August 12, 2006

Another Look at the Middle East

published in the Kelowna Daily Courier Sunday Aug 12th, 2006

After 50 years or so, it seems that the pro-Israel propaganda machine is starting to break down in Canada. While our prime minister threw caution to the wind in his immediate support of Israel in the current crisis, the Canadian public took a much different approach. Oridinary Canadians realize that our perceived neutrality in world affairs yields genuine benefits when travelling or doing business abroad. The good will we enjoy is a valuable asset, not to be squandered in a burst of zeal for another overwhelming Israeli assault launched in another futile act of retaliation. We know that if Harper persists in his unbalanced Middle East policy, we will all suffer for it; and it will take years to restore. We really don't want to be trearted as junior Americans when travelling abroad.

However, for the pro-Israel lobby any attempt to present an even-handed, equitable policy toward the Middle East is instantly branded as 'anti-Israel' or, that foolish label, 'anti-Semitic.' In the current situation, the facts and photos speak for themselves. While ife has been inconvenienced by the barrage of unguided rockets for northern Israel residents, Lebanon has been devastated by relentless Israeli bombardment. Israeli officials complain that Hezbollah fighters are integrated with civilian populations-- (hardly surprising for a guerilla militia)-- nevertheless, they proceed to hit civilian targets, with consequent deaths of women and children. One has to go to the Internet to view photos of innocent Lebanese killed by phosphorus bombs. Yes, Israeli civilians have been killed, too; many of them Arabs. The point is that Israel has lost the moral high ground, the 'poor me' victim status that it has cultivated so assiduously on the world stage.

Without getting lost in comparing atrocities, it is essential to step back and ask the big questions that always get ignored in the North American media. Like, why are Arabs willing to die to attack Israel? Are they really the mad dogs that our media have portrayed, these last five decades? Could it be because the Jews invaded their land after WW-II, and made them refugees and prisoners in their own land? Would we not try to fight back if it happened to us? Why has Israel never made a serious effort to compromise with the Palestinians? Could it be beause the USA gives them billions of dollars every year for 'defense,' and therefore it's far easier to use weapons rather than extend friendship? Do the Arab nations really want to Ôkill all Jews'? Or rather, do they want to see the state of Israel dismantled from their midst?

These are some of the 'big picture' questions that Canadians should ponder while reading those zealous editorials for Israel's 'right to defend itself.' Why does Israel have a 'right' to defend itself-- but the Palestinians have no such right? And why has 'the West' (the USA) so vehemently supported Israel all these years, when they could have been instrumental in brokering lasting peace? Could it be because if they acknowledge that Israel was wrested from the hands of the Palestinians, then.... they might also have to acknowledge that the white, European settlers wrested North America from its indigenous inhabitants? In fact, we are finally doing that now, and it is bringing peace and reconcilaiton with the First Nations; the same could still happen in Palestine, only if Israel were to humble itself. Yes, it has to be the oppresser who makes the first move, as we are discovering here.

In the current debacle, there are more questions. Israeli soldiers have been captured before, and the result has been exchanges of prisoners. This time, the result has been the catastrophic destruction of the state of Lebanon. Why? Can they claim it was to prevent future 'unprovoked attacks' by Hezbollah-- when such destructive responses have never succeeded in the past? Could it really be about trying desperately to provoke Syria and/or Iran into providing the US with the pretext it thinks will suffice for an assault on these Islamic nations... nations that have long been on the White House annoyance list?

While Israel frets about the vexation of cross-border rocket attacks, their forces have destroyed virtually every major bridge and highway in Lebanon, not to mention countless residences. Something like a million civilians are now refugees in their country, with no viable means of transportation, essential goods and services in shambles, and as reported right in the Daily Courier, Israeli forces disrupting delivery of humanitarian aid from external agencies. This is a humanitarian disaster that will backfire seriously on Israel. Not only have they lost any remaining credibility with moderate Arab states; they are squandering the support they contrived in the Western world-- the US excepted.

In a sense, Israel has already lost this war, although she has tried to batter her enemy into the ground. In pursuing 'security' by overwhelming military might, Israel has simply repeated the same fool's tactic as the USA in Iraq-- a quagmire that will never bring peace.