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The conflict in Lebanon

A survey of the German feuilletons and the European press

Below we give a selection of voices from the German feuilleton press featuring primarily Lebanese, Israeli and Palestinian authors on the latest flare-up of violence in the Middle East, and links to keynote and background pieces in the European press and international press.

General sources:

BBC News
is running a day-by-day chronology of the Lebanon crisis, now in its third week.

The New York Review of Books is rerunning a well-researched, highly informative two-part series on Hizbullah by Adam Shatz, originally printed in 2004. Find part I here and part II here.

, the Middle East Media Research Institute, observes and translates Arab and Iranian television broadcasts on a daily basis. Here you can view speeches by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, among many others.

Voices from the press:

September 14, 2006

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Jerusalem-based historian Moshe Zimmermann says Israel's willingness to position German soldiers on its borders is a kind of final stroke in Israel's post-war picture of Germany. "According to a survey, only a sixth of Jewish Israelis consider Germany to be hostile towards Israel. Roughly three quarters of all Israelis who are looking for a way out of the Lebanese mess welcome the stationing of a UN troop in and around Lebanon. More than 80 percent of this majority support the participation of the German army in an international contingent. While the shadow of the Nazi past still influences the debate in Germany, surveys have demonstrated that there is no trace of this in the discussion in Israel – and not only because in Israel the myth of the 'clean army' has not yet been challenged."

August 28, 2006

In a rather grim text published by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, György Konrad weighs the possibility of a second Holocaust. Critical of the European view of Israel, he writes, "The threatened West has found a wonderful alternative target. Europe cast the Jews out during World War Two and offered some of them a return to the Holy Land or at least away from here. And now the good Europeans see that the children and grandchildren of the Jews won't allow themselves to be driven out of the Middle East. That perplexes them so much that they take sides with the Arabs and against Israel."

August 20, 2006

In the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Israeli author Yitzhak Laor criticises his country's army as well as the traditional peace movement that endorses it, and describes the conflict in Lebanon as an exercise for a war against Iran: "The Israeli army has no enemies of its own size. It deploys F16 fighter jets against Palestinian huts. It waits for the 'real war' to finally arrive, but in the meantime it doesn't stop to think for a second. It needs a bigger budget, so it has to keep the Either – Or spirit alive. Because, as the saying goes, 'if we don't win this battle now, we won't have a chance.' The army also needs the peace movement, which typically defends it with the sentence: 'Normally we're for peace, but the way things stand now, we must support this particular war.'"

August 19, 2006

Political scientist Herfried Münkler reflects in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the "awkwardly asymmetrical constellation" in the Middle East conflict: "No sooner had the recent Lebanon war started than the Israelis were confronted by demands for a proportionate armed response. That this demand was not also directed at the Hizbullah could mean two things. One, that as the attacker Hizbullah was already acting 'disproportionately'. Or two, that it was Israel's military superiority that made a 'disproportionate' response possible in the first place, while no one expected Hizbullah – considered militarily weak – of being capable of a 'proportional' response at all. And so as soon as they arose, the demands for proportionality were caught up in an asymmetrical confrontation. In concrete terms: calling for proportionality meant taking sides against those of whom proportionality was being demanded."

August 18, 2006

There is no room in the Middle East conflict for morality or old European notions of conventional strategies, sociologist Natan Sznaider admonishes Neue Zürcher Zeitung readers from Old Europe. "It would behoove Europe to consider the point. It is not enough to believe in peace just because one is sure that it will come, that it simply must come - because it is reasonable and makes sense, because - of course - life wins out over death. It is not enough to believe in the rationality of history and then ultimately only listen to one's own lectures. Self-destructive barbarity and a murderous identity struggle are not part of a bygone world. The international troops in Lebanon will find out fast."

August 17, 2006

Hazem Saghieh, the London-based editor of the Lebanese newspaper Al Hayat, gives an interview in Die Zeit on the war in Lebanon and the radicalization of British Muslims. "Everything is inserted into this ready-made world view: 'Us against them.' Chechnya, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon present a common panorama of Muslim suffering." But Saghieh is also troubled by tendencies toward self-stigmatization. "Increasingly, the idea is to portray yourself according to the stereotypes held by Islamophobes: more headscarves, more external signs of being different. We are shutting ourselves out. I have to say, self-critically, that the Arabic media is not very helpful when it comes to the integration of migrants in Europe. Al Jazeera does not tell people how to adjust to life here, but rather how best to differentiate themselves from the majority."

"The Lebanon war has radicalized Arab intellectuals, and this radicalization will not be diminished by a ceasefire," writes the Hamburg-based Iraqi writer Najem Wali in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Hardly any intellectuals admit that the Hizbullah is working according to Iranian plans. No word about the fact that the Hizbullah 'cleansed' southern Beirut of Christians, no word about the aim of Hizbullah to establish a theocracy in Lebanon, a country with 19 different religious groups. Not a word about the fact that it is first and foremost Hizbullah that is responsible for the destruction... Only a few intellectuals are calling for peace, and even they cannot say everything they wish, because the official Arab media does not want the truth to come to light. It is controlled by Saudi-Arabian money and by a chorus that evokes paranoia."

