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Lebanon crisis: everything else pales into insignificance

I’m not quite sure why, but the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon has had an effect upon me far greater than any other armed conflict in recent times.

All conflict is awful, but hearing about Sunday’s air strike on Qana, Lebanon (a massacre which killed at least 54 civilians, mostly children) pushed far enough outside my ‘comfort zone’ that I feel inclined to write something. I just wish I could be as more eloquent in the way I am able to put my thoughts to paper.

Some of the bodies after the attack on Qana

The whole conflict, on both sides just seems so meaningless. But the sustained volley of attacks by Israel upon the civilian targets (intended or otherwise) in Lebanon has just been barbaric. For a race that was quite rightly outraged by the genocide of their own civilian population during WWII, it’s disappointing that they are able to commit acts which begin to verge into similar territory 60+ years later. I can’t see how bombing targets (most of which seem to hold no millitary significance) that will knowingly result in such widespread civilian death isn’t a form of extermination.

This conflict lacks any real objectives, with no exit strategy and no positive outcome regardless of what happens. Hezbollah’s once radical following gains ever more mainstream following. Israel continues to upset the stability of the region. People die.

But my shock and disbelief has turned to anger and disgust with both my government (UK) and the US government.

I’m angry with Tony Blair for pushing for a conveluted ceasefire proposal via the UN – during which time countless people will die – when clearly more imedaite options at his disposel (such as denouncing on behalf of the UK the attrocoties commited on both sides, putting direct presure onto George Bush and starting UK-sponsored peace talks) would be far more effective at saving lives.

I’m angry with the UK government for allowing Israel to use Glasgow Prestwick (a civilian airport used by holiday makers) as a discrete stop-over point for planes delivering missiles from America to Israel — hoping that no one would notice.

I’m outraged that an ever-smiling Condoleezza Rice has the audacity to turn up in Beirut to survey the damage done by bombs that were probably distributed to Israel by her agreement as former National Security Advisor and now Secretary of State to the US Government.

And I’m disgusted with George Bush and the rest of the Neo-Conservative Government of America (which thrives on ongoing significant wars during it’s time in office) for effectively giving Israel ‘seven days carte blanch to do what it wants with Lebanon’ before a peace deal is even begun to be considered.

Yes, I know I’m embarking on a US visa application, which generally requires a bit of a ‘lick your arse power trip’ towards the US authorities. I don’t care whether US Immigration officials visit this blog and read this or not. I feel strongly enough that this goes beyond my immediate circumstances, AND I am condemning my own government just as much as the US.

But my biggest disappointment has stemmed from this photograph, which shows Israeli children writing messages on missiles that are due to be dropped onto Lebanon.

Israeli children write messages on missiles

From other photos from this scene (such as those contained in the video below) it’s clear that the little girl is writing ‘with love’ sarcastically on the bomb.

Sure, I’m getting sucked into propaganda here, but one is left feeling so disappointed with the youth of Israel for not standing up to denounce the violence upon Lebanon.

People will no doubt accuse me of being biased towards the Muslim population. But as an atheist bought up by Buddhist parents I’m pretty impartial about both the Jewish faith and Islamic faith.

I have to admit I generally dislike the concept of any and all religions – it’s always been the number one cause for segregation and conflict in, and is used ultimately as a control/influence mechanism for society.

I’m also not a supporter of Hezbollah either. My concern is with the civilian population of Lebanon, most of whom innocently go about their lives without any involvement terrorism.

Tony Blair has sold us too many times now, and Britain has had its reputation as a respected, moral and just global player severely dented.

What you can do:

Watch this excellent video (made with a mash-up of BBC video and agency images, nothing to do with me), share it with your friends, post it upon your blog:

Secondly, attend the rally on Saturday in London

Lastly, please sign the petition.


Thank you for reading this post – I know it’s a heavy subject but it makes you realise that the rest of this web-two-point-zero bollocks is pales into insignificance when compared to what’s really going on around us.

Published in News Thoughts and Rants


  1. Paul Paul

    You’ve captured some of my thoughts there Ben.

