Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman Go To War

Three prominent Israeli writers, David Grossman, A.B. Yehushua and Amos Oz have published a statement (Ha’aretz, August 6, 2006) in which they reiterate their total justification of the Israeli military action, but call at this point on the Israeli government to agree to a mutual cease-fire.
The three were obviously trying to put some distance between themselves and the rampaging Israeli war machine. Basically, this was another of those “too-little and too late” responses designed for no other reason than to calm a very uneasy conscience. But the text of three such distinguished figures deserves careful study. The opening paragraph must be quoted verbatim. And it is a source of deep concern.

“The aggression by the Hezbollah against Israel which was carried out in Israeli territory and included the killing and kidnapping of soldiers and the shooting of missiles on civilian population centers, required Israel to carry out a wide ranging military action in its defense against both Hezbollah and against the Lebanese authorities who grant full backing and assistance to this murderous organization, which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.”

It is astonishing that the three writers still adhere, at this late date, to the official version of the outbreak of the war. The more serious sections of the local media, including those who support the war, have no problem in admitting that the kidnapping incident was a pretext. They admit, quite openly and convincingly, that Israel was searching for an excuse to attack Lebanon in order to destroy the massive stockpiles in the hands of Hezbollah. This is the generally accepted and unabashed explanation for why Israel went to war. This more sophisticated explanation (which is an open admission of support for preventive war) replaces the cheap propaganda version to the effect that “Israel had to respond as it did.” The more sophisticated argument has the virtue of, at least, relating to the real problems, to questions linked to the substance of the struggle between Israel and the Hezbollah.

It is also astonishing that intelligent observers could treat the “Lebanese authorities” as “full backers” of the Hezbollah. This is a gross and misleading misrepresentation of Lebanese political realities. These realities, including the limited capacity and stability of the Lebanese government are well-known and not unconnected to Israel’s historic and current role in the region and its tendency to intervene in Lebanese politics.

The authors evade their chief responsibility which is to ask and reply to the hard questions: a) Could Israel have taken serious steps to reduce tensions and danger by diplomatic initiatives? b) What is the source of Hezbollah’s growing political and strategic clout? c) Is an armed attack on Lebanon, its population and its infrastructure an effective means to reduce Hezbollah’s standing and prestige in Lebanon and the Arab world?; Instead of dealing with the real questions on the agenda, the three opted to parrot the official version to the effect that Israel “had to carry out a wide ranging action.”

We cannot leave the text without relating to the following argument presented by the three, wherein and whereby they attempt to whitewash Israel’s horrible human rights record: “Even though, in this action, many civilians of the enemy country were, to our sorrow, harmed, its aim was not the killing of civilians for its own sake, as opposed to the Hezbollah…”.

Israel has forced more than three quarter of a million people out of their homes and made them refugees in their own land, destroyed the infrastructure, roads, bridges, and vital services of an entire country. It is preventing or delaying urgent humanitarian aid. A thousand civilians have been killed by now and many thousands more wounded.For our authors, the main thing is that this is all unintentional. It is the old story. These horrific developments are what is called “collateral damage.” War, you understand, involves collateral damage. Remember Vietnam yesterday and Iraq today. So there is “lots” of collateral damage today in Lebanon. We have heard the collateral damage argument before, but we do not remember any writers of status who used it to attempt to justify the results of totally unjustifiable military operations.