August 16, 2006

Jostein Gaarder's controversial essay (more here) prompts Aldo Keel of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung to analyse Norwegian views of Israel, and of itself. "The collapse of the Oslo Accord embittered many Norwegians, who now identify with the Palestinians. And the Oslo-based Polish writer Nina Witoszek alludes to this when she writes that it is 'typically Norwegian to play God.' She recognizes in Gaarder's 'naive, narcissistic unhistorical exercise displaying the author's heroic goodness' a sense of 'disappointment that the Israeli is not like the Norwegian.' Norway can afford to be 'the angel among the nations,' writes Witoszek with irony. Israel, surrounded by enemies, can only dream of it."

August 15, 2006

In Die Tageszeitung, Commenting on the war in Lebanon, Katharina Rutschky criticises the "fundamentalist humanism" of the West. "Violence is evil, military solutions are not the solution but rather the problem to do away with." Fundamentalist humanism "practically infantilises the Hizbullah, the Palestinians, the Arab world... Are not the Hizbullah, the statements of their boss Nasrallah and the acts of his followers treated in the humanistic press as though Israel was fighting against a group of kids playing pranks and not aspiring to the annihilation of Israel? If the Israelis were to be reasonable, as we expect them (and only them) to be, then they would have to be able to deal differently with the Hizbullah or Hamas than by reacting with 'disproportionate' violence to the childish provocations."

August 14, 2006

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, British journalist Paul Cochrane clears up some of the myths about the war in Lebanon. Najem Wali reports in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that after reading Lebanese newspapers he is convinced that primarily Christian journalists are applauding the Hizbullah, while shiites are keeping their distance. And Frank Lübberding in Die Tageszeitung analyses the strategy of Hizbullah, which tries - by suppressing the numbers of its own victims - to fashion itself as the secret pacifist who thus cannot be held accountable.

August 11, 2006

Seventy international intellectuals have issued an appeal calling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. "We, Jews and Muslims, artists, intellectuals and citizens of the world, abhor violence, militarization and the bloodshed of innocent people taking place now between Israel and its Arab and Muslim neighbors...."

One signatory, Navid Kermani, explained his motivation to Harry Nutt in the Frankfurter Rundschau. "What perhaps makes this appeal different is that it does not start out with a condemnation of the other - the aggressors, the Israelis, the Hizbullah - but says instead: We find it terrible and don't accept what is being done in the name of our own traditions. At the same time, we defend our traditions and do not want to hand them over to either fundamentalists or to those who would love to tear down our cultures. One need not be religious to express criticism that is based on a loyalty to one's own world. The point is to be conscious of the effects of one's own past, one's own memory and its enduring influence, whether one believes in it in a theological sense or not."

In the Spiegel Online writer Ralph Giordano (bio in German) tells Anna Reimann he has little patience for the Norwegian writer and author of the bestseller "Sophie's World," who declared in an essay (here in English, following a critique) that Israel, with its attacks on Lebanon, has lost its right to exist. "I find it hard to not to think that anyone who agrees with Gaarder's original text is an anti-Semite. Gaarder's words are far too unequivocal." But those responsible for all the violence are, in end effect, those who initiated it, Giordano says. "It is awful, what is happening in Lebanon, but I am incapable of absolving the Hizbullah and their backers in Syria and Iran from responsibility."

In the Tageszeitung, Michael Zimmermann is similarly appalled. "Why does Gaarder, a Christian, completely ignore the fact that Israel is also a victim? Gaarder cements his point of view with Bible quotes and rabbinic citations. But what do they have to do with the reality of a political conflict over the recognition of national boundaries? ... This philosopher must have known that his views would justifiably be evaluated differently when expressed outside his ivory tower, exposed to a realistic political context."

August 10, 2006

In Le Figaro, French philosopher Andre Glucksmann exposes what he calls the apocalyptic notions that color perceptions of the war in Lebanon (French original here, German translation here). He asks whether anyone really believes that Islamic extremists would lay down their arms after their planned erasure of Israel from the map.

August 9, 2006

In Die Tageszeitung, Tjark Kunstreich sharply criticises European politics for refusing to take seriously Israel's fight against Islamic anti-Semitism and actually lending legitimacy to this anti-Semitism by promoting negotiations. Kunstreich picks up on the term of "Euro-anti-Semitism" that author Imre Kertesz recently used to describe the attitudes of Europeans. Kunstreich also takes the media to task for reporting on Israeli Jews "only as perpetrators and aggressors," whereas the Hizbullah, on the other hand, shows up "just as rarely" as does the misery of refugees on the Israeli side. The thesis may, he admits, sound "completely nutty at first: Why should Europe have a vested interest in Islamic terror against Israel? The reason is rather simple, but refers to something no less irrational: For Europeans, the terror against Israel serves primarily as a distraction from the fascist clerical threat posed by political Islam in this region. As long as there is no Palestinian state, there will be no peace - that is the credo of European politics. But meanwhile it has become clear, through the geo-political eruptions and collapses of the last decade, that a Palestinian state is absolutely no guarantee of Israel's security, nor does it amount to an end to the conflict."

