As Israel and Hezbollah again prove racial and religious hatred are the core, irremediable traits of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the international media focuses on each side’s weaponry and the evacuees, Osama bin Laden is smiling and praising Allah in his mountain fastness. Again, as after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, bin Laden and his far-flung lieutenants can have no doubt about which side God is on.
The battle raging in the Levant has fixed the attention of the world’s eight most powerful leaders, each of whom foolishly thinks that the Arab-Israeli conflict is solely about Israel’s security, and willfully ignores the fact that it fuels the much more dangerous bin Laden-led war against America and the West. Their long-standing aversion to this reality can be seen in the failure of even one of these leaders — or anyone in the mainstream media, for that matter — to note that Israel and its Western supporters are doing bin Laden’s work for him, thereby undercutting their own security to an extent Hezbollah could never even dream of.
As Lebanon burns, bin Laden’s words will reinforce and harden Muslim perceptions — including the views of Muslims in Europe and North America — that the U.S.-led West is warring on Islam and its followers. Bin Laden’s claims that Arab regimes cannot protect Muslims and are the West’s apostate lackeys were underscored when Arab kings and dictators acted through the Arab League to condemn Hezbollah. Nothing better proves bin Laden’s consistently made point than the juxtaposition of the Arab leaders’ damning of Hezbollah — heretofore always a “legitimate resistance group” in their rhetoric — and their implicit acquiescence in Israel’s leisurely razing of Beirut.
And what Muslim in his or her right mind can now doubt bin Laden’s claim that Washington and its allies have given Israel carte blanche to do what it will to Hezbollah, Hamas, and Muslim civilians? The G-8 grandees called for mutual restraint but assigned sole culpability to Hezbollah and Hamas; Prime Minister Blair and Secretary-General Annan call for undefined diplomatic efforts that might, someday, lead to UN peacekeepers; and Secretary of State Rice said she really does hope to find time in her busy schedule to visit the region. Muslims will see this lack of enthusiasm for ending the fight for what it is — the West’s forelock-tugging deference to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s estimate that his military still needs a week or so to finish off Hezbollah and Lebanon.
This supine indulgence of Olmert, moreover, suggests Western leaders suspend common sense when dealing with Israel. Olmert’s claim that Israel will settle for nothing less than the destruction of Hezbollah is nonsense, as only Israel’s occupation and virtual annexation of Lebanon could raise this goal even to the level of a slim possibility. Olmert and his cabinet know this and are relying on the cowardly fear Western leaders have of their pro-Israeli voters — aren’t there U.S. congressional elections in about 90 days? — to give Israel’s military a free hand for as long as possible.
Most damaging for G-8 leaders will be this week’s validation for Muslims of bin Laden’s assertion that the West considers Muslim lives cheap and expendable. They will see that three kidnapped Israeli soldiers and several dozen dead Israelis are worth infinitely more to the West than the thousands of Muslims held for years in Israel’s prisons, the hundreds already killed in Lebanon, and the eradication of Lebanon’s modern infrastructure.
So bin Laden wins without lifting a finger. The G-8 leaders, their Arab allies, and Israel have behaved in a way that will burn bin Laden’s words deeper into Muslim perceptions and push more to accept jihad as the only recourse. Western leaders can argue forever that they are honest brokers but, because perception is reality, it will be bin Laden’s words, not theirs, that echo long and tellingly in Muslim ears.
The impact of this Israel-Hezbollah round will not stop with the inevitable truce that will be declared after Israel ruins Lebanon. While temporary order may return to the Levant, America, Britain, and the West should not fool themselves. They have again gratuitously picked sides in a fight between two inconsequential nations; the survival of neither is a genuine national security interest for any G-8 state. Led by Washington’s absurd, 30-year obsession with the minimal Shia threat to America, and blind to the hatred generated among Muslims by their foreign policies, the G-8 have mightily strengthened the enmity, durability, and resolve of the Sunni extremist movement that bin Laden leads and personifies.