“Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah,” roared Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon on July 27.
“Every village from which a Katyusha is fired must be destroyed,” bellowed an Israeli general in a quote bannered by the nation’s largest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.
The Israeli paper then summarized what the justice minister and general were saying: “In other words, a village from which rockets are fired at Israel will simply be destroyed by fire.” That was Thursday.
Sunday, in Qana, 57 of Haim Ramon’s “terrorists,” 37 of them children, were massacred with precision-guided bombs. Apparently, Katyushas had been fired from Qana, near the destroyed building.
“One who goes to sleep with rockets shouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t wake up in the morning,” said Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman.
Today, we hear unctuous statements about how Israel takes pains to avoid civilian casualties, drops leaflets to warn civilians to flee target areas and conforms to all the rules of civilized warfare.
But Israel’s words and deeds contradict her propaganda. As the war began, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Lebanon, which had condemned Hezbollah for the killing and capture of the Israeli soldiers, of an “act of war.” Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz publicly threatened “to turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.”
Gillerman, at a pro-Israel rally in New York, thundered, “[T]o those countries who claim that we are using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: You’re damn right we are.”
“His comments drew wild applause,” said the Jerusalem Post.
Though Israel is dissembling now, Gillerman spoke the truth then. No sooner had Hezbollah taken the two Israeli soldiers hostage than Israel unleashed an air war – on Lebanon. The Beirut airport was bombed, its fuel storage tanks set ablaze. The coast was blockaded. Power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads, trucks and buses were all hit with air strikes.
Within 48 hours, it was apparent Israel was exploiting Hezbollah’s attack to execute a preconceived military plan to destroy Lebanon – i.e, the collective punishment of a people and nation for the crimes of a renegade militia they could not control. It was the moral equivalent of a municipal police going berserk, shooting, killing and ravaging an African-American community because Black Panthers had ambushed and killed cops.
If Israel is not in violation of the principle of proportionality, by which Christians are to judge the conduct of a just war, what can that term mean? There are 600 civilian dead in Lebanon, 19 in Israel, a ratio of 30-1 – though Hezbollah is firing unguided rockets, while Israel is using precision-guided munitions.
Thousands of Lebanese civilians are injured. Perhaps 800,000 are homeless.
Yet, whatever one thinks of the morality of what Israel is doing, the stupidity is paralyzing. Instead of maintaining the moral and political high ground it had – when even Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were condemning Hezbollah and privately hoping Israel would inflict a humiliating defeat on Nasrallah – Israel launched an air war on an innocent people. Now, 87 percent of Lebanese back Hezbollah, and the entire Arab and Islamic world, Shia and Sunni alike, is rallying behind Nasrallah.
And how does one defend the behavior of the United States?
When Gillerman was exulting in the disproportionality of Israel’s attack on Lebanon, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton was smiling smugly beside him. When the U.N. Security Council tabled a resolution condemning Hezbollah’s igniting of the war and Katyusha attacks, but also the excesses of Israel’s reprisals, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton vetoed it. When a few congressmen sought to moderate a pro-Israeli resolution by adding words urging “all sides to protect innocent life and infrastructure,” GOP leader John Boehner ordered the words taken down.
Why? Because, says Zbigniew Brzezinski, AIPAC, the Israeli lobby, had prepared the resolution and wanted it passed the way they wrote it. Our Knesset complied. It sailed through the House 410-8.
For two weeks, Bush seemed unable to find a word of criticism for what our friends in Israel were doing to our friends in Lebanon. He publicly sent more bombs to Israel. He and Condi emphasized that America did not want a cease-fire – yet.
And because America provides Israel with the bombs it uses on Lebanon, we refused to restrain the Israelis, and we opposed every effort for a cease-fire before Sunday, America shares full moral and political responsibility for the massacre at Qana.
Rubbing our noses in our own cravenness, “Bibi” Netanyahu took time out, a week ago, from his daily appearances on American television denouncing terrorism to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the terror attack on the King David Hotel by Menachem Begin’s Irgun, an attack that killed 92 people, among them British nurses.
This was not a terrorist act, Bibi explained, because Irgun telephoned a 15-minute warning to the hotel before the bombs went off. Right. And those children in that basement in Qana should not have ignored the Israeli leaflets warning them to clear out of southern Lebanon.
Our Israeli friends appear to be playing us for fools.