It is impossible to be unmoved or unconcerned at the appalling suffering and loss of life in southern Lebanon and northern Israel (the latter rarely features in the media). However, the charade of diplomatic efforts witnessed yesterday in Rome,
chaired by the ever-charismatic and politically-dynamic Romano Prodi, focused on whether the word ‘immediate’ should be attached to its call for a ceasefire. In the end, there was no such demand, simply a call for an ‘urgent’ ceasefire, which Israel has interpreted as tacit support for a continuing offensive: ‘We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world... to continue the operation,’ Justice Minister Haim Ramon
European leaders could hardly assert anything further. EU leaders have become so accustomed to declaring obfuscational, soporific waffle, that the crisis caused by the need for a statement on a war (for that is what it is, despite the BBC’s avoidance of the term) embodies everything that the EU is not equipped to deal with. There is no unified foreign policy, and despite the trumped-up aspirations of Javier Solana, no EU foreign minister. The strategic and security interests of EU members are too diverse and disparate to ever be considered an area of ‘harmonised’ EU competence, and situations like the present are proof of the impossibility of genuine ‘ever closer union’ in this area.
All war is a tragedy of human failing, and the result of innate sin.
However, demands for the present conflict to be terminated immediately, as demanded by the Pope
, display an ignorance of history, an avoidance of the realities of terrorism, and a failure to comprehend human nature. Israel has long tolerated the bombardment of its northern territories by Hezbullah (‘Party of God’) kaytusha rockets. There seem to be about 12000 of these in southern Lebanon, courtesy of Syria and Iran. The usual procedure has been that Israel responds with a token retaliation, which, because Hezbullah locates its bomb-making facilities in populated areas, results in civilian deaths. The BBC then broadcasts this ‘slaughter’ to the world, the terrorists are portrayed as the underdogs, and Israel is condemned. America then tells Israel to cease, and the terrorists live to fight another day – usually the very next one.
This cannot and should not continue. This time, there must be a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix. Too many have died for this tragedy to simply revert to the status quo of the previous impasse. The timing of Hezbullah’s recent action is noteworthy, coming hard upon Iran’s demand for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’, just as pressure was mounting for Iran to suspend its nuclear programme. Al-Qaida
today warned they would not stand idly by while Israeli shells ‘burn our brothers’ in Lebanon and Gaza; for them, ‘all the world is a battlefield’. Israel’s enemies are therefore Europe’s enemies; they are jihadists in the mould of those who bombed New York, Madrid and London. They are possessed of a warped Islamofascist extremism, intoxicated at the thought of 72 virgins, and with whom there is no reasoning. Any truce would be temporary, since for Shi’ite Muslims the battle is theological, ushering in their own Armageddon and the coming of the twelfth Imam, Mahdi. Israel must therefore continue until the terrorists are eliminated. In an imperfect world of conflict and tension, this war has to be the lesser evil.