Military force simply cannot serve as an arbitrator of political conflicts by letting might determine who is right. If nations are to live in peace, they must accept conflicts as being shared problems and move beyond the habit of going to war as the only way to solve them.
The history of the current conflict in the Middle East did not begin on July 12, 2006 when the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. Rather, it was the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 by force in Palestine that set this region on its tortuous path of death, destruction and misery.
In 1956, with the help of Britain and France, Israel attacked Egypt and occupied its adjacent lands as well. In 1967, Israel attacked not only Egypt, but Jordan and Syria, also occupying their lands.
Then in 1982 Israel occupied southern Lebanon, staying there for nearly two decades until 2000, when Lebanon’s armed resistance (comprising mainly Hezbollah) forced Israel to pull out of all but a small part of Lebanon.
But Israel still kept many Lebanese POWs in detention and left behind numerous landmines. Ever since the withdrawal, the Lebanese government has been pleading for the return of those prisoners and for maps showing where an estimated 140,000 mines still lie buried in southern Lebanon. Contrary to international laws and humanitarian conventions, Israel has flatly rejected every Lebanese request.
In October 2000, Hezbollah captured three Israeli soldiers in order to exchange them for Lebanese POWs. Israel’s then PM, Ehud Barak, chose not to respond. With the Palestinian Intifada less than a month old, the rationale was that Israel did not want to open a second front.
In April 2002, at the height of the Israeli army’s strategic destruction of Palestinian West Bank cities, Hezbollah killed several soldiers at the border. Ariel Sharon, who in the meantime had become prime minister, indirectly negotiated with Hezbollah, leading to the release of some 400 prisoners; this was still far short of the total number being held.
Fast-forward to July 12, 2006 when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers at the Lebanese border and killed eight more to pressure Israel into freeing the rest of the POWs, the most famous being Samir Qontar, detained for more than 20 years.
But instead of going even halfway to free the Israeli soldiers through indirect negotiation as Sharon had done, Ehud Olmert immediately deployed Israel’s formidable military killing machine to destroy Lebanon. Hezbollah struck back by firing rockets into Haifa and other northern Israeli cities, forcing many Israelis to take shelter in bunkers.
Early in the current Israeli military operation, Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni was asked how the two Israeli soldiers would be released from Lebanon without negotiation. She answered, "We will bomb the Beirut airport." Asked how this would help, she then answered, "We will bomb the roads leading to the airport."
By now, it has become painfully clear that freeing the soldiers is not an Israeli priority. So the question is: What are Israel’s objectives? Are they achievable? And at what cost? Even more important, we now must ask who is setting the agenda — Israel or Washington?
Israel claims its priority is "eliminating Hezbollah’s military power." Ironically, that power was built up as a direct result of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and its continuing aggression ever since.
So for nearly two weeks the world has watched helplessly as the ugly images of Israel’s campaign of murder and horror unfold in Lebanon. The toll of Israel’s state-sanctioned terrorism against its neighbor now includes hundreds of civilian deaths; thousands of wounded; some 600,000 refugees displaced; and billions of dollars lost through the targeted destruction of schools, factories, bridges, power stations, communication towers, major buildings, primary roads, and the Beirut airport. Even dairies, churches and mosques were not spared. To date, only some 30 Israelis have been killed in this one-sided war; about half are soldiers.
To achieve all this human carnage and economic destruction, Israeli fighter planes have flown more than 4,000 sorties, dropping 500-pound laser guided American-made bombs.
The merciless killing of innocent Lebanese civilians (including women, children, the elderly, and the disabled) and the savage destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure are testimony to Israel’s criminal malevolence. Moreover, it can openly commit these heinous war crimes because it enjoys the support of Western politicians (including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper), led by America and the Bush administration.
Unfortunately, Israel’s murderous aggression will continue in its current MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) plan, bringing Israel neither peace nor security.
There is only one way to peace and security, and that is through justice.