Saturday, July 29, 2006

It is time for Iran to end the killing

From The Australian Editorial, July 29, 2006 ....

In Lebanon and Israel, Ahmadinejad has blood on his hands

IS the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere? Are we children of a lesser God?" asked Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora this week in Rome. "Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?" It's a good question and one that drips with as much anger and poignancy as Shylock's famous soliloquy in The Merchant of Venice. But it is also, sadly, the wrong question. For, in the present conflict, there is no difference between Lebanese and Israeli blood. Both nations are being made to pay the price for policies set by thuggish theocrats in Tehran and, to a lesser extent, Damascus. Those are the men to whom Mr Siniora's question needs to be directed.

Hezbollah, aka the Party of God, touched off the current conflagration by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and killing three others in a cross-border raid just over two weeks ago. That attack was only the latest in a long series of often fatal harassment actions conducted by the terrorist group since it filled the void left by Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. Through it all, Hezbollah has been a puppet of the Iranian theocracy, which created it more than 20 years ago with the purpose of using terrorism to expand the Shia regime's influence throughout the Middle East.

In retaliating against Hezbollah and pressuring Lebanon to control its territories and kick out the organisation, Israel is taking a logical step against an Iranian regime whose leaders routinely vow to "wipe Israel from the face of the map". Every one of the nearly 500 deaths of the past two weeks, whether Lebanese or Israeli, is tragic. But those who complain Arab blood is cheap must realise that the price is being set in Tehran, not Jerusalem. And the power to stop the bloodshed lies most of all with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who at a stroke could get Hezbollah to lay down its arms and quit a country in which it does not belong.

When one strips away all the emotional and political baggage from the situation in the Middle East, the present conflict is at its heart a battle between a liberal democracy and a fascist dictatorship. It should be no trouble to figure out which side is in the right. Yet events in the Middle East are seen through one's individual political prejudices.

In the West, too many on the Left are unable to put aside their reflexive anti-Americanism and romantic beliefs that Islamic radicals are simply freedom fighters to judge the situation fairly. Thus groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas that use terror as the means to spread their own political and religious obsessions are not seen as the bad guys; rather, Israel is. This view has poisoned the debate in many sectors of the media, where Israel's defensive actions are routinely cast in an aggressive light, and in the streets, where at so-called peace rallies Stars of David appear on banners next to swastikas separated by a "=" sign.

But if those who blame Israel were to put away their anti-American prejudices and forget for a moment the half-baked postmodern narrative of colonisers and liberators, they would see in Hezbollah something that could just as easily be called the Nazi Party of Tehran. Today all Israel wants in the present conflict is for the Nazis to go home.

Hezbollah was created by a regime every bit as totalitarian and anti-Semitic as the Third Reich. The values of the Iranian theocracy, which executes homosexuals, oppresses ethnic and religious minorities and treats women as property, should be offensive most of all to the progressive Left. Although there have been some heartening and worthwhile efforts on the left, such as the Euston Manifesto, to come to terms with these facts, it is the liberal democracy of Israel that is all too often cast by progressives as the villain. Were a similarly fascist group to emerge in the Arafura Sea and lob missiles into Darwin on a daily basis, Canberra would likewise have no choice but to respond militarily.

The questions Mr Siniora – and indeed the whole civilised world – should be asking are: "Why won't Iran bring Hezbollah to heel? Are Tehran's lunatic ambitions worth the life of even one Lebanese or Israeli?" Lebanese and Israelis alike suffer from Hezbollah's presence. The region's Sunni Muslims would likewise not fare well under a resurgent Shia Iran that would turn back the clock on democratisation and reform.

World outrage should be directed not at Israel but at Iran and Syria. The Australian wishes, along with all Australians, that there was no violence in the Middle East and that the bombs of Hezbollah and Israel did not have to take so many lives – especially those of children. But we also recognise that a ceasefire for its own sake will do nothing to prevent future bloodshed. For the moment, then, our wish would be for more pressure, both from within the Arab world and without, to be brought to bear on Tehran to halt this madness.

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