In “Conflicting clash styles fuel Mideast war” (9/6), Noah Lawrence justifies and excuses Israel’s killing of at least 1,110 Lebanese, most of them civilians. He acquits Israel of its war crimes and its historical violations of human rights both in Lebanon and Palestine. Moreover, he leads readers to believe that Israel’s military has pulled out from the two countries, claiming “liberation came years ago.” Unfortunately for Israelis, Lebanese and Palestinians, that is a lie.
He conveniently erases the fact that Israel has been illegally occupying the Shebaa Farms and Palestine for decades, and he dismisses Israel’s illegal occupation of Lebanon and occupation cum colonization of Palestine as the primary conditions of conflict in the region. Instead, he reduces the conditions and the causes of this summer’s war to a “moral distinction” between Israelis and Arabs. The “oppressed people” are savage murderers hungry to wage war, “beefing up tribal pride,” whereas the Israelis are “dovish” pacifists. The “threat itself” is the “evil” Arab.
Lawrence roots his argument in randomly pulled quotations by two demagogues, Hassan Nasrallah and Ehud Olmert. To forward and buttress his claim, he cherry-picks words, loaded with ideology, spoken by political leaders. He ignores what really happened because the facts contradict the words. If we are to “understand the Arab-Israeli conflict” as Lawrence wishes, we ought to study history, not political rhetoric.
His representation of the war reveals a deluded understanding of reality. He imagines Hezbollah as an irrational aggressor striking a passive Israel led by a Gandhian Olmert. For Lawrence, this was not a war between two parties — a state and a non-state actor — but a one-sided, 34-day act of aggression by Hezbollah on Israel, the sitting duck. “Israel was in real trouble,” he writes. What about Lebanon? Lawrence couldn’t care less.
He conveniently forgets that it takes two to fight a war. To frame the situation in any other manner is misleading. We must remember that, just as Hezbollah launched Iranian missiles into northern Israel, so too did Israel hammer the entire country of Lebanon with cluster bombs shipped in from the United States. It is the cycles of revenge that fuel war, not a “conflict of clash styles.” Both Israel and Hezbollah are aggressors, and both are guilty of war crimes.
Most importantly, both parties are guilty of murdering innocent civilians. The author pretends that Israel “only targets terrorist strongholds.” That is a baseless claim. It might be more appropriate to say it targets strongholds of civilians, women and children.
Despite the Israel Defense Force’s sophisticated military and intelligence systems, the reality is that Israel’s use of force was indiscriminate, much like Hezbollah. And human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, agree. Says Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of HRW, “Human Rights Watch investigated some two dozen bombing incidents in Lebanon involving a third of the civilians who by then had been killed. In none of those cases was Hezbollah anywhere around at the time of the attack.”
Indeed, Israel drops warning leaflets on communities it is about to destroy. But many Lebanese were unable to leave their communities at Israel’s request due to health problems, old age, or, worse, fear of murder on the highway by an Israeli warplane’s rocket. This warning system does not excuse Israel of its war crimes. If Palestinian militants tossed warning leaflets into an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, would they be relieved of the crime of murdering the civilians who stayed? Of course not.
Lest we forget: In addition to rocketing apartment buildings, bunkers and United Nations quarters filled with civilians, Israel’s military bombed the entire transportation network of Lebanon and barricaded the country by sea, effectively paralyzing the entire state. So, in response to attacks by Hezbollah from south Lebanon, Israel targeted the entire Lebanese nation, civilians included.
Finally, what is most terrifying about this writer’s thought is his racist worldview. While Lawrence laments that Tel Avivians can no longer attend the Black Eyed Peas concert, he ignores the fact that Palestinians are denied access to basic human needs due to the systematic occupation and colonization of Gaza and the West Bank. For Lawrence, when an Israeli murders another human, it is an excusable, justifiable “tragic” act. But when an Arab murders another human, it is “evil.” To him, it is fine to murder thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians while it is “evil” to murder an Israeli. So, Israeli lives are more valuable than Arab lives, and the morality of the murder depends on the ethnicity of the actor, according to Lawrence.
If we are to engage in a dialogue on the Arab-Israeli conflict, shouldn’t we consider that all are equal before international humanitarian law?
Eyad Houssami is a senior in Ezra Stiles College. He is the president of the Arab Students’ Association. Mahdi Sabbagh is a freshman in Berkeley College. He is an executive board member of the ASA.