Thursday, July 27, 2006

Israel/Lebanon – What about proportionality?

I suppose I’m going to have to blog about the horrific state of affairs in the Middle East, if only to respond to Adele’s question “what about proportionality?” I guess I’ve got two things to say.

The first is that the way Israel is prosecuting its war in Lebanon and in Gaza is absolutely morally wrong, as well as strategically short-sighted and bad for Israel. It is morally wrong because there must always be a presumption against fighting a war that leads to massive civilian casualties, that kills more innocent families in their homes than it does enemy combatants. This is not to say that a state at war should never kills innocent civilians, but it must minimise these deaths and it must only use methods that lead to this scale of civilian casualties when it is faced by a serious existential threat, such as Israel is not in fact now experiencing.

The strategy only makes sense morally according to a racist moral calculus whereby some lives are worth more than others – whereby Jewish lives are worth more than Arab lives. This moral calculus is obscene.

And it is strategically short-sighted and ultimately bad for Israel because it further alienates Israel – on the Arab street and on the world stage – at a time when Israel could have had the moral high ground, after the kidnappings and rocket strikes by Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel’s status as a rogue state, as a neighbourhood bully, has rarely been so clear. It is the duty of Israel’s friends to demand a stop to this strategy immediately - and not in a couple of weeks.

The second thing I have to say about all this is that, however wrongly Israel is prosecuting this war, it remains the victim here. In the sort of left liberal circles in which I move, there is either ignorance or wilful amnesia about the literally thousands of rockets that Hizbullah and Hamas have been pumping into Israel, about the fact that Hizbullah is not some ragtag bunch of guerrillas but probably the third most effective armed force in the whole Middle East, that Hizbullah is armed to the teeth by Syria and Iran, that Syria and Iran are not peaceful little democracies but highly bellicose and brutal dictatorships. Thus, even if there is no clear and present existential threat to Israel, as long as Hizbullah and Hamas exist (and as long Ba’athism and Shi’ite theocracy exist), the spectre of such a threat continues to haunt the region, and there is no possibility of peace and co-existence.

Israel’s status as a rogue state is so taken for granted in left liberal opinion that the theocratic, inhumane, militaristic – in fact fascist – nature of Hizbullah and Hamas are completely denied. On the far shores of left liberal opinion, in fact, Hizbullah and Hamas are seen as plucky freedom fighters, as the legitimate voice of Arab self-determination, as essentially benign and progressive. It is the duty of truly progressive people to struggle against these malignant myths.

More: read this long post by Shuggy at Drink-Soaked

Keywords: Hezbollah, Hizbollah, Hezbullah, Palestine, Palestinian
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