Murray Polner: The Lebanon War Was Wrong

Roundup: Historians' Take

SOURCE: Jewish Week

[ Mr. Polner, an occasional contributor to The Jewish Week, was editor of Present Tense magazine. Among his books are Rabbi: The American Experience and as co-editor, The Challenge of Shalom: The Jewish Tradition of Peace & Justice. Published originally in The Jewish Week [N.Y.] He is an HNN book editor.]

When Israel attacked Lebanon, organized American Jewry, far from the bombs, missiles, and broken bodies, rose almost as one to defend and justify the invasion of Lebanese cities, towns, and infastructure. It was like a replay of 1982, when virtually the entire American Jewish establishment backed an invasion of Lebanon in a war which claimed an estimated 15,000 Lebanese lives (for which Israel has never apologized) but which some 400,000 Israelis marched to protest.

With this latest invasion, the American mass media has much to be embarrassed about too, just as they failed to be a wee bit skeptical in the months leading up to Iraq, when they duly reprinted as fact the stream of lies pouring out of Washington and its acolytes. The print and electronic media have accepted – at least for now--the Israeli government’s party line that the capture of two Israeli soldiers constituted an attack on the entire state, and later, that an angry and ferocious Hezbollah (and in time, Hamas) had to be destroyed militarily. Sadly ignored, by people who should have known better, was any reference to the 58-year-old history of the tit-for-tat conflict with conquered Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Defenders of the ahistorical school of why wars start buried this history. Meanwhile, as always in this seemingly intractable dispute, both sides and their supporters insist that only they are correct.

Abba Eban’s classic putdown, “The Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” was absolutely on the mark. But one can just as easily substitute Israeli for Palestinian intransigence, the most recent failures being Taba, the refusal to talk about Saudi Arabia’s proposed compromise as a basis for negotiation, and transforming Abu Mazen into an ineffectual has-been rather than the serious politician and mediator he might still become. Now Amir Oren, writing in Ha’aretz on July 28, reported that General Giora Eyland, who directed the Israeli National Security Council, had offered for consideration a wide-ranging plan to cope with Israeli-Lebanon tensions. A variety of nations and Lebanese political parties and people, Oren wrote, said they were on board providing Israel approved. They never answered.

Perhaps one reason is that Israel has become more and more Washington’s proxy in its increasingly perilous argument with Iran. Note that when the 48-hour bombing suspension was announced after the Qana disaster, it was Condaleeza Rice’s aide who made the announcement, not Israel. In truth, as hard as it is for most Jews to accept, in so volatile a region there are few innocents. Hezbollah, no slouch at violence, could very well replicate the slaughter at Qana against any Israeli town or city.

This war will never bring Israel security despite the massive military and economic support it receives from Washington’s living room warriors, who will never be moved by Lebanon’s plight or its prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s haunting words: “Is the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere? Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?”

This war is not part of the “global war on terror” as our sophomoric and bellicose neocons would have you believe. This war is rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. War will never make Israel reasonably secure until a fair settlement is reached with the Palestinians. Ignore the PLO, you get Hamas. Pass them by and you get Hezbollah. Keep up this war against Hezbollah and Hamas, which cannot be won on the battlefield, and one day you may have to face even more radical Islamic jihadists.

Capt. (Res.) Amir Paster, an infantry officer and Tel Aviv student, has just been sentenced to 28 days in prison for refusing to participate in the war. At his trial, he said he could not take part in the war because it did not reflect the values with which he was raised. And 5-10,000 Israelis recently demonstrated against the war. In time there will be more Israeli refusers and protestors. It is they who will redeem their nation’s honor, not those who cheer on Israeli warriors from distant havens.

Moreover, never to be overlooked is that oil, not Israel, remains the great prize in the unpredictable and dangerous Middle East and Central Asia, with its shifting alliances, and where many US, Iranian and Russian forces are already stationed. The ominous symbols of 1914 and 1939 are occasionally mentioned on blogs, while right-wingers mindlessly speak of the coming of World War III. Casualties of course are never mentioned.

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More Comments:

Moshe Mizrahi - 9/9/2006

I just want to stand with my people and ask the Ashkenazim Zionists to go back to their countries, Europe. They are not Jews, they do not belong to this place they are not Middle Eastern and stop laying about their Jewishness. Leave us alone.
Moshe Mizrahi ( An Arab-Jews )

Arnold Shcherban - 8/24/2006

Weeks ago, based on the printed and TV international reports from battlefield, I accused Israeli military(IDF) in committing war crimes in Lebanon.
Today, the NYT article brought the news that investigation conducted by
Amnesty International decisively confirmed my accusation.

Note that Amnesty International is
the respectable around the world organization with two distinct records
of support and recognition with American governmental organizations and main stream media: it is supported
and its conclusions recognized when
the latter match the US official ones, and it is invariably blamed for bias or something when its conclusions
contradict the US official policies (even temporary ones).
Any probability theorists are invited
to comment on this curious fact.

Arnold Shcherban - 8/22/2006

I especially liked the mention of possible WWIII on the basis of current
superagressive US, and almost as derivative, Israeli foreign policy,
under the desperation argument (war on terror).

(Not mentioning already that the war on terror is historically most successfully fought and won by ending military actions and exercising smart anti-terrorists police actions, as it has been shown reccently by Scotland Yard and MI-6, and some other, unfortunately foreign, anti-terrorist services).