Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

The Israeli debacle will affect the whole region By Ilan Pappe

SW 16 Aug 2006

It is too early to judge how solid is the ceasefire agreed upon in the second Lebanon war. But it is already possible to draw some initial conclusions – the most important of which is the resounding Israeli military failure.

Such a failure can stop for a while the more ambitious US-Israeli plans to extend the military campaign against Iran and Syria, although the danger is not over.

The Israeli debacle however has more complex implications.

The first is in the realm of domestic Israeli politics. The major theme of the developing internal debate is the question of the “lost deterrence”.

Surely, say Israeli commentators, the war that meant to regain Israel its lost power of deterrence has eroded that power even further.

In other societies common sense would have dictated that such a defeat would lead to a rethinking over the usage of military power – but not in Israel.

The danger is that the conclusion would be to use more force to regain that lost deterrence.

The first buds of the local soul searching indeed indicate that this is going to be the major conclusion of both the army and the political system.

Thus, we should expect more bloodshed and more aggressive policies – if not immediately against Syria and Iran, then against the Palestinians.

The second realm is the politics of the Arab world in general and that of Palestine in particular. Enormous admiration is felt in the Arab world and in Palestine for the success of Hizbollah.

However, with all the respect for the resistance and its steadfastness, secular and socialist movements are fearful that such an admiration is not just for the resilience of the Hizbollah but also for the dogma that guided it.

This can and should lead to a more fruitful and meaningful dialogue between the left and the popular Islamic movements of resistance in order to find a common ground for the future.

This future must be based on respect for tradition and religion, an aspiration for social and economic justice and, hopefully, careful observance of human and civil rights for all.

Without the rebuilding of the left in the Arab world there is a danger that a much narrower interpretation of Islamic tradition would reign in the Arab world and beyond.

And yet it seems that many in the Arab world – and particularly in Palestine – were empowered by the successful resistance Hizbollah has shown.

Without Hizbollah, the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora would not have dared to tell US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, “You are not welcome here without a ceasefire agreement.”

If more moderate and secular forces in the Arab world would follow suit and use wisely the weapon of the weak – which is a refusal to play the role accorded to them in the US charade of “the new Middle East” – they would win the popular support and credibility enjoyed now only by Hamas and Hizbollah.

Siniora’s stance would hopefully encourage Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to follow suit. He is still seen by the US as a future authoritarian Arab leader who would rule a pro-US Bantustan.

The dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority he heads is going to be the most effective Palestinian move towards forcing the international community to rethink the basic features of a future solution.

The third realm is that of Lebanon. Whatever the United Nations (UN) resolution recommended, the south would be under the influence of three military forces – Hizbollah, the enlarged UN force and the Lebanese army.


It will not be long, before Israel is tempted to reinvade Lebanon. And as long as there is no substantial change in the US fundamentalist vision, the same destructive US policy that has pushed Iraq back into pre-modern chaotic times is going to be attempted in Lebanon.

Therefore, we can say that we have only witnessed the first phase in a long conflict over the future of Lebanon, intertwined with the longer conflict over the future of Palestine.

The renewed lethal Israeli air raids on Gaza in the first day after the ceasefire in Lebanon is a precursor of worse to come.

To sum up, Hizbollah’s achievement may indicate that the days of the US empire in the Middle East are numbered and nearly over. However in history “nearly” can take years.

These can be dangerous years in which we who live in this area – especially the Palestinians – are going to undergo tough times.

Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa department of political science, chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies and author of several books.

© Copyright Socialist Worker

2 comments on “The Israeli debacle will affect the whole region By Ilan Pappe

  1. rabbiyonah
    17 August, 2006

    Dear Ann,
    When will you give up these propogandists and communists?
    Have you ever lived in a communist country? I have. It is hell.
    Why would you put up an article published in the Socialist worker?

    Obviously he is taking some serious medication if he can write these lines “This future must be based on respect for tradition and religion, an aspiration for social and economic justice and, hopefully, careful observance of human and civil rights for all.”

    And that future is to be built by Leftists and the Islamic front?

    Please God save us from Ilan Pappe!

  2. peoplesgeography
    17 August, 2006

    Hi Rabbi Yonah,

    It is clear that we have widely divergent political positions. You see Pappe as a propagandist, I see him as a valuable force for change whose history is important academic work. This particular article was published in a socialist journal but any number of other articles of his have been published in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. Now I don’t think even those would change your mind about him, would it? I have seen him speak, as an invited guest at my university, so I’ve heard first hand what he’s had to say and at some length, which one can not get from a short opinion-piece.

    He is an Israeli voice who I am willing to listen to, amongst many other Israeli voices.

    The future is to be shaped and constructed by all of us, Rabbi. Even the Moslems and atheists and heretical academics. As my dear Jewish grandother says, be like the ocean, accept all rivers. I will listen to many voices who aren’t usually aired in the mainstream.

    Its a great Australian tradition, giving people “a go”. It also recalls the great British town square vox populi tradition of the soap box.

    Its a free world still, even with the erosion of civil liberties, particularly in the US.

    The preservation of those lberties depebds very much on those dissenting voices, whether we agree with them or not.

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