For many Americans, the recent assault on Gaza and Lebanon
makes perfect sense. Two attacks on Israeli soldiers by groups in Gaza and
Lebanon, and the subsequent capture of three Israeli prisoners, were
�unspeakable provocations,� but a sordid feeling overcomes all those who have
been closely watching the events unfold in the Occupied Territories and
The Israeli government, reinforced by American steadfastness
and the international community�s capitulation, set the rules for the one-sided
catastrophe. Israel can freely pound
Gaza, batter south Lebanon, and hammer Beirut, but if Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah
or any other Palestinian or Lebanese civilian lifts a finger to defend
themselves or their country against Israeli military aggression, it is
tantamount to crimes against
The �reaction� against Hezbollah and Hamas has involved an
intense bombing campaign -- targeting civilian infrastructure and the innocent
population. In the past seven days, more than 300 Lebanese have perished at the
hands of Israeli forces, nearly all of whom were civilians. The scene in Gaza is equally bleak. Since the start of
the month, the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) killed nearly 100 Palestinians.
The damage in Lebanon is already estimated to be in the billions -- a
staggering sum for a nation with a 2005 Gross Domestic Product of 20 billion
dollars. The economic blockade imposed on the Occupied Territories has driven up
the rates of poverty, malnutrition, and unemployment.
Israel used the capturing of the three Israeli prisoners as
a pretext to wage a larger war on the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories
and Lebanon. Still bitter about Hezbollah forcefully driving the Israeli
military out of south Lebanon in 2000 and
emboldened by Hamas� election sweep in January, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert reaffirmed that Israelis �will not be held hostage to terror.� But
Israelis, as Olmert maintains, �will fight with all the strength we are capable
of,� which includes the use of terrorism against civilian populations. At no
point is it appropriate for a United Nation�s member state, a signatory to the
Geneva Conventions, and a self-proclaimed �moral democracy� to act in this manner.
didn�t occupy the Shebaa Farms and it didn�t frequently incite and intimidate
the Lebanese population with military operations, sonic booms, border attacks,
and the abduction of Lebanese civilians, Israel�s recent attacks would still
constitute war crimes. Under no circumstance is a nation allowed to attack
another sovereign nation�s civilian population with the use of physical force,
economic strangulation and collective punishment due to a �provocation� caused
by a non-government entity -- particularly when the aggressor state is accusing
other nations of orchestrating the attacks. While 23 members of Hezbollah are
representatives in the Lebanese parliament, Hezbollah is not the Lebanese
government, nor does Israel claim it to be.
critics are condemning Israel for its �disproportionate use of force.� While
many of these critics astutely recognize the brutality inherent in Israel�s
offensive, it is necessary to note that proportionality does not apply to the endangering
of civilian life and the collective punishment of the civilian population;
civilians must never be targeted.
Some Israelis now
fear the bombing of Lebanon will have an adverse effect on the public relations of Israel. Their concern is valid. Just as
the 1982 Israeli invasion of Beirut was a moral stain on the Israeli state, the image of innocent dead
Lebanese on the front page of the New York Times and TV clips of bloodied women
and children being carried away on stretchers is having a significant impact on
American society. The American mind has become accustomed to witnessing scenes
of Israelis running for cover, but now the images are of Lebanese -- Arabs --
and Americans are finding themselves coming to the same horrific conclusion: this is wrong.
The first sign of
American disapproval came a few weeks ago when the US media aired a video which
showed a little girl on a Gaza beach hysterically searching for her family
after an Israeli attack. American minds will start to change if they are consistently
exposed to the atrocities inflicted upon the Palestinian and Lebanese people.
This is Israel�s greatest
fear. Israel�s force is maximized by its ability to constantly buttress the
notion that it is a nation of victims. The longer Israel indiscriminately
attacks Lebanon -- the further support for Israel will wane. This is not to
infer, however, that the US media is providing equal coverage of the conflict
now consuming Lebanon. Yet, these glimpses into the suffering of populations
that the American mind has been trained into believing as foreign, as
non-human, and as the �enemy,� provides a possibility for change.
Although European support for the Palestinian people is
overstated in America, Europeans tend
to be more understanding of Arab issues, given their large Arab and Muslim
many European media outlets are more balanced in their coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the greater
Arab/Israeli conflict than the outlets in the US. Nevertheless, an unbiased picture
of the conflict in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories has yet to emerge in
the Western press. Some European leaders have been outspoken in their criticism
for Israel�s �disproportional force� against Lebanon. Their diplomatic
effectiveness, however, has been hindered by the US administration�s unwavering
support for the state of Israel.
Over the last few
weeks, a number of protests condemning Israel�s assault on Gaza have induced
many Arab-Americans and supporters of human rights to come out of the woodwork.
On July 18, more than a thousand people came out to protest Israel�s
destruction of Lebanon and the Occupied Territories at the Israeli Mission to
the UN, dwarfing the previous protests.
In the US, the
sense of outrage from the Lebanese and Arab community has been unlike anything
I�ve ever seen. People are angry, disgusted, and enraged by these recent
events. Over time, many Arab-Americans became desensitized to the violence
engulfing Iraq and the Occupied Territories. The events in Lebanon, however,
have politically energized many Arab-Americans generally disinterested in the
�politics� of the Middle East. A few reasons may attribute to this. First, the
US is home to a large Lebanese population. 25,000 Lebanese-Americans, currently
under siege in Lebanon, have yet to be evacuated from the nation. Second, in
the minds of many Arab-Americans, Beirut -- once considered the �Paris of the
Middle East� -- was nearing that status again. Third, many Lebanese and
Arab-Americans I�ve spoken with were stunned by what�s seen as an attack on the
Lebanese government, the indiscriminate bombing of Beirut, the striking of both
Christian and Muslim neighborhoods and interests, and the expansive attack on
the civilian population and infrastructure.
believed that after a 15-year civil war, the calming of inter-religious
tensions, and an end to the Israeli occupation, that they were on a better
footing. Yes, governmental corruption consumed the state, the economy was in
tatters, and political unrest still existed, but the Israeli incursion that
started last week was simply a hit they couldn�t afford to take.
Israel lost its
moral compass through its creation. The �disproportional use of force� against
the indigenous civilian population of Palestine has been its cardinal sin. The
firm policy of keeping an ethnic Jewish majority through means of violence and
might is a cancer that will always plague the state. Today, the majority of the
Israeli population is rallying around Olmert and Israel�s absolute right to
�defend� itself. This tends to be the case when Israel is engaging in a
The US population
has not always been as supportive of its government�s use of military force.
Americans eventually turned on the war in Vietnam; many are now turning on the
war in Iraq. Just as most Americans understood that Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the
massacres in Haditha, and the recent raping of the 14-year-old Iraqi girl by US
soldiers were wrong, they immediately realized that the attacks on the innocent
people of Lebanon were deplorable. It is too soon to tell how strongly this
will affect the American outlook, but one can only hope that it produces a
Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American,
lives in New York City. He is a freelance writer, and the founder and
primary writer for the political website, Poetic Injustice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.