image of jerusalem 2013

From Gaza to Beirut
Apparently, it all started this time with the abduction of an Israeli soldier, and so Gaza became a hellhole. Then, with the killing of three Israeli soldiers and the abduction of two more, Lebanon was turned into another hellhole too...

21 July   |   2006   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

The escalating confrontations and ever-widening circles of violence in this volatile region are almost surreal - even for veteran Middle Eastern observers. Indeed, the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers to use them as bargaining chips for the release of Arab prisoners is in itself an act that simply cannot be condoned and should be condemned unequivocally by all and sundry. Regardless of the purported justification for those kidnappings, they are wrong per se and cannot become right just because there is even more suffering being borne by Palestinians, Lebanese or other Arab peoples.

However, unleashing the mighty arsenal of the only regional superpower on two simultaneously vulnerable fronts - out of frustration, anger, vengeance or arrogance - is also unconscionable and ought to be condemned as sternly as the original kidnappings themselves. Mind you, one need not establish moral equivalence here, but no state can be allowed to hold another nation and its people collectively hostage in return for the holding of its own soldiers as hostages too.

What lessons can one draw from the punishing assault on a hapless Gaza? What can one say about the retribution being meted out against a Lebanon that was rising out of the ashes of its own civil war but is now being catapulted back into disarray and ruin? Having just returned from Beirut, I live the agony of the majority Lebanese as they witness their tiny, picturesque but enfeebled country becoming a greedy backyard for so many vested geopolitical and mercenary interests.

One page cannot analyse the mind-boggling complexities of this region. But let me articulate a few brief reflections:

  • Such a disproportionate response by Israel is injudicious, and will neither serve its purposes nor edify peace in the region. History has proven time and again that such bullying policies and tactical moves do not result in the resolution of problems. One cannot pound a whole people to submission, no matter how hard the hammer blows. Besides, the irony is that Israel now forcefully argues for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1559 (2004) when it - with American support - has in the past steadfastly flouted a whole raft of UNSC Resolutions.
  • With basic food, medicines, water and power in dangerously short supplies in Gaza and parts of Lebanon, one wonders also whether the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian laws are truly relevant today.
  • It is inevitable that the majority of Arab and Muslim peoples would now construct more radical viewpoints against Israel - and against the West almost by proxy. The brutal punishment of the Palestinian or Lebanese peoples by a Kadima -led Israeli government would not result in the surrender of either but rather in a further rise of Islamist political sentiments and resistance movements. Ideas cannot be pulverised with sheer force.
  • As events take evermore negative turns, there is an even more reinforced realisation by Arabs and Muslims that the USA and [now] some countries of the European Union can no longer be viewed as impartial conflict-resolving actors. What a heady mix for future clashes between attitudes and ideologies, if not moralities and religions. Sadly, the empty bombast of some political leaders across the world is matched by the deafening silence of many Muslim and Jewish religious leaders who have hidden their heads below their own parapets.
  • Many Arab leaders, who last year hailed Lebanon as a model beacon of democracy, are again showing disharmony toward this latest aggression against a legally sovereign state, or observing events as they unfold in the hope that their own political let alone confessional differences could perhaps be sorted out by another party.
  • Divisive communal ructions are beginning to emerge within both Palestinian and Lebanese ranks about the advisability of such "resistance" against Israel. This is critical in view of the political black holes that are lurking in the horizon and would surely suck the wider region into the vortex of further sectarianism, strife and unrest.

I do not think that the last few weeks have been singly about Israeli soldiers, lobbing rockets, Hamas or Hizbullah. Rather, what we might be witnessing (largely on our television screens) today could be the clever re-mapping of the Middle East - from the Caspian to the Arabian Seas - in order to alter its dynamics, local movers and regional shakers.

Today, though, my heart goes out to the scores of orphaned, wounded, displaced or traumatised children, women and men suffering the impunity of belligerence. Surely, a cessation of hostilities that would inevitably spare the precious lives of more civilians in all three societies might also help refocus our minds, don't you think?

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2006   |   21 July


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