Lebanon has now declared war on Israel and its citizens are bearing the consequences. Lebanon is no more a victim of Hezbollah than Austria was a victim of Nazism. In fact a higher percentage of Lebanese--more than 80%--say they support Hezbollah. The figures were nearly as high before the recent civilian deaths. This is considerably higher than the number of Austrians who supported Hitler when the Nazis marched into Austria in 1938. Austria too claimed it was a victim, but no serious person today believes such self-serving historical revisionism. Austria was not "Hitler's first victim." It was Hitler's most sympathetic collaborator.
So too with Lebanon, whose president has praised Hezbollah, whose army is helping Hezbollah, and many of whose "civilians" are collaborating with Hezbollah. According to a news report in the New York Times on Sunday, August 6th, Hezbollah is Lebanon and Lebanon is Hezbollah. It is "as much a part of society as is its Shiite faith." As a car mechanic put it, "we are Hezbollah." A café owner was even more direct: "Just because I'm sitting here in this café doesn't mean I'm not a resistance fighter." Of course if he were killed fighting Israel, his death would be listed as a "civilian" casualty. Nor is he alone. He continued: "Everyone has a weapon in his house...There are doctors, teachers, and farmers. Hezbollah is people. People are Hezbollah." Except, of course, when they are killed or injured fighting against Israel--then they become just 'people,' just "civilians." As a doctor asked rhetorically, as he pointed to dead bodies resulting from a battle between Israeli and Hezbollah forces, "Do you see anybody from Hezbollah?"
It is virtually impossible to distinguish the Hezbollah dead from the truly civilian dead, just as it is virtually impossible to distinguish the Hezbollah living from the civilian living, especially in the south. The "civilian" death figures reported by Lebanese authorities include large numbers of Hezbollah fighters, collaborators, facilitators and active supporters. They also include civilians who were warned to leave, but chose to remain, sometimes with their children, to serve as human shields. The deaths of these "civilians" are the responsibility of Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, which has done very little to protect its civilians.
Lebanon has chosen sides--not all Lebanese, but the democratically chosen Lebanese government. When a nation chooses sides in a war, especially when it chooses the side of terrorism, its civilians pay a price for that choice. This has been true of every war.
We must stop viewing Lebanon as a victim and begin to see it as a collaborator with terrorism. Nor is there any excuse for this choice. Lebanon was not "driven" to support Hezbollah by Israel or the U.S., as some Lebanese leaders falsely claim. Lebanon included Hezbollah in its government, knowing that it is a terrorist organization. It abdicated the responsibility for providing social, economic and police services in the south to Hezbollah.
The Nazi party too provided social, economic and educational services to the poor in Germany and Austria. Yet the people who chose to submit to such evil paid a heavy price. People make choices and they bear the consequences of choosing to collaborate with terrorism. Lebanon has chosen the wrong side and its citizens are paying the price. Maybe next time a democracy must choose between collaborating with terrorism or resisting terrorism, it will choose the right side.