16 April 1996
The Wrath of 'Peace'
Mark Ryan sees Israel's bloody war in Lebanon as the latest act in the Middle
East 'peace process'
Israel's onslaught against Lebanon continues unabated. While civilians are
being killed in raids by the Israeli Air Force, 400 000 refugees from Southern
Lebanon are streaming north to Beirut, which is also under attack. This
is a brutal military invasion, a flagrant violation of another country's
sovereignty, and a humanitarian disaster on vast scale. Yet Western governments,
normally so eager to denounce such things in Rwanda or Bosnia, on this occasion
all support Israel's actions. Even more strangely, nearly every Western
and Arab government agrees that the so-called peace process, which was supposed
to have put a stop to this kind of thing, has not been endangered by Israel's
act of war.
The level of support throughout the world for 'Operation Grapes of Wrath'
is perhaps its most remarkable feature. When the Israelis invaded Lebanon
in 1982, they received the tacit backing of the United States, but were
condemned by nearly everybody else. What was then the Soviet Union provided
support for those Palestinians resisting the invasion, while Arab governments
were united in condemnation of Israel.
This time, the only governments to condemn Israel outright are Iraq and
Iran - both pariahs of the New World Order. The USA, chief underwriter of
the 'peace process', has backed Israel, saying that the Hizbollah had it
coming. The British government too has supported the Israelis. Most strikingly
of all, Arab governments themselves have made only the most perfunctory
condemnations, while continuing to normalise relations with Israel. In the
middle of the invasion, Tunisia became the fourth Arab government to establish
official diplomatic ties with Israel.
The most repulsive response to the invasion is the way that governments
and media automatically draw an equivalence between the actions of the Hizbollah
guerrillas and the Israeli army, between the suffering of the inhabitants
of northern Israel and those in southern Lebanon. Reports speak of rocket
'duels' between Hizbollah and the Israeli Army, as if 300 volunteers armed
with antiquated portable weapons were any kind of logistical match for the
might of the Israeli army with all of its state-of-the-art military equipment.
The colossal destruction wrought by the Israeli Air Force across Lebanon
is treated on a par with the occasional holes in the ground left by Hizbollah
Likewise, the evacuation of Israelis from northern Israel is treated as
part of the same human tragedy as the flight of nearly half a million Lebanese
towards Beirut. But there is no comparison between the concrete bunkers
of the Israelis, the organised evacuation from comfortable settlements under
the protection of one of the most powerful armies in the world, and the
panic-stricken flight of hundreds of thousands of impoverished villagers
under remorseless attack from the Israeli Air Force and artillery.
Both Israeli and US officials have insisted that the invasion of South Lebanon
does not endanger the peace process. They are absolutely right. In fact
the almost universal acceptance of the invasion has been made possible by
the peace process. From Northern Ireland to South Africa, today's peace
processes have divided all those involved in conflict into two simple categories:
those who are tolerant and are prepared to accommodate difference, and those
who are not. In the case of the Middle Eastern peace process, on the side
of 'tolerance' stand the Israeli government and the PLO, while on the side
of 'intolerance' are fundamentalists of every hue - Hamas, Hizbollah and
the Israeli right. In this new manichean world, anything can be justified
in order to save the peace process from intolerant fundamentalists. It is
this division which has made possible the destruction of Southern Lebanon
with international support; the fundamentalists threaten the peace process,
therefore they and their supporters must be eliminated.
Michael Portillo, the British defence secretary, gave a good account of
this logic while on an official visit to Israel at the height of the invasion.
Voicing his support for Israel, he expressed the hope that his hosts would
know when to call a halt to their actions, adding that, once they did, the
peace process could resume. What Portillo is saying is that war should no
longer be seen as a threat to peace, that once the Israelis have finished
slaughtering and making refugees out of people in Southern Lebanon, they
can get back to the negotiating table as if nothing has happened. In fact,
by its own logic the peace process will be strengthened, since the fundamentalist
threat to it will be so much the weaker. In the Orwellian world created
by the peace process, it is only through a war of aggression that peace
can be achieved.
- There will be a live chat on latest developments in the Lebanon
on Wednesday April 24 at 2200 BST in the Living Marxism chat
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