2006-07-28 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

Nobody Asked me, but (Middle East Edition)
By Howard Schwach


Nobody asked me, but ...

...The House of Representative vote to back Israel came as something of a surprise, not because of the fact that the body voted to do so, but because of the size of the majority, 410-8. Most of those who voted against backing Israel were of Arab extraction. Those opposed wanted a milder version that would have excused Lebanon for the attacks coming from its territory under the theory that the Lebanese government has no control over the Hezbollah terrorists. Senator John McCain, who should know about warfare, said "If Hezbollah is going to launch attacks from Lebanese territory, then, tragically, the Lebanese government and its people are going to have to pay a price for that."

...Talk about chutzpah. Hezbollah guerillas that operate out of southern Lebanon heave missiles at Israel and when that nation responds by shooting back, Lebanon demands that Israel rebuild the infrastructure that was destroyed in that nation. The fact is, the legitimate Lebanese government should be happy that Israel is attempting to destroy Hezbollah, something that the government of Lebanon has been talking about for years, but has not been able to achieve.

...The New York Times has done it again - and again and again. In the July 19 edition of the paper, it ran several pictures from the fighting in the Middle East At the top of page A10 it ran a picture of the destruction done by Israeli planes in Beirut. On the bottom of the page there was a photograph of a Moslem 18-year-old comforted by her brother after the was wounded and her mother was killed by an Israeli air strike in the Lebanese city of Tyre. That picture accompanied a story by Hassan M. Fattah and Warren Hoge reporting why retaliatory strikes don't work in securing peace. On the next page was a photograph of a security officer in front of a destroyed Palestinian Foreign Ministry Building in Gaza City. On that page were two headlines: "Israeli Use of Force Stirs Debate on Proportion," and "Israeli Tanks in Central Gaza; Fighting is Fierce." On the following page was a photograph of an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Iran. The photo's caption says that "Iran's support for attacks on Israel is being widely promoted by political leaders." Two pages later, there is a photograph of protesters, mostly Arab-Americans, marching in downtown Dearborn, Michigan, to protest Israel's military action in Lebanon. You'll obviously notice that there are no pictures of the destruction that the missiles fired by Hezbollah did in Israel, no stories about the Israelis, including many children who were killed, nothing about the citizens of that nation who have to live in shelters and safe rooms each day. On Thursday morning, the front page story, written by Jad Mouawad and Steven Erlanger, said, "Death Toll Rises in Mideast Fight; Bunker Bombed." The subhead said, "Country Torn To Shreds, Prime Minister Says on Deadliest Day Yet." The large front page photo shows "Israeli troops supporting an incursion across the Lebanese boarder." Another front page story trumpeted, "Iraq Denounces Israel's Actions," stating that the Israeli reaction to being hit with missiles would hurt our relationship with the new Iraqi government. I have to ask every time I read the paper, where is the balance?

...A number of television stations, including CNN and Channel 2 showed interviews with a student from the American University who was being evacuated from Lebanon. She talked about hating Israel for forcing her to leave and for destroying "the people that she loved." At that point, the American government was charging a fee for the evacuations (something that was utterly ridiculous from the outset and was later rescinded). The student, whose father is Lebanese, said that she was going to send the bill to Israel because "they were all to blame for attacking Lebanon." Not one reporter challenged that view, accepting the fact that Israel was at fault. In most cases, there was no balancing story about why Israel incurred into Lebanon.

...While I am in opposition to most of what President George Bush has done to America, I have to applaud the stand he and his advisors have taken on Israel. I know that there are many who believe that Israel is at fault, but I have to wonder what their reaction would be if Mexico started lobbing missiles into Texas or California. I know that there are many "progressives" who buy into the theory that the entire mess can be blamed on the Jewish state (and many of them are my friends), but they are the same people who say that the World Trade Center attack in 2001 is America's fault and can be traced back to our support of Israel. They all remind me of the scientist in the movie "The Thing." The monster from outer space (really a giant carrot) is killing people left and right and the Air Force crew sets a trap for it in an old storeroom. Just as the trap is about to be sprung, the scientist runs forward yelling, "don't kill it. We have much to learn from it. I can talk to it." The scientist is quickly killed by the carrot and then the air force officers spring the trap and electrocute it. The people who believe that Israel is responsible for the current crisis or that America is responsible for terrorism are like that scientist.

...In the ultimate, it is going to take Israeli boots on the ground to end the military problems that it faces. There is no political solution when your opponent has pledged for sixty years to force your people into the sea and destroy your nation. One Hezbollah official was asked by a CNN reporter if the organization would repudiate its policy of calling for the destruction of Israel and he said that nothing would ever change that pledge until either the last Arab is dead or Israel is destroyed. How can you deal with that? There are no moderate Arabs when it comes to Israel and its right to exist.

...Madeline Albright was on Sunday morning television a week or so ago and had what I thought was a good idea for who should represent America's interests in the Middle East should talks ever begin anew. She suggested that the tag team of former presidents George Bush (the elder) and Bill Clinton have the right mix of credibility and panache to do the job. She is right. One thing that has to be understood, however, is that there can be no peace in the region as long as Hezbollah continues to control southern Lebanon and Hamas continues to control the Palestinian territory that Israel recently vacated. The U.S. should let Israel do what it does best and then, when the dust settles, it will be time for peace talks.

...You would expect Muslim politicians and spokespersons to blame the current conflict in the Middle East on Israel, but it is unusual for a local politician running for Hillary Clinton's seat in Congress to take that tack. Jonathon Tasini, who seeks to take the Democratic Party nod away from Clinton, told reporters, "[Israel] has certainly committed many acts of brutality and violations of human rights and torture. " He then went on to say on his blog that he considers Israel to be a terrorist state. Clinton advisor Howard Wolfson reacted by telling reporters that Tasini's comments were "outrageous, deeply offensive and beyond the pale."

... Most of the Sunday talk shows last weekend tried to maintain some balance, unlike their print colleagues. Many of the shows juxtaposed the Israeli and Lebanonese ministers and the outcome was what you would expect. Each blamed the other.

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