Since the most recent conflicts began in the Middle East a month ago, I’ve been struck by the virtual unanimous pro-Israel position of our Congressional representatives. It’s not my intent to challenge American support of Israel, but who has raised questions about our apparent calls for a ceasefire at the very moment when military shipments have risen dramatically? How can America continue to provide Israel with an arsenal of weapons in the interest of a peace settlement?
Occassionly, there is a smattering of dissent in Congress, but hardly enough to challenge what’s really at stake here: the legitimacy and justification of a war that has already resulted in the loss of innocent civilians’ lives, the destruction of their homes, and the disruption of their national security. Often when critics speak out against such disproportionate acts of warfare, their tone is drenched in polemical fervor:
“There is no doubt Israel had every right to make an emphatic and brutal point two weeks ago when its soldiers were attacked, killed and, in the case of two, kidnapped on their home soil by a terrorist gang that obscenely parades under the banner of Hizbollah, meaning “party of God”. But like all military points, Israel’s had been made at a heavy cost, especially as they are fighting an enemy who do not hesitate to force innocents to act as human shields for the firing of medium- range rockets into the villages and cities of the Jewish state. Hundreds of Lebanese civilians have died, half a million or more have been forced to flee their homes and a million Israelis are living with hourly wails of fear as sirens herald incoming missiles.” —Senator Chuck Hagel.
Even Chuck Hagel can put aside certain partisan biases and discern the terrible consequences of this war. But it’s still intriguing how his words expose another popular misconception reinforced by media networks: the original provocation was on the part of Hizbollah. Over and over again, politicians and pundits take this fact for granted, standing firmly behind its unquestionable validity. The justification rests on the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit on June 25–clearly an act of unwarranted hostility on the part of Hizbollah, but also an act of retaliation. In an interview conducted by Ynet and posted on August 4, Noam Chomsky views these events from a broader perspective:
“Recall the facts. On June 25, Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured, eliciting huge cries of outrage worldwide…one day before, on June 24, Israeli forces kidnapped two Gaza civilians, Osama and Mustafa Muamar, by any standards a far more severe crime than capture of a soldier. The Muamar kidnappings were certainly known to the major world media. They were reported at once in the English-language Israeli press, basically IDF handouts. And there were a few brief, scattered and dismissive reports in several newspapers around the US.”
Why haven’t these particular facts come to light? It seems futile to me to “take sides” on this issue, supporting the ethical claims of either Israel or Hizbollah. But, at the same time, how can anyone acheive an accurate evaluation of the current crisis without also considering multiple sides of a conflict that is borne, by and large, by the Lebanese people?