The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

On Israel getting it right

Posted by rantingkraut on July 23, 2006

Update: “Der Spiegel’s” English translation is now up here (it was, there is now a copy here (26 January 2008)). This came quicker than expected and should be better than the one below.

There is an interesting Israel friendly and surprisingly Hawkish article in the On-line edition of the German centre-left weekly “Der Spiegel” today. There is no translation on their English site though, so I offer my own, rather rushed, attempt until they get round to it:

Why Israel is doing the right thing.

The current military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah provokes reactions symptomatic of an antiquated world view all over Germany. Israel however, is fighting for a just cause. The journalist Matthias Küntzel points out, that pacifism has little to offer at the moment.

Hamburg – Public opinion is homing in on a carefully nuanced assessment, criticising Hezbollah’s aggression and Israel’s overreaction in the same breath. This supposed neutrality, which places the aggressor and the victim on the same plane, does however amount to partiality.

In 2003, 59% of respondents to a survey thoughtlessly replied that Israel was threatening to world peace. Likewise, and a mere three days into the present war, a quarter of Germans were of the opinion that Israel’s defensive measures were disproportionate. TV images have since done their bit: there is now a consensus that a ceasefire should be called earlier rather than later. I hold four arguments against this.

Just War

Israel is conducting a just war: Germany and the EU should support Israel without reservation.

Islamism has attacked Israel in the south and the north. Israel simply had to react to this, but this is only part of the story. Israel’s military action is of importance for the West as a whole. Up to 2005 Islamism has successfully fooled the West into believing that the occupation of Gaza and south Lebanon was the root cause of its terror. Today we know better: Islamism doesn’t aim to change Israel’s policy, it aims to destroy Israel. Even then, the ambitions of Islamism reach far beyond this target: for Teheran, the conflict in the Middle East is not the cause but merely a starting point for an all out assault on the secular West.

Ahmadinejad makes no secret of his long term programme. In October 2005 the Iranian president prominently called for the elimination of Israel for the first time. He added: “We are in the middle of a historic war, a war which has lasted for centuries.” This implies that the war –as Ahmadinejad sees it- is not innately linked to the comparatively recent conflict in the Middle East. According to Ahmadinejad, “the current war in Palestine is nothing but the front line in a wider war between the world of Islam and the world of arrogance.” He continues: “We have to be aware of just how low our enemy is so that our sacred hatred can continue to spread like a wave. This “sacred hatred” is unconditional. It will not be moderated by any change in Jewish or non-Jewish behaviour other than complete submission under Sharia and the Quran. This “hatred” won’t be placated by the destruction of Israel. The world of the unbelievers, of arrogance against God, will likewise have to be destroyed. This genocidal hatred is set to spread further and further like a wave, until it ultimately has spread globally. To aid in this plan, the Iranian leadership has announced its intention to send forth thousands of Shiite suicide bombers all over the world. Today, the men and women of Israel stand in the frontline, risking their lives while confronting this apocalyptic programme. Don’t we at least owe them our solidarity?

The government of Israel wants peace

Olmert’s government has so far linked its military action to a transparent political strategy. All the steps involved are easy to follow: Israel accepts Lebanon as a sovereign state and therefore holds it responsible for Hezbollah’s attacks of 12 June [sic] 2006.

On the other hand, Israel’s war aims are clearly defined: “We are strictly engaged in self defence.” Announced Ehud Olmert, the head of government, on 17 July in front of the Knesset. “We are fighting for our right to live a normal life.” That’s why the following detailed war aims are being pursued: a. enforcement of UN resolution 1559 (disarmament of Hezbollah), b. enforcement of UN resolution 5241 (exclusive control of the official Lebanese Army over the south of Lebanon) and c. the unconditional release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

“We love death”

Israel’s war effort is subordinate to those objectives: Lebanon’s infrastructure will be destroyed in so far as it is relevant for equipping Hezbollah or for Hezbollah’s operations. Lebanese Civilians are warned about missions targeting civilian areas through leaflets and radio messages.

Hezbollah by contrast works from different premises. Their motto is: “You love life, we love death.” Hezbollah’s Godfather Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put it thus: there is no art “more beautiful, more divine and more eternal than the art of a martyr’s death.” Following this motto, Hezbollah accepts the death, not only of Jews, but also of countless Shiite Muslims. That’s why they have placed their rockets in the middle of Shiite residential areas.

Hezbollah is launching cluster bombs against Israeli residential areas to cause as many civilian deaths as possible. Israel, by contrast, is attempting to minimize the number of Lebanese civilian casualties, even though this makes military deployments more difficult.

There is currently no alternative to Israel’s military deployment.

Will Hezbollah ever voluntarily give up its arms? Never!

The Jihad against Israel is the very reason for their existence. For them, the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable, it is a religious duty. Hezbollah only bows to violence. At present, Israel’s armed forces is the only power that can rein them in. Could a UN force replace Israel’s resources? Never! In 1983 two suicide attacks by Hezbollah were sufficient to cause the USA and France to withdraw. Even the most resilient UN troops wouldn’t stand up to Hezbollah. Indeed, the use of UN troops would only become an option if Israel comprehensively weakened the terrorist group’s military ability.

