So we have at least two appalling conflicts going on involving Israel right now, and I don’t think the two are closely connected. The Israeli government’s response has been insane, and lots of people who had nothing to do with kidnapping soldiers or firing rockets will be feeling the pain for months and years to come.
On June 25, a group of Palestinians attacked a group of Israeli soldiers in Gaza. Two Israelis were killed, two Palestinians were killed, and the remaining Palestinians managed to kidnap a surviving Israeli soldier. These Palestinians (I have read some stories which claim that these kidnappers were from Hamas, although I don’t know if that’s true or not) said they would release the soldier if Israel freed hundreds of Palestinian women and children that they were holding prisoner.
Well, maybe we should go back farther. On June 20, Israel fired a missile at a suspected militant near Gaza City and killed three Palestinian children. On June 13, in another assassination attempt, Israeli missiles killed nine bystanders in Gaza City. On June 9, Israel shelled the Beit Lahiya beach, killing nine civilians. You’ve gotta wonder if these actions had anything to do with the decision to kidnap the Israeli soldier on the 25th.
On June 27, Israel responded to the kidnapping by sending troops, tanks, planes and bombs into Gaza. They blew up the power plant that supplies most of the area with electricity. Palestinians are already dealing with a humanitarian crisis coming from lack of foreign aid, and Israel’s refusal to give them money that they’re owed, because of the new Hamas government in Palestine. So people are short on food and supplies, now they’re short on electricity during the scorching summer, and the lack of electricity is now leading to a sewage crisis, as water treatment plants can’t function without power. And last I’d heard, over 60 Palestinians had been killed in the Israeli siege.
All to save one man. How does that work, exactly? How many innocent people is it okay to kill to save one innocent person? (yes, as an Israeli soldier, the kidnapped man likely played a role in the repression of Palestinians, and therefore isn’t “innocent”. I’m not going into that right now).
Now we come to the craziest bit: the sort of prisoner exchange demanded by the Palestinian kidnappers is not unusual. Back in 2004, Ariel Sharon agreed to release 420 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in exchange for one Israeli and the remains of three others. Sharon was no softie, either. Near as I can figure, exchanges like this also took place in 1997, and in 1985 (1150 Palestinian prisoners released). A former intelligence agent in the Guardian article above claims that whenever these exchanges have occured, Israeli newspapers were critical of the prime minister of the time, but that his popularity with the public didn’t waver.
So why isn’t Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert working on an exchange? It would save many lives, and seemingly cost him nothing in terms of political support. I can only conclude that Olmert is out to prove how tough he is, to his country and to his opponents. However, the commentary I’ve read from folks who know much more than me about the region seem to agree that the crisis will eventually end in some sort of prisoner exchange.
Then, on July 12, Hezbollah agents kidnapped another two Israeli soldiers, and likewise demanded the release of prisoners from Israel. Why would Hezbollah do this? Most experts I’ve read seem to agree that it was either an attempt to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, or as part of an attempt to maintain their power and influence inside Lebanon, which has been ebbing for some time. And frankly, it might work. It seems like their action caused a rain of Israeli hellfire on the Lebanese, but it seems that the Lebanese citizens are more likely to blame Israel for the destruction than Hezbollah for instigating it. Mission Accomplished.
The Israeli reaction to the Hezbollah kidnapping is off the charts. If the kidnapping was indeed an “act of war”, as Israel insists it was, then the reaction is appropriate. But “a terrorist group kidnapping two guys” is certainly not the same as the Lebanese government declaring war. Again, many people who’ve got nothing to do with the violence or kidnapping feel the wrath.
Now, Israel is insisting that this is a war to disarm Hezbollah, and is demanding that the Lebanese government do it. Except they can’t. Everyone seems to realize that Hezbollah’s militias are more powerful than the Lebanese army, and any attempt by Lebanon to take down Hezbollah will end in failure.
Some of the scariest talk in here is when Israel tries to blame even more players for the conflict; on several occasions it has implied that Syria or Iran are pulling the strings. Does Israel really want to invade a couple more countries? Does Olmert really think that Israel can fight wars on four fronts simultaneously?
But I did have to laugh when Israeli officials claimed that Hezbollah’s rockets were created by Iran. Yeah, like every Israeli rifle, tank, helicopter and missile doesn’t bear huge “MADE IN THE USA” tattoo. Most folks in the Arab/Muslim world blame the US for Israel’s violence, and to some extent, they’re right.
I don’t know how this is going to end (or if not “end”, return to “normal”). Some experts I’ve read say that both the Gaza and Lebanon conflicts will eventually end with negotiated prisoner releases. Others have said that Israel intends to wipe out Hezbollah before it’s done. All I know is that from here, I don’t see any predictable conclusions.
Recently, I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf regarding this website. As you know, LMB is frequently a great source of apocalytpically depressing news. And that depression can lead to despair and apathy, which is not my goal at all. It’s always my hope that the nightmarish parade of wrongness would push readers to the point where they felt that they had no choice but to do something to fix this broken world. But maybe it helps push them instead to glassy stares and bottle of something alcoholic.
So it is my goal to try to temper these sad tales with stories about what people are doing to fix, repair, aid, solve and salve. And beyond that, to try to give y’all a few options of how to get involved yourselves. Take that pathos and turn it into conviction and action. Or something like that.
Since the Israeli attacks began, there have been protests in Boston, Jakarta, Ankara, Damascus, Detroit, Yemen, Melbourne, and Kuwait– and that’s just my results from one half-assed Google search. Other protests are planned for Los Angeles on Wednesday, Houston on Monday, and I’m sure there are more in the works. If you want to plan your own, you can find your nearest Israeli Embassy here (well, there are only 10 in the US).
Organization End the Occupation has a letter you can write/sign and send to your US Congressmen announcing that supplying Israel with weapons when they do these sorts of things is a violation of US law. And my friend Garrick, who used to write for my site about his travels/activism in Palestine, sent me this link where you can donate money to send medicine to Palestinian children. Garrick also recommends writing letters to the editor of your local paper to call attention to Israel’s insanity and possibly get Congress to do something about it. This site can help you find contact info for your local media outlets.
Don’t know how much effect any of that can have, but it’s a start.
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