Thursday, August 03, 2006

Going the Israeli Way

A few months back I chanced to watch the Steven Spielberg movie “Munich”, set after the 1972 Munich massacre. It follows a Mossad squad, which is ordered to track down and kill a list of 11 Black September members thought to be responsible for the Israeli athletes’ murders. Though the mission starts in a very spirited fashion, gradually, there’s a sense of disillusionment and helplessness at the turn of events. The movie was a bit liberal with the actual incidents but it points out a very sobering truth:

For every terrorist killed, there is another- possibly a worse one waiting to take place.

As I see the latest (latest is appropriate considering the Israeli penchant for attacks at the drop of a hat) round of massacre being carried out by the Israeli forces in Lebanon, some of those thoughts and images come back haunting my mind. Someone would say wars require sacrifices and no point brooding over lost souls but then who is fighting this war and for whom is all this ? Civilizations thrive on people and cultures and not on coffins.

The latest round of stand-off began (if you leave the troubled past aside) with the Hezbollah rebels attacking and taking two Israeli soldiers hostage as negotiating chips for the release of a few of their prominent leaders. Not a great strategy you would say but they were merely replicating a system of warfare actively nurtured by the Israelis themselves. The capture of the soldiers saw a swift counter attack which surprised both the Hezbollah and the world, in terms of the lightning speed and magnitude involved. In violation of all international norms, Israel carried out large scale bombings of Lebanon, including the usage of the deadly cluster bombs. The highly disproportionate usage of force by Tel Aviv has stunned many but it is still going on with a farcical temporary ceasefire thrown in occasionally. Death has become a very statistical measure nowadays but still the loss of more than 750 people (mostly civilians) in the last 20 days calls for serious concern.

The current situation was created by Hezbollah but Israel cannot wash its hands of its role in the conflict which dates back to more than 25 years. The Israelis invaded Lebanon in 1982 to drive away the Palestinian extremists taking shelter there but post the attack, it continued to stay there until 2000. However, it has not seceded parts of the country entirely; Sheba Farms in South Lebanon is still under their occupation. They were also responsible for planting several detonators and mines but have refused to provide the maps containing this data. It is important for Israel to stop unilaterally all the firing and try to arrive at a political solution to the problem for which the seeds were sown by them.

The most worrying aspect in the entire crisis is not the extent of the Israeli retribution but the silence (they have made some noise but surely the big guns can do better) of the international community in this entire pogrom. It reflects a total lack of empathy for the hundreds of people perishing due to this and this will backfire one day. It reminds me of Martin Niemoller’s famous poem First they came for the communists.

“When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out”

The Americans and Israelis are breeding a sense of hatred which will only increase the ire of the extremists towards them. Tel Aviv’s strategy of shock and awe bombing is similar to the American attack against Iraq and will lead to the same kind of situation as in Iraq. Ironically, the original victims of the Holocaust are now its perpetuators.

There’s a weird school of thought in US (the establishment) who believes that such a military option will send a strong message to the Islamic world and so it has been attempting clandestinely to stall all peace efforts being brokered. One wonders in which utopian world the US policy makers are living in. You would think that the misadventure in Iraq would have made them wiser but then Bush has never given the impression of a man who understands diplomacy. With a war-mongering policy and ruthless stooges like Israel, it is attempting to create a new world order; it will probably do so but the cost of giving huge impetus to the extremist movement across the world.

Initially, the Arab World condemned the Hezbollah for triggering the attacks (due to their Shia-Sunni issues) but the very scale of attacks has forced them to back them or lose the popular support enjoyed by the rebels. By the way, where is the United Nations, the so-called peace keeping body of the world? They lost four dipolmats in the Israeli bombing at the UN office in Beirut but they continue to remain spineless.Maybe Karan Thapar should grill Shashi Tharoor on this matter. Wonder what the man likely to be the next UN Secretary General has to say on the UN's role or rather lack of it in resolving this conflict.

Every time there’s a terrorist attack in India, there’s wide spread condemnation at our inability to stop such incidents. It has been suggested by many that we take the Israeli way- a policy of hot-pursuit. Somehow, there’s a misunderstanding of the ground level situation; we need to understand that we are neither Bush’s chums nor is Pakistan without friends .Do we want to condemn ourselves as Indians to this kind of immoral and power hungry behaviour? This is not to suggest that we need to take all the violence being carried out in our soil lying down but that peace can be brought about only by a policy of give and take.

There’s a requirement of a proper anti-terrorism stance and policy but not the naked show of aggression and power exhibited by Israel. I do not know what our strategy for tackling terrorism should be but I am sure we should not go the Israeli way. Life is precious - diplomacy needs to be given a chance for the world to survive.

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