Wars are never clean or humane, but they always stir up emotions. The emotions of common people, especially when bombs are falling on them, are quite understandable. But sometimes emotions blur the opinions of politicians, political analysts and political commentators, which is unprofessional, to say the least.
Political emotions color the majority of commentaries in Russia and Western Europe on the Mideast violence, which tend to criticize Israel. They claim that Israel's reaction is disproportionate to the kidnapping of several Jewish soldiers by Palestinian and Hezbollah militants.
This may be true, but what is proportionate in this situation? What should Israel do if Hamas or Hezbollah militants kill a divorced 30-year-old Israeli with a higher education and two children? Should it retaliate by killing one divorced 30-year-old Arab with a higher education and two children? No? How should it react then?
Besides, such arithmetic would be suicidal for Israel in terms of sheer numbers.
Hezbollah militants are attacking Israel any way they can. Do you think they have killed fewer Jews than Israel has killed Arabs because they are more humane? No, they are not restraining themselves but are killing as many as possible.
Similarly, Israel is defending itself, and counterattacking, as well as it can in view of its military capability and skills. The fact that it is better armed than the Arabs has no connection with morals, and so accusing Israel of immoral actions is demagogy.
Emotions distort facts. Almost everyone has accused Israel of disregarding UN resolutions, but few people remember that Lebanon has not fulfilled the UN resolution on the disarmament of military groups on its territory.
Arab experts would say that Lebanon could not implement this resolution for several reasons. Indeed, how can the Hezbollah militants be disarmed if they have so much authority and are even represented in the Lebanese government?
It would be reasonable to conclude that their disarmament is an unrealistic objective. Likewise, the demands that Israel limit violence sound quite demagogic too, because the Israeli government will find many security-related arguments against returning to its old borders or letting in Palestinian refugees.
Lebanon and Israel each have their own logic, and a sober view of the Mideast violence amounts to recognizing this truth.
The claim that Israel is not acting proportionately would have been much stronger if at least one politician or political scientist suggested a truly realistic method of peacefully resolving the old conflict. If we want to be really objective, we will have to admit that there are no such methods now. You can chant "roadmap" till you're blue in the face, but this will not change the color of the sand in the Middle East. Instead, critics should try to devise an alternative to fighting that will lead to a reconciliation between Israel and Hezbollah.
The emotional background is also influenced by the radically differing behavior of Israel on the one hand and Lebanon and the Palestinians on the other. To begin with, it was not Israel who delivered the first strike, but its neighbors who danced happily in the streets of Gaza and Beirut after the kidnapping of Jewish soldiers. Israel has not appealed to God or the international community but retaliated.
Missiles are killing peaceful Jews, but has anyone in the world heard Israel plead for help? No, the Jews have clenched their teeth and are fighting, while Lebanon and the Palestinians are no longer dancing but are begging the international community for help. Their pleas, televised across the planet hundreds of times, are having a psychological effect on the world community.
Every time the situation deteriorates in the Middle East, somebody starts asking who was the first to cast a stone. And the culprit is eventually found. Israel-sympathizers point at Arabs, and Arab-supporters implicate Jews. So much for objectivity.
I have written before that digging in the past can bring us all the way back to Sarah and Hagar. But even the Bible does not indicate which of the two was more to blame. I would say, both were.
Any and all attempts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict peacefully should be welcomed. War is not a normal state for human beings, though pessimists may disagree. But only an intermediary guided not by emotions but by common sense and an objective attitude towards both sides will stand a chance.
Who could this intermediary be? The French, who have recently visited Beirut, openly sympathize with Lebanon, whereas U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is preparing for a visit to the conflict zone, favors Israel.
In a word, I don't see an objective intermediary, which means that, unfortunately for all sides, the war will not stop.