Syria now – Israel next? :: Syrian withdrawal poses fresh challenge to Israel ::

Who follows next? Until this question is addressed and understood, it would appear that Syria’s military presence in Lebanon for more than two decades, is the only case of "foreign occupation" that the international community has been concerned about.

In fact, media reports focusing on Syria’s presence in Lebanon following the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri dominated such a substantial part of the news generated about the Middle East, that the occupation of Palestine and Iraq appears to be benign.

Indeed the fixation with Syria by many commentators suggests that they regard the "other occupation" as tolerable for it flows from a policy of "benevolence". In other words, the USA and its client-state Israel, are benefactors not occupiers. Hence their savage conduct in Rafah or Fallujah is either overlooked or not regarded as an expression of bestiality.

However, will public opinion remain hostage to the partiality of neo-conservative commentators and zionist think-tanks? This question not only implies that "public opinion" – described by John Pilger as being as powerful as a "superpower" – is an effective factor in mobilising pressure. It also implies that as a social construct, it acts as a barometer which is an effective means to measure the levels of acceptance or rejection of "benevolent occupation".

Thus far reports emanating from the Arab media, reveals that despite their respective regimes’ behaviour as deputy-sheriffs of the American administration, their editorials and op-eds are questioning the USA’s unbroken tradition of double-standards.

Commenting on the Syrian evacuation of Lebanon, Jordan Times in its editorial emphasises that Israel remains a "thorn in the side of the Arab world". It argues that the international community’s failure to cite Israeli Occupation of Palestine merely exacerbates the "wound", and wonders whether Syria’s compliance with UNSC Resolution 1559 will be followed by Israeli compliance of 242 and 338.

Similar arguments have been raised in the media houses of most Arab capitals. Why 1559 and not 242, is a common refrain heard and read by the Arab street.

By all accounts it remains clear that Israel will continue to defy International Law as well as numerous UN Resolutions. This belligerence is reserved for the Zionist state, courtesy of the USA. Can America’s policy of double-standards be more clearer than the remarks of its president who finds it "unrealistic to dismantle the Jewish-only large population centers" in the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem?

As if to unravel any ambiguity, Sharon further clarified: "It is the Israeli position that the major Israeli population centers will remain in Israel’s hands under any future status agreement, with all related consequences".

Unsurprisingly both Bush and Sharon refer to the illegal colonies as "population centers".

The Hariri killing – which to date remains unexplained – has been used as a trigger to force regime change in Lebanon commencing with the Syrian evacuation. While Bashar al-Asad has displayed a crafty hand in deflecting further US censure, his troop deployment places additional pressure on Israel to lift its occupation of Palestine.

And so it does too for America’s occupation of Iraq.

The question remains: Who is next?