Self-Defense No Excuse For Violence in LebanonTo the editors:
"The Complex Lebanese Conflict" (Op-Ed, Feb. 15) does not really take a clear enough stand against all forms of aggression. It does not pass beyond the implicitly belligerent "us versus them", "Israel against the Arabs" dichotomy. Yet it is this binary lens which has allowed the perpetration of some of the most heinous crimes to go unchallenged in history.
The authors state that "in order to avoid Lebanese civilian casualties, Israel chose not to attack [civilian] targets" and then continues to call for us to "go beyond rhetoric." The sad fact is the Israelis did choose to bomb a power plant outside of Beirut which supplies energy to almost one million citizens. The article further paints far too benign a picture of the Israeli army's involvement in Lebanon which in the summer of 1982 alone resulted in 17,000 deaths. If we want to move beyond rhetoric we have no choice but to squarely look at the historical sins of all players, especially of those closest to us.
No Christian or Jew should ever have to condone the chauvinistic and extremely brutal Maronite regime and militia which seized power during the Lebanese Civil War thanks to Israeli sponsorship. Nor should they blindly accept the Israeli army's pretexts for their incursion into Southern Lebanon, however much it may have played into the hands of this or that "Christian" mercenary warlord or ostensibly defended northern Galilee. Likewise, no Muslim should succumb to Hizbollah's rallying cries of retaliation and nihilistic hatred. To be sure, in desperate reaction to the Israeli occupation of the South and the major invasions of 1982 and 1996, a number of Lebanese Christians are starting to view Hizbollah as a respectable "resistance" force despite the patently callow and self-serving character of this organization.
If any progress is to be made at all, Israelis, Arabs and outsiders must learn to summon the courage to critically examine their own governments' misdeeds before they rush to justify bloodshed in the name of self-defense. In the end it is the people of Lebanon, struggling as they are to reconstruct their country and lives, and the inhabitants of Israel, imprisoned as they are in a constant atmosphere of anxiety, whom we owe the greatest sympathy and concern. They deserve better--better than the vicious Israeli war-machine, better than despotic Syrian colonialism, better than the cheap slogans of myopic Muslim nationalism proclaimed by Hizbollah, and better than the arrogant and short-sighted Realpolitik of Pax Americana.
Feb. 16, 2000
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