Also in the taz: Berlin Islam expert Stefan Rosiny gives an interview on the Lebanese Hizbullah. His thesis: The Hizbullah may talk about the destruction of Israel, but it is primarily a resistance movement whose platform is a "nationalist development project" where the words "Islam" and "Muslim" appear only on the periphery. On the opinion pages, writer Ilija Trojanow criticises the "you started it" rhetoric of the Israelis: "Hundreds of civilians are dead and one million Lebanese driven from their homes, and only the incantation of the accusation 'you started it' stands between the state of Israel and its responsibility for a war of aggression, or mass murder."

In an interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Beirut architect Bernard Khoury talks about the politics of destruction, reconstruction, destruction again and the prospect of a new post-war era. "There was an alarming discrepancy between the image of life that was projected from the 'Paris of the Middle East' and the misery in the South, where this war, like the one before it, started... Even before this current war they were worlds apart. In the past all buildings of economic and political import were concentrated in Beirut. That was a political error. The civil war contributed, even if the process was painful, to the decentralisation of the country. It would have been better to continue in this direction. Instead the uneven distribution of funds for reconstruction simply radicalised the population in the South. The people were driven into the arms of the Hizbullah. The reconstruction also demonstrates the lack of any serious attempt to construct a coherent state in Lebanon."

August 7, 2006

The west still supports Israel out of a bad conscience about the Holocaust, writes Navid Kermani in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. But what happens if the "anger that Israel stokes with its combative politics" now also reaches the west? "Accounts will be drawn up, with costs and benefits: Israel has no oil and is expensive. In its present form, Israel creates unstable relations in the Middle East and legitimises terrorism. It thus endangers the security of the west. And so on. A politics of pure self-interest, as is the rule regarding other states, would change the basic relationship of the west to Israel. The deficit-benefit analysis can only be balanced out by the humanity that the west must show to the State of Israel. But that depends upon Israel preserving its humane countenance."

Psychoanalyst Martin Altmeyer writes in the opinion pages of Die Tageszeitung that the war of Hizbullah and Hamas against Israel is not to be seen as resistance, because the logic of terrorism follows no rational pattern: "How do Hizbullah and Hamas deal with their new, democratically legitimized responsibility? Instead of seizing this historical opportunity and promoting civilian construction projects in their countries, they persist in the traditions of a warring society, posing as resistance groups that continue to challenge Israel's right to exist." And Altmeyer cites his colleague Jonathan Lear on the psychological disposition of terrorism: "While it is true that the terrorist kills to take revenge for something, it could be just as true that he clings to his illness in order to be able to continue killing."

August 5, 2006

There is no politically correct solution to the current Middle East conflict, writes film director Amos Gitai in the Berliner Zeitung. He also outlines the dilemma for the Israeli peace movement: "For left-wing Israelis like us, the war we are currently going through is particularly complex, politically. For years now we have used articles, books and films to try to prove that the conflict could be solved by withdrawing from the Occupied Territories. Now Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and it is precisely here that Hamas and Hizbullah are choosing to strike. In the parts of the Golan Heights that are still occupied, things are peaceful. We know what the Israeli Right would say: withdrawal was not the solution.

August 4, 2006

Der Tagesspiegel is running alternating articles by Lebanese author Abbas Beydoun and Israeli writer Moshe Zimmermann about the current conflict. On Wednesday, Beydoun questioned whether Hizbullah fighters were really hiding among the civilian population. "Does anyone really believe a father would keep his kids with him in a house from which Katyusha rockets were being fired? A fighter hiding behind the bodies of his own children?" Today, Moshe Zimmermann asks him: "From where are the thousands of rockets being fired into northern Israel, killing people - from nowhere? How believable is the conclusion that there was no trace of Hizbullah in Kafr Kana and the surrounding area? Was it not true that Hizbullah abused civilians as a protective shield? Isn't all Lebanon in fact a hostage of Hizbullah? And most important of all: What have we intellectuals done to prevent a war that has led to this kind of barbarity?"

August 3, 2006

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Jordanian journalist Fakhri Saleh gathers the voices of Arab intellectuals on the conflict in Lebanon, finding them increasingly critical of Israel after the bombardment of Kana. "In describing Israel as a 'mad state,' the Syrian-Lebanese poet Adonis, one of the best known exponents of Arabic literature, is falling back on the language of Israeli writer and journalist Arieh Shavit. In his contribution to the international daily newspaper Al-Hayat, the poet says: 'Israel only sees the Arab world with eyes of glowing, angry metal, the metal of tanks, bullets or bombers. It sees no history, still less remembrance or the future. It does not see people.' Adonis allows neither Israel not the United States the right to combat terrorist organizations in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories or elsewhere in the Arab world."

