By Robert Scheer
Those who mindlessly support Israel, right or wrong, from President Bush on through the cheerleaders in Congress and the media, betray the security of the Jewish state. They are enablers who have encouraged Israel’s dependency on the drug of militarism as a false escape from the difficult accommodations needed to bring peace to the Middle East.
For too many pundits and politicians, bombing just seems so much simpler—until, as happened in Qana, Lebanon, on Sunday, those bombs blow up to your nation’s disgrace, slaughtering scores of innocents, whose only crime was to be in the crossfire. The alternative to such excessive violence—an authentic peace process—had been supported by every American president since Harry Truman. Yet it was abruptly abandoned, indeed ridiculed, by the Bush administration, which bizarrely believes it can re-create the Middle East in a more U.S.-friendly form. The president has framed this process with a simplistic good-versus-evil template, which has the Christian West and Jewish Israel on an unnecessary collision course with the Muslim world.
Israel foolishly jumped at the tempting opportunity presented by Bush, who believes all the complex issues dividing the Middle East can be neatly summarized as the choosing of sides in a playground game called “the post-9/11 war on terror.”
“The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East,” Bush said Monday. “When democracy spreads in the Middle East, the people of that troubled region will have a better future.” Apparently, Bush is unclear on the fact that Lebanon’s prime minister—elected after the country’s celebrated “cedar revolution”—has condemned the uncritical support provided by the United States for Israel since this conflagration began. Or that Hezbollah is an important part of that democratic government because of its popularity among the Shiite Muslims of southern Lebanon. Bush’s neoconservative foreign-policy cabal argued that troublesome regimes, such as that of Saddam Hussein, could be easily transformed into pliable, West-leaning democracies. Instead, the opposite has happened. Throughout the region, elections hyped by Bush have turned out to be a vehicle for the expression of religion-fueled rage against Israel and its U.S. sponsor.
Even the elected leaders in “liberated” Iraq are denouncing Israel and the United States. On Monday, the Iraqi prime minister appeared at a memorial service in which he and other speakers condemned Israel. Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the most important leader in post-Hussein Iraq, broke from his usually circumspect public statements to denounce this “outrageous crime,” while Moqtada al Sadr, leader of the country’s most powerful militia and a key parliamentary bloc, railed against “the ominous trio of the United States, Israel and Britain, which is terrorizing Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and other occupied nations.”
Meanwhile, Israel, with U.S. support, has ignored what it had learned through its occupation of Palestinian territories and previous disastrous attempts to subdue Lebanon: Compromise from a position of strength is more effective than seeking a pyrrhic total victory. Not only has each attempt to crush local resistance begat more radical and disciplined enemies, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, but the likelihood of rage-fueled “blowback” is exponentially increased.
“There’s going to be another 9/11, and then we’re going to hear all the usual claptrap about how it’s good versus evil, and they hate us because we’re good and democratic, and they hate our values and all the other material that comes out of the rear end of a bull,” London Independent correspondent Robert Fisk told interviewer Amy Goodman of the radio program “Democracy Now!” after watching dozens of children’s corpses being stuffed into plastic bags or wrapped in rugs.
It is true that the Israeli withdrawals of the past half-decade, nearly complete in the case of Lebanon and cynically minimal in the Palestinian territories, did not resolve all the disputes or stop all violence. Yet the abandonment of the peace process and the renewed reliance on bombs will prove far more costly for Israel. Long after Bush is gone from office, Israel will be threatened by a new generation of enemies whose political memory was decisively shaped by these horrible images emerging from Lebanon. At that point, Israelis attempting to make peace with those they must coexist with will recognize that with friends such as Bush and his neoconservative mentors, they would not lack for enemies.