Friday, July 21, 2006

Many 'firsts' but they won't be the 'lasts'

July 18, 2006

There are many firsts in the ongoing crises in Palestine and Lebanon. Among them are:
It is the first time that the Israeli armed forces are engaged in armed conflicts with Arab non-govermental forces, but the war has been taken into Israel as opposed to previous occasions when the military action was limited to the border areas and inside Israel's Arab neighbours — Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
It is for the first time that Israel is seemingly caught up in a no-win situation, at least in theory since it is highly unlikely that the Palestinians or Hizbollahis would succumb to military pressure and accept Israel's terms and conditions to end its assaults.
It is for the first time that rockets land in Israeli towns, killing and wounding people (During the 1991 war, Iraq fired around 40 long-range Scud missiles at Israel, and the only death was that of an Israeli who suffered a heart attack).
It is for the first time that Israelis feel that they are involved in a real war and have to take shelter in towns like Haifa and Tel Aviv.
It is for the first time that many Arabs feel elated and positive that the outcome of the crises would be in favour of the Arabs because they see geopolitical imperatives as a key factor in blocking the crises spilling over to the region and pushing Israel rather than the Palestinians or Hizbollah into a corner rather than the Palestinians or Hizbollah. Well, that is the way the thinking goes, wishful as indeed it might be.
And the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Hizbollahis in Lebanon have surprised the world with their resilience. They have stood fast, and Hizbollah has "promised" that more "surprises" are on the way.
For the Arabs on the street, the Palestinian and Hizbollah positions have boosted their morale. They are closely following what is going on in Palestine and Lebanon, perhaps with more attention on the Israeli-Hizbollah front than on Gaza if only because the Lebanese group seems to have the potential to keep the Israelis not only engaged but also on their toes.
Talk to any Arab on the street, and the first thing that comes up is the sense of Arab pride on Hizbollah and the Palestinians.
There are even those who are convinced (or are hoping against hope) that Hizbollah has long-range missiles and that the group would soon use them not only against Israel's nerve centres such as Tel Aviv and Beersheba, but also against the Jewish state's Dimona nuclear reactor in the southern desert.
We could only imagine the consequences of such attacks. But then, that is not the point for many who see the ongoing conflicts in Palestine and Lebanon as signalling a "make-or-break" point in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Is that necessarily the case? Of course, the outcome of the Palestine and Lebanon crises would help reshape the geopolitics of the region, but that need not necessarily be in the Arab favour unless of course the Israeli psyche undergoes a 180-degree turn and comes to terms with the inevitability of having to accept the legitimate Arab and Palestinian rights as the basis for peace inthe Middle East.
However, in the meantime, the human suffering is untold in Gaza and Lebanon, and ending that should one of the top priorities for anyone who believes in fair justice for everyone in this world.
Israeli is mercilessly pounding Lebanon, targeting even civilians fleeing the frontline areas, as the death of more than 40 children travelling in open vehicles in the last two days proved, and yet its action is defined as exercising the "right to self-defence." Well, those children did not pose a threat to Israel's security, but their death would instill so much hardline feelings among their peers and they would run into hundreds and thousands who would join the ranks of resistance and pose real threats to Israel.
In the meantime, world powers are also committing a major crime by giving a carte blanche to Israel until it achieves its objectives of its current offensives in Palestine and Lebanon — whatever that might be. By the time they wake up to the realities, it might indeed be too late for many innocent human beings whose only crime was to hope for an end to life under foreign occupation and humiliation and for dignified life in freedom. The responsibility is on the world powers to put an immediate end to Israel's atrocities against the innocents of Palestine and Lebanon.