Al-Ahram Weekly Online   31 August - 6 September 2006
Issue No. 810
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Lamis Andoni

The price of Israel

Israel's war on Lebanon has exposed once and for all that its security will be bought even at the cost of war crimes and mass destruction. This immoral situation must come to an end, writes Lamis Andoni

Once again Israel wreaks havoc and destruction and the world's main response is to seek ways to "guarantee the security of Israel". This is the essence of the present diplomatic flurry, of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and most alarmingly the premise underlying the dominant Western, and to a lesser extent Arab, political discourse.

Indeed, while 1701 calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops and stresses the sovereignty and integrity of Lebanon, its main aim is to prevent future attacks against Israel. Neither the resolution nor the diplomatic efforts that followed included any measures to prevent future Israeli attacks against Lebanon.

Post-Lebanon war discourse echoes the same presumption that equates peace with Israeli security. The problem becomes Hizbullah's existence rather than Israel's continued occupation of Arab lands. By obsessing over reigning in, if not destroying, Hizbullah, the security of Israel is instated as the defining imperative of international, Arab and internal Lebanese politics.

Holding Hizbullah accountable for both its deeds and with regard to its obligations, as a political party and a resistance force, within a sovereign state is both understandable and legitimate. But blaming Hizbullah for Israel's war crimes while ignoring US-backing of Israeli impunity leaves the Lebanese and the Palestinians at the mercy of US-Israeli plans of perpetual torture.

The new model symbolised by Hizbullah's strong and stunning resistance to the Israeli army challenged the old paradigm of Arab states' submission to Tel Aviv's regional dominance and conquest of Palestinian lands. Thus, before the Arab world had time to digest the lessons of Hizbullah's resistance, the international community is forcing Arab states back into the old role of ensuring safe borders for Israel and controlling dissent at home.

Accordingly, there is one lesson that Arabs are supposed to learn: Arabs -- whether governments, individuals or groups -- are not permitted to react to continued Israeli occupations, the destruction of Palestine, or the holding of more than 10,000 of their compatriots -- predominantly but not exclusively Palestinians -- captive in its jails.

Opposing Israeli aggression against the Arab people is construed as "terrorism", while Israel's destruction of people and societies who dare challenge its power is presented as "self-defence".

Consequently, Lebanon, a beleaguered country, festering with open wounds of loss and destruction, is cajoled to prove that its army is good enough for the grand mission of protecting Israel by subjugating the very fighters who stood up to the Israeli campaign of destruction.

Most ironic is that the Lebanese government is obliged to ensure that its own army, while prevented by political constraints from defending its land and people from Israel, can fulfil the task of patrolling its borders against possible attacks, or arms shipments that could facilitate such attacks, against Israel.

It is a tiresome repetition of the tragically absurd trials of the Palestinian Authority, which has been pressured, coerced and blockaded into guaranteeing its own occupier's security, while unable to protect its own people from the ravages of the Israeli army.

The logic itself is not new: Arab governments neighbouring Israel have to guarantee calm on the borders with Israel in order to be accepted by the West. Even Syria is no exception. Damascus has strictly subscribed to the fundamental principle of ensuring quiet on its southwestern frontier, giving Israel "the security" required to consolidate its occupation of the Golan Heights.

In fact, Syria has been the most successful in preventing the evolution of a Syrian resistance movement to liberate the Golan Heights and in barring cross-border guerrilla attacks against Israel. Syria's support of various Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) factions, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah does not amount to more than tampering with, but not breaking, the unchallenged rule. By keeping the Golan quiet while supporting Palestinian and Lebanese movements, Damascus has placed the burden of "border violations" on other Arab governments.

The 1970 civil war in Jordan and the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon that led to the expulsion of PLO forces were mainly motivated by the breach of the underlying understanding that no state bordering Israel is allowed to become sanctuary for armed resistance movements against Israel. In effect, Israel demands Arab silence and inaction, if not complicity, while it continues expanding its undefined territorial boundaries, its systematic destruction of the Palestinians and occupation of Arab lands.

On the eve of the Lebanon war the international community had settled into apathetic silence as Israel blockaded an elected government, kidnapped Palestinian parliamentarians, and ravaged a besieged Gaza Strip. As long as there were no reactions to Israel's acts, and it was "all calm" on Israel's fronts, the world did not raise a finger. Only after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers, subsequently demanding a prisoner swap, the tranquillity of Israel's northern borders disrupted, was the world shaken out of its wilful coma.

The ensuing destruction of Lebanon was tolerated by Western and Arab governments and backed by the US, though the military adventure failed to silence Hizbullah's rockets or quell its resistance. All efforts then were put into how to ensure that a UN force could be used to contain Hizbullah and block arms shipments to Lebanon. Strewn cluster bombs across Lebanon, documented bombing of fleeing civilians, ambulances, and the country's infrastructure have not amounted to reason enough to even consider a freeze on, let alone a boycott of, arms sales to Israel.

An honest bid for a true solution would have directly addressed the core issue of ending Israeli occupation of Arab lands and the dispossession this led to. For their part, Western governments proved again too weak, if not downright right cowardly, to stand up to Washington's sanctioning of Israel's continued impunity.

The unfolding scene of the moral depravity of a US-led unipolar world is neither new nor shocking. Neither the US nor Israel have learned any lessons about the limits of political coercion and military force from the mess they have created in Iraq and Palestine. But while this is the nature of unchecked power, it is no excuse for the absence of an honest political discourse. It is time to openly challenge the sacred notion of the supremacy of Israeli security over the humanity and security of other people involved.

Whereas Israel's devastation of Palestine was hidden under "the umbrella" of terrorist Palestinians in Gaza, the Lebanon war has exposed Israeli security as self-defence as a euphemism for aggression with impunity.

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