Grounds for Optimism in Fight v Hezbollah?

Gloria Salt of thinks so:

Things certainly look grim, but to my mind, there are also some striking signs of light. Today is a particularly bad day, and it feels a little inappropriate to be talking positive — but perhaps there’s all the more reason today to try to find reasons for hope. Here are a few.

1. The exposure of UNIFIL. A good proportion of the hundreds upon hundreds of rockets Hezbollah has been raining down on us from southern Lebanon are being shot off from relatively small launchers. There’s small and there’s small, though. You can get some of these launchers onto the back of a pickup truck, but you can’t, say, hide them in your breast pocket or under your hat. You can’t, in other words, install hundreds of rocket launchers in civilian backyards without anyone ever seeing any of them.

UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon), which has always protested that its only function is to observe (a point it demonstrated by quietly watching the abduction in 2000 of three Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah), has somehow managed to miss a long-term, wide-scale deploying of these weapons all over civilian areas throughout south Lebanon. Even if you absolve UNIFIL of moral bankruptcy and willful blindness here (although I’m hard pressed to imagine why we should, considering the decades of sanctimonious moral grandstanding we’ve had to put up with from the UN), they surely give new dimension to the terms “incompetent”, “inept”, and “useless”. As we have seen, the deployment of huge quantities of weaponry all over Lebanese civilian areas placed those civilians in the ultimate line of fire. We all know the UN is not on the Israeli side in any conflict, but UNIFIL has demonstrated the UN’s inability even to protect those civilian populations it does give a damn about. Israel has agreed that UNIFIL can have a role in maintaining a cease-fire, but only if it is issued a new mandate and is given the power to take action.

2. The exposure of the cracked “united Arab front”. A top-dog Saudi cleric has just issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from praying for Hezbollah or otherwise supporting them. He has labeled them “the party of the devil”, which sounds about right. Granted, this reflects the Sunni-Shiite divide rather than any sudden recognition of the soundness of Israel’s position in this conflict, but so what? (The Saudi cleric is Wahhabist Sunni; i.e., a spiritual kinsman of Osama bin-Laden; Hezbollah is Shiite.) Hezbollah, for all its big talk about representing the “Muslim nation”, has antagonized a significant portion of that nation and may ultimately receive a good kicking from its own brethren. Extremist Wahhabists are not interested in being dragged into a mess created by Shiite heretics, and moderate Muslims don’t especially want their interests hijacked by Iranian imams and their totalitarian wet dreams. This is far from a united front.

3. The restoration of an Israeli sense of unity and moral imperative. Reacting with force to so unequivocal an attack on Israeli civilians is entirely appropriate. No one seriously disputes the necessity of taking up this fight. We withdrew from Lebanon six years ago. The self-described “resisters” of Israeli “aggression” in Lebanon, flummoxed by the lack of actual Israelis in the neighborhood, got a little ahead of themselves and attacked Israel proper, thereby revealing their true agenda. Obviously Israel had to defend itself — a point that is clear even to Israelis, who are notorious for being their own worst critics.

4. Parts of the Muslim world see the folly of Nasrallah’s actions — and are saying it out loud. The rest of the Muslim world — that is, the non-extreme Muslim world — has expressed disgust and impatience with the Hezbollah “adventure”. Editorials have appeared in news organs across the Arab world, including the London-based, wide-circulation al-Hayat, criticizing Hezbollah’s unprovoked aggression against us. This astonishingly public acknowledgement of an Israeli side of the story has largely dried up, but it is refreshing and encouraging that we saw it at all.

5. Even parts of Europe get it. Notoriously biased European news organs have shown signs of recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against deadly assaults on its civilian centers. In the first few days of the war, I sat open-mouthed in front of the television while British commentators expressed sympathy with Israel. This was on the BBC, mind you; these weren’t token non-anti-Semitic Brits wheeled in for color on Fox News. They even pinioned a hapless Palestinian roundtable panelist with just the variety of lip-curling borderline contempt they usually reserve for us. The disaster at Qana dented this support, and rightly so; but I was heartened by the speed with which there was talk in Europe about the possibility that much of the carnage was staged. We’ve come a long way from the wide-eyed credulity of the Mohammad al-Dura/Jenin “massacre” age.

6. The exposure of the extent of Syria’s relationship with Iran, and the vocal resistance to the Syrian-Iranian influence over the lives of innocent Lebanese. As Dennis Ross neatly put it, “Iran will fight Israel to the last Lebanese”. The Lebanese, rightly proud of their nascent democracy, are not interested in being pawns of pathetically backward Bashar al-Assad or batshit-crazy Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. And they’re speaking up.

7. The general recognition that Iran is behind this aggression, and the consequent refocusing of attention on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

8. The exposure of the cynicism of the enemy. Israeli soldiers put children behind them in order to protect them, and Hezbollah puts children in front of them in order to protect themselves. When the IDF harms enemy civilians — even when those civilians have been deliberately placed in harm’s way by their own side — they recognize the horror of what they have done and apologize for it. Hezbollah, by contrast, would consider a Qana-sized strike in Haifa or Hadera or Netanya — a strike, in other words, that killed dozens of Israeli men, women and children, but with the critical difference that their targeting was deliberate — a great success. The resulting death and destruction suffered by those Lebanese unfortunate enough to live beside the launchers from which the rockets were lobbed would, grotesquely, add to Hezbollah’s perception of its success.

I imagine that much of the unprecedentedly public criticism of Hezbollah that we’ve seen within the Muslim world in the past few weeks stems from a reluctance to be associated with such disgusting and transparent contempt for Muslim lives.

9. The honesty of the enemy. I am always enormously reassured when Israel’s enemies call it the way they really see it. None of this Arafat-esque, forked-tongue, EU-salving bullshit for old Nasrallah. The object is to kill all of us in Israel: to aim directly at my living room and take down as many people like me, my husband and my children as possible. Ahmedinejad, too, continues to ratchet up the tough talk, aiming not only at the erasing of Israel from the face of the earth but the destruction of the United States as well. Not even the dimmest bulb at the State Department can ignore that kind of language, and only Mel Gibson would argue that in the face of a clearly expressed threat of total annihiliation we have no right to defend ourselves. Keep talking, fellas!


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