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Can this be the last Arab-Israeli War?

By Saeed Rahnema, Canada


Of all the gruesome and tragic photos of the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon, one clip remains in my mind; that of an injured boy lying on the ruin of what was his house, raising his hand showing a V sign to the camera. Since the boy is so young he may not know what “victory” means, but, seeing his face and his gesture, I believe there is a chance that he will grow to be an enemy of Israel, maybe a Hezbollah fighter. One wonders why the Israeli leaders do not see this. For they should know better than anyone else the processes that have turned tiny organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah into such mass-based, powerful political and military forces.


While it is reacting to two separate hostage-takings in Gaza and in Southern Lebanon, Israel is waging a war as part of its strategy of bringing two regime changes in the region, in Palestine and in Lebanon. And this is part of a larger scheme – in accordance with the US strategy -- of two bigger regime changes in Syria and Iran. Fully aware of this strategy, and having their own agendas, Iran and Syria, in turn, are directly or indirectly instigating problems for Israel and the US. Syria wants back its occupied territory in the Golan, and the fundamentalist regime in Iran, under its present military/security-backed government of Ahmadinejad, plays the Palestinian card and anti-Zionist rhetoric to divert attention from its internal politics and problems. It also hopes to use its influence on Hezbollah to fight a proxy war in case Iran is in danger of being attacked by Israel or the US.    


In the past Israel had to deal with belligerent Arab states with regular armies, but now it is confronted with mass-based irregular armies which it finds harder to fight. Popular guerrilla armies can easily merge with the population and make it difficult to target them without harming the civilian population, damaging neighbourhoods and infrastructure, and provoking an angry public reaction.


The Israeli army, however, was not much bothered about the consequences of this war and counted on the unconditional support of the United States, quiescence of the European governments and the global media. Hence, it waged its hugely disproportionate military operations in Lebanon and in Gaza. A fully-functioning and prosperous country, Lebanon, which had marvelously rebuilt its cities after the disastrous civil war, was reduced to rubble by massive bombardment, its infrastructure gone, hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands homeless and turned into refugees. The economy has been brought to a complete standstill. Hezbollah, in turn, using its primitive missiles and mortars, continues shelling northern Israeli cities and towns and killing civilians, giving more excuses to the Israelis to pound Lebanon.   


Israel has the privilege and the world’s only superpower’s permission to continue the war until it reaches the short-term military goal of defeating Hezbollah. It will then sign a ceasefire of convenience. But, in the process, it will only further destabilize the region and endanger its own long-term security by emboldening extremists led by religious fanatics. One should not forget that the growth of both of these radical religious organizations are products of Israel’s hard-line policies of not ending the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights, and Shebaa Farms, and not moving towards a negotiated settlement and peace.


It is interesting to note that in 2005, Hezbollah, in reaction to the UN demand of disarmament, had in fact agreed to disarm, provided that Israel ended the occupation of Shebaa Farms. (Hezbollah Deputy Leader, Sheikh Naim Kassem interview with Financial Times, cited in Ha’arez, 09/04/2005). Hezbollah could in the process become   a sort of Hezbollah Lite, merging with Lebanese politics, and gradually losing its influence regardless of the demands of Iranians and Syrians. In the same manner that Hamas could have become Hamas Lite, had they been accepted as a legitimate elected government. Just before the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier by its military wing, the political wing of Hamas was favourably considering the joint Palestinian prisoners’ demand of recognizing Israel.    


There is no doubt that both Iran and Syria have used and are using Hezbollah, as much as they can, to further their own agenda. But if the Israeli occupation of Arab lands end, prisoners are released, and peace negotiations resume between Israel and it neighbors, Hezbollah would not have any pretext and excuse to continue its military engagement with Israel.


Far from reaching a resolution, we are entering a new era of conflicts and confrontations and regime change. Chaos, turmoil and suffering in the Middle East -- the inevitable results of complete failure of US foreign policies in the region -- rising Islamic fundamentalism, militarism and increased political suppression, and extremism have created a most explosive and dangerous situation.        


It is hard to keep hopes for a peaceful solution amidst increased hostilities and extremism. However, those of us who believe that peace is the only choice and that it is possible to achieve, cannot give up. Anti-war demonstrations throughout the world, including in Tel-Aviv, keep this hope alive.


 Neither militarism will bring lasting security to Israel, nor will religious fanaticism bring an independent democratic Palestinian or Lebanese state. Without the support of progressive Israelis, no government in Israel would willingly sign a peace treaty, and without a strong peace movement among Palestinians and Arabs apart from their support of the resistance to occupation, the Israeli peace movement cannot achieve much. The Jewish community and pro-Israelis in the West also need to show some sympathy to the sufferings and the in-human treatment of the other side. Without a strong support for peace among the Jews outside Israel, the regional movements for peace will not succeed.


More important, without a major anti-war movement in the West and without pressuring right-wing governments, the Bush administration and its allies, including the present Harper government in Canada, will continue their one-sided policy. The Arab and Muslim communities in the west should also do a better public relations job to gain more support and sympathy of the public and fight racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. While they rally against Israeli occupation, they should not become cheer leaders for Islamic radicals, who are seeking an Iranian-style Islamic regime with its disastrous consequences for Iran, the region and the world.


One of the most astonishing aspects of this Sixth (and the second-longest) Arab-Israeli war is that it has crystallized the naked global racial/religious divide. No other war in recent times has so clearly displayed the depth of racial division around the world. Western governments, including the present Conservative government in Canada, have all expressed sympathy for Israel. Even the killing of eight Canadians by Israeli bombs did not shake Stephen Harper’s one-sided sympathy. The global media is not even calling this a war. It calls it, instead, a “Middle East Crisis”, or “Israeli Campaign”. This is an outright war and it has polarized communities around the world to the extent that depending on whose side you are, you only feel the sufferings of your side. And this is what extremists on both sides cherish.


The war won’t resolve the concerns of either side. An immediate ceasefire is urgently needed to start the long-overdue peace negotiations with Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese that the world-wide peace movements are calling for. Only then can this be the last Arab-Israeli war.


About the author: Saeed Rahnema, is Professor and Director of School of Public Policy and Administration at York University, Canada


... Payvand News - 8/14/06 ... --

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