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An Unexpected Reason to Hope

By David Warren

Before we get to the uplifting substance of today's column, let me briefly skirmish with the innumerable correspondents who have filled my inbox with outrage against my justifications for Israel's attacks. They parrot what they have heard in the "liberal" media. The errors of fact I'm about to correct are beneath the elementary. But it is necessary to correct big lies as well as small.

Item: Israel has attacked Lebanon, which is too weak to defend itself.

This is a lie. The Israelis have made it abundantly clear they are not attacking Lebanon, but Hezbollah entrenched in Lebanese soil. Israelis, as anyone with any decency, feel sorry for innocent Lebanese caught in the crossfire. But as Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, put it to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel: "Whether weak or strong, a government carries the responsibility for whatever happens within its country." She went on to hint the obvious: that Israel would prefer a Lebanon strong enough to disarm Hezbollah without Israeli help.

Item: The Israeli military operations are "excessive", and include unnecessary strikes against Lebanon's infrastructure and capital city.

This is a damned lie. Israel has been attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon, which necessarily includes infrastructure that Hezbollah uses. Even the attacks on the Beirut airport were to a purpose openly stated, and advertised in extensive leafleting and broadcasting before the airport's runways were cratered, and fuel depots taken out. From hard past experience, the Israelis knew Hezbollah would be using that airport not only to whisk their prisoners to safekeeping in Iran, but as a conduit to bring Iranian and Syrian advisers, and crucial supplies, in and out of the country. The strikes elsewhere in Beirut are overwhelmingly on the southern, Shia part of the city, where Hezbollah's masters have their command. Lebanese television and radio have themselves been broadcasting Israeli communiqués, clearly warning what they will hit, when, and why. The overwrought charge that Israel is "trying to destroy Lebanon" is an imposture. If the Israelis actually wanted to destroy all of Lebanon, they could carpetbomb the place.

Item: There is a huge civilian toll.

Statistics. And given the scale of the conflict, the number of deaths is not abnormally high. Our media have been giving running totals of civilian deaths in Lebanon that they should know are both wrong and misleading. They cannot know how many have been killed in Hezbollah's "hidey holes". Foreign reporters are in no position to distinguish between real civilians, and the Hezbollah fighters who blend among them. Even the United Nation's humanitarian point-man, Jan Egeland -- no friend of Israel -- has noted actual boasts from Hezbollah that their "human shield" strategy has got so many women and children killed, and so few of their own fighters. They cache their weapons in schools, hospitals, houses, apartment buildings. They hold civilians at gunpoint who are trying to flee. In light of all this, the stress on specific casualties -- for instance the poor little boy who was suffering hideously in a hospital in Tyre, that CNN went to town on, Monday night -- is a flagrant appeal to emotionalism, calculated to enflame misinformed audiences against Israel, throughout the West and the Arab world.

But now we come to the paradox. Despite some of the best efforts I've seen, by our liberal media, to spread poison, there is a growing understanding of what is taking place. Better yet, the response of the Arab world is increasingly directed against Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran; and even against Iran's other client, Hamas in Gaza (now suing for peace). This is unprecedented.

In a partly incoherent, rambling, and apocalyptic address on official Iranian TV, Sunday, President Ahmadinejad said, "Lebanon is the scene of an historic test, which will determine the future of humanity." Then, after condemning the unnamed leaders of various Arab regimes that had failed to align with Iran and Hezbollah, "This is 'the Day that all things secret will be tested'."

Iran unquestionably ordered the rocket and kidnapping attacks with which Hezbollah and Hamas provoked the current Israeli reaction (though it may have been greater than they expected). The ayatollahs are probably also behind the current terror spike within Iraq. Their motive is quite obvious: to change the subject from the Western and growing Arab alarm about Iran's own emergence as a bellicose nuclear power. The ayatollahs are, further, trying to cement their claim to be the managing directors of the international Jihad.

Ahmadinejad is right: this is "an historic test". But it does not follow that he is winning it. Instead, it appears, by pushing too hard and fast, Iran has opened a civil breach across the Muslim world between Shia and Sunni. The ayatollahs have thus created a new opportunity for the West to form alliances with Sunni Muslim states against Iran's aspiring regional hegemony, which the Bush administration is now rightly trying to exploit. Ahmadinejad has, in short, given us an unexpected reason to hope -- as Hitler did, when he began to make too many enemies.

© Ottawa Citizen

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