July 23, 2006

Gaza, Beirut and Fallujah

First read Robert Fisk’s report from Beirut. Then you can read my article below.

The Israeli attack on Lebanon and Gaza, is out of proportion to the kidnapping that precipitated it by orders of magnitude. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes and live in fear of death under the most primitive conditions due to the systematic destruction of the civilian infrastructure.

This is punishment of innocent people, while leaving the guilty largely unharmed. In fact, volunteers will now flock to fight the Israeli invaders, both in Lebanon and against civilians in Israel. This invasion is a disaster for Israel, which is in much more danger now than before. The worst case scenario involves a war that encompasses the whole of the Middle East and Pakistani nuclear weapons. The best case, years of attacks and reprisals that will kill, wound, displace and terrorize innocent people both inside and outside of Israel. As usual it will be innocent people who happen to be born Palestinian who will bear the brunt of the suffering.

In addition, since the US supplies Israel with its weapons, and billions of dollars in aid, many now blame the United States, as well as Israel for the suffering that is being inflicted. In fact, attacks in Iraq are sharply up, according to Friday's newspaper.

Because of the aid we give them, the US is perhaps the only country that can hope to persuade Israel to change its course. The immediate need is for a ceasefire. In the long term, the only solution is a withdrawal of Israeli settlements so that there can be a Palestinian State with secure borders, internal communication and freedom of movement. In return there needs to be a recognition of Israel and a willingness to live in peace.

However, Israel has it backwards when they demand that all Palestinians make all the concessions before even talking about what Israel can do. Likewise the Administration has it backwards when it declares that they will stay in Iraq until there is peace. We have seen that road leads nowhere. Ending the occupations goes a long way towards establishing the conditions needed for peace to flourish.

President Bush has urged a two state solution for Israel and Palestine, we need to follow up on that declaration with real action to achieve it.

We need to pressure Israel to stop the invasion.

We can call on Hezbollah to agree to a ceasefire but we have no influence with them and the destruction is overwhelmingly caused by Israel.

We need to end the occupation of Iraq. The longer we stay there, the worse it gets for everybody.

Of course, it is unlikely that the current Administration in Washington, DC will do anything. In fact, they have speeded up delivery of weapons to Israel. They seem to have adopted Israel’s foreign policy as their own, despite its utter lack of success. Most people in the Middle East see a clear link between the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

There are differences, of course. There is some truth to Israel’s claims that it is acting in self-defense, while US policy in Iraq is wholly driven by lies. And there is no powerful constituency in the United States that seeks to push Iraqis out of their own country and settle Americans there instead, as the Israeli settler movement does in the West Bank.

Still, the tactics are remarkably the same. All men “of military age” are treated as enemies. Women and children are hardly to be trusted either. Heavily armed troops kick down doors and search people’s homes at will. Houses are destroyed. Checkpoints control the movement of people as they go about their business. The economy is destroyed. Unemployment is very high. and when things get bad, whole cities are attacked, be it Fallujah, Gaza or Beirut, for the actions of a few, who usually manage to slip away.

At best, the occupying armies appear to be blind to the existence of civilians as they go about their business of attempting to bomb out a resistance that grows in strength with every martyr. At worst, it is a systematic punishment of a whole people for voting for Hamas, or being unable to do anything about Hezbollah’s occasional attacks, or for wanting the US troops to go home. It is immoral because it punishes the wrong people and it won’t work, if the objective is peace. Almost 40 years of occupation in Palestine shows that.

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