the Disillusioned kid: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention
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Thursday, July 27, 2006

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention

The bloody Israeli assault on Lebanon continues with apparent western acquiescence. Meanwhile, violence in the Gaza Strip continues, generating a fraction of the media interest. Media coverage has made much of the widespread support for this action in Israel, but fortunately this is far from total. Organising in a fiercely hostile environment, an incipient movement against the assaults seems to be finding its feet.Ha'aretz reports that some 2,500 people attended a demonstration in Tel Aviv last Saturday (photos here). Participants ranged from "the left flank of the Zionist left - former Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni and Prof. Galia Golan, alongside the radical left of Gush Shalom, the refusal to serve movement Yesh Gvul, Anarchists Against the Wall, Coalition of Women for Peace, Taayush and others." Gush Shalom suggest that the numbers taking part were substantially higher, with around 5,000 in attendance. They also have reports on their website of a number of smaller events in different parts of Israel, including one outside the Ministry of Defence organised within hours of the assault getting underway.

Apparently these expressions of dissent are considered of sufficient weight to merit discussion by the Beeb. Disappointingly (if unsurprisingly), Raffi Berg's seems to be primarily interested in emphasising that opponents of the war "are in a tiny minority" (my emphasis). Intriguingly, however, the only evidence they offer to support this is "recent opinion polls" which show that "as many as 90% of Israeli citizens approve of the offensive against Hezbollah and want it to continue." This seems to imply that 10% of Israeli citizens disapprove of the offensive, a minority to be sure but not exactly tiny.

The article does reveal (to me at least) that Peace Now, probably the most prominent Israeli peace group, has refused to condemn the assault, indeed its website notes a "solidarity" visit to Israeli villages in the North, with no mention of a similar visit to Lebanese villages which have suffered far greater violence. As disappointing as this capitulation may be, it shouldn't be that surprising. Peace Now has always been first and foremost an adjunct to the Labor Party, whose commitment to peace and justice has been aptly demonstrated by their policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians during their time in office.

The piece closes with an extended - unchallenged - comment from "Gerald Steinberg, professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University" who restates the "fact" that the "the anti-war protesters are very far on the fringe," in case anybody has missed the central thrust of the article. He goes on to claim, without evidence (because none exists) that "don't seem to care about the value of Israeli lives." Note, the thinly-veiled assumption that to care about the lives of Lebanese civillian neccesarily entails an acceptance of the entire Hezbollah programme. Apparently not content with these fantasies, Steinberg insists that this war is different to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon because "Israelis understand the stakes, which are the survival of the State of Israel and the potential for a confrontation with Hezbollah and Iran in the future, and the stakes are far too high for that." Got that? At stake in this hugely disproportionate war is the very survival of the aggressor. If such lunacy truly is representative of Israeli society then it's no surprise that participation in the anti-war movement is so low.

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