Monday, July 31, 2006

Why Rice's Truce Won't Happen

I hope I am wrong when I write this, but the risibly incompetent U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is suffering from confabulation when she claims that a ceasefire and truce between Israel and Hezbollah can both be accomplished within a week. The reason—and it has already been given a number of times by Israeli officials—is that to end the hostilities now would represent a victory for Hezbollah. From Jerusalem's perspective, a victorious Hezbollah (meaning one that wasn't destroyed through a three-week air campaign) would send a message to the world that Israel's powerful military is weaker than was originally believed, and that states and non-state actors in the region are free to fire missiles into Israeli territory with impunity. Again, Israel's hallucinogenic and pathologically paranoid view of the world prevents its leaders from taking a more logical (and peaceful) course. Propaganda aside, everybody except Israel itself has by now reached the conclusion that the total destruction of the Jewish state is an impossible and self-defeating task. In other words, no state in the region is suicidal (remember, Israel has nuclear weapons and is backed by the most powerful military in history); only a few individuals are, and this tactic is going nowhere fast. What is needed is accommodation—but a just one; not a peace that leaves millions of Palestinians under a military occupation that treats them as less than human or exposes Lebanon to the occasional Israeli violation of its territory and/or airspace or the murder of hundreds of its civilians every ten years or so.

Unless Hezbollah agrees to Israel's demands of demobilization—which under the current conditions it certainly won't—Israel will not back off. But its propaganda machine will assuredly do its utmost to demonstrate that Israel wanted a truce, a ceasefire, Peace. But Hezbollah, the big bad Hezbollah, the threat to civilization as we know it, didn't. Once again, Israeli aggression will be made acceptable as a result of their opponents' refusal to accept the unacceptable demands of the Jewish state. This has been Israel's strategy with the Palestinians, and see how long it has worked: for thirty-nine years now it has been able to bomb, raze, surround and occupy Palestinian cities and villages, arrest, assassinate and commit a plethora of human rights violations against its people, break or simply ignore dozens of UN resolutions, and destroy all the foundations of a viable state, with little more than polite diplomatic objection. "Deeply concerned”and "outraged" are but empty words if they are not accompanied by concrete action. Every time, the Palestinians were made to look as if they were responsible for the failure of the Peace Process, without anyone ever questioning the validity and viability of the Israeli offer on the table.

Wait and see. Israel is unequalled in its mastery of the art. In the next few days, Hezbollah will face similar accusations, and Israel will have Rice's unmitigated support. "Hezbollah refused peace," Israel and the U.S. (and likely the UK, which yet again has demonstrated how incapable it is of coming up with anything that departs from the official line written in the White House) will say. The aggression against the Lebanese people will therefore resume (or continue), possibly with a change in tactic, as the air campaign has clearly shown that it can't achieve the unachievable results that Israel has set for its military. Increasingly, the pressure within Israel, coming mostly from retired generals, who still exert a lot of influence, is forcing the IDF towards a ground invasion. It will be costly, ugly, and aside for resulting in more murders and loss of life, it won't achieve much. But it'll be all Hezbollah's fault.

The current 48-hour ceasefire, Israeli authorities argue, should give Lebanese more time to evacuate the southern part of the country (it also gives Israel room to breathe and wait for the international outrage resulting from Qana to abate, as it always does). The problem with Israel's contention regarding the time it is giving Lebanese to evacuate is that many of the people who chose to stay behind (that is, who chose not to leave their homes and livelihoods behind and relocate elsewhere, perhaps in Syria) did so because it was impossible for them to move. It wasn't a choice. Many couldn't because they had sick and elderly people under their care, or could not afford transportation. Many others couldn't move because most of the roads that would have taken them elsewhere have been bombed by Israel's military. According to Human Rights Watch, despite the warnings that Israel gave residents in South Lebanon in recent days, its military still must do its utmost to avoid, and if this is impossible minimize, civilian casualties. In other words, by assuming that whoever had stayed behind in South Lebanon was invariably Hezbollah (women and children seeking refuge in a residential building among them), Israel committed war crimes, for which its leadership should be held accountable (but most certainly won't, despite the alleged ongoing investigation into the Qana bombing). Remember: a prominent war criminal was voted into office by the Israelis. He's currently on his death bed, his actions over decades having achieved nothing but death and destruction, and no increase whatsoever in security for Israel.

Let us hope it never comes to this, but sad to say, it increasingly appears as if the only way Israel will ever choose to negotiate fairly (and therefore the only occasion when the "true, enduring peace" Western leaders keep speaking of without providing any context will be achievable) is when it is surrounded by states and non-states armed with powerful enough an arsenal as is capable of bringing about the total destruction of the Jewish state. This is not what the neighborhood wants, but if it continues along the path it has set for itself since 1967, Israel might just give rise to a self-fulfilling prophecy. A people can only be lied to, humiliated and murdered—all of this under western eyes—for so long.

Who wants to bet? I put all my money on Hezbollah being made the bad guy, the enemy of peace.
Hezbollah Fish and Crustaceans

A story to which people and the media have paid little attention is developing in Lebanon. According to Lebanese authorities, the Israeli bombing of storage tanks at Jiyyeh, south of Beirut, on July 13 and 15 has resulted in a 30,000 ton, 100 kilometer-long oil spill, a catastrophe that the Lebanese are not equipped to address. Experts estimate that the consequences of this spill, which is similar in scope to that of the Exxon Valdez in 1989, will be felt for years to come by the marine ecosystem. Already, the spill is being called the Mediterranean's worst disaster in history. Lebanon's gold beaches, once a strong component of the country's tourism industry, are no more, and will take years to recuperate. A third of Lebanon's coastline is now polluted. A 30 kilometer-long toxic cloud looms over the area and has now reached Beirut.

Lebanon has appealed for emergency assistance from the European Union and the United Nations. It is estimated that $40-50 million dollars, along with specialized equipment which Lebanon doesn't have, will be required. Unfortunately, the Israeli blockade that Israel has struck on Lebanon since the beginning of hostilities makes it close to impossible for vessels and equipment to deal with the environmental catastrophe, as they cannot reach the very waters where the spill is occurring.

Who will foot the bill in the end? Not Israel, surely. Not our fault, Israel will claim. The fish, crabs and other marine life were Hezbollah supporters, terrorists.
Fraud of a Nobel Prize Laureate

When, in one sweep, Israel's military murdered nearly 60 civilians, 37 of them children, it didn't just shoot children and defenseless civilians—it shot itself in the foot. The slaughter of refugees within their own country is unconscionable enough that it has prompted a 48-hour Israeli ceasefire. It is hoped that Hezbollah will assume the moral high ground and avoid resorting to violence during that hiatus.

This, plus the preceding weeks of criminal assault against Lebanese society, has finally accomplished what aggression of this sort cannot but accomplish: it has rallied a great number of Lebanese—including their Prime Minister—to the Hezbollah cause. Today, Fouad Siniora thanked the militia's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for defending the country. Furthermore, a recent poll by the Beirut Centre for Research recorded that 87% of Lebanese from all sects supported the "resistance's fight against Israeli aggression on Lebanon." Given this, one wonders how long it will take for the Lebanese army, which so far has stood by while the country it is charged with defending was being ravaged, before it enters the game. With every day that passes, the less likely it gets that Lebanon will take on Hezbollah and disarm it (as with the groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Occupied Territories, part of the Israeli strategy appears to rest on the near certainty that attempts at disarming the militias would result in civil war).

Meanwhile, in the comfort and safety of New York City, Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres, an individual who for much too long has managed to deceive the world into believing that he is a wise man of peace, had the gall to claim that the slaying of 37 children was "totally, totally [Hezbollah's] fault." Yet again, Israel is so mired in its delusion of victimhood that it cannot ever be responsible for the outcome of what it does. Once again, its actions were nothing but blameless self-defence against a group that allegedly (but, as we have seen, hardly) represents an existential threat to it (Israel, along with the media, keep rehashing the fact that Hezbollah is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, a proposition that even the most committed of Hezbollah operatives knows is as outlandish as it is unachievable).

(The language doesn't get more preposterous, however, as when Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, said yesterday that Hezbollah must be disarmed before any ceasefire. Otherwise, the militant group will rise again—"not just against [Israel] and not just against the people of Lebanon, but against the whole region and civilization as we know it." Against Lebanon? Against civilization as we know it? What planet does Gillerman live on?)

Mr. Perez's comments are outrageous, and if the Council on Foreign Relations, where Mr. Peres is scheduled to deliver a speech, had any sense of justice and moral rectitude, it would cancel the event. Which it won't, of course, and the Israeli fraud will be applauded and welcomed.

The world is indeed a stage, and while the grey actors strut about, the murderers fall upon their ragged victims, daggers drawn.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Stay in Jerusalem, Condi

In one single bloody blow, Israel killed upwards of 54 civilians in Qana, Lebanon, today. 37 of them were children. None of the victims were Hezbollah. Ten years ago, during an infamous operation known as Grapes of Wrath, Israel had killed around 100 civilians in the bombing of a UN refugee camp in the same city. The symbolism of the place, sadly, has been deepened. In blood.

