Mark Levine over at the PuffingTons Host, a noted “expert” on Middle East Relations (although it sounds like he’s an expert on Palestinian relations from his bio) , has a piece about the assassination of Pierre Gemayel. It’s typical Israeli Conspiratorial Think. Behold:
In the wake of the latest political assassination to rock Lebanon–this week’s shooting of Pierre Gemayel, a scion of one of Lebanon’s foremost Maronite political families–suspicion was fallen on the Syrians, and perhaps Hezbollah as the most likely culprits.
There is some logic to this view, given Syria’s likely involvement in the assassination in February 2005 of Prime Minister Rafiq Harriri.
Gemayal’s is the fifth assassination since Harriri’s; most every victim was critical of the Syrians, and to a lesser extent Hezbollah.
But even if we grant that Syria was behind Harriri’s assassination (and as I explained in a posting at the time, http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/17319.html, there is very good evidence to support this assessment) it is hard to see what Syria or Hezbollah gain from Gemayel’s killing. Syria is in a stronger regional position than it has been in years. The Bush administration has been forced to eat crow and negotiate with Damascus in order to gain its help tamping down the insurgency in Iraq. It’s main sponsor, Iran, is similarly in its strongest geostrategic position in decades, and its ally Hezbollah emerged as the political winner of this summer’s war with Israel.
So why would Syria risk upsetting this favorable balance by killing a Maronite politician when Hezbollah had already bolted the government and was threatening massive demonstrations to bring down the post Cedar Revolution political arrangement in favor of one that would better reflect its–and thus Syria’s–increasing power? And this question can be asked of anyone who thinks that Hezbollah was somehow involved in or sanctioned the murder, which has sapped the energy out of its latest political machination.
He’s answered his own question. Syria is in a strong position. Therefore they can afford to take a stronger stance in influencing Lebanese politics. It’s typical thug mentality. In order to prevent me from acting like a thug, you have caved to my actions. So, since I am in a stronger position, I will do more to see just how much I can get away with.
It’s also how a toddler behaves if you don’t set strong limits.
But Levine can’t stop there. You can’t be a Islamist sympathizer and blame Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, or Iran. So you have to make the only logical jump:
As far as I can see, the only party that benefits from Gemayel’s assassination is Israel. Israel was the main loser in last summer’s war, at least politically and strategically. The country’s leaders began threatening a new round of fighting even before they began pulling troops out of the south of Lebanon. Hezbollah’s post-war ascendence was the most visible and troubling sign of Israel’s seemingly unprecedented military weakness and strategic blundering.
Israel, in order to “save face” killed one of the leading politicians in the government who was advocating strong ties with Israel and elimination of Hezbollah. Because it makes sense.
I saw similar thinking after 9/11, that Mossad was behind the attacks so that Americans would take action against terrorists in a more serious manner.
But we have to succumb, ultimately, to Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is often the correct one.
UPDATE: Mark Levine is whining in the comments to his post that people are “misinterpreting” what he’s saying:
i do not want to suggest that syria and hezbollah could not have been behind the killing, or that they are incapable of doing stupid things. the killing of harriri being a case in point for syrian strategic blundering, as i detailed in the post i referenced in the piece above. however, before we think about who did something stupid, we need to think about who did something which from their perspective was smart, or at least made sense strategically. from this perspective israel would seem to be the most obvious beneficiary of lebanon descending into some sort of internecine conflict that ties down and weakens hezbollah, which would then leave it less able to help out its buddies in hamas. if that is not the case, then we can move to the second question, which would be who could have done something this stupid, at which point the syrians are the likely culprit.
How very e.e. cummings. The highlighted part is very interesting, simply because his previous post is that Israel is behind the killing. So, Mark, you are suggesting that Syria and Hezbollah are not behind the killing. In addition, he’s saying that the killing of a vocal opponent to Hezbollah in the Parliament to muscle conformity isn’t smart nor is it good sense. Hey, if you can get away with it, why not do it?
He has a second comment, the first part explaining the word “speculative” to someone (which was warranted but amusing, given his doublespeak a few posts prior):
but why is suggesting that israel could have been involved in this assassination mean that ‘israel is responsible for much of the world’s ills.’ why is any accusation against israel automatically inflated to an accusation against the very existence of israel? such accusations betray a lack of intellectual, never mind academic, integrity.
Mark has a point, to a degree. Suggesting Israel was behind the assassination does have a degree of believability (although the long-term positive of having Gamayel in the Lebanese Government would outweigh a short-lived popularity spike from his assassination). But the issue of being Anti-Israel comes from the raising of the spectre of conspiracy. It is so foreign to Mark to think Syria, Iran, and/or Hezbollah had something to do with this conflict that he immediately points to Israel as the culprit, an action taken by every anti-Zionist regime in the world. So it’s not that he’s saying he’s anti-Israel so much as he’s parroting the same conspiratorial garbage that we get from hardcore Islamist editorials and sermons from radical Imams. That’s why Mark is labelled as an Anti-Zionist– guilt by association.
But I won’t go so far as to label Levine an anti-Zionist. He’s got issues with Hezbollah, too. He wants to be called a “progressive”, but I’m not sure he fits that label. He really wants to believe that resistance to Israel and the US are good things, but he’s discovering it’s not always as easy as “Republicans bad” as many of his colleagues tend to believe.
I’ve seen this behavior before. It’s what happens when an idealistic liberal starts discovering that conservatism isn’t all that bad. Sorry to break the news to you, Mark.