Beirut Slump | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Beirut Slump 

Middle East conflicts aren’t fueled by intransigence alone. Selective judgments keep the violence churning.

Pin It
Favorite

Who among us still believes the neoconservative argument before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that, “The road to peace in Jerusalem runs through Baghdad”?

nn

As the newly liberated Shia Arabs of Iraq protest Israel’s bombardment of their co-religionists in Lebanon, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki calls for a cease-fire, and Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr threatens to send his Mahdi Army from southern Iraq to fight alongside Hizbullah in Lebanon, it should be glaringly obvious that the reverse dictum holds more truth. The road to peace in the Middle East runs straight to Jerusalem or, if you will, the Arab-Israeli conflict. The road to Middle East peace has run in that direction ever since the creation of Israel in 1948 and will continue along that path until Palestinian Arabs achieve statehood.

nn

Among all the corners of the world, the Middle East isn’t for sissies. Allegiances are split along religion. Even Israel, largely secular, favors members of its own tribe when granting citizenship through its Law of Return. Vengeance is a time-honored tradition, and everyone ignores international calls for peace. Lebanon ignored U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 calling for Hizbullah to disarm? Israel has ignored U.N. Security Council Resolution 446, declaring its settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights illegal, and thumbed its nose to the U.N. Security Council and the world when it annexed East Jerusalem in 1981.

nn

Who’s the aggressor?

nn

It requires almost Herculean shifts in the traditional Middle East paradigm for us to understand why Israel and U.S. support for the Jewish state generates so much rage and enmity among Arabs and the Muslim world. For those raised on Bible stories that Christians share with the Jewish faith, along with a detailed history of Jewish suffering from East European pogroms to the horrific crimes of the Nazi Holocaust, the possibility of Jews acting as aggressors and oppressors seems obscene given the centuries of suffering no sane, educated person would deny that they’ve endured. Add to that the West’s almost collective derision of Muslim culture. We criticize its treatment of women, its tantrums over satirical cartoons, and its seemingly blind allegiance to religious primitivism. To an extent, these criticisms are justified if we’re to preserve our hard-won pluralistic society. Politically and culturally, we have more in common with the people of Israel than we ever will with the Muslim world.

nn

Be that as it may, legitimate grievances with Israel and U.S. Middle East policy abound. It’s about time someone acknowledge them, if not to placate the Arab and Muslim world, then at least for the cause of peace. We agonize about the possibility of Israel being thrown into the sea, even if it’s demonstrated time and again that it can defend itself. As it stands now, however, we seem poised to wage war, yet again, with two central nations of the Middle East, Syria and Iran, all for the security of Israel. Talk of World War III may seem exaggerated, but this situation cannot stand. Will we ever concede to grievances and arguments that might calm the region down? Contrary to popular belief, and for those strong enough to keep an open mind, such arguments do, in fact, exist.

nn

The spawning of Hizbullah

nn

Let’s start with Hizbullah, that southern Lebanese Shia militia'or “terrorist organization” if you will'most of us never bothered with until it killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two more this month in what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called an “outrageous provocation.” This is not a group that suddenly appeared on the scene, wild-eyed with hatred for Jews. The disenfranchised Shia of southern Lebanon make up 35 percent to 40 percent of the country’s population, with the town of Nabatieh as its spiritual center. The Shia clerics of Iran may fund Hizbullah, but they would have little to fund today without Israel’s brutal 1982 invasion and subsequent 18-year occupation of Lebanon. Israel, in effect, spawned Hizbullah. But don’t take my word for it. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in an interview this month with Newsweek, had this to say in context of recent events: “When we entered Lebanon … there was no Hizbullah. We were accepted with perfumed rice and flowers by the Shia in the south. It was our presence there that created Hizbullah.”

nn

Indeed it was. The Sabra and Shatila massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in 1982 by Christian Phalangist militias under the watch of Israel’s military wasn’t the only mishap of that invasion. Fed up with attacks from Palestinian militias in southern Lebanon, the original reason behind the invasion, the Israeli army made little or no distinction between them and Lebanon’s Shias in its iron-fisted policy of occupation, which claimed the lives of some 20,000 Arab civilians and soldiers by the time Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. Israeli counter-intelligence Shin Bet agents raided, and Israeli troops bombed villages in southern Lebanon. Funded and supported by Israel, the Christian South Lebanon Army (SLA) detained and tortured scores of Shia in the Ansar and Khiam prisons. Again, don’t take my word for it. Consult reports issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documenting these events. By the middle of 1984, many Israelis themselves were growing increasingly wary of their nation’s misadventures in Lebanon. It was published in the June 8, 1984, Jerusalem Post Magazine that the invasion had “instituted a destructive policy of trying to bring the Shias to their knees while simultaneously trying to make a giant out of the South Lebanon Army.”

