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Friday, July 14, 2006

Hamas, Hezbollah, Israel, and the Death of Language

The incursions into Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah to snatch Israeli soldiers and the resultant over-reaction by Israel in both cases reminds me of the movie, Groundhog Day. We have seen this sort of very dangerous dance before though, as in the movie, it isn't exactly like the previous mutual acts of violence of the past.

First let me explain my use of two terms here. The first is "incursion," which I used in connection with the special forces like operations inside of Israel by both Hamas and Hezbollah. This word was used by Nixon of an American invasion of Cambodia. Nixon's use of the term was a substantial misuse since by their nature, incursions should be relatively brief. Israel has responded in both cases with incursions of its own combined with bombing raids in an effort, allegedly, to get its soldiers back.

The second is my use of "over-reaction" in connection with Israel. Their actions have been over-reactions in the sense that they were not "an eye for an eye." That would have involved equivalent snatching operations to pluck, say, one or two Hamas and Hezbollah leaders to be used in a trade for the solders. In numbers of people killed, obviously Israel's actions have greatly exceeded the "accomplishments" of Hamas and Hezbollah and so, in purely numerical terms, what Israel has done was an over-reaction. This doesn't mean that it was an unreasonable or indefensible reaction.

The most significant change between past "dust ups" between Israel and its apparently implacable foes, Hamas and Hezbollah, is that both are parts of the governments in the countries they launched their incursions from. Hezbollah has minority representation in the government of Lebanon but Hamas has a very strong position in Palestine. Americans will recognize this situation. It parallels the hosting of Al Queda by the Taliban government of Afghanistan. The governments of Lebanon and Palestine are complicit with the actions of these groups and I, for one, don't blame Israel for attacking these countries as they have done for it is not so different from the thoroughly laudable invasion in my opinion of Afghanistan by the US to take away Al Queda's "safe house," so to speak.

Events in the North look very much like being a war or the beginnings of one and as often is said, "the first casualty of war is the truth." One can just as well say that the first casualty of war is language, for, as David Lewis has argued in his book, Convention to my satisfaction that without a convention of truthfulness, there can be no language. If you can trust only half or less of what your spouse says, then nothing he or she says can be relied on and his or her claims and promises will have no significance (one kind of meaning) and might as well not have any conventional meaning.

So, my words for you are two-fold. Do not believe anything that Lebanon, Hezbollah and its good friend, Iran, Palestine, Hamas, and Israel says. And remember that, like the movie, Groundhog Day, tomorrow is likely to be much like today. Given the on-going wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which includes the actions by insurgents in both countries to recruit and train Muslims from various countries in the area to make mischief there and in their own countries, and the issue of the possible development of nukes in Iran, I am inclined to believe that this "dust up" may have some very unfortunate consequences for everyone in the area, as well as for the United States, the only country in the world willing to put its neck on the chopping block for Israel. The U. S. could have a more balanced position but that is hard to do when the special forces units of Lebanon and Palestine are attacking inside Israel. If the U. S. is to take a balanced position it would be one that puts pressure equally on Israel, Lebanon (and Syria), and Palestine to stop making war on each other. Permanently. How likely is that?


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14 Comments:

Anonymous Yacoub said...

If I were an Israeli

If I were an Israeli I will be worried about the future..
If I were an Israeli I will sit down and count the number of military confrontations Israel has gone through..
If I were an Israeli I will look around to count how many "friends" are around us in this part of the world..
If I were an Israeli I will reconsider some of the basic assumptions laid down by Zionism..
If I were an Israeli I will ask how can this "state" survive and flourish on US aid ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask for how long can I live in a ghetto called "state" ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask if it is the destiny of my family to fight endless wars ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask who has better life me or a fellow Jew in Argentine ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask myself why after 58 years no Arab is ready to talk to us?
If I were an Israeli I will ask why Israeli real estate firms build in countries other than Israel ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask what if the US airlift in 1973 was not done or if it was late to come ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask what good is "the wall" if it can be neutralized by Palestinian fighters ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask our leaders how they look at the future while waging perpetual wars ?
If I were an Israeli I will ask what if US aid is cut or diminished to very low levels regardless of reason ?
If I were an Israeli I will get a second passport or renew the one I already keep in my chest of drawers...
If I were an Israeli IU will ask why immigration is running to unprecendred low levels ?
If I were an Israeli I will tell my son to go to a country that offers him a prosperous future..

