Liberal Grace

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Isn't it obvious that both Israel and Hezbollah are guilty in this conflict?

These two statements by Jan Egeland only seem like a contradiction if you insist there can be only one guilty side.

Who are the real cowards? By Duraid Al Baik, Foreign Editor

For a while, it appeared that Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, was moved by the scenes he saw during the course of his inspection visit to Beirut. He blamed Israel for the carnage then but reversed his statement in less than 24 hours, blaming Hezbollah for the destruction.

Accompanied by cameramen and reporters of international news agencies, Egeland was shown jumping on debris of what used to be the residential district of the southern suburbs of Beirut. Full of sympathy, he told reporters that the Israeli military response had been disproportionate. "When ? one third of the wounded and killed are women and children, then it is clearly goes far beyond responding to armed groups," Egeland told reporters on June 23, which was the 12th day of the war.

Twenty-four hours later, Egeland surprised the world with a completely different statement. On his arrival at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus, he blamed Hezbollah for the destruction and deaths he saw in Lebanon. He claimed that the militia has built bunkers and tunnels near the Israeli border to hide weapons and fighters, and its members easily blend in with civilians.

He told a different group of reporters that his message was that the group must stop this "cowardly" act of hiding amidst women and children. Egeland, and/or those who suggested to him to revert his statement in Beirut, knew that this is a big lie and cannot stand the realities on the ground.

What Duraid Al Baik calls a contradiction seems to be totally obvious:

1) Israel is guilty of recklessly escalating this war, needlessly killing civilians.
2) Hezbollah is guilty of shamelessly hiding among civilians, guaranteeing civilian deaths.

One can dispute these statements but they aren't contradictory.

This is just common sense. In any war there is rarely only one guilty party. Typically, both sides have legitimate grievances and both sides have blood on their hands.

"Am I asking too much of journalists
when I expect them to be objective?"

Second-tier Guilt:

In any war, there are "second level" guilty parties who enable and encourage the conflict. The war between Israel and Hezbollah is no different. Compare:

A. Many writers here in the Arab world put much blame on America and the UN for not stopping Israel. (It seems unlikely that either party could stop Israel in the short-term but I firmly believe they should try.)

B.Very few writers here in the Arab world put similar (or any!) blame on Iran or Syria for not stopping Hezbollah. (Even though this seems more likely.)

A. Many writers over here blame America for sending arms to Israel. I agree with this. The person who arms a killer, shares in his guilt.

B. No writers over here (that I've seen) similarly blame Iran for arming Hezbollah. But, surely, if America shares the guilt of Israel then Iran shares the guilt of Hezbollah.

Am I asking too much of journalists when I call them to objective reporting and non-partisan editorializing? Should I accept that newspaper people will take up sides just like everybody else?

Am I a one-in-a-million anomaly because I can look at the Israel-Hezbollah conflict and identify the obvious truth that there is guilt on both sides?

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