Gutsy Pullout Or Humiliating Rout?


Maybe Hezbollah and Hamas are right; violence is the way to go and Israelís retreat from Lebanon is the proof. Daoud Kuttab, in a Jordan Times op-ed (May 28), writes: ìAtallah, a Palestinian human rights activist called me worried this week. ëI am a pacifist nationalist,í he told me, ëbut I have a real problem with what one can call the Lebanon solution. How can we convince people that nonviolent resistance works, when we see that armed resistance produces results and negotiations fail? How can we support a nonviolent act like the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike when we see on TV Lebanese prisoners liberated as a result of the success of the armed resistance?í îKuttab also pointed out that ìafter 22 years of foreign military occupation, Israel for the first time withdrew as a direct result of armed attacks without even a cease-fire agreement or a Security Council resolution.î
Twenty-two years? Try 50. Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe (May 29) quotes Hezbollah boss Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who gloats: ìThis is the first victory in 50 years of Arab-Israeli conflict!î Jacoby adds: ìIf he means that it is the first time that Israel has been forced to retreat, with no peace agreement or security guarantee, from territory it had occupied in self-defense, he is entirely correct.î Even though Barak called it ìa happy day,î Jacoby wondered what exactly was happy about a ìhumiliating routî?Jacoby says, ìThe message to Israelís supporters last week was that the Jewish state cannot be trusted to stand by those who stand by it,î a reference to Israelís apparent abandonment of the South Lebanese Army.

David Weinberg in The Jerusalem Post (May 28) writes that Israel ìlast week illustrated for the entire Arab world and global leaders beyond just how pathetically weak we are. … Decisions born of societal fatigue and national irresolute-ness seldom pay-off.îWeinberg says: ìThe People of Israel is in retreat, sociologically (raging violence in the schools and in the home, rising drug use, rampant corruption, fading commitment to Zionist ideals); spiritually (declining religious belief and practice, disappearing spiritual guides of any stature, growing religious obscurantism and blindly-dogmatic secularism); and therefore ó we are also in retreat territorially. Who will halt the deterioration?î

All the pride seemed to be on the Arab side of the fence. Agence France Press (May 27), at the new border, heard one Palestinian refugee, whose parents came from Safad, describing the air of their homeland as ìperfume.îAhmad Rabah, 70, told AFP that his wife still carries the key of the home in Israel that they left behind years ago.The Lebanon Daily Star (May 29) ran extended features on Arabs reunited across the new Israel-Lebanon frontier: ìWeíre going to liberate Palestine too one day,î said Maher Faour, 20. ìThe Palestinians in Lebanon are more aggressive than the ones on the other side.î He held a small rock in his hand. ìThis is a stone from Palestine. My cousins threw it over. This rock symbolizes the sacrifice and the blood for the liberation of Palestine.îSome saw the good in a bigger picture: The Los Angeles Times (May 24) reported the relief felt by many Israeli soldiers about departing this war zone. The New York Times (May 28) quoted Edward P. Djerejian, a former American ambassador to Syria and Israel, who observed: ìOnce Israel has withdrawn completely from Lebanese territory, then it is on a much higher political ground to justify retaliation for any attacks because it is no longer occupying foreign territory. They are truly protecting their international border from within.

îTimes columnist Thomas Friedman (May 26) called Barakís pullout ìgutsy and strategic,î and advises that ìAnyone who thought the Israeli withdrawal there was going to be neat and clean has simply never been to southern Lebanon … donít get caught up in the momentary messiness.îFriedman says that ìif the border between Israel and Lebanon stabilizes, Mr. Barak may conclude that unilateral withdrawal might be the best way to deal with the West Bank as well ó just draw the line that Israel wants, say goodbye and forget trying to reach a deal with the Palestinians.î But Friedman agrees with those who say this makes the more stable Arabs look worse by comparison to the Lebanese guerrillas: ìNow that Hezbollah has evicted the Israelis from southern Lebanon by force, instead of by negotiation, this will make it much harder for Yasir Arafat to give up any territory to Israel or make any compromises. He will look like a wimp in Arab eyes.îThe Times (May 27) quoted Yisrael Abramov, a contractor from Herzliya, who said at the new Israeli-Lebanese frontier: ìThe problem is that theyíre waving flags and weíre not,î he said. ìWeíve lost faith in our flag and country.î

In fact, Israelis are waving flags: Syrian flags. A report in Haaretz (May 11) mentioned that the band Ping Pong, representing Israeli in the popular Eurovision song contest, waved the Syrian flags at their rehearsal during Israelís Independence Day.The four openly bisexual band members, bemoaning their friends who were killed ìbecause the politicians donít manage to create peace in the Middle East,î sang their song, ìSameachî (ìHappyî) in Arabic, about an Israeli girl missing her boyfriend in Damascus.