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Morality?s for victims too

india Updated: Aug 08, 2006 04:25 IST

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The continuing violence in West Asia is a bloody affair. And yet, discussions around the world about the conflict have taken on an abstract air - even that of a sporting battle in which it has become de rigeur to cheer the underdog for the simple reason that it is the underdog. As in all other conflicts, distinction between who is wrong and who is more wrong blurs as violence continues. As we have maintained, Tel Aviv’s reaction to Hezbollah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers has been disproportionate. The act of pulverising Lebanon in the name of security is - this, an unfortunate usage - overkill. But does the rules of engagement not apply to Hezbollah at all?

Hezbollah rockets fired at Israel do not even make a pretence of targeting anyone else but civilians. Victimhood gives the outfit the moral high ground of retaliation. But does being a terrorist outfit, as opposed to being a State wielding the weaponry, allow Hezbollah to be forgiven for exactly what it is supposedly retaliating against - targeting civilians? The war in West Asia is asymmetrical on two levels. One, Israel as a Nation-State pitted against a ‘movement’ called Hezbollah; two, the moral outrage Israel faces for its sledgehammering actions from the international community against the moral ‘clean chit’ given to the ‘victimised’ Hezbollah as representative of repressed Arab, and therefore, underdog angst. This asymmetry is based on truths. The moral licence given to Hezbollah, on the other hand, is based on something else.

It is not our case that Israel is doing what it needs to do. In fact, we have argued that Israel’s policy hampers, rather than strengthens, its own long-term defence. But the Hezbollah, backed as it is by State and non-State players in the region as well as sensibilities championing the ‘underdog’, cannot be made exempt from the immorality of targeting and killing civilians. Just as the Israeli targeting of civilians is reprehensible.