Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hezbollah Started It; But Israel Screwed Up the Response

A couple of days ago, AMERICAblog's A.J. posted a very thoughtful, nuanced piece on the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. The gist is that Hezbollah, and Lebanon, lack the moral legitimacy that the Palestinians have -- but Israel bungled its response so badly that it has lost a lot of the high ground.

The conflict between Israel and Lebanon, I should note, is fundamentally different from that between Israel and the Palestinians. In the midst of a complicated regional and political situation, I think some observers are unfairly linking those two separate situations. Criticisms of Israel that are fair with regard to Palestinians are less persuasive with regard to the situation in Lebanon. There is no "legitimate" resistance from Lebanon against Israel, insofar as Israel does not occupy any part of Lebanon (having unilaterally withdrawn from southern Lebanon in 2000). Hezbollah is not a Palestinian group, nor is it immediately associated with Palestinian interests. The stated goal of Hezbollah is to eliminate the existence of Israel. One cannot equate Hezbollah with Hamas, structurally or politically. Both are terroristic political organizations that attack Israel, but there are marked differences.

Hezbollah is a Shia group supported by Iran and Syria. It is a movement with over 1 million estimated supporters, but it does not have the support of a majority of the Lebanese population, and although it has representation in Lebanese parliament, it is a decidedly minority party. Lebanon has not been able to satisfy the requirements of multiple U.N. resolutions requiring the government to take control of the southern part of the country, which has been essentially ceded to Hezbollah control. When Israel withdrew in 2000, it had a reasonable expectation that Lebanon would get Hezbollah under control, and that Hezbollah's legitimacy would decrease since Israel no longer occupied any part of Lebanon. Lebanon has not managed to control Hezbollah since then; rather, Syria was the nation with the most control over Hezbollah, an influence which waned considerably when Syrian troops were forced out of Lebanon in 2005.

In contrast, Hamas, which still is absolutely a terrorist organization, is the fairly elected governing political party of the Palestinians, who do have territory occupied by Israel. Hamas is a Sunni group, and it is not significantly managed by other states (though other Arab nations do provide some funding).

The current conflict is between Hezbollah and Israel, and in this fight Israel has more legitimacy than some give it credit for. This position is further supported by the remarkable and unprecedented recent reactions from other Arab states, which have criticized Hezbollah rather than the usual approach of blaming everything on Israel. A decent analogy is (the old) Afghanistan, a sovereign nation wherein a terrorist group operated with impunity. Virtually everyone agreed that the U.S. had the right to invade Afghanistan to get at al-Qa'ida because the Afghan government wouldn't (and really couldn't) control them itself.

The method of retaliation, however, has erased some of this legitimacy, and the attacks against Lebanon's infrastructure and economy are morally questionable to say the least. While I understand the goal, Israel is going about it the wrong way, punishing too many of the wrong people. I'm not convinced that Israel's actions are appropriately matched to its strategic goals. Hezbollah, of course, remains morally repugnant, and continues to indiscriminately fire missiles into civilian areas.


Tiredofitall said...

It seems as though you disagree with my comments. I thought liberals were suppose to cherish free speech and the thoughts of others no matter if you may disagree with them. I will for now think that you haven't had the chance to read my comment to you. If would would like to read my blog it is at the following address.
Please feel free to comment.
I may disagree with your article but it is well written and shows your point of view.

Tiredofitall said...

A.J.'s post brings into question Israel randomly firing missles into Lebannon, while he didn't mention that many places that have been targeted are Hezboallah strongholds. Last night for example the IDF destroyed a building that housed civilians yet,Hezbollah chose to fire missiles from in and around this location. Hezbollah not unlike all terrorist groups have chosen to hide behind innocent civilans. Israel has asked the Lebonnese people to move away from Hezbollah, yet they have chosen not to. I ask you is Israel wrong or Hezbollah?