The fact that Israel claims it had dropped leaflets instructing Lebanese residents to leave certainly does not excuse the massacre. If we were to follow that logic, then Osama bin Laden, who broadcast numerous public warnings years before September 11, 2001, could claim that he, too, had distributed leaflets of his own and thereby be exonerated of all responsibility for the deaths of civilians. This is absurd, of course, but so are Israel’s pleas of guiltlessness.

As a result of this new atrocity, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, currently in Jerusalem on a euphemistically-called “peace mission,” that she was not welcome in Beirut. As she shouldn’t, for which declaration I commend Mr. Siniora, who by now must have realized that no just peace will ever result from a U.S.-negotiated ceasefire. Even a ten year old knows that with enough pressure Washington could make Israel stop piling up the crimes of war. A mere threat of a canceled shipment of the more than 100 brand new F-16Is ordered by Israel, or skipping a $5 billion assistance package, should suffice. But no; what Israel wants, the White House wants. With sheer disrespect for history current and old, Washington and Jerusalem have coupled their battles. Israel’s regional war of occupation and Washington’s so-called war on terrorism are now seen through the same prism—that of a battle for survival against insane, nihilistic enemies bent on their extermination. Consequently, expect no pressure from the latter onto the former.

Israel continues to push into and bomb Lebanon, thinking that it will eventually be able to weaken Hezbollah enough so that it will no longer represent a threat. This is militarily impossible, and the more innocent children it kills, the more enemies Israel generates. This is a failure tactically, and even more so, it is a failure strategically.

Sadly, peace doesn’t run through Washington on this one. Nor will it ever emanate out of Jerusalem, which is marching to the beat of martial drums, with strong support of the public. No; this time round, peace will come from somewhere else—it has to. We need strong leadership in the Arab world, in Europe, Asia, Canada. An embattled Prime Minister with a diminutive army that doesn’t even dare oppose the superior Israeli forces was able to tell Washington that it wasn’t welcome in his country today. The time has arrived for other leaders to stand up and say that the U.S.-Israel complicity in the murder of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians cannot be allowed to continue. China, Japan, India, France and Germany, all with powerful economies, can pressure Israel. So could Great Britain, should redemption still be within reach. Smaller states like Canada could play a role, too. Mere words won’t suffice anymore. We cannot stand by and just wag a finger at Israel without doing anything to prevent it from spilling more blood and bringing the collective ever closer to the abyss of a Middle East going up in flames.

Condi, stay in Jerusalem, where I’m sure you’re made to feel just like home. Meanwhile, the rest of the world should wake up and force Israel to behave like the rest of us.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Above it all

According to the United Nations Charter, the exact size and strength of a peacekeeping deployment is agreed to by the government of the country on whose territory that deployment will occur. What this means is that if a UN-mandated peacekeeping force were to be sent to Lebanon, for example, Beirut would have final say over these matters. Why is it, then, that the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, ruled out any major UN involvement in any potential international force in Lebanon? Since when does the aggressor have a say over who is allowed into the state it is aggressing against? Of course, Hezbollah, as a non-state actor (even if it has representation within the Lebanese government), wouldn't be consulted and would have to accept whatever force enters Lebanon. Still, if we were to respect the logic by which Jerusalem operates, Nasrallah should have a right of say, or perhaps even veto powers (as Israel seems to have) on the size and composition of the multinational force.

This, of course, is an attempt to ensure that whatever force is deployed in Lebanon is to Israel's (and by default Washington's) liking. For the umpteenth time in the recent past, Israel continues not only to flaunt dozens of UN resolutions but furthermore cannot even make an attempt to hide its contempt for the international body. It won't even allow UN participation in the investigation into the bombing of the UN post in Lebanon—and this in spite of the fact that four UN employees actually died in the attack. Yet again, with Washington's blessing, not only is it conceivable for Israel to think of itself as above the systems of laws that govern the rest of the world, but it can actually act as such.

There is a term used in political science to describe states that disregard international law and use brutal force to accomplish their political ends. They are called rogue states.

Aside for recycling what his political masters in Washington have been saying for a while, Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently imparted the great knowledge that war in Lebanon has highlighted Iran's support for Hezbollah. Admittedly, I wasn't in Rome when he made that remark, so I am in no position to say whether Schulte added context to his remark (if the past is any indication, though, we shouldn't expect more from the current U.S. administration and its emissaries). Other than stating the obvious—that so far Iran has been the only government in the region that has been vociferous in its opposition to and disgust at what Israel has visited upon Lebanon—this remark is bereft of any value or validity. But it certainly will be distributed and echoed all over the world, and used as added proof that the bad Iranians are supporting the equally bad Hezbollah.

Schulte then brings in the inevitable question of a nuclear Iran and arrogates to himself the right to speak for the other Arab regimes in the region. "Publicly," he says, "the Arab governments are not nearly as vocal as the U.S. or Italian government on this issue. But privately they are perhaps even more concerned than we are. After all, these are the countries that sit right in the region. These are the countries that are within range of the Shahab-3 missile force."

Does the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA know something that the rest of the world doesn't? His statement presupposes that Iran is this irrational nihilist regime that, once armed with nuclear weapons, will lash out, without any concern for its own survival, at the entire region. At best, this is a flawed analogy based on a poor understanding of the region and its history; more likely, it is on par with the other catchy statements and outright lies that the U.S. administration has been spewing for years against a succession of supposed rogues, from al-Qaeda to Iraq (it never represented the threat to the region, or to Israel, that officials claimed) and now Hezbollah and Iran.

Shush, Schulte.
How Big a Threat is Hezbollah?

Semantics and propaganda run this world; in Rome, the Great Power and the Powerless Others split hairs over the meaning of an urgent, as opposed to an immediate ceasefire. What this means, meanwhile, is that Israel has been given a green light to continue its illegal aggression against Lebanon. Israel needs a few more weeks, claim its generals, to degrade Hezbollah and render it ineffective as a threat to Israeli security.

The whole world seems to have bought, without ever questioning its validity, the argument that Hezbollah represents an existential threat to Israel. If we look at the figures from the past 16 days, however, what emerges is an entirely different picture. In fact, the only real threat that Hezbollah poses to Israel is when Israeli soldiers battle them, on the ground, on Lebanese territory.

So far, the Israeli military has killed a confirmed 445 Lebanese, but Lebanese authorities claim that the figure is probably more around 600 (not to mention the thousands injured). The overwhelming majority of those are civilian. Conversely, 51 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of hostilities, 18 of whom are civilian. Hezbollah has reportedly fired upwards of 1,400 rockets Israel's way. Eighteen civilians killed, over more than two weeks, with 1,400 rockets—and Hezbollah represents an existential threat to Israel? How effective, and ultimately how threatening, is a militant army that has such an abysmal kill ratio?

Maybe it's time the world revisited the assumption—for this is all Israel has, really—that Hezbollah and Palestinians (who don't even have an army of their own) pose such a danger to the Jewish state as to permit for a war against an entire people.
Where Art Thou, O Canadian Lebanese, Arabs?

Toronto's Center for Performing Arts turned into a pro-Israel chorus Wednesday night, where an estimated 8,000 Israel supporters gathered for a "Stand with Israel" event and "emergency" fund-raiser. In about fifteen minutes, approximately $6 million had been raised, with a stated objective of $20 million. How, I wonder, can a state with the world's fourth largest military, which receives on average $5 billion from the United States annually, need "emergency" funds? If one thing, the emergency is taking place across the border, in Lebanon, where more than 750,000 civilians have been displaced, and where the roads and bridges on which humanitarian aid can be brought to succor the population have been bombed. The event in Toronto was marked by the presence of retired major-general Lewis Mackenzie, an individual who not only came short of fulfilling his mandate in the Balkans but who has banked on his former position to sell books and make numerous appearances at conferences and in the media.

Which raises the question—why aren't we seeing similar rallies within the Lebanese and Arab communities in Canada? Is it that the sense of siege since the events of September 11, 2001 has so beaten them into fear and submission that they are now reluctant to come to the assistance of their brethren? Is it fear that demonstrations and fund-raising events would risk generating undue attention by Canada's spy agency, which is incapable of thinking of fundraising for Lebanon in terms other than support for Hezbollah, for terrorism? Sadly, as has been the case with much of the Muslim world with respect to the military occupation of Palestine, and as the great Edward Said deplored for most of his life, Arabs are not only disunited but they are also failing to make their voices heard. The great danger in this is that by failing to speak truth to power, to demonstrate, to appear in the media and take a concrete, principled stand, to resist through lawful action, Arabs and Muslims are leaving the door open to the only means of resistance that still seems possible—violence by the few, whose self-defeating actions unfortunately leave a negative mark on the whole Arab and Muslim enterprise. Without the corrective of diplomatic debate and a strong intellectual representation to counter the Israeli lobby, no solution will ever come to the Middle East, except cycles of violence and more Lebanons.

