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Former Israeli Soldier Gives Talk on Conflict

Avraham Sela, a political science professor who served in the Israeli Military Intelligence for 16 years, said the way to stabilize the region is to turn Hezbollah into a political party and keep it from becoming an autonomous military power in Southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah can't be removed from Lebanon, they have set up roots in the country. But the bordering nations can play a role as intermediaries in changing the role of Hezbollah and rebuilding Lebanon.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin. The talk was sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies.

By Adam de Jong, Daily Bruin senior staff

WITH THE HOPE of finding something positive that can come out of the most recent bloodshed between Israel and a bordering Arab-Muslim nation, Colgate University Professor Avraham Sela spoke on campus Thursday.

Sela, a political science professor, gave a presentation which focused on the decades-old conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, offering an opinion which was met with some skepticism.

After outlining some of the historical events that led to Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon from 1985 to 2000, Sela spoke about the possible political ramifications of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict this summer.

On several occasions, the former Israeli soldier said Israel's aerial attacks were intended to injure Hezbollah's military capabilities, but ultimately killed hundreds of Lebanese civilians because Hezbollah offices were in civilian neighborhoods.

Sela, who served in the Israeli Military Intelligence for 16 years, said he believes the best way to stabilize the region is to turn Hezbollah into a political party and keep it from becoming an autonomous military power in Southern Lebanon.

"Hezbollah can't be removed from Lebanon, they have set up roots in the country," Sela said. "But the bordering nations can play a role as intermediaries in changing the role of Hezbollah and rebuilding Lebanon."

Sela also chronicled the efforts of Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to stabilize the region by putting an end to what he calls "Arab nationalism."

The conflict over the summer lasted nearly three weeks until the violence was subdued after the United Nations brokered a cease-fire on Aug. 14. There is some controversy as to what triggered the violence – some blame the conflict on the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on the border of the two countries, while others say the incident is rooted in Israeli's continued presence in the south at the end of the Lebanese Civil War.

"I think you have a very positive outlook on the divisions in the region, because Lebanon still has to be rebuilt," said Eric Bordenkircher, a UCLA student getting his doctorate in Islamic studies, speaking directly to Sela during a question-and-answer session following the lecture.

Rossean Corea and Vicky Overy, L.A. residents, said the region cannot stabilize as long as people aren't getting enough water to drink.

Corea and Overy were two of many attendees who said the region would benefit from U.S. involvement.

Facing doubtful responses from all different outlooks, Sela reiterated that all that can be done is to keep searching for solutions in the aftermath of decades of violence.

"I agree with all of you completely, but the question is what to do from here. I barely know the past, and I am trying to understand the present," Sela said.

Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies