31 July 2006

The Tension of Middle East Polarities

I have, for the most part, refrained from publicly blogging or commenting on the war raging between Israel and Lebanon, and on the media coverage thereof. I will admit that I am terribly torn over the horror that is unfolding, and therefore, I find it exceptionally difficult to be anything close to rationally analytic, or even keenly perceptive, of the dynamics of the situation. I curse the evil intent of the Hezbollah, and despair over the tragic loss of life among hundreds of innocents (and orders of magnitude greater numbers of injured, and those that have lost livelihoods and lifetimes).

Broad, carefully constructed, and well-considered perspectives are impossible to find among the massmedia - and much of the North American reportage that I have seen (and I am not at all glued to the coverage) smells of larger political agendas at best, and demonstrates an uncomfortable, self-important, fatuousness at worst.

After hearing her on a CBC interview, I've begun reading Lisa Goldman's blog, On the Face. Lisa is a Canadian-Israeli reporter in Tel Aviv who gets to the humanity behind the sensational stories, such as this one about children "signing" tank missles. Today, she has a post about two editors of Beirut and Tel Aviv localized editions of what appears to be a global entertainment magazine, Time Out. Amir Ben-David, the Israeli editor, writing about his friend, the Beirut editor:
Ramsay Short, the editor of Time Out Beirut – the first edition was published just a few days before the conference – proved to be relaxed, friendly, and easygoing. The guy who wrote, The Hedonist’s Guide to Beirut, and enjoys being a DJ of electro music in bars during his spare time would have fit easily into Tel Aviv.

Now he is hiding in his house near the Beirut port, terrified of the Israeli bombs. You will be able to read about his depressing experiences and his even more depressing conclusions in this article. His words are full of rage, unfiltered and uncensored. It is not easy for an Israeli to read them. Even someone who supports “Israel’s strong response” to Hizbollah’s provocation should ask himself if hurting hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens and pursuers of peace like Ramsay Short and making them into sworn haters of Israel is the right thing to do under these circumstances.
Lisa continues with comments drawn from a conversation she had with Ben-David:
Amir stresses that he believes an Israeli military response to the Hezbollah attack was justified. "I am not a pacifist or naïve," he said. "I know what neighbourhood we live in. But still, it is possible to question the way we have reacted, and what we have done to the Lebanese people."


The response of Barak and those who supported the withdrawal [from southern Lebanon in 2000] was to promise that if Hezbollah did attack, Israel would respond with full military force.

That is why there is a wide Israeli consensus in support of the current IDF operations in Lebanon, even amongst most of the prominent supporters of the centre-left position - despite their great discomfort with the reports of the civilian deaths and destruction of infrastructure. There is a sense that Israel simply had no choice. Amir wonders if we are failing to ask the right questions, and I think that is fair enough. Israelis are proud of their strong democracy and of their ability to engage in self-examination; I don't see any contradiction between loving and supporting one's country and maintaining one's ability to ask difficult questions even during a time of crisis. Quite the contrary, in fact. Especially after what happened yesterday in Qana.
The world's seeming swiftness and vociferousness to condemn Israel as the primary aggressor ignores - indeed, precludes - our collective ability to ask the requisite difficult questions of all parties. Political rhetoric that obfuscates fundamentalist agendas from all sides prevents finding a solution that will enable the most fundamental human right of all: the right to live for Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Afghanis, and the thousands of Western soldiers who are being sent to risk their lives throughout the greater region.

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