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Did Hizbullah Do the Right Thing?

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Perhaps it's hard to look at the latest string of violence in the Middle East objectively, especially if you've been on the side of criticizing Israel's vicious policies toward the Palestinians over the past years. Indeed the government of Israel has recently taken an outrageous and murderous response to the kidnapping of its soldiers within Israel, first by Hamas and more recently by Southern Lebanon based Hizbullah. Ariel Sharon's departure seems to have not changed a thing: Israel always reacts with hostility.

Hizbullah has refused to back down from Israel, but that doesn't mean you have to agree with their means. Not that their means in any way reflect a more serious crime than those of Israel, which may well be the point of Hizbullah's orchestrated abduction of two Israeli soldiers last week. The one, and perhaps only problem I have with Hizbullah's abduction is that they must have known that Israel would react in the fashion they have: by bombing Lebanon and in fact targeting civilians and their infrastructure outright. If you can say anything about Hizbullah's kidnapping, on the other hand, it is that their first actions were purely military. They captured two soldiers without harming or targeting any civilians. And if collateral damage is the issue, it's pretty clear given the media reports from the area that far more civilians in Palestine and Lebanon have been killed in the last few weeks than in Israel.

There have been several misconceptions that seem to be spreading fast around Hizbullah, the first being that they are acting on behalf of Iran. Surely that's the way the Bush administration and many leading Democrats would like to spin it. They'd like nothing more to blame Iran for what's transpired. But more likely, Hizbullah provoked Israel because of the government's vile response to the taking an IDF soldier captive by Palestinian military last week. No question the asymmetry of the violence inflicted upon the Palestinians, which Hizbullah has long been in solidarity with, demands some sort of response. And given the history of Hizbullah and Israel, it's pretty clear that Israel has only responded to these sorts of matters when threatened. Currently Israel is holding thousands of Hizbullah and Hamas members in Israeli prisons, and one of the demands of Hizbullah is for those prisoners to be released. The group is also calling for an end to the violence inflicted upon Palestine. These are prisoners of war on both sides.

The dubious United Nations has called on a ceasefire, which of course isn't likely to happen anytime soon, especially without the weight of the United States standing behind it. And if the Iraq invasion three years ago taught us anything, the United States will do what it wants regardless of what the UN says.

One thing goes without question; Hizbullah's response was bold and timely. Given that most Arab countries have failed to lift a finger against the nuclear-armed nation of Israel, they have not backed down and have proven they are far more prepared to challenge Israel than intelligence operatives in the US and Israel had expected. Hizbullah is the only organized armed resistance to Israeli aggression in the region, and that alone should stand for something even if their means cannot be wholeheartedly supported (not that their goals aren't laudable, especially when compared to Israel who simply wants to eliminate both Hizbullah and Hamas, even though the latter was elected democratically).

Whether or not Hizbullah will prevail waits to be seen. They may, but it won't be at a light cost to civilian life on either side. And we can be sure that it will be innocents in Lebanon who suffer the greatest.
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Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State (more...)
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