War in the Middle East
Samuel Johnson, the 18th century sage, observed that in war, truth was
always a casualty. Never has this been truer than with the Middle East.
Israel and its Muslim neighbours have constantly fought public relations
battles to put their opponents in the worst possible light. Israel has
lately been losing the PR struggle, but the spotlight is beginning to focus
more on Hezbollah. This war is really about the same old issue: Israel's
right to exist.
For 2000 years Jews sought a homeland. From the Middle East they went to
Russia, Poland and Germany, and were subjected to pogroms and gas chambers.
The United States and Britain left the door ajar, and in 1917 Zionists
received assurances of a Palestinian Jewish homeland. The League of Nations
endorsed a British mandate over the area in 1922, and after many
tribulations the state of Israel was born in 1948, then admitted to the
United Nations next year. Arabs displaced, and many beyond, have refused to
recognise Israel. Hamas is pledged to its destruction. Iran's president
thumbs his nose at the UN, declares Israel should be wiped from the globe,
and is openly anti-Semitic. Iran and Syria hope to destroy Israel. They pay,
and give weapons, to anti-Semitic fanatics. Ever since 1948 the Jewish
homeland has had to fight to survive. Ringed by enemies, it has only a
toehold in the Middle East. This most recent outbreak began, you'll recall,
when Hamas guerrillas tunnelled into Israel from Gaza, and Hezbollah did the
same from Lebanon. Start of yet another concerted war to destroy Israel? It
looked like it, and the Israelis reacted ferociously.
It's clear that New Zealand's reporters had no knowledge of the history. TV3
sent the amiable Mike McRoberts to report on Israel's efforts to clear south
Lebanon of guerrilla tunnels, ammunition stockpiles, mobile rocket launchers
and Hezbollah's fellow travellers. Its arsenal of 13,000 Iranian rockets and
missiles had been established right under the noses of UN "observers", and
in violation of a UN resolution. McRoberts saw only carnage as the Israelis
tried to find and destroy terrorists. His victims were "innocent civilians".
But were they? Hezbollah farms the "civilian" population of south Lebanon,
using them as human shields while they attack Israel. The south Lebanese
refuse to recognise the authority of their duly elected government,
preferring the rule of foreign-funded guerrillas. Hezbollah keeps firing
rockets and seems not to care if families are consequently killed by Israeli
retaliation. Life seems cheap to jihadists. It's another form of child
abuse. It's not caused by self-indulgence as in parts of Rotorua's Ford
Block, but by mediaeval doctrinal struggles against Jews and their western
backers, especially the United States. Hezbollah hopes that unschooled
western TV viewers will see their human shields as innocents. TV3 fell into
this trap, unwittingly fighting Hezbollah's crusade for a week or more. They
stoked Kiwi anti-Semitism, rather than provide accurate information about
the war and its causes.
Channel-surfing, I formed the impression once again that Sky, and especially
the BBC, had better informed reporters. The brutal truth is that Israel
represents the only toehold which those of us who are products of the Age of
Enlightenment have in a region that hates democracy, subjugates women and
minorities, breeds excessively, has no respect for human rights and justice,
and perverts the meaning of martyrdom by killing for their religion. Jews
carry a huge burden - as they always have. Increasingly, they look like an
outpost in the next struggle with an increasingly belligerent Muslim world
that won't recognise Israel's right to exist. Modernity or the Dark Ages
look like our choices.
I intend none of this as an apology for some of the reckless things done in
the name of Israel over the years. The intifada beginning in 2000 was stoked
by the deliberate actions of Ariel Sharon for personal advancement. His
visit to the Arabs' sacred Temple Mount was a calculated provocation.
Without deserving it, he benefited by becoming Israel's Prime Minister. But
when your grip on survival is as tenuous as Israel's, there's no room for
weakness. Hunting elusive Hezbollah guerrillas is a difficult task, hence
the deaths. Why did the UN do so little to stop Hezbollah's stockpiling?
Until everyone accepts Israel's right to exist, war will continue despite
any further UN resolution that might eventuate. Our futures depend on the
full truth, not TV sob stories. And never forget: those who start unjust
wars, usually lose them.