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WHEN TERROR IS JUST FINE

John Chuckman
Following the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Czech partisans in 1942, Hitler’s government executed all the men in the village of Lidice, sent its women and children to concentration camps, and razed the village to the ground. A few weeks later, the barbarism was repeated on the village of Lezaky.

Lidice was far from being the worst atrocity of the war, but it rightly came to symbolize heartless oppression by occupiers, what we sometimes today call state terror.

I cannot think of another historical example which better parallels Israel’s savage behavior in Lebanon. Two of its soldiers are kidnapped, and Israel quickly destroys much of the infrastructure of Lebanon, cuts the country off from the world, and kills, at this writing, two hundred civilians.

Already forgotten in the press is Israel’s behavior leading up to events in Lebanon. Israel had blown up an entire family on a Gaza beach and carried out a number of other killings and assassinations. It killed about twenty innocent people in a week or so. The pitiful efforts of people in Gaza to respond to the outrages were met by more killing and a partial invasion. Most of the cabinet of Palestine was kidnapped, and the elected Prime Minister was openly threatened with assassination.

We might try a thought experiment to bring a contemporary perspective to Israel’s behavior. Suppose we take the view of Hezbollah as a vicious, well-armed street gang in a city like Chicago, rather than a guerrilla movement in a country previously invaded by Israel. This is in fact something close to Israel’s view of Hezbollah.

Now, suppose the Chicago gang kidnapped a couple of policemen and tried to ransom some of its members out of prison. This would cause a huge response, but would that response include the Illinois National Guard bombing the city’s black ghetto areas, indiscriminately killing hundreds, destroying homes and businesses, and imprisoning tens of thousands by not allowing normal contact with the city? Would the government say it is up to the people of the ghetto to get rid of the gang?

To ask the question is to have the answer. Such ruthlessness would bring immediate, overwhelming, world-wide condemnation.

Then, we must ask why Israel isn’t condemned in the same fashion? Actually, it is condemned by much of the world, but it is praised and supported by Bush and most of the powerful, war-loving American press.

No, instead of condemnation, we get Orwellian stuff about Israel’s “measured” or “appropriate” response, as though anything short of carpet-bombing or nuclear weapons qualifies as “measured,” and about a second front opening up, as though Israel were bravely fighting a war, but there is no war, only Israel’s savage retribution against two states with groups it hates.

Somehow Israel expects a weak state like Lebanon to take on Hezbollah and eliminate it. Yet Israel is too fearful itself of casualties to take on this gang directly. It would rather bomb and threaten others into attempting it, something that if even attempted would tip Lebanon into civil war once again.

Of course, Israel’s view of civil wars in other countries is rather different than the view of those who must suffer through them. Violence weakens and effectively neutralizes them, just as the American-induced anarchy in Iraq effectively sweeps an old foe away for years to come.

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