It is therefore grand time for the Lebanese—and there are many in Canada—Arabs and other Canadians who believe in justice to organize an event of their own. Use the idle Olympic Stadium in Montreal, or gather in front of the Parliament building in Ottawa. The pro-Israel camp wants to raise $20 million? Double that. Support a peaceful and just solution to the quagmire, stay together, use the force multiplier of numbers, and no one will be able to touch you. Not CSIS, not Harper, no one. And invite a great general of your own. Invite Romeo Dallaire, someone who for his great courage and selflessness during the Rwandan genocide has a better claim on moral rectitude. And if Lou, as he said he would, wants to participate in the "Stand with Lebanon" event, do welcome him.

The world simply cannot afford for the disgustingly one-sided war that is currently going on in much of the Middle East to continue. We cannot afford silence anymore.
What Ceasefire, Condi?

Yesterday the world was informed all the way from the comfort of Rome, where a conference on the conflict between Israel and Lebanon is being held, that world leaders had been unable to agree on calling for a ceasefire in Lebanon. In the end, while most of the world asked for one, the United States, Israel’s backer, said no. And when the U.S. says no, the entire world grinds to a halt. Hell, the powers that be couldn’t even agree on a communiqué which would have reprimanded Israel for its killing two days ago of four U.N. observers in Lebanon, including a Canadian.

But wasn’t the entire Rome conference a foregone conclusion to begin with? What peace conference can rightly call itself that when three of the four players involved in the conflict—Israel, Iran and Syria—are not invited at the table? Or when one of the attendees is a U.S. secretary of state who throughout the ordeal hasn’t even attempted to conceal her pro-Israel slant (and that of the government she serves)? At best, the conference was a stalling tactic to give Israel enough time to keep battering the Lebanese population. And as Israeli soldiers, who faced their deadliest 24 hours since the war began, get sucked into a war that cannot be won in Southern Lebanon, they will increasingly resort (out of frustration, out of hatred, out of a need to do something) to the next best thing: artillery bombing of civilian areas and the collective punishment of the Lebanese—just as they did in 1982, at a cost of 18,000 lives, mostly civilian.

What is needed—and it is needed now—is an honest attempt to address all the unresolved regional issues that gave rise to the conflict in the first place. And whether Israel and the U.S. like it or not, this will require the participation of Iran, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority. Issues of sovereignty in Southern Lebanon (including the disputed Shebaa Farms), of factionalism within Lebanon, of Palestinians rights (to a viable state, to freedom from fear, to an end to military occupation) and of imbalance of power within the region need to be tackled, and this has to be done honestly and justly. Israel’s preoccupations with terrorism and security, however paranoid and grossly overestimated, nevertheless need to be addressed as well.

We simply cannot allow for a state to do whatever it wants (and this means using force both inside territory it occupies and across the border into sovereign states) at will, with impunity and effectively encouragement by Washington, which unconstructively seems to see the incursion into Lebanon as part of its grand strategy to defeat Terrorism. Washington’s position vis-à-vis Israel is so myopic and ultimately self-defeating as to defy explanation. The harm being done to Lebanon today is inexcusable and cannot but result in added hatred for U.S. policies. It is no coincidence that al-Qaeda has now called for a “Jihad” against Israel and its supporter. This, of course, is as misguided as is U.S. policy in the region, but such communiqués nevertheless are symptomatic of the level of frustration that exists in the Arab world, a frustration that lies mostly in a sense of powerlessness in the face of Israeli-American might.

The U.S. strategy for the Middle East has to be revised. Otherwise, Bush’s dream of recreating the Middle East in his image (an impossible and presumptuous task to begin with) will go up in flames.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

One is Blunder; Twenty-One is Intent

The Israeli government must really think that the rest of the world is utterly stupid. The bombing, yesterday, of a clearly-identified U.N. observation post, after dozens of calls from U.N. officials both on site and in New York and assurances that it wouldn't be targeted, resulted in the death of four U.N. observers. According to early reports, no less than 21 Israeli strikes landed within 300 meters of the outpost (twelve of which within 100 meters) over a six-hour bombing period. According to staff on the ground, and contrary to Israeli claims, there was no Hezbollah activity within the area.

All this notwithstanding, Israel maintains that it was an error, for which it expressed "deep regret." This is where, I think, the world is being taken for a fool. In war, an error is one missile gone astray, or a misidentified target bombed. But when a United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) outpost, there for generations with coordinates well-known by Israel, is subjected to bombing for six long hours, twenty-one times and after numerous calls warning that should the bombing continue lives would be lost—I am sorry, but to conceive of this as a mistake stretches the imagination just a little too much.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Arc of Instability

Not too long ago, President Bush and friends were claiming that the so-called “war on terrorism” was going extremely well, and that Iraq, the second main step in this war, was on the brink of becoming a stable democracy which would shine across the entire Muslim world and serve as an example of what, with a little nudge, can be accomplished. Even the few analysts and pundits who, during the years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, had expressed doubt at Bush’s strategy, were starting to wonder if he and his coterie may not have been right after all. The successive overthrow of repressive regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq provided some hope that stability and democracy might just be around the corner for the long-embattled region. It even seemed that the spirit of democracy would indeed spread, what with the ousting of Syrian troops from Lebanon and elections within the militarily-occupied Palestinian Bantustan.

And then, like a house of cards, everything came crashing down. With very few exceptions, the one constant in the long list of things that are taking a turn for the worse is U.S. involvement. Within a matter of weeks, the entire Middle East has been shaken by a series of destabilizing events that represent a serious threat to the entire U.S. strategy of the past five years.

The first hot spot in what we could call the Arc of Instability is Somalia, where U.S. troops and the U.N. tried to bring some stability in the early 1990s after a devastating civil war and an attendant humanitarian catastrophe. Soon after President Clinton came to power, the U.S. pulled out of the country, and except for a few brave humanitarian workers who stayed behind, the rest of the world pretty much did its best to forget about Mogadishu. Luckily for the U.S. (and to a certain extent, Somalis), the main architects of the debacle, dictator Siad Barre and warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid, died of natural causes in 1995 and 1996, respectively. With them, the shadow of civil war had receded. But by no means were the systemic and societal problems that had given rise to the conflict in the first place ever addressed—and as a result, those are rearing their ugly heads again today. The U.S.-backed (this is perhaps an overstatement) regime is currently under assault by Islamist forces and is receiving a certain amount of military assistance from Christian neighbor Ethiopia, which has mobilized troops along the border and sent a small number of troops into Somalia. As a result, the Islamic insurgents have all but declared war on Ethiopia. Once again, through negligence to complete the job, the Horn of Africa is on the brink of spiraling out of control. This time around, though, it is very unlikely that the U.S. will deploy its military to the poor country, and this for two principal reasons. First, the trauma of Mogadishu is still fresh in the U.S. military psyche, and no one wants a repeat. The world has changed a lot since Bush Sr. was at the helm, and long gone are the dreams of saving the war-torn nation from itself. Secondly, as Somalia currently does not register very high geopolitically (other than as a source of terrorism, as some would claim), and as the U.S. military is already stretched to the limit, a deployment to the Horn of Africa would be logistically impossible. War will rage in Somalia, with the risk that Ethiopia, which doesn’t want an Islamic regime—and an unstable one at that—as a neighbor, will be drawn in.

Meanwhile, a humanitarian catastrophe continues in the Sudan. The international community has produced no small amount of communiqués and resolutions calling for a deployment to the region, but for lack of resources, will, or courage, nothing substantial has been accomplished. This conflict continues to represent a threat to the entire region and could draw other countries into it.

Whatever passed off as a Peace Process between Israel and Palestine is in shambles. Gaza is being pounded, and more than a hundred Palestinians—almost all civilians, again—have been killed in the past month and a half. Most Palestinian institutions of state have been destroyed, half of the Palestinian Authority has been arrested (many on utterly spurious charges by Israel) without even being given a chance to govern, and the other half is hiding somewhere. Washington’s song about democracy sounded really hollow when it refused to recognize the electoral win by some Hamas candidates and instead chose to isolate and sanction the PA. Given that when it comes to Israel the U.S. has once again proven itself to be a dishonest broker, Palestinians have no one to turn to to negotiate a viable peace. Those who do will be accused of cooperating with the military occupation, and those who have lost all hope will resort to violence—resistance with stones and slingshots (since the Palestinian have no military), or the self-defeating recourse to terrorism, actions of the few that only manage to sully the image of a people that otherwise should have the moral high ground. Israel, meanwhile, will continue to use its military to create a security that it simply cannot achieve militarily. Furthermore, it will keep committing war crimes with impunity thanks to the support, both moral and financial, of the U.S. Palestinians are fighting a war of resistance, a war against a military occupation, but both sides seem to fail to understand that such wars cannot be won by either side, assassination of leadership, suicide bombing, collective punishment and ethnic cleansing notwithstanding. To think that for many years Israeli administrations, along with the U.S. and certain other states, blurted ad nauseam how Yasir Arafat was the reason why there couldn’t be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. One could be forgiven for asking why then, long after the corrupt and generally ineffective leader of the Palestinian people has departed the scene, the fate of the Palestinians has not improved by an inch and in many ways has actually deteriorated.

