But the world must not let its anxiety over the gravely escalating situation blind it to the realities behind it. We should not succumb to cynical efforts by Islamic extremists to promulgate a false equivalence and make us forget who the real perpetrators are.
It is easy -- and wrong -- to equate Israeli air strikes in Lebanon or Gaza with the launching of deadly missiles into Israel from those places. The former is a response to the latter, not just part of a nameless, blameless, two-headed flareup of pointless violence.
Has Israel overreacted? Perhaps. But let's not forget who started this. The Israelis were minding their own business until terrorists from Hamas and Hezbollah conducted well-planned, almost simultaneous armed incursions into Israeli territory, killing some Israeli reservists and kidnaping three others (one in the south, two in the north). They followed this up with an aerial assault involving scores of missiles launched against innocent civilians in Israeli cities. These are the unprovoked attacks against which Israel retaliated.
If it weren't so sinister, it would be almost laughable to hear Hezbollah leaders now calling for the reciprocal release of Lebanese "hostages" held by Israel, as if there were some kind of legitimate symmetry involved. No. The young Israeli men taken by surprise and abducted at gunpoint are hostages. The hardened extremists now being held in Israeli prisons after being tried and found guilty of brutal past terrorist acts on Israeli territory are not "hostages." They are dangerous convicts who will kill again if sprung from jail.
Standing behind the terrorists, arming them and egging them on are the rogue nations of Iran and Syria, recklessly threatening to touch off a wider conflagration. Everyone involved should a step back and take a breath before lurching any further toward doomsday.
But as far as who's to blame here, the world leaders gathered in Russia got it right when they issued a statement saying that the crisis results not from Israeli actions but from "efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace."
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