss.

Sadly, this act is symptomatic of what, when it comes to the U.S., is wrong with most of the Arab world. It seems that the world—and the Middle East especially—has bought the catchy but terminally-flawed idea that the U.S. is the "indispensable nation." Throughout the travesty of a Peace Process that was Oslo, followed by Camp David, Palestinian and Arab leaders unwaveringly played subject to the Imperial power in the White House. Bring us peace, please. We don't care if it's peace on your terms, made with your bombs and enforced by your pristine ally in the region. We don't care that the very Peace Process is overwhelmingly in Israel's favor, that it only perpetuates the illegal, Apartheid-like military occupation, that it doesn't create anything that comes remotely close to a viable Palestinian state—or statelets, rather, as what we've been proposed has no borders with the outside world except Israel, with Jews-only, militarily-defended roads crisscrossing our territory, and illegal settlements continuing to be built. No matter what, no matter how one-sided your desire for peace really is, we keep turning to you, a Pavlovian reflex for lack of imagination or options. Never mind that we Arabs always lose out. We turn to you, oh shining city on the hill.

How can leaders expect the U.S. to push for a just peace in the Middle East and to the current war in Lebanon, when the latter is so obviously biased in Israel's favor? How can a country that gives—yes, gives—5 billion dollars' worth of the most advanced military equipment yearly to Israel, that supports it morally and blocks whatever U.N. resolution is proposed to rein in Zionism, ever be considered a honest broker? Poor PM Siniora knows fully well that Rice has opposed a ceasefire and that she is an agent of a White House that disproportionately favors Jerusalem over any other capital city in the region.

Don't get me wrong: the decision to support Israel no matter what is the United States' to make, and however self-defeating this policy might be, for it indeed helps breed much of the hatred for the U.S. that exists today in the Muslim world, it is Washington's right to do so. But no one should have to accept the lie, let alone play nice whenever a high-ranking U.S. representative visits the region, and pretend that all is well. No one should feel compelled to perpetuate the charade, whether it is with handshakes, back rubs, or kisses (what's next, I wonder).

Siniora was being diplomatic, and his position is so precarious, his state so close to the abyss, that he cannot afford to be undiplomatic when the outside world visits his wrecked capital. But deep inside, it is my fondest hope that those two kisses meant something other than a warm welcome, that they were given (unless he is totally oblivious to the region's history since 1948) in recognition of the fact that the so-called peace that the U.S. will eventually bring to Lebanon will be an unjust one, one that favors Israel over everything else.

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