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“The 2006 Israel-Lebanon War - Why Did It Happen, and What Will Happen Next?”

(Read this fine book, Arabs & Israel for Beginners, by Jewish-American writer Ron David and illustrated by his wife Susan. The book introduced me to David's concept that, despite horrible suffering culminating in WWII, the last century has been--and this is not sarcasm--a new golden age of Jewish accomplishment in science, literature and politics. I'm pointing this out so that folks might be less inclined to think that David is a "self-hating Jew." He's not. He's an incisive thinker who's done his research. While his book is certainly critical of Israel, it's highly--and appropriately--laudatory regarding international Jewish achievement.)

Last summer, Israel’s cataclysmic war on Lebanon killed a thousand people and reduced much of the country to rubble and ruin; Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel killed over a hundred, and a substantial number of the victims were Israeli Arabs living in the northern city of Haifa.

According to some analysts, the scale of the billions-of-dollars of destruction inflicted in a few weeks by Israel exceeds the damage of a decade and a half of civil war, and the economic and environmental damage will be felt for decades. According to a September 12 story in Ha’aretz, Israel dropped 1.2 million anti-personnel cluster bomblets on Lebanon, the majority during the final ten days when a cease-fire was viewed as imminent. Those US-made bomblets will maim and kill for years.

Yet according to some people, Lebanon, essentially, “had it coming,” by allowing the Hezbollah militia to operate on its soil, in fact, as a virtual government in the south of the tiny country of 3 million people. Some say that Israel’s attack was only a reasonable response to provocation; US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to the devastation on the US ally as “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

The only thing more shocking than Rice’s comment is the absence of outrage the comment found in US and Canadian press. Imagine, for instance, if a senior government official in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Turkey had described September 11 as “the birthpangs of a new America.” Celebrated American journalist Seymour Hersch reported that, despite the claims that Hezbollah’s capture of Israeli soldiers was Israel’s motive to launch its war, Israel had been planning such a war for at least a year, and had used the capture as a pretext.

The US interest in this war, according to some observers, was as a test-run for a war against Syria, Iran, or both. What’s clear is that each side in the Israel-Lebanon war committed war crimes, although the scale of those crimes is far greater as committed by Israel, and that the reputation of the Israeli military has plummeted, while the stature of Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has grown immensely.

What’s less clear is what lessons each side and each side’s sponsors have drawn, and what will happen as a result today, next month, and in the years to come.

Tonight on The Terrordome, we’ll hear a debate on those very points, courtesy of California’s Commonwealth Club, in a Town Hall discussion recorded on August 22. The academics and community organisers include As'ad Abukhalil, David Biale, Thomas Dine, Fred Lawson, Glenn E. Robinson, and Michael Nacht.