Peter Wilby failed to endear himself to British Jews whilst editor of the New Statesman, what with that stupid Star of David cover and everything. Still, his media column in the redesigned mag is always worth a read – cynical, funny. This week’s piece examines allegations of bias in the British media from both sides of the Israel/Lebanon war. Remarkably, it seems both are able to provide concrete evidence of bias against them.
The thing to remember about Hezbollah is that they’re not heroes, saviours or defenders, just stinky ultra-beards, fascists (‘Islamofascists‘ Hitchens would call them), contemptible, opportunistic, morally vaccuous. They’re organised, effective and modern in their operations but incoherent, Ignorant and mediaeval in their ideology. What they really remind me of is an earlier generation of witless fascists: Generalisimo Franco’s Falange, beetling off to Berlin to collect brown bags of money and weapons and promises of assistance from the Führer just as the beards run off to collect their rolls of used US dollars and truckloads of rockets from Tehran and Damascus.
The irony of the Western response to the Israeli attack on Lebanon is that no one expects anything of Hezbollah: not compromise, not compassion, not wisdom nor a readiness to talk. Of Hezbollah we only expect gut-wrenching terror, a total absence of mercy and the kind of perfect nihilism that marks the group’s most loyal adherents with a big ‘X’ that says ‘I am of no value. Blow me up any time’.
America’s increasingly difficult-to-explain entrainment with Israel’s nasty campaign in South Lebanon is disastrous for the Middle East and for peace everywhere. The attack on Qana this morning further implicates America (and, of course, loyal Britain) in the carnage. Whatever happens now, no matter how hard Condi works to produce a new resolution at the UN, America’s implacable refusal to call for a ceasefire means the World now inevitably connects the USA with the massacre of children and the demolition of Lebanon’s precarious civil society.
The implications for Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine and the whole ‘War on Terror’ are obvious and terrifying. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that, in Lebanon, the US has turned a crisis into a catastrophe through culpable inaction and indifference to the fate of ordinary Lebanese. If this new war is a test for Condi’s State Department regime, it’s pretty clear she’s failed and failed badly. Her robotic manner, her rigidity in the face of changing circumstances, her obvious inability to identify with suffering people – even to properly voice her sympathy – will permanently damage her prospects for the top job to which we assume she aspires.
Condi is cold, impatient with appeals to her humanity. Contrast clumsy, autistic, warlike Bush/Rice with Clinton/Albright’s engaged, emotional regime – Kosovo being the best example. It took the deaths of 37 children in a concrete tomb in South Lebanon to produce the tiniest change in State Department policy on a ceasefire. What will it take to get the US to call the war off?