Sunday, July 30, 2006

The problem with Straw's Israel argument

According to most of the papers, Jack Straw is leading a Cabinet revolt over the Government policy toward Israel. Whilst Blair is in the US solidly supporting Israel against Hezbollah, Straw has made a speech in his constituency saying:

"Disproportionate action only escalates an already dangerous situation. One of many serious concerns I have is that the continuation of such tactics by the Israelis could further destabilise the already fragile Lebanese nation." Another Cabinet minister told the Sunday Times that "[e]veryone understands that Israel has got to respond to Hezbollah rocket attacks, but to go and bomb Lebanon is outrageous."

I keep on hearing the above argument - or a paraphrased version of it - from not just the Left but the Right too. It always follows the same sort of formula, that Israel has a right to respond, but the way they responded is wrong. At no point does anyone say how they should have responded though, and you kind of get the feeling that for some of them that would be the argument whatever Israel did.

The numbers game is also being played by far too many people. The argument goes that Israel have killed more civilians than Lebanon, therefore Israel bad, Lebanon good. However, it seems to me sadly ironic that an argument inspired by compassion for human life should place value on one set of dead civilians over another.

Some years ago, Stalin callously said the "death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic". By counting and comparing civilian death on each side in order to argue matter of moral right and wrong is not much different to Stalin's dictum. It devalues the loss of death on one side over the other on the pure basis of statistics. The civilians killed by either side, irrespective of numbers, is a tragic loss of human life, period.

It also seems that the question of intent is neatly ignored when arguments like Straw’s are put forward. Israel’s intent is not the destruction of civilians; their intent is the destruction of Hezbollah. Yes, this has meant, for want of better phrase, collateral damage, but it’s a war for heaven’s sake, people are going to die. Israeli intent though is vitally important when placed in the context of Lebanese actions.

Hezbollah doesn't even make a distinction. They blindly fire rockets into Israel, and, if they had enough, they would happily fire them with the intention of wiping out all human life in the country. Their stated aims are the destruction of Israel as a nation. That is a fact that is indisputable, and yet it conveniently ignored in the in the anti-Israeli rhetoric that we so often hear.

There is though something that is far more scary going on in this situation, and I call it my Tom Clancy Complex. I can't help feeling that Israel/Lebanon is merely a diversion for something much wider being orchestrated by Iran, be it their nuclear programme or something else. No doubt Iran are chuckling to themself about how they've orchestrated a situation that's diverted America's attention so successfully.

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