Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 12:46 pm 
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Bad impression

Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon turned out to be a colossal error primarily because of a failure to see what a formidable opponent Hezbollah was -- and still is. Hezbollah remained essentially undefeated not just due to the zeal of its members, but to possessing arms, equipment, intelligence, training, and a well-concealed command structure sufficient to make it the fifth largest army in the Middle East, as Carol Rosenberg of the McClachy Newspapers points out in an August 18, 2006 article datelined Tel Aviv, "Hezbollah's transformation is a case study." Rosenberg tells how Hezbollah's military preparedness came about. Israel simply didn't know, Rosenberg says, just how good Hezbollah's military aspect was, so Israel's leaders were operating under a delusion of greater than actual superiority when they set about the task of mounting an assault. The attempt to "show who's boss" in the Middle East is a separate aspect that failed because wrecking Lebanon's infrastructure and creating 800,000 refugees don't make a very good impression when the mission wasn't accomplished.

Apocalyptic visions?

Israel has mood swings, from "mania to depression," Uri Avnery says. The miserable failure of Israel's attempt to trap or remove Hezbollah, perhaps carry out ethnic cleaning, and no doubt swallow up more land in the process, now appears to increasingly despondent observers in Tel Aviv to have aided the country's imagined enemies. In a "Post Mortem" of the Lebanon war, former journalist and Mideast scholar Alan Hart reviews Israel's history to show how its militarism may now finally be bringing down the very viability of the idea of a Zionist state. Having looked so ineffectual in the eyes of the region and the world in its move on Lebanon, Hart thinks Israel "will become increasingly vulnerable and, at a point, actually for the first time ever in its shortish history, could face the possibility of defeat." Hart cites Ben-Gurian's dream that Israel would have "natural borders" bounded by the Jordon river to the east and the Litani river in Lebanon to the north. Defeat he thinks, given Israel's history, may mean an apocalyptic end-game such as Golda Meir expressed to him readiness for, if it came to that, which could bring down the whole region. Hart argues that the only way to avoid such a long-term countdown is a "one-state solution for all." And that, with an Arab majority, would mean no more Zionist state. All this may be pretty far off, but people in Israel are having dark thoughts.

We were misled and misinformed, Israelis are saying. Soldiers are joining in the protests with accusations against their commanders and the country's leadership. Behind this is the mistaken assumption that under other circumstances a war against an imbedded, multi-tasking popular resistance organization like Hezbollah can succeed using conventional force. It can't. The delusion persists in Israel that it can ever succeed or find security as a heavily armed and belligerent, US-sustained Jewish Zionist state in the middle of the Muslim-dominated Middle East.

Shock, disbelief, fantasy

Israeli war mania still persists amid the post-war depression, Avnery says, because "the Israeli public is now in a state of shock and disorientation." To many in the country a failure of the assault on Lebanon and Hezbollah seems counter-intuitive: how could David have licked Goliath? It's just not possible. There's a natural tendency not to believe it -- to remain under the delusions that were dominant when the country went to war, to go on believing the media spin that said they had to win and always were winning. This makes the cease-fire appear to the manic camp to be a cowardly retreat on the part of Olmert and company. And the general reject mode is differently expressed by war resisters, who donned fatigues but now, aware that they were duped, are throwing them down again in disgust.

The Israeli crazies who insist against the evidence that they were victorious have a champion in the planet's superpower leader George W. Bush. "Hezbollah attacked Israel. Hezbollah started the crisis, and Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis," Bush declared, blurting out a primary-school version of the neo-con pro-Israel spin on the facts. Bush can't make anyone believe this, but he can delegate people to act as if they do. Israel's position is so precarious now that its population must wear some kind of mental blinders to stay sane, or calm. The alternative is unmitigated gloom. And since the Bush neo-cons live in a fantasy world, they and Israel are united by their common adherence to a life of delusion.

What does this situation mean for the "war on terror"? Well, almost everybody on the world stage is some kind of "terrorist" nowadays, to hear the propagandists tell it, which means that the "war on terror" rightfully speaking is a war on everybody. The emerging fact is that elected "terrorists" of the political kind are in the more precarious position. A number of them probably aren't going to be around much longer. But the grassroots, undercover ones who aren't afraid to die and whose assaults strike at the centers and symbols of western power -- they are growing stronger. And while Israel's leaders have always found pretexts to attack their neighbors in order to inspire reprisals and keep the US supporting them with heavy arms and money and their citizens unified in fear and rage, this strategy, in the world of stronger grassroots, undercover opposition, is finally wearing thin for all concerned.

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