I wrote to my US senators about the Israeli attack on Lebanon recently, saying that I was deeply disturbed and felt that the US should do whatever necessary to pull Israel back. (According to David Levy, in a recent essay in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Israel has always relied to the US to pull it back when it goes too far. But this time, the US has not stepped in, and Israelis are on their own in a really big mess.)
I got back replies that said this a complex and painful situation with deep historical roots, and we all hope it can be resolved. This sounded like waffling to me. I wrote the following letter back:
Thank you for your reply to my e-mail. My sense of what is happening in Lebanon is different than yours, and I place far more of the blame on Israel.
According to Israel, the incident that provoked the attack was a minor foray by Hezbollah against an Israeli military target. Such incidents have happened before and not led to war. In this case, the foray was probably caused by Israeli's brutal attacks on the Palestians in Gaza. The people there are imprisoned by Israel in a tiny, overcrowded area without adequate food, water, electricity or health care and subject to ongoing attacks by the Israeli armed forces. The UN has warned that this constitutes a humanitarian crisis. We know this situation -- lack of food, clean water, health care and electricity in a hot, dry region -- is going to kill people. We also know that Israeli bombs are killing people, mostly civilians, many of them women and children. I was especially horrified to discover that the Israeli air force regularly flies over Gaza during the night, creating sonic booms in an attempt to demoralize the people. Imagine being wakened by sonic booms over and over and over. This is torture, carried out against a population that is trapped and cannot escape the torture.
It is possible that Israel was frightened by Hezbollah's raid, which was well planned and carried out. When one lives amid a large, subjugated population, any evidence that the population is able to act for itself is terrifying.
There is also evidence that Israel had been planning to attack Lebanon for some time.
Whatever their reason for responding to this particular raid, the Israeli air force has destroyed the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon and made one fourth of the nation's people homeless. The southern part of the country is now cut off; and relief organizations cannot get in, nor can international observers. The UN observation post on the border has already been destroyed by Israeli bombs. Free from observation, the Israelis can do whatever they want to the land and farms and towns and people.
Hezbollah is a non-government organization based in Lebanon's Shia south. It was formed in opposition to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s. You can call it a resistance movement, a civilian militia or a terrorist organization. Whatever you call it, the Lebanese government cannot control it and is not responsible for its actions. Destroying Lebanon is not a response to Hezbollah, nor is it an act of self-defense. It is an aggressive war against a helpless government and people.
I believe the U.S. governmet should do whatever it can to stop Israel at once, and that includes threatening to stop all aid.
I also suggest you assign a staff member to find out more about what is happening in Israel and Lebanon. I recommend Informed Comment, a web log by Juan Cole, Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. I have also found the following sources useful: the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star; the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz; the Israeli peace activist Uri Avery; statements from the American University in Beirut; the English journalist Robert Fisk, who is based in Lebanon; and the English journalist Jonathan Cook, who is based in Israel. It is easy to find all these sources on the Internet.
Thank you again for your reply to my e-mail.