Even Former Presidents Should Do Their Homework
My colleague Steve describes the beating that Hizballah is taking right now from Israel's south Lebanon offensive, but never fear, Jimmy Carter has decided to bring his moral authority to bear and save the situation. In addition to a ceasefire throwing Hizballah a lifeline, Carter's Washington Post op-ed doesn't get straight what Israel is doing:
...it is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response. The result instead has been that broad Arab and worldwide support has been rallied for these groups, while condemnation of both Israel and the United States has intensified...
Israel has specifically targeted areas sensitive to Hizballah and Hamas, and this happens to include some civilian population areas since both groups use these areas as bases for attacks. If Israel were to intentionally bomb civilians, knowing the intended target was non-military, that would be unacceptable. But Carter here says that Israel is intentionally killing civilians to turn them against Hizballah. This wouldn't make any sense, and Carter gives no reason for believing that this was the intention. He just assumes the worst of Israel.
Carter also mischaracterizes public opinion on both sides. He continues: "Leaders on both sides ignore strong majorities that crave peace, allowing extremist-led violence to preempt all opportunities for building a political consensus." This statement bears no relation to reality. A strong majority of the Israeli public supports the Lebanon campaign, and recent polls suggest that Olmert is actually going slower than most Israelis would prefer. Most Israelis seem to support peace with those who want it, and war until victory with those who don't. On the Arab side, most Lebanese do want peace and resent both Israel and Hizballah for catching them in the crossfire of a war they didn't want. Yet there is little indication of that craving for peace among Palestinians.
It should also be noted that the kind of pro-Hizballah reaction we are seeing the in Arab world is a given. Anyone who follows Palestinian politics would know that every time Israel kills an operative for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for planning marketplace suicide bombs, Palestinians march in the street in protest and the mainstream Arab media calls him a martyr. Trying to understand the societies about which one writes usually helps.