Friday, July 14, 2006

Welcome to Grozny, Beirut

As Israel intensified its savage lashing at Lebanon—operations which have now resulted in the deaths of more than 60 Lebanese civilians, the destruction of mobile phone antennas and fuel tanks, record-high oil prices and economic hardship in both Israel and Lebanon—the United States blocked an Arab-backed resolution, proposed today at the United Nations, demanding that Israel cease its aggression against Lebanon.

Meanwhile, during a visit to Germany U.S. President Bush defended Israel’s right to defend itself, a right that, to paraphrase Israel's Justice Minister, is proportional to Russian actions in Chechnya, or the U.S.’s in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wait a second—proportional to Russia’s actions in Chechnya? Hasn’t the entire international community, with the notable exception of the U.S., condemned the manner in which Russia has dealt with the breakaway province? Wasn’t Grozny leveled by the Russian military? And wasn’t the invasion of Iraq a stretch of legal recourse to war based on dishonest manipulation of intelligence with a strong dose of fear-mongering and opportunism? False analogies aside, one cannot equate the kidnapping of two soldiers, a cross-border skirmish, or even ineffective rocket attacks against an illegal settlement, with the bombing of embassies or the destruction of buildings in downtown Manhattan. But once again Israel is defending its actions by cynically blurring the lines between its regional conflict and the so-called “war on terror.” If I were Palestinian or Lebanese, I certainly wouldn’t take comfort in Israel’s assessment of its right to proportionality.

By warning Syria and Iran yesterday, the White House added unnecessary complexity to an already complex situation. The result? Today Iran warned that an attack against Syria would be construed as an attack against the entire Middle East. Additionally, by blocking today’s resolution at the U.N., the U.S. has once again demonstrated that when it comes to Israel Washington is a dishonest broker at best, a proposition that is sure to defeat any chance that the ongoing Iranian nuclear impasse will be brought to a peaceful conclusion. Such behavior is not only self-defeating, it almost reeks of a conspiracy to ensure that the Iran issue cannot be resolved by peaceful means.

By dint of confusing Israel's troubles with the partly global al-Qaeda insurrection and Russia's handling of separatism, events in the Middle East have become more connected than ever. Despite the fact that the organization has more immediate aims, al-Qaeda cannot be entirely dissociated from what’s going on in Palestine. In fact, al-Qaedaism wouldn’t have the support that it currently has were it not for Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians and Washington’s support thereto.

Everything therefore seems connected. So polarized have perceptions in the Middle East become that a house leveled in Gaza, or a civilian killed in Beirut, are now part of the same chapter as Iran’s defiance of the international community, or its support for Hezbollah. More than ever, the Middle East is turning into a system wherein events in one corner inexorably impact upon the the entire system. Al-Qaeda feeds upon that. After all, false analogies aren't only useful to Israel and the U.S. All can be used as "proof" that the "West" is at war against Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the Palestinians. Against Islam.

Meanwhile, a lap dog if ever there was one, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper fully backed Israel and the U.S., stating that the blame for the current crisis lay fully with those who kidnapped the two soldiers and that Israel’s response “has been measured.” Perhaps, rather than visiting St. Petersburg for the G8 Summit, Mr. Harper should go to Beirut to see what Israel’s “measured” response feels like. Oh, sorry, he couldn’t fly there, as the airport’s not in the best of shape at the moment—from Jerusalem, with love.


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