I’ve been a little disappointed with Meretz USA statements reacting to this summer’s Lebanon war. (Our statement of August 4 can be accessed here.) In particular, I thought them deficient on the question of damage and casualties inflicted upon Lebanon’s non-combatant population and its civil infrastructure.
In executive committee discussions on our statement, I was impressed at the protectiveness and compassion evinced toward Israel’s difficult situation at this time. I would not have felt comfortable with a typical left-wing one-sided denunciation of Israel, exonerating Hezbollah’s acts of aggression and ignoring Lebanon’s failure to act as a sovereign state controlling its borders. Yet I felt that a bolder statement, questioning some of Israel’s behavior, was in order. This is basically what I submitted for consideration on July 27. I think it’s still applicable and one that in principle most activists in Meretz USA would agree with, but please understand that it’s my statement and not that of Meretz USA. – Ralph Seliger
We stand with Israel in its struggle to secure the northern border against aggression. At the same time, we are troubled with the catastrophic damage to civil infrastructure and the widespread suffering inflicted upon Lebanese civilians, which strengthen Hezbollah politically and divert world attention from Israel’s legitimate security objectives. And we affirm that only an internationally-supported diplomatic agreement will effectively end this conflict.
We believe that Israel’s stated aims – the return of the two kidnapped IDF soldiers, safe and sound, and the removal of Hezbollah’s military threat – are entirely justified. In May 2000, Israel fully withdrew from Lebanese territory, fulfilling its obligation under United Nations Security Council resolution 425.
Since that time, however, Hezbollah has contravened UN resolutions, undermined the Lebanese government’s exercise of authority along its border with Israel, and instigated ongoing regional tension. Although Hezbollah claims to be seeking the “liberation” of the Shebaa Farms area for Lebanon, the UN has determined it to be Syrian territory. Hezbollah is clearly using this as an excuse to justify retaining its heavily-armed militia and its huge arsenal of rockets and missiles to continue to threaten Israel.
Israel has no reason to expect less than what the UN Security Council has already demanded in Resolution 1559: the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese militias.” Israel’s internationally-recognized border with Lebanon should no longer be plagued by periodic threats and spasms of violence.
That being said, from a moral standpoint, not every act of war is acceptable, no matter how legitimate the aim. Although we recognize that Israel does not wish to unnecessarily put its soldiers at risk in a ground war, its aerial bombardment of Lebanon is leaving far too much civilian death and destruction in its wake.
We recognize Israel’s right to take action in self-defense and in response to provocation, but an injudicious use of force is self-defeating, as it undermines the moral high-ground that Israel must maintain if it is to achieve its diplomatic ends. Israel should also not make the mistake of believing that it can single-handedly wipe out Hezbollah’s fighting force. Similarly, Israel must not entertain the idea that collectively punishing the Lebanese people will cause it to turn against Hezbollah. If anything, the opposite is the case. Indeed, as with the Palestinian question, the only true solution will be a political one.
Although the Israeli public’s desire to hit back hard is understandable, we remain convinced that Israel will never be able to achieve enduring security by force alone. Consequently, we reaffirm our support for a comprehensive diplomatic arrangement, under which the an international force will assist the struggling Lebanese government to remove the Hezbollah from the border zone and assert its authority over all Lebanese territory. Such an arrangement would also guarantee the return of the kidnapped soldiers, a general cease-fire, the release of prisoners, and the diplomatic resolution of the Shebaa Farms dispute.