For It Before They Were Against It

So for two weeks Arab governments and Iran demanded an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon. Now, France and the United States draft a security council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire, and both the Arab League and Iran reject it.

It’s pretty easy to see why, of course. No one would call the IDF’s ground campaign a raging success, but Israeli forces hold chunks of Lebanese territory. Since the Franco-US draft does not call for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces, the Arab League and Iran reject it.

Put another way: the Arab League and Iran wanted an immediate cease-fire when the facts on the ground would have meant a clear Israeli defeat (no return of Israeli soldiers, no military defeat of Hizbullah–essentially the status quo before Israeli responded). Now that that is no longer the case, they reject a cease-fire. In fact, ending the war now might give anti-Hizbullah forces some propaganda value: all you’ve brought us is more Israeli occupation.

All of this is in keeping with traditional diplomacy. But spare us the wailing from Arab governments about civilian casualties. Suddenly, all those people who were demanding an immediate end to fighting because of civilian casualties seem a lot less interested in them. European governments have also been very quiet about the Franco-American draft: when forced to choose between undermining Israel or saving civilians, they’ll sacrifice the civilians any day.

If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, there’s an awful lot of tribute being paid now.

UPDATE: Billmon has a post saying the same thing, but with a very different spin. Worth reading.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

14 thoughts on “For It Before They Were Against It”

  1. spare us the wailing from Arab governments about civilian casualties
    Why? Isn't it possible to have traditionally diplomatic interests and still care about civilian deaths?

  2. The obverse, of course, is that when Israel had not met its objectives, including destruction of of Lebanese infrastructure, it wanted no cease fire and now that it has a foothold, it does.
    All of a sudden saving civilians is the moral lynchpin. Tell that to the civilians of Beirut.
    Plenty of hypocrisy in all this to go around.

  3. There's some truth in what you say but just because the Arab governments aren't being sincere here doesn't mean the US and its allies are. This draft resolution either fits the facts on the ground and will stick or it doesn't. I think it doesn't — it may in a few weeks, I'm not sure, but it certainly doesn't now. And I guess I kind of think that's the point. Israel doesn't intend to stop now, but the Arab governments put a lot of pressure on the US to do something, or to at least look like its doing something, so now we have this UN action. I don't think it will stop the fighting and I don't think it's intended to stop the fighting.
    You can either view this kind of kabuki theater as part of the value of the UN or as one of the reasons it's not a raging success. I'm not sure about that either.

  4. So, the Arabs have to agree to occupation of Lebanon in order to avoid more civilian deaths, but Israel doesn't have to agree to anything other than to stop causing more civilian deaths.
    I get it – Zasloff hypocrisy is ok.
    I guess this means that an Israeli refusal to abandon its occupation in order to spare more civilian deaths means that undermining Lebanon's government is more important to them than civilian deaths.

  5. I think that some of the commentators are misinterpreting my position. Israel has never claimed that the raison d'etre of the war was to avoid civilian casualties per se; rather, it was to protect ISRAELI national security and thus avoid casualties to ISRAELI citizens. While it might regret or even apologize for Lebanese civilian deaths, it has stated quite forthrightly that it is prepared to go on fighting in order to achieve its political objectives. You might think that this is right or wrong, but it's not hypocritical.

  6. OK, Jonathan, but at the same time, Lebanon has an interest in maintaining its sovereignty as well as saving the lives of its civilians. It's hardly hypocrisy that it doesn't abandon the first goal for a shot at the second.

  7. Neil–
    Very true. But Lebanon seemed little interested in maintaining its sovereignty when Hizbullah essentially created a state-within-a-state. Perhaps this is my bias, but I do not find it credible that any Arab government, including Lebanon's, actually believes that the Israelis want to stay in Lebanon. Put another way, in sovereignty terms, Israel is doing the Lebanese government's work for it: hammering Hizbullah to allow Lebanese troops to deploy in the south–although clearly the effectiveness of such a strategy is still up in the air and doubtful.
    In any event, I suppose that I was less upset about Siniora's position than the Arab League, Iran's and the Europeans. So your point is well taken.

  8. Sam Spade references a piece by Robert Fisk, noting correctly that Fisk is "notorious." This piece shows why. Fisk claims that Arab governments needed the UN resolution to deal with the Shebaa Farms; since it didn't, they seem to have had to reject it.
    This is wrong on several levels. Most importantly, the UN has ALREADY dealt with Shebaa Farms–and concluded that it is part of Syria, not Lebanon. It's not disputed, which is why UN Security Council Resolution 1559 clearly states that Israel has withdrawn and that Hizbullah must disarm. The whole idea is a smokescreen.
    Fisk claims that the dispute over Shebaa Farms is Hizbullah's "excuse" for maintaining its military forces–under the bizarre assumption that it needs an "excuse" or couldn't concoct one if it needed it. If its current excuse has already been rejected by the UN–hardly known as a pro-Israel body–couldn't it just as easily find another? Such as–"Israel is an cancer in the Middle East and must be destroyed"?
    Not to mention the fact that the Franco-American draft DOES in fact resolve to re-open negotiations over Shebaa.
    Jeez–no wonder they call it "Fisking."
    Thanks much to Sam Spade for pointing it out.

  9. I personally don't blame Israel quite so much for vast, disproportionate valuation of Israeli lives over Lebanese lives. I do however blame America and Bush for making the same value judgment. We have a different ethical obligation than the Israeli leadership, and we're not pulling our weight.

  10. "There's some truth in what you say but just because the Arab governments aren't being sincere here doesn't mean the US and its allies are."
    The USA immediately rushed bombs and fuel to Israel, to aid in bombing Lebanon, while dismissing talk of a cease-fire as premature. Lebanon, just a few weeks before, was a shining example of Democracy and CedarBabeRevolutionaryism. The moral sincerity of the Bush administration is certainly not in doubt; it doesn't exist.

  11. Great post…found you through Andrew Sullivan. I agree entirely. The Arab League is completely at fault. They didn't care one wit about Hezbollah's state-within-a-state for six years.
    Seems to me that the Arab League could end this now by unilaterally releasing the Israeli soldiers whose kidnapping started this, and halting all missile attacks.
    Because Israel is a reasonable country, they would respond in kind with a ceasefire and a plan to withdrawal.

  12. "I think that some of the commentators are misinterpreting my position. Israel has never claimed that the raison d'etre of the war was to avoid civilian casualties per se . . ."
    Not at all; you are misinterpreting MY comments.
    It's the reasons for halting the war (or refusing to) that YOU addressed and to which I responded, not the reasons for starting it.
    The hypocrisy is in how you address each side's alleged motivations for ceasing or not ceasing hostilities that already exist.

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