Music ethnologist Thomas Burkhalter writes in Die Zeit about the effect the war in Lebanon is having on musicians: "'Is war good training for the ears?' I asked a musician just a few days ago. His eyes sparkled when he told me how as a kid he could identify every type of airplane, every bomb, every missile and every calibre just from the sound they made. He knew exactly if it was being fired away from him or at him. 'If a bomb went "ziiisssshhhh", that meant it was flying straight at the house, and you had to get somewhere safe on the double'."

August 1, 2006

Holocaust survivor and writer Marek Halter, promoter of a negotiated peace settlement in the Mideast, explains in Die Welt why he feels so queasy these days: "I am not afraid of the Iranian atom bomb. Not too long ago, a million people were murdered with machetes in Rwanda! In Darfur, hundreds of thousands have been killed or driven off with guns or clubs. But I am afraid of the stated desire of the president of the Iranian Republic to destroy the State of Israel. I am part of a generation that learned painfully what it means when people believe in statements of politicians. Particularity when they say terrible things and the masses appear to follow them. So when Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad, standing in front of all the cameras in the world, tells the Israelis to pack their bags or else be exterminated, then I believe he means it. And I believe him all the more since he has created the possibility to achieve his goal, particularly thanks to his 'Foreign Legion,' Hizbullah, which has taken position on Israel's northern border."

Is Israel contravening international law by bombing Lebanon? Lawyer Knut Ipsen, member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, states in the Frankfurter Rundschau that Israel "does not sufficiently respect the laws of war. But anyone who points to Israel's violations of international law against Lebanon must also acknowledge that in harbouring Hizbullah, Lebanon is accommodating an organisation that expressly puts itself outside the law of nations. Calling for the destruction of another state together with its population, hostage-takings and blackmail, widespread missile attacks on civilian dwellings: if they were undertaken by a state, all of these would count among the worst violations of international law." As Lebanon does not prevent Hizbullah's attacks against Israel, it must accept that they be interpreted as coming from Lebanon, Ipsen writes.

July 31, 2006

Spiegel Online runs an interview with Israeli writer Zeruya Shalev, who speaks among other things about the deaths in Kana: "What happened yesterday in Kana is a great tragedy, and I am unbelievably sad and shocked - but again, it happened because the Hizbullah fired hundreds of rockets into Israel from Kana. The Israeli Army did not know that civilians had hidden in the building in Kana. They thought only Hizbullah fighters were there. It is horrible, a horrible mistake. Civilians in Lebanon are clearly victims of Hizbullah, which behaves irresponsibly toward the Lebanese people."

July 29, 2006

The literature section of Die Welt prints the commentary of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, whose notes from Israel also appeared a few days ago in Le Monde (here in the original for Francophiles): "Right after my arrival - in fact, right after my first contacts with old friends whom I have not seen so tense or worried since 1967; after my first conversation with Denis Charbit, a committed peacenik who nevertheless trusts in the legitimacy of this war of self-defence to which his land has been forced; right after my first interview with Tzipi Livni, the brilliant young foreign minister who contributed so much to convincing Ariel Sharon to clear out of Gaza and who suddenly seems unusually stunned by a new geopolitical situation that can no longer be described with the old terminology of the "Israeli-Arabic conflict" - after all that, I sense that something new and unprecedented in the history of Israel's wars is happening. As if one no longer can be safe moving about even within Israel's boundaries. As if the international context, the game of hide and seek between visible and invisible actors, the roles that Iran and its armed branch, Hizbullah, are playing, lend the entire situation a new appearance and unusual prospects."

July 28, 2006

In an essay published by Die Tageszeitung, Micha Brumlik, director of the Fritz Bauer Institute on the history of the Holocaust, criticises the view of many friends of Israel that a solution to the Palestine problem would defuse the Middle East conflict: "No, the Palestine issue is not the heart of the problem. Anyone who honestly believes the often fatal Israeli policies toward the Palestinians are the root of the crisis in the Arab-Islamic world should explain why no less than nine thousand (!) people have been killed by suicide attacks since the beginning of this year, why human rights and women's rights are systematically suppressed in Iran, and why behind the facade of modernity, Syria is ruled by in a brutal dictatorship. Because of Gaza?"

Also in Die Tageszeitung, Lebanese author Iman Humaidan Junis explains the asymmetry of war between Hizbullah and Israel in an interview with Alfred Hackensberger: "It's true, Israel has a modern military machine, but unlike Hizbullah it can't go all the way. Hizbullah's entire ideology is based on martyrdom. They love dying, whereas Israel's entire strategy aims at keeping its citizens alive. That is a total 'clash' of ideologies."

In an interview with Inge Günther in the Berliner Zeitung, Israeli author Abraham B. Jehoschua describes completely or even disband the organisation would amount to a veritable 'Mission Impossible.' The only thing that's actually practicable would be to force Hizbullah back from the border, and station an life inHaifa, putting forward one scenario for a ceasefire: "Wanting to disarm Hizbullahinternational troop in its place."

