Prelude: The Lebanon War and What Lies Ahead

The Lebanon War of the summer of 2006 has now come and gone. It was not yet a nuclear war, but given the way it started and ended it certainly was a prelude.

Once again the Arab world displayed its duplicity and once again the West displayed its cowardice, while the Israeli government turned out to be caught in the folly of its own strategic mindset of withdrawal. Hezb'allah attacked Israel, and the Lebanese government (of which Hezb'allah was and is a part) denied any responsibility.

When Israel responded to the kidnapping of its soldiers while the UN did nothing —by bombing Hezb'allah targets — the world community called foul.

Disproportionate use of force was the favored phrase of Kofi Annan and his associates, while tears were shed for the so—called innocent civilians, so many of whom rushed to the scene to watch Hezb'allah fighters launch their rockets on Israeli civilians. The Lebanese government did nothing to crush Hezb'allah and will do nothing in the future, UN resolutions notwithstanding, because its army is full of Hezb'allah sympathizers. If Lebanon, government and citizens together, may be ambiguous about Hezb'allah, their hatred of Israel is stronger than whatever reservations they harbor with respect to the Iranian proxy terrorist organization that is now running and ruining their country.

The West, as usual, does not get the picture. Cognitive deficiencies produced a moral and political failure of an order no less than the Munich appeasement deal of 1938, although this time the West has no excuse. The blindness is such that western news agencies doctored photographs and slanted reports to give the impression that Lebanese casualties were far higher than they were, while "leaders" prattled on about disproportionate force as if war were an Olympic sport.

In the end, it was western powers that hammered out a deal at the UN which contravened the UN's own previous resolutions, for among the provisions of the resolution calling for a ceasefire was a call to settle the disputed Sheba Farms area which the Secretary—General had already concluded was not part of Lebanon. But since this issue was a Hezb'allah demand, the UN had no moral compunction in ignoring its own previous rulings and international law. If the West cannot take on Lebanon, one can well imagine its even greater reluctance to take on Iran, whose nuclear ambitions, if not checked, will lead the world straight to nuclear war. But the West has not yet understood that they are dealing with an enemy who uses unconventional weapons.

Neither has Israel, it would seem. It conducted a war that left the impression it was not resolutely pursuing its enemy, but aiming instead for international brownie points. It dropped leaflets on Lebanese citizens warning them when bombings and even ground forces were coming and so warned the Hezb'allah terrorists with whom these citizens sympathized. It declared it was not engaged in war with Lebanon, thus supporting the sham position of the Lebanese government. It did not mobilize its full forces and once it did, it did not engage them in battle, quick to accept an international deal that history has shown them would be worthless.

The UN has never protected Israel from its neighbors, has ignored their violations of ceasefires, and has disappeared when they mobilized for aggression. For six years since 2000 the UN has not enforced its own resolutions on Lebanon. It allowed Hezb'allah to build up illegal rocket caches and turned a blind eye when it kidnapped Israeli soldiers. And the recent resolution notwithstanding, both the UN and the powers that supported it, chief of them France, have made it clear they are not going to disarm Hezb'allah, a group France kept off the EU terrorist list. In short, the Israeli government has made its country's security hostage to a feckless world community that is anti—Semitic to boot.

Israel, which was supposed to be the haven for Jews in a crunch, has thereby pulled the rug out from under Jews worldwide. The Israeli government's action in Lebanon has created a major dilemma of trust. Countries like France do not understand why Israel would have gone to war to rescue its kidnapped soldiers, but Israelis understand why. All Jews are bound one to another, and especially in Israel, which depends on a citizen army. The soldiers that do the work have to know that they can count on the solidarity of their fellow citizens, a solidarity embodied in their government.

If the Israeli government can sign on to a resolution that does not include the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, the future does not bode well. How will they believe that government in the future when it crosses its own red lines? What point is there to sacrifice if the government will not keep its word? And how can one explain that Israel did indeed go to war to rescue its soldiers if the government abandons that war aim so cavalierly? True, the functioning of democratic society, like all societies, has a built—in disconnect between individuals and social systems, but democracies work on the paradox of trust more than other kinds of society; and the Israeli government has certainly stretched the limit here. Perhaps since modern societies also learn from their mistakes, there will be some political and strategic housecleaning in Israel that will bring the Oslo mentality to a well—deserved end. If so, that will be the only benefit of this ill—conceived and ill—conducted war.

Of one thing Israel can be certain: there will be another war soon. The appeasement of Hezb'allah embodied in the UN ceasefire has meant only that there is a lull in the century—old war that the Arabs and the Muslims have been conducting against the Jews over Israel. Behind Hezb'allah stands Iran and behind Iran stands the threat of nuclear weapons, which, once dropped, will leave neither time nor reason for Reuters to doctor the photographs or the West to moan about Jewish perfidy.

No one but Israel, it seems, takes this threat seriously, and it remains to be seen if Israel will have the fortitude and intelligence to do something about it before it is too late. Defeating Hezb'allah would be a good starting point.

The next Lebanese war cannot happen too soon. But next time it should be conducted with all the wraps off and ended only with the capture of Nasrallah and the unconditional surrender of the Lebanese government and any other Arab government that sees fit to join it. Indeed, perhaps it is time for Israel to declare war on those countries that continue to wage war against it. It will be said Israel cannot go it alone. But Israel is, unfortunately, alone, watched over by Jews and God with whom it has a covenant with no divorce clause. Never again, the Jews keep clamoring. The time has come to see if the clamor is true.

