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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Double standards in Lebanon

FrontPage Magazine editor Jacob Laskin points to some of the double standards in the media's treatment of the Lebanese Armed Forces' battle against Fatah al-Islam as compared with last summer's battle between Israel and Hezbullah.
It is thus a commentary on the shameful double standards of the “international community” that the Lebanese army’s ongoing efforts to root out the Palestinian terrorist faction Fatah al-Islam from the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon have met with an altogether different reception.

Take the Arab League. In contrast to its resounding silence on the criminal aggression of Hezbollah, the organization has leapt to defend Lebanon's right to act against terror. To that end, it has issued a statement in which it “strongly condemned the criminal and terrorist acts carried out by the terrorist group known as Fatah al-Islam.” In addition, the league has pledged to “give its full support to the efforts of the army and the Lebanese government to impose security and stability” in Lebanon, even promising military assistance the Lebanese army.

Equally, when Kofi Annan’s successor Ban Ki-moon recently denounced “criminal attacks” in Lebanon, he was referring to the Islamist assaults on the Lebanese military, rather than the other way around. Javier Solana has also condemned “this terrorist group,” committing the EU to full support for the Lebanese government. Even the Quai d'Orsay has shifted its views. Incoming French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has reportedly traveled to Lebanon to meet Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and "reaffirm France's solidarity with Lebanon." In short, the diplomatic establishment’s line on the fighting in Lebanon is precisely the inverse of what it was just one year ago.

No less revealing is what you won’t hear from these sudden converts to counterterrorism. You won’t hear, for instance, the Lebanese army assailed for its “disproportionate” response. This is despite the fact that the army has vowed to fight until Fatah al-Islam has been routed or killed, whichever comes first. As one Lebanese military insider said last week: “It will only end with the final end of this gang.” Parliament member Saad Hariri seconded the army’s position, saying, “We are not in a hurry.” If Arab leaders fear that this is a prescription for a “disproportionate response” against Palestinian refugees, they have kept their concerns private. One need only recall the outraged censure directed at Israel’s comparatively halting and restrained strikes against Hezbollah targets to detect hypocrisy at work.

Nor will you hear every accidental tragedy held up as evidence of the injustice of military retaliation. Remember that during last summer’s war, Israel was widely accused of intentionally targeting Lebanese civilians, a claim that scanted the fact the Hezbollah terrorists were purposely positioned in civilian areas. Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth accused Israel of “indiscriminate bombardment,” while his HRW colleague Peter Bouckaert published an editorial with the jarringly incendiary, and wholly unjustified, headline, “For Israel, Innocent Civilians Fair Game.” HRW even published a lengthy report, “Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon,” blaming Israel for allegedly targeting civilians.

Now that Israelis are no longer guiding the missiles, critics seem content to hold their fire. How else to explain that, despite the fact that at least 27 civilians have been killed and 125 injured since the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) began their offensive on May 20, neither HRW nor kindred human-rights watchdogs have directed the same level of scrutiny, not to speak of censure, at Lebanon?

Indeed, next to the relentless torrent of anti-Israel demagogy produced by HRW last summer, its judgment of the fighting in Lebanon is a model of judicious restraint: “Fatah al-Islam militants must not hide among civilians, and the Lebanese army must take better precautions to prevent needless civilian deaths,” is all the organization has had to say on the matter. Not even the fact that the Lebanese army’s shelling has indeed been indiscriminate -- eyewitness accounts attest to countless missiles gone astray and the collateral damage from the current fighting has been said to match the worst days of Lebanon’s civil war from 1975–1990 -- has generated the antipathy with which Israel was forced to contend.

And what of the notorious “cycle of violence”? That thoughtless cliché, intended to equate Israel’s defensive retaliation with the Islamic terrorism that makes it necessary, was invoked endlessly throughout last summer’s war. But when a member of Fatah al-Islam exploded his suicide belt in Tripoli last week, no one made the absurd suggestion that Islamic terrorism and Lebanon’s militarily response to it were essentially indistinguishable. Meanwhile, almost all Palestinian factions have distanced themselves from Fatah al-Islam. Suddenly, the “cycle of violence” has run its course.

Also vanishing in the fog of the current war is another anti-Israel talking point. While Israel’s detractors relish citing the alleged mistreatment of Palestinians as the chief source of regional instability, Lebanon has generally escaped such criticism. The irony is that Lebanon’s record in this regard is far worse. Whereas Israel has sought to extend full civic equality to Arab citizens -- even, until recently, going so far as to tolerate an Israeli-Arab parliamentarian, Azmi Bishara, who openly cheered for Hezbollah during last summer’s war -- Lebanon has unapologetically treated Palestinian refugees as a permanent subclass.

The reality is grim. Under Lebanese law, Palestinians are denied property rights, access to state schools and basic medical services, and even the right to legal work, with poverty rates as high as 60 percent the inevitable result. “There’s just not much sympathy for Palestinians in Lebanon,” says David Schenker, a senior fellow in Arab politics at The Washington Institute. Nor are Lebanese unmindful of the fact that extremism -- including support for groups like al-Qaeda -- “is nurtured in the Palestinian environment.” Unsurprisingly, the military campaign enjoys a “broad consensus in Lebanon, and the LAF’s [Lebanese Armed Forces] campaign ignites popular support,” Schenker observed in an interview this week.
But then, there's always a double standard when it comes to Israel....


At 5:29 AM, Blogger Cjlcarmody said...

I would be interested to know what you think causes this double standard, there is no doubt that it exists. The plus may be that Lebanon can achieve what Israel wasn't allowed do by the world community.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Jew-nami said...

And it all started with bank robbery....

Robbing banks is evil.

Bombarding Jewish civilians with missles is not.

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Anti-semitism. Pure and simple.


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