July 27, 2006

"Nothing that Israel undertakes in this situation appears to be correct, but it would be utterly wrong to refrain from any military resistance," says Austrian-Israeli writer and historian Doron Rabinovici in the Frankfurter Rundschau. "By now Hizbullah is no mere terror group. It has long been more powerful than the Lebanese Army. Since Israel's withdrawal six years ago, Nasrallah has been building up his arsenal of weapons. He has access to rockets that threaten Tel Aviv, armoured tanks and drones. In addition, the threat of Iran stands behind him. For domestic political reasons, Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad is seeking a confrontation with the Jewish State. In the case of a broader conflict, the militia in Lebanon would be a more immediate outpost of Iran. Why should Israel worry about the Mullahs' atom bombs and the reach of their rockets, when conventional rocket-launching bases can be set up a few kilometres from Haifa? Anyone who denies there is a dilemma here is lying."

Paris-based Lebanese writer Selim Nassib comments in Die Tageszeitung that the Israeli military action is obscuring divisions among Arabs. There is a "notable international, Arab and Lebanese consensus to neutralise Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon... Behind this virtual unanimity in the Arab world, the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is now gaining the upper hand. While Gaza is in a stranglehold and Lebanon is being destroyed, the bloody war between the two communities in Iraq has not let up for a single day. The majority of Arabs are Sunni, and Saudi Arabia has no desire whatsoever to see Shiite Iran, strengthened by Syria and Hizbullah, become the spokesman for the holy Arab cause: the 'Liberation of Palestine.' Because that's the key issue in this mortal combat for ascendency." The article is unfortunately not online, here the French original.

In Die Zeit, Abbas Beydoun, the Lebanese poet and arts editor of the left-wing nationalist paper As-Safir, accuses Israel of "blind animosity" in its attempt to "scupper the peaceful Lebanese project": "The war shows that Israel wanted us as enemies, and treated us as such. Israel and the USA were well aware that the majority of Lebanese want peace, not war. They were well aware that the Syrian withdrawal was the beginning of the end of ties to a warring, hostile ideology. They were well aware that the country had a peaceful plan which – if it succeeded – would undo a first link in the chain which binds Israel."
July 26, 2006

In Die Tageszeitung's opinion page, writer Zafer Senocak meditates about the clash of cultures, and believes that neither bombs nor dialogue will contain Islam: "But how would it be to carry on a self-critical dialogue – an internal dialogue, a debate within one's own camp? To hold, for example, the US government accountable for the crimes it committed in Iraq? Would such an approach strengthen or weaken the Western values it seeks to defend? How would it be if the Iranian president heard the same protest about his unbearable Holocaust denial from Muslim clergy as he hears from the West? Only then can there really be a dialogue, an exchange of ideas and values." But isn't the idea of self-critical conversation also a Western one?

July 25, 2006

In Der Tagesspiegel, Lebanese poet and writer Abbas Beydoun sees Hizbullah's attacks on Israel as a sort of domestically motivated military putsch, which put an end to discussion within Lebanon: "The debate over Hizbullah's weapons was about the future of Lebanon. Should the country persist in a state of revolution and submit to an armed avant-garde, or should it become a democratic country whose various ethnic groups decide together on their future? Does Lebanon see itself as a war society, grouped together in the fight for a leader? Or is it a pluralistic nation, concerned with finding similarities between its various communities? Is it counter to the law of nations, or does it seek to rejoin the international community? The majority wanted the latter: peace, pluralism and democracy. But Hizbullah, which could no longer maintain its current standing, put an end to this debate with a military strike. The kidnapping of the soldiers was just the first chapter."

July 24,2006

Historian Moshe Zimmermann attempts in the
Süddeutsche Zeitung to explain the structure of the Middle East conflict, in which the State of Israel is pitted against non-state entities such as Hamas and Hizbullah. "Europeans and the United Nations question the proportionality of the Israeli reaction. But is it possible to objectively decide about the correct dimensions? Europe shakes it head about the war in our region, and wonders not only about the harshness of the retaliation but also about Israel's old-fashioned nationalism. After all, Europe supposedly has overcome nationalism and the concept of the state, and has managed to create a trans-sovereign European Union. But Israelis wonder whether this really is the case. What is the source of the new slogans coming out of Poland? Why does Germany insist on emphasizing the German language, rather than a European language, in its citizenship regulations?"

July 22,2006

This week's issue of The Spectator is entirely taken up with the fighting in Lebanon. Michael Young reports on people's attitudes to Hizbullah: "Of course the people here are angry and anxious about the possibility of a widening of the Israeli attacks, but their rage, as they see the country being taken apart, is often directed against Hizbullah. The Lebanese people have watched as Hizbullah has built up a heavily armed state-within-a-state that has now carried the country into a devastating conflict it cannot win and many are fed up. Sunni Muslims, Christians and the Druze have no desire to pay for the martial vanity of the Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Nor will they take kindly to his transforming the devastation into a political victory."