    However, this section needs a little re-working:
    “I’m also not a supporter of Hezbollah (or any other terrorist group)”

    I’m not sure if it’s entirely fair distinguishing them as the terrorist group in this war… they are considered a legitimate political organisation in Lebanon and are responsible for much of the country’s hospitals, schools and care facilities. It’s not a war of nasty terrorists verses an over-reactive Israel, although it’s difficult to not think of it as such, when we’re being constantly being bombarded by biased media reports.

    I think considering many of the points you’ve touched, Hezbolla are no more or less a terrorist group than Israel is.

    “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”

    Of course, by this definition, we and our American neighbours are not exactly free from such a label ourselves.

    I know what you meant when you wrote this, just thought it strayed a little onto some political eggshells that people need to be careful about.

  2. Ben Ben

    Good point, nudged the copy a little.


  3. In terms of popular support for Hezbollah, I was quite taken aback by the level of support for it at the London protests a couple of weekends back. A lot of placards and posters proclaiming support for Hezbollah and its leader. Going to these things and reading the news, I just find myself lost in the middle of hundreds of convincing arguments pulling me in every direction imaginable. How any government could have a consistent and fair Middle East policy is beyond me!

  4. If you’re going to be re-thinking things, this’d be another good one: “For a race that was quite rightly outraged by the genocide of their own civilian population during WWII, it’s disappointing that they are able to commit acts which begin to verge into similar territory 60+ years later.”

    A “race”? With a “civilian population”? So, this race … it also has an army? And that’s the army that’s killing people now? Presumably, “they” are also the same people, still alive 60 years later?

    Do you REALLY think this is similar “territory”? The Israelis are deliberately trying to kill as many Lebanese as possible to purify the world and the ultimate plan is to kill all muslims?

    While I disagree with the way this has evolved, I also believe that Israeli is a democracy and the political will had finally resigned to withdrawl-with-continued-suicide-bombings. And I believe that if the majority of Israelis had their way, there would be two states and no one would ever shoot rockets, across or inside borders. And the same thing is true of the majority of Lebanese and the majority of Palestinians, by the way.

    But I also believe that the conflict and the killing is deliberately provoked to create a sideshow which helps keep oil-fueled dictators in power. In the absense of attacks, even an evil Israeli PM wouldn’t be able to get far in agression – they’d be voted out of office. The same thing doesn’t happen in Iran.

  5. Sam Sam

    hezbollah IS a terrorist group. They were installed in lebanon by Iran, and are funded by iran. they use hospitals, schools for show. Thanks to iranian weapons + funding, they have greater milatory power than the lebanese government.

    I think thats why Israel is going all out on this – there attacking an army not some crackpots with AK47s

  6. Ben, how could you think this? It’s perfectly proportionate the bomb the airport, bomb powers stations, bomb bridges, roads, refugee convoys, blockade the ports, bulldoze homes, and request the entire population of the south to move north a bit (it’s not that much to ask, is it?). And didn’t you know that before they bombed those civilians, they dropped leaflets asking them to get out of the way? Of course that absolves them of all responsibility. After all, they are a democracy and have a free judiciary….. etc…. etc.

  7. Photar Photar

    You know, its the Muslims that want to wipe Israel off the map. Not the other way around. Maybe verge means something else in American English.

    Also, Dr. Rice’s smiles were taken totally out of context in that video.

  8. Ben Ben

    You know, its the Muslims that want to wipe Israel off the map.

    There are also Muslims who want to see every country of entire world turn into an islamic state.

    There are also people who believe the world is flat.

    The point is I think it’s more complicated than your comment – there is no one single ‘Muslim’ view.

    (And I hope one day we’ll find something to agree on Photar.)

  9. Hi Ben. Hope everything’s good with you mate. I must admit I’m surprised to see you venture into such political territory but I also think this issue is so important that it warrants it.
    I think one of the reasons people are often so confused and divided over the Middle East is that western media coverage delights in reporting action but provides very little context.
    I find the statement that Israel is a democracy problematic, as is the policy of branding one group as terrorist while refusing to condemn other parties to the violence.
    I wonder if everyone commenting understands that Israel is illegally occupying someone else’s land and causing great suffering and deprivation to the inhabitants; that Israel was born out of paramilitary violence against Palestinians and the British; that suicide bombings are not some part of the Muslim faith but a relatively recent phenomenon in the Middle East which began after a Jewish extremist massacred Muslim worshippers at Hebron in 1994 and the IDF killed many Palestinian youths in the ensuing curfew; that the present administration is striving to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel so that the interests of other groups can never dominate the “democracy”?
    I don’t believe there’s an excuse for suicide bombings or any of the other violence going on. I do believe the best chance for an end to this horror is for a leader to emerge – on any side – who is strong enough to lead and smart enough to know that bombing people does not solve a region’s problems. The US can help best by stopping the bomb shipments.

