Friday, September 2, 2011

To the Shores of Tripoli

To the Shores of Tripoli


Uri Avnery



THOUGH THE Bible tells us "Rejoice not when thine enemy

falleth" (Proverbs 24:17), I could not help myself. I

was happy.


Muammar al-Gaddafi was the enemy of every decent person

in the world. He was one of the worst tyrants in recent memory.


This fact was hidden behind a façade of clownishness. He

liked to present himself as a philosopher (the "Green

Book"), a visionary statesman (Israelis and Palestinians

must unite in the "State of Isratine"), even as an

immature teenager (his innumerable uniforms and

costumes). But basically he was a ruthless dictator,

surrounded by corrupt relatives and cronies, squandering

the great wealth of Libya.


This was obvious to anyone who wanted to see.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few who chose to close

their eyes.



WHEN I expressed my support for the international

intervention, I was expecting to be attacked by some

well-meaning people. I was not disappointed.


How could I? How could I support the American

imperialists and the abominable NATO? Didn't I realize

that it was all about the oil?


I was not surprised. I have been through this before.

When NATO started to bomb Serbian territory in order to

put an end to Slobodan Milosevic's crimes in Kosovo,

many of my political friends turned against me.


Didn't I realize that it was all an imperialist plot?

That the devious Americans wanted to tear Yugoslavia (or

Serbia) apart? That NATO was an evil organization? That

Milosevic, though he may have some faults, was

representing progressive humanity?


This was said when the evidence of the gruesome mass-

murder in Bosnia was there for everyone to see, when

Milosevic was already exposed as the cold-blooded

monster he was. Ariel Sharon admired him.


So how could decent, well-meaning leftists, people of an

unblemished humanist record, embrace such a person? My

only explanation was that their hatred of the USA and of

NATO was so strong, so fervent, that anyone attacked by

them must surely be a benefactor of humanity, and all

accusations against them pure fabrications. The same

happened with Pol Pot.


Now it has happened again. I was bombarded with messages

from well-meaning people who lauded Gaddafi for all his

good deeds. One might get the impression that he was a

second Nelson Mandela, if not a second Mahatma Gandhi.


While the rebels were already fighting their way into

his huge personal compound, the socialist leader of

Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, was praising him as a true model

of upright humanity, a man who dared to stand up to the

American aggressors.


Well, sorry, count me out. I have this irrational

abhorrence of bloody dictators, of genocidal mass-

murderers, of leaders who wage war on their own people.

And at my advanced age, it is difficult for me to change.


I am ready to support even the devil, if that is

necessary to put an end to this kind of atrocities. I

won't even ask about his precise motives. Whatever one

may think about the USA and/or NATO - if they disarm a

Milosevic or a Gaddafi, they have my blessing.


HOW LARGE a role did NATO play in the defeat of the

Libyan dictator?


The rebels would not have reached Tripoli, and certainly

not by now, if they had not enjoyed NATO's sustained air

support. Libya is one big desert. The offensive had to

rely on one long road. Without mastery of the skies, the

rebels would have been massacred. Anyone who was alive

during World War II and followed the campaigns of Rommel

and Montgomery knows this.


I assume that the rebels also received arms and advice

to facilitate their advance.


But I object to the patronizing assertion that it was

all a NATO victory. It is the old colonialist attitude

in a new guise. Of course, these poor, primitive Arabs

could not do anything without the White Man shouldering

his burden and rushing to the rescue.


But wars are not won by weapons, they are won by people.

"Boots on the ground", as the Americans call it. Even

with all the help they got, the Libyan rebels,

disorganized and poorly armed as they were, have won a

remarkable victory. This would not have happened without

real revolutionary fervor, without bravery and

determination. It is a Libyan victory, not a British or

a French one.


This has been underplayed by the international media. I

have not seen any genuine combat coverage (and I know

what that looks like). Journalists did not acquit

themselves with glory. They displayed exemplary

cowardice, staying at a safe distance from the front,

even during the fall of Tripoli. On TV they looked

ridiculous with their conspicuous helmets when they were

surrounded by bareheaded fighters.


What came over was endless jubilations over victories

that had seemingly fallen from heaven. But these were

feats achieved by people - yes, by Arab people.


This is especially galling to our Israeli "military

correspondents" and "Arab affairs experts". Used to

despising or hating "the Arabs", they are ascribing the

victory to NATO. It seems that the people of Libya

played a minor role, if any.


Now they blabber endlessly about the "tribes", which

will make democracy and orderly governance in Libya

impossible. Libya is not really a country, it was never

a unified state before becoming an Italian colony, there

is no such thing as a Libyan people. (Remember the

French saying this about Algeria, and Golda Meir about Palestine?)


Well, for a people that does not exist, the Libyans

fought very well. And as for the "tribes" - why do

tribes exist only in Africa and Asia, never among

Europeans? Why not a Welsh tribe or a Bavarian tribe?


(When I visited Jordan in 1986, well before the peace

treaty, I was entertained by a very civilized, high-

ranking Jordanian official. After an interesting

conversation over dinner, he surprised me by mentioning

that he belongs to a certain tribe. Next day, while I

was riding on a horse to Petra, the rider next to me

asked in a low voice whether I belonged "to the tribe".

It took me some time to understand that he was asking me

if I was a Jew. It seems that American Jews refer to

themselves in this way.)


The "tribes" of Libya would be called in Europe "ethnic

groups" and in Israel "communities". The term "tribe"

has a patronizing connotation. Let's drop it.


ALL THOSE who decry NATO's intervention must answer a

simple question: who else would have done the job?


21st century humanity cannot tolerate acts of genocide

and mass-murder, wherever they occur. It cannot look on

while dictators butcher their own peoples. The doctrine

of "non-interference in the internal affairs of

sovereign states" belongs to the past. We Jews, who have

accused mankind of standing idly by while millions of

Jews, including German citizens, were exterminated by

the legitimate German government, certainly owe the

world an answer.


I have mentioned in the past that I advocate some form

of effective world governance and expect it to be in

place by the end of this century. This would include a

democratically elected world executive that would have

military forces at its disposal and that could

intervene, if a world parliament so decides.


For this to happen, the United Nations must be revamped

entirely. The veto power must be abolished. It is

intolerable that the US can veto the acceptance of

Palestine as a member state, or that Russia and China

can veto intervention in Syria.


Certainly, great powers like the US and China should

have a louder voice than, say, Luxemburg and the Fiji

Islands, but a two thirds majority in the General

Assembly should have the power to override Washington,

Moscow or Beijing.


That may be the music of the future, or, some may say, a

pipe dream. As for now, we live in a very imperfect

world and must make do with the instruments we have.

NATO, alas, is one of them. The European Union is

another, though in this case poor, eternally conscience-

stricken Germany, has paralyzed it. If Russia or China

were to join, that would be fine.


This is not some remote problem. Gaddafi is finished,

but Bashar al-Assad is not. He is butchering his people

even while you read this, and the world is looking on



Any volunteers for intervention?


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