Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Another Apologist for Israeli Aggression
By Thomas Riggins

Friday’s New York Time’s op-ed page (7-14-06) features an article by Michael Young ("Israel’s Invasion, Syria’s War"), identified as an editor at the Lebanese paper The Daily Star and also for Reason magazine. Young’s article is so ill argued and ridiculous that it can be used to demonstrate just the opposite of what it intends. It intends to more or less justify Israel’s newest aggression and blame Syria instead. It actually shows us that those who try to defend Israel’s actions have no worthwhile means for doing so and must resort to stretched logic, unverifiable assertions, name-calling and in general meaningless blather.

Young maintains that Israel’s attack on Lebanon is in response to "a general counterattack against American and Israeli power in the region by Iran and Syria." This means that Iran and Syria are in cahoots to bring down American and Israeli power and they are operating through proxies who do their bidding, Young calls them "sub-state actors’. They are Hezbollah and Hamas. Young says the fighting in Lebanon isn’t "merely" a proxy war--i.e., it is a proxy war and more besides. He blames Israel’s aggression against the Lebanese people on Hezbollah because Hezbollah "transgressed three political lines."

Transgression number one-- "kidnapping" two Israeli soldiers. Note that Hezbollah and Hamas "kidnap" while Israeli forces "capture" or "arrest" opponents. Young tells us that after Israel withdrew (or rather was forced out) its troops from Lebanon there was an "unwritten rule" that Hezbollah was only supposed to mess around with Israel in a "disputed" area called the Shebaa Farms. Hezbollah captured the soldiers outside of this zone. But this "unwritten rule" is a figment of Young’s imagination as he himself says that Hezbollah has attacked outside of this zone before "even killing some Israeli troops." The attack on Lebanon was well thought out and has been in the works for years. Any excuse would have done.

Transgression number two-- Hezbollah’s "evident" strategic "coordination" with Hamas. He means that while Israel is butchering Palestinian civilians in Gaza using the excuse of trying to free a soldier captured by Hamas, Hezbollah up and carries out an action of its own by capturing two Israeli soldiers. This left poor little Israel "feeling it was fighting a war on two fronts." This is a war it chose to fight as both Hamas and Hezbollah were willing to negotiate a prisoner release. There are thousands of political prisoners being held (or kidnapped) by Israel so three Israeli soldiers being held would seem to suggest an all out attack on civilian populations was an extreme response. So this "transgression", as the first, is purely imaginary.

Transgression number three-- "By unilaterally taking Lebanon into a conflict with Israel" Hezbollah was really trying to overthrow the "anti-Syrian parliamentary and government majority, which opposes the militant group’s adventurism." This is just foolishness. Hezbollah is not the government of Lebanon and it cannot unilaterally take Lebanon into a conflict. It was not the Lebanese army that grabbed the two Israeli soldiers. Common sense should tell anyone who uses it that it was Israel that unilaterally attacked the state of Lebanon. And what sense does it make to attack the state of Lebanon for the actions of Hezbollah if you know that the governing majority of the state of Lebanon "opposes" Hezbollah. This is also a purely imaginary transgression. Blaming Lebanon was a choice Israel made to give it an excuse to attack wider targets in the country as a tactic in its use of state terrorism against civilians in the hopes that they will turn against organizations that Israel opposes. This tactic did not work for the Germans in WW2, or the Americans in Vietnam and it won’t work for Israel either.

Young is also bothered by the fact while condemning Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Lebanese government for the crisis they themselves created, they failed to also fault Syria. "Israeli officials," he writes, "have left Syria out of their condemnations, in jarring contrast to the Bush administration's statements that have rightly highlighted Iranian and Syrian responsibility for Hezbollah's behavior." Iran and Syria are "responsible" only if Hezbollah is their creation and their puppet. There is no evidence of this. Hezbollah is an indigenous Lebanese movement that grew out of the resistance to the Israeli aggression of the 1980s. It has adopted the ideology of the Iranian "Revolution" and so is a fundamentalist Shia organization but this does not mean it is a puppet of the Iranians. To suggest that Syria, a secular state, is "responsible" for the actions of Shia fundamentalists is simply foolishness. No one considers the pronouncements of Bushites to be serious, except for Young and other apologists for the utra-right world view. Lets not forget the Bushites blamed Iraq for 9/11 (until reality forced them to back off), told us Iraq had WMD, call Cuba a "terrorist state", refer to the most popularly elected president in the history of Venezuela as a "dictator" and just recently recommended Iraq as a model democracy with freedom of religion and the press.

That the New York Times publishes such stupid articles is a wonder. Young tells us that "Israel can brutalize Lebanon all it wants," but it won't accomplish its aims unless "something is done to stop Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, from exporting instability to buttress his despotic regime." This is just hype. Everyone knows that the instability in the Middle East is the result of two main factors, the insupportable and failed war in Iraq that the Americans unleashed and the aggressive policies of Israel as well as its refusal to make peace with the Palestinians because it wants to keep the best parts of the West Bank for itself and prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Because the Syrians are acting to protect their national interests against two formidable aggressors, the US and Israel, the ultra-right wants to blame them, along with Iran, for the problems in the Middle East. What this really means is that only countries that are willing to let the US and its cat's paw Israel walk all over them are truly interested in maintaining stability. Let Israel make an honest deal with the Palestinians, return to its 1967 borders, return the Golan Heights (part of Syria after all) and treat the Arabs as equal human beings and not second class members of the species, and then see how easy it will be to have a comprehensive peace in the region and real security for all the nations of the region.

But don't expect Hezbollah or Hamas or the Palestinians to just roll over and play dead while their land is being taken away or threatened by an imperialist dominated aggressive Zionist state armed to the teeth by an outside power (what Hezbollah gets from Iran is a drop in the bucket compared to what the US lavishes on Israel).

Young has only one thing right in his article and that is "Israel must stop its attacks and let diplomacy take over." But he thinks in terms of diplomacy that will get Hezbollah out of south Lebanon and end the current crises. What is really needed is a comprehensive settlement, fair to all sides, such as I indicated above. It is the West Bank not Syria that is at the heart of the instability in the Middle East.

--Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and be reached at

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