The Definition of Insanity...

          As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is when a person, or in this case, a country, continually repeats an action while expecting a different outcome. This is a variant on the advice given to someone stuck in a pit, i.e., stop digging.

          I really didn’t want to get bogged down again in commenting on the insanity in the Middle East, but it’s so depressing, demoralizing, disgusting and in your face, it screams out for the only thing I can do: wordsmith.

          Up until the Qana incident (massacre?) Condoleezza didn’t think a cease fire made much sense. In fact, there a quite a few dead and injured who it certainly would have made sense for.

          All Hezbollah’s fault according to Israel. They are cowards for hiding amongst civilian populations. They should stand up like men and get out in the open where Israel’s superior firepower – by a factor of at least 100 – can vaporize them quickly and easily without endangering civilians. Israel says Hezbollah were firing rockets from the area. Note, the area. Does that mean they were firing into the general area hoping to get lucky? Somehow it’s not cowardly to drop bombs from high in the air on targets that are very unclear.

Lebanese civilians were told to evacuate; but just like those left behind in New Orleans, not everybody has a vehicle and the means. Also, since the main highways have become impassable, fleeing requires traversing narrow, winding, sometimes treacherous mountain passes. As much as anything, many of the victims in Qana could have been afraid to try to run since Israel has been firing on civilian vehicles trying to escape. They’ve fired on the Red Cross and ambulances engaged in rescue operations.

I’ve always been for the underdog, but of course, only if the weaker is in the right. Sometimes superior force is needed to protect the 90 pound weakling from the neighborhood bully.

In this case, no matter how much carnage ensues from Israel’s actions, or how much destruction it wreaks, the top dog cannot win. This is coming down exactly as I predicted in my last commentary. Now Israel is launching a ground offensive to remove Hezbollah from its northern border. After that, a ‘robust’ international force is supposed to come into the picture to keep the militants out.

There are several problems with that rosy scenario. The first is that old definition of insanity rearing its ugly head. Hezbollah drove Israel out of southern Lebanon in 2000 after an 18 year occupation which resulted in the deaths of some 1000 Israeli soldiers. Talk about asymetricallity. Just as the world’s mightiest military is helpless in controlling insurgency and mayhem in Iraq; Israel, with the world’s fifth largest, and superbly equipped, army – nearly 600,000 strong with reservists – will be powerless in defeating Hezbollah with its 5000 fighters.

Hezbollah is not an army you defeat on the battlefield which then becomes history, it’s a cause that receives new recruits with every Qana. Even if it were theoretically possible for Israel to kill all 5000 fighters, there’d be another 5000 to stand up and take their place.

The idea of an international force to keep Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon is another blockheaded non-starter. Without Hezbollah’s agreement, nobody will send troops, and they will not agree until and unless longstanding grievances are dealt with. Among them: Sheba Farms, which Israel is still occupying; release of Lebanese prisoners and now, probably, compensation for the unbelievable damage Israel has done to Lebanon’s people and infrastructure. Moreover, there are many thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. BBC did an interview from one of those camps; a place where 70,000 people live in one square kilometer – that’s equivalent to 180,000 people in one square mile. Hezbollah will never stop fighting until that question is adequately resolved.

It’s worth stepping back a bit for a little perspective. Northern Israel has been quiet since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. During that time, Israel continued its policy of assassinating its political opponents. Prisoner swaps have happened several times in the past; most recently in 2004. Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon both targeted the Israeli military in their capture of soldiers. People whose land is occupied have a right to resist.

In other words, the loss of more than 50 Israeli lives, the majority soldiers, and the loss of nearly 1000 Arab lives (kill ratio of 20:1, much better – from Israel’s perspective - than the 10:1 of two weeks ago) the vast majority civilians, could have easily been avoided. Nearly one million Lebanese displaced, billions of dollars of damage. All to avenge the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of another on the Gazan border by Palestinian militants: by international standards, totally legitimate actions taken in resistance to occupation by a foreign power.

          Condoleezza had been saying that a cease fire that returned to the status quo ante in southern Lebanon was not acceptable, but that was before the carnage in Qana added some urgency. Unfortunately, the problem is not the status quo ante, it’s the need to return to the status quo ante ante (don’t know if that’s correct Latin). In other words, without Israel returning to its 1967 borders, thus abandoning its vision of a biblically based greater Israel, there can never be peace.

Add another ante: the refugee problem must be resolved before the Middle East can become a normal part of the modern world. The blockage is that Israel has no intention of dealing with any of these questions. It would much rather sacrifice a few Jews and a lot of Arabs, not to mention any semblance of peace, for real estate. Many Israelis went to extreme lengths to try to prevent the withdrawal from Gaza, where only 8000 settlers were living on land that has no historic significance for Israel. That considered, abandoning the West Bank - where hundreds of thousands of Jews are now living – the only solution that could possibly be acceptable to the Palestinians, is inconceivable; thus the lasting peace that Rice has been talking about is also inconceivable.

Israel has tried for nearly forty years to repress, humiliate and beat the Palestinians into docility, submission, obeisance. It hasn’t worked, it can’t work, it is futile and counterproductive, not to mention dastardly and barbaric. It has invaded and occupied Lebanon repeatedly, with no political gain. It can’t stop Hezbollah by military means; it is pure insanity to imagine that it can.

No matter how much tragedy it bestows on Palestinian and Lebanese societies, it will not achieve peace and security until all peoples in the area are treated fairly. End of debate.