Monday, July 31, 2006

Tha Qana Massacre

As the pounding of Lebanon at the hands of Israeli forces continues, the latest carnage claiming more than 60 civilian lives including 37 children has sent fresh shock waves around the world.

The civilians, already displaced from previous attacks took refuge in the basement of a three storey building in the town of Qana, 11 kilometers from the Israeli border. The house was flattened by a series of midnight Israeli air raids. Most of the casualties died in their sleep. (Source: CNN)

While the world weeps, Israel expressed regrets but vowed to continue their military excess. Hezbollah promised retaliation. Meanwhile, negotiations between the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Lebanese Prime minister Fuad Saniora have been called off.

According to the last reports, Israel has admitted the strike was a mistake, lodged an investigation, suspended air strikes for the next 48 hours and will be working with U.N officials to allow civilians to vacate southern Lebanon.

The three weeks of war has been devastating, with 540 Lebanese, mostly civilians and 50 Israeli lives lost. The approximate ratio 10:1, however, appears nakedly excessive to me.

The word disproportionate holds no meaning for the Israelis. What is worse, they seem to care less, as if it's within their rights to cause free flowing destruction and demolish an entire nation.

Forget about who provoked the war in the first place because it is not relevant any more. If someone pinches you, a measured response is not chopping him into pieces with a chainsaw. At most you can punch but that would still be considered excessive.

The problem here is awarding carte blanche to a state committed to decimating Lebanon in order to bring Hezbollah to its knees. The only country which can meaningfully engage the Israelis in peace negotiations is busy throwing up meaningless "sustainable peace" utterances when the call of the day should have been an immediate ceasefire.

There is no solution in sight, at least not a long term one. But a nice start would be to acknowledge and differentiate the right from wrong.

The international rules are clear about proportionate responses and immunity of civilians. Both in Iraq and in Lebanon and Gaza, United States and Israel fail to comply in an alarmingly regular basis. In both cases they use the word terrorism loosely and recklessly to justify their high handed violence.

Fundamentally the mistake lies elsewhere. It is in adhering to contorted reasons and beliefs to achieve goals by brute force that are tailor made for sustained diplomatic and pragmatic means.

The quagmire in Iraq was a creation of phony evidence. Israel believes the killing of three soldiers and kidnapping of two more by Hezbollah was a signal of an all out war against its existence. It was indeed a provocation, but hardly called for a seemingly limitless Israeli retaliation. If any, the continued assaults on Lebanese population has stripped the Israelis off any moral justification.

Let's be very clear about this. State sponsored indiscriminate excess against civilians is immoral, unjustified and plain wrong under any pretext. Unless a morally consistent approach is adopted by the U.S and Israel, persisting with the current methods of hypocrisy, unmatched arrogance backed by military actions in the states of Iraq and Lebanon will only escalate the mayhem in the Middle East.

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