[lit-ideas] Not a Just War

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: polidea@xxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 08:22:19 -0700 (PDT)


Morality is not on our side 
By Ze'ev Maoz 
There's practically a holy consensus right now that
the war in the North is a just war and that morality
is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this
holy consensus is based on short-range selective
memory, an introverted worldview, and double

This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive
force without distinguishing between civilian
population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion.
That is not to say that morality and justice are on
Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact
that Hezbollah "started it" when it kidnapped soldiers
from across an international border does not even
begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side. 

Let's start with a few facts. We invaded a sovereign
state, and occupied its capital in 1982. In the
process of this occupation, we dropped several tons of
bombs from the air, ground and sea, while wounding and
killing thousands of civilians. Approximately 14,000
civilians were killed between June and September of
1982, according to a conservative estimate. The
majority of these civilians had nothing to do with the
PLO, which provided the official pretext for the war. 

In Operations Accountability and Grapes of Wrath, we
caused the mass flight of about 500,000 refugees from
southern Lebanon on each occasion. There are no exact
data on the number of casualties in these operations,
but one can recall that in Operation Grapes of Wrath,
we bombed a shelter in the village of Kafr Kana which
killed 103 civilians. The bombing may have been
accidental, but that did not make the operation any
more moral. 

On July 28, 1989, we kidnapped Sheikh Obeid, and on
May 12, 1994, we kidnapped Mustafa Dirani, who had
captured Ron Arad. Israel held these two people and
another 20-odd Lebanese detainees without trial, as
"negotiating chips." That which is permissible to us
is, of course, forbidden to Hezbollah. 

Hezbollah crossed a border that is recognized by the
international community. That is true. What we are
forgetting is that ever since our withdrawal from
Lebanon, the Israel Air Force has conducted
photo-surveillance sorties on a daily basis in
Lebanese airspace. While these flights caused no
casualties, border violations are border violations.
Here too, morality is not on our side. 

So much for the history of morality. Now, let's
consider current affairs. What exactly is the
difference between launching Katyushas into civilian
population centers in Israel and the Israel Air Force
bombing population centers in south Beirut, Tyre,
Sidon and Tripoli? The IDF has fired thousands of
shells into south Lebanon villages, alleging that
Hezbollah men are concealed among the civilian
population. Approximately 25 Israeli civilians have
been killed as a result of Katyusha missiles to date.
The number of dead in Lebanon, the vast majority
comprised of civilians who have nothing to do with
Hezbollah, is more than 300. 

Worse yet, bombing infrastructure targets such as
power stations, bridges and other civil facilities
turns the entire Lebanese civilian population into a
victim and hostage, even if we are not physically
harming civilians. The use of bombings to achieve a
diplomatic goal - namely, coercing the Lebanese
government into implementing UN Security Council
Resolution 1559 - is an attempt at political
blackmail, and no less than the kidnapping of IDF
soldiers by Hezbollah is the aim of bringing about a
prisoner exchange. 

There is a propaganda aspect to this war, and it
involves a competition as to who is more miserable.
Each side tries to persuade the world that it is more
miserable. As in every propaganda campaign, the use of
information is selective, distorted and
self-righteous. If we want to base our information (or
shall we call it propaganda?) policy on the assumption
that the international environment is going to buy the
dubious merchandise that we are selling, be it out of
ignorance or hypocrisy, then fine. But in terms of our
own national soul searching, we owe ourselves to
confront the bitter truth - maybe we will win this
conflict on the military field, maybe we will make
some diplomatic gains, but on the moral plane, we have
no advantage, and we have no special status. 

The writer is a professor of political science at Tel
Aviv university. 

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