Next door, thanks to indiscriminate Israeli bombing and sanctions, Lebanon’s reconstruction, after a brutal civil war, has been pushed back by who knows how many years. Its government has been weakened by two weeks of Israeli onslaught—perhaps beyond repair. Hezbollah and Israel are fighting it off, and despite Israel’s claims that a few weeks will be necessary to eradicate the militant group, it will never manage to accomplish this. Hezbollah is too widespread and knows its territory so well that, like any guerrilla group, it can simply disappear underground and wait for a better day. In the long run, all that Israel can hope to accomplish is the further destruction of Lebanon and the attendant hatred that this will give rise to—both in Lebanon and within the region. History has proven, time and again, that widespread assaults such as the one that Israel has launched against Hezbollah will only result in increased support and admiration for the militant group. There, as in the Occupied Territories, Israel continues to wage war and commit crimes of war with impunity, in the process further damaging the reputation of the U.S.

Meanwhile—and given the media focus on Lebanon this story has been nearly forgotten—Iraq is truly facing the long-feared threat of civil war. Despite American hubris following the February elections and the subsequent creation of the Nuri al-Maliki government, Iraq is starting to show all the symptoms of a failed state. Nearly 7,000 violent deaths have occurred in Baghdad since January 2006 (and more than 14,000 country-wide), and the intensity of the attacks against all aspects of civilian institutions is increasing. To give readers an idea of what that means, in all of 2005 there were 78 murders in Toronto (and this was a bad year), a city with a population size somewhat similar to that of Baghdad. This means that over a twelve month period, 78 murders would be committed in Toronto to Baghdad’s conservative figure of 14,000! Baghdadis are fleeing the city en masse, and the refugee and internationally-displaced population is getting dangerously high. Most Iraqis have seen no improvement, and many have actually seen a degradation, in their living standards since the 2003 invasion. There are now talks of sending even more U.S. soldiers to Iraq—the very opposite of what we had been told in the past months.

Next door, Iran continues to defy the international community on the nuclear issue. This defiance is accompanied by, and perhaps partly results from, the position of primacy that Iran has recently acquired in the region—in Iraq as well as in Syria and, recently, Lebanon. EU efforts notwithstanding, a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue is highly unlikely, even more so now that Washington has all but given India the exceptional green light to break all the non-proliferation treaties (as it has Israel, which has nuclear weapons). What this means, then, is that recourse to force—by Israel or the U.S.—to destroy suspected nuclear facilities is increasingly likely, to which Tehran would most assuredly retaliate. Iran has needlessly been alienated and isolated by the international community, and at the same time events in the Middle East have allowed it to expand its authority. All of which doesn’t bode especially well for the U.S.’s standing in the region. The looming confrontation with Iran is sure to put the lie to Washington’s and Jerusalem’s overwhelmingly militarized and bellicose way of dealing with foreign policy.

We then turn to Afghanistan, where just as in Iraq the initial hope of a democratic rehabilitation is quickly being dismembered one bomb at a time. Recent reports indicate that Taliban insurgents are more active today than they have ever been since their overthrow in 2001. As NATO spreads to the south, where the British conceit that they would be able to “rebuild” the region without having to fire a single shot has now been thrown into the dustbin of declarations better not made, and as Canadians plunge into Kandahar and its surroundings, they are facing a population that, as in Iraq, has seen precious little improvement in security and living conditions since they were “liberated” by the Coalition. Other than Kabul, whose security—bar that; survival—is ensured by a large deployment of foreign troops, the rest of Afghanistan continues to be what it has always been—resistant to foreign occupation and virtually unconquerable. Even if the population doesn’t support the Taliban politically, it will nevertheless rally behind it against the imposition of foreign powers—especially so when the latter break into houses and intentionally or, as is more likely, otherwise, humiliate the Afghan population. Meanwhile, after four years of training by foreign powers, the Afghan army remains ineffective and unable to address security within the country. If foreign occupation powers were to leave tomorrow, by the end of the week Afghanistan would fall back into the state it was in after the expulsion of the Soviets from its territory.

Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan, meanwhile, is allegedly in the process of building a nuclear reactor capable of producing enough plutonium for the building of dozens of nuclear weapons. This, of course, shouldn’t come as a surprise, as another ally of the U.S., India, has not only been receiving help from Washington with its civilian nuclear program, but as we have seen, it has been given the White House’s blessing to pursue a military nuclear program as well. Consequently, an altogether avoidable nuclear arms race has been allowed—by Washington, the champion of world security and the very vanguard against the development of nuclear weapons by the world’s worst villains, from Iran to North Korea—to pick up speed. No wonder Iran would like to become a nuclear power, too, given that it is sandwiched between a nuclear Israel and nuclear India and Pakistan.

Thus ends our very brief introduction to the Arc of Instability. Everything in between is also being affected by, drawn into, and in return exerting influence on, what is going on inside it. It is interesting to note that in almost every case, the situation has worsened as a result of either direct or indirect U.S. action, from support for an illegal military occupation and indifference to the suffering of a people that borders on racism, to the ill-planned and shortsighted invasion of two Muslim states. This is not to say that the U.S. necessarily has macabre or even entirely malicious intentions vis-à-vis the Middle East. But it shows, beyond any doubt, that the hubris, the self-righteousness and missionary zeal with which it plunged into the region was, at best, delusional. The entire region is now paying the price, and so will the rest of the world.
Harper no Pearson

As Israel's war against Lebanon continues, and as the possibility of a multinational deployment to act as buffer between Israel and Hezbollah is debated upon, Prime Minister Harper yet again shows his utter ignorance of the realities in the Middle East and once more displays his open bias in favor of Israel.

This time, Harper argues that it wouldn't be in Canada's interest to deploy soldiers as part of a multinational force in Lebanon. He claims, instead, that the responsibility is that of the regional powers, that it is they who should create durable peace, security, and an end to extremism and terrorism (here again, in Harper's view, the responsibility for the conflict are Hezbollah's and Hezbollah's alone). Let us assume for a moment that the PM is right, and that the so-called regional powers should take the lead. Besides the fact that few countries in the region come anywhere close to possessing Israeli firepower (and therefore of questionable value), surely the deployment of a MNF would have to be acceptable to Israel (at this point Lebanon has been so weakened that it no longer is in a position to be choosy over who enters its territory). Most assuredly, Syria and Iran would be out of the question, as would Palestinians, if they had a state and an army in the first place—which they don't. Another choice would be Iraq—but Iraq has huge problems of its own and doesn't have a military to speak of anymore. Who does this leave us with? Jordan and Egypt, and perhaps Saudi Arabia, plus a few Gulf Arab states, all of whom are toeing the U.S. and Israel line to ensure they remain on Washington's "best buddy" list. In other words, there would be nothing neutral about a MNF deployment in Lebanon; rather, in complete contradiction of the spirit of an interceding force, it would represent a proxy acting onJerusalem's behalf. Anything else would lead to Israeli accusations, yet again, of anti-Semitism and Arab hatred towards the Jewish state.

Either Harper thinks all Canadians are idiots, or he's even deeper in the Israeli's pocket than was previously believed. Or perhaps, as today's events have demonstrated, he's finally reached the conclusion that Lebanon simply is too dangerous a place for Canadians—not because of Hezbollah, mind you, but because of Israel's criminal, indiscriminate and unfortunately unchecked use of military force. As if the killing of eight Canadian civilians two weeks ago wasn't enough, it now appears that a Canadian peacekeeper was among the four U.N. peacekeepers (the others were Chinese, Austrian, and a Finnish) who were killed by a direct hit by an Israeli missile on the United Nations observation post—and this despite numerous assurances given by Israel to U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan that the outpost would be spared (Israel rebukes Mr. Annan's contention that the hit was deliberate and counters that the bombing was the result of error, that the peacekeepers were caught in the crossfire. But why is it, I wonder, that every time U.N. peacekeepers are caught in the crossfire, the side responsible for the killing is Israel?

Reports on the Canadian death remain to be confirmed, but if it turns out to be true, Israel will now have killed Canadian civilians and military alike.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Judging from the great majority of pictures shown in Western media, newspapers, magazines and Websites, Israel's war in Lebanon has caused a lot of destruction. Even there, the hodgepodge of images—one building here, a tower there—fails to account for the overall destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure. But in the end, these are buildings, roads, communication towers, and landing strips.

