Say no to war

It's ironic that victims end up fighting for warmongers; it is the governments that must be reproached.

cedar rally 88 298 (photo credit: AP)
cedar rally 88 298
(photo credit: AP)
Contrary to common perceptions there is no war between the IDF and Hizbullah. It almost makes no sense to split up something as senseless as war into two distinct sides. But if pressed to describe this war in terms of sides, then here it is: On the one side we have institutions whose purpose is to wage war - Hizbullah and the IDF. On the other side we have the victims who end up being terrorized, displaced or killed. The irony is that the people on the victim side end up doing the fighting for the warmongers. One cannot reproach the IDF or Hizbullah for waging war. That's their entire purpose. Without war the IDF and Hizbullah wouldn't exist. Their budgets would be cut, their jobs would be lost, and their clout would be gone. The IDF and Hizbullah both genuinely believe that war is a good way to resolve conflicts. War is their raison d' tre. The ones we can and must reproach are governments - Israeli, Lebanese, American and many others - which are elected by the kind of people who end up as cannon fodder, but which prefer to take up the cause of militant organizations and warlords. Instead of restraining militants, instead of representing the people who pay the price of war, our governments end up acting as a thin veil for militant institutions and for entrepreneurs who turn wars into profit. WHAT IS unforgivable from a civilian's point of view is that during the six years since the IDF's retreat from Lebanon no attempt was made to reach a solution by negotiation. The powers that be managed to get the Syrian army out of Lebanon, but despite this diplomatic success they made no more diplomatic efforts to pacify the area. These powers were content to allow a highly volatile situation to insist. Southern Lebanon was abandoned to Hizbullah militants, who have less to lose, and are therefore more difficult to restrain, than the Syrian army. As a result the "achievement" of removing the Syrian army from Lebanon turned out to be a further step toward war. Since then Syrian offers for negotiation have been systematically turned down. Palestinian offers for negotiations have also been ignored. No one attempted to help the Lebanese government, which has a vested interest in controlling southern Lebanon, to implement its sovereignty there. During the past six years the Israeli government never announced that it was willing to negotiate a release of Lebanese prisoners and a withdrawal from the Shaba area in return for the withdrawal of Hizbullah from southern Lebanon. Would such an offer have led to a peaceful resolution? We can never know. But the fact that no such offer was made is unforgivable. Instead all governments involved allowed militants - Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese - to go on terrorizing, killing and kidnapping for six years. And indeed, the war they were striving for did eventually erupt. When Hizbullah attacked, instead of seizing this opportunity to force a diplomatic intervention which would lead to negotiations and a genuine advance toward peace, the Israeli government elected to wage war. CASUALTIES, refugees and economic damage on both sides of the border result from the failure to talk. After all, if negotiations fail, one can always resort to war. But the Israeli government refused to try the peaceful solution first. This war will not destroy Hizbullah. The organization, which survived 18 years of fighting, will not be eradicated by a two-month blitz. Whatever is destroyed, hate and despair will restore sevenfold. If we can learn something from the history of the Middle East, it is that popular militant groups do not understand the language of force. Fighting does not weaken militant resistance. It motivates them and replenishes their ranks. Hizbullah and the IDF claim as their goal to destroy each other. But both parties quietly concede that neither can actually achieve this goal. The only way to genuinely bring this endless conflict to a close is to talk - with whoever is willing. True, there will always be some who refuse to talk. But these peace-refuseniks cannot stand for long. Militants cannot survive without the active or passive support of the governments around them. Refusing to accept the Syrian invitations to negotiate is, therefore, tantamount to instigating war. SO WE MUST talk and talk until we talk our mouths off. After all, it's better to talk your mouth off than to lose your head in war. True, the Israeli government can impose a cease-fire and summon international intervention without negotiation. But unless we do negotiate and compromise, such a maneuver will only make for a short pause until the next round of fighting. This is the war of - rather than between - IDF and Hizbullah. It is waged against displaced people and against those slaughtered by rockets and by airborne bombs. Its victims are those poor young people who are forced into believing that pulling triggers can resolve conflicts. Now it's time that our side, the side of victims and of cannon fodder, stood up to the militants, and forced our governments to talk. The writer is a lecturer at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa.