There's wall-to-wall consensus in Israel right now that the war in Lebanon is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview and double standards.
This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, and its ultimate aim is extortion. That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not.
But the fact that Hezbollah "started it" when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward Israel's side.
Let's start with a few facts. We invaded a sovereign state and occupied its capital in 1982. In the process of that occupation we dropped several tons of bombs from the air, ground and sea, wounding and killing thousands of civilians. Approximately 14,000 were killed between June and September 1982, according to a conservative estimate. The majority of those civilians had nothing to do with the PLO, which provided the official pretext for the war.
In the current situation, Hezbollah crossed a border that is recognized by the international community. That is true. What we are forgetting is that ever since our withdrawal from Lebanon, the Israel Air Force has conducted photo surveillance sorties on a daily basis in Lebanese airspace. While these caused no casualties, border violations are border violations. Here, too, morality is not on our side.
So much for the history of morality. Now let's consider current affairs. What exactly is the difference between launching Katyushas into civilian population centres in Israel and the Israel Air Force bombing population centres in south Beirut, Tyre, Sidon and Tripoli?
The IDF has fired thousands of shells into south Lebanon villages, alleging that Hezbollah men are concealed among the civilian population. Approximately 30 Israeli civilians have been killed as a result of Katyusha missiles to date, compared to the deaths of nearly 400 Lebanese, the vast majority civilians who have nothing to do with Hezbollah.
Worse yet, bombing infrastructure targets such as power stations, bridges and other civil facilities turns the entire Lebanese civilian population into victims and hostages.
The use of bombs to achieve a diplomatic goal namely, coercing the Lebanese government into implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1559 calling for the disarmament of all militias is an attempt at political blackmail, no less so than the kidnapping of IDF soldiers by Hezbollah with the aim of bringing about a prisoner exchange.
As in every propaganda campaign, both the Israeli and Lebanese use of information is selective, distorted and self-righteous. If Israel wants to build its case on the notion that the international community will buy its spoiled goods, let it continue to delude itself. But in terms of our own national soul-searching, Israelis owe it to themselves to confront the bitter truth: maybe we will win this conflict on the military field, maybe we will make some diplomatic gains, but on the moral plane we have no advantage, and we have no special status.
Ze'ev Maoz is director of the International Relations Program at the University of California, Davis. He was formerly head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy at Tel-Aviv University and an academic director of the National Defense College of the Israel Defence Forces.