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As a New Israeli War Threatens, What Can We Do?
Published on Wednesday, August 23, 2006 by
As a New Israeli War Threatens, What Can We Do?
by Danny Schechter

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

That old saw seems to be driving Israel's decision makers as they decide if, whether, and when to restart their war with Hezbollah - "to finish the job," of course.

Warrior societies like Israel's are not used to losing wars, or to, what's often worse, project the perception that they have lost, or are weak in any way. After all, they are the strongest kids on the block with more firepower, weaponry and trained units than any of their neighbors. They see themselves as a modern day Sparta. They are as self-righteous in their convictions as any of their critics.

As the rest of the world focuses on Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, there has been little attention paid to Israel's long existing nuclear arsenal. Israel has not suffered for the best US supplied technology in the air, on the land and on the sea. Any assessment of who has more bang - and buck - has to lean in Israel's favor. The alarms you hear of Israelis being driven into the sea is used as way of reinforcing fear and paranoia and conditioning a population whose fears of another holocaust seems real.

There is a psychological and political problem here that the news world has not caught up with.

First Israel has persuaded itself that it is surrounded by terrorists and that, for the most part, most of its neighbors either are terrorist backers or supporters. Once you have stereotyped your enemies as a bunch of religious zealots or baby killers, they are then regarded as beyond the pale of humanity to be arrested, imprisoned, crushed and killed. You are then persuaded that talking is useless even though the only way conflicts are ever settled is when enemies negotiate.

You don't make peace with your friends.

Second, Israeli politics - like our own - is emotionally polarized with the most opportunistic right-wing forces now jumping up and down calling for vengeance and making "the hell with the UN" (a.k.a the world) their mantra. There is a rabid tone emerging that the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy fears will lead to a new righter than right-wing government and even more self-defeating military adventures. He declares in Ha'aretz: "The right won. The one clear result of this war is that the left suffered another fatal blow and the rightist camp was strengthened."

There is only one possible countervailing possibility, argues another Israeli, Uri Avnery, a real investigation of what happened.

"After every failed war, the cry for an official investigation goes up in Israel," he writes.

"Now there is a "trauma", much bitterness, a feeling of defeat and of a missed opportunity. Hence the demand for a strong Commission of Inquiry that will cut off the heads of those responsible. To have any value whatsoever, the investigation must expose the real roots of the war and present the public with the historic choice that has become clear in this war, too: Either the settlements and an endless war, or the return of the occupied territories and peace.

"Otherwise, the investigation will only provide more backing for the outlook of the Right, to wit: we only have to expose the mistakes that have been made and correct them, then we can start the next war and win."

That seems to be happening - and faster than most think as the recent Israeli incursions and flyovers of Lebanon indicate. No wonder many countries don't want to send peacekeepers with peace itself hanging by a thread.

Already Israeli leaders are talking about "the next round" as if this bloody conflict is a tennis match. The New York Sun which is aligned with the Israel hardliners reports:

"Any chance of long-term peace between Lebanon and Israel all but vanished last night after the Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, said his country was preparing for another round of fighting.

"Mr. Peretz spoke only hours after Israeli commandos mounted a raid deep inside Lebanon. Secretary-General Annan said it was a violation of the week-old U.N. cease-fire.

"We will put everything on the table," he was quoted as saying. "Our duty is to prepare for the next round."

President Bush is now calling for UN peacekeepers to be rushed to the border after his own strategy had deliberately delayed the ceasefire for weeks to give Israel more time to do more damage and frighten off international engagement. That old Native American phrase, "White man speaks with forked tongue" comes to mind.

There is a feeling of pessimism and darkness on all sides. The Tel Aviv newspaper Haa'retz just ran a piece by Nadim Shehadi, a Lebanese economist who is not affiliated with Hezbollah, suggesting that Israel has become a failed state.

"What is the logic that will emerge from this war?," he asks.

"If Israel can exist only by destroying the neighborhood, then it's time to declare it a failed state. The Zionist dream has turned into a nightmare and is not viable. If the future holds more of the same, then the time has come to reconsider the whole project.

"Every state has a duty to defend its citizens, but also it has a duty to provide them with security and the two are different. The prospects are for more destruction, fanaticism, violence and hatred. No unilateral separation can isolate Israel from this, nor can the region or the world live with the consequences. This seems to be the only choice, and Israel must do itself and others a favor and go away."

You can be sure that Israel is not "going away" any time soon, but it is also clear, now more than ever, as a new war certain to claim more lives threatens that those who favor peace, especially Jews who believe in democracy and opposed fanaticism on all sides, must speak up.

Our media must also open up to their voices. If we ever needed "peace journalism" to explore ways to resolve conflicts, we need it now. Focusing on the dead is easy - finding creative ways to use the world's vast media machine to promote peaceful outcomes is essential.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at Info on his latest film at Comments to

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