The real cost—the one we're not being informed about—is in lives foreshortened and maimed. Very rare are the pictures where the human results of aerial bombing are shown. In fact, the human story has almost been completely effaced, as if viewers were the very pilots pressing the fire button in the cockpit of an F-16. To see the real thing, to fully understand the consequences of war, one needs dig a little further or to turn to non-Western media like al-Jazeera, which is indefatigably accused of being anti-Semitic and, unless you have a satellite dish, is in certain areas either censored or altogether impossible to subscribe to. While the Western media like CNN or Time never tire of showing the human result of Islamic terrorism—bloodied pizza parlors in Tel Aviv or maimed Israelis being spirited away on a gurney—the impact of Israeli bombing in Gaza, the West Bank, and now in Lebanon is mysteriously devoid of human stuff. We see collapsed buildings, ruins, and very deep craters, but precious few of the casualties. The real picture, the truth that lies underneath the veneer of rubble, is that of babies crushed, bodies severed in half, and pools of blood. I have seen some of them from out of Lebanon, and it is simply gut-wrenching.

One main reason why the Rwanda genocide of 1994 stayed with us (though even that wasn't enough to force us into action in Sudan, and perhaps in Somalia in the near future, where the dark clouds of war loom once more), is that the coverage was humanized. It was disgusting, shocking, but it drove the impact home.

By removing that human element from Lebanon or the Occupied Territories, the victims are made less than human—and this is exactly what the perpetrators want, and what Israeli leaders have been doing with words since 1948. They are terrorists, terrorist networks, vermin, or cockroaches. It's far easier to kill, and to brook the slaying of others, when all we see are destroyed facilities and atomized buildings. Next time you watch the news or read the paper, pay attention to what's being shown; see if there's an imbalance—in words, in images—in the coverage of the human story.

A telling example of the dehumanization of one side in the conflict and the individualization of the other is provided today by the Canadian Press, which released an emotional article about Tom Farkash, a Canada-born IDF soldier who was killed in an Apache helicopter crash in Northern Israel. The death of a 23-year-old, Canada-born or otherwise, is always a sad event. But how many such individual stories, intimate stories of lives lived and abruptly ended, have been provided on Lebanese or Palestinian 23-year-olds killed by Israel's military? None. Why is it that one side is relegated to numbers and facelessness, while the other is made all-too-real, with a short biography, names of relatives, age, and so on, along with interviews of the soldier's family in Canada? Why is it that the life of a soldier is lamented with more immediacy than the lives of nearly four hundred civilians?

Sure, the very curious and well-informed draw upon a variety of sources that, in theory at least, provide a clearer, more balanced picture of things; but for the great majority that depends on the ninety-second news bit for its understanding of the world, the skewed coverage in the Middle East will ensure that governments that support or help Israel will not be called to account, let alone pressed to change their policies.

Remember: underneath every destroyed building that you see, chances are there are lives ended and bodies wrecked and charred beyond recognition. If the media fails in its responsibility to show things the way they really are, use your imagination. You're alone on the dusty street, and as you walk through the collapsed entrance, a sweet, unbearable smell invades your nose. You enter and point your flashlight ahead of you into the laden darkness. You've never seen so many black flies in your life, as if Beelzebub, the appropriately Semitic god and Lord of the Flies, had made the ruin his chosen abode. You enter what looks like the remnants of a child's bedroom. In the corner, pressed against the wall…
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.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Trading 1.5 Falcon or 2 Apaches for Thousands of Lives

Visiting Beirut, Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, expressed shock as he realized the scale of the devastation. "It is horrific. I did not know it was block after block of houses," he said. Most of us don't, either, as the images on television fail to show the aggregate size of the destruction. In his estimate, from half a million to 1 million Lebanese civilians have been turned into refugees, and humanitarian aid totaling $100 million will be needed now to avoid a catastrophe. Egeland will be in Jerusalem to try to convince the Israeli authorities to open the necessary humanitarian corridors and allow for the safe passage of humanitarian aid. Failure to allow for that would result in additional collective punishment.

One hundred million dollars isn't much. In fact, it's so small an investment that I think Israel should pay for most of it. This, more than rhetoric, would send a signal to the Lebanese people that it is not at war with them, but against Hezbollah. Granted, after pounding the city for 12 days in a row, the disbursement of $100 million would hardly manage to convince the families of the 370 Lebanese killed and thousands wounded, but that would be a start, a signal of goodwill. I fear, however, that this is confabulation and that in the end that money will come from international donors.

But what is $100 million? Let's put things in perspective. It buys you about 1.5 of the 100 F-16I that Israel has ordered, at a cost of $4.5 billion, from its sponsor, the U.S. government. Or two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters Israel has also been using in Lebanon. In other words, tens of thousands of lives could be saved at the cost of a single one of the very fighter aircraft, or two of the helicopters, that have been raining barbarity upon the Lebanese. Couldn't Israel spare one aircraft to save a neighbor it says it isn't at war with? Moreover, considering that U.S. taxpayers send on average $5 billion annually to Israel, this means that the Jewish state hasn't even been using its own money to buy its weaponry. Shouldn't ordinary Americans therefore request that at the very least Israel pay its share of the humanitarian requirements for Lebanon? Again, this is unlikely, and Americans will generously give to the Red Cross and other aid agencies, oblivious, meanwhile, that they are being hoodwinked, that one half of their dollar is trying to counter what the other half is doing, an effective canceling-out of hard-earned money that surely could be better spent elsewhere.

In all fairness, we should also ask Hezbollah and its sponsors to provide financial compensation to Israel for the damage that has been caused on the Israeli side during the present conflict. But one thing is certain: the requirement would not come even close to the $100 million that is needed immediately for Lebanon.
Nothing Cowardly About the Killers of Canadian Soldiers

As Canadian forces continue to battle Taliban insurgents deep in Afghanistan—they reportedly killed as many as 100 in recent fighting—the risks to their security continue to mount. Yesterday, a convoy was attacked by VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device), as a result of which two Canadian soldiers were killed and eight injured, as were many Afghans who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"A cowardly attack," many claim. Soldiers interviewed shortly after the incident expressed difficulty accepting the manner in which their comrades in arms had fallen. "The soldiers who die on maneuver operations... where we are taking offensive action against the enemy, we can rationalize that in our heads," one said. Less so those who die as a result of a suicide bombing, it seems.

That the act defies one's comprehension, or even imagination, is understandable. After all, even the most hardened soldier wouldn't blow himself to bits in a seeming senseless act. But to call the tactic cowardly is a misuse of language and denotes a lack of respect for the opponent. Whether the leadership realizes it or not, Canada's military is engaged in an asymmetric war with Afghan insurgents. And when we speak of asymmetry, we can expect the weaker opponent to adopt measures that rectify, or compensate for, the force imbalance. Canada's military, along with that of the United States and other NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan, are all modern, well-equipped, mobile armies. Road-side bombs, VBIED and other unconventional tactics are therefore to be expected, and have been used for centuries in countries like Afghanistan, which have been visited by one foreign invasion after another. The Soviets certainly weren't defeated by Mujahideen who played by the rules.

It is the very fact that the act of suicide-bombing is incomprehensible that makes it such an effective method. Aside for its efficiency (they are almost impossible to protect against), the psychological impact is far greater than that of a kill in a conventional battle. Similar tactics worked in Lebanon in the 1980s and were sufficient to send the stronger U.S. marines back home with nothing but terror in their eyes and puzzlement in their heads, and explains just as well why they are so reluctant to return now that Beirut is once again facing aggression.

How can someone who embarks on a mission from which he is certain to die be considered a coward? Cowardliness, if it does apply to war, is fear of entering battle or, if that is inevitable, it is doing your utmost to avoid being harmed. In many respects, Israeli warplanes flying high above undefended Beirut and firing missiles at an unarmed population is much more cowardly than the Afghan who packs his jeep with explosives and charges towards a foreign military convoy.

If Canada hopes to survive this foray into the brutal unknown that is Afghanistan, it will need to realize that unconventional and asymmetric tactics like yesterday's attack are neither cowardly nor irrational. Car bombs are a proven and effective means of leveling the playing field and, in the process, of terrifying an opponent.

Let's call a spade a spade: Canada is waging war in Afghanistan. Consequently, those who don't see eye-to-eye with Ottawa will fight back with everything they have—car bombs included. The very last thing Canadian soldiers want to do is make the mistake of thinking that their opponent are cowards, or that they will fight on our terms because we ask them to.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

From: Kim Jong-Il
To: Ehud Olmert and Hassan Nasrallah

Dear Ehud & Hassan,

As you know, the official story surrounding my birth was one of omens, double rainbows and strange carvings appearing on trees, and it seems that reality is now catching up with that fiction, as once again magic is doing its trick in my favor. Thanks to you both, I have been able to test fire not one but several short- and mid-range missiles (not to mention continue my tinkering with things nuclear) in defiance of the international community and a handful of treaties. Thanks to you, what was starting to look like one hell of a diplomatic typhoon has skirted off my beautiful democratic kingdom. For a while, it was starting to look like Japan would obtain what it wanted, namely a set of sanctions and isolation for North Korea, and increased scrutiny on the part of the international community—namely the U.S. There even was a possibility that China, allegedly the only people we listen too, would pressure us into abandoning our un-neighborly behavior. I don't remember what my initial calculation were, but with hindsight it seems that I had gotten my numbers wrong, for people in the region and around the world bristled and wagged serious fingers at me.

