Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tell Me not in Mournful Numbers

News of the draft resolution for a cease fire produced no lull in the fighting between Israel and Hizbullah. Instead the pace picked up. Each side seemed trying to get in some more licks, before the international community says “stop,” or to convince the other side its best interest is to heed that word when it comes. Salvos of Hizbullah rockets produced the deadliest day for Israel, since the beginning of the conflict. About 200 rockets were fired into northern Israel. A Katyusha landed amidst a group of reservists waiting near Kiryat Shmona to cross into Lebanon. Its explosives and anti-personnel ball bearings killed thirteen and wounded several more. Several longer range rockets slammed into Haifa, killing three people outright, wounding about one hundred more and destroying at least one apartment building. The Iranian made rockets carried heavier payloads than those previously fired at Haifa. Israel officials said their use was an escalation.

Israel used bombs and missiles to attack Hizbullah installations in southern Beirut, Tyre and Qana. It also used artillery and air-to-surface missiles to attack several villages in southern Lebanon. Lebanese officials said at least sixteen people were killed, including a passenger in a UN aid convoy truck that was struck by an Israeli missile. Much of the bombing was directed at further destruction of Lebanon’s road system, with the ostensible purpose of preventing any Syrian overland resupply of Hizbullah armament. Israel is seriously concerned about that possibility and said it now wants the cease-fire resolution also to call on states to enforce an arms embargo on Hizbullah. Might the total disruption of transportation, by cutting down the interaction of Lebanese communities, help foment a civil war of other Lebanese against Hizbullah. At the beginning of the fighting, Israel leaders hoped that would be one outcome of their pummeling all Lebanon for Hizbullah's action. Or perhaps there is less chance for that outcome, because the communities will find it harder to attack one another.

In response to the carnage in northern Israel and Lebanon, Amnesty International has called for a cease-fire vigil on Monday August 7th. It describes attacks by both sides as violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes. It criticizes unnamed governments for not having moved sooner to end the crisis, but choosing instead to “to prioritize their own political and military interests over innocent lives of civilians.”

Meanwhile back at the Gaza Strip

A new theme emerged today amid the reports of Israel attacks in Lebanon: the targeting of Palestinian militants/ terrorists. The dead in Lebanon included a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command, a small, secular faction funded by Syria. This item reminds us that IDF units and Hamas and other militants have been fighting in the Gaza strip for the last four weeks, since the abduction of Israel soldier by Hamas militants. About 150 Palestinians have been killed , including innocent adult civilians and children -- on one occasion, almost all members of a nuclear family. Besides shooting at the soldiers in Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to fire occasional Kasem rockets into Israel’s Negev in the hope of killing civilians there.

Israel hopes that its further degradation of Palestinian national and economic life will undermine support for the elected Hamas government. It has accordingly destroyed many Hamas and Palestinian authority facilities in Gaza. Since the beginning of the crisis, it has arrested in Gaza and the West Bank eight government ministers and thirty Palestinian Parliament members from Hamas. Today, the Israel army arrested another Hamas member, the Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament. The secretary to the Palestinian Authority government (cabinet) wondered in a BBC interview how Israel could expect to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, if it arrests their elected officials.

I suspect his question is code. Israel has publicly declared for months that it sees no one among the Palestinians as a partner in peace negotiations. But Israel is still negotiating with Hamas via Egyptian officials for the release of Corporal Shalit. The arrest of the Palestinian parliamentarian today was probably due to Israel’s wanting one more high value bargaining chip. Israel is balking at the Hamas demand that in return for the soldier, it has to release 1,000 male Palestinian prisoners in addition to the several hundred women and children it has in custody. So the secretary in effect was telling Israel that the arrest today would not change Hamas’s bargaining position.

My heart aches in a certain way for Shalit, for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two reservists captured by Hizbullah three weeks ago, and even for Samir Kantar, the terrorist for whom Hizbullah wanted to bargain. I deeply wish for the soldier’s release and even for Kantar’s, if that’s needed to make the deal. But I wonder what they will think and feel when they learn the extent of the violence, death and destruction that has been unleashed in their names. The Talmud says that a person is obligated to say “the world was created for my sake.” This should encourage him or her to enjoy the gifts of this world and take responsibility for what happens in it. But what can one feel, when he or she has to say “the world was destroyed for my sake.”


Anonymous shlomo said...

Excellent ending, Atik. You really know how to get at the heart of things. Thank you,

9:04 PM  

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