2006-08-11 / Columnists

The Progressive

Nobody Asked Me
By John Paul Culotta

For many years, I have decided to steer my comments regarding the Middle East to platitudes about negotiations. History demands that all people understand each other's perspective and history before any settlement of conflict can be obtained. Conflict generally leads to more conflict.

Howard Schwach, the editor of this paper, in the July 28, 2006 issue wrote that most of nation's print media was critical of Israel. I feel most of the tabloid print media in this city and the New York Sun's reporting were absolutely in favor of Israel's excursion into Lebanon. Our need to blame one side in any conflict precludes the cessation of man's reliance on violence to settle differences.

Many Americans of all religions, colors, and ethnic identification have refrained from discussing the Middle East because of their fears of being labeled intolerant towards their Jewish and Muslim neighbors and friends. It is noteworthy though that our editor felt it was important to state that legislators "of Arab extraction" voted against a resolution backing Israel. Schwach also noted that protestors in Dearborn, Michigan were "mostly Arab Americans." It is not appropriate for anyone to assert that the only objectors to Israel's actions in Lebanon are Arab Americans or anti Semites. I am aware of many Jewish people who are troubled of some of the tactics used by Israel.

The New York Times is considered our nation's newspaper of record. As such, there is no need for anyone to defend this newspaper from silly attacks regarding its coverage of the situation in Lebanon. Is Schwach asking the Times not to print the destruction caused by Israel planes on the top of page 10 in its July 19 edition? Some may claim such a photograph deserves to be on the front page above the fold. We should be aware that war causes pain and sorrow and photographs of Muslim and Christian suffering in Lebanon is an important part of that story. Schwach's assertion that the New York Times is biased against Israel is ludicrous.

It is ironic that anyone in this country should feel the people and government of Lebanon "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" as Schwach wrote. Our nation for many years had violent racist groups that operated within our borders. It took many years for this nation to eradicate and make ineffective the Ku Klux Klan. I doubt we would have approved of another nation destroying our infrastructure to destroy that organization. When the Irish Republican Army used the Republic of Ireland as a base for their terrorist activities in Ulster, the United Kingdom did not invade Ireland or bomb Dublin. Israel's action may in Israeli minds acts of self-defense but in effect the entire world except for the United States is aghast at the incursion. Any action of any nation that causes such a reaction is not in that country's best interests. Schwach is troubled because The New York Times reported the reaction of other nations including Iraq- a government that is probably the only Arab country that this nation can control. Iraq is an American possession at this point of its history and its government could not survive without our military support.

Hezbollah is an organization that has considerable support in Lebanon because of tribal affiliation and not only because of its desire to destroy Israel. All parties including Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran need to be at any negotiating table before a resolution can be achieved. Although it is difficult to believe this simple statement, all sustainable peace settlements occur when all parties agree to compromise and find common ground. Agreements do not occur at gunpoint.

President Bush's policy in the Middle East has been a disaster. Our excursion into Iraq and his unconditional support of Israel precludes our nation from acting as an honest broker in the area. It also appears Israeli intelligence is not up to snuff. Israel underestimated Hezbollah's strength and Lebanese resolve against being attacked.

It is now claimed that Israel went into Lebanon because according to Senator McCain, Hezbollah "is going to launch attacks from Lebanese territory." Israel claimed the excursion was because two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped. Hezbollah missile attacks occurred after Lebanese infrastructure was bombed and many refugees heeding Israeli warnings to flee were killed as the highways were attacked. As a result, Arab support for Hezbollah increased. Violence again breeds violence and sustainable peace is achieved through negotiations. An attempt to destroy Hezbollah before peace negotiations may appear to be logical but does not address the causes of the conflict- a belief that the western world and Israel is exploiting Arab land and resources and supporting corrupt leaders. Many Arabs support Hamas and Hezbollah because of simple things such as clean streets, health care delivery, and a desire for better living conditions. Their supporters do not consider both Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. In fact, in democratic elections the supporters voted them into Palestinian and Lebanese legislatures. President Bush claims we are bringing democratic practices to the Middle East. In a democracy all political voices need to be heard. Our contention that terrorist groups cannot be a part of peace negotiations would have precluded peace in Northern Ireland. Will negotiations secure Israel's safety? Peace negotiations may not. Constant conflict can only weaken Israel. Will Hezbollah repudiate its assertion to crush Israel? This question can only be answered in the future but moderate Arab Moslems and Christians will not be amenable to a settlement when their homes are bombed and their lives are lost,

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