Creating people's geographies
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July 29/30 2006
By PUNYAPRIYA DASGUPTA
Israel’s ambassador in New Delhi, David Danieli, sees Hezbollah as something akin to a scorpion (Times of India, 28 July). His is not much of a new invention. Other Israelis in responsible positions have made similar statements before. A few days earlier, Dan Gillerman, Israeli representative at UN, regretted Kofi Annan’s failure to mention that the Hezbollah was a bunch of “ruthless, indiscriminate animals”. During its First Lebanon War in 1982 Israel’s chief of staff Rafael Eitan was gleeful that he had shoved the Palestinian ” drugged cockroaches” into a bottle. To Menahem Begin, chief author of the Deir Yassin massacre, who went on to become Israel’s prime minister and get a Nobel peace prize, the Palestinians were “two-legged beasts”. Immediately after the 1967 war Robin Maxwell-Hyslop, a British Conservative, recounted in the House of Commons a conversation he had with David Hacohen, one-time Israeli ambassador to Burma. As related by Maxwell-Hyslop, Hacohen “spoke with great intemperance and at great length about the Arabs. When he drew breath I was constrained to say: “Dr Hacohen, I am profoundly shocked that you should speak of other human beings in terms similar to those in which Julius Streicher [notorious Nazi propagandist] spoke of the Jews. Have you learned nothing?” I shall remember his reply to my dying day. He smote the table with both hands and said: “But they are not human beings, they are not people, they are Arabs”.” One of the many things Israeli spokesmen seem incapable of realizing is that abuse is no substitute for reason. Israel has amassed much military prowess but remains very poor in logic.
Facts cry out against Israel. The root cause of the present war in Lebanon is, according to the Israelis and Americans, in the capture of one Israeli soldier by Hamas and two by Hezbollah. Not true. It is in the original sin of the partition of Palestine by UN against all moral, historical, demographic, legal reasons. The General Assembly’s non-binding Resolution 181 envisaged an astonishingly intricate carving of Palestine into seven pieces to make 608,000 (half of them illegal immigrants) of a total population of 1,935,000 the majority in the biggest possible area. This was the warrant the Israelis needed to begin their relentless drive to restoration of their “historical frontiers” i.e., from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river through the instrumentality of calculated massacres and wars and incredible mendacity.
Had Israel stopped even at the pre-June 1967 lines there would have been no 1973 war, no Lebanon wars, no Hezbollah, no intifadas. Hezbollah was born of the need for an effective resistance to the Israeli juggernaut after the Arab armies had repeatedly failed. Hezbollah ran the Israelis off from Lebanon, excepting Shaaba Farms, a tiny patch Israel treats as a part of the Syrian Golan Heights it conquered and annexed. To the people in the Arab world Hezbollah is their David confronting the Israeli Goliath. Hezbollah’s standing firm and inflicting substantial losses on the world’s fourth mightiest force this time has heightened Arab expectations.
Mr Danieli’s many accusations against Hezbollah include “inventing” the Israeli enemy. The wrong end of the stick. Political invention is an Israeli art. Remember Golda Meir’s statement that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people “they did not exist”? Hezbollah was reckoning with unceasing Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty Israel’s peace activists say they had watched with alarm the deliberateness behind the Israel’s latest war and soldiers admit they had rehearsed the offensives .
Mr Danieli stigmatizes Hezbollah as terrorists. How does he explain the proud confession of Yitzhak Shamir, one-time terrorist and twice prime minister of Israel: “Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat”? Mr Danieli’s claim about his government’s “calculated restraint” sounds terribly ironic with the current proportion of eight Lebanese dying for each Israeli.
Punyapriya Dasgupta is a journalist. Email: [email protected]