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Larry C. Johnson Headshot

Uncomfortable Truths about Israel

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What would we be saying if Hizbullah kidnapped the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and launched a daring raid inside Israel to disrupt a U.S. effort to resupply the Israeli Defense Force? We would be up in arms over their provocation and would be convening the UN Security Council to recommend new sanctions. Hell, we'd probably have the National Security Council in session and be ready to dispatch U.S. military forces to help Israel.

Okay. Back to reality. Hizbullah is minding its own business (or at least fostering that public image) and has embarked on public relief operation to counteract the devastation visited on the people of Lebanon by Israel's recent invasion and bombing campaign. The Hizbullah aid and recovery effort is so successful that some wags suggest that Nasrallah be hired to take over from FEMA in the even the U.S. is hit with another storm like Katrina. How inept are you when Hizbullah is able to organize a better public relief effort? But I digress.

Having helped transform Hizbullah from a band of terrorists into the rock stars of the Muslim world, Israel persists with being stupid. Ehud Olmert either never learned or forgot the first rule of crisis management--i.e., when you're in a hole, stop digging. With the reputation of the Israeli Defense Force in tattters after the debacle in Lebanon, Israeli leaders apparently decided to go all out to secure their reputation as the supreme rogue state in the Middle East. How else to explain the following?

Israel kidnaps elected official: The Palestinian's Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser Al Shaer was kidnapped by the Israeli army on Saturday, after hiding since the start of Israel's Palestine offensive in June. He was seized in a raid at his home in the West Bank town on Ramallah.

Israel breaches ceasefire: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Israel's latest attack on Lebanon a violation of the UN backed truce that ended the 34-day war. "The secretary-general is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701," a spokesman for Annan said in a statement posted on the United Nations Web site.

I realize Israeli officials will justify the kidnapping as the capture of a wanted terrorist and the attack in Lebanon as an effort to prevent Hizbullah from rearming. Unfortunately for Jerusalem's sake, these acts feed the image of Israel as a renegade state that operates outside the normal boundaries of international law.

If you had a friend you cared deeply about engaging in self-destructive behavior you would do an intervention--sit them down and try to talk some sense into them. Apparently that is not an option with Israel. Witness what happens when a reporter tells the public that Israel was trying to manipulate public perceptions during the recent invasion of Lebanon:

KURTZ: One other note. On RELIABLE SOURCES two weeks ago, "Washington Post" Pentagon reporter Tom Ricks said he'd been told by U.S. military analysts that Israel was leaving some Hezbollah rocket launchers intact because the killing of Israeli civilians provided an image of moral equivalency in the war. "Post" editor Len Downie, responding to a letter from former New York mayor, Ed Koch, says he told Ricks he should not have made those statements.

Ricks told the "New York Sun" that he accurately reported the comments from analysts but that, quote, "I wish I hadn't said them, and I intend from now on to keep my mouth shut about it."

The last thing Israel needs now are a bunch of sycophants and fawning relatives telling it how great and good it is. They need to stop acting like adolescent fools and find the moral high ground they once occuppied. One key to Israel's longterm security is to solidify its reputation as a nation committed to law and the protection of human rights. When Israeli civilians were being blown up on buses and in market places during the Intifada, international public pressure forced Hamas and Hizbullah to shift away from suicide bombings.

When Israel acts with honor and restraint it has little difficulty portraying its enemies as crazy terrorists. But, when Israel lowers itself to the level of the terrorists, it is Israel, not the terrorists, who suffer. And let there be no doubt, Israel is suffering.

The time has come to look to the past for some answers. When Israel kidnapped Adolf Eichmann, the mastermind of the Final Solution, in the 1960s, the Israelis gave the Nazi a defense counsel, a public trial, and a chance to confront his accusers. That was a moment of greatness for Israel because it provided a graphic demonstration of the difference between a terrorist state and a civilized nation. Israel gave a mass murderer due process and, in the course of events, provided the ultimate condemnation of the Nazi regime.

Now we have the spectacle of Hizbullah acting with statesmanship and restraint while the Israelis destroy their credibility among the international community. That is a truth Israel's true friends need to communicate to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the strongest terms possible. And they need to do it soon.

-- No Quarter