Friday, July 14, 2006

Back into the Stone Age

An eye for an eye. Of course, that's written in the Scriptures, but then many things (and their exact opposite, but let's not be picky here) are written in the Scriptures--most of which are absurdities, barbaric monstrosities and displays of blind rage, hatred and people foaming at the mouth with an insatiable lust for vengeance.

Still, in today's Israel, Gaza and Lebanon, we've upped the scales and gone beyond a mere eye for an eye. When one of the greatest military powers in the world uses the pretext of an attack by a milita to bomb a civilian airport, bomb civilian targets and blockade a sovereign country, we have indeed crossed a line. Mr Bush can say that Israel has the right to defend itself, that is as obvious as the sun's rising in the East every morning at dawn. However, defending oneself doesn't mean bombing people back into the stone age--not in my book. The more so, since this particular militia, the Hezbollah, was born thanks to one of Israel's many tragic mistakes of the past. To condemn and strike a country and its population because your own mistakes are coming back to haunt you is...I don't know, it's hard to find a word to describe that--convenient? Hypocritical? Revolting?

I keep hearing the Israeli ambassador in Brussels claiming that Israel has exercised a lot of restraint, and that Israel is being more than reasonable. I fear, his definition of the word "reasonable" is starting to differ so much from mine, and from many people's in Europe, that soon nothing will be able to bridge that gap in mutual comprehension. And there lies a terrible threat to much more than just Israel. The more chaos spreads in the Middle-East, the more likely it becomes that someday, someone will snap and push on a button. And the less we are able to talk with people on both sides, the less the words we use when we talk to each other have the same meaning to all around the table, the greater the risk of someone pushing that button someday will be.

Even if you don't give a damn about civilian populations in Lebanon or Gaza, even if you hate their guts, even if you couldn't care less about their right to self-determination and to their own country, even if you laugh at the concept of justice or of the UNO's resolutions, there's one thing you should care about: what will happen if things keep deteriorating. For many reasons, Israel believes it is above all criticism, and is entitled to act however it pleases in what it perceives to be the defense of its territory or interests. I understand those reasons, but they are not reasons. They are historical facts, historical tragedies, but they are not reasons. They do not place Israel above and beyond reckoning, or beyond the rule of international law.

Still, I find myself hard placed to blame Israel for their continuing use of the same "you can't tell us what to do because we're the victims here" response. Why should they stop? It works. Nobody really dares to go against that line. Nobody really dares to tell them to stop with the victimization trip, and to get real. Certainly not the US, which would do better to have a good reality check and get a good look at a map of the world, and not our poor unbalanced and dangling Europe. And in the meantime, civilians get bombed, people die.

Rage festers.

Hatred grows.

Israel is not more secure than it was before. The Israelian people are no happier. They still dread suicide-bombers when they take a bus or sit down in a cafe or a restaurant.

To break the cycle is the only viable solution--that, or complete anihilation of the enemy. I regret to say that I am not in favor of the latter. And breaking the cycle is hard, extremely difficult. It demands courage and guts. Grand warlike speeches--those do not demand any kind of courage, they just demand spit, a good pitch and a high dose of populism.

So, now what?

Will Israel push the Middle East the rest of the way down the path to Chaos?

If this were a novel, it might be interesting, or thrilling to find out. It's not fiction, it's reality. I am not thrilled. I am disgusted, and somehwere, deep, deep down, I hope someone will at last see the only way out of this, and will have the strength to try.

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