The "Sixth War" of the Arabs against Israel - that's how the current war is referred to in the broadcasts of the popular television station Al Jazeera. The first war was in 1948, and the Arab countries and Palestinians took part in it. In the second, in 1959, Israel fought Egypt. In the third, in 1967, the Arab countries participated again, and in the fourth, in 1973, Egypt and Syria were involved. The fifth in 1982 was against the Palestine Liberation Organization. Now in the sixth, it's just the Hezbollah vs. Israel.
This weekend in a mini-market in East Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood, one of the customers said that he considers this sixth war to be the first serious one. "For the first time an Arab leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is teaching Israel a lesson with his small organization," he said.
No doubt. Indeed, Nasrallah is a hero among the Palestinian public today and further afield, among many Arab people as well. Even more than Gamal Abdel Nasser was in his day. Nasser held on for six days in 1967, while Nasrallah has kept a quarter of the Israeli population stuck in bomb shelters and protected rooms for almost four weeks now, say people on the Palestinian street. In a radio broadcast from Gaza, someone declared, "We are all Shi'ite now."
The Palestinian papers publish caricatures almost every day making fun of the helpless, pathetic, rotten Arab leaders - in contrast to the hero Nasrallah. They also ridicule Israel and the Israeli media that glorified, for instance, the commando raid on the Baalbek hospital. According to reports by Lebanese witnesses, after the commandos found the hospital empty, they raided a private home and captured the owner of a small grocery store, 50 years old, whose only crime was his name: Hassan Nasrallah. They also captured his son, a construction worker, and his son-in-law along with two of his friends who were playing cards together that night.
Palestinian spokespersons say that this war has sealed the chances of a compromise based on the principle of two states for two people. Those in power in Israel are portrayed now, more than ever, like foreign agents striving to serve American interests. They are striking Hezbollah in order to hurt the Iranian "patron."
The Palestinian media highlighted an item in which lawyers in Morocco are suing Amir Peretz - who, according to them, holds a Moroccan passport - for war crimes. Among other things, they accuse him of exploiting the fact that the world's attention is focused on Lebanon in order to commit massive killings and wreak destruction in Gaza.
Do all these phenomena affect the eventual cost-benefit balance of this war? What value has this popular wave of pride and enthusiasm, Palestinian and Arab, which can sink just as it rose?
What is irritating in this context is that if we could have been capable of reaching a settlement with the Palestinians in recent years, these horrors might have been avoided. Six years ago we were "within touching distance" (as Gilad Sher wrote about Camp David 2000) from such a settlement, and there was the Geneva Initiative that won Palestinian support and could have been the basis for a settlement.
In the end, the primary wound is the conflict with the Palestinians. Lebanon is its metastasis. Without the Palestinian cause, Iran and the Hezbollah would not have had anything to hang on to.
Thanks to Harold H. Wingate Foundation
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