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    When will the Israelis Learn?

    Speaking to Israeli radio while in Rome, Israeli army boss Gaby Ashkenazi said on Tuesday that his forces were ready to move on inhabited areas in Lebanon where Hizbullah is allegedly stockpiling its arsenal, should his country and the Shiite group soon come to blows.

    We wonder whether the head of Israel’s military will next inform us that the sun rises in the east. We would encourage Ashkenazi to consult the history of his forces, which have attacked almost nothing but inhabited areas during their regular parades of military hardware through our country.

    For example, the Israeli onslaught of 2006 occurred largely in populated areas – as any visitor to Beirut’s southern suburbs can still observe – when, Ashkenazi informs us, Hizbullah had even less weaponry concealed there than it does today. Perhaps he only wanted to let us know that the scale of destruction visited upon our towns and cities would be even worse next time?

    Alas, Ashkenazi’s revelation of strategy says nothing new; Ehud Barak said much the same thing last December in Washington at an Israel-supplicating think tank. In fact, Israel has pursued the same misguided strategy – using disproportionate force against civilian populations – against its foes since Ariel Sharon guided Unit 101 through slaughters of unarmed women and children in the early 1950s.

    Israelis have long proclaimed that Arabs understand only force, or that the harder the enemy is hit, the more he submits. To all the Baraks and Ashkenazis and countless others who support and implement this strategy, we want to say as loudly as we can that it does not work.

    It does not work in terms of security – should Israel one day even manage to obliterate Hizbullah, we can all be sure that its place will be filled by a group only more lethal, extremist and effective.

    Politically, the strategy has failed as well. Employed against Gaza about 18 months ago, Israel suffered nothing but condemnation internationally. One might argue that the strategy has allowed Israel to gobble up great blocs of land; unfortunately for the Israelis, in doing so they have coerced so many Palestinians into living in Israel’s would-be space that the Jewish state has created for itself an existential question – thanks to the Palestinians’ fecund birthrate, the Jewish state will have a minority of Jews if it keeps the territory it has forcibly annexed.

    This strategy is a perfect example of an end not justifying the means. Israel seems to have trouble seeing that its aims are being extinguished through the cumulative effects of its immoral strategy. Israel is a bully who can push others around, but in doing so only galvanizes its opposition.

    We want to say to Israel that the most forceful means of achieving security and recognition is peace. When will they learn?

    The Daily Star

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