By Massoud A. Derhally
It was by no accident that the war in Lebanon started. That much has become apparent over the last 33 days. The demeanour of the protagonists of this brutal, inhumane and barbaric war and the audacious rhetoric seeping out of the White House, Downing Street, and Tel Aviv is symbiotic of an overarching arrogance that the West can define and dictate to the Arabs and indeed the rest of the world what is a just, noble cause, who fights that cause—and what intrinsically is terrorism and who practices it.
|~||~||~|It was by no accident that the war in Lebanon started. That much has become apparent over the last 33 days. The demeanour of the protagonists of this brutal, inhumane and barbaric war and the audacious rhetoric seeping out of the White House, Downing Street, and Tel Aviv is symbiotic of an overarching arrogance that the West can define and dictate to the Arabs and indeed the rest of the world what is a just, noble cause, who fights that cause—and what intrinsically is terrorism and who practices it.
To the vast majority of the world, the disproportionate use of force by Israel against not Hezbollah, but all of Lebanon, which invariably has meant the collective punishment of the entire nation, defies an iota of civility. It defies humanity and raises the question, how a people that never miss an opportunity to remind the world of their suffering, years of persecution and of the Holocaust--can be so cruel, inhumane and above all savage.
The truth is that Israel was itching to unleash its war machine and strike at an enemy that has taunted it for more than two decades. That Israel had tacit approval and was given a green light by Washington to indulge in gross and unspeakable acts of terror defies any logic. This after all is what the intellectually defunct and supercilious neo-cons in Washington, in conjunction with Christian right that is unflinching in its support for the Jewish state, call “creative chaos.”
There is nothing creative about this conflict. If anything it has proven that the Bush administration is innately dim-witted as it is blind when it says to the world, the fields of killings of the last month are about democracy and freedom. And, if anything illustrates the hollowness of the defunct Bush Doctrine it is the unabated violence of Iraq, the hypocritical marginalization of Hamas, which was democratically elected by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians that are systematically being killed daily by Israel’s wretched war machine. This is the ominous backdrop that fuels extremism and hatred of America in the Arab and Muslim world. And sadly it is why some choose to voice their indignation through violence.
There are many lessons of this conflict for the US, the Arab world and Israel. It is abundantly clear that there are limitations to diplomacy as there are limitations to force, as Israel well knows now. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert maybe in the dying throes of his premiership while Hezbollah Secretary General has emerged stronger out of this conflict with buoyant support.
For George W. Bush, Tony BLair and Olmert who tried unsuccessfully to flex their muscles in Lebanon with the aim of delivering a blow to the mullahs in Iran, it is patently evident, force is not the answer. The malevolence of what has taken place in Lebanon will have reverberations for years to come. If Hezbollah is a tool of Tehran and Damascus and acts at their behest, as Bush, Blair and Olmert have vied it does, what does that make of Israel then? Or for that matter of Blair? The unvarnished truth is that Israel has become a greater tool of the US than Hezbollah is of Iran and the US explicitly called all the shots in this war.
But Hezbollah also is at fault. It should not have stubbornly taken the unilateral decision it did on July 12 and put all of Lebanon in harm’s way. In my view and indeed of many Lebanese, that was both selfish and unnecessary. The destruction and detritus of this conflict is too high a price for a people that were already traumatized by a 15-year civil war and were only just rising out of its ashes. Just as Olmert will be answering to his rivals in Israel, Nasrallah will answer to despondent Lebanese, who lost so much in this conflict.
There are also lessons here for the Arab world as well. For those of us who believe in democracy it is now all too clear that we cannot rely on untrustworthy friends like the US. No one knows that more than the embattled Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, who was eagerly courted by Washington when it suited its purpose during the so called “Cedar Revolution,” last year, only to realize he and his nation are nothing more than an expendable asset. If anything France’s stance has been most honourable and a barometer of what others should have done.
For the impotent Arab governments that stood idly by and watched, as Israel callously butchered innocents, their behaviour is reprehensible and despicable. The ineptitude of Arab nations will only serve to confirm the perceived mendacity of regimes among their citizens and portentously add to the political malaise that pervades the region.
As Lebanon tries to pick up the pieces, I hope as many have already pointed out, that this ugly episode provides some form of salvation and a raison d’etre for Lebanese politicians, who have been shamefully bickering along sectarian lines for the past year and half, to change. If these hostilities don’t at least provide that glimmer of hope, nothing will.
Massoud A. Derhally is the diplomatic editor of Arabian Business.||**||