the Disillusioned kid: Peace Four Weeks Ago
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Peace Four Weeks Ago

Israel's decision to mark the UN Security Council vote on a resolution to end the conflict in Lebanon by tripling its forces in the south of the county does rather seem to confirm some of the more cynical assesments of the deal. This extension of the war is unlikely to go down well with many and may hasten the apparent reduction in support for the offensive within Israel.

According to the Beeb's Bethany Bell, while a poll in Yedioth Aronoth (apparently Israel's most widely read mpaper) shows that "64% of Israelis (71% of Jewish respondents) support sending troops deeper into Lebanon, up to the Litani River," another poll in "the more leftwing Haaretz newspaper suggests that only 39% of Israelis are in favour of an expanded ground offensive." Bell, believes that these polls portend the beginnings of a shift against the war and presents as further evidence for this position, the first Peace Now protest against the conflict, organised in conjunction with opposition party Meretz.

Peace Now was established in 1978 during Israeli peace talks with Egypt and following the First invasion of Lebanon in 1982 it became one of the most prominent organisers of anti-war demonstrations, including Israel's largest ever, attended by some 400,000 people. The organisation has a long association with the Labor Party, but in recent times seems to have lost its way somewhat, supporting Israel's campaigns in both Gaza and Lebanon. "No one epitomises the degeneration of the peace movement more clearly," notes Jean Shaoul, "than Amir Peretz, the former left-talking trade union leader and current Labour Party leader, who is now the minister of defence." Peretz was one of the first Peace Now members and was elected to the head of the Labor Party a year ago on the promise of peace negotiations with the Palestinians and efforts to tackle growing inequality. Now he is the man in charge of the military campaign in Lebanon.

Despite hitherto supporting Israeli operations against Lebanon, Peace Now seems to have decided that things have gone to far and on Thursday they demonstrated this by protesting outside the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv. Yariv Oppenheimer, the organisation's General Director stated, "At the start we supported the war, but it has become clear that the government is not making enough effort in order to finish the war, and instead is is embarking on a dangerous and unnecessary adventure." An announcement of the demonstration described it as "a Zionist demonstration for all those who supported the war to date and now are requesting an end to the violence and destruction." Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, whose party had also previouslt supported the war averred that the cabinet's decision on Wednesday to expand the ground operation "was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Hecklers greeted their protest with the usual witticisms, accusing demonstrators of being traitors, expressing a hope that they become the victim of Hezbollah weaponary and, no doubt, questioning their parentage. Nevertheless, former Member of the Knesset Yael Dayan, one of the organisers, expressed an intention to continue protest activities and predicted that the next protest slated for the PM's residence in Jerusalem would be considerably larger.

It would be easy at this juncture to comment on the naivete of those who accepted Israel's transparent propaganda about self-defence, but it is almost axiomatic that support for wars starts off high and then falls away when reality sets in, even amongst those who should know better. We have seen in the UK also just how tempting it is for those who position themselves on the left to support the military adventures of our leaders on the basis of some supposed principle, particularly if they get offered a ministerial position.
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