Also in The Spectator, philosopher David Selbourne takes a more Apocalyptic view. For him, the fighting in Lebanon is just further proof that "we" are threatened with losing the war with "Islam". Because instead of taking up the fight, Europe's governments and even the USA are bent on negotiation! "The battlefront in the Levant is merely one front, and a minor front at that, in the wider conflict between the Islamic and the non-Muslim worlds. Moreover, the time for serious diplomacy and dialogue between the Muslim and the kafir has not yet come. Indeed, it may never come until one or other of the forces in this war of the worlds — a war now being fought, with differing degrees of intensity and in different ways, from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa, from the Caucasus to Kashmir, from Nigeria to Xinjiang, and from the Levant to South-East Asia — has finally been vanquished."

In other Spectator articles: Douglas Davis explains why Hizbullah is so important for Iran. Richard Beeston thinks back wistfully to the Paris of the Middle East which Beirut once was, pinning his hopes on its residents: "The Lebanese remain the most hospitable, amusing and smartest people in the Middle East, constantly able to pick themselves up and start over again — characteristics which should help them overcome their latest disaster.

In Die Welt, Israeli historian Benny Morris – once counted among the left-wing historians critical of traditional historiography – has presented the literary world with an essay about Hamas and Hizbullah, emphasizing that neither of them are liberation organizations, but rather are part of the Islamist movement: "In this sense, the attack of Hamas from the Gaza Strip on Kerem Shalom, where the young Israeli soldier was abducted, is nothing but a link in the chain of events connecting the attack on the Twin Towers in New York with the murder of the film director Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam and the commuter trains in Madrid, London and most recently in Mumbai."

July 21, 2006

In the Washington Post, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of The Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute, writes that when he was there just two weeks ago, "Lebanon was the closest thing to paradise." He concludes that although self-defense against Hizbullah's attacks is legitimate, "Israel's response places collective guilt on an entire society for the atrocities of a minority of which that society is itself the victim.... It is hard to see how a nation that stands for moral rectitude and civilization can win people over to its struggle for security by using means that tarnish that very objective."

In Die Welt, Israeli writer Meir Shalev finds the Israeli reaction to Hizbullah's attacks justified, "but too many questions remain, raising suspicion and doubt. There are too many attacks against civilians, there is no definition of the war objectives, and there is no definition of what would constitute a victory – that is, the end of the operation. Is the point to secure the return of the captive soldiers? Or the withdrawal of Hizbullah from Southern Lebanon? And if yes – how far back do they have to pull back? Or is the point to kill Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah? Or the complete dissolution of Hizbullah? Or is this really all about the fight against worldwide terror and the struggle against Syria and Iran?"

July 20, 2006

In Le Monde, Olivier Roy, director of research at the French CNRS, looks at why Iran is seeking to raise the stakes in the region. "The key to the current situation is in Iran. It is the sole actor with a coherent strategy where short-term considerations dovetail with a long-term plan. In the short term, its goal is to prevent any airborne attacks against its nuclear installations. In the long term, Iran seeks to become the major regional power. In the first case its principle adversaries are the Americans and possibly the Europeans. In the second, its adversaries are its Arab neighbours. Denouncing Israel is here more a means than an end: it enables Iran to short-circuit and embarass the Arab regimes, while at the same time 'externalising' the crisis in the Middle Eastern countries."

In The Guardian, writer Tariq Ali compares the number of prisoners taken on both sides of the conflict, voicing scepticism about the deployment of UN troops against Hizbullah: "There are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli gulags. That is why Israeli soldiers are captured. Prisoner exchanges have occurred as a result. To blame Syria and Iran for Israel's latest offensive is frivolous. Until the question of Palestine is resolved and Iraq's occupation ended, there will be no peace in the region. A 'UN' force to deter Hizbullah, but not Israel, is a nonsensical notion."

Die Tageszeitung publishes – along with a pathos-filled front page photo – an article by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas-Llosa which originally appeared in El Pais. Vargas-Llosa acknowledges he is a friend of Israel's, and especially of Israeli critics of Israel, and himself criticises Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. "The superiority of Israel over its enemies in the Middle East used to be political and moral. Then it became based on cannons, aircraft and a highly modern army. But the extraordinary power that makes countries arrogant is also responsible for their own losses. And that tempts some leading politicians like Ariel Sharon to believe that the solution of the conflict with the Palestinians could consist of a unilateral dictate, imposed by force. That is simple-minded, and it causes suffering and war in the entire region to be prolonged endlessly."

For Paris-based Syrian poet Adonis writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, only Lebanon can "prompt the development of a secular civilian society" in the Middle East. The Arab states "won't stop being 'theocracies', despite superficially conforming to democratic norms, simply because their power is 'naturally' rooted, and also because of how they view non-Muslims. In addition, if Israel's democracy were based on diversity and pluralism, this would contradict the exclusive self-understanding of the Jewish people, which sees itself as the chosen people, without diversity or pluralism. So in both human and cultural terms, a Lebanese democracy in this part of the world would be a radical and enduring transgression of the status quo, simply because it would be more open, richer, more persuasive and more enticing."