But now, thanks to you, brother Hassan, thanks to your incursion into Israeli territory and the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers, our actions have dropped off the international radar. Oh my do you ever live in a hot-tempered corner of the world! Can you imagine what would have happened to my country had Japan reacted with the same generous sense of proportionality when we kidnapped dozens of their citizens? I surely wouldn't be writing to you today! I don't know if you miscalculated, too, and didn't expect that the enemy would respond the way it did, but from out here, all I can do is draft you a thick and juicy IOU. (I have yet to ask our friend Ahmadinejad in Tehran if he might not have used you as a means to deflect attention, as he, too, was starting to come under a lot of pressure. If he did, could you please congratulate him for me?)

As for you, brother Ehud, what can I say? Your reaction to the kidnapping and your military's response to the Hezbollah incursion couldn't have served me better. Even our old friend the war criminal Ariel wouldn't have done as much for me. Thanks to your brute force against Arab civilians, you've generated hundreds of images that, well, simply pushed me off screen. And thanks to your immensely efficacious PR teams worldwide, you've managed to convince half of the people out there (including your own people) that your brutality is nothing more than self-defense. And the evacuation of tens of thousands of refugees you've generated in the process should keep foreign powers busy for a while.

And you know what, Ehud, you've turned into an inspiration for me. I am really starting to think about selling some of my cars in my collection so that I can finance a world-class team of political illusion makers. I'll base the enterprise on your own lobbies. Once that team is set, I'll give it a try and indiscriminately kill a few hundred South Koreans. Add a few Canadians, just for the heck of it. My lobby will then do its magic and convince the world that we acted in self-defense. After all, we North Koreans were victims, too, of tremendous atrocities, at the hands of the Japanese, and then the American imperialists. We're victims, you and me, and as such we have the permission to act with impunity. The trick is to have good PR and to exploit the guilt of others. Once I've achieved that (perhaps you could send me some of your advisors; after all, didn't your country help and train the repressive regime in Iran under the Shah?), I should even be in a position to keep my nuclear arsenal. You're an exception to the rule on non-proliferation, and India's about to join that club, right? Why shouldn't I, too? It'll be my god-given right, just as it is yours. Because we're under threat, and were/are victims.

Anyway, just as things were starting to look bad for me, you've both saved me. No one seems to care anymore that I have mid-range missiles and oh, perhaps eight or more nuclear weapons hiding under my bed, or that I'm a repressive murderer of my own people (at least Hezbollah and Israel kill others, not their own). The Japanese are the only ones who seem to care, now, but as 99.999% of the world doesn't read Japanese newspapers, no one will know. I'll keep aiming the largest concentration of force at my southern neighbor, I'll keep developing and selling weapons, and no one will notice me. Condi's on her way to the Middle East, and what's his name—Christopher Hill—poor him; I suspect his employer at the Department of State probably won't even be returning his calls anymore. Sorry Chris; on the line with the Israelis.

All that to say (this is turning into a long letter, but as you know I am quite the prolific writer, having written 5,000 books during my school years), thanks to your kidnapping, your rockets, your impressive military (how I wish I had the free 5 billion U.S. dollar a year you get from the White House, no questions asked, to buy your death toys!) and your murdering of, what, 10 civilians for every militant you kill, you've given me an escape route with a silver lining. I have the potential to kill tens of thousands of people in the region, and no one cares anymore. Which makes me wonder: Hassan—would you mind giving me your recipe?—how can you get so much attention by kidnapping two soldiers and killing, what, 35? How do you do it? Aren't thousands of Africans dying left and right every day? Oh, that's right. I forgot. They're Israelis. (I really need to get used to this PR thing.)

If I could, I'd invite you both to dinner, but sadly I fear that an invitation to brother Hassan cannot be extended, as his presence on DPRK soil would likely result in good old Ehud unleashing his impressive military against me. I just can't be seen to be a friend of Hassan. Oh no. Not an Arab. Not a… terrorist.

So, Ehud, I guess it'll just be you and me (and bring Ariel, if he's back on his feet). What would you say to Lebanese cuisine? I hear you know how to cook your meat to perfection, though to be honest, judging from some of the pictures I've seen (not those in the newspapers, of course, which where only sanitized versions of buildings destroyed or big holes at the airport), you tend to overcook a little. Who's your chef?

Brothers forever,

Friday, July 21, 2006

How Blind the Powerful!

If we were to believe the White House press secretary, Israel's war against Hezbollah and Lebanon has forged a sense of international determination to rein in the militant group. One need not scan the world media for too long to realize that this so-called "international determination" has enough genes in common with the "Coalition" that invaded Iraq in 2003 to be its ugly twin.

So focused have the powers that be in Washington become, and so inimical to perspectives that differ from their agenda for the Middle East that once again the White House has deceived itself into believing that it speaks for the majority of us. Once again, the alleged leader of the world is so pregnant with self-righteousness and self-assuredness that it gives itself the permission to superimpose its delusions onto the entire world. Or perhaps the superpower has become so powerful indeed that it simply doesn't care what others think. Dictators often like to see themselves as the god-like representation of their people. The United States seems to have contracted that brain disease, only you need to substitute the country withthe entire planet.

This is illusion, delusion, disinformation. The "international determination" consists of very few countries, such as the U.S., Israel, Canada, and perhaps Australia and the U.K. Everybody else, from France to Indonesia, disagrees with that view and has been calling for an end to Israeli aggression against Lebanon.

Of course, giving the illusion that the world is united against Hezbollah, against terrorism, against those bad unruly Muslims, also provides a way out of what would otherwise be a responsibility to prevent further bloodshed. The illusion is a self-serving smokescreen that gives carte blanche to Israel as it furthers U.S. designs upon the Middle East, which explains why to this day the White House has opposed a ceasefire. It also fits hand-in-glove with Washington's campaign to isolate Iran and Syria, and to combat the ever-elusive, multi-headed monster called "terrorism," which no matter what they do Syria and Iran unfailingly support, equip, assist, direct, create, lead. Bush and friends, along with their cohorts in London, Jerusalem and Ottawa, don't care that the so-called unity is a blatant lie; they are so above it all, so mired in their own racist view of the world, that such lies are sufficient to silence whoever opposes their policies. They don't even need to care about their lack of credibility anymore.

After all, this wouldn't be the first time that lies are used to justify the use of force against a Muslim country. The first ugly twin was Iraq. The second is being crushed under tons of Israeli bombs. Care to wager who the third ugly twin will be? Here's a hint: its name starts with I. It's all connected, and it's all coming together. The illusion of unity will ensure that opposition remains ineffective.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some Numbers

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site, 1,119 Israelis were killed as a result of Palestinian “terrorism” and violence from 29 September 2000 to 1 May 2006. In other words, a little more than 1,000 Israelis were killed in a little less than six years (or about 70 months). Over the same period, 4,064 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Defense Force (this excludes the recent attacks in Gaza).

At the rate the Israeli military has been killing Lebanese, it will take about three weeks to reach the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians during the 2000-2006 period (not to mention those who will likely die as a result of shortages, displacement, and lack of access to medical facilities). If, for the sake of comparison, we were to extrapolate, at the current kill rate Israel, by some accounts the world’s fourth most powerful military, would kill 63,000 Lebanese over 70 months. In other words, the ratio would be about 1:63—that is, one Israeli killed by Palestinian “terrorism” for every 63 Lebanese killed by the IDF. At this rate, it would only take Israel eight more weeks to kill as many Lebanese as U.S. soldiers have fallen in Iraq since March 2003 (around 2,500). With Israel hinting that it may soon embark upon a full invasion of Lebanon, and given that most foreigners will have been evacuated, the kill rate can only increase.

Of course numbers alone do not mean much, and it is hard to imagine that Israel would continue (or be allowed to continue) an aggression of this kind for that long a period of time. But this little exercise should nevertheless help to dispel the notion that Israel’s response to Hezbollah is measured and proportionate.
Seventeen plus Eight plus 3.8 Million

The seventeen refer to the individuals who were arrested in early June on suspicion that they were planning a terror attack in Canada. The eight are the members of the Montreal family who were wiped out by Israeli missiles in Lebanon. The 3.8 million are the people of Lebanon, about one-eighth of whom are now internally-displaced or refugees within the region. To these we could add the great majority of Muslims world-wide.

What do all these people have in common? They're all seeing a Canadian foreign (and in many respects domestic) policy that is increasingly aligned with those of Israel and the United States. Which means, in simplified terms, that more than ever, the Canada they are looking at is a willing, conscious participant in the modern U.S.- and Israel-led anti-Muslim witch hunt. They see a Canada that raises a media storm when it arrests Muslim suspects in and around Toronto, only to impose a publication ban, a week later, that for all intents and purposes serves as a smokescreen behind which all pretenses of due process and fairness can safely hide, leaving in its wake little more than speculation and suspicion that we were all taken by the well-orchestrated play. Meanwhile, they see Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan who are no longer acting as nation builders but who are waging war and killing people. And as recent days have clearly demonstrated, they see a government that is fully behind Israel, that seems aloof of its own citizens of Arab heritage, and that cannot even find enough breath for a modicum of criticism.

