July 31, 2006 - Morality has been twisted and turned on its head. But before we get to that, it's important to recognize yesterday's tragedy.
An Israeli airstrike on Qana, Lebanon killed more than 50 civilians, many of them children. There are no words to describe how awful this is, and no one of good conscience can fail to feel sorrow and regret.
The last ones who wanted anything like this to happen are the Israelis. They apologized for the incident. They had warned the civilians to leave, thus alerting Hezbollah to the strike. They have agreed to a two-day ceasefire, giving Hezbollah precious time to rearm and regroup. This does not play to Israel's advantage. It is a disaster for Israel, not just a military setback but possibly the worst public relations catastrophe in Israel's history.
We have witnessed more passionate anti-Israel demonstrations worldwide, yet another anti-Israel Security Council resolution, a forced halt in Israel's efforts to combat Hezbollah, and Israel taking another precipitous fall in world opinion. After having suffered all this, Israel can hardly be accused of having killed these civilians deliberately or even wanting anything like this to happen.
Israel was not after civilians. Dozens of rockets had been fired from Qana at Israel's cities, and more rockets were being shipped in. The IDF has video showing rocket launchers hidden in civilian buildings and more rockets and launchers being driven into the town in trucks. Israel's goal was to clear the area of civilians, then make sure Qana would no longer remain a launching pad for killing Israelis. Hezbollah makes this task very difficult, by threatening civilians who try to obey Israel's order to evacuate.
It is time to assess the meaning of it all. One can debate the soundness of Israel's military strategy. One can also debate the soundness of Israel simply doing nothing and allowing its citizens to be missile targets. The entire dilemma arises because of the kind of war Hezbollah is fighting.
Imagine that a robber breaks into a store and takes a hostage. He does not simply try to get away, but starts shooting at the other customers. The security guard tries to stop him, but misses and shoots the hostage. Who is to blame, the security guard or the robber?
Israel is having difficulty winning this war - and may actually lose - because Hezbollah has become expert in a new kind of warfare. This new style of war is crafty, ruthless, and shows contempt for the values that make civilized societies work. It is waged by non-state entities that have no allegiance to the countries in which they are based, nor regard for the lives of the people who live in those countries. It relies on hide-and-seek, hit-and-run tactics, blending in with the population and using civilians as shields. Hezbollah knows that the Lebanese civilian is the most potent weapon in its arsenal, so it even intimidates people from heeding Israeli warnings to flee dangerous areas.
Hezbollah fighters stage attacks from populated areas, knowing they will draw return fire. They make themselves impossible to hit without inflicting harm on civilians. Instead of taking precautions for the safety of the Lebanese people, Hezbollah deliberately puts them in harm's way, and when inevitably they are hurt it blames Israel. The Security Council passes resolutions criticizing only Israel, and only Israel is accused of war crimes. In the meantime, every single day Hezbollah commits a war crime by firing rockets into Israel with the explicit intention of killing civilians, and there is no similar outcry. Because Israelis do have a conscience, they are expected to live up to it, whereas nobody expects civilized behavior from Hezbollah so no one is surprised when it's not forthcoming.
A report in the Australian Herald Sun contains striking photos that reveal what Hezbollah is up to. They show Hezbollah launching rockets from within heavily populated neighborhoods. The Hezbollah fighters dress just like the people around them, so Israel has no way of knowing who is who.
A journalist visiting Christian East Beirut took these pictures, and at considerable personal risk a friend who was there at the time smuggled them out. Here is what he had to say, followed by the photos:
Hezbollah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets. Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was totally devastated. It was carnage. Two innocent people died in that incident, but it was so lucky it was not more.
We tend to forget what this war is about. Hezbollah has told us, in its speeches and in its charter. The war is about Israel's existence. Hezbollah is fighting to kill Israelis, to make Israel unlivable for Jews so that it can become an Islamic republic. Israelis are fighting to live safely in their homes. The use of human shields and the intentional firing on civilians are violations of international law and are war crimes. Hezbollah is guilty of both, yet Israel is accused. Morality has been twisted and stood on its head.
Hezbollah attacks not only Israelis. By turning ordinary people into tools of war, by positioning heavy weapons close to women and children, and by firing missiles with warheads full of ball bearings whose only purpose is to tear through human flesh, Hezbollah attacks the basic values that make us human. And this will spread, if the world fails to take a stand against it.
Just how cynical is this war? Hezbollah is not stupid. It knows that when it fires rockets at Israel, Israel fires back. Yet it left its launcher near a building where women, children, and frail people were staying. It is more than possible that Hezbollah wanted that building hit. The support Hezbollah gained from this disaster is worth many battles.
