The Calm Before Or After The Storm?

I have recently read my second Mike Whitney article, titled "Honor First"; the liberation of Lebanon, on Information Clearing House (thanks to Delirious for pointing it out).* I would have described his writing as "highly readable and recommended but equally alarming" if it weren't that events in recent weeks have proved to be even more paranoid and disturbing than an alarmist's wildest dreams. And what seems to be even more troubling is that there seems to be a consensus, on both sides of the border, that the current calm is not that after the storm, but the calm before one. It may be a case of "hoping for the best and expecting the worst" in an area that has proved to be beyond anyone's worst expectations, and that stomps the hopes of even the staunchest optimist. I am highlighting below an excerpt of Whitney's more recent article that I found particularly compelling, though I highly recommend reading the entirety of both articles:

The coverage of the Lebanon fiasco in the Israeli media is alternately narcissistic and hysterical. The details of the massive destruction to Lebanon’s civil infrastructure and environment are brushed aside as inconsequential; the 1,300 civilian deaths, irrelevant. The only thing that matters is Israeli suffering; everything else is trivial. While Lebanon is busy digging out another 300 or so corpses from the rubble of their destroyed homes, Israel is preoccupied with its loss of “deterrents” or its battered sense of “invincibility”.

It is an interesting study in the prevailing megalomania of Israeli society, a culture as pathologically self-absorbed as its American ally. It’s no wonder security is so hard to come by when people are so lacking in empathy.

In Lebanon, the extent of the damage is just beginning to be grasped. Whole cities in the south have been laid to waste and most of the vital infrastructure has been ruined. Barucha Peller summed it up this way in a Counterpunch article “This Pain has no Ceasefire”:

“The walls of homes that once protected families and cradled their lives are now in pieces, shreds, fine dust. Sift through the rubble. Kick the rubble. Stand still, silent, alone with the absoluteness of destruction and accompanied by the millions of shattered pieces of everything that was here before. Leave the rubble. Try to forget. Walk away from the terrible sight. But your mind is in pieces, lives in pieces, people who never again will stand in the doorway with greetings. You can walk away. There is a ceasefire. But missiles fall, they fall, not from the skies, but behind Lebanese eyes, they fall forever in memory, they are still crashing into what once was.”

“The absoluteness of destruction”; the faces that will never reappear “in the doorway”; this nagging, life-long suffering goes unrecorded in the Israeli media where the national obsession has turned to finger-pointing and empty recriminations. The lives and the civilization that’s been decimated are a mere footnote to Israel’s violated sense of security and the humiliation of losing to an Arab adversary. Looking at the papers, it’s easy to believe that the entire population is completely unaware of the misery they’ve caused. Instead, one gets the uneasy feeling that the anger is just beginning to mount and could wash across Lebanon in a second wave of hostilities.

(Read the entire article here.)

You know what they say about anticipation of the punch being worse than its pain, but it disturbs me to no end to think that there is nothing we can do, at the edge of the precipice, than look down and let go... I would like to know people's thoughts on this: What do you think will happen? Is there anything to do about it? And if so, what?

*The first article I read by him, also on Information Clearing House, was titled Lebanon's Descent into Hell, and was equally highly recommended and alarming.


At Tuesday, August 22, 2006 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Gnom said...

>Is there anything to do about it? And if so, what?

Very good questions.

May I propose the answer?

The naive one.
The best way to prevent next war between us is to make peace between our nations. Can we (Lebanonies and Israelies) do it??? Do we want to do it??? Did we try to do it? Do we ask our goverment to search the way?

I have a question of my own:

Do you thing demonisation of your neighbor can prevent any war or makes exectly the opposite???

Peace to you and your country.

At Tuesday, August 22, 2006 2:28:00 PM, Blogger captain zanax said...

DR. HUSSEIN TAWBI, a Shiite Muslim from Lebanon, and Israeli-born DR. NAFTALI KAMINSKI believe there's a cure for the conflict in their homelands
Sunday, August 20, 2006

As physicians/scientists studying and treating severe and often lethal diseases, we are trained to be habitual optimists. We are trained to hope that the next experiment will lead to a new therapeutic breakthrough, trained to look for a sign of improvement in the condition of patients fighting for their life.

As sons of the Middle East, we have often applied our expertise in habitual optimism to our countries, always trying to find signs for a better future. The last four weeks required a stretch even for our habitual optimism. A destructive, cruel war was waged in which civilians and civilian infrastructure were targeted.

Now that a fragile cease-fire has been achieved, all sides including Hezbollah and Israel, the United States, Syria and even Iran are claiming this senseless eruption of violence as their victory. A pandemonium of propaganda, hate and violent images dominates the discussion about the Middle East and even the seemingly balanced learned analyses of pundits on all sides press us to believe that this war was justified and thus the next round is inevitable.

Dr. Hussein Tawbi (htawbi@hotmail.com) and Dr. Naftali Kaminski (kaminskin@gmail.com) are physician-scientists working at the University of Pittsburgh.

In contrast to this surprisingly coordinated multilateral chorus we would like to pose a completely alternative view of the recent war.

We would like to highlight the fact that nobody living in Southern Lebanon or Northern Israel had anything to gain from this war. They had everything to lose and many in Lebanon and Israel did indeed.

With the images of violence fresh on everybody's mind, it is almost impossible to recall how things were just a few weeks ago.

