By: E&P Staff
As the current explosion of violence in the Middle East continues toward its tenth day, some U.S. newspapers on their editorial pages are now calling for a new diplomatic push ? but almost none of them have condemned the Israeli attack on civilian areas and the infrastructure of Lebanon, which the country?s chief of state said Wednesday is ?tearing the country to shreds.? At least 300 have died in Lebanon and the attacks have created over half a million refugees, roughly one in eight residents of the country.
An E&P survey of editorials in dozens of papers around the country during the past three days found almost none of them raising objections to the extent of the Israeli bombardment so far, though some expressed fears that it might go on too long.
In Chicago, the Sun-Times declared on Tuesday, ?Israel must rigorously defend its right to exist.? On the same day, The Detroit News mentioned ?large number of civilian deaths? in Lebanon but concluded, ?ultimately, Israel has the right do what?s necessary to protect its people.? The Richmond Times-Dispatch went further: ?There is a quality of the absurd to the complaint that Israel has responded to the latest attack against it in a ?disproportionate? manner. If anything, Israel has acted with remarkable restraint.?
The San Diego Union-Tribune said diplomacy would be a plus — maybe after Hezbollah is ?dealt with effectively.? The Washington Times argued that Israel ?will need significantly more time to degrade Hezbollah?s ability to wage war,? and argued against United Nations intervention. The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle wondered what those who claim Israel is overreacting would feel like “if the United States were responding to rocket attacks on its sovereign territory.” It called the civilian toll in Lebanon “reasonable.” The Omaha World-Herald called the bombing of Beirut “heartrending” but quickly added, “the Israelis have a legitimate point about the bigger picture.”
The Washington Post, meanwhile, found no fault in the level of Israeli bombing but expressed worries that Israel’s offensive could take weeks “and it won’t be sustainable if the current rate of civilian casualties and damage continues.” In other words: others might eventually object.
Even the many papers that called for diplomacy or exploring a ceasefire did not, in the meantime, raise any objections to the extent of the Israeli air attacks. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel captured that broad sentiment best, calling the Israeli attacks ?completely justified,? then adding: “A diplomatic solution is imperative, but Israel should not hesitate to do as much damage to Hezbollah and Hamas as it can while the fighting continues.?
Other papers did raise some concerns, but only ?if this conflict drags on,? as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune put it. Then, it added, the continuing attacks on Lebanon would risk ?grave civilian casualties and a corrosive deepening of the region?s polarization??which many would argue has already occurred because of the targeting of infrastructure and civilian areas. USA Today, meanwhile, noted that “calibrating” a response was difficult, as it urged Israel to be “tough and smart.”
One of the few papers to raise immediate concerns about the level of bombing was the Palm Beach Post. It quoted Ari Shivat, columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He argued that while Israel is waging its ?most just war in history? it is also acting ?without logic, without order and without a defined strategic objective,? and called for a 72-hour ceasefire. The Post said that Israel?s bombing of Beirut and other civilian sites ?has caused needless civilian deaths and damage to Lebanon?In this fight, Israel has the right cause. Israel can win if it succeeds in isolating Hezbollah, not itself.?
The San Francisco Chronicle on Wedneday noted , ?The Bush administration?s response has been to stay out of Israel?s way, save for a few benign statements about a need for restraint. The world can?t afford to wait.?
Only the Capital Times of Madison, Wisc. placed its focus on Israel?s Lebanon air campaign, quoting the former head of the American Jewish Congress and a former Israeli Cabinet member to back up its claim that the level of Israel?s response was making ?a bad situation worse.?
Click here for E&P Editor Greg Mitchell’s column on this subject.