Start a war based on pure hatred, then hide behind the regular population: it is difficult to imagine what more Hezbollah could have done to ensure Lebanese civilian casualties. The solution is simple: Hezbollah must stop firing rockets at Israeli civilians, and must remove all those rockets from the Lebanese border. Is that unreasonable? Why does Hezbollah need those rockets? To protect Lebanon from Israel? Israel has no interest in Lebanon, especially remembering its bitter past experiences there. For the past six years Israel left Lebanon alone, while Hezbollah stockpiled thousands of rockets, putting increasing numbers of Israelis within range. That is what happens when Israel complies with world demand and does nothing in its own defense. Those rockets have been flying into Israel since even before this war. It is on account of those rockets that Israel went into Lebanon. Get rid of the rockets.
But instead of putting pressure on Hezbollah, the world unites against Israel. This is a victory for the nihilistic values of radical Islam. If this new style of warfare is allowed to work in Israel, the extremists who love it will export it, possibly to a city near you. The signs are already visible. Hassan Nasrallah, who has called for the liquidation of the Jewish people, is a world-renowned hero. He is riding higher than ever. Hezbollah threatens to extend its jihad to the West. Meanwhile the U.N. puts Israel on trial.
There is far more at stake here than people may realize - even more than Israel's existence.
A Lebanese Shiite wrote a chilling letter to the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, showing what Hezbollah is really all about:
I lived until 2002 in a small southern village near Mardshajun that is inhabited by a majority of Shias like me. After Israel left Lebanon, it did not take long for Hezbollah to have the say in our town and all other towns. Received as successful resistance fighters, they appeared armed to the teeth and dug rocket depots in bunkers in our town as well. The social work of the Party of God consisted in building a school and a residence over these bunkers! A local sheikh explained to me laughing that the Jews would lose in any event because the rockets would either be fired at them or if they attacked the rocket depots, they would be condemned by world opinion on account of the dead civilians. These people do not care about the Lebanese population, they use them as shields, and, once dead, as propaganda. As long as they continue existing there, there will be no tranquility and peace.
Dr. Mounir Herzallah
These are the words of an eyewitness. He saw it and he heard it. The Hezbollah Paradox: Either kill or be killed, and if possible, kill innocents. It is a calculated strategy. They know what they are doing. Those Jews think they have a conscience? Put them in a position where in order to save themselves they must kill civilians. Turn them into baby killers. Make them exactly like us.
This is the deep threat that Hezbollah poses to all of us. The Party Without a Conscience wants to destroy the conscience of the other side. And if it can do it to Israel, then radical Islam can do it to the world. Then we will return to a world ruled by merciless force instead of regard for human life and human rights and human dignity. And we will call that a theocracy.
The IDF does not want to kill civilians. The very first rule in the IDF Code of Conduct is: "Military action can only be taken against military targets." But what do you do if the enemy turns civilians into military targets? What do you do if the enemy will use those civilian-based installations to kill you if you don't take them out? Either lose your life or lose your humanity: that is the agenda of Hezbollah and its friends in the world of Islamic extremism.
Israel is up against the most psychopathic, amoral belief system the world has known since Nazism, rivaling it and in some ways even surpassing it in cruelty. Gassing people to death is humane compared to slowly beheading people or tearing their bodies apart with shrapnel bombs. Even the Nazis did not wrap bombs around their own children. Israel is fighting against enemies who are anti-humanity and anti-life. They tell us so themselves: "We are going to win because they love life and we love death." If those values prevail, the whole world will have lost a piece of its humanity.
In this different kind of war the enemy is not a state and not united by any national allegiance. It is united by an ideology. And ideologies are not fixed to any territory. They spread. And they spread much faster if their adherents believe they have defeated their opponents and made them as inhuman as they are themselves.
Is it likely that the perpetrators of the new anti-human holy war, intoxicated by their sudden increase of power and glory, will be satisfied and stop? World opinion may have much to say about that.
And that is what worries me.
CNN News Staff. "Israel Halts Airstrikes for 48 Hours." CNN.com, July 30, 2006.
Guiora, Amos. "Balancing IDF Checkpoints and International Law: Teaching the IDF Code of Conduct." Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, November 19, 2003.
Katz, Yaakov. "IDF: 150 Rockets Fired from Qana at Israeli Cities." Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2006.
Link, Chris. "Photos that Damn Hezbollah." Australian Herald Sun, July 30, 2006.
Ouellette, David trans. "A Lebanese Shia Explains How Hezbollah Uses Human Shields." Judeoscope, July 30, 2006.
Peace with Realism