Peace with Realism

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The Distortion of Morality
in a World Gone Mad

by Carlos

August 7, 2006 - Robert Pape, a college professor who believes Israel should use "diplomacy" to stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah, has this to say about the latter:

In terms of structure and hierarchy, it [Hezbollah] is less comparable to, say, a religious cult like the Taliban than to the multidimensional American civil-rights movement of the 1960’s.[Reference 3]

How's that for a comparison?

The Civil Rights Movement was characterized, above all, by nonviolence. It did not send suicide bombers into Mississippi. It did not fire rockets into neighborhoods in Montgomery. The Civil Rights Movement prevailed because it awakened the nation's conscience. Against an enemy with no conscience the Civil Rights Movement would have been crushed.

That anyone can compare Hezbollah to the Civil Rights Movement on any level is a sign of the moral insanity that besets this world. In a climate in which many would idealize Hezbollah and grant it moral legitimacy, juxtaposing Hezbollah and the Civil Rights Movement creates an implication not just about "structure and hierarchy" but about values. If Pape simply wanted to say that Hezbollah is "multidimensional" rather than dogmatic or monolithic like the Taliban (a questionable assertion at best), surely he could have chosen a more appropriate comparison.

Pape follows one error with another:

The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.

Israel's withdrawals have only made it more vulnerable. Israel did withdraw form Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah capitalized on that opportunity to build up a huge arsenal of rockets and a network of tunnels and bunkers to hide them. Israel withdrew from Gaza, and the Palestinians used that opportunity to start their own rocket war. If suicide bombing attacks have decreased, it is for two reasons: Israel has gotten better at thwarting them, and its enemies don't need to rely on them as much now that they have major Israeli cities within rocket range.

The entire question of "occupation" deserves deeper analysis. Is Hezbollah really fighting to "resist" an "occupation"? What occupation? The one "occupation" Hezbollah keeps talking about is Shebaa Farms. This is a small disputed area of land near the border between Syria, Israel, and Lebanon. Before 1967, when Israel captured it during the Six Day War, it had been under Syrian control. And that apparently was no big deal. There were no terrorists firing rockets into Syrian towns demanding that Syria withdraw from Shebaa Farms. In fact, the U.N. has always considered Shebaa Syrian territory. When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 to comply with Security Council Resolution 425, the U.N. certified that withdrawal as complete.[Reference 4] The Blue Line, the Lebanese/Israeli border the U.N. drew for the purpose of determining Israel's compliance with 425, does not put Shebaa Farms in Lebanon.[Reference 5]

In any case, Shebaa Farms is merely a pretext. It is not the real reason for Hezbollah's aggression. What is? No need to speculate. Hezbollah tells us. In the words of Hezbollah spokesperson Hassan Ezzedin:

If they go from Sheba’a, we will not stop fighting them. Our goal is to liberate the 1948 borders of Palestine... [Jews] can go back to Germany or wherever they came from.[Reference 1]

The idea that the reason for any Muslim aggression against Israel is "resistance" to an "occupation" is the big lie of Middle Eastern politics. The only "occupation" that terrorists and the states who sponsor them are "resisting" is Israel's actual existence. They themselves tell us so, if we care to listen.

Shebaa Farms is not the reason for this conflict. It is just another piece in the chess game. The rhetoric of "occupation" is for foreign audiences. The intent is to convince the world that Israel owes Shebaa Farms to Lebanon (which actually means Hezbollah), so let's give up Shebaa Farms, make Hezbollah happy, and we can all go home. What will happen if Israel gives Shebaa Farms to Hezbollah in order to "settle" this thing? Shebaa Farms will become filled with rockets as soon as Hezbollah can get them from Iran. Will Hezbollah be satisfied with Shebaa Farms? Was Hitler satisfied with the Sudetenland?

If we can dispose of Shebaa Farms as the reason for this conflict, we can consider the deep moral issues involved. Hezbollah spent years amassing a collection of rockets all along the border with Israel. The clear intent was to use those rockets some day. Hezbollah justifies those rockets by saying it needed them to defend Lebanon against Israel. That is another manifest lie. Israel is no threat to Lebanon as long as no terrorist attacks originate from that country - thus it is Hezbollah that puts Lebanon in danger. And there is a deeper aspect to the lie. Those rockets were designed as anti-civilian weapons. Many of them contain ball bearings and shrapnel set to spread at high velocity on impact. That is the same principle used in suicide bombs. The only purpose of such a weapon is to rip the bodies of civilians to shreds. You do not need a weapon like that to protect a country against an invasion.