nn

Flash forward to April 1996, as Israel continued its occupation, to the shelling of a U.N. compound at Qana in southeast Lebanon, which claimed 106 civilians. Israel owned up to a grievous mistake but then, along with the United States, accused Hizbullah of using civilians as cover for its military activities. Investigations by a U.N.-appointed military adviser and Amnesty International, however, determined that Israel could not back its claim that the attack was a mistake. Today the “Qana Massacre” remains a Hizbullah rallying cry.

nn

In the sum of history, what then constitutes'as Rice calls it'an “outrageous provocation” if Hizbullah never so much as existed before Israel occupied Lebanon? Hizbullah is no band of angels. There’s inconclusive evidence it planned the 1992 bombing of Israel’s embassy in Argentina, along with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that claimed 85 civilians. But so much of Middle East history constitutes “outrageous provocation.” It’s time someone admit that not only Israelis suffer or have need of defense, and that aggression abounds on all sides.

nn

Brazen plots and freedom fighters

nn

In the runup to Israel’s dawn on the world stage, and afterward, there are plenty of antics to its name. Consider its brazen plot with France and Britain to seize Egypt’s Suez Canal in 1956, the murder of 48 civilians by Israel’s border police at Kafr Qasim that same year, the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty during the Six-Day War killing 34 U.S. servicemen, Jonathan Pollard’s spying, Benjamin Netanyahu’s foot-dragging over the Oslo accords, or Ariel Sharon’s belligerent 2000 visit to the Temple Mount. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir could plot the 1944 assassination of U.N. peace negotiator Count Folke Bernadotte, and former Prime Minister Menachem Begin could kill 91 people in the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel before both became statesmen worthy of a handshake. The terrorist activities of the Irgun and Stern Gang vanished into the respectable mantle of freedom fighting once the Zionist dream of statehood was achieved and thousands of Palestinians were pushed into the margins of refugee status and terrorism. Today, those refugees number in the hundreds of thousands. If Zionists couldn’t forget the dream of a national homeland after 2,000 years, why expect Palestinians to forget the dream of statehood after almost 60 years?

nn

Those who say Middle East peace is no longer worth the time of negotiations, or that we must resort to war because terrorists will be happy with nothing less than the destruction of Israel are criminally negligent of a situation that threatens more lost lives. President Carter brokered peace between Egypt and Israel in 1977. President Clinton brokered peace between Jordan and Israel in 1994, and came close to brokering a peaceful agreement between Palestinians and Israel, an enterprise the current administration has shelved for almost six years. Progress is possible.

nn

It’s beyond ken that President George W. Bush refuses to call for a cease-fire in the current conflict, instead hanging out at his Texas ranch or rubbing German Chancellor Merkel’s back as Israel once again opens the gates of hell on Lebanon. Then again, what could he do now? True to the manifest incompetence and negligence that marks his foreign policy, Bush has refused repeatedly diplomacy with Syria and Iran, drawing the two nations closer together as a result. He practices the same sort of intransigence he complains of in our Arab and Iranian opponents, and would risk plunging the region into war rather than open his mouth in dialogue.

Pin It
Favorite

More by Ben Fulton

  • Right and Right

    After finally getting around to viewing Napoleon Dynamite at the local theater—yes, I am the spittin’ image of him, just as Music & TV Editor Bill Frost maintained during my brief absence—the only other event I’m looking forward...
    • Sep 6, 2007
  • Urban Art Guerrillas

    Borrowed Walls mix art forms in space and time. Won’t you lend them your mind?
    • Sep 6, 2007
  • Arts & Entertainment - Sad, Sad. Joy! Joy!

    ...
    • Sep 6, 2007
  • More »

Latest in News

  • The New Pioneers

    Suggestions abound on how legislators can improve retooled medical cannabis law during upcoming session.
    • Dec 12, 2018
  • Show Them the Money

    City Council members consider pay hike, worry current salary leaves out potential candidates.
    • Dec 5, 2018
  • Citizen Sensors

    Personal air-quality monitoring devices could explode in popularity once inversion season hits.
    • Nov 28, 2018
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Sousa Mendes' List

    Holocaust rescuer's legacy lives on in Utah.
    • Jan 17, 2018
  • The Bears Ears Sideshow

    Newly released documents show that locals had little voice in national monument decisions.
    • May 2, 2018

© 2018 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation