Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hell Breaking Loose

War is what Israel does best, and we're about to get a full bloody plate of it.

Well, not we good Americans -- not directly, anyway. Not until some pissed-off jihadists decide to answer our bankrolling of this present round of aggression with God knows what. Because, like it or not, every Israeli missile that hits residential Beirut (and elsewhere) comes courtesy of our collective pocket. Might as well have "Howdy From The USA!" painted on each shell. When Israel attacks, we attack, a reality that a lot of Americans either ignore, dismiss, or in some corners, celebrate.

What's going on at this very moment is quite serious, both for the Middle East and for the world. And far from this being a "defensive" war (the only kind Israel fights, according to its apologists), the present escalation in Lebanon, as in Gaza, is part of a larger strategy that goes beyond kidnapped soldiers and Qassam and Katyusha rockets launched at Israeli border towns. This is about hitting Syria and ultimately Iran, since Israel will not allow any other country in the region to even taste nuclear power. The right to bear nuclear arms is Israel's alone, and they'll keep it that way, no matter how many cities they have to bomb and civilians they have to slaughter. You need only to listen to the words of Israeli commanders. Far from sounding cornered and defensive, they are openly boasting about bringing extensive pain to their selected targets. As stated in a Ha'aretz news analysis, "According to the [senior IDF] officers, if the kidnapped soldiers are not returned alive and well, the Lebanese civilian infrastructures will regress 20, or even 50 years."

Not exactly a fighting-for-your-life statement.

And that's the point, the large and rather obvious point, if you've read any history of this conflict and take seriously the proclamations of Israeli leaders, both political and military -- Israel employs violence because it can. It outguns every state in the region and does not hesitate to brutally remind everyone of this fact. Its leadership rejects any peace agreement that might put even the lightest curb on its use of force, which of course guarantees endless cycles of bloodshed, since Hamas and Hezbollah do not turn the other cheek. The Israeli state also refuses to recognize the humanity of Palestinians, a form of racist contempt that goes back to the days of Jabotinsky and Ben-Gurion. This naturally has a lot to do with what's currently happening, though in many media reports, we rarely get the deep history that underlines the continual fighting. Click on any mainstream news site today and chances are good that you'll be shown only a depthless present where crazed Muslims who hate Jews and democracy attack Israel for no understandable reason, other than they're Arabs, fanatics, and well . . .

Meanwhile, as Israel pounds targets in both Lebanon and Gaza, killing and wounding anyone who happens to be in the way, you won't see words like "terrorism" or "aggression" attached to these actions. "Reprisal" and "security" are among the preferred descriptions, lending the impression that the air and sea blockade of Lebanon is merely a "defensive" tactic. Again, the only way Israel can be remotely viewed as "defensive" is to avoid the historical context necessary to better understand what is currently going on. No one has clean hands in this madness, but there is a bigger story here, one that is complicated and troubling, but necessary to learn if this insanity continues, which it most certainly will.

Since this crisis erupted, many readers have asked me for reading suggestions and urged me to illustrate some of the history that's been largely avoided. I've hesitated acting on the latter request, simply because I know where it will lead. Once upon a time, this was all I talked about, on radio, TV, at colleges, high schools and in print. It caused a tremendous amount of anxiety and some depression in me, which is not meant as a dodge, but solely to inform you of how seriously I take this, when I do take it, that is. Just yesterday I was asked to debate a somewhat prominent rightwing writer and talking head on the topic of Israel, which I've accepted, so it appears that I'm getting pulled back in (I'll give more details once this gig is firmed up). I won't turn the Son into a Middle East blog -- there are too many other things I want to write about -- but know that I'll be coming back to this issue, sooner than later. Like me, I'm sure you can't wait.