I did a post recently on the escalation of conflict by the Israeli government on Palestinians in Gaza and now also in Lebanon (according to this report, bombing a powerplant there too.). As I said then, this is one issue that I have never been able to see a solution to, but at least in the past I could feel thankful that it was not likely to directly affect Australia or most Australians. However, I don’t feel that way anymore.
The way the so-called ‘war on terror’ is portrayed and prosecuted includes a very strong inference that it is a battle between militant Islam and the West – in crude but none the less reasonably valid terms, ‘them’ and ‘us’. I don’t accept the view that this is a struggle between Islam and the West, but unfortunately, the more it is portrayed this way by western leaders and commentators, the more this perception can become a reality.
In such circumstances, in the same way that many people in Western countries are seeing all Muslims as linked to “them”, we in the West are faced with being seen as linked to the actions of countries like Israel, who are clearly seen as one of “us”.
When Israel acts or reacts in ways which are disproportionate, excessive or clearly unjust, we in the West are now more at risk of being caught up in the backlash (or ‘blowback’ to use the US term) – particularly if we sit silently by and do not criticise such actions.
I feel a bit ashamed to admit it, but it is as much this self-interest as it is my sense of injustice that drives me to express concern at the extreme, unjust and disproportionate actions which the Israeli government is currently engaged in.
“We” demand of the general Muslim community that they criticise more stridently any violence by extremists and fundamentalists who call themselves Muslim, even though – as this Karen Armstrong article I linked to previously shows, fundamentalist terrorists are much more antagonistic to mainstream Muslims than they are to the West.
If Western governments and leaders demand that the Muslim community do more to criticise “them”, it is not surprising that Muslims look askance when extreme disproportionate action by Israel, clearly involving collective punishment of whole civilian communities, is only met with minimalists murmurings of concern by the West, when Israel is clearly linked to “us”.
The trouble with governments trying to insist that we are at war with so-called Islamist terrorists is that the paradigm of war virtually forces people onto one side or another, as the middle ground tends to get blasted away by both extremes.
We are then at risk of forcing a large chunk of the global population to be on the opposite side to us in an unwinnable conflict, despite ‘them’ having far more in common with ‘us’ than the extremists we both abhor.
ELSEWHERE: I will link here to information on what is or has been happening in Gaza and Lebanon. I do this to provide information and views from a range of perspectives – that does not mean I endorse the contents or views contained on them.
.- Some pieces from the Washington Post: This one considers the impact of the current violence on Hezbollah, and whether the situation can be used to have another go at getting them to disarm? This one is long piece with a lot of detail and some reaction from different parts of the world.
This opinion piece by David Ignatius is worth a read. “By pounding the Beirut airport and other civilian targets yesterday, the Israelis have taken a step back in time — to tactics that have been tried repeatedly in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories without much success.“
.- Patrickg has a couple of comments on his blog, along with a link to quite an interesting (and wide ranging) interview with Fred Halliday, a Professor of International Relations based in the UK who considers the narrow thinking by both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ on international issues.
.- Veteran Middle East reporter, Robert Fisk, who is currently based in Beirut, provides some regional political analysis.
.- Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reports that “Lebanon was effectively under siege Thursday after Israel bombarded the country’s airport and imposed blockades on its seaports”.
.- The Daily Star also reports that “Israeli warplanes bombed the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Gaza Thursday, causing heavy damage and wounding 10 children”.
.- Israels’ Haaretz newspaper says that Israel’s “operations are guided by an effort to indicate to the Lebanese government those areas for which Israel considers it responsible. Therefore, it is important to note not only the nature of the targets the air force is attacking, but also those that it is not. The air force, for example, attacked Hezbollah offices, but none in Beirut”.
.- This Haaretz article quotes a Lebanese analyst saying ” there are huge swathes of Lebanon that understand the extent of the Hezbollah danger, but are helpless. Don’t expect citizens to demonstrate outside government buildings tomorrow and demand that the state disarm Hezbollah. Washington, France and the UN tried through Resolution 1559 and failed, and you want a weak government that has not yet really begun to govern to succeed?”