LEBANON – FOUR PERSPECTIVES

I don’t claim they adequately present the Hezbollah/Hamas point of view – just that they struck me as worth reading:

PEOPLE of Arab countries, especially the Lebanese and Palestinians, have been held hostage for a long time in the name of “resisting Israel.” Arab governments have been caught between political obligations and public opinion leading to more corruption in politics and economics. Forgetting the interests of their own countries, the Hamas Movement and Hezbollah have gone to the extent of representing the interests of Iran and Syrian in their countries. These organizations have become the representatives of Syria and Iran without worrying about the consequences of their action.

[ . . . ]

Unfortunately we must admit that in such a war the only way to get rid of “these irregular phenomena” is what Israel is doing. The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community.

  • Second, this perspective from a group called the Lebanese Foundation for Peace:

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Thank You Israel
By Brigitte Gabriel

For the millions of Christian Lebanese, driven out of our homeland, “Thank you Israel,” is the sentiment echoing from around the world. The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, an international group of Lebanese Christians, made the following statement in a press release to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concerning the latest Israeli attacks against Hezbollah:

“We urge you to hit them hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not [only] Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out of fear of terror retaliation.”

Their statement continues, “On behalf of thousands of Lebanese, we ask you to open the doors of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to thousands of volunteers in the Diaspora willing to bear arms and liberate their homeland from [Islamic] fundamentalism.

We ask you for support, facilitation and logistics in order to win this struggle and achieve together the same objectives: Peace and Security for Lebanon and Israel and our future generations to come.”

The once dominant Lebanese Christians responsible for giving the world “the Paris of the Middle East” as Lebanon used to be known, have been killed, massacred, driven out of their homes and scattered around the world as radical Islam declared its holy war in the 70s and took hold of the country.

They voice an opinion that they and Israel have learned from personal experience, which is now belatedly being discovered by the rest of the world.

While the world protected the PLO withdrawing from Lebanon in 1983 with Israel hot on their heels, another more volatile and religiously idealistic organization was being born: Hezbollah, “the Party of God,” founded by Ayatollah Khomeini and financed by Iran. It was Hezbollah who blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in October, 1983 killing 241 Americans and 67 French paratroopers that same day. President Reagan ordered U.S. Multilateral Force units to withdraw and closed the books on the marine massacre and US involvement in Lebanon February 1984.

The civilized world, which erroneously vilified the Christians and Israel back then and continues to vilify Israel now, was not paying attention. While America and the rest of the world were concerned about the Israeli / PLO problem, terrorist regimes in Syria and Iran fanned Islamic radicalism in Lebanon and around the world.

Hezbollah’s Shiite extremists began multiplying like proverbial rabbits out-producing moderate Sunnis and Christians. Twenty-five years later they have produced enough people to vote themselves into 24 seats in the [128-seat] Lebanese parliament. Since the Israeli pull out in 2000, Lebanon has become a terrorist base completely run and controlled by Syria with its puppet Lebanese President Lahood and the Hezbollah “state within a state.”

The Lebanese army has less than 10,000 military troops. Hezbollah has over 4,000 trained militia forces and there are approximately 700 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. So why can’t the army do the job? Because the majority of Lebanese Muslims making up the army will split and unite along religious lines with the Islamic forces just like what happened in 1976 at the start of the Lebanese civil war.

It all boils down to a war of Islamic Jihad ideology vs. Judeo Christian Westernism. Muslims who are now the majority of Lebanon’s population support Hezbollah because they are part of the Islamic Ummah-the nation. This is the taboo subject everyone is trying to avoid.

The latest attacks on Israel have been orchestrated by Iran and Syria driven by two different interests. Syria considers Lebanon a part of “greater” Syria. Young Syrian President Assad and his Ba’athist military intelligence henchmen in Damascus are using this latest eruption of violence to prove to the Lebanese that they need the Syrian presence to protect them from the Israeli aggression and to stabilize the country. Iran is conveniently using its Lebanese puppet army Hezbollah, to distract the attention of world leaders meeting at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Apocalyptic Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the ruling Mullah clerics in Tehran want to assert hegemony in the Islamic world under the banner of Shia Mahdist madness. Ahmadinejad wants to seal his place as top Jihadist for Allah by make good his promise to “wipe Israel off the map.

