United Nations AP 298.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
"It's absolutely dreadful, it's quite appalling," said UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, among the many international reactions of shock following the deaths of some 50 Lebanese citizens in a building that Israel believed harbored Hizbullah terrorists launching missiles at Israeli cities.
Yes, it is appalling. It is appalling that Hizbullah would deliberately target Israel's cities, and do so from civilian areas, hoping that Israel would kill greater numbers of Lebanese civilians. It is appalling that this barbaric tactic - after some 5,000 Israeli bombing sorties - has proved "effective," with tragic consequences for innocent Lebanese people, and producing the expected international fallout: not against Hizbullah, but against Israel.
It is also appalling that for three weeks over a million Israelis - Jews and Arabs - have been living in bomb shelters, never knowing when a missile aimed at them will kill them or destroy their homes.
Beckett did not use such emotional rhetoric when eight train workers were killed by Katyusha in Haifa, or when other Hizbullah missiles killed a grandmother and her grandson in Meron, or two Arab children playing in their yard in Nazareth.
Generally, however, it is not the rank hypocrisy and double standards that are striking about the response to this conflict but the opposite: the meeting of the minds of the US, the UK, and Israel with respect to whom is to blame for the war and the need to address its real root causes.
Standing with Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House, President George Bush announced Saturday that the US and UK would be seeking a multinational force operating under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, meaning it would not be a neutral observer body, but empowered to use force to achieve its objectives. Its mandate would be to "demonstrate the international community's determination to support the government of Lebanon, and defeat the threat from Hizbullah and its foreign sponsors."
Separately, France has drafted a resolution that would also create an international force designed to prevent Hizbullah from entering southern Lebanon. It also assumed that this force would police Lebanon's border with Syria to block arms deliveries from Syria and Iran.
It is in this context that a strange confluence of contradictory assumptions has emerged:
that Hizbullah must be disarmed for the sake of Israel's security, Lebanon's independence, and to cripple Iran's international terror arm
that Israel has inflicted serious damage against Hizbullah, but has not yet turned the corner and might take weeks and the introduction of a substantial increase in ground forces to do so
that a "cease-fire" must be imposed "quickly"
that the US and UK might well pressure Israel to end its operations before the IDF believes it is safe or advisable to do so
that the Israeli government will acquiesce to this pressure and end its campaign prematurely
that an international force might be able to prevent a crippled Hizbullah from rearming but will not be able to disarm Hizbullah if Israel has failed to clearly defeat that organization
that in order to "bolster Lebanon," Israel must hand Hizbullah/Iran a victory by acceding in some form to the Lebanese demand to withdraw from Shaba Farms (Mount Dov), the enclave that the UN has ruled belongs to Syria.
This makes no sense. If the US, UK, Israel, and perhaps even France - not to mention assorted Arab countries - believe that it would be best if Hizbullah were destroyed, and that it would be terrible for Lebanon, the region, and the world if Hizbullah/Iran emerged victorious, then where is pressure coming from to risk precisely such an outcome? And why would Israel accede to such pressure?
Are we, the nations of the world that are threatened by an Iranian victory, automatons who are helpless to act in our own overwhelming interests? Are we powerless to overturn the bizarre moral calculus by which Israel is held accountable for the barbaric tactics of its enemies?
We are not. We - the US, UK, and Israel, for starters - must stand together for the truth and our own interests. We must not submit to the epitome of stupidity and immorality, masquerading as moral blackmail. If we do, we have no one to blame but ourselves.