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
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 Mediachannel.org. Info on his
latest film at Indebtwetrust.com. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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