March 02, 2008

Another Setback on the Road to Peace

From Sep. 2006 at Michigan Daily

The road to peace in the Middle East was bombed out again this summer. Hamas and Hezbollah were popularly portrayed as instigators bent on disturbing the peace. Meanwhile, Israel couched its violence in the language of reluctant self-defense. This way of imagining the conflict, however, is short-sighted for its failure to consider the preceding decades of Israeli occupation in Palestine and Lebanon.

Israel's persistent denial of Palestine's right to exist, either as a sovereign state or as a people, remains a root cause of resentment and violence in the region. Resistance to the Israeli government comes in response to its foreign policies, which, like those of its U.S. sponsor, have had little regard for human rights. In much the same way that Native Americans were justified in fighting expanding American settlements or as Algerians were compelled to use violence to end a dehumanizing French colonial regime, Palestinian and Lebanese people have every right to resist an Israeli military that encroaches on their livelihood. Try though the colonizer might to criminalize the colonized, the resistance of an occupied population is justified in self-defense from the aggression of their occupier.

However, there are different types of resistance, which should be evaluated separately. Despite Hezbollah's legitimate grievances, its use of rockets on civilians was indefensible. Along the Gaza border, however, the Hamas attacks were on military outposts - a justified method of resistance to Israel's stranglehold over Palestinian communities.

In any case, the scope of Israel's response to each attack was disproportionate. In the wake of the Hamas attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused to negotiate with the democratically elected Palestinian government and instead authorized the kidnapping of dozens of Hamas elected officials. The invasion of Gaza targeted civilian centers and destroyed Gaza's only power plant.

In Lebanon, diplomacy could have addressed Hezbollah's list of demands. Though Israel was forced to leave southern Lebanon in 2000, it retains control of the Shebaa Farms, continually violates Lebanese airspace and holds thousands of Lebanese citizens in Israeli prisons without due process. Israel responded to these grievances by launching another incursion in a long history of bloody invasions, conjuring memories of Ariel Sharon's 1982 "butchering" of Beirut, which devastated the city and took tens of thousands of lives. This summer, the Israelis were armed with fresh shipments of American weapons and empowered by an American administration that bought them the time necessary to launch an attack.

Even so, Israel's invasion was a failure. The offensive was not only immoral but also ineffective and has exacerbated a conflict that should have been addressed with humane negotiations. Further, Israel's prodigious military force has been exposed for its ineptitude in asymmetrical conflicts. Though Israel attempted to divide Lebanese factions by blaming its destruction of Lebanon on Hezbollah's rocket attacks, Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, instead garnered unprecedented solidarity against Israel's abominable war.

Employing collective punishment on the Lebanese people, Israel forced nearly 1 million civilians (of a population of roughly 4 million) to flee their homes for safety. More than a thousand civilians, many of them children, did not escape the bombs. The Israeli war machine killed several U.N. peacekeepers in an attack on their outpost and prevented humanitarian aid from reaching war-torn villages. Israel drained the lifeblood of ordinary Lebanese civilians, destroying power plants, refineries, bridges, airports, hospitals and factories. In a diabolical act of terrorism, the Israeli Defense Force dropped leaflets on civilian areas warning them to evacuate - but then proceeded to destroy the major roadways used by potential exiles for evacuation. In weeks, Israel decimated a nation while evoking condemnations from every corner of the global community, including an August report from Amnesty International that declared the attacks a war crime.

Thousands of Israeli citizens gathered in Tel Aviv this summer to protest, and hundreds of IDF reservists signed petitions demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.. There is much we can do to show our solidarity with these principled voices.

As members of the global community, we should demand that Israeli officials be held accountable at the International Court of Justice. More narrowly, as American taxpayers, we are responsible for ending U.S. military aid to Israel, which has facilitated the occupation for far too long. We must make it clear to Congress that their unflinching support for Israel can no longer be offered in our name. Israel receives far and away more military aid from our government than any other country in the world - and has used it with grave consequence.

As students, we are also tied to the conflict by the University's investment of our tuition dollars. As of June 2005, the University held investments in major arms producers who sell Israel and other nations their high-tech arsenals. We are more intimately connected to these injustices than our consciences can permit. If we as a nation are serious about fighting terrorism, let's begin by holding our government accountable for the state terrorism that it perpetrates and funds.

No comments:

Post a Comment