What this ultimately means in a world where perceptions carry as much weight as a guided missile screaming towards its "terrorist" target, is that increasingly Canada's image of honesty and fairness is being eroded. Gradually, the well-liked and respected face of friendliness, justice, and compassion is being darkened by the mask of western neo-colonialism. An unwitting servant at times, perhaps, but a minion Canada nonetheless is, and one that is slowly piling up tasks at the behest of its masters.

So far, Canada has been spared by the al-Qaedas, Hamas and Hezbollahs of this world, mostly because it has historically chosen to be modest in its actions and fair in its positions. But all that is changing. And therein lies the great danger. As I have argued before, no one hates Canada for its values and democracy. The foregoing groups are about policies; and increasingly, Canada's policies are starting to resemble those of the countries that have been the target of so-called terrorists. If this policy slide is allowed to continue, the doomsayers in Ottawa might yet see their predictions come true. But should this come to pass, we'll only have ourselves to blame for the ammonium-nitrate present, as we'll have fallen into the trap of making the avoidable inevitable. Nothing is more dangerous to the security of Canada today than the image that it is broadcasting abroad. Someday, somehow, someone will have had enough and will tell us, in no uncertain terms, that enough is enough, that there's a cost to playing plug-in to colonialism in the Muslim world.

As an aside, isn't it ironic that since 9/11 Canada has struck alliances with allies, including Israel, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars in intelligence and defense to defend itself against the shadow of terrorism—only to have its citizens killed not by Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah, but by an ally's bombs?
Oh, How Dramatic

Readers should always be suspicious whenever a news reporter uses the word "dramatic" in his dispatch. It either demonstrates a lack of imagination or skills on the part of the writer, or simply represents an attempt to put thoughts in other people's minds. Drama occurs in the unfolding event, as it happens; not in its retelling.

Thus, nevertheless, was Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to fly from Paris to Cyprus, rather than return to Canada as originally planned, characterized. Dramatic. Aware that his hard-line, pro-Israeli stance on the ongoing crisis in Lebanon risks damaging his image back home and in the world, the PM decided to risk it all, to play hero, by flying to the hot zone to, well, "help" with the evacuation of Canadians. Not the hot zone per se, mind you, but neighboring Cyprus. Safe Cyprus, where hundreds of Canadians have fled, where Israeli missiles are unlikely to rain down—unless, that is, Hezbollah is hiding there, too.

Most of the press corps that had been traveling with the PM have stayed behind in Paris, leaving more room in the Airbus Harper has been using. At most, a few hundred people will have a chance to fly back to Canada on Air Harper, with the PM's advisors—and perhaps the PM himself—serving refreshments and sandwiches during flight.

Hurray for the few hundreds of Canadians stranded on Cyprus. But in the grand scheme of things, that's only a very small fraction of the odd 40,000 Canadians who make Lebanon their home. Maybe I'm being unfair; after all, help, whatever form it takes, is welcome and needed.

Now if there ever were such a thing as PR, this would be it. This is the Canadian Prime Minister, whose position on Israel's "measured" response remains unchanged, laying a hand in the bleeding of Lebanon. This is a Canadian PM being given all forms of assurances by his Israeli counterpart that Israel's military is doing its utmost to limit civilian casualties in Lebanon—which have now climbed to over 300, with as many as half a million people displaced—in servitude of a country has forced the evacuation of civilians.

If Harper really cared about how people in Canada, and in the world, perceive him, if he honestly cared about the fate of the Lebanese, or if he were more even in his assessment of the situation, he wouldn't be in Cyprus helping evacuate people who shouldn't have had to be evacuated in the first place. He'd be in Ottawa, in Paris, or in Jerusalem itself demanding that Israel's criminal aggression against a sovereign state, along with the latter's obvious disregard for the lives of Arabs, end. Now. He'd also be doing his utmost to push for the deployment of a peacekeeping force. Only then could we perhaps excuse a reporter's unfortunate use and abuse of the word "dramatic."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israel's Creative Definition of Terrorism

"We are targeting Hezbollah targets. All the targets, directly or indirectly, are related to Hezbollah attacks on our civilians." Thus spoke a confident Israeli army spokesman on Wednesday, after Israel's relentless week-long bombing of its neighbor had forced more than 100,000 people out of their homes and caused at least 235 casualties. To date, only four Hezbollah fighters have been confirmed dead. Eleven were from the very Lebanese military Israel wants to confront Hezbollah.

The so-called Hezbollah targets include medical vans, a dairy factory, Beirut International Airport and two smaller domestic ones, as well as two commercial maritime ports. Numerous buildings, long abandoned by Hezbollah sympathizers, have also been leveled. Dozens of bridges and roads have been destroyed. Facilities in Christian neighborhoods, far from Hezbollah's reach or influence, have also been targeted. But all, Israel tells us, were somehow Hezbollah, directly or indirectly.

There is something almost religious, almost mythical, about the world's belief in the quality of Israel's intelligence. They are often considered the A-Team of intelligence agencies, and the air of confidence that surrounds its officers, compounded by the reverence they receive from allied agencies, is worthy of a great Hollywood satire on the profession. Put differently, there is no questioning the veracity, let alone the utility, if Israeli intelligence. It is abjectly, uncritically swallowed and acted upon, and any straying from that methodology results, as it did with me, in accusations of insubordination and lack of maturity.

From personal experience, however, there is nothing airtight about Israeli intelligence products. In fact, their intelligence apparatus is so paranoid, and the net they cast is so wide, that their intelligence becomes virtually useless. Their reports offer loads of uncorroborated material which cannot be proved or disproved. It is a case study in guilt-by-association; entire villages, families, are deemed guilty without there being one iota of information to support that claim. Of course, this is symptomatic of a perception of the world where every act in opposition of Israeli policies is irrefutably terrorism. Anyone who has read George Jonas' excellent Vengeance, on which Steven Spielberg's movie Munich is based, will know what I mean.

Extend that view to targets that can be bombed, and soon enough a picture emerges of a Lebanon that's slowly but surely turning into an earthquake zone. Every building in Lebanon can potentially hold weapon caches or be used to fire missiles at Israel from. Every van can potentially be used by Hezbollah to move operatives from one location to another. Every dairy factory can potentially hide explosives-laden cows which Nasrallah, much like the Japanese allegedly planned with explosive bats during WWII, would one day unleash against Israel. But potential alone cannot justify bombing something, especially when the attacker knows fully well that it assuredly has civilian uses. Before a rocket is launched at a target, the assailant must know beyond suspicion that whatever it is that lies underneath the crosshairs indeed represents a military target whose destruction will bring a clear military advantage.

If Israel truly had the legendary intelligence-gathering capabilities that it claims to have and which the world believes it to have, then its targeting methods could be justified. Unfortunately, it is far from being the case, and once the dust has settled the world will discover that the great majority of buildings and facilities destroyed, along with people killed, had absolutely nothing to do with Hezbollah.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


After nearly a week of relentless attack against Lebanon's infrastructure, which has yet to lead to a cessation of hostilities, we might wonder what it is that Jerusalem hopes to accomplish. Already, by embargoing its neighbor, repeatedly attacking its civilian airport, destroying roads, bridges and houses, Israel has demonstrated its disregard for the international laws governing armed conflict. Though some targets, such as the airport, may in fact have been dual-use—meaning that they can have both civilian and military uses—the selection of the overwhelming majority of targets was not supported by the demonstration, prima facie, that the military advantage of destroying them outweighed the impact that this would have on citizens. Moreover, Israel has yet to demonstrate that the targets it has selectively destroyed have in any way weakened Hezbollah's capacity to mount attacks against it.

Unless Israel's gradual destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure is some irrational reaction to Hezbollah's incursion last week—which it is not—we can therefore conclude that them objective is to squeeze Lebanese civilians to such an extent that they will demand that Hezbollah cease to attack Israel, or even disarm. According to Human Rights Watch, however, it is illegal to pressure a population—in effect to conduct terrorism—to influence a military outcome. Furthermore, if this is in fact Israel's objective, it could very well blow in its face, for there are two likelier outcomes to such a tactic.

First, the destruction of civilian institutions and the killing of civilians can go in two directions; it could lead to submission, or—a more likely result—it can fuel rage and force people to rally round the Hezbollah flag or whoever decides to fight back. Rarely in military history has the targeting of a civilian population led to the overthrow of the government (or parallel government) in power. Quite the opposite: for various reasons, including nationalism, it tightens the bonds that unite them and they weather the storm no matter what.