No matter how much the west avoids facing the reality of Islamic extremism of the Middle East, the west cannot hide from the fact that the same Hamas and Hezbollah that Israel is fighting over there, are of the same radical Islamic ideology that has fomented carnage and death through terrorism that America and the world are fighting. This is the same Hezbollah that Iran is threatening to unleash in America with suicide bomb attacks if America tries to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. They have cells in over 10 cities in the United States. Hamas, has the largest terrorist infrastructure on American soil. This is what happens when you turn a blind eye to evil for decades, hoping it will go away.

Sheik Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, is an Iranian agent. He is not a free actor in this play. He has been involved in terrorism for over 25 years. Iran with its Islamic vision for a Shia Middle East now has its agents, troops and money in Gaza in the Palestinian territories,Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Behind this is this vision that drives the Iranian President Ahmadinejad who believes he is Allah’s “tool and facilitator” bringing the end of the world as we know it and the ushering in of the era of the Mahdi. He has a blind messianic belief in the Shiite tradition of the 12th or “hidden” Islamic savior who will emerge from a well in the holy city of Qum in Iran after global chaos, catastrophes and mass deaths and establish the era of Islamic Justice and everlasting peace.

President Ahmadinejad has refused so far to respond to proposals from the U.S., EU, Russia and China on the UN Security Council to cease Iran’s relentless quest for nuclear enrichment and weapons development program until August 22nd. Why August 22nd? Because August 22nd, coincides with the Islamic date of Rajab 28, the day the great Salah El-Din conquered Jerusalem.

Ahmadinejad’s extremists ideology in triggering Armageddon gives great concerns to the intelligence community.

At this point the civilized world must unite in fighting the same enemies plaguing Israel and the world with terrorism. We need to stop analyzing the enemies’ differences as Sunni-Hamas or Shiite-Hezbollah, and start understanding that their common bond in their fight against us is radical Islam.

☞ The ‘multiplying like rabbits’ phrase in the ninth paragraph strikes me as unfortunate – and a majority (if indeed Lebanon’s population is now majority Muslim) is no less a majority because it was once a minority. But even so.

  • Third, this from a Larry Miller screed (often misattributed, by me, among others, to Dennis Miller), that has been circling the Internet since April 2002:

I now offer you the story of the Middle East in just a few paragraphs, which is all you really need. Here we go:

The Palestinians want their own country. There’s just one thing about that: There are no Palestinians. It’s a made up word. Israel was called Palestine for two thousand years Like “Wiccan,” “Palestinian” sounds ancient but is really a modern invention.

Before the Israelis won the land in war, Gaza was owned by Egypt, and there were no ‘Palestinians” then, and the West Bank was owned by Jordan, and there were no “Palestinians” then. As soon as the Jews took over and started growing oranges as big as basketballs, what do you know, say hello to the ‘Palestinians,” weeping for their deep bond with their lost “land” and “nation.”

[ . . . ]

Chew this around and spit it out: Five hundred million Arabs; five Million Jews. Think of all the Arab countries as a football field, and Israel as a pack of matches sitting in the middle of it. And now these same folks swear that if Israel gives them half of that pack of matches, Everyone will be pals. Really? Wow, what neat news. Hey, but what about the string of wars to obliterate the tiny country and the constant din of rabid blood oaths to drive every Jew into the sea? Oh, that? We were just kidding.

My friend Kevin Rooney made a gorgeous point the other day: just reverse the numbers. Imagine five hundred million Jews and five million Arabs. I was stunned at the simple brilliance of it. Can anyone picture the Jews strapping belts of razor blades and dynamite to themselves? Of course not. Or marshaling every fiber and force at their disposal for generations to drive a tiny Arab State into the sea? Nonsense. Or dancing for joy at the murder of innocents? Impossible. Or spreading and believing horrible lies about the Arabs baking their bread with the blood of children? Disgusting. No, as you know, left to themselves in a world of peace, the Worst Jews would ever do to people is debate them to death.

Mr. Bush, God bless him, is walking a tightrope. I understand that with vital operations in Iraq and others, it’s in our interest, as Americans, to try to stabilize our Arab allies as much as possible, and, after all, that can’t be much harder than stabilizing a Roomful of supermodels who’ve just had their drugs taken away.

