Thursday, July 20, 2006

A thought-provoking sideshow to Israel’s war on Hezbollah — and what a precious gift Israel would bestow on the Free World by destroying the Hezbollah mini-state — is the effort to extract “foreign nationals” from Lebanon, some of whom have had their summer vacations in Hezbollah strongholds interrupted by war.

Who are these people now clamoring by the thousands for international rescue? Press reports label many of them “dual nationals.” Some, despite their British, Swiss, American or French passports, make Lebanon their home. I was quite startled to hear, in an online audio report posted by the Daily Telegraph, that British passport-holders evacuated to Cyprus were undergoing “Home Office screening” to determine whether they “might constitute a threat.” The report reasoned that this made sense “because obviously we’re talking about a large number of people who have lived in the Middle East most of their lives.”

This presents a bizarre spectacle: Britain’s navy re-patriating what you might call extreme expatriates who potentially pose a “threat” to Britain as a partner in the so-called war on terror. This makes the following headline from the Guardian all the more inapt: “Britain’s biggest sea evacuation since Dunkirk.” As I recall, none of the 300,000 Dunkirk evacuees required a security screening before returning home.

In this wide-open question of loyalties we may see the expanding emptiness of the modern nation-state, where basic identification with the nation itself is no longer at the core of citizenship. And that includes the United States, where, for example, a good stretch of Main Street follows the Israeli war on Hezbollah via Al Jazeera — at least Main Street in Dearborn, Mich., which writer Debbie Schlussel has described as “the heart of Islamic America, and especially Shia Islam America.”

As the New York Times reported from Dearborn, “For miles along West Warren — in hair salons, restaurants and meat markets — shopkeepers and their relatively few customers stared at televisions tuned in to Al Jazeera.” Incidentally, there were “relatively few” customers out and about only because, as one baker knew, “most of his regular customers were home watching [Al Jazeera], just as they had all day, every day,” since Israel’s offensive began.

Why does this matter? Al Jazeera, of course, is the relentlessly anti-American, anti-Israeli, jihad-boosting “news” network. To find TVs in the heartland tuned in to this station today is roughly akin to coming across an American town, circa 1942, tuned in to Axis propagandists Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw Haw.

But this isn’t, as they say, your father’s heartland. Hezbollah itself is popular in Dearborn, which can fill a banquet hall to celebrate “Lebanon Liberation Day” — the day Hezbollah claims as victory when Israeli forces withdrew in 2000. Osama Siblani, the publisher of Dearborn’s Arab American News, considers members of Hezbollah — along with Hamas and other jihadist groups — freedom fighters. And, as Mr. Siblani tells it to the Detroit News, he’s not alone: “If morally supporting Hizbollah or associating with [Hezbollah spiritual leader Muhammad Hussein] Fadlallah is a crime, ‘there is not going to be enough buses to haul the people out and take them to jail.’”

Mr. Siblani was speaking before the Israeli offensive began. But not before the 1983 Hezbollah bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 241 U.S. servicemen, 63 U.S. Embassy personnel and 58 French paratroopers. And not before the 1984 Hezbollah torture-murder of CIA station chief William Buckley in Lebanon. And not before the 1985 Hezbollah hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the torture-murder of Navy diver Robert Stethem. And not before the 1988 Hezbollah torture-murder of Lt. Col. William Higgins. And not before the Hezbollah bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, killing 29; the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 96; or the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing 19 U.S. servicemen.

American sympathy for Hezbollah profanes the American dead. In our wide-open society, however, such allegiance isn’t considered beyond the pale. But it should be. And it could be. I have long argued that the “war on terror” is an amorphous term — sacrificing clarity for fuzzy political correctness. What if we, as a nation, belatedly declared war on specific jihadist groups — al Qaeda and Hezbollah and other organizations dedicated to our destruction? This would have the tonic effect of clarifying not only our enemies’ identity, but our own.

We can’t fight if we don’t know who we’re fighting. We can’t win if we don’t know who we are.

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