Tuesday, July 18, 2006

No Moral Equivalence

Americans Evacuating Lebanon

From AFP:
US Ambassador John Bolton said there was no moral equivalence between the civilian casualties from the Israeli raids in Lebanon and those killed in Israel from "malicious terrorist acts".

Asked to comment on the deaths in an Israeli air strike of eight Canadian citizens in southern Lebanon Sunday, he said: "it is a matter of great concern to us ...that these civilian deaths are occurring. It's a tragedy."

"I think it would be a mistake to ascribe moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts," he added, while defending as "self-defense" Israel's military action, which has had "the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths".

The eight dead Canadians were a Lebanese-Canadian couple, their four children, his mother and an uncle, said relatives in Montreal.

The Montreal pharmacist and his family had arrived in Lebanon 10 days earlier for a vacation in his parents' home village and to introduce his children to relatives, they said.

Three of his Lebanese relatives died too, a family member told AFP.

"It's simply not the same thing to say that it's the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense," Bolton noted.

The overall civilian death toll from the Israeli onslaught in Lebanon since last Wednesday reached 195, in addition to 12 soldiers, officials said. Twenty-four Israelis have also been killed since fighting began last Wednesday, including 12 civilians in a barrage of Hezbollah rocket fire across the border.
With 195 Lebanese civilians dead to Israel's 12, what must the proportion be, for those deaths to be considered as morally repugnant as Israel's losses?

If the United States government wanted to demonstrate that it doesn't regard Arab lives as all that important, it could hardly have done a better job than by giving Israel a carte blanche to continue its bombing campaign against Lebanon and having its officials utter crap like Bolton's.

Sure, condemn Hezbollah. They are worthy of condemnation. But the sheer idiocy of standing by without a word of criticism while Israel bombs Lebanon, the Bush Administration's "success story" in its Middle Eastern "democratization" project, back into the civil war from which it only recently emerged, can scarcely be overstated.

I've heard the counter-argument. Hezbollah fires rockets into Israeli territory. Israel has the right to defend itself. But as Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes:
The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.

This is why the Israeli-Arab war, now transformed into the Israeli-Muslim war (Iran is not an Arab state), persists and widens. It is why the conflict mutates and festers. It is why Israel is now fighting an organization, Hezbollah, that did not exist 30 years ago and why Hezbollah is being supported by a nation, Iran, that was once a tacit ally of Israel's. The underlying, subterranean hatred of the Jewish state in the Islamic world just keeps bubbling to the surface. The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and some other Arab countries may condemn Hezbollah, but I doubt the proverbial man in their street shares that view.

There is no point in condemning Hezbollah. Zealots are not amenable to reason. And there's not much point, either, in condemning Hamas. It is a fetid, anti-Semitic outfit whose organizing principle is hatred of Israel. There is, though, a point in cautioning Israel to exercise restraint -- not for the sake of its enemies but for itself. Whatever happens, Israel must not use its military might to win back what it has already chosen to lose: the buffer zone in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip itself...
That would put Israel smack back to where it was, subjugating a restless, angry population and having the world look on as it committed the inevitable sins of an occupying power. The smart choice is to pull back to defensible -- but hardly impervious -- borders. That includes getting out of most of the West Bank -- and waiting (and hoping) that history will get distracted and move on to something else.
Well, it seems that instead, Israel has chosen to wave the red flag at the big bull of history, and our leadership, in thrall to PNAC and AIPAC, is content to play the role of rodeo clown.

The little girls in the photo (from Reuters) are American citizens, some of the 25,000 Americans living or visiting Lebanon. I have to wonder, at the end of this, will there be a country in the Middle East where Americans will be welcomed as guests?

UPDATE: I'm reading an interesting article about Hezbollah - a more nuanced group than you might expect. That's not an endorsement, by the way!

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