Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Isaac Herzog in "Der Guardian"

That most "anti-Semitic" of all British newspapers is at it again: this time they're featuring an article by Isaac Herzog, the Israeli Minister of Disinformation (I meant Tourism) and member of Israel's Security Cabinet. Mr Herzog's monotonal views are already well known, through several of his interviews with the BBC.

This is a fight for our survival

Isaac Herzog, Israeli government
Tuesday July 25, 2006
The Guardian

Some may wonder how, as a man of the left and Israel's peace camp, I can at the same time be a member of a government now fighting a war in Lebanon. The answer is the same one that Clement Attlee or even Harold Wilson would have given: when your very existence is under threat, you have the right to defend yourself, and the responsibility to your people to defend their security. Let's be clear: Hizbullah is a terrorist organisation. This is not a political issue, it is not an ideological issue; it is a matter of survival. That is why I and the vast majority of the Israeli population support this military response.

You'd have thought that when addressing the British public, Herzog would have perhaps refrained (pardon the pun) from merely parroting what he routinely feeds the Israeli electorate. You'd have thought wrongly...
Israel today is facing a sustained onslaught from one of the world's most dangerous and effective terrorist organisations. In the past few days, 1,000 rockets and 1,200 mortar rounds have been hurled across the border by Hizbullah at hospitals, schools and homes. Their intention is the killing and maiming of Israelis in general.
Israel is fighting back. Israel's use of force is entirely proportionate to the extent of the threat that Hizbullah poses. A third of our people are in immediate danger of Hizbullah missiles and are sheltering for fear of their lives. The whole of the north of our country has in effect been shut down. International law recognises the right to respond to the extent of a threat, and Israel has therefore acted within international law.

Our goals are clear. Israel was forced to enter this conflict after an unprovoked attack by Hizbullah terrorists across the border, in which three soldiers were killed, and two kidnapped. The attack, one of many in recent years, was made possible because of an abnormal political situation in Lebanon. Since May 2000 the southern part of that country has effectively been hijacked by a terrorist organisation. Hizbullah controls the border, and administers every aspect of life for the residents of southern Lebanon. The organisation is armed, trained and kept afloat by foreign powers - Iran and Syria are at the forefront.

This terrorist organisation openly desires the destruction of Israel. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, is an anti-semite, and is one of the most cynical leaders in the region. He uses Lebanon as a launch pad to pursue his own agenda with a wilful disregard of the hardship and pain he has brought on his fellow countrymen and women in Lebanon.

This situation is unacceptable. It will not continue. Israel's goal, first and foremost, is to ensure that, when our operations end, Hizbullah no longer controls the border with Israel, and may not reignite fighting at its whim. This is why a simple ceasefire, as attractive as it sounds, is not enough. It would allow Hizbullah, as it has done for six years, to rest, regroup, replenish supplies, and then start the fighting all over again.

Elsewhere ("HardTalk" BBC interview with Stephen Sackur), Herzog had already conceded that destroying Hezbollah is not a realistic objective. So, whilst a simple ceasefire won't solve much, nor will the continued onslaught on civilian targets. It must end now: a war that cannot achieve its goals is not only futile but also immoral.

Mr Herzog's cackling about "existential war" may go down very well with the Israeli public, but it ignores one crucial truth: Hezbollah wasn't seeking all out war with Israel; it wanted, illegally, to orchestrate a prisoner swap by abducting Israeli soldiers. It wasn't seeking the destruction of Israel and Herzog knows it but wilfully ignores it.

As Ze'ev Maoz put it in Haaretz:
There's practically a holy consensus right now that the war in the North is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview, and double standards.

This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion. That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact that Hezbollah "started it" when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side.


[Herzog continues]
The goal of ending Hizbullah's capacity for aggression can be achieved in a number of ways. From our point of view, the obvious solution would be the deployment by the Lebanese army of its forces throughout the entirety of Lebanese territory. This is in accordance with the norms of life in sovereign countries. It is also required by Lebanon's obligations according to UN resolution 1559. We are told, however, that the Lebanese army is weak and small, and contains within its own ranks a considerable number of Hizbullah sympathisers.

So be it. Clearly, it is imperative that the international community endeavours to help the Lebanese government to reach a situation where it is able to effectively police its territory, and prevent it from being seized by armed organisations in the pay of foreign states.

When it comes to disregarding entire reams of UN resolutions, the Israelis are the true, uncrowned champions. At the heart of the Middle East instability lays that other small problem: the 1967 Occupation of Palestinian Territories, also subject of UN resolution, solidly disregarded by Israel for decades now.

The international community has already proved that with solid, unified support it helped Lebanon rid itself of Syrian occupation. The same international will must now be garnered to rid Lebanon of Hizbullah. For the interim period, however, Israel could accept the deployment of a sizeable, effective international force along the border.

Hopefully, the Israeli action of recent days has disabused Hizbullah and its backers of the notion that Israel is a "paper tiger", lacking the will to act in its citizens' defence. If this lesson has not been absorbed, and the aggression recommences, Israel will be prepared, if necessary, to mobilise once again.

Israel, a "paper tiger"? What planet does this man live on? It is precisely the IDF's overwhelming air superiority that allowed them to bomb Lebanon's cities and infrastructure, as well as most recently also fleeing civilians. The IAF can do this because it is completely unchallenged. Look in contrast to the IDF's approach to ground incursions: these operations are marked by caution and proportionality because Hezbollah's capacity to put up lethal resistance is very, very considerable.
It is to be hoped that arrangements of this type, along with the immediate return of the kidnapped soldiers, will now be enforced upon Hizbullah. The lives and dignity of the people of both Lebanon and northern Israel have for too long been forfeit to the whims of a terror group in the pay of a neighbouring dictatorship. It is time for this situation to end. Hizbullah's immoral and illegal behaviour must end so a new era may dawn on the region.

If this "new era" of the region is to include reinvigorating the quest for a just solution to the Palestinian question, then I can only applaud it. But will it? Or are we merely seeking to rid Lebanon of Syrian/Iranian influence in Israel's neighbour?

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