In Die Zeit, Jerusalem-based author Jakob Hessing reports on the everyday state of emergency in Israel. "This is a moment to set the course for the future. Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz must not repeat the mistakes of the old Sharon. Their military action on both fronts must implement what the new Sharon left as his legacy: the knowledge that we have no business getting mixed up in the affairs of a neighbouring state, or in the affairs of a neighbouring people whose state has not yet come into being; the knowledge that a differentiation must be made between terrorism and the legitimate wish for freedom. We must strive for the end to an occupation that we would not tolerate ourselves, should a neighbour try to force it on us."

Urs Gehrigher puts Hizbullah's action in the context of the recent G8 summit in Die Weltwoche: "The offensive strategy of the Tehran-Hizbullah axis wasn't born overnight. It has clearly been forged over the last months. The timing of the escalation was perfect. President Bush wanted to use the G8 summit in St. Petersburg to clear the way for economic sanctions against Tehran. And for the first time there was something like an 'unite de doctrine' between Washington and the Europeans. Anything but a clear yes to the offer of Germany, France, Great Britain and the USA on the nuclear crisis would be seen as a rebuff. The pressure on the Mullahs grew each day. But the anticipated answer was not forthcoming, instead Hizbullah went into action. On the very day when the official message from Iran should have arrived to prevent action being taken by the UN Security Council, Iran's henchmen in Lebanon kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Hizbullah knew as well as the Iranian government that escalation would be inevitable."

July 19, 2006

Hizbullah's missile attacks on Israel is a declaration of war, writes Michel Friedman in Der Tagesspiegel, former vice president of the Council of German Jews. "I think Israel's reaction of destroying infrastructures is a proportionate answer to the aggression. Israel avoids as much as possible inflicting suffering on the civilian population. In contrast to the Hizbullah terrorists, who consciously kill civilians, Israel's behaviour in this respect is irreproachable. That civilians nevertheless are killed is deeply sad and regrettable. But is it not Hizbullah that hides behind the protective shield of women and children? In so doing, it endorses these women and children being wounded, when in fact Hizbullah itself is the real target."

In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld finds Israel's current attacks against the Hizbullah in Lebanon "by no means excessive": "Whatever the men and women in Brussels say, the problem in Lebanon is not Israel's 'excessive' use of force. On the contrary, the real problem could be Israel's extreme reluctance to use a sufficiently high measure of force to solve this business once and for all. One reason for this reluctance could lie in the well-founded fear of international condemnation."

As a rule the Israeli peace movement has been critical of Israeli military operations, but this time it's different, says Israeli author Amos Oz in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "This time, Israel didn't march into Lebanon. Israel wants to annihilate Hizbullah, to protect itself from the daily raids and missile attacks on our cities and villages. The Israeli peace movement should completely support the Israeli measures of defense, as long as the operation is aimed at Hizbullah and Lebansese civilians are being spared, to the extent that this is possible (and it's not easy, when Hizbullah often hides behind Lebanese civilians)."

July 18, 2006

"Much is at stake in the current crisis: Israel’s security; Lebanon's viability as a nation; the future roles of Hamas and Hezbollah; America’s ability to function as an effective power in the Middle East; and more still. There are dangers on every side. But, fortunately, the outbreak of a regional war is not one of them," writes Edward N. Luttwak, fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in The New York Times. "An Iranian missile attack would give Israel the opportunity to strike Iran's nuclear installations without provoking global outrage. It would be a very serious act of war, but it would not stir the Arab states to aid Iran's mullahs: they, too, fear a nuclear Iran."

In an interview in Spiegel Online, the German-Israeli historian Dan Diner explains why Israel is striking back so hard at Hizbullah. "With this war, this government is defending to a certain extent the borders of 1948. In the places of spatial depth – as was once the case in Gaza and is still so on the West Bank – there is now, in the cases of withdrawal, an even greater inclination towards violence on the part of the Israelis if the border limits are not respected... There is no concrete military goal that Israel would have to achieve to restore its ability to terrify, which it thinks it has lost. At the moment, Israel is simply playing out the image that it has in the region and that is feared: it is quasi playing crazy – with the result that its ability to terrify has increased. Its enemies should be persuaded that Israel is a crazy, unpredictable state."

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Lebanese writer Hassan Daoud describes the suddenness of the outbreak of war and criticises the political forces in his own land, that don't dare restrain the Hizbullah warmongers. "A Lebanese will say that the point in time was poorly chosen, because he can't say what he wants to say. It's about a collective timidity, from which only those are exempted who hold high the slogan of war and armed struggle. For decades, they have been allowed to determine what is forbidden and what is allowed. And so the same thing keeps repeating itself: houses rolled flat, deep bomb aisles, endless currents of refugees."

