Walid Salem lays bear the rhetoric on both sides of the Israel–Lebanon war, claiming that despite the confusion and emotion built up over decades of conflict, it is possible to find a solution for peace. In Salem‘s opinion, Israel must withdraw from the Shebaa Farms and release its Lebanese prisoners, and Hezbollah must recognize Israel, disarm and integrate into the Lebanese army, and promise to uphold a lasting peace on its borders with Israel. The most important way to sort through all of the rhetoric and propaganda on both sides, Salem points out, is to view your enemy as human. Only then can the healing necessary for peace take place.
Walid Salem is the director of Panorama, the Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office.
THERE IS AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF RHETORIC ON BOTH SIDES OF THE CURRENT WAR BETWEEN ISRAEL AND LEBANON. The rhetoric clouds the truth, and makes it difficult to consider peace in the region as even possible. But once we are able to sort through the propaganda and pick out what is true, solutions can be found and the war can end.
Israel withdrew completely from Lebanon to UN approved international borders, and then, suddenly, Lebanon attacked. What else could Israel possibly believe but that, the Lebanese are not peaceful; they want nothing but the destruction of Israel. Islam is a terrorist religion incapable of peace.
The current war began when Lebanon kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and began rocket attacks on Northern Israel. Israel responded within its right to defend itself. This war is a continuation of Israel’s Independence war. They are fighting for their right to exist.
Israel is still occupying the Shebaa Farms but this should be none of Lebanon’s concern. The Shebaa Farms were originally Syrian territory, not Lebanese. And Israel does still have Lebanese prisoners in its custody, but these prisoners were convicted of crimes and are serving their sentences. The Shebaa farms and the release of prisoners are not the real reasons for Hezbollah’s attack on Israel.
Hezbollah attacked because it is an Iranian and Syrian proxy. Many Lebanese agree on this, including Walid Junblat who said that this is an Iranian-Syrian war being fought on Lebanese soil.
Israel did formally withdraw from Lebanon, but its military jets continued to make violations in Lebanese airspace on a daily basis. Israel also has dozens of secret service working within our borders. They have collaborated in assassinations like that of Ahmad Jibril last year.
Israel refused to give the Lebanese government maps of mines that were left in Southern Lebanon after the war. Many Lebanese people were killed trying to remove them.
And how can Israel call for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559 while they refuse to follow through with resolution 425 requiring Israeli withdrawal from all Lebanese territories, and the release of all Lebanese prisoners. Lebanon will only follow through with resolution 1559 if Israel leaves the Shebaa Farms and returns Lebanese prisoners. Then Lebanon will deal with disarming Hezbollah in its own way, not by forcing them to give up their weapons, which would create a civil war, but by integrating Hezbollah’s forces into the Lebanese army.
Hezbollah is no Iranian proxy. It is the largest social and political power within Lebanon, representing 40 percent of Lebanese votes.
And what about UN resolution 194 calling for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees, including those in Lebanon? Lebanon has suffered greatly from the massive influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees that Israel forced out. This is Israel’s problem to resolve, not Lebanon’s.
As to the Shebaa Farms, all people in Lebanon agree that it is part of Lebanese territory. An agreement was passed in Lebanese government that the Shebaa Farms should be returned to Lebanon immediately. Lebanon has a right to its territory and should be allowed to negotiate with Syria on how to divide up the land. Israel desires to always have a control point within Arab territory. It kept Taba from Egypt, rented Jordanian lands for Israeli farmers for years, and controlled the transfer of goods into the Gaza strip through the Keren Shalom crossing point. Lebanon refuses to allow Israel to control its territory with the Shebaa Farms.
The Israeli response to the kidnapping of its soldiers was completely disproportionate to the Lebanese attack. Israel has killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians, all for two soldiers. Israel desires to destroy Lebanon entirely.
While some say that Hezbollah is an Iranian-Syrian proxy, many are also claiming that Israel is an American proxy. Zahava Golo’an from Meretz made this claim: Israel is attempting to settle an American account with Iran and Syria through this war, and is acting with complete American backing.
SEPARATING FACTS FROM RHETORIC
Amidst the confusion and emotion of both sides it is possible to find the truth. It is buried beneath decades of conflict, and centuries of hatred. But if we are careful enough, we can understand clearly and precisely the interests of each side, and therefore learn how to come to a viable solution.
We must look at our enemies as human beings, beyond rhetoric and ideologies. Doing so, peace can be accomplished.
THE SOLUTION FOR THE LEBANESE
First and foremost, Hezbollah must recognize Israel. They must see the humanity in the other side, understand that the Israelis have the same equal human rights as the Lebanese, and recognize Israel’s right to exist. Such recognition can be adopted directly or de facto after the fighting has ended. Hezbollah must then accept within Lebanese national dialogue to stop attacking Israel (both its army and its civilians), to promise to fulfill a permanent peace on its borders with Israel, and to integrate its forces into the Lebanese army. Hezbollah must also make a commitment to respecting the democratic method, and allow free and open elections, instead of bullying the other political parties within the system, and making unilateral decisions.
THE SOLUTION FOR THE ISRAELIS
Israel must release Lebanese prisoners and withdraw from the Shebaa Farms. And Israel must learn from this conflict how to deal with other Arab nations. Instead of continuing occupation it must attempt to keep control from the outside. Occupation of Arab lands in order to make peace only delays future problems, allowing them to build and erupt again in more complicated ways. The only solution is to listen to Arab demands and understand them as human.
CONTINUATION OF THE WAR
Were the war to continue, it would create a crisis within the region that could last for decades.
Israel is incapable of beating Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is incapable of beating Israel. It is a senseless, useless, absurd war.
The time has come to stop fighting, and start listening.