CULTIVATING LIBERALISM
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Portrait of ruin

The Only Just Choice
Neither Israel Nor Hezbollah

With just about every side that could affect the war’s outcome opposed to a cease-fire—Hezbollah, Israel, the United States, Syria, Iran and, for poodles’ sake, Great Britain—the Lebanon peace talks in Rome couldn’t have gone any other way: they dead-endedWednesday, while in Lebanon the fighting ratcheted up to its bloodiest level since it began two weeks ago, at least in the south. Beirut’s Daily Star calls it, appropriately, the “Rome Talk-Fest.” We know why Israel and the United States don’t want a cease-fire (diplomacy is anathema to the Bush doctrine). We know why Iran doesn’t (keeps the focus away from its nuclear turbines in Iran and its mullah’s turbans in Iraq). But why would Hezbollah not want one, given that it appears to have miscalculated from the day it captured those Israeli soldiers, and that it’s getting clobbered now, its stiff upper lips notwithstanding? Because a cease-fire would dim its on-again rising star in Arab eyes. Most of those eyes are safely distant from Lebanon. It costs them nothing to hail Hezbollah as “resistors” and “liberators.”

It's possible to see this war as actually the provocation not of Israel ultimately, but of an internecine war Hezbollah welcomes in order to make itself seem superior to al-Qaeda as the Arab world's true bearer of the faith. That has nothing to do with the immediate events on the ground, which makes the war that much more tragic--and makes Hezbollah the particularly cynical and morally craven organization it is, all Allah-addled claims to the contrary. But that larger picture could well be the backdrop to Hezbollah’s fight, which would add credence to its indifference to actual losses on the ground: If Hezbollah does manage to remain standing à-la-Rocky Balboa in the end, even though it has lost the battle, it will look like the victor by having further retarded the possibilities of Arab-Israeli resolutions, which are the bane of Islamic fundamentalism. The last thing Hezbollah wants is peace. It would have no reason to be. But don’t take antipathy for Hezbollah as sympathy for Israel. The only just position in this equation, for Lebanon’s sake, is this: “Ni Israel Ni Hezbollah.”

Which, incidentally, makes a pair of babbles on Andrew Sullivan’s blog about the alleged “radio silence on Lebanon from the left-wing blogosphere” seem particularly dim. There’s no such silence that I’ve found, merely an unwillingness to black-and-white the situation with the kind of broad strokes I thought had gone out of style with neo-conservatism’s demise, but obviously haven’t. In the United States there’s still a sort of with-them-or-against-them attitude (whoever your “them” happens to be). To attack Israel for its savagery is automatically seen as a defense of Hezbollah, which of course is ridiculous (it was possible to condemn the Dresden bombings without having to be a Hitler sympathizer). But to defend the Lebanese against Israel is also, in that Alan Dershowitz sort of way, seen as complicity with Hezbollah. The American mindset, the one that animates cable news and radio shout shows, doesn’t abide condemnations that allow for no “saviors” or nuances that see Israel and Hezbollah as more alike than not, at least from the perspective of Lebanon’s victims. ((For a variation on this issue, see Moorish Girl’s debate with the Head Heeb.)

We want not only clear-cut storylines. We want clear-cut allegiances. With us or against us. With Israel or with the “terrorists.” And there is no getting around America’s infantile insistence on aping Israel’s characterization of Hezbollah as purely and exclusively a terrorist organization, when Hezbollah’s means are indistinguishable from Israel’s except in one regard: shell for shell, they’ve been far less lethal, and proportionally far more focused on Israeli military targets. So again: the only fair and just proposition is complete negation of any claim that either Israel or Hezbollah have justice (or God!) on their side. Ni Israel Ni Hezbollah.

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