Monday, July 24, 2006


Galileo, in the face of religious reaction, was powerless. Using rational argument he could demonstrate that the world was not flat, that it was not the centre of the universe. But for those dogmatists who refused to accept rational argument, preferring instead to believe myths they themselves had devised, Galileo's proofs meant nothing. It is, in other words, impossible to have a debate with someone who is unprepared or unable to accept the basic precepts of that debate. As a piece of rhetoric, it is usefully deployed by the person who is drowning in a sea of falsity and wants to save a draw from the jaws of defeat.

I say all this, because one frequently runs up against such a tactic when discussing the situation in the Middle East. Since Israel is a sovereign state surrounded by hostile forces, and since Hizbollah is a non-sovereign organisation whose military tactics are unconventional, the former can do no wrong, and the latter no right. However one tries to argue that Israel is massacring innocent civilians (thereby causing the deaths of its own civilians, who are frequently forgotten by both sides of the argument), one is told that Israel is merely defending itself. Even those who argue that the attack was disproportionate still imply that an attack of some sort was justified.

Similarly, if one suggests that Hizbollah are actually the ones acting in self-defence, or that their cause might be a legitimate one (based, one might add, on much more credible evidence than that of Israel), one is immediately denounced as being a sympathiser of terrorism. While the concept of the War on Terror has been largely been dismissed by liberals, the underlying message has seeped into the unconscious: there is a link between Islamic Arabs and terrorism.

An article from the Palestine Chronicle points out the obvious absurdity of this:

[The Israeli assault] is the epitome of terrorism: the incitement of terror in a civilian populace by unleashing massive violence and destruction against it in an attempt to compel the people's political leaders to act against the Lebanese resistance or to change their positions.


The people who unleashed the brutal war against Lebanon are neither intelligent nor courageous. Quite the opposite; they are mediocrities, cowards and opportunists, but they happen to have military superiority. And they possess the keys to the machinery of a state, a real state, one that is secure in its identity, that has clear national security goals and channels of national mobilization, as opposed to a long deferred project for statehood and a state built on the fragmentation of national identity. On the other side is a resistance movement operating in the context of a denominationally organized society, a Lebanese government neutralized to everything but sectarianism, and an Arab order parts of which are rooting for Israel to do what it is incapable, or too embarrassed, to do itself, which is to deal with the resistance as a militia because it foregrounds their own lack of national and popular legitimacy. Israel has nothing to show for ten days of barbaric vandalism and the deliberate targeting of civilians. It cannot claim a single military victory against the Lebanese resistance. It can, though, point proudly to whole residential quarters that have been reduced to rubble, to the burned out hulks and ruins of countless wharfs, factories, bridges, roads, tunnels, electricity generators and civil defense buildings. In terms of explosive and destructive power Israel has thrown an atom bomb on Lebanon, it is the Israeli Hiroshima.

The anti-war marches across the country were disspiriting in that they are unlikely to change anything, but they were encouraging in that a lot more people turned up than I anticipated. Such is the barbarism of Israel's attack, and the US and UK's support for it, that the protests attracted more than simply the usual Stop the War coalition crowd.


Blogger Snowball said...

Cool pics.

1:00 PM  

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