“We are at war!” claimed the Israeli leaders five years ago. A unique kind of war: a unilateral war, where only one side, Israel, is fighting, hitting, destroying, assassinating, arresting, torturing.
And when, suddenly, the other side is fighting back, attacking Israeli military outposts and armored vehicles and taking prisoners of war, they are not considered to be war-partners, but terrorists, attacking without reason a sovereign state.
Five years of almost unilateral use of violence have created the illusion that Israel is the only actor onstage, all the others serving as mere passive objects of the one-sided brutality. The illusion is followed by surprise, and then disillusion.
Israeli military intelligence was taken by surprise with the successful Palestinian attack on the military outpost of Kerem Shalom, as well as by the Hizbollah attack on the South Lebanon border; the Mossad has been surprised by the ability of the same Hizbollah to hit major Israeli cities with its rockets and missiles. Surprise is always the price to be paid for colonial arrogance and its structural inability to relate to the colonized as a Human being, able to think, plan, act and react.
Though speaking all the time about the “Arabs”, “Arab threat”, “Arab enemy”, “Muslim threat”, etc, the Israelis do not understand the obvious link between the massacres perpetuated by the Israeli army in Gaza and the counterattack by Lebanese activists. Therefore, they are, almost unanimously, surprised and deeply offended: how dare a Lebanese organization attack Israeli cities without any reason or provocation from our side?! Addicted to the unilateral use of violence, the citizens of the State of Israel are these days totally disoriented and, as usual, identify with a strong feeling of victimisation, as the victims of the global hatred of Jews.
The strategic response of the Israeli military leadership is to multiply the use of violence, according to the hackneyed military concept of “when force fails, use more force”. They have not a single idea how their bombardments of the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon may impact the stability of the regime. They dream to attack Syria, without any serious evaluation of Iran’s potential reaction to such an attack, including the possible incitement of a Shiite insurrection against US forces in Iraq. As might be expected of any colonial army, the Israelis want to use their military superiority to “teach a lesson” to the Arabs or Muslims.
In the meantime, the Israelis are the ones who are learning, the hard way, that sooner or later unilateral use of force leads to a corresponding escalation of violence, and in the near future they may learn too that, in the Middle East, a local conflict can degenerate into a regional war. The fact that a small, well-organized Lebanese organization can cause serious damage in the heart of Israel is a tremendous blow to the deterrence capacity of the Jewish State, and even the tons of bombs thrown on Lebanon will not be able to change this new reality.
The present crisis is not close to an end, for several reasons. First, there is no sign of any readiness to surrender, neither in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, nor in Lebanon. Though many Arab regimes, in particular Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, as well as part of the Lebanese ruling elite, are unhappy with the Hizbollah counter-war, the brutality of the Israeli attacks is rapidly creating broad Arab sentiment against the Israeli violence and in support of the Resistance. Second, there is no, and will be no, international pressure on Israel; even the EU is treating Israel as the victim, with a legitimate right to retaliate, albeit with proportional use of force. Third, the Israeli public does not consider the loss of Israeli lives a failure of the policy of its government and a catalyst for an anti-war mass movement, as it was during the Lebanese war in 1982-1985. The majority of Israeli public opinion, having internalized the “clash of civilizations” world view and therefore the need for an unending preemptive war, considers the fact that there are Israeli victims, civilian and military, natural and unavoidable. In other words, the government is no longer accountable for the suffering of the Israeli people, considered a legitimate price to pay for the protection the State of Israel, as part of the “civilized world”, from the “barbaric” Muslim civilization.
The fallacy of the “clash of civilizations” has become deeply entrenched in Israeli public opinion since 1996, making it extremely difficult to combat. This entrenchment is further confirmed by the total collapse of Peace Now, by far the biggest Israeli mass peace organization, which was silent during the brutal war of destruction launched by Ariel Sharon between 2001 and 2005, and which today supports Israeli aggression in Gaza and Lebanon.
This is why, unlike the demonstrations of 1982, only 800 men and women demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Sunday night against the aggressive operations in Lebanon and the Israeli policy of might. Brave and determined they may be, but activists of the anti-colonial movement in Israel cannot change the course of action of the government and its drive towards an unending war in the region. However, their clear opposition to Israeli war policy is living proof that there is no definitive “clash of civilizations” or, in the words of Israeli spokespersons, “a general cultural problem” between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, there is a clash—a clash between, on the one hand, those who, in Washington and Tel Aviv, are driving for a re-colonization of the world under the domination of the multinational corporations and the US Empire, and, on the other hand, the peoples of the world who aspire to real freedom, sovereignty and true independence.