Israel has never had a better opportunity to complete this task. The longer it can focus on it the better the prospect for a peaceful Lebanon and for a durable peace more generally.

Positive Developments

In this situation, the demands for a ceasefire are tantamount to requesting that Hezbollah be saved. Their leader Nasrallah could emerge from his hide-out and announce to his people that they had suffered losses but defended their dignity. He could point to Iran’s financial promises for the reconstruction of Shiite neighbourhoods and declare that from now on Hezbollah is going to be the most important representative of Arab interests. An immediate ceasefire would eventually bring a continuation and intensification of the war.

Israel’s armed intervention has yielded some results already.

We can already see the benefits of the Israeli defence effort, a defence effort with an intensity which seems to have taken Hezbollah’s leaders and organisers completely by surprise and left them unprepared. The kind of ‘critical dialogue’, which is fashionable in Germany in particular, has never done anything other than strengthen the Mullah’s dictatorships and the anti-Semitic terrorist groups. Israel’s determined action, by contrast, has produced a paradigm shift in the Middle East in a matter of days.

First of all, there is the turning point of 15 July 2006: For the very first time in the history of the Middle Eastern conflict has there been an overwhelming majority in the Arab League for condemning the Shiite aggressors’ dangerous adventure. Never before have Hezbollah, Iran and –indirectly- Hamas been rebuffed so directly.

So far, the ‘Arab street reaction’ also suggests that Israel has used the right means at the right time. During the spring of 2002, at the zenith of the second intifada, around two million people poured out on the street from Rabat to Bahrain to proclaim their solidarity with Hamas. Now we are witnessing Israel’s most intense military action for the last 24 years and things have remained quite calm. Youssef Ibrahim wrote in the New York Sun: “Rarely have I seen such an uprising, indeed an intifada, against those little turbaned, bearded men across the Muslim landscape as the one that took place last week. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, received a resounding “no” to pulling 350 million Arabs into a war with Israel on his clerical coattails.

By now, even the Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has distanced himself from Hezbollah and its terrorism. This is a consequence weakening the organisation which previously has managed to put him under intense pressure.

Iran’s pathetic reaction

Last but not least, Hezbollah’s Iranian godfather has shown a surprisingly pathetic reaction. Immediately before July 12th Ahmadinejad had still announced Israel’s impending demise. Israel’s counterattack on the following day left him dumbfounded for a full 48 hours. On July 14th he meekly announced that an Israeli attack on Syria would provoke a “severe response” from Iran. The simultaneous attack on his closest allies in Lebanon was not even mentioned. All of a sudden, the macho comments from Teheran and Damascus had a hollow ring: not one of these countries actively defended its allies. As a result, Israel’s armed intervention has dented Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s seemingly unassailable reputation.

Of course, those initial successes do not rule out unpleasant surprises for the future. The Muslim Brotherhood is desperately trying to denounce the Arab League’s treason, and to mobilise the subversive forces of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi-Arabia. Will they be successful? Iran’s leadership meanwhile has switched to appeals for endurance. “Well done Nasrallah! Today we are witnessing the liberation of Palestine. The war has only just started.” declared Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel the speaker of the Iranian parliament at a rally on the 18 June [sic]. Will Iran’s leadership accept the probable defeat of its close ally? Or will it –dangerous like an injured tiger- commit itself to a kind of last battle in which it despatches its well prepared suicide bombers to Lebanon and various European capitals.

Whatever the end result may be, Israel could not have acted better than it has done so far. This is one reason why the house of representatives this week gave it an unconditional declaration of solidarity with 410 against 8 votes.

It is terrible to see how southern Beirut is raised to the ground. It is terrible to know that Israeli soldiers and civilians on both sides will be injured or killed in the fighting. Even worse though is the idea that Iran might emerge victorious from this war only to commit more devastating attacks in the future.

The pacifist knee-jerk reaction which Israel’s recent defensive war has provoked in Germany and Europe is either ill considered or dishonest, in either case it will be counter productive, since its acceptance would lead to an even worse conflict. The lesson from Hitler’s war of destruction –“No more fascism! No more war!”—has originally been learned to make future anti-Semitic wars impossible. What is left of this lesson today is: “No more war against fascism!”, a downright inversion of the original lesson.

Israel must not be forced to compromise in its war against Hezbollah, it must win this war. Just as Hezbollah is fighting on behalf of Iran so Israel is fighting on behalf of the Western world in general. That the West should not stab Israel in the back is the least that can be expected.

(Source)

Quotations were translated as they appeared in the text which possibly means they have been translated from language to language for quite a while and should be treated with some caution. One exception is the Yussef Ibrahim quote from the New York Sun, which was easy to track down and which is linked in the text. There also seem to be some goofs regarding dates with June and July mixed up. These are indicated with a malicious [sic] where appropriate.

The author, Matthias Küntzel, is introduced as a political scientist and journalist based in Hamburg. There is a mentioning of a book he has written on Jihad and anti-Semitism with the original article, but since there does not appear to be an English translation I won’t say anymore about it.

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