Second, in the unlikely event that Lebanese authorities were to yield to the pressure and confront Hezbollah with the intention of disarming it, Lebanon would risk falling into yet another costly civil war. There is no advantage for Israel in adding a failed state to the neighborhood, where Iran or Syria would be free to step in. Let us remember that in the 1980s partial stability only returned to Lebanon after the Syrian military entered the country. Unless Israel wishes to see a return of Syrian troops within Lebanon (which it does not), it would have to do that, which would thereby further expand its regional colonialism.

Israel undeniably has the military advantage. It has the capacity to wreak havoc on its immediate neighbors. But it is playing with fire, a fire that could very well spread to the entire region.

The other option? U.N. peacekeepers, and soon. But so far, neither Israel or its patron in Washington have demonstrated an interest in that possibility. Absent an interposing force, the cycle of violence will continue, and civilians will remain the disproportionate victims of a risky strategy. So far, less than ten percent of the total dead on either side were military or paramilitary.
Some History, Mr. Prime Minister?

What will it take for Prime Minister Harper to demand an explanation, let alone an apology, for the killing, by Israel's military, of an entire Canadian family in Lebanon? Will Israel have to sink one of the commercial vessels that are currently evacuating Canadians from Lebanon? No one, from the PM down to Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, has in any way, shape or form demanded to be told what happened. The more I look at it, the more obvious it gets that under the current government, there are two classes of Canadians, and it's all determined by genetics: there are "real" Canadians, and the rest. The rest include immigrants and their descendants; "whites," a terminology which a former supervisor of mine at government once asked me to use when referring to Caucasians, and "browns," as The Globe and Mail recently described an individual in Toronto as he looked on at the circus surrounding the Group of Seventeen arrests. They're like us, chimed Jack Hooper of CSIS… but not entirely.

Not only is our Prime Minister ostensibly racist, but his reading of the political situation in the Middle East is limping at best. "We are not going to give in to the temptation of some to single out Israel, which was the victim of the initial attack," Harper said from the diplomatic comfort of the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg. Initial attack? Are we to understand that the whole thing began seven days ago, with the kidnapping by Hezbollah of two Israeli soldiers? Surely, some advisor of the PM would point out that things in the Middle East tend to be linked? Surely, someone at CSIS would have indicated that Hezbollah has overtly supported the Palestinians' struggle for liberation, and that consequently the Hezbollah incursion a week ago was launched in that context? Why would the so-called West, with the hegemonic United States spearheading the whole endeavor, be the only entity that is allowed to develop alliances—for practically this is what Hezbollah and the Palestinians have established: an alliance? Ok, already this allows us to take a step back in history. Last week's kidnapping wasn't committed in a historical vacuum; rather, it was part of a chain of complicated events, and one trigger may very well have been Israel's pounding of the institutions of state in Gaza, acts which can only delay the development of a just and viable state for the Palestinians. But the aggression against Gaza wasn't produced in a vacuum either. It, too, is part of the long tumble into violence.

It is not my intention to list all the action-reaction sequence in here, for to do so would likely prompt a complaint by the administrators of this web space to the effect that I have exceeded my data limit (or my readers' patience, for that matter). What I do intend to say, however, is that comments like those made by our PM, to the extent that the murderous quandary is solely the blame of Hezbollah and the result of last week's events, are not only myopic but also devastatingly self-serving, in that they seem to be based on facts and provide the ammunition to further the ambitions of the Israeli state at the detriment of whoever happens to be in its path—Lebanese, Palestinian, or Canadian. The current conflict will not be resolved in isolation, or with the defeat of Hezbollah. It can only be resolved, once and for all, if the Palestinian issue is addressed justly.

Despite my abhorrence for Harper's antediluvian view of the world, it would be invidious to blame him alone for Canada's current near-sightedness. After all, the entire government institution that props him up, the numerous agencies whose mandate it is to brief him, is also historically deficient. Officers at CSIS and elsewhere are extremely thin on their history of the world. Everybody affairs himself on the present, and the everyday necessities of producing reports and accomplishing the attendant sundries leave precious little time to read up on history. As a result, everybody is locked in the near-present. Only through such a view of the world is it possible to blame Hezbollah for every ill in the Middle East. Harper has his bias and probably doesn't have the time, either, to crack open a book—say, Robert Fisk's informative Pity the Nation, or anything by the late Edward Said—and acquaint himself with the complex history of the region. For that, he depends on his advisors, who in turn depend on the officers and analysts within the many departments in Ottawa that deal with those things. Haplessly, these aren't doing their job either.

Of course, a well-informed media could provide the needed corrective, which would likely come in the form of a challenge. But then again, Harper's government seems to have nothing but contempt for the journalistic profession, and shuns it as if it were Hassan Nasrallah himself, trading the robe for the microphone.

All of which allows for Harper's dangerously pro-Israel and racist policies to continue unchallenged.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel Reinvents Virtual War

When the atrocity of war begins to defy the imagination, people turn to numbers to make some sense of it all. We saw this in Vietnam, in the latest Gulf War, and now, sadly, in Lebanon. Body counts, as if countries were engaged in some mad version of the World Cup, are now appearing on the news. Two killed here, seven there. So far, 162 people, all but 13 of them civilians, have been killed by Israel's onslaught in Lebanon, to the dozens killed by Hezbollah rocket attacks (so far, the Israeli v. opponent ratio we have become familiar with in Palestine is being respected in Lebanon).

Facing an all-too-muted international outcry and an ineffective and sickeningly skewed message from the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Israel is upping the ante in terms of double speak. Beyond its self-attributed right to defend itself, Jerusalem now claims that Hezbollah is to blame for all civilian deaths in Lebanon. Not only is Israel washing itself off of any responsibility, but it is now blaming others for the result. This represents quite the increment in the so-called virtual wars of the twenty-first century. No longer are soldiers putting distance, through electronics, between themselves and their victims—they're now using semantics to create an all-new distance. Not too long ago, soldiers pressed a button and soon afterwards the little black square hiding underneath the crosshairs would turn into a brilliant white mushroom. This is the video game in which Iraqi insurgent and sometime terrorist Zarqawi met his demise. No one actually looked him in the eye when he died, and it was thus easier to get rid of him.

But now Israel has created a new game altogether. Press the button, little black box in the crosshairs is vaporized… but blame someone else. We have now entered an age of virtual virtual war. Somehow, it was someone else's fault if four Canadian children aged one to eight were incinerated, crushed and split into atoms by a missile fired by Israel made in Israel, the U.S., or perhaps even in Canada. To the family in Montreal: Israel is blameless, justified in its actions, and measured in its response. If you want, through eyes blurred by tears, to point a finger of accusation, to call someone to account, it's all Hezbollah's fault. Or Iran's, or Syria's, or Lebanon's. Just not Israel's.
Israeli Missiles Reach Montreal

More Canadians have now been killed in Lebanon by Israel than have died as a result of terrorism in Canada. Seven individuals of dual Lebanese-Canadian citizenship were killed, and three more injured, when an Israeli shell landed on a house in southern Lebanon yesterday. All were from the same Montreal family.

So far, judging from the media releases from the Canadian Government, not a single reprimand, however diplomatically-worded, has issued out of Ottawa. None. Not only is it ok for Israel to bomb left and right, in Gaza and Lebanon, but it now seems that it's ok to kill Canadians, too. Or perhaps, to echo the statement made a little more than a month ago by a certain high-ranking bureaucrat at CSIS, these Canadians were like us, but they weren't. Maybe, because of their Middle Eastern heritage, they were less than Canadian. Only half.

In light of this, one can only hope that Prime Minister Stephen Haper will revisit his overtly pro-Israel foreign policy and rephrase his asinine view that Israel's behavior in the past five days has been a "measured" one.

Meanwhile, back in Canada, certain groups might start thinking about demonstrating in front of the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, or start boycotting Israeli products. Absent a foreign policy that tells Israel that it is not ok to indiscriminately kill civilians, Canadians or otherwise, that's pretty much all we can do to pressure the Israeli government. Soon after that, though, expect that various Jewish groups within Canada (not to name any specifically; you’ll know them when you see them) will whine to the media and to the Canadian government, as they always do, about how anti-Semitic Canadians are becoming, etc. We bomb your people, but we expect not a peep out of you. Bad Canadians; you should be like the Palestinians and accept being bombed. If you raise a stink, we'll whip out the one trump card we were kindly handed by Hitler and his cronies, what is it, sixty, seventy years ago, and use it against you. Oh, and just in case, we'll apply just enough pressure on your government to ensure that its security service continues to serve as our proxy. Just smile at the likely cameras, and wave a Palestinian or Lebanese flag. Or a Canadian one, for that matter.

Disgust at Israel's recent behavior is no anti-Semitism. This is Israel killing lots of civilians. And Canadians.

Perhaps this will drive home, on the streets of Montreal, if not in Ottawa, where sometimes the oxygen makes itself rare, the fear and pain and suffering under whose shadow the Palestinians have lived since 1948. If the deaths of those Canadians in Lebanon could achieve but one thing, I hope that it would help us understand why Palestinians haven't been the submissive victims the international community has wanted them to be.