Tel Aviv - Inhabitants of the north of Israel fleeing south from the Katyushas. Inhabitants of the south of Lebanon fleeing north from the Israeli Air Force. Death, destruction. Unimaginable human suffering.
And the most disgusting sight: a playful George Bush sitting in St. Petersburg, with Tony Blair leaning over him. "See? What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing that shit, and it's over."
Thus spake the leader of the world, and the seven dwarfs. Syria? But only a few months ago it was Bush who induced the Lebanese to drive the Syrians out of their country. Now he wants Syria to intervene in Lebanon and impose order?
What was Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah thinking when he decided to cross the border and carry out a guerrilla action? For years he has been assembling a huge stockpile of missiles to establish a balance of terror. He knew the Israeli army was only waiting for an opportunity to destroy them. In spite of that, he carried out a provocation that gave the Israeli government a perfect pretext to attack Lebanon with the full approval of the world. Why?
Possibly he was asked by Iran and Syria, which had supplied the weapons, to divert U.S. pressure from them. And, indeed, the crisis has shifted attention away from Iran's nuclear effort. But Nasrallah is far from being a marionette of Iran or Syria.
He heads an authentic Lebanese movement, and calculates his own balance sheet of pros and cons. Perhaps he acted because of domestic concerns. The Lebanese political system was becoming more stable, and it was therefore more difficult to justify the military wing of Hezbollah. A new armed incident might have helped.
But there must have been a much stronger reason to convince him to enter upon such an adventure at this time. And indeed there was: Palestine.
Two weeks earlier, the Israeli army started a war against the population of the Gaza Strip. There, too, the pretext was provided by a guerrilla action, in which an Israeli soldier was captured. The Israeli government used the opportunity to carry out a plan prepared long before: to destroy the newly elected Palestinian government, dominated by Hamas. And, of course, to stop the Qassams.
The operation in Gaza is an especially brutal one. Terrible pictures appear hourly in the Arab media. Dead people, devastation. Whole families killed. Children screaming in agony. Buildings collapsing.
The Arab regimes, which are all dependent on America, did nothing to help. Since they are also threatened by Islamic opposition movements, they look at what was happening to Hamas with some schadenfreude. But tens of millions of Arabs, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf, saw, got angry with their governments and cried out for a leader to bring succour to their besieged, heroic brothers.
Fifty years ago, Gamal Abd El-Nasser, the new Egyptian leader, wrote that there was a role waiting for a hero. For several years he was the idol of the Arab world, symbol of Arab unity. But Israel broke him in the Six-Day war.
After that, the star of Saddam Hussein rose in the firmament. He dared to stand up to mighty America and to launch missiles at Israel. But he was routed in a humiliating manner.
A week ago, Nasrallah faced the same temptation. The Arab world was crying out for a hero, and he said: Here am I! He challenged Israel, and indirectly the United States and the entire West. He started the attack without allies, knowing that neither Iran nor Syria could risk helping him.
The Israeli reaction could have been expected. For years, the army commanders had yearned for an opportunity to eliminate the missile arsenal of Hezbollah and destroy that organization, or at least disarm it. They are trying to do this the only way they know: by causing so much devastation that the Lebanese will compel their government to meet Israel's demands.
Will these aims be achieved?
Hezbollah is the authentic representative of the Shiite community that makes up 40 per cent of the Lebanese population. Together with the other Muslims, they are the majority. The idea that the weakling Lebanese government - which in any case includes Hezbollah - would be able to liquidate the organization is ludicrous.
Abroad, another idea is taking shape: that an international force should be deployed on the border. The Israeli government objects strenuously. Such a force would hinder its army from doing whatever it wants. Moreover, if this force were deployed without the agreement of Hezbollah, a new guerrilla war would start.
At most, this war, with its hundreds of dead will lead to another delicate armistice. The Israeli government will claim victory and argue it has "changed the rules of the game.' Nasrallah (or his successors) will claim that his small organization has stood up to a mighty military machine.
But there is no real solution without settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and without negotiating with Palestinians' elected leadership, the government headed by Hamas. If one wants to finish, once and for all, with this shit - as Bush so delicately put it - that is the only way.