Theses on Lebanon:

  • It is obscene for our government to expend effort rescuing Canadians from a war zone while refusing to call for a ceasefire and working to achieve it. The same conditions threaten Lebanese civilians as menace ours. They are as human and as innocent as our own citizens, and we owe them a moral duty. If evacuation is urgently needed, then so is a ceasefire.
  • It is obscene to demolish infrastructure such as power plants, roads, bridges or airports merely because they are used by those you are fighting. Infrastructure of that sort is the skeleton of civilized life, used by everyone. Why not bomb orchards, supermarkets and cows? Terrorists use them, too.
  • An Israeli journalist told Peter Mansbridge that Israel wants to “solve” the Hezbollah problem for good and counts on the U.S. to let it do so. But, as is often acknowledged in Israel, the real aim is not a solution. It is to buy some time by destroying or degrading the other side for a while. That is all.

    So, in 1982, Israel occupied Lebanon to solve the presence of the PLO. The PLO left and, shortly after, Hezbollah was created. By 2000, Hezbollah had driven Israel out. Now, at most, Israel will buy more time and something new will arise.

    Similarly in Gaza. Israel helped create Hamas in the 1980s to undermine the PLO. Eventually, Hamas drove it from Gaza. Now, if it destroys Hamas, something will eventually replace it.

  • Shimon Peres looked more ashen than usual, answering Larry King’s question on the violence of Israel’s response to Hezbollah, with, “Then why did they start it?” He seemed exhausted more than convinced, as if he has said this too often. There is no single answer to who started it. The answer will vary with the assumptions in the question. All philosophy students know that.

    But for an answer that can lead to a better question, try Israeli columnist Gideon Levy, in Haaretz, who said the occupation started it, and all the odious unjustifiable violence on all sides flows from there because “there is no violence worse than the violence of the occupier, using force on an entire nation.” Surely he was writing as a Jew, not just as a journalist.

  • George Bush revealed himself over an open mike when he said: “See, the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing that shit, and it’s over.” To him, nothing counts except the true agenda (versus the public rhetoric) of those with power, especially state power.

    Now, doubtless, Iran and Syria have their agendas for Hezbollah, and Hezbollah’s leaders have their own. But there is also a role played by the feelings of ordinary people, especially their sense of solidarity with their beleaguered brethren, as Arabs and Muslims tend to feel for Palestinians. It is the same sense that leads Jews elsewhere to identify with and support Israel. Without that force, it is hard to imagine Hezbollah acting as it did.

  • Stephen Harper has behaved ideologically, in this sense: When the outbreak began, he reacted according to his ideological preconceptions about the Mideast; he supported Israel as being provoked and measured. When a Canadian family died under Israeli fire, he did not allow that event to modify anything in his response. He did not ask what they did to merit their fate, nor what measured objective their deaths served. Reality was irrelevant.
  • What matters now in the Mideast is not who is right, or why they feel right. What matters is who has the might to impose their notion of right. The bloody individual carnage inflicted by Israel’s foes has never been commensurate with the vast damage inflicted by Israel on Palestinian and Lebanese society over generations.

    Spiderman may think that with great power goes great responsibility. But it is hard to imagine anyone who, like Israel, feels deeply menaced and morally justified, not using the power they have. In that case, great responsibility falls on those who endow them with that power, particularly the U.S. It is criminal to create a huge imbalance of power in a fragile situation. It is criminally negligent to then stand back and refuse to seriously try to moderate its use. But that is where I began.


Rick Salutin

Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright and critic. He is a strong advocate of left wing causes and writes a regular column in the Toronto Star.