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Facing facts about Hezbollah

Facing facts about Hezbollah

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Australian
Date: August 08, 2006
URL: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20050245-7583,00.html

Israel's destruction is the name of the militants' game

The quest for peace in the Middle East is one of the most frustrating stories of the modern age. Unlike the Cold War, which was decided by the hard and demonstrable realities of economics, conflicts in the Middle East are conducted and judged in a far less objective arena, where values of religion and honour are very often the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong. This makes it very difficult for Western observers to take the measure of the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, despite it being a battle between competing world views - medieval theocracy versus secular, liberal democracy - that are the political matter and anti-matter of the 21st century. Understood as such, the impasse at the UN over the wording of a resolution calling for an end to hostilities in the conflict was inevitable. Certainly, no one wants to see a continued loss of life on any side. But present efforts at the UN were doomed to fail. The fact is, the UN's track record in southern Lebanon is abysmal. Its mission to southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, consumes $133 million a year and has consistently failed to enforce UN Security Council resolution 1559. That document, a binding Chapter 7 resolution, explicitly calls for the disarming of all militias including Hezbollah within Lebanese territory. In pursuing and rooting out Hezbollah, Israel is not only protecting its own citizens - who have been subject to routine and often fatal harassment actions against it since pulling out of southern Lebanon in 2000 - but it is also enforcing international law where others have been unwilling or unable to.

But the second and broader problem behind any treaty is that for Israel, a tiny, liberal democracy surrounded by fascist autocracies, there can ultimately be no peace with Hezbollah - just a securing of a buffer zone. Created in the turmoil of the Iranian revolution with the goal of spreading radical Shia influence throughout the world, Hezbollah (aka the Party of God) is devoted to the destruction not just of the state of Israel but Judaism everywhere. Hezbollah will treat any deal as little more than an excuse to rearm and hope for better luck next time. In 1994, the group committed the deadliest act of terrorism ever on Argentinian soil, blowing up the Jewish community headquarters in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding about 300 more. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah whose picture is triumphantly carried by baying mobs at rallies around the world, has said that if Jews "all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide" and that "the Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win because they love life and we love death". Despite these lunatic ravings, Hezbollah is winning the propaganda war in the West, where decades of postmodernism have atrophied the culture's moral musculature and accorded the terrorist group privileged victim status. That Hezbollah loves death can be seen in its barrage of the past weekend, which hurt Israeli Arabs most of all. But if Hezbollah does not care about people, it does care about history and its place in it. As Nasrallah himself said in a recent rant in which he called Israel a temporary country: "By God, you will not succeed in erasing our memory, our presence or eradicating our strong belief." Middle Eastern broadcasters help by connecting the conflict to a much broader sweep of Arab and Muslim history that goes back to and beyond the expulsion of the Moors from Spain and portrays victories against Israel as evidence of a supposed rising tide of Islam. As such, those in the West who believe that world peace would be achieved were Israel to retreat behind its pre-1967 borders (or disappear entirely) are mistaken. Such a move would only embolden the likes of Hezbollah and its backers in Syria and Iran. Here those who truly care about the future of the Middle East and believe in the values of secular, liberal democracy and all the freedoms that they entail should gain the confidence to speak up for them in the present conflict. For, in the long run, there is nothing less that is at stake.

In the present conflict, all Hezbollah needs to win is to not lose. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged as much on the weekend when he said it would not be possible to completely destroy such a guerilla organisation. But that is not to say that Israel should not fight Hezbollah and respond to its provocations. For until Hezbollah and its backers in Tehran are deposed or have a change of heart, and the rest of the Middle East sees the Jewish state as a neighbour with whom to coexist rather than a cancer to eliminate, Israel has no choice but to defend itself. Any peace that does not secure Israel's borders in the short term while also communicating to its foes that attempts to destroy the Jewish state will be met with overwhelming force will be a mortgage on future lives and a peace of the dead.


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