Harvard Square Observer: Middle East Mayhem

Ernest Cassara

Last week I suggested that I would not comment on Israel’s campaign in Lebanon, since the situation was in media res. Well, we are still in the middle of the situation, but one cannot help but note that it is astounding that our U.S. leaders appear to believe that it is okay for Israel to pulverize Lebanon from the air.

Israel bombs the Beirut airport - at this writing, for the third time - and President Bush blames it on Syria. Israel bombs residential neighborhoods, killing scores of Lebanese - and Secretary of State Rice blames it on Iran.

Let us see, Israel’s quarrel is with Hebollah, which is firing rockets into Israel - at this writing, as far as Haifa. But, instead of sending its troops in force into the area where Hezbollah is operating, Israel pulverizes much of Lebanon from the air, beyond the Hezbollah territory.

What is to be said of this tactic? It raises the question as to whether the Israelis are cowards. And war criminals.

Cowardice? We don’t usually associate that word with the Israelis, who have been fighting the Palestinians for several decades. But, of course, if the Palestinians have nothing but guns and their own bodies, the Israelis have tanks, helicopters, F-16s, giant bulldozers to destroy homes, etc., etc., and three billion and more dollars a year from the U.S. (Yes, fellow tax payers, we are paying for this death and destruction!)  Under such circumstances, it is easy to dominate the Palestinians.

But, when they get a taste of their own medicine ? namely, Hezbollah fire power which the Palestinians don’t have - they, apparently, are hesitant to commit troops.

Fascinating that Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote on July 18 that the establishment of Israel was a mistake. To force thousands of European Jews on the Muslims and Christians of Palestine was bound to be resented. It is worth quoting him:

“The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is
a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no
is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims
(and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are
seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most
formidable enemy is history itself.”

Cohen is correct, historically.  But, Israel is there, and a way must be found to accommodate it and its neighbors.

The root cause of Israel's problem is its continuing refusal to give the Palestinians a fair deal. I do not write theoretically. When a group of us visited Israel/Palestine a few years back, one of the first things we were shown by our Israeli friends was a new settlement [read, colony] that was being built on Palestinian land.  We were then told, and later saw with our own eyes, that the many colonies on the West Bank are joined by a network of connector roads on which only Jews can travel.  We saw a beautiful Greek Orthodox housing complex that was to be destroyed by the Israeli government to make way for another connector road.

We went through innumerable checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers.  They didn’t dare give us Americans too much trouble, but, we observed the trouble they gave Palestinians, even ambulances.  Palestinians cannot travel from town to town, without going through many checkpoints.  And, you have, no doubt, heard some of the tragic stories of Palestinians in need of medical attention, dying because of delays at checkpoints, including women on the verge of difficult births.

We were, also, astounded to see road blocks in the center of towns.  In Hebron, for instance, we had to leave our van, and find transportation on the other side of a huge pile of dirt and boulders in the middle of the main road.  You can imagine how this disrupts the business of merchants, as well as ordinary citizens seeking to travel.  What is the possible point of the harassment of Palestinians in this way, except, possibly, to let them know who is boss?

Which brings me to my final point.  It occurred to me the other day that Israel is suffering from the “Chosen People Syndrome.”  The myth that their tribal god, Yahweh (aka, Jehovah) gave them the land of Israel is, possibly, the problem.  The Israeli government just thinks Jews are superior to Palestinians, and anyone else for that matter.  Of course, they do not dwell on the details of the biblical story, which required the ancient Hebrews to travel from the desert to Canaan (the “land of milk and honey”), where they had to slaughter the inhabitants, to take over the land.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Holocaust, and Europe’s troubled conscience (see Richard Cohen above), this historical tragedy has been repeated.

Having caused you so much melancholy, with the above comments, I want to leave you with a joke a Jewish friend told me recently.  The Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty years, because Moses would not ask directions.  But, his wife finally did!

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