Sunday, July 23, 2006

Israel's Been a Bad Bad Girl (Its Been Careless with a Delicate Plan)

Anyone who knows me - in real life or on messageboards like or - knows I'm about as staunch a defender of Israel as they come. But that doesn't mean that anything Israel does is right, merely because it's Israel doing it. And Israel's prosecution of this Lebanon campaign has been as wrong as they've been in a long time.

War is hell, that goes without saying. And civillian populations will suffer in times of war, particularly wars against non-state actors like Hezbollah, who - unlike civil states - locate key military objectives in civillian areas, out of hope that the presence of civillians will deter an attack and in the knowledge that if it does not then the civillian deaths will make a tremendous propaganda tool. When Israel attacks a Hezbollah compound built in a residential area of Beirut, it's almost a given that civillians will die. And in some cases that is a tragic reality and necessity of war. (It's a reality that applies equally to both sides; regardless of who started the war or who was right to do what when, if Hezbollah kills civillians in an attack on an Israeli army base, it's equally tragic, and equally legal).

But it's become all too clear that Israel's campaign has caused civillian death far beyond the necessary and unavoidable. Israel has attacked bridges and roads while they were in use by civillians, has killed refugees fleeing the village of Marwaheen, and has otherwise demonstrated an apparent pattern of reckless disregard for the safety of Lebanon's civillians that is too abhorrent for words.

I say apparent because I hold out an anguished, fraying hope that there is some explanation for what I am seeing that I don't understand. That Israel got hold of some horrifically bad intelligence that led them to believe that a car full of refugees was loaded with Hezbollah fighters. That missiles were fired at bridges that were reasonably if wrongly expected to be empty at the time of impact. That if the pilot who fired those missiles did so in the knowledge that the bridges were occupied, it was against orders and that he will rot in jail for the rest of his life, because if those bridges were knowingly hit while civillians were using them, then it was - bluntly - murder. No amount of possible resupply to Hezbollah justifies attacking a bridge while it was in use, not if there was even the bare possibility that it could be hit while empty.

And, of course, the secondary tragedy of this - secondary because strategic implications pale before the loss of human life - is that the harm to civillians has all but eliminated any possibility that Israel's response to Hezbollah's cross-border attack would strengthen the sizable number of Lebanese who were anti-Hezbollah. And so it may be that in recklessly firing on the Lebanese, Israel also shot itself in the foot.

And if that leads to another 20 years of anger and war that could otherwise have been avoided, the secondary tragedy of this war may be destined to be the primary tragedy of another. And that thought is almost too much to bear.


Post a Comment

<< Home