Stephen Schecter is a sociology professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

The Lebanon War of the summer of 2006 has now come and gone. It was not yet a nuclear war, but given the way it started and ended it certainly was a prelude.

Once again the Arab world displayed its duplicity and once again the West displayed its cowardice, while the Israeli government turned out to be caught in the folly of its own strategic mindset of withdrawal. Hezb'allah attacked Israel, and the Lebanese government (of which Hezb'allah was and is a part) denied any responsibility.

When Israel responded to the kidnapping of its soldiers while the UN did nothing —by bombing Hezb'allah targets — the world community called foul.

Disproportionate use of force was the favored phrase of Kofi Annan and his associates, while tears were shed for the so—called innocent civilians, so many of whom rushed to the scene to watch Hezb'allah fighters launch their rockets on Israeli civilians. The Lebanese government did nothing to crush Hezb'allah and will do nothing in the future, UN resolutions notwithstanding, because its army is full of Hezb'allah sympathizers. If Lebanon, government and citizens together, may be ambiguous about Hezb'allah, their hatred of Israel is stronger than whatever reservations they harbor with respect to the Iranian proxy terrorist organization that is now running and ruining their country.

The West, as usual, does not get the picture. Cognitive deficiencies produced a moral and political failure of an order no less than the Munich appeasement deal of 1938, although this time the West has no excuse. The blindness is such that western news agencies doctored photographs and slanted reports to give the impression that Lebanese casualties were far higher than they were, while "leaders" prattled on about disproportionate force as if war were an Olympic sport.

In the end, it was western powers that hammered out a deal at the UN which contravened the UN's own previous resolutions, for among the provisions of the resolution calling for a ceasefire was a call to settle the disputed Sheba Farms area which the Secretary—General had already concluded was not part of Lebanon. But since this issue was a Hezb'allah demand, the UN had no moral compunction in ignoring its own previous rulings and international law. If the West cannot take on Lebanon, one can well imagine its even greater reluctance to take on Iran, whose nuclear ambitions, if not checked, will lead the world straight to nuclear war. But the West has not yet understood that they are dealing with an enemy who uses unconventional weapons.

Neither has Israel, it would seem. It conducted a war that left the impression it was not resolutely pursuing its enemy, but aiming instead for international brownie points. It dropped leaflets on Lebanese citizens warning them when bombings and even ground forces were coming and so warned the Hezb'allah terrorists with whom these citizens sympathized. It declared it was not engaged in war with Lebanon, thus supporting the sham position of the Lebanese government. It did not mobilize its full forces and once it did, it did not engage them in battle, quick to accept an international deal that history has shown them would be worthless.

The UN has never protected Israel from its neighbors, has ignored their violations of ceasefires, and has disappeared when they mobilized for aggression. For six years since 2000 the UN has not enforced its own resolutions on Lebanon. It allowed Hezb'allah to build up illegal rocket caches and turned a blind eye when it kidnapped Israeli soldiers. And the recent resolution notwithstanding, both the UN and the powers that supported it, chief of them France, have made it clear they are not going to disarm Hezb'allah, a group France kept off the EU terrorist list. In short, the Israeli government has made its country's security hostage to a feckless world community that is anti—Semitic to boot.

Israel, which was supposed to be the haven for Jews in a crunch, has thereby pulled the rug out from under Jews worldwide. The Israeli government's action in Lebanon has created a major dilemma of trust. Countries like France do not understand why Israel would have gone to war to rescue its kidnapped soldiers, but Israelis understand why. All Jews are bound one to another, and especially in Israel, which depends on a citizen army. The soldiers that do the work have to know that they can count on the solidarity of their fellow citizens, a solidarity embodied in their government.

If the Israeli government can sign on to a resolution that does not include the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, the future does not bode well. How will they believe that government in the future when it crosses its own red lines? What point is there to sacrifice if the government will not keep its word? And how can one explain that Israel did indeed go to war to rescue its soldiers if the government abandons that war aim so cavalierly? True, the functioning of democratic society, like all societies, has a built—in disconnect between individuals and social systems, but democracies work on the paradox of trust more than other kinds of society; and the Israeli government has certainly stretched the limit here. Perhaps since modern societies also learn from their mistakes, there will be some political and strategic housecleaning in Israel that will bring the Oslo mentality to a well—deserved end. If so, that will be the only benefit of this ill—conceived and ill—conducted war.

Of one thing Israel can be certain: there will be another war soon. The appeasement of Hezb'allah embodied in the UN ceasefire has meant only that there is a lull in the century—old war that the Arabs and the Muslims have been conducting against the Jews over Israel. Behind Hezb'allah stands Iran and behind Iran stands the threat of nuclear weapons, which, once dropped, will leave neither time nor reason for Reuters to doctor the photographs or the West to moan about Jewish perfidy.

No one but Israel, it seems, takes this threat seriously, and it remains to be seen if Israel will have the fortitude and intelligence to do something about it before it is too late. Defeating Hezb'allah would be a good starting point.

The next Lebanese war cannot happen too soon. But next time it should be conducted with all the wraps off and ended only with the capture of Nasrallah and the unconditional surrender of the Lebanese government and any other Arab government that sees fit to join it. Indeed, perhaps it is time for Israel to declare war on those countries that continue to wage war against it. It will be said Israel cannot go it alone. But Israel is, unfortunately, alone, watched over by Jews and God with whom it has a covenant with no divorce clause. Never again, the Jews keep clamoring. The time has come to see if the clamor is true.

Stephen Schecter is a sociology professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal.