The most thankless tasks for any reporter, next to covering weekend festivals featuring various vegetables, is localizing. You take a national or international story and go out to find a local angle or, worse, just run to the mall and get people to talk about it. The worth of those stories is so often dubious and the leech factor (who really wants to spend a day finding filler for somebody else's story?) is high.
But the Sun-Sentinel proved that localizing can produce first-rate journalism. The staff did some great stuff in South Florida on the Israeli attacks on Lebanon. Start with Tim Collie's report on people with very strong ties to the fighting. There's a mother of two Israeli soldiers, ages 19 and 24, who graduated from Stoneman Douglas High School. And there's a Fort Lauderdale heart surgeon, Imad Tabry, who grew up in Lebanon and has to watch from afar as Israel blows it to smithereens. Collie, in his well-crafted story, quotes Tabry:
"I'm furious, just absolutely furious. There was absolutely no reason for Israel to wipe out infrastructure in Lebanon and just continue to destroy facilities in Gaza. It's up to the United States now to step in and do something, because it's clear the Palestinians and the Israelis are never going to make peace unless they're forced to."
Collie throws in some obligatory half-cocked analysis from an Israeli political scientist (war must be waged now so we won't have a bigger war in two years, says the idiot), but tempers it with other voices. Peter Franceschina gets Jewish reaction in north Broward and Palm Beach. It taps into the very real emotional angst going on here about what is happening there.
For Saturday's paper, a sizable portion of the Sentinel staff got together (it's by-lined by Akilah Johnson, Ruth Morris and Lisa J. Huriash and contributed to by Alejandra Cancino and Chrystian Tejedor) for a Saturday story about local reaction to the war. And it's a beautiful thing, full of strong voices and opinions. From a Plantation rabbi named Edward Maline:
"Israel has no alternative but to defend herself, her people and her land. It is time for the world to stop messing around with the Jews. Leave us alone."
From Elizabeth Ayoub, a Lebanese National who is having nightmares about the bombings and fears for the lives of her loved ones: "They've bombed 19 bridges for two soldiers. This is proportionate? It does not make sense."
No it doesn't -- and we should be grateful that the Sentinel searched out to real people like Ayoub instead of relying on the mealy-mouthed politicians of both parties who are proving once again that they are spineless unprincipled jerks. Congress is completely sold-out on the issue, so it's up to journalists now, more than ever, to bring out the truth -- or at least all angles. The world may depend on it.
So what is the truth? Well, Hezbollah provoked Israel by kidnapping two IDF soldiers. No doubt about it. But Hezbollah was retaliating for Israel's unconscionable bombing of the Gaza Strip, which was itself the result of the kidnapping of another soldier. And of course the entire round of skirmishes is rooted in Israel's habit of jailing thousands of Palestinians, including a good portion of the elected Parliament.
We could spend the rest of our lives discussing how we got to this place. It a giant clusterfuck and it's been tragic for everyone involved, Jew and Muslim alike. Big picture reality check: When you occupy other people's land, you have to expect some kidnappings every now and then. Hell, we're learning that the hard way in Iraq.
Israel had the right to retaliate. But instead of aiming directly at Hezbollah, it went apeshit and started bombing power plants and bridges and airports and everything else all over Lebanon, one of the most western-friendly countries in the region. They've crippled Lebanon, killed and injured hundreds of people, and created more than a hundred thousand refugees who are flooding into Syria.
It's the equivalent of dynamiting a house to get rid of a rodent problem or using a hammer to swat a hornet on your neighbor's head. It's grotesque and absurd -- and ultimately it's not even going to work. Hezbollah will not only survive but likely be stronger down the road because of this ill-advised, abominable action.
Normally, the responsibility to put a leash on Israel comes down to the American president, but with the war-mongering bonehead in the White House, it's only going to get worse.
Bush, who will go down in history not just as the worst president in American history but as one of the worst leaders the world has ever known, hasn't so much as phoned Olmert to tell him to chill out a little. Why? It's not because he's incompetent (though that he is). It's not because he's neglected to form relationships with leaders in the Middle East (though that he has). It's not because he failed to come up with a discernable Middle East policy or that he's a dishonest broker (though that he has and is). No, it's because he likes this.
Bombs going off in the Middle East is music to the Bush Administration's ears. Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al long for instability in the Arab world. And now they're just kicking back to see how far this thing can go. Hell, if they're lucky, Iran or Syria will make a wrong move and send the entire region off the precipice and into total warfare. For them, this is a game, like Risk. Only real children are getting shot full of schrapnel.
It's the domino theory, baby. They want the overthrow of the Arab world, plain and simple, including the toppling of Saudi Arabia and Egypt (this hasn't been a secret -- former CIA chief and total sociopath James Woolsey has talked openly about it on TV and it was laid out nicely by a Richard Perle-backed Rand Institute analyst a while back). They want to dominate the region (I think why goes without saying) and they don't mind if it takes a hellish conflagration to do it, no matter what the cost in human suffering and catastrophic destruction. It's true. They're that stupid and criminal.
Well, this could be the beginning of your conflagration folks. The great Bill O'Reilly said on his Fox show Thursday that he thinks we're in World War III right now. I'm not putting too much importance on that, since, you know, O'Reilly's an idiot and all. But as long as this keeps escalating, the potential is there. The odds are growing. The only way to stop that chance is for Israel to stop blowing things up. And the only way that is going to happen is if America pressures it to stop.
But Bush isn't going to do that. Instead, he's going to milk the violence. The thing is that Bush and his buddies aren't just greedy and bloodthirsty; they're also moronic. This isn't good for Israel. If it had any chance of being good for Israel, and leading to peace, I might get behind it. But rarely is an act of war good for peace. No, this is terrible for Israel and for America and for the world. It's only going to create more hatred, more terrorism. And if you thought the Administration didn't think through the Iraq War very well, wait until you see how wrong this thing can go.