Friday, August 18, 2006

Now that's it's over(?)

1. Watching the Israeli society in the last six weeks felt, for me, like watching a close friend getting drunk and uncontrollably abusive. A provocation becomes a brawl; everybody gets hurt, including the drunk himself, the place is trashed beyond recognition, and the horrible truth is that there's not much you can do, just wait until it's over.
The U.S, which in similar situations in the past acted as the responsible adult friend of the adolescent bully - clearly biassed but cold-headed enough to stop it before it gets worse - was acting as a cheerleader, occasionally handing more vodka just to make it more fun.
And now, like always after a night of heavy drinking, comes the hangover. And judging by Israeli news websites, it seems like a pretty bad one.

2. What were the Israeli 'officer corps' (as Juan Cole reffered to them) thinking?
The same methods and techniques were used in 1994 (under Rabin) and 1996 (under Peres); those rounds of bombings started similarly with resolute statements and ended with a negotiated deal after much devastation but inability to defeat Hizbulla. This time we saw a much more brutal version of the same thing, only with a shambolic land invasion to top it up. Why did they think what failed twice would work now?

If the aim was to get the Lebanese Army to deploy on the border, then this was achieved (but remember that in 1992-2000 Hizbullah was operating from areas controlled by the Lebanese Army. It didn't bother them much. Hizbulla's decisions will be influenced more by political balance in Lebanon than anything else). But then the aim changed to 'defeating Hizbulla', a clear impossiblity.

How could the Israeli army recommend this operation, with no clear aims, and therefore with no chances of success? My only lame explanation is that generals think through military force; that's what they're paid to do. They are delighted to use their deadly toys when opportunity knocks. The problem starts when there is no-one to stop them

3. There are interesting parallels between the failed American Iraq enterprise and the failed Israeli war on Lebanon. In both places the problem was articulated as a 'bad' state: a rogue state in Iraq, and a state unable to live up to its international commitments in Lebanon. In both cases the solution was to use military force in order to create the old order of things: a world in which states are the only actors; a world of states playing within the (american-dominated) global order.

This shows how blind these policy-makers and generals are to today's world. An assault on the nation state will inevitably weaken it. In both cases the non-state actors emerged as real alternatives. Whatever losses Hizbullah has suffered, it stood up to the Israeli army. I think many people around the world will form their conclusions from this.

4. The optimistic side of me suggests that something good might come out of all this. The sense of shock and disillusionment in Israel can be a wake-up call: that excessive force and technological superiority do not solve problems; that the immediate preference for unilateral use of force rather than diplomatic channels does not lead very far.
My pessimistic side tells me a change is impossible as long as the Bush administration is in place.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Antebe / Lebanon

I found it funny.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I find it impossible to write these days: words seem meaningless, and of little use. So I turn to other people's words. Ronit Matalon, my favourite Israeli writer, in Haaretz today:

A. from the store that sells building materials in my Tel Aviv neighborhood, stopped saying hello to me the morning after I spoke out against the war on television. We met at the usual street corner, at more or less the regular time, and A. turned his gaze forward or sideways, avoiding my eyes. We had never talked, A. and I, about “the situation,” or about anything else of substance. The soft, salient absence of content in our daily encounter and the measured, mutual, almost wordless, greeting created the cordial pact of a fraternity of acquaintances and neighbors that existed between us − a muted thread in the precious weave of the everyday.

This everyday cordial pact between A. and me, between every person and every A., is one of the elements that forcefully grabs the hyperactive kicking feet of the generalized concept of “homeland” and places it on some sort of ground, turns it into a non-generalized, concrete “home.” The two don’t always go together − “homeland” and “home” − and sometimes, indeed, they are mutually contradictory, especially when the homeland allies itself almost absolutely with a frothingly patriotic ”We’ll show them” sort of pride.

In times of controversial wars, this gap between the language of the “homeland” and the language of the “home” widens and becomes almost a gulf. At such a time, the “home,” it seems, must defend its existence in the face of the “homeland,” especially when the latter puts on its most militant show in the form of irresponsible, patriotic, sentimental talk − sentimentalism that is liable to justify and perhaps even foment crimes of various degrees.

Read the rest here.