However, in any big-picture strategy, there’s always a danger of losing moral weight. We’ve already lost some. After September 11 our president told us and he world he was going to root out all terrorists and the countries that supported them. Beautiful. Then the Israelis, after months and months of having the equivalent of an Oklahoma City every week (and then every day) start to do the same thing we did, and we tell them to show restraint. If America were being attacked with an Oklahoma City every day, we would all very shortly be screaming for the administration to just be done with it and kill everything south of the Mediterranean and east of the Jordan.

  • Finally, fourth, this heartrending analysis:

The First War, All Over Again
Daniel Gordis
July 21, 2006

This is a different kind of war, and an old kind of war. In the last war, when they blew up buses and restaurants and sidewalks and cafes, Israelis were enraged, apoplectic with anger. This time, it’s different. Rage has given way to sadness. Disbelief has given way to recognition. Because we’ve been here before. Because we’d once believed we wouldn’t be back here again. And because we know why this war is happening.

A rocket hit Haifa in the first days of the war, killing no one, but injuring a number of people. It also tore the face off an apartment building, leaving the apartments inside eerily exposed, naked, for all to gaze into. That small block of Haifa, with its shattered shell of a building, rubble all along the street, citizens dazed as they wandered about looking at it all, appeared to be exactly what it was — a war zone.

And yet, the people in the street stayed near their homes, going nowhere. The newscaster asked them why they didn’t go somewhere else, where it might be safer. One man answered with statistics. “Why leave now? We’ve already been hit. The chances of us being hit again are one in a million.” To which another man responded almost with outrage. “What do numbers have to do with it?” he asked. And then, he turned to the camera, almost screaming, pointed to the broken building, and said, “This is our home. Mi-po ani lo zaz. From here, I am not budging.” And he repeated his refrain over and over again. “This is my home. And from here, I am not budging.” “Mi-po ani lo zaz.”

Israelis understand what this is. This is a war over our homes. Over our homes in the north, for now, but eventually, as the rockets get better and larger, all of our homes. This is not about the territories.

This is not about the “occupation.” This is not about creating a Palestinian State. This is about whether there will be a state called Israel. Sixty years after Arab nations greeted the UN resolution on November 29 1947 with a declaration of war, nothing much has changed. They attacked this time for the same reason that they did sixty years ago.

At first, it was the Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians. We put a stop to that in 1949, 1956, 1967 and 1973.

Then it was the Palestinians, who bamboozled the world (and many of us Israelis) into believing that they just wanted a State, and that their terror was simply a way of forcing us to make one possible. We fought the terror in 1982 (Lebanon), 1987 (Intifada) and even after Camp David and Oslo, once again in 2000-2005 (the Terror War). And then, we actually tried to make the State happen. We got out of Lebanon to put an end to that conflict. And even more momentous, we got out of Gaza, hoping that they’d start to build something.

And now, it’s Hezbollah. Or more accurately, Syria. Or to be more precise, Iran. What’s Iran’s beef with Israel? Territory it lost? It didn’t lose any. And does anyone really believe that Iran cares one whit about the Palestinians and their state? That’s not the reason. We know it, and so do they.

Now, the bitter reality of which Israel’s right wing had warned about all along is beginning to settle in. It is not lost on virtually any Israelis that the two primary fronts on which this war is being conducted are precisely the two fronts from which we withdrew to internationally recognized borders. We withdrew from Gaza, despite all the internal objections, hoping to move Palestinian statehood — and peace — one step closer. But all we got in return was the election of Hamas, and a barrage of more than 800 Qassams that they refused to end.

And then they stole Gilad Shalit. Not from Gaza. Not from some contested no man’s land. From inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel. As if to make sure that we got the point — “There is no place that you’re safe. There is no place to which we won’t take this war. You can’t stay here.”

Because as much as we have wanted to believe otherwise, they have no interest in building their homeland. They only care about destroying ours.

Six years ago we pulled out of Lebanon. Same story. In defiance of the UN’s resolution 1559, Hizbollah armed itself to the teeth, and as we watched and did nothing, accumulated more than 10,000 rockets. And dug itself into the mountains. And established itself in Beirut, effectively using the entire Lebanese population as human shields. And, assuming that there was little that we could or would do, it attacked on June 12, killing eight soldiers, and stealing Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Not from Southern Lebanon. Not from Har Dov, a tiny hilltop that’s still contested. But from inside Israel. Inside a line that no one contests.

Unless, of course, they contest the idea of the whole enterprise. Which they do. And which is precisely the point.

