As I write these lines, Israel has just bombed the Lebanese town of Qana, where in 1996 it killed well over 100 civilians hiding in a bomb shelter during its infamous Grapes of Wrath operation. Arab satellite channels are going into full history mode, reminding their viewers of the carnage of a decade ago and placing it against the latest video images. The Arab and larger Muslim worlds are becoming blind with fury and the desire for revenge against an enemy that with Qana will seem even more cruel and heartless. Israel had to know the reaction that would happen if it attacked Qana like this, especially civilian buildings (it has "precision" munitions, so if it was attacking buildings with civilians like this, it wasn't by accident). And Hezbollah knew that by putting rockets in Qana it was risking a new disaster for the city. Of course, that's probably what Hezbollah wanted, because the propaganda value of the Arab/Muslim world seeing Israel once again "massacre" the people of this benighted town is priceless.
To everyone who believes that Israel is waging a purely defensive campaign that is trying to keep civilian casualties, here are the words of the Justice Minister of Isreal, Haim Ramon, former leader of the Labor Party (the party behind the Peace Process): ""We must reduce to dust the villages of the south [...] I don't understand why there is still electricity there." This was quoted in Haaretz on July 28. If this is what the Justice Minister is saying publicly, we can only imagine what the reality on the ground is in Lebanon. For an honest critique of the horrible damage Israel's actions are doing to the country's soul, see Gideon Levy's piece, "Days of Darkness," in Haaretz on Sunday.
Yet despite the carnage, everyone but the ultra hawks in the Bush administration and the leadership of the American Jewish community seems to realize that Israel is losing this war. It can't even hold two small Lebanese towns. Hezbollah leaders like Nasrallah are already delivering what amounts, in the words of a colleague of mine, to "victory" speeches. Negotiations are under way that will likely return the Sheba farms to Lebanon, a previously unthinkable symbolic victory for Hezbollah. Syria will be brought back into the fold to help mediate a cease-fire, and the assassination of Harriri will be forgotten and forgiven.
In a few months a commission of inquiry will be formed in Israel to figure out how it got into this mess, and no lessons will be learned because they never are. The violence will continue, only now the Arab world will know that Israel is not invincible, which is the most dangerous outcome that could have happened for Israel in this war.
Hezbollah will be crowned king of Lebanon's politics, and everyone will forget the terrible human and financial toll that its operation brought to the people of Lebanon. Planning for the next war has already begun. And when it starts, Muslims and Jews will crowd into cyberspace, each defending the violence deployed by its side as legitimate.