1:36 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

For many of your questions, you could ask the same of Palestinians and now of the Lebanese. The latter had just installed a moderately representative government. How did they like 24 years of Israeli occupation of part of Lebanon? For all we know, the point of the Hezbollah attack was to destablize Lebanon in the hope they could gain more power, just as Hamas has done. They have to know they can't destroy or even destablize Israel.

One question one might ask is why didn't the Arab countries accept refugees from Palestine? Obviously they didn't want them. Why not? Nor have these countries provided them meaningful support over the years. This is a world wide disgrace that was sparked by Hitler's war against Europe and Russia and its killing millions of Jews and Slavs. I regret the US didn't accept all of the Jewish refugees.

In fact, while the S. Arabian government is not friendly with Israel they have critized the Hezbollah attack. That is the next best thing.

In 1967, after war broke out I went down to the large cafeteria of the U. of Illinois student union and saw two groups of people. I went to one that was pro-Arab and after listening awhile, I decided they were crazy people. I then went to the other and they were pro-Israel and after awhile, I decided they too were crazy and declared myself to be neutral. Until the world comes up with a solution we will all live through many Groundhog Days.

2:49 PM

 
Blogger Mr K said...

Isreal might have a "right" to fire a whole bunch of missiles in response to a few (I believe the figure is 100 dead in the Lebanon, and 8 in Isreal, but I might be wrong), but until one side actually has the courage to try something different rather than just continuing escalation of attacks, I don't think anything is going to get any better.

11:20 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

That, Mr. K, is why I brought up the movie, Groundhog Day. Bill Murray relived that day many, many times. So also do Isreal and the aothers relive their wars.

I think Hezbollah made a very serious error. Israel is doubtless delighted that they were handed the opportunity to try to destroy the organization. To what degree they can is anybody's guess. I would say that they can't possibly do so without a ground war and many would escape only to return when Israel has gone back home.

1:06 PM

 
Anonymous Uri said...

Well, yacoub, I don't have to ask myself what I'd do if I were an Israeli, because I am an Israeli.

First, the Foreign Aid given by the US is one of those linguistic wonders. On the surface it appears to mean aid given by the US to a foreign country. In reality Foreign Aid never leaves the US and can only be used to purchase US made products. It's not aid to a foreign country, it's aid to the US economy using a foreign country an an intermediary.

You can refer to Israel as a "state" in double-quotes. Why the double-quotes? How is Israel, which achieved independence in 1948, less a state than Jordan, achieved independence in 1946, or Syria, which got its independece in 1932, or Lebanon that got its independence in 1941?

You are correct to "the wall" in double quotes, because it's actually a fence. No different from many borders between countries.

12:59 PM

 
Blogger Paul F. said...

They've fought over land in that area since the begining of recorded history and even before that I'm sure. They have never stopped fighting over land and they never will until the end of the world. Middle east = *yawn*. I'm bored with the Middle East. I don't care about Iraq, Isreal, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the surrounding kingdom countries. These countries are full of immature and very archaic minds with no future plans except for war.

8:20 PM

 
Blogger den said...

LG,
Israel may have over-reacted to the incursion and kidnapping of 2 soldiers, but not to the real threat. If we can believe the news reports, the terrorists - with support from their sponsoring state (Syria) have stockpiled more than 10,000 rockets along the border. Does anyone think that this was a defensive move?
I understand many of the civilian casualties in Lebanon are due to the fact that Hezbollah intentionally places their rocket launchers on the rooftops in populated neighhborhoods.

