He described them as heroes. He praised their premier as a man held in high esteem by him and the government he represents. But there was a caveat in this generous show of goodwill to the Lebanese people by the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, who was speaking on the occasion of his government adding 56 people to the death toll of its bombardment of Lebanon â€“ though in truth that number remains in flux, so too the bodies, whose state the Reuters correspondent on the scene alluded to when he described how â€œrescue workersâ€ were still busy â€œlifting out the twisted, dust-caked corpses of children.â€
He blamed them for the incident. And their backers in Tehran: “I am beseeching you not to play into their hands, not to provide them with what they are seeking while sacrificing their own people as human shields and as victims,” he said. Quite how Hizballah, the only organized military force now left engaging the Israeli army was using this residential building as a shield, he left to his fellow diplomatsâ€™ and journalistsâ€™ stunning lack of curiosity. Pausing here to wonder at the gullibility of the â€œinternational communityâ€ and the credulity with which the Israeli claims have been met is a foolâ€™s errand – they would sooner have asked how the kidnapping of two soldiers prompts a rampage of destruction across an entire country and the killing of 700 hundred people who happened to be living there at the time.
We would do well now, at least temporarily, to skip over the point of outrage â€“ or, more precisely, our own outrage over its absence. The Arab-Israeli struggle is, and will remain, a moral one. The language in which arguments are put forth is, overwhelmingly, designed to appeal to the conscience of the reader and the viewer. Israelâ€™s great success with Western governments is often attributed to its well-oiled propaganda machine that, according to this widespread understanding, is translated, through democratic means, to the decision-makers who then proceed to answer their peopleâ€™s calls to support Israel. But look closer at this dynamic and you will discover its fallacy. Consider the bedrock of Israelâ€™s support in the West, the United States. There, under the influence of the most favorable coverage of Israel in the world, the American public, according to successive polls in recent weeks, does support Israel by a reasonable majority. When it comes to legislators however, that majority turns into unanimity. On July 24th, the United States Congress passed a resolution backing Israel in its war by 410 votes to 8. Clearly, this is not an accurate reflection through democratic means. It seems that the two branches of the United States government offering blanket coverage to Israelâ€™s actions are operating according to a different set of variables than those mandated by public opinion or the moral arguments that sway it.
Propaganda, and the moral language is which it is pouched, is then an important but ultimately secondary factor in allowing Israel to continue of what is, in effect, a siege of the Palestinian population and periodic bloody rampages across Lebanon. On a material level, this extreme and massively disproportionate violence perpetrated by Israeli society is explicable. Israelâ€™s insistence on building a nation where citizenry is based, not on peopleâ€™s relationship to land within its borders, but on religion and ethnicity, means that it cannot abide by the demographics of the region onto which it has been grafted. To maintain a status quo in which the Jewish portion of Palestine remains the majority, given that the 2.4 million Palestinians under occupation and the 20 % of the Israeli citizens who are Palestinian have a substantially higher birth rate then the Jewish portion, the only situation in which that religious/ethnic domination of the land can be maintained is through denial of Palestinians equal rights, not to mention those of the refugees that makeup the Palestinian Diaspora. In order to avoid the impending balance mandated by demographics, a constant state of imbalance is needed, and hence a constant, but, from the Israeli point of view, low-cost military confrontation. The brutal campaign in Gaza then becomes clearer in its objectives. Israel does not seek a final victory through its one sided wars and incursions. War is Israelâ€™s victory. Or that was the case before July, when, for the first time in decades, the Israeli armyâ€™s losses are such that explaining away civilian causalities is no longer their only concern.
Now is the time to reintroduce morality. The tragedy of the Holocaust is a pro-Palestinian argument, the horror of people unwanted and persecuted on their land because of their race and their religion. In reality the Holocaust is the animating presence behind the extraordinary militarism of Israeli society. But to comprehend something is not to excuse it. As such, there will never be just solution to this struggle emanating from a democratic Israeli polity, which has combined the trappings of liberal democracy with longest military occupation in modern history and the periodic perpetration of war crimes by an army in which all its citizens, Arabs excluded, are required to serve.
Hence Hizbollah. Israelâ€™s violent maintenance of a status quo has been matched by a maintenance of the status quo in the Arab world, aided and abetted by Western governments. The status quo powers include all of the Arab regimes, including the Syrian regime which paradoxically legitimizes itself through its opposition to Israel, and the partially dethroned Fatah plutocracy, whose collective existence now depends on things remaining as they are. In considering the unique effectiveness of Israeli propaganda on Western governments one would do better to consider the results of this great leeway granted to Israel by the West: In the countries of the Arab world, rulers whose interests are now in 180 degree opposition to those of their population, reside over marginalized dependent economies that, in the new â€œglobal economyâ€ serve as its gas station, house its environmentally hazardous industries and provides bases for its military.
The status quo in the Arab world is sustainable through repression. What is no longer sustainable is faÃ§ade of the Arab regimes seeking a just solution to the Arab-Israeli struggle. Given this final fall of the fig leaf, the Arab regimes will be busy cracking down on their populations for a while. In the meantime, Hizbollah, a Shia group, financed by non-Arab Iran, is the most representative of the Arab populationsâ€™ rejection of the status quo. The conflation of the Hizbollah with the nihilistic savagery of Al-Qaeda is an item of propaganda that maybe saleable to those who choose not to look too closely. But propaganda is secondary. Hizbollah maybe eradicated by sequential transactions amongst Israeli, Western and Lebanese actors â€“ some of whom maybe genuinely and understandably tired of having their fragile country serve as stage on which Israel exercises its now existential need for persistent war. Here however, Hizbollah, with the wide-ranging support it has received, is the bearer of grievances rather than an independent actor or even an Iranian ploy in that nationâ€™s convoluted wrangling with the West. Should it meet its end, Hizbollah would quickly be replaced by populations for whom the status-quo is no longer acceptable.
Arab Voices for Change