While I was in the middle of this series, I was asked, as someone who just spent some time in Israel, to write about Israel's war with Hezbollah. But, besides not wanting to interrupt the flow of the series (except for the need to warn about that horrible M. Night Shamylan movie), I didn't really know how to begin to discuss it.
Until last Sunday.
Sunday I was visiting friends from my Israel trip and, since I left their phone numbers at home, I called my roommate from Israel and left a message asking him to call me back.
Until last weekend, I had been a CNN addict since the beginning of the Hezbollah war. I watched intently, concerned about my family and friends in Israel, concerned about the people and places I had just seen, concerned about the homeland I love.
But this weekend, the news got away from me. I had spent a lot of time traveling and, frankly, the iPod's more entertaining on a long drive than NPR (except the Car Guys and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, those kick ass).
So, when my roommate called me back, I was a bit surprised when he said, "I know why you called me."
"What are you fucking psychic?"
"Dude, I can't believe it either."
"Uh, what the hell are you talking about?"
"Haven't you been watching the news?"
"No. I've been out of town. Shit. What happened?"
"Did you see that Katushas fell and killed 12 Israelis?"
"No. Shit. Where did that happen?"
"Yeah. This is the worst part.... Kfar Giladi."
Kfar Giladi is a kibbutz kilometers away from the Lebanese border. One of the businesses the kibbutz runs is a hotel. It was that hotel where we spent our first two nights in Israel. And it was where my roommate and I met and forged our incredibly strong friendship.
I spent half of the reunion lunch I was having with people on my trip that day discussing the surreal feeling of having just been in Kfar Giladi, Sfadt, and the Golan Heights. And how, now, everyone there is listening to air raid sirens and making their way to bomb shelters.
And, honestly, I didn't know if being home in the states was really where I wanted to be.
Since I've gotten back, a number of people have made comments to me like, "Wow, you just got out of there in time." And, yes, it is clearly safer here than it is in Nothern Israel. But, in a strange way, I feel powerless here.
Don't get me wrong. I'm well aware of the fact that if I were over there, I'd be, not only powerless, but, other than my debatable blogging skills, pretty much useless. But the feeling is a feeling from my heart, not a feeling from my head.
And any comfort I'd be to my friends and family in Israel would be overwhelmingly countered by how scared my own family would be.
But it doesn't change the emotional attachment I have to that little country on the Mediterranean.
To more directly answer the question, I think the fighting is, as it is every time, a tragedy. The fact that Israel's neighbors simply will not accept its legitimacy and its right to exist is incredibly unfortunate. The fact that organizations like Hezbollah, dedicated not to settling disagreements or resolving disputes over land, but to the complete and total annihilation of Israel and the Jews that live there, not only continue to exist, but to thrive, is appalling. The fact that these terrorist thugs use innocent Lebanese civilians as shields for their weapons and themselves in the hopes of creating pictures that will turn public opinion against Israel at the expense of their own people is disgusting. And the fact that these murderous zealots are not only allowed to exist and occupy Southern Lebanon, but remain a part of a supposedly democratic government nauseates me.
I wonder if these events would have been avoidable. What if Israel had continued its buffer zone in Lebanon? What if the UN had actually taken the steps to disarm Hezbollah and demilitarize southern Lebanon that it should have? What if we had dealt with the real imminent threats in the Middle East, Syria and Iran, rather than Iraq, and eliminated the shadow supporters of this war against Hezbollah?
But, despite the media shift against Israel (much of which has been the result of media manipulation), I don't think Israel's reaction has been inappropriate. The fact remains that when we had our own passenger planes used as missiles against us in New York and Virginia, I didn't want a "proportional response," whatever the hell that means. I didn't want three of the perpetrators' strategic targets taken out. I wanted fire and brimstone. I wanted the perpetrators to think that the fury of G-d was being brought down upon them. I wanted the perpetrators to sleep more scared than the families of the victims, fearing that each moment could be their last and knowing that it was the United States that would decide when they would meet their maker. And above all, I wanted a clear message to anyone that would even consider anything like 9/11 again, if you try to attack us, you will feel our pain one-hundred fold.
And this was one coordinated attack against the United States.
Israel, however, is the only country that is surrounded by neighbors who want it destroyed and who will seize (and have seized) any opportunity, any perceived weakness, to attack. And, what you can't tell by reading the news, is just how close, how incredibly close, those people are to where Israelis live and work every single day. Frankly, it's like living in Manhattan and having hostile governments and terrorists living in and firing rockets from across the river in New Jersey.
So, yes, I believe that Israel's reaction has been appropriate. Entirely appropriate. And, just as I would expect the United States to protect me with overwhelming force if Mexico or Canada or Cuba were firing missiles at where I live, I believe Israel is entirely justified in doing the same thing with Hezbollah.
Certainly, I feel for Lebanese civilians. Lebanon, like the vast majority of Middle Eastern governments, has a populace of brainwashed, uneducated masses. Rather than have real debates about their political direction and invest in the betterment of their own people, to answer their people's questions about why their lives are so difficult these leaders point to Israel the United States and say, "You are the blessed ones. You are the ones honored by Allah. Why do the Jews and the Americans live so much better than you? Because they are infidels. Because they are the cause of your problems. Because they are holding you down and suppressing Allah's true will."
And rather than, at minimum, question or, at most, revolt against their own corrupt and woefully deficient leadership, rather than recognize the better lives of their neighbors are the result of valuing education and implementation of democratic institutions, they buy what their "leaders" are selling them, hook, line, and sinker, support their zenophobic agendas, and even electing these demagogues into their governments.
And they keep these hate-mongers in charge. These demagogues continue to use their people as pawns, to keep them ignorant, and to direct their anger outward, so they won't take the time to look in their own mirrors.
And, when these hate-mongers attack Israel or the United States, they use their own people as human shields, indiscriminately ignoring the inherent value of human life in order to exploit them to enrage their own ignorant masses and to sway world opinion. And when they die in disproportionate numbers, the hate-mongers point their finger again, conveniently ignoring that they placed these people in front of a loaded weapon to being with.
So, I feel for the Lebanese people. I genuinely do. I wish that they would look inward, question the general premises that are forced upon them, ask whether having Hezbollah, not only on their Southern border, but in their government is truly in their interest, and truly explore whether their neighbor to their south should be demonized and labeled as a threat or simply acknowledged as people who just want to live their lives in peace and let them do so as well.
So I will always, always feel that Hezbollah is solely responsible for what is happening now. And I will continue to see the blood of innocent Israelis and Lebanese on Hezbollah's hands.