Dictionary of labels

During the infamous invasion of Lebanon by then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon in November 1982 (ostensibly to chase out the PLO, but in reality to annex Lebanon), when he earned the unflattering nickname “BOB” (Butcher Of Beirut) for massacring over 15,000 Lebanese civilians with tanks and helicopter gun ships of the Israel “Defense” Forces, I remember some lighter moments among the many awful ones.

This was a time when the many different fighting groups, real and imagined, were competing for space on the battlefield.  The poorly informed and misled American public, who had only just become aware of where Lebanon was on the map, quickly gave up trying to sort out who was who.  So, a local newspaper published a cartoon showing caricatures of all the leading characters (clearly, some fictitious) among the carnage.

Here are just a few of the funnies:

* The Syrian-backed Christian Lebanese Liberation Group

* The Moslem-backed Native Lebanese Palestinians

* The Israeli-backed Opponents of Palestinians

* The Palestinian-backed Freedom Fighters of Jerusalem

* The Christian-backed Moslem Allies of Freedom

* The Moslem-backed Christian Lebanese Patriots

* The Israeli-backed Mixed-up Christians of Lebanon

* The Sunni-backed Shiite Fighters of Palestine

* The Shiite-backed Sunni Fighters of Palestine

* The Druze-backed Maronite Resistance Fighters

* The Israeli-backed Phalangist Heroes of Sabra and Shatilla

* The …

You get the idea.  It was probably just as well that Lebanon’s total population at the time was barely 3 million, else the list would be longer!

Fast forward to today and the new list is more manageable.  The main déjà vu is, of course, the usual havoc and destruction wreaked by the Israeli military across the entire country of Lebanon, demonstrating yet again its expertise in indiscriminate killing and collective punishment.  The good news is that, mercifully, the American public has now to remember far fewer names, and they are everyone’s favorite modern day suspects:

* The Syrian-backed Hamas

* The Iranian-backed Hezbollah

We rarely see or hear mention of “The American-backed Israelis.”  I happen to think the omission is a good thing because, despite the unfortunate, one-sided kowtowing to the Israeli position imposed on America by powerful lobbies (described extensively elsewhere by others), this country deserves better than to be tainted and associated with Israel’s elaborately planned destruction of Lebanon for the second time in 24 years, as well as the ongoing, humiliating, methodical destruction of Palestinian infrastructure in the occupied territories — in both cases, right after the democratic process was followed.

We are asked to believe that Hamas and Hezbollah started the whole thing by kidnapping Israeli soldiers (the main reason given for Israel’s actions), but we are expected not to question the holding of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners (including, it appears, women and children) in Israeli jails for years, without charge.  Presumably, Hamas and Hezbollah are supposed to address the prisoner situation via yet another UN Security Council resolution — you know, like all the past resolutions which Israel has obeyed since 1967!!

The Israelis have long maintained that force is the only language that the Arabs understand.  Perhaps so — in which case, I would submit that the same is true of the Israelis — not exactly a glorious image for the region’s supposedly only democracy!  It is well known that, sooner or later, people believe their own propaganda.

Our country’s “wholesale” (pun intended) one-sided acquiescence to the tragic farce that is the Middle East conflict has given a whole new meaning to the term “Silent Partner.”  Any day now, we should also expect to receive a bill for Israel’s efforts and sacrifices to enhance America’s security and image.  When it comes, the bill should be forwarded to Karen Hughes, the President’s special envoy for improving our image abroad.

By extension, this brings out another issue which is worth pointing out, given the hot (and not totally unrelated) topic of recent months: nuclear proliferation and weapons.  We hear frequently references to the “Islamic Bomb”, in deference to Pakistan’s possession of nukes.  By contrast, we never hear the following when it comes to the rest of the members of the nuclear club?

* The Hindu Bomb (in deference to India)

* The Protestant Bomb (USA)

* The Russian Orthodox Bomb (self-explanatory)

* The Jewish Bomb (Israel)

* The Catholic Bomb (France)

* The Church of England Bomb (self-explanatory)

* The Buddhist Bomb (China & North Korea)

Of course, I am teasing a bit and I certainly wish there were no nukes at all anywhere on our beautiful and fragile planet.  But when labels are applied selectively, even if innocently or just out of habit, you somehow get sucked into thinking that perhaps one nuke is better or more appealing than another, and that we have Good Bombs and Bad Bombs, much like Good Guys and Bad Guys.  What a recipe for disaster!

Just the other day, I watched on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the Pulitzer prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman, who was just back from an extended stay in Syria where he had gone “ … mostly to listen.”  You could tell how uncomfortable he was with the current Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, and how totally convinced he was that the current course of events would only sustain the same old cycle of violence.  His message (more like his plea) seemed to be: try listening — really, really, listen.

So, to steal a line from our President: Yo, Ehud Olmert and Sheikh Nassrollah! Call off your military thugs, stop the killing, get your fingers out of your ears, and start listening to each other.  Good grief, you might even learn something!

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