Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How to win friends for your enemy

Over at The Whiskey Bar, Billmon reminds us that unprovoked attacks against civilians can easily backfire:

The stakes are high for Hizbullah, but it seems it can count on an unprecedented swell of public support that cuts across sectarian lines. According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February.

More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.

Lebanese no longer blame Hizbullah for sparking the war by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but Israel and the US instead.
Ghassan Farran, a doctor and head of a local cultural organization, gazes in disbelief at the pile of smoking ruins which was once his home. Minutes earlier, an Israeli jet dropped two guided missiles into the six-story apartment block in the centre of Tyre.

"Look what America gives us, bombs and missiles," says this educated, middle-class professional. "I was never a political person and never with Hizbullah but now after this I am with Hizbullah."

Unless Israel is prepared to take the gloves off and start a full-blown land invasion and genocide in Lebanon -- which I don't believe they have quite reached that state yet, more out of concern for Israeli casualties than for any other reason -- they can't beat Hezbollah by dropping bombs on people's houses, and will only make them stronger.

Like Apollo Creed versus Rocky Balboa, if Israel can't knock Hezbollah out in the first round, the champ loses -- no matter what the final decision on points is. The Israeli right-wing government has handled this badly, underestimating Hezbollah's discipline and fighting ability, underestimating revulsion to war crimes and the slaughter of children, overestimating their ability to commit ethnic cleansing from the air and kill or displace the people of southern Lebanon. Simply by standing up to Israeli tanks and fighters and fighting them to a draw, Israel has lost and Hezbollah has won.

I was going to say "an honourable draw", but with both sides committing war crimes, there is no honour in this war. Still, there is no moral equivalence between the two sides, and not all crimes are equal. Hezbollah's crimes are of carelessness, firing inaccurate missiles into civilian areas where, on occassion, they have killed a civilian: a crime of ommission, failing to take sufficient care. Israel's war crimes are deliberate, crimes of commission: deliberately bombing civilians, guided missiles fired at ambulances, bombing U.N. reports, attacking rescue workers, and so forth.

We should take Israel's claims of self-defence with more than just a grain of salt: since Israel withdraw from their illegal occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, until 12th July of this year, six Israeli civilians died in border violence. Six. Obviously that's six too many, but sane governments don't risk the welfare of their entire nation over one death per year, and moral, ethical people don't slaughter at least 400, mostly innocent civilians including children, and make 800,000+ homeless, over six.

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