  10. Come on Hugh – I think Israel went to far, and not only is it not proportionate, it is not going to have the result they’re after. It’s wrong. Do you think it’s wrong to kill and kidnap Israelis? Presumably, we can both agree on both of those points. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    That wasn’t my point. Do you really think the motivation for bombing is merely to kill Muslims, and any old Muslim will do, because the world is better off with them dead? Are Israel’s policies similar to the Nazi’s in any significant way?

    Any ethical judgement that looks only at the act and not at the purposes and motivations is using a pretty weak ethics.

  11. Alfoiz Alfoiz

    Photar Says:
    August 3rd, 2006 at 3:33 pm

    “You know, its the Muslims that want to wipe Israel off the map. Not the other way around…”

    The above is a perfect example of propaganda that is spewed out and recycled over and over again so as to justify even the worst crimes perpetrated by Israel – If it was the case that Muslims wanted to anhilate jews as did Hitler – I would have accepted Israel’s legitimacy despite its historical illegitimacy because of the likelihood of an equally great crime occurring in the future (this time against Jews).

    Zionists are still at it – to legitimize what is illegitimate – by creating propaganda and creating facts on the ground.

    Many muslims choose not to elaborate on the point of wiping Israel off the map because they are willing to accept a two-state solution which is less than what is righfully theirs even though a non-rebuttal gives propaganda ammunition to those who don’t want to even see a two-state solution.

    Let me explain – “wiping Israel off the map” is a necessary result for a truly JUST peace. Israel’s Jewish character is fundamentally founded on what we now call “ethnic-cleansing” – the expulsion of Palestinians from Palestinian land and colonising the same land with Jewish settlers. Israel continues to maintain this “jewish character” by keeping its doors open only to Jews across the world and provides various incentives for them to settle in Israel. At the same time, in every peace process, it is doggedly opposed to the right of return of the expelled Palestinians on the ground that if that was to happen, Israel will no longer remain to be Israel as Zionists would like to have it – a state with a “Jewish character”.

    So you can see – keeping Israel on the map with a “Jewish character” is a MORAL CONTRAPTION that would fall apart and not work if you recognise and enforce the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

    I agree with Stephen Connor – we need a strong leader – from wherever – to enforce a Just peace. Unfortunately people see what is just and good – but disregard it and choose to see, do and be what is in their own interest. Darwinians would say its an evolutionary traite called ethnocenticity. Perhaps, talking about a just peace, legitimacy and fairness suites me perfectly? If the shoe was on the other foot…who knows?

  12. Stewart, I wasn’t having a go at you in particular, but I do think that standard justifications for this invasion, including the fact that Israel is a democracy, are looking very thin. The trouble is that Israel is giving democracy a bad name. When people in the Arab World see democracy in action, they see a client state of America that wields collective punishment against the people of Palestine and Lebanon. I don’t know what Israel’s motivations are. I expect that they are in this mess because they don’t have clear war aims. But I know that it looks like they don’t care very much for the sanctity of their neighbour’s’ lives. And that is making one billion muslims, very, very angry. And that will have serious consequences for the rest of us.

    Hezbollah is our common enemy. An Iranian style party is no friend of ours. But all this war is doing is giving huge prestige to Hezbollah and their Iranian backers, who may one day have a nuclear bomb. We don’t want Muslim opinion to in any way encourage the use of such a weapon. There needs to be a peace settlement in the Middle East, because this war could escalate and escalate.

    For now, a traditional war cannot be won against a guerilla army. It’s a long battle for hearts and minds. If we want to persuade the people of the the Middle East that human rights, freedom and democracy can be of use to them, then this is not the way to go about it.

