Mid East sorrows
I received the following in an e-mail from a Catholic “trad” group this week:
Lebanon is the absolute last nation in the Mideast where there still exists substantial Christian population, or what’s left of one. Approximately 36% of Lebanese citizens are Maronite Eastern rite Catholics. If Lebanon continues to be destabilized or devolves into further chaos, there exists the distinct possibility that the Christians living there will once again begin to flee en masse, as they did during the scourging of previous tribulations when their numbers comprised over 80% of the population. We should be ever mindful that once this final bastion of Catholicism is vanquished, the Middle East will then (save for a few tiny remnants) be tragically devoid of any noticeable Catholic or even Christian society.
Although many of us are Western Catholics who generally tend to hold many conservative political views (as does this author), you should not succumb to the prevalent group-think that is currently infecting the “Israel can do no wrong” American/Western right. This flawed and dangerous mindset is being driven by factions that possess varying motivational inspirations, but shared goals. Two of the more prominent of these factions that immediately come to mind are the neoconservatives (who have largely hijacked and debilitated Western conservatism) and dispensational Protestants who adhere to the theologically absurd “rapture” heresy.
I considered posting a response here but the heat wave took a toll on me, however, and I’m only now able to sit in the office and try to be coherent. Even more fortunate, this morning’s readings also gave me three links that make almost the entire case that I had in mind.
The first is from David Warren, who thankfully remains one of the most clear headed journalists in Canada. Here, he sets out to take on some of the myths surrounding the latest conflict. Example:
Item: The Israeli military operations are “excessive”, and include unnecessary strikes against Lebanon’s infrastructure and capital city.
This is a damned lie. Israel has been attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon, which necessarily includes infrastructure that Hezbollah uses. Even the attacks on the Beirut airport were to a purpose openly stated, and advertised in extensive leafleting and broadcasting before the airport’s runways were cratered, and fuel depots taken out. From hard past experience, the Israelis knew Hezbollah would be using that airport not only to whisk their prisoners to safekeeping in Iran, but as a conduit to bring Iranian and Syrian advisers, and crucial supplies, in and out of the country. The strikes elsewhere in Beirut are overwhelmingly on the southern, Shia part of the city, where Hezbollah’s masters have their command. Lebanese television and radio have themselves been broadcasting Israeli communiqués, clearly warning what they will hit, when, and why. The overwrought charge that Israel is “trying to destroy Lebanon” is an imposture. If the Israelis actually wanted to destroy all of Lebanon, they could carpet-bomb the place.
While there is the usual in the local press, ie. mindless, historically stupid cartoons asking how many lives two captured Israeli soldiers are worth, there does seem to be the beginnings of an awakening as well. Witness this link, which quotes a story out of The New York Times of all places, that displays an inkling of the kind of subterfuge Hezbollah has been using.
Then there is this, from the Telegraph UK:
You could criticise Israel’s recent attack for many things. Some argue that it is disproportionate, or too indiscriminate. Others think that it is ill-planned militarily. Others hold that it will give more power to extremists in the Arab world, and will hamper a wider peace settlement. These are all reasonable, though not necessarily correct positions to hold. But European discourse on the subject seems to have been overwhelmed by something else – a narrative, told most powerfully by the way television pictures are selected, that makes Israel out as a senseless, imperialist, mass-murdering, racist bully.
Not only is this analysis wrong – if the Israelis are such imperialists, why did they withdraw from Lebanon for six years, only returning when threatened once again? How many genocidal regimes do you know that have a free press and free elections? – it is also morally imbecilic. It makes no distinction between the tough, sometimes nasty things all countries do when hard-pressed and the profoundly evil intent of some ideologies and regimes. It says nothing about the fanaticism and the immediacy of the threat to Israel…
Behind the dominant narrative of Israeli oppression is a patronising, almost racist assumption about the Arabs, and about Muslims, which is, essentially, that “they’re all the same”. Public discussion therefore does not stop to consider whether the immediate ceasefire called for by most European countries might hand a victory to Hezbollah, which, in turn, would ultimately lead to a much greater loss of life. It just postures.
If Israeli actions are not merely about two soldiers, and if they are not reckless and indifferent, then what is the basis of the objection to Israeli action?
I find the suggestion that Christians living in Lebanon are better off under the threat of being used as human shields by Hezbollah to be ludicrous. Governments are responsible for what happens on their soil and while the Lebanese government isn’t hostile to Israel, it is helpless to prevent its land from being used by Hezbollah and therefore not much help to Christians (or anyone else) living there. The passing of the current situation may not be much to mourn. In evaluating Israel’s course, one cannot assume that doing nothing is the best and most bloodless route.
Hezbollah makes no distinction between military and civilian targets, both what it aims at and in where it does its aiming from. And Israel does. Israel is a open, liberal democracy and Hezbollah a closed, theocratic aristocracy. It’s clear which side deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s clear that the status quo is not satisfactory. Taking action to remedy that is risky, of course. But we were made to use our talents, were we not? Saying so hardly places me in the position of embracing Left Behind theology.