In spite of this, the world has turned its moral outrage against Israel. All over the news one sees pictures of dead and injured Lebanese. One rarely sees pictures of dead and injured Israelis, and few are aware that thousands of Israelis have had to leave their homes because of the rocket fire. Only Israel is called upon to justify any damage to civilians, and only Israel is asked to exercise "restraint."

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but even a thousand words may not tell the truth. One British Member of Parliament puts this all in perspective:

Whatever the hideous shambles of the past few days, it is still true, in principle, that when Israeli rockets kill civilians, they have missed their targets, and that when Hizbollah rockets kill civilians, they have scored a deliberate hit. That is a moral difference that needs to be dinned into the skull of every saloon-bar strategist currently denouncing Israel.[Reference 2]

The Hezbollah war is a war against civilians. In contrast, Israelis do not want to kill civilians, and they express regret, not joy when it happens. This is one of the most cynical sides of the war. Hezbollah has made the people of Lebanon its body armor. Hezbollah's only allegiance is to itself (and to Iran), not to the people of Lebanon. Hezbollah does not care about the Lebanese people, except for their usefulness as weapons against Israel. So Hezbollah guerrillas do not wear uniforms. They blend everywhere, so the Israeli army cannot tell who is who. They launch their rockets from inside residential neighborhoods and from the rooftops of people's homes. All over Lebanon the Israelis have been finding weapons caches and rocket launchers. The terrorists have militarized virtually all of Lebanon. This presents Israel with a fateful dilemma.

This kind of dilemma can be called a "Sophie's Choice": In general terms, it means that one is forced to act immorally in order to save oneself or others. One loses either way. Hezbollah has set up Lebanon in such a way that Israel cannot go after Hezbollah without killing many Lebanese. In the meantime Hezbollah keeps firing rockets at Israel's cities. To stop it, Israel has tried for a middle course: do not respond in kind, try to save civilian lives by warning people of an impending strike, then attack the infrastructure Hezbollah uses to fortify itself. So while Hezbollah sends rockets after people living in their homes, Israel attacks bridges and roads used by Hezbollah to transport weapons, creating lots of rubble that looks awful on TV. Israel drops leaflets warning of an impending attack before striking the areas from which rockets are fired. Nevertheless, every civilian death counts against Israel. If the dead civilian is Israeli, Hezbollah is happy. If the dead civilian is Lebanese, Israel is blamed and Hezbollah is happy.

And so Hezbollah has pulled off an alarming role reversal. Hezbollah, a well trained military organization with a self-proclaimed agenda of genocide, has sold itself as the good guy to most of the world. Demonstrations worldwide rally to its support and to the condemnation of Israel. The European Union refuses to call it a terrorist organization. An American college professor compares it to the Civil Rights Movement.

I submit that anyone who condemns Israel for its conduct in this war, or who criticizes Israel for not exercising "restraint," has the moral obligation to answer the question: What would you do? What would you do if put in a situation where in order to save yourself and your family, you had to risk doing harm to innocent people? What would you do if your city were being bombed by an enemy who uses civilians as camouflage? Would you take the "moral high ground," exercise "restraint," and allow the enemy to murder you and your family?

The very fact that Israel has been put in such a position is Hezbollah's darkest achievement. Israel did not want this war. It did not want rockets along its border killing its people. It does not want to kill Lebanese people. But Israel is fighting for its life not just against Palestinian terrorists but against the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria-Al Qaeda axis. Hezbollah, whose warriors by their own admission "love death" while foolish Israelis "love life," has been preparing for years for this war and the chance to scare the Jews out of Israel. The way Hezbollah is conducting this war attacks not only Israel but the basic values that hold human societies together. Hezbollah's unspoken motto: "Be like us, killers of the innocent. We will show you how little human life really means."

Does anyone really think that if this depraved ideology becomes dominant in the Middle East, it can be contained there? That all we need do is throw Israel into the fiery furnace, then go home and rest assured we will never hear from these guys again?

Read your newspaper. The answer is a resounding yes.


1. Bard, Mitchell G. "Arab/Muslim Attitudes Toward Israel." Jewish Virtual Library: Myths and Facts Online. (Original source: New Yorker, October 14, 2002.)

2. Johnson, Boris MP. "Unlike Hizbollah, Mel, Israel Is Not Trying to Kill Civilians,", August 3, 2006.

3. Pape, Robert. "Ground to a Halt." New York Times, August 3, 2006.

4. Press Release 6878. "Security Council Endorses Secretary-General’s Conclusion on Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon as of 16 June." United Nations Security Council, June 18, 2000.

5. Press Release 8299. "Security Council Condemns Violence Along Blue Line Between Israel and Lebanon." United Nations Security Council, January 28, 2005.

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