    In the end, I think Hollywood and Coca Cola have a better chance of winning this war than bombs and missiles. Desire for a Western life style is probably what bought the Berlin Wall down. Western values are corrupting, fortunately. Hezbollah can melt away from a traditional army, but it can’t get away from people’s desire to live normal, comfortable lives. Let’s get on with tempting the Party of God’s followers away from their dedication to extremism, and let’s forget about trying to kill them.

  13. Hugh – we’re not that far apart then 🙂

    I think the last (or the last-but-one?) Economist had some good speculation on the reasons for the level of retaliation this time, part of it sort of reasonable (if retreating from the occupied territories is going to cause more and more brazen attacks, Israel has to show that it is not going just let it happen or the pull-outs will stop and that might be worse) and part of it less reasonable (unlike Barak and Sharon, Olmert wasn’t a war hero and so, politically, had to show his toughness).

    But I don’t think I agree that this has much of a long term impact on either the level of Muslim anger around the world (I suspect some Sunnis are still a *little* bit happy about it, and anyway some percentage will hate us no matter what, because they really believe in hudood and honor killings and FGM and think that we’re a damned, slut-filled, morally-corroded decadent society of would-be dhimmis) or the long term prospects for peace – even before this started, it didn’t seem any closer than it did 5 years ago, or 5 years before that, or 5 years before that …

    Alfoiz, the destruction of Israel being the only just path is complete nonsense (by your logic I assume we should be installing a Caliphate in Istanbul again to “make things right” – or was there something special about 1922 and Iraq, Jordan and Israel should all be administed by Britain?)

    Steven: modern suicide bombings started in 1983 (remember Beruit?) by … hey, Hezbollah! But yes, they did come to Israel following the massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs. And Goldstein was a horrible, wicked, disgusting person. But the way you say it sure sounds like that makes the suicide bombings OK — their justifications are no less lunatic than Goldstein’s.

    (Hmm – we all have such a strong tendency to make the other side “more wrong” as if that makes any difference. I honestly don’t know what I would do, on either side of the border, if there were bombs going off around me and friends and family were being killed …)

  14. I did drop by for part of the rally in Hyde Park. I have to admit that I felt very uncomfortable. People were happy to pick up free placards without even looking at the slogan, let alone who was sponsoring it. The main chant seemed to be “Tony Blair – Terrorist”. Although I have never approved of the man, calling him a terrorist is probably going a bit far. The war is a rallying point for general anti-Western sentiment, and I can understand why. Even I feel angry when I see the infrastructure of Lebanon – a democracy by the way – being destroyed and its economy wrecked – I leave aside the killing. Today leaflets were dropped on Sidon, telling the population to get out. The Arrogance of it! The danger is to be pushed into the other camp, and I don’t want to travel with the anti-Western way of life people either. The world is divided as it was in the cold war, but the trouble is that it’s a lot more volatile and unpredictable. I think we should tread very softly. I hope the lesson has been learned this time – overwhelming military force only makes the situation worse. We should take a leaf out of Hezbollah’s tactics. It runs hospitals and schools and helps people get by. That’s smart, and it’s cheaper than military force as well. Creating chaos plays into the hands of the terrorists. Turning off the lights and water and breaking up the roads is what we did in Iraq during the invasion…. and we inherited a fine mess there. It might have been a lot easier to win the grudging support of the population if they had running water on day one. I fear that only extremism will emerge from the wreckage of Lebanon.

  15. Photar Photar

    There are also Muslims who want to see every country of entire world turn into an islamic state.

    There are also Jews that eat pork…

    So, you don’t dispute that Dr. Rice’s smile was taken completely out of context then?

  16. Ben Ben

    So, you don’t dispute that Dr. Rice’s smile was taken completely out of context then?

    Who, me? Yeah I do. But I’ve said my piece and let you have yours.

    I don’t see what else is being added to the debate.

  17. i am from lebanon and living in canada i love lebanon from all my heart nobody could imagine how i love its land, people ,talk etc every single thing that occurs in lebanon is a part of my soul i hope this war will end and everybody will be happy and this thing never happens again i maen this war has stopped everything people dont have food electricity no kids can go to school no phone or cell phone lines that just really sucks and i am living with them minuit by minuit well i hope from all my heart that it will end LONG LIVES LEBANON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Tom Tom

    Agree with your position entirely Ben. And good on you for doing something about it!

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