And which is why this incredibly divided and divisive society has rallied so monolithically around a Prime Minister who until last week wasn’t terribly popular, and around a war that may or may not accomplish all its military objectives. It explains why, even as the air raid sirens go off across the country, and may eventually start their wail in Tel Aviv, too, as people dash across streets, panicked, trying to find the nearest bomb shelter, no one complains about the government. No one’s complaining about the amount of time it’s taking the air force to put a stop to this. It explains why all over this city, advertisements on bus stops have been replaced with a photo of an Israeli flag and the phrase Chazak Ve-ematz — “be strong and resolute” (Moses’ words to Joshua in Deut. 31:7). [I’ve posted it at www.danielgordis.org/Site/Site_Photos.asp if you want to see what it looks like.] Even the people who’ve lost family members, who are interviewed while still overwrought with grief, have no complaints about the government or the army. “Finish this job,” they effectively say. “We’ll stick it out.”

But behind the defiance lies sadness, a tired and experienced renewed loss of optimism, a wondering if it will ever, ever end. Because we know what they want. It’s not the Golan Heights. It’s not the West Bank. And it’s not a State. We know what they want, and we know why they want it.

On TV the other night, one of the news shows started off with a brief comedic episode. It showed two guys, looking and acting Israeli to the hilt. One of them was speaking in a heavy caricatured Sephardic North African accident, spitting toothpicks as he carried on, telling his friend, over and over and over, “mi-po ani lo zaz. This is the only place where Jews can be safe, he insisted. This is the place we must stay. From here, I’m not moving.” And then the camera panned back, until gradually, you realized that the background you were staring at was the London Bridge, and the Tower of London. It would have been funny, if it weren’t so sad.

It’s sad, because deep down, people are starting to wonder. Would going there be the only way to get beyond their hate? We got out of Lebanon.

We left Gaza. Olmert was elected after he openly declared his intention to give back the majority of the West Bank. But without intending to, we called their bluff. And now we know: the issue isn’t their statehood. It’s ours.

The sadness comes from the clarity. We can sign peace treaties, and withdraw, and arm ourselves. But nothing’s enough. You sign a treaty with Egypt, but then Syria takes over Lebanon and uses Hezbollah as its proxy. You get peace with Jordan, but Iran joins the fray. You learn to defend your border, so they attack you from well within their countries. It feels relentless, because it is. It feels like it never ends, because it doesn’t. It doesn’t feel like the seventh war. It feels like a continuation of the first. Could it be that we’re right back where we started?

Maybe that’s why nobody I know actually laughed at the Tower of London skit.

Is this like the first war, because we could win it and still not have security? What if, as even the army says is likely, Hezbollah is left wounded but still intact at the end? What, we just wait until they decide to lob more missiles at Haifa, or Safed, or even Tel Aviv? Bomb shelters will once again be part of the reality of Israeli kids? Have we returned to the late 40’s and 1950’s, when border towns had to live with the ongoing dread that Fedayeen would sneak across the border and kill people? Except that now, in an era of missiles, most of the country is a border town.

This is like the first war because Israeli citizens, in the middle of the country, are getting killed by a foreign “army.” In 1956, 1967 and even in 1973, we mostly took the war to the border. And then to their territory. Israel’s civilian population centers, even in those horrible conflagrations, were left more or less intact. But not in 1948, and not this time. Haifa is the front. Safed is the front. Nazarath is the front. And they’re all burying people. Adults, and children. Jews, and Israeli Arabs. And Tel Aviv, if you believe Nasrallah, may well be next.

And it’s like the old wars because all our hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, the casualties are mounting. Just days after the Israeli pundits were discussing whether or not a limited ground incursion might be necessary, whether or not the air force could do this on its own, there are troops on the ground in Lebanon. Thousands of soldiers, the papers say this morning. And in the few days since they’ve gone in, kids have been coming back in body bags. These are elite units, and though we’re told that they’re having some successes in finding and destroying the bunkers built into the mountain, they’re encountering heavy resistance. And not all of them are making it home.

We’ve been here before, too. We’d thought we were done with that.

For the first few days of this new war, Israelis were relieved to see the footage of a hundred Israeli planes over Lebanon at any one point. We’d show them that they’d miscalculated. We’d put a stop to this. We’d get our stolen boys back. A decisive victory, like in days of old.

