Conquest, not self-defense
Pierre Tristam/Candide’s Notebooks, July 27, 2006
The capture of enemy flags in battle is as symbolic as the raising of one’s own, if not as customary as the raping and pillaging that accompanies conquering frenzies. So the picture of Israeli soldiers returning from the front with a Hezbollah and a Lebanese flag is more telling than just another war photograph to lure readers with. It belies Israel’s claim that it’s at war exclusively with Hezbollah, or that this isn’t any old war of conquest and destruction, rather than the high-minded war of self-defense Israel has somewhat successfully played it to its American audience and patron. (Not a difficult feat, this being the same audience that bought the “war on terror” and the Iraq war without question.) Note, too, the victorious pose the soldiers are taking. This wasn’t just a grab of cloth for the shrine back home, to go with the ear-jar and the stolen-dagger collection. This was a message to the world’s front pages: Lebanon, Israel is saying, is ours without distinctions, raping and pillaging included, one can be certain. The mad beget the mad. Hezbollah’s yellow flag features as its centerpiece symbol a brandished AK-47. It’s a flag of war, simply reflecting the simplistic and jingo nature of Hezbollah’s purpose: without war, Hezbollah means nothing. It’s what makes Hezbollah the rogue it thrives to be, and the indefensible pseudo-“resistance” movement it never was. But to see the Lebanese flag conjoined with that yellow-and-rifle rag is revolting not just because of how Israel is making no distinction between the two, but because images like this play on a world audience’s assumptions, too: they do Hezbollah’s bidding at the expense, always at the expense, of Lebanon’s. These Israeli soldiers may project an image of conquest in Lebanon. What they’re projecting, more than anything, is what this war has also been from the start: Hezbollah and Israel ganging up on Lebanon, and demolishing it in the name of each other’s mutually reinforcing fanaticism.
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