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Dustin LindenSmith

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On the Mel Gibson controversy, and the current situation in the Middle East

This post by blorky raises some very interesting discussion about the weekend's events surrounding Mel Gibson's drunk driving arrest in California and several anti-Semitic comments he made to the arresting officers. The BBC article blorky linked to provides a good synopsis of the situation, and considerably more commentary can be found via The Huffington Post on this blog entry by Ari Manuel.

Recent events in Israel and Lebanon have made me think a great deal about what Israel does and doesn't have the right to do in Lebanon right now, and it's impossible not to consider anti-Semitism overall in that discussion. I'm generally pacifist, although not in all circumstances, and I generally think that violence begets more violence and that killing should be used as a last resort in any situation. But as un-nuanced as this may seem, I remain convinced that Israel continues to hold a valid trump card in the form of the Holocaust, which is still in the living memory of many people. I believe that this categorically gives Israel certain overarching rights with regards to protecting its sovereignty and its right to exist as a nation. I have no sympathy for Hamas, as an example, which holds the unconscionable position that Israel has no right to exist. I have no sympathy for this view even in light of any violence that Israel has committed against Palestine. It is my opinion that Israel has a very long way to go before it reaches a glimpse of the atrocities committed in the Holocaust.

Having said that, I think that Israel's response to terrorism in many forms could often be more measured; for any given suicide bomber attack, it's my anecdotal recollection that a severalfold increase in Palestinian deaths usually results from any given Israeli retaliation. The current conflict in Lebanon provides considerable more examples of this. From an outsider's perspective looking in, it's easy to criticize Israel's tactics for exacerbating the underlying tensions and therefore making the overall situation worse. Their current actions are not bloody helping anything, that's for sure, and no doubt some form of more emotionally evolved diplomacy must be able to be applied here to reach a less bloody end to this conflict. (Although I also know that this has been tried countless times in the past and failed, so I don't doubt that there's little patience left on either side for more discussion at the moment.)

But the preceding is just Monday morning quarterbacking on my part, and the fact still remains that Israel continues to have the right to defend itself as a sovereign nation against legitimate threats to its security. We can argue endlessly over the tactics deployed, but the incontrovertible fact remains that their right to defend themselves is sacrosanct. Particularly in light of the Holocaust. Yet at the same time, I'm very troubled by how many people have been displaced and killed in Lebanon so far. Can I support Israel in principle yet abhor its actual actions?

And now I'll stand down and let the flames come. Anyone wish to comment on this? On Mel or otherwise? I'm very interested to hear what people are thinking about it; particularly those who have friends or family in that region right now. I'm also curious to know more about Hizbollah and the nature of their involvement with Lebanon. I understand that they pose a direct threat to Israel, but how exactly are they linked to the Lebanese government, as well as to Syria and Iran? And are the current attacks by Israel on Lebanon really some sort of attack on Syria and Iran by proxy? Or a pre-emptive defense strike, as it were? The fact that thousands of Israeli reservists have recently been called up and placed into action makes me think that they're laying in for a pretty serious war over there right now. This is clearly set up to get worse before it gets any better.

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vyus August 2nd, 2006
i don't know if mel's a bigot. i do know that just because people are nutso drunk doesn't mean they're divulging some inner truth. having problems with alcohol, myself, i know that sometimes a person is just trying to insult others any way they can.

hell, i get a kick out of getting folks worked up when i'm sober.

but mel's pop is obviously nuts, and thinking that doesn't influence mel -- well, i have a hard time with that. at the same time, who cares? some people run around looking to be offended.

my coworkers in israel are nervous. intel's fab there is definitely short on manpower as people report for required duty. one coworker i spoke to today iterated how the violence just makes more violence and certainly no peace will come out of it. i didn't know it at the time, but now i realize she's probably a bit on edge because her husband had to report.

starskin August 2nd, 2006
As I am friends with several Israelis and Lebonese, I am too closely wedded to the human element of this story to offer any sound political advice other than the fact that I believe that no nation's right to exist extends to the complete destruction of other nations that opposes it. Israel has as much a right to exist as Lebanon or Palastine, and until there is some sort of agreement to that effect, the body count will continue to rise.

That said. I do believe Mel Gibson is a bigot. There have been rumblings of his virulent anti-Semitism for *years*. His father denies the Halocaust, and while Mel might not be as big a nutjob as his dad, they do share a lot of deep seated prejudices. Do I believe that he was speaking hyperbolically because he was drunk? Sure. I don't think he ACTUALLY believes that Jews are responsible for ALL wars...he's rational enough when sober to know that's not true. However, alcohol has a tendency to remove filters that we have when we're sober, so I have no doubts that his tirade was based on things he actually feels, if taken to a bit of an extreme.

blorky August 2nd, 2006
"I believe that this categorically gives Israel certain overarching rights with regards to protecting its sovereignty and its right to exist as a nation."

I'm really struggling with this. While the Holacaust contributes to *why* Zionists believe what they do, I don't believe it *justifies* their claim to their land over and above anyone elses claim. I'm also uncomfortable about the implications of "It is my opinion that Israel has a very long way to go before it reaches a glimpse of the atrocities committed in the Holocaust." Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate, regardless of whether you were beat up worse previously. I'm not claiming specifically that Isreal's behavior is inappropriate, only that justifying it because of the suffering of the Holacaust doesn't seem adequate to me.

"that I have no sympathy for Hamas, as an example, which holds the unconscionable position that Israel has no right to exist." Note that Israel's position on soverignty is effectively that Palestine does not have a right to exist. This in itself is not a problem - I don't believe that every ethnic subculture has an inherent right to a homeland that world governments have to honor. The argument against Hamas is that they are willing to break all the eggs to make an omlet.

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