In a small Southern Lebanese border town, Zeinab (Dr. Tawbi's mother) looked at the blooming garden of her new home and said, "This feels like paradise." She was drinking her morning coffee with her recently retired husband, savoring a dream come true, a house in their little village that took over 25 years to materialize. Some 30 miles to the South, in Haifa, Bluma (Dr. Kaminski's mother) was baking busily, preparing for the yearly summer visit by her children and grandchildren who live abroad.

Our mothers were not the only ones who had great hopes for the summer; many Israeli and Lebanese people were experiencing unprecedented stability. For once, they felt, they could have longer-term plans.

During the first quarter of 2006, Lebanon posted a 37 percent growth in tourism with expected full occupancy of its hotels throughout the year. Israel had similar expectations and some analysts predicted the arrival of 2 million tourists and unprecedented economic growth and stock exchange returns.

Politically, the signs of improvement in the Middle East were evident: Lebanese leaders having a round-table on how to build a new Lebanon after the Syrian forces left the country; civilians leading the government in Israel; a "political dove" (turned hawk during the war), Amir Peretz, as defense minister; and the "champion of unilateral withdrawals" Ehud Olmert as prime minister. And most impressively -- despite continued oppression, poverty and the aftermath of four years of constant beating -- there was a democratically elected Palestinian government which, despite their extremist ideology, was considering negotiations with Israel.

On the grass-roots level, after years of struggle, local human rights activists seemed to gain ground through a combination of nonviolent resistance and litigation. A new initiative of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons seemed to open a new channel for negotiations.

So ... how did everything go wrong?

In the wake of a devastating war that killed 1,400 civilians, injured 4,500, and wasted over $7 billion, it pains us to hear claims of victory, on either side. We cannot but remember a surgeon coming out of the operating room to say: "The surgery succeeded ... but the patient died." This is a war in which everybody lost: we lost family, we lost friends, we lost property.

However, there is still one thing that we will not lose: hope.

On both sides of the borders, politicians use hopelessness as their most effective weapon: "There is no hope that Hezbollah will ever give up their weapons"; "there is no hope Israel will ever stop being an aggressive nation"; "struggle of existence."

Still, having spent most of our lives in the region, we cannot ignore a basic reality that is always overshadowed by the news of violence and the voices of politicians: Our peoples want to live in peace, freedom and safety. Arab or Israeli, our people are happy when a child is born, suffer when a disease hits, laugh when they hear a good joke and love to see blooming flowers every morning. They do not deserve to be dispossessed, killed or hunted like animals. No human does.

When we spoke with each other, we expressed our concerns for each other's families who still live in the region, and shared our prayers for the immediate end of this futile criminal violence. That was a sign of hope.

Another unmistakable sign occurred here in Pittsburgh, where in a few days, with no public relations help, more than 400 people -- Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese -- gave up their distrust, prejudice and anger and joined to sign a petition calling for an immediate cease-fire, an international peace conference and a full international investigation into the targeting of civilians. (See www.middleeastpeace.pghfree.net.)

The cease-fire, albeit delayed, finally happened. The road to peace, however, must not be further delayed.

Instead of declaring victory for one side or the other, the United States should assume the role of an impartial mediator in the Middle East and, together with the international community, must call for an immediate peace conference to start rebuilding what was destroyed: rebuilding homes, lives, economies, but most importantly, rebuilding hope and trust.

While governments and leaders confer to negotiate the details, we the citizens have a critical role in creating the peace they negotiate for. For this purpose we call on Jews, Muslims and Christians, on people from all walks of life, here and in the Middle East, to reject the inevitability of war, to stand up and tell our leaders, "Enough is enough! War is not the way!"

If we build on hope and trust, on recognizing our shared humanity, we will be able to recover from the previous war. We will be able to prevent the next war.

At Tuesday, August 22, 2006 4:53:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Vlad, in these times, sometimes the most naive propositions are the most promising. The questions your raised are very valid. (By the way, I hope you don't mind a correction, it's "Lebanese" not "Lebanonies".) However, the question you asked last works both ways (as most good questions do): Does the demonization of Hezbollah prevent any war or make exactly the opposite? I think the Lebanese have as many reasons to distrust Israel as Israel to distrust Hezbollah. This may be a longer discussion, but I think the premise is correct, the issue of rebuilding trust that Zanax's article raised.

Zanax, excellent article; thanks for sharing. I will be sending it to a friend in Israel; I am sure she'll appreciate it as well...

At Tuesday, August 22, 2006 6:53:00 PM, Blogger Gnom said...

Hello Ashraf,

Yes there are too many reasons for distrust, for hatred, for the war…
And yes, all my questions go both ways.

God knows, how easy it is, to demonize your "enemy".
All we can do is to start from ourself. All of us have the choice, to spread hatred or to increase understanding.

Each one here in the blogospher, has huge responsibility.

Each of us that choose to spread hatred, to take part of demonisation of the "enemy"… Just think of all children that will be killed on your side, on the "enemy" side in the next war.

The hatred that is spread right now, is the fuel of the next war.


At Tuesday, August 22, 2006 11:23:00 PM, Blogger SC said...

Posting articles by leftist conspiracy websites.

LOL You Lebanese hizbo-jagoffs are something else.

At Wednesday, August 23, 2006 12:07:00 AM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Vlad, very true...

SC, I'd take an article from a leftist "conspiracy" website any day over one from a right-wing propaganda website. And for someone with no online identity, you assign identities too easily to everybody else. (It is all too easy to throw stones at people while hiding behind your wall of anonymity.) I am not by any means a hizbo-jagoff (did you mean jack-off, mon petit imbecile?), but I don't need to tell you that because, according to your online profile, you're a nobody. So, jack off this site, because you're not welcome here.


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