Also in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Israeli sociologist Natan Sznaider describes the desperation in his country at the current conflict: "If Israel acts moderately, the other side only becomes more radical. The Palestinians voted Hamas into government, and in so doing they made it clear that they aren't interested in Israeli plans for withdrawal. In answer to this election result, the Israeli citizens penalised the Israeli Right and elected a government that clearly stood for territorial compromise. But no sooner did this government take office than rockets were fired on the south of Israel on a daily basis."

In a third Neue Zürcher Zeitung article, Palestinian author Sahar Khalifa predicts a growth in Islamism in view of increasing desperation in the Arab world. "Despite their oil reserves and unimaginable wealth, the Arab countries have become poorer. Corruption, mismanagement and a loss of orientation have been synonymous with every Arab government. Where is the solution? An enemy on the outside, an enemy on the inside, and we're prey to them both. The West especially seems to hate us. Why? Because of our skin colour, our race, our religion? Or simply because we're weak?"

In die tageszeitung, Abdel Mottaleb El-Husseini analyses the domestic political situation in Lebanon: "Lebanon's political system is split into various confessions. Until now it has shown itself incapable of integrating Hizbullah. In addition, the pullout of the Syrian army after the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri led to Syria's and Iran's influence in the country being centred around Hizbullah. Disarming Hizbullah on the basis of UN resolution 1559 surpasses the capacities of its political opponents within Lebanon, and can only be accomplished with the help of Hizbullah's mentors abroad."

Also in die tageszeitung, Lebanese publicist Rami G. Khouri calls for negotiations: "The world's sole superpower seems strangely powerless in the current crisis. As long as the four pairs of protagonists continue acting as they have done up to now, the prospects will continue to be bleak. The only way to break the cycle of violence is to find a political solution through negotiations that take into consideration the legitimate claims of all parties. What will Israel and the USA do when there are no longer any Arab airports, bridges and power stations to destroy? There is no alternative to a political solution."

Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Lebanese-based filmmaker Ghassan Salhab calls Hizbullah the child of the Israeli invasion of 1982, "the child that owes its existence to the blindness of a large part of the Western world to Israeli policies. The almost systematic agreement with the various Israeli actions, the unavoidable American veto ont every resolution of the UN Security Council condemning Israeli violations, are ultimately the reason why so many people in this region are driven into the arms of the various Islamic organisations, or at least become their sympathisers."

July 17, 2006

Israeli author David Grossman explains in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung why Israelis have lost their faith in the influence of the moderate Arabic world. "This current outbreak of violence demonstrates an extremely problematic similarity to the position of the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority with respect to Israel. Both have two heads which contradict each other; one acts in a 'stately' way, meaning in a political framework and relatively moderately, the other considers itself free to act as it wishes. It is willing to use terror against civilians, engages a racist rhetoric and openly demands the elimination of Israel. This double game is one of the reasons it's so hard to reach a tenable agreement between Israel and its neighbours." Grossman recalls that Israel was attacked before it bombed Lebanon. "There is no justification for the attack that the Hizbullah launched last week from Lebanese territory on dozens of peaceful Israeli points. No state of the world can silently abandon its citizens when its neighbour stages such an attack without provocation."

Israeli sociologist Shmuel Eisenstadt writes in the Berliner Zeitung: "In my view Hizbullah has shown a rather pragmatic attitude from time to time. You'd have to wait a long time for them to declare peace. But if you try to manage the problem rather than solve it, perhaps a settlement is possible. Here a lot depends on the pressure exerted by other Arab countries on Hizbullah. I'm a lot more in favour of pragmatic management than quick-fix solutions. Peace declarations could be the enemy of this kind of management. You should try to manage, defuse things - piano, piano."

July 15, 2006

So, Israel's reaction the kidnapping of its soldiers and to Hamas firing Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip and Hizbullah firing Katyushas from South Lebanon was "not proportional"? Could be, answers Henryk M. Broder in Spiegel Online, "that such a view is objectively correct. But then one question must be asked, and answered. What would have been the right, the suitable response? The response that would diffuse the situation instead of fueling it? A complaint to the UN Security Council? An invitation to Hamas and Hizbullah to a round table discussion somewhere between Gaza and Metulla? A call to the collective reason of the Free World with the plea that they should appease Hamas and Hizbullah? It's possible that Israel does everything wrong. But that's what life's like, when the only choice you have is between what's wrong and what's incorrect."

July 14, 2006

In Die Welt, writer Michael Kleeberg considers the situation in Lebanon. The kidnapping by the Hizbullah surprised all sides. "Only the Shi'ite population is pleased. Having been long repressed, it is proud of any demonstration of strength by the Shi'ites, and all the more so when it's not directed against their compatriots, as was the case during the civil war, but rather against the Israelis. Lebanese observers see the coup as motivated predominantly by domestic interests: the provocation to war is a kind of cold coup d'etat by the Hezbollah, to force the country to confront unresolved issues, so that the new administration, liberated from Syria, can get more power and influence."

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