Isn't this another example of how impotent the UN is? How did you like Bush's explanation of the solution to Tony Blair? Larry the Cable guy is more eloquent (Git R Done).

9:23 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont know why you people become blind when it comes to Hizbollah.

Dont you know, that Israelis are bombing Lebanon, civilians, childrens, dont you think they have the right to LIVE.

And Hizbulla didnt start rocketing Israel, they gave warning, but when Israel doesnt stop, then they start rocketing?

What do you think , only Israel has the right to do anything. More than 200 civilian in Lebanon dies, and israel 22, ??? Dont you see the numbers who is killing. And still you plp are backing Israel.

This is not muslim/ jewish/ chirstian issue. See them as a human. I think you plp also joined Israel group as a criminal by raising your voice for Israel.

Are you supporting Israel on killing childrens?
Are you supporting Israel for bombing?

If yes!. Then shame on you.. you are against humanity.

2:53 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Israel! The fighting will stop when there are no more "Muslims" making a concerted effort to kill all Jews and Americans.

9:53 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

I'm pretty much with Paul F. here. I'm thoroughly sick of hearing about fighting in the Middle East. When I heard that fighting had broken out in the Middle East again, my first thought was: "How did fighting 'break out' when it never really stopped in the first place?" The people there would kill thousands for a single acre of land, and I'm tired of it. I don't want to hear about it. I've heard people say that we should just level the whole region of the world and kill everyone there, and sometimes I wonder if that wouldn't be best. Every government there is corrupt through and through, and the mentality of at least some of the people is, as Paul said, archaic.

10:58 AM

 
Blogger den said...

Recently, there was a sobering TV interview with a Palestinian father who said he would be "proud and happy" to see his 4 year old boy grow-up to become a suicide bomber. I found it chilling that a parent would be so willing to sacrifice his son.

Anonymous cynically pretends to care about humanity. How about Israel - do they also have a right to LIVE?

11:05 AM

 
Blogger Sean said...

Everyone has a right to live here, everyone's actions so far have been counterproductive in this situation, and everyone should be concerned with the situation whether you're tired of it or not. Religious fanaticism is dangerous, be it Muslin fanatics, Jewish fanatics, or Christian fanatics. Funny though, they don't usually think of themselves as fanatics, just as those who think differently as wrong. Be concerned because that fanaticism effects us all, be it in economic ways (gas prices and their ramifications), social ways (social stratification on religious lines, leading to mistrust and eventually hatred), and personal ways (yet again a religiously motivated congress and White House are tackling down stem cell research and gay marriage).

Most civilized people have the standing social contract of "I won't kill you, you won't kill me." We take it for granted in this country, and most places, but it is one major part of the web that keeps civilization going. It has been broken in the Middle East for a very long time. I don't see it being fixed anytime soon either, mostly because it requires rationality and restraint, two things completely lacking in this situation, on both sides.

A possible solution? Stop backing religiously sponsored states. Religion breeds irrationality and hatred for those who believe otherwise, deeply ironic though this fact is. So ironic that people often blind themselves to that reality. It has a long history of it, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian. Give up the myths, no one is going to heaven, especially for setting up a holy land, "saving" everyone from the gays, or blowing yourself up in a crowded mall. We are all here, together, now, and we have to deal with each other. No cosmic father figure is going to bail us out of this one, and no one but us will care when we’re gone.

12:04 PM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

Sean, I think you're mostly right there, but your finger-pointing is a bit off. Fanatacism generally is the problem, not religious fanatacism in particular. Evil people use all kinds of fanatacism to their ends, whether it be religious, social (e.g. communism), or ethnic.

2:37 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think about the people of Israel and Lebanon!
They can't live freely in this situation.
And I'll be on Lebanon side. Hezbollah didn't anything wrong, they defends their country, but Israel attack them, Hezbollah must defends their country.
Long live to Hezbollah!!!
Once again, I want to say that
George W. Bush is a dog!!!

2:05 AM

 

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