With fewer casualties on our side. But well into the second week of the war, we don’t have our boys back. And soldiers are dying, and coming home without legs. And the victory hasn’t been decisive. And Israeli cities are still being shelled, and traumatized Israeli kids by the thousands are still sleeping in bomb shelters. Just like in the first war.

And it’s like the first war because the news is broadcasting photos of lines of Arab refugees fleeing the fighting in Beirut, heading north, or to Syria. Israeli TV is showing footage of a former city that looks much more like Dresden than Beirut. There are probably some Israelis who couldn’t care less, but the ones that I talk to, work with and share a neighborhood with, do care. They understand that we probably have no choice, for Hezbollah has decided to use Beirut as its human shield, and for years and years, Lebanon did nothing to stop them. Or even to try.

And we have no choice but to survive.

But the Israelis I talk to all day long are still saddened by the miles-long lines of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Lebanese refugees, fleeing their homes and rubble filled neighborhoods with white flags hovering outside their cars even as Israeli war planes roar overhead. Simply on a human level, we know that the suffering is incalculable. That, too, looks like that old black and white footage from the War of Independence. And as a problem for Israel, we know, Arab refugees don’t disappear. They attack, we respond, they flee. And then the problem becomes ours.

And even though Jerusalem is, so far, beyond the reach of the rockets, even here, the air has started to take on a war-like feel. A colleague of mine, in her 40’s, cancelled a meeting yesterday because her real-estate agent husband was just called up and sent to the Egyptian border. A friend I met later in the afternoon cut a meeting short because his son was getting a few hours off. The kid hasn’t even finished basic training, but was sent out to Samaria to guard an outpost so that more experienced kids could get sent to the front. And we were going to try to get together with other friends this morning, but they can’t. Their twenty year old son got called up from his yeshiva, and sent to south of Hebron, and they’re going to try to get out there to bring him some food for Shabbat. And our daughter won’t be home for Shabbat — she’s got guard duty on base. With the other two kids away for the summer, we’re home by ourselves. The house feels empty, hollow.

Like the towns in the north.

And so it goes. Another all out war, when it could have been different.

If they’d wanted something else. But they don’t. Not the Iranians, not the civilians in Syria interviewed on CNN who spoke with admiration of Nasrallah, not the Palestinians on the West Bank who’ve posted his picture everywhere, and not even the Israeli Arabs in Nazareth who, from the depths of their mourning, blame Israel and not Nasrallah for the loss of their children.

So it’s the seventh war (Or the eighth, if you count the War of Attrition. Or the ninth, if you count the first Intifada). And the first war. It’s all the wars. They’re all the same, in the end, because we can’t afford to lose. We can’t afford to lose, so we won’t.

More decisively or less, with more destruction of Lebanon or less, sooner or later, we’ll win it. We have to. The whole enterprise is at stake.

It’s the seventh war, or the eighth. And the first. When the 1973 Yom Kippur War was at its height, Yehoram Gaon went to the front and sang the now famous lyrics, Ani mavti’ach lach — “I promise you, my little girl, that this will be the last war.” They never play that song anymore. Because no one believes it. There will be no last war.

It’s the eighth war, or the ninth. But it isn’t the last war. It’s the first war, all over again. We’ve got this war for the same reason that we had all the others. We have this war for the same reason that people in Haifa are still saying “mi-po ani lo zaz.” We got this war for the same reason that we got the first, and the second.

We know why they attacked then. And we know why they’re still attacking. And we’re determined to hold on for the same reason that they’re so determined never to stop. There’s one reason, and one reason only:

The Jewish People have nowhere else to go.

☞ One longs for a grand solution – the Saudis buy all the homes American real estate speculators are now stuck trying to flip and give them to the Israelis, who move their talents and science and culture here, where, God bless America, they are appreciated. The residential real estate collapse is averted and world peace is snatched from the jaws of World War III.

I tried this decades ago, suggesting that Mexico sell the largely uninhabited southern Baja peninsula to the Saudis – I worked out a price and everything – to solve what was then the Mexican debt crisis, with the Saudis then turning around and donating that land for a Palestinian (or was it a Jewish?) state to solve the Middle East mess.

Turns out, there are some sensibilities involved that make this unrealistic. (Mexico, for one, was not thrilled.)

The proposal was meant to be funny – which it could be at the time, because the Mideast was between wars. It’s impossible to be funny now. The suffering of innocent Lebanese and innocent Israelis is too sad for words; the future, too scary.

 

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