Racist Righteousness and a Double Standard of Carnage: Beirut in July

Imagine this (which requires a suspension of disbelief: that the power balance in the middle east is far more equal):

Lebanon, fed up with rockets sailing from Israel across its border and enraged at the fact that Israel is holding Lebanese prisoners, attacks Israel by land, sea, and air, decimating infrastructure, shutting down the economy, creating a humanitarian catastrophe, and slaughtering hundreds of civilians, including lots of little kids.

Not only that, but when criticized or questioned, the Lebanese leadership hustles out its best looking, sun-glassed generals and their spokespeople to cooly insist that the taking of the Lebanese prisoners was an act of war by Israel and now the wrath and carnage being unleashed is exclusively Israel’s fault and responsibility, smugly offering the presumption that Lebanese life is far more precious.

Ok, back to reality. Except some of this fantasy is real: Israel does hold Lebanese prisoners–hundreds if not thousands of them. And Israel does send rockets into Lebanon at a far higher rate than the reverse.

Oh, I can hear the indignant eruptions now: “But the prisoners that Israel holds are terrorists! The Israelis taken are brave young civic servants. And Israel only launches rockets in self-defense against these terrorists.”

But, actually a very large number of Lebanese (and Palestinian and Syrian and Jordanian) prisoners are administrative detainees–yes, that’s right, they’re caught up in bureaucracy and may have committed such nefarious charges as getting their work papers out of order. Many of them are also old men, women, and minors. And if we agree that it is true that Israel fires in self-defense, Israel also kills approximately twenty times as many people with their Uncle Sam-blessed precision artillery.

Oh, but it’s different, my critics will howl–Lebanon is a shell inhabited by the hefty and militant agency of Hezbollah. And what of Israel’s hosting of American interests, receipt of billions of dollars a year, nuclear technology, and all other imaginable weaponry? Perhaps Syria ought to invade Israel on the grounds that it is beholden to a nation that is now widely considered in the world as unpredictable and terroristic.

The precedent that the Israeli state has just set is shockingly racist and terrifying. The sudden and complete espousal of national (read:ethnic and religious) superiority is undeniable in their position and actions. They have spoken clearly and resoundingly and without a shred of shame: no number of innocent Arab lives are worth more than one (or three) Israeli.

And America looks on with a proverbially raised eyebrow–who knows, maybe at the end of the day we will even deliver a faux spanking, wag a finger (wink, wink). But for those who harbored any confusion as to why poor, repressed people in the middle east so often choose violence, such confusion should now have crumbled like a Beirut or Gazan bridge.

And now no one can get to the other side.


  1. This is totally random, but aren’t you Tom’s son? I worked for him in Seattle and heard that his son was publishing a book. I googled his name and yours and found some postings online for the book and now this site. Anyway, just thought I’d ask.

  2. eli,

    your critics may or may not be extremist kooks. but, it does seem that some of your posts lack the sort of insight i generally expect from speaking with you. here, you set up a straw man argument that is genuinely hollow.

    that said, i believe that passionate opinions should be defended passionately, and i do respect your passion.

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