A long, long time ago, before it began to be written by/for chimps, I used to watch The Bill. Most episodes would feature a police officer interviewing a suspect, and try as they might the writers found that there was only so much variety they could put into such scenes. If I had bothered to keep score then I would have lost count of the number of times the suspect would break down and confess along the lines of “Alright; I did it, I stabbed her to death in the kitchen. But you weren’t there! You don’t know what it was like, the way she kept taunting me! I had to do it; any man would have done the same!”; at which point awkward glances are exchanged between the interviewing officers and the murderer’s solicitor, each thinking “err, oh no we wouldn’t”.
I have been reminded of such storylines while listening to a parade of people on television and radio excusing Israel from using a sledgehammer – or rocket – to crack a nut in dealing with the attacks currently emanating from Lebanon. Israel, it appears, has no option but to react in the way it has in the face of Hizbullah’s aggression, and any country would have acted in the same fashion. I find it an unconvincing line myself. It is not that I believe Israel doesn’t have a clear right to respond, but I do question the severity of that response.
What I have thought interesting, when I have read the usual suspects complaining about the media’s coverage of the situation and their alleged bias, for example questioning the nature of Israel’s response, is that while we have seen many people defend Israel’s actions I personally have not seen a single person seek to excuse Hizbullah; but I don’t find this surprising. I think it goes without saying that any right-minded person condemns Hizbullah and their continued assaults upon Israel and its citizens. You would think the same would go for Israel’s acts, but apparently not. If people such as Melanie Phillips are astonished that Israel keeps getting criticised, perhaps she should reflect that it is because of apologists such as her that what should go without saying needs having to be said, over and over again, in the hope that it might finally sink in.
Where do we go from here? If Israel thinks that bombing the innocent in Lebanon will make them see the light and turn against Hizbullah, then history tends to suggest the opposite reaction. Melanie Phillips, again, in this article, tackles those who complain of Israel’s “disproportionate response” by stating that it is “no more ‘disproportionate’ than, for example NATO’s bombing of civilian targets in Serbia to force it to withdraw from Kosovo.” But apart from the fact that, a) although I am in the minority on this I personally do believe that NATO’s response there was disproportionate (it is a long story why, certainly another post for another day; suffice it to say that I think there could have been a peaceful resolution to the situation) and b) in over-reacting to acts of terrorism I would say Israel more resembles Serbia than NATO, the bombing of Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict had the immediate effect of uniting pretty much all Serb’s, both pro- and anti- Milosevic, against NATO. Israel will be casting a similar spell now in Lebanon; their response is surely doomed to failure.
I am no expert on the geo-political situation in the Middle East, as I think I have just proven; but you have to wonder what Hizbullah’s game plan is, and I would hope that Israel does too. If we take it as read – I have no reason to doubt it – that Iran and/or Syria are behind all this, then you have to imagine that launching rockets into Haifa and killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers is not in itself going to drive Israel into the sea; the intention must be to provoke a response from Israel which would lead to even greater instability in the region. If so then Israel has reacted in a predictable and depressing manner. I’m speculating, of course; but if I’m right then the harsher Israel reacts, with their cheerleaders in the media justifying each attack regardless of its consequences, then the more they are falling in with their enemies’ plans.