Saturday, July 15, 2006

Israel is massively in the wrong

Actually I didn't feel that strongly until I read Gideon Levy's brilliant column in Ha'aretz. Everyone is watching Lebanon now, but don't forget Gaza. Much that Levy said (on 2 July 2006) about the attack on Gaza is also applicable to the attack on Lebanon - particularly the points about proportionality. Much that he said in that column is worth quoting in full.

The "summer rains" we are showering on Gaza are not only pointless, but are first and foremost blatantly illegitimate. It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to penetrate Syria's airspace. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament.

A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization. The harsher the steps, the more monstrous and stupid they become, the more the moral underpinnings for them are removed and the stronger the impression that the Israeli government has lost its nerve.

Everything must be done to win Gilad Shalit's release. What we are doing now in Gaza has nothing to do with freeing him. It is a widescale act of vengeance, the kind that the IDF and Shin Bet have wanted to conduct for some time, mostly motivated by the deep frustration that the army commanders feel about their impotence against the Qassams and the daring Palestinian guerilla raid. There's a huge gap between the army unleashing its frustration and a clever and legitimate operation to free the kidnapped soldier.

The only wise and restrained voice heard so far was that of the soldier's father, Noam Shalit, of all people. That noble man called at what is clearly his most difficult hour, not for stridency and not for further damage done to the lives of soldiers and innocent Palestinians. Against the background of the IDF's unrestrained actions and the arrogant bragging of the latest macho spokesmen, Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant of the Southern Command and Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, Shalit's father's voice stood out like a voice crying in the wilderness.

The legitimate basis for the IDF's operation was stripped away the moment it began. It's no accident that nobody mentions the day before the attack on the Kerem Shalom fort, when the IDF kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from their home in Gaza. The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. How ridiculously pathetic Amos Gilad sounds when he says that the capture of Shalit was "illegitimate and illegal," unlike when the IDF grabs civilians from their homes. How can a senior official in the defense ministry claim that "the head of the snake" is in Damascus, when the IDF uses the exact same methods?

Collective punishment is illegitimate and it does not have a smidgeon of intelligence.

And for some context on the Hizbullah kidnappings, see Amal Saad-Ghorayeb's piece in today's Guardian:

The prisoners Hizbullah wants released are hostages who were taken on Lebanese soil. In the successful prisoner exchange in 2004, Israel held on to three Lebanese detainees as bargaining chips and to keep the battle front with Hizbullah open. These detentions have become a cause celebre in Lebanon. In a recent poll, efforts to effect their release attracted majority support, much more even than the liberation of Shebaa Farms, the disputed corridor of land between Syria and Lebanon still occupied by Israel.

Which doesn't necessarily make it pretty, but certainly less like the unprovoked 'act of war' that official Israel would have us believe. Hamas and Hizbullah are rightly labelled 'terrorist' when they attack civilians. Attacks on soldiers as part of a legitimate ongoing resistance against occupation are not 'terrorist'.

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