Via a left website I encountered this display of remarkably inept disinformation by Tariq Ali (the name should have tipped me off). But I promised to analyze the document, and Ali seems to be a well respected name among that sort, so let’s be about it, people.
I suppose I should emphasize that I focusing on the article and its tenditiousness, not much on proving the opposing position, because I have already gotten the “demonization or canonization” reply on this subject.
In his last interview - after the 1967 six-day war - the historian Isaac Deutscher, whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and whose surviving relations lived in Israel, said: “To justify or condone Israel’s wars against the Arabs is to render Israel a very bad service indeed and harm its own long-term interest.” Comparing Israel to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: “The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase ‘Man kann sich totseigen!’ ‘You can triumph yourself to death’.”
Naturally one would go with a German on this, rather than the most famous person to say this, King Pyrrhus (from whom we get “Pyrhhic Victory”). One needs to set up the correct imagery, after all, rather than relying on facts or persuasion. One is tempted to counter with the name of another German famous for that kind of thing, but I will forbear.
It also bears noting that Israel never fought against “the Arabs”, but against sovereign states which happened to be populated primarily with Arabs (although not entirely, a point often missed in discussions like this). There are, in fact, Arab members of the Knesset. One would search in vain for members of Jewish communities in the governments of those hostile, not the least because such communities, many of which had been present for centuries, were driven out after 1948.
One need argue that these are equal or that one excuses the other, but to completely disregard the latter creates a very distorted view of the situation.
In Israel’s actions today we can detect many of the elements of hubris: an imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness of its military superiority, the self-righteousness with which it wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker states, and a belief in its racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives in Gaza and Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US.
Just a bunch of vacuous contentions, the oddest one being that Israel should be more concerned with other people’s citizens than its own. Even more bizarrely, if one considers the actions of Hamas and Hizballah, it seems clear that Ali expects Israel to be more concerned with the lives and well being of Palestinians and Lebanese than either of those.
The offensive against Gaza is designed to destroy Hamas for daring to win an election. The “international community” stood by as Gaza suffered collective punishment. Dozens of innocents continue to die. This meant nothing to the G8 leaders. Nothing was done.
It had nothing to do with the Hamas government’s explicitly stated aim of destroying the state of Israel? Ali also seems to define “collective punishment” as action that has any negative impact on the Palestinians. Isn’t it interesting that because Israel is a democracy, all of its citizens are held responsible for the actions of the state by people like Ali, yet the Palestinians in Gaza are not? And that the attacks on Israel are not also “collective punishment”?
Israeli recklessness is always green-lighted by Washington. In this case, their interests coincide. They want to isolate and topple the Syrian regime by securing Lebanon as an Israeli-American protectorate on the Jordanian model. They argue this was the original design of the country. Contemporary Lebanon, it is true, still remains in large measure the artificial creation of French colonialism it was at the outset - a coastal band of Greater Syria sliced off from its hinterland by Paris to form a regional client dominated by a Maronite minority.
No, Israel is frequently restrained by the USA. Much of the recent history of the Middle East is the USA attempting to impose its will on Israel via mechanisms such as the Oslo Accords.
Another key point to note is that claim that the USA and Israel want to topple the Syrian regime. Keep that in mind but for now, the question to ask is: why is that a bad thing? Who would it be bad for? The Syrians? The Lebanese? It would be bad only for the Ba’athist thugs running the place and that is the sort of person whose welfare concern Ali. So much for his concern over the “little people” expressed earlier. And, of course, we have the “Greater Syria” phrase, which doesn’t seem to be a phrase used by people who support an independent Lebanon (is the only problem of foreign control of Lebanon when it’s Israel?).
The country’s confessional checkerboard has never allowed an accurate census, for fear of revealing that a substantial Muslim - today perhaps even a Shia - majority is denied due representation in the political system. Sectarian tensions, over-determined by the plight of refugees from Palestine, exploded into civil war in the 1970s, providing for the entry of Syrian troops, with tacit US approval, and their establishment there - ostensibly as a buffer between the warring factions, and deterrent to an Israeli takeover, on the cards with the invasions of 1978 and 1982 (when Hezbollah did not exist).
Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then, and there’s little doubt that the Shia in Lebanon have been on the short end of the stick for a long time. But Ali can’t resist polluting his own case by flipping from his claim that the American-Israeli access wants a client state in Lebanon along with overthrowing the Syrian regime to supporting Syrian domination of Lebanon. Not only that, but Ali himself just referred to Lebanon as part of “Greater Syria”, so why would he view this support as a bad thing? His mania to blame everything on Israel, the USA, and Europe blinds him so much that he can’t even see what he wrote in the same article.
The killing of Rafik Hariri provoked vast demonstrations by the middle class, demanding the expulsion of the Syrians, while western organizations arrived to assist the progress of a Cedar Revolution. Backed by threats from Washington and Paris, the momentum was sufficient to force a Syrian withdrawal and produce a weak government in Beirut.
And that’s not a good thing? I forget, is Syrian domination of Lebanon the natural order of Greater Syria, frustrated by the scheming colonial French, or an evil Zionist plot? My head just doesn’t turn fast enough to keep up with Ali.
But Lebanon’s factions remained spread-eagled. Hezbollah had not disarmed, and Syria has not fallen. Washington had taken a pawn, but the castle had still to be captured. I was in Beirut in May, when the Israeli army entered and killed two “terrorists” from a Palestinian splinter group. The latter responded with rockets. Israeli warplanes punished Hezbollah by dropping over 50 bombs on its villages and headquarters near the border. The latest Israeli offensive is designed to take the castle. Will it succeed? A protracted colonial war lies ahead, since Hezbollah, like Hamas, has mass support. It cannot be written off as a “terrorist” organization. The Arab world sees its forces as freedom fighters resisting colonial occupation.
So, fighting colonial occupation means turning Lebanon in to a Syrian client state? And isn’t the Beirut government weak primarily because of the existence of Hizballah, meaning that it is Hizballah that is preventing Lebanon from having a government strong enough to stand up to the colonial occupiers?
As for a protacted war, that’s just laughable. Israel will withdraw when it’s finished. Not only that, but Syrian didn’t end up with a protact war. Oh, right, they weren’t colonial occupiers, so that’s all right then.
I don’t see any suggestion that perhaps a good idea would have been to stop striking at Israel once it withdrew from Lebanon. A telling omission in my view.
Throughout, Ali never provides no even semi-consistent view of how things should be, except that Hizballah should fight. As far as I can see, that’s because this is just a screed, with no purpose except to lob blame at Ali’s enemies regardless of rhyme or reason. It is, frankly, depressing that this kind of tripe is taken seriously by anyone.