Today's date:
Fall 2006

Cuba , 1962; Lebanon, 2006

Jacques Attali was a top aide to the late French President, Francois Mitterrand and the founding president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He is currently president of PlaNET Finance. His latest book is Karl Marx ou l'esprit du monde (Fayard, 2006).

Paris — To reject Hezbollah is not, as too many believe, tantamount to rejecting the national rights of the Palestinians and the Lebanese. Nor is it an attempt to rein in Islam or to “get even” for the Crusades. To an even lesser extent was the war with Hezbollah about bombarding innocent civilians just for the fun of it.

To reject Hezbollah is the response to a vastly different question: Is it possible for those who live in freedom, in Europe or in Lebanon, to accept at their doorsteps the presence of weapons which serve a totalitarian ideology that has openly declared its objective, which is to destroy their civilization?

Under similar circumstances, this question was posed in the past. In March of 1936, British Lord Halifax and French premier Leon Blum turned a blind eye to the remilitarization of the Ruhr Valley, which led ultimately to World War II. In October 1962, United States President John Kennedy did not back down when Soviet missiles arrived near its very shores, in Cuba, and we had peace.

What has been our reaction to the arrival of Syrian-Iranian missiles on the shores of the Mediterranean? Accepting Hezbollah's armed presence under the pretext that it serves the Palestinian cause is an act of bad faith that does nothing to help their legitimate aspirations to sovereignty.

Tolerating an armed Hezbollah under the pretext that Israel is armed by the Americans would mean to place the weapons of a democracy, albeit a dominant one, on the same level as those of a dictatorship. Ignoring them, under the pretext that most of the oil that feeds the Western world passes through the Straits of Hormuz, would be the same delusion adopted in 1936 when the industrial Ruhr was considered too critical to fight over.

It is therefore urgent to ask the Arab leaders to assume their responsibilities as the post-war effort to disarm Hezbollah goes forward.

Will they accept the separation of religious and political powers? Will they refuse the presence of terrorist militias on their territory? Are they ready to insist that international forces assist the Lebanese army in disarming Hezbollah?

They would be dead wrong if they thought that, by answering “no” to these questions, they would escape the wrath of their own people and gain the respect of the international community. They would simply postpone their own downfall, which will come, at the hands of the allies of the ayatollahs.

One day, these missiles, which are now pointed toward Haifa and Tel Aviv, will be directed toward Cairo, Riyadh, Istanbul, Tunis, Algiers and Casablanca—and later toward Rome, Madrid, London and Paris. The hour of truth is fast approaching. It is time to choose sides.