STOPE THE WAR – LEBANON, 2006

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STOP THE WAR

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I am certain of one thing. Both Israel and Hezbollah must stop killing civilians immediately. Of course, Israel must defend itself. When Prime Minister Harper affirmed the right of the state of Israel, I would have agreed with him if the action Israel was taking indeed was a "measured response." But it wasn’t and it isn’t. That is the whole problem.

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Last time Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, to drive P L O out, 14,000 Lebanese civilians died in the first three months. Israel still had to keep the occupation of Southern Lebanon for next 18 years. An alarmingly large number of Israeli troops began to die. Alarmed Israelis began to question the war in Lebanon and started the Israeli peace movement with such organizations as Peace Now and Women in Black, Yesh Gvul. But even then, the Israeli death were not even one tenth of the Lebanese.

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During the first Israeli war in Lebanon, I was in Beirut in 1984 to attend a donors’ conference to help Lebanon recover from devastation. I still remember the scene of bombed out crumbled buildings and houses everywhere even in small villages in the mountains, like the ones you see on the TV today. One thing that stuck in my mind was the trees, which used to line the beautiful streets of Beirut, like Champ d’Elysee in Paris. Indeed, Beirut used to called "Paris of the Middle East." All the trees I saw from the airport into downtown had no tops. All of them were still standing but cut down to 20 ft from the ground. It was bizarre. It was the result of the intense naval bombardment. Palestinians lived, in the refugee camps near the airport, in the camp called Sabra and Shatila. But bombardment was aimed at downtown Beirut. I don’t think that the deaths among Palestinians was anywhere as many as that of Lebanese.

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The same thing is happening now. It was reported that the deaths among Lebanese reached the 1000 mark this last week, mostly among civilians. Not as many Hezbollah fighters have died relative to civilian casualties. Yes, the death toll among Israeli civilian is alarmingly large, but it still is less than 10% of the number of Lebanese victims. On the average, the rate of foreign casualties as the result of the Israeli military action has always been about 10 times that of the Israeli casualties.

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The use of a disproportionately overwhelming fire power for a short period of time has always been a norm of the Israeli military strategy since 1967. It was used during the Six Days war 1967, and Yom Kippur war of 1973. They were successful in those two wars. But it failed miserably in Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. IDF was stuck in Southern Lebanon for 18 years and had to withdraw because of mounting casualties. When such a ferocious surgical strike does not achieve its objectives in a week, it is a failure. When a population in general turns against you, no matter how powerful your weapons are, you will eventually lose. The US learned that lesson in Viet Nam, and are learning it now in Iraq. Israel should have learned it between 1982 and 2000. Israel was stuck in the quagmire of Southern Lebanon for 18 years despite military superiority. Hezbollah came into being during this period.

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There is a saying in Japan, "Kyoso neko wo kamu." It means "if you chase a little mouse into a corner, it will bite even a big cat." . Both Hamas and Hezbollah were born as resistance against Israeli occupation, because people were cornered with nowhere to go. I watched people humiliated everyday living in a West Bank village of Jayyous for three months. Though I don’t condone the methods employed by Hezbollah, or by Hamas, I could see why a certain number of hot-heads become extremists and start scheming unorthodox – often criminal – methods to bite back like a cornered mouse. It’s a desperate act, hopeless, and criminal, but its origins are understandable.

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I advocate for the state of Israel within secure borders. My two granddaughters are both half Jewish, as a result of the union between a Japanese artist and a Jewish doctor. Imagine, if they were born 60 years ago, they could have ended up in a gas chamber. I can understand very well what 2000 years, imagine 2000 years, of rejection by the whole Christendom does to a psyche of a whole Jewish people. Israel must exist. But if this is so, then, for God’s sake, start making friends with your Arab neighbors! Let’s stop Arabs and Israelis making the whole Middle East another Balkan. Let’s do our best to help both Lebanese and Israeli to start living peaceful normal lives side by side as friends and neighbors.

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