The Gush Shalom peace organization published an announcement over the weekend linking the Hezbollah assault on Israel with the military response in Gaza to the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit. Right-wing commentators, for their part, compared Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with the entire Arab world, viewing his aggression as proof of the inherent satanic character of all Arabs, which drives them to seek Israel's destruction.
Gush Shalom's reasoning is based on the following logic: The Kerem Shalom military outpost was attacked, and Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, because of Israel's refusal to talk with the Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority. As a result of its refusal to negotiate toward a prisoner exchange, Israel launched a broad military operation in the Gaza Strip, which led Hezbollah to strike in the north and drag Israel into a war in Lebanon that could rock the entire region.
The conclusion to which Gush Shalom's argument points is unequivocal: Israel is the catalyst for the destructive chain of events. The right, on the other hand, pins the blame on the evil, inherent nature of all Arabs, from the moment of birth: They are intolerant of Jews, Israel and Western civilization and they seek, with zealous persistence, to impose Islamic rule on the entire world.
In the eyes of the right, all Arab governments are Al-Qaida, either overtly or covertly, and all Muslims are Bin Laden, Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah.
The leftist responses do not distinguish between Israel's (partial) responsibility for the continuing conflict with the Palestinians and the dominant belief within fundamentalist Islam - represented on Israel's borders by Hamas and Hezbollah - that denies Israel's right to exist and rejects all dialogue, on religious grounds.
At the other extreme, the right's stereotyping of the Arab world ignores its multifaced nature as well as the willingess of the governments of Egypt, Jordan and more distant Arab states to maintain peaceful relations with Israel. It ignores the possibility of finding a partner in dialogue toward an agreement within Palestinian society, which is partly, if not largely, secular. The equation proposed by the right at this difficult time - that the withdrawal from Lebanon led to the Katyushas being fired on northern Israel, just as the disengagement from the Gaza Strip led to the Qassams in the south - reflects a deterministic view of human behavior. It says that a higher power, that is not controlled by the same rules governing life on Earth, sentences Israel to eternal violent conflict with its environment. The events of the last two weeks, however, are proof that this is not the case.
While the sharp Israeli response to Hezbollah's provocation enjoys domestic support and international understanding (for now, anyway), the military measures taken in Gaza are controversial both in Israel and abroad. The killing of two soldiers at Kerem Shalom and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit have been linked in the consciousness of the world (and some Israelis) to the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation. In contrast, Hezbollah's attack near Zarit, the initial result of which was the killing of eight soldiers and the abduction of two more, is perceived by the entire Israeli public (with the possible exception of Gush Shalom and Arab Knesset members) as an act of war that violates Israel's sovereignty and was carried out in the service of a foreign country (Iran) out of religious zeal redirected into internal Lebanese balance-of-power considerations. That is also how it is viewed by the rest of the world, including the important Arab states.
In other words, Israel's claim to self-defense and the moral right to respond to the Hezbollah with military might, as it sees fit, is indisputable. On the other hand, the justification for Israel's confrontation with the PA's Hamas government is less obvious. The occupation continues to reverberate and to provide the Palestinians with a pretext to strike out at Israel and to question the legitimacy of Israel's military response to being attacked.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now