by Charles Marowitz
(Swans - August 14, 2006) There is something profoundly wrong with language when Israel's "right to defend itself" becomes its right to demolish large portions of Lebanon's civic infrastructure and massacre the innocent men, women, and children that make up its civilian population. To call Israel's response to provocations by Hezbollah "disproportionate" is like calling Genghis Khan and his legions "somewhat irritable." If we are looking for "crimes against humanity," we needn't look any further than Israel's carnage in the Middle East. (At this writing, the Lebanese body count has reached 1000.) Civilians are warned by Israelis to stay in their homes and it is there that they are routinely blasted by rockets. Hezbollah operatives, we are told, are shielding themselves by hiding in civilian enclaves and, because the guilty are intermixed with the innocent, the innocent must also die.
And what if Israel succeeds in murdering every member of Hezbollah's hellish battalions? Will that eliminate the sense of grievance and injustice which created the hatred that one side feels against the other? In most cases, war is only the visible manifestation of political irreconcilables. Only when open aggression is a ploy for national expansionism, as it was with Hitler's Germany and Hussein's invasion of a neighboring state, does the "right of defense" legitimize the option for war. The Middle East crisis is too deeply rooted in cultural antagonisms ever to be won on a battlefield -- just as Bush's war against Muslim fanaticism can never be won in Iraq. All war does is strengthen the underpinnings of an ideological hostility that will persist throughout the entire century.
America is demeaned by its blind allegiance to Israeli aggression. If Radical Islam ever needed proof-positive of our nation's support against its enemies, we are now providing it in Lebanon. We will forever be stamped by our actions in this war: our reluctance to sue for a ceasefire in the hope that Hezbollah will be permanently crippled; our tolerance for the atrocities perpetrated by blind Israeli rockets against (selected or mistaken) civilian targets; our definition of terrorism as something continually inflicted upon us rather than the methodology of our aggression against others. Alliance with Israel in this conflict is the logical progression of the immoral political condition created in America by the past five years of the Bush presidency. We have become so used to bending our own moral compass that we instinctively distort it in regard to other nations. By refusing to discriminate the moral issues thrown up by the present Middle East conflict, we are exacerbating those which are demeaning our own democracy.
Does that mean that we can condone the kidnappings and incursions of Hezbollah? Of course not, but we must see them in the light of the greater conflict which has been raging between Israel and the Arab world for more than half a century. Since we have lost what little moral authority we ever had, the United States can never be the honest broker between these opposing parties -- which means the only resource available in achieving entente must come from the United Nations. But since we have forfeited our right to negotiate a settlement in the Middle East, we must turn to those nations not already tainted with the prejudice engendered by ourselves: the maligned French and the disdained Scandinavians, the new leaders in Germany and Italy -- in short to the sovereign nations of "Old Europe," which Rumsfeld so facetiously dismissed when we didn't need them and whom we now turn to hungrily in what has become our hour of need.
So long as we are viewed as the "back-up band" of Israel, we will be powerless in solving the Middle East conflict. So long as we instinctively justify unjustifiable acts of outrage by the nation we helped to create, we will appear to be stooges in the eyes of other nations; so long as we accommodate, supply, and support Israel in the fallacy that we are in some messianic way strengthening democracy when what we are actually doing is breeding our own style of terror, we will be a pariah in the eyes of the rest of the world.
In the sixties, The Silent Majority were thought to be the straight, censorious conservatives who abominated the excesses of the Permissive Society. Today it is made up of the hordes of complacent Americans who squirm quietly under the injustices of the status quo but haven't the gumption to make their voices heard. Moral outrage that remains suppressed is itself immoral. We forfeited our soul when we trumped up a rationale for invading Iraq, and Israel lost its reason when it decided that the indiscriminate murder of Lebanese civilians could be justified on the grounds of self-defense. We are blood brothers -- both with the same snarling look on our faces.
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