Hezbollah Denies Existence of Israel


I would like to comment on your recent opinion piece by Ahmed T. elGaili, Ramy M. Tadros, and Rami A. Thabet ("Israel's Campaign of Terror," April 29, 1996). The piece offers a number of valid and important criticisms of Israel's Operation "Grapes of Wrath" in southern Lebanon. I have very mixed feelings about the operation. I deeply regret the serious loss of life and extensive damage that Israel has caused in Lebanon, and I am overjoyed that a cease-fire seems to have taken hold. This said, I would like to raise two balancing points which I feel the authors have not properly considered.

First of all, I would like to bring up, as has been corroborated by most media coverage, the shameful use of civilians as shields by Hezbollah. While the authors correctly lay the ultimate blame for the Lebanese casualties from the operation on Israel, Hezbollah must bear part of the moral burden. By basing itself in, and launching Katyusha rockets from, heavily populated areas, Hezbollah puts at risk the very civilians whose rights it hypocritically claims to be defending. Israel has a right to defend its northern borders, and Hezbollah's cowardly behavior places Israel in a no-win situation in which it must choose between enduring civilian casualties among its own population or causing civilian casualties in Lebanon.

Secondly, I would like to dispute the authors' portrayal of Hezbollah as an organization dedicated only to freeing Southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation. Hezbollah is a violent organization which denies Israel's basic right to exist. Funded by Iran and at least tolerated by Syria, Hezbollah is a major player in a much broader struggle against the existence of Israel and must be treated as such. The history of Israel's involvement in Lebanon is long and complicated. Israel does not occupy the security zone in Southern Lebanon out of territorial ambition. The zone is a temporary buffer against a realistic fear of rocket attacks on northern Israel. Ideally, a comprehensive peace between Israel, Lebanon, and Syria (which occupies Lebanon) will result in Israel's withdrawal from the security zone and peace along the border. Until that time, however, Israel must act to protect itself against rockets fired from Lebanon. Israel cannot afford to be so naive as to think that its northern border will suddenly become safe if it unilaterally withdraws from the security zone. --Rob Ditzion '96


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