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Richard (RJ) Eskow Headshot

Help The People of Lebanon – And Protect Israelis From Their "Friends"

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You can help the people of Lebanon, who are being slaughtered by rockets you bought with your tax dollars. And while you're grieving for the loss of innocent life there, say a prayer for the Israeli people too. They're being manipulated by the same crowd that led our country into Iraq, and they've become cannon fodder for the Likud/neocon experiment.

The American people are sick of war, so the neocons want the Israelis to fight the next one for them. If they can build up support for an attack on Iran at the same time, so much the better.

Iraq and Lebanon are the same war. An interlocking network of hard-right forces in the U.S. and Israel wants to attack right-wing fundamentalist Islamists by destroying the population around them. If revolutionaries are like fish in the sea of the people, as Mao said, than the Likud/AIPAC crowd wants to drain the ocean. Pound the people hard enough, goes the theory, and they'll cough up the fighters among them.

It's as misguided a notion as the idea that we would be "welcomed as liberators" by the Iraqi people. When Israel needed real friends who would tell it the truth, what it got instead was encouragement from the same deluded and immoral folks that brought us our military debacle.

The current Israeli leadership was raised in Likud, a party that was itself founded by terrorists. (In fact, Likud politician Benjamin Netanyahu recently attended an event that celebrated the bombing of the King David Hotel. That terrorist act killed 91 people, mostly civilians.)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to talk like a peacenik on these pages and elsewhere. "We believe that we must continue our ongoing dialogue with our Palestinian neighbors," he wrote. But his actions suggest that he's still Ariel Sharon's right-hand man, still the hard-rightist who tried to undercut Menachem Begin when he negotiated the Camp David Accords.

Any regrets he may have expressed for that action are called into question now. (Although he would put himself in peril, politically and perhaps physically, if he were insufficiently warlike. That's the political monster Likud has created.)

Olmert might have handled the situation differently, however, if the U.S. had been a counterbalance. He might even have used us as a "bad cop" to defend his actions against the hard right, which would have protected him from some of the political fallout. It's been done before.

Instead, he got pressure to be even more extreme. Bush let the story leak that he saw this bombardment as the path to peace, as grotesque as that notion may seem. We speeded up bomb deliveries so they'd arrive in time to kill Lebanese civilians. As civilians died by the hundreds Condi Rice called for a cease-fire, but not just yet.

The US, instead of being a moderating influence on Israel, has become a radicalizing force. The "visionaries" from the Project For A New American Century and like-minded organizations haven't learned a thing from the lessons of Iraq.

Their plan now is to use Israelis as proxy fighters in their war of extermination against Islamic radicalism, an attempt to remake the Middle East through Violent Democratization. Since the American people have reached their tolerance limit on seeing their heroes sacrificed and their money wasted in this futile and poorly designed effort, they have a new idea: We'll pay, but let the Israelis kill and die in our place. To them, Israelis are as expendable as Americans.

They'll tell you otherwise, of course. They'll tell you they're Israel's best friends. They'll say they're the only ones with the guts to back Israel when it needs it most. But what kind of "guts" does is take to shriek for war from the comfort of Washington, like Bill Kristol - or from New York, Cambridge, and a dozen other comfortable towns far from the fighting?

They'll tell you that they "support" Israel, but what they really support isn't really Israel. They support an extreme right-wing military vision - one that's hijacked Israeli politics in much the same manner as the right has done in this country.

The real Israeli mantra under Olmert has been "no negotiations" - period. Instead of talks with US- and Israeli-backed moderate Mahmoud Abbas, they chose to unilaterally withdraw by building an wall that divides communities and separates people from their livelihoods. (It won't keep them safe, either.)

When Abbas almost inevitably lost an election, Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist was a real stumbling block. Yet, in a major reversal, Hamas did recognize that right last month, a development didn't get much press here in the US.

This right-wing War of Violent Democratization is popular in Israel right now. But then, ours was also popular not long ago. The invasion of Iraq had approval numbers between 81% and 90%, too, until people took a better look and saw the futility of the whole exercise. (Or is absurdity a better word?)

As with our own wars, where Bush and Bin Laden prop each other up with propaganda victories, this war has been good for the extremists. It's done great things for Olmert's poll numbers, while the American right gets another front in its endless war (not to mention endless propaganda points for Fox News). Assad, who warned he would "break" Lebanon, now has the Israelis doing it for him. Hezbollah has managed to fortify its standing "in the street" as the defender of the Arab people.

So who doesn't benefit? These horribly burned children, for starters:

"Clearly he is Hezbollah," says one of the doctors outside the room -- sarcastically referring to 8-year-old Mahmood, whose screams can be heard from the hallway. His screams now blend with the wails of his mother, matching the baby's cries.

Then there are the civilians suffering and dying as the humanitarian crises in Lebanon and Gaza, too.

But don't forget the Israeli people. Each incursion, each bombing raid, creates more hatred of them, more fear among them, more attacks and death. This action may have pushed back their hopes for peace for yet another generation. If you believe it's made them safer, than you're taking the word of the same fine folks that brought us Iraq.

So what can you do? You can contribute here to a fund for the victims of the attacks in Lebanon. You can also make a contribution to the American wing of Magen David Adom, Israel's version of the Red Cross, if you wish. Your tax dollars may pay for the Israelis' suffering, as it does in Lebanon, but they're victims too.

And you can redouble your efforts to remove the Republican Party from power, so that Israel will have a real friend again. A friend who will tell it the truth. A friend that will lead it back to the negotiating table.

A Night Light