No escaping the consequences of this war

Christian Palestinians demonstrate after the Sunday mass in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour against the Israeli invasions to Lebanon and Gaza by performing a mock funeral with three coffins marked as United Nations, Arab League and International Conscience, 6 August 2006. The procession marched queitly through the streets and at the city center the coffins were buried as priest held a mass. (MaanImages/Magnus Johansson)

When the orgy of destruction stops and the dust of battle settles, leaders in most countries of the region and worldwide will retreat behind safe doors to assess the outcome. Israel’s latest war has placed the region at the doorstep of a new, and a totally different era. Hardly any country will escape the consequences.

Israel may have the most on its post-war menu. The war has shaken the foundations of matters once taken for granted. It has underlined that Israel’s security cannot be guaranteed by military superiority alone, even with unlimited support from a superpower. Even the growing trend, over recent decades, of Arab recognition of the Jewish state and the formal agreements with a few Arab states may now have to be gradually downgraded. Israel cannot expect the so-called peace process to move any further with so much more innocent Arab blood spilled by its new massacres in Palestine and Lebanon. The Israeli apartheid system has totally and finally disqualified itself from ever becoming part of this region.

Israel intended its Lebanon war, as well as its constant bombardment of defenceless people in Gaza, to be a way to reassert its military superiority and rebuild its army’s self-esteem after they were shaken by military attacks from Hamas and Hizbollah. But it achieved the opposite: Whatever confidence existed has now been lost as Israel’s army has emerged as nothing more than a cowardly bunch that drops bombs on apartment blocks and refugee camps from great heights, and even when engaged in ground battles can be defeated by sophisticated, modern and determined resistance forces. Although it has killed a thousand people and destroyed almost every road bridge in Lebanon, the Israeli army has not dented the ability of Hizbollah to launch retaliatory ballistic missiles at Israeli cities, causing significant losses and paralysing a million Israelis in shelters. Israeli planners will now likely choose between two options, either deceptive or difficult.

One is to continue to blame the alleged inherent wickedness and anti-Semitism of Arabs and Muslims, whom Israel views as uncivilised and inferior to its “Western civilisation” and “Jewish values” for the increased resistance it is facing, and therefore respond with increased force and brutality, higher walls or more complex and expensive weapons. This is the choice Israel has always taken, and it has never done anything to improve Israel’s security. The current war is no more than a re-run of similar attempts by Israel to destroy the resistance in Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 1996. Like those attempts, it will also fail.

The second choice for Israel is to finally recognise a very simple principle: Peace cannot be built on injustice. Israel has been trying to invent an environment of peace and security for itself and its people in the midst of an ocean of anger, rejection, turmoil, injustice, and lawlessness caused by its aggression, colonialism and unrestricted violence against the people of the region, including the assassination and kidnapping of their elected political representatives. All these “extremist movements,” Hamas and Hizbollah, and we will witness the rise of others soon, are the natural outcome of decades of misreading the region and mistreating its people. There is no prerequisite for putting an end to the raging cycle of violence, the mounting loss of life, the endless suffering and the mad destruction, other than Israel abandoning the mentality of expansionism and colonisation and denying all the rights of others. Israel cannot be secure as long as it chooses to rob the region’s people of their land and rights and subject them to total humiliation. The more Israel continues to deceive itself that it is an innocent victim surrounded by uncivilised savages who deserve nothing but its bombs, the harder it will be to break out of this impasse. Time is definitely not in Israel’s favour, and if there is a bit of opportunity left for it to make up for decades of blunder, in fact a whole history of blood, crime, abuse and shame, it will soon be lost if not quickly seized.

What is the point of keeping the Arab League when it failed to even hold a high level meeting to discuss a major aggression and total destruction of a member state?

Members of the Arab League also have much to consider. The Lebanon war has further exposed the lack of unity prevailing among Arab states. What is the point of keeping the Arab League when it failed to even hold a high level meeting to discuss a major aggression and total destruction of a member state? What is the meaning of the Arab Common Defence Pact when Arab leaders rushed to declare their opposition to risking their own tranquillity by helping other Arab countries under attack? It is an utter shame that the Arab foreign ministers waited for nearly a month before agreeing to meet in Beirut, the capital of a besieged and destroyed Lebanon to offer support. What kind of “support” is that after so much destruction? What dignity and honour do they have, when their journey could only be possible with permission from Israel, which controls the skies over Lebanon? Is it not proof of the worthlessness of such a feeble demonstration of failure that Israel permitted it to go ahead?

Watching the veil of embarrassment and shame covering the faces of the Arab foreign ministers as they watched the prime minister of Lebanon sobbing and wiping his tears while delivering his opening speech, I wondered if he was mourning the destruction and death in his country, or of the Arab League. Elsewhere, as far away as Casablanca, demonstrators held mock funerals for the organisation, displaying just how much public confidence is left in it.

Time is also running out for the Arab regimes who have for so long ignored the feelings of their people, building up layers of humiliation, anger and disgust as a result of defeatism, corruption, incompetence, hypocrisy and oppression. If they have managed so far to dismiss the rising forces of resistance and rejection as extremist trends of terrorism, this may not be possible any more. The victory of the resistance in Lebanon is going to change the equation drastically and it will gradually weaken Arab officialdom as outdated and defeated.

And for the so-called “international community,” which trailed blindly behind the forces led by US and Israeli thinking, justifying all their injustices and rationalisations of lawlessness, it is time to realise that the victims of the prevailing chaos will not for long remain restricted to Arabs and Muslims, so easily demonised as “terrorists.” The precedents tested on Arab and Muslim peoples and countries will soon be used elsewhere, and no one will be spared the consequences of America and Israel’s, with European collaboration, undoing of all the achievements in international law and human rights since World War II. All of us must stand up to the horrors being committed in the name of this “war on terror,” a war of the rich against the poor, of the privileged against the disenfranchised, of the white North against people of colour in the global south, if we are to stop the flames from leaping higher and engulfing us all.

EI contributor Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations.

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