Sunday, July 30, 2006

Do Not Ask the Lebanese Government For a Solution, Ask The International Community

Elza S. Maalouf
I just listened to Prime Minister Seniora on "Face the Nation" pleading for cease-fire and pleading to American mothers to look into their hearts and feel for the babies that were killed in Kana yesterday. A one day old baby took his last breath before he gets a chance to hug his mother...

When asked if he can pressure Hezbollah into a cease fire, the Prime Minister avoided answering the question directly.

PM Seniora is a wise man who knows that Lebanon needs to keep its unity and avoid a civil war. Any accusation addressed to Hezbollah by any Lebanese party will be the fuel that sparks a new bloody civil war that Lebanon cannot afford. Especially that innocent Lebanese civilians are dying and children are been deprived of a future.

The answer does not lie with PM Seniora's government, a fledgeling government who negotiated for Hezbollah's disarmement, for more than 6 months, to no avial. Lebanon was weakened since 1970s by the PLO, who formed a state inside a State; by The Syrians who occupied Lebanon, milked it dry and left it in 2005 while vowing for revenge. Lebanon is weakened now by lack of support of the international community and the absence of pressure on Syria in which hands lie the fate of Lebanon.

The US refuse to negotiate directly with Syria and gives Israel more time to destroy and kill with no forseen results. Israel is loosing grounds on humanitarian bases, Hezbollah is gaining popularity and Syria is laughing its way to the negotiation table. Meanwhile, Lebanon is bleading innocent blood. Isarel is loosing. The US is brain dead, and Syria seems to be the winner here.

Wake up America! You are a superpower who forgot the basic rules of being a superpower...Rules such as bringing all parties to the table and taking a bold stand to do the following:
  • create a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine with 1967 borders
  • acknowleging Syria's role in the region and asking for Behavior change vs. Regime change
  • Empowering the Lebanese Government and its rule over the whole country
  • Negotiating directly with Iran the Godfather of Hezbollah

Until the US and Europe play such a comprehensive role, the Middle East will suffer and make the rest of the world suffer.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -
Margaret Mead,
World renowned anthropologist (1901 to 1978)
who contributed vastly to the understanding of human history

Friday, July 28, 2006

Relief Lebanon- Send Hope to Lebanese Civilians

Elza S. Maalouf

Dear friends,

Project Relief Lebanon has been launched in cooperation with the* International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC), UNICEF *and * Mercy Corps. * All Lebanese, concerned friends and organizations around the world are called to strongly support these critical relief efforts by donating whatever funds they can afford through the special website created for this purpose. .

This website is purely non-profit and all proceedings go directly to the charities.

Lebanese expatriates throughout the world gravely concerned about the humanitarian and economic crisis demand that the bloodshed of Lebanese civilians, destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure, and suffering of its people end immediately, allowing for a rapid recovery operation aided by the international community.

Please go to <>. All donations go directly to the charitable organizations and are tax deductible for US Residents.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Backroom Deals Leading to a Lose-Lose Situation

Elza S. Maalouf
The assassination of Prime Minster Hariri on February 14th, 2005 triggered a powerful chain of events. It unleashed the fury of the repressed people of Lebanon and attracted the attention of the International community, especially the US administration who is on a democracy crusade in the Middle East.

The Syrians withdrew in April 2005 under popular and international pressure. For the 1st time in Lebanon’s modern history, the various Lebanese factions under the Leadership of Nabih Berry (Shia Speaker of Parliament, head of Shia Amal movement) called for a decisive Lebanese National Dialogue to shape the future of democracy in the country. For more than 6 months former militia heads and clan leaders who were designated by their people to speak on their behalf, gathered to resolve deep rooted issues that are challenging the newly liberated country. Just like debates of such magnitude, the consensus was to discuss the most pressing issues first: diplomatic relations with Syria, and the disarmament of Hezbollah. Other issues, although vital for the state of the Nation, were not as pressing as these two.

“A State inside a State”

Hezbollah, the most powerful party in Lebanon, and the only armed party, resisted any notion of disarmament. After all it has become ‘a state inside a state’ and gained more support from Syria who grudgingly left Lebanon. In an infamous conversation with PM Hariri before his death, Syrian president warned Hariri that he will “turn Lebanon and Beirut upside down” if Syria is pushed out of Lebanon. And here we are…

The participants in the National Dialogue aiming for a unified Lebanon and one sovereign government/one Lebanese army, tried to negotiate the disarmament with Hassan Nasrallah, to no avail. Many of them spoke openly about their opposition to Hezbollah’s armed faction. Two weeks before the sad events on July 12th, negotiation came to a halt. It is said that some leaders in the National Dialogue, sensing that Hezbollah is cornered and might retaliate, asked Nasrallah to postpone any actions that might harm Lebanon’s tourist season and re-building process till the end of summer. They tried to gain time to hopefully influence the process in power centers outside Lebanon: United States, Syria, Iran….

Did the Lebanese government hit a brick wall and made a backroom deal with the US? Nasrallah sure seems to imply that in his latest TV address on July 25th, where he spoke as the head of a State omitting the mention of a Lebanese sovereign government and considering the ‘resistance’ the spokesperson and defender of Lebanon.

Did Israel plan this offensive on Lebanon after Syria’s withdrawal, Hamas’ victory and the upheaval in Ghaza? It sure did and showed the plans to invade Lebanon to generals in the Pentagon a year ago, and waited for Hezbollah to provoke the prepared offensive. Hezbollah obliged timing its actions around the G8 summit in Russia.

Syria is the primary benefactor in this messy situation. With its influence on Hezbollah, Syria is amassing negotiation points it can bring to the table when negotiating indirectly with the United States.

Israel is becoming aware by the day that it cannot ‘win the war’ on Hezbollah. They started by asking for 20 km inside the Lebanese borders, went down to 7 km and now probably 2 km. The battles in Bint Jbeil and Maroun AlRas surprised the army and boasted the rhetoric of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is now defining victory as simple survivor calling every child and elderly dying ‘Shaheed’( martyr)

“Lebanon’s wars serve other countries... never the Lebanese”

Lebanon is such a frail country where decision-makers have to be like precision driven engineers building in dangerous earthquake regions. The Lebanese government is trying to keep unity and avoid a civil war between the various factions. Lebanon unlike any other Arab country and unlike Israel, has a multi-religion based society of more than 18 sects, and most of them are represented in the government. With such an unusual make up, it is easy for external parties to influence factions in Lebanon, train them and use them for their own benefit. Israel did that with the Maronites in the 80s, Iran with Hezbollah and Syria with any corrupt party and leader they can get.

The bottom line is that Syria, Iran, Israel and the US are playing an old dirty game on Lebanese soil and the Lebanese people are paying the price. 20 years later, same story different day!

Monday, July 24, 2006

The War Archetype Rising in Phoenician Land

Elza S. Maalouf

As the world watches …A human tragedy is unfolding in Lebanon
Blogging from the abyss of a human mind torn between multitude of identities: Lebanese/American/World citizen….what would I give now to let go of one of these identities, they are tearing me apart. Imagine a part of you leaving Lebanon to come to safety and another part staying, shivering scared, angry and in despair with no way out. Who stayed? A Father of 3 children who’s source of income is gone; a little girl grieving for her dead father; a school teacher, college student, shopkeeper, a nun, an Imam, a priest….

This is the thirteenth day of the destruction of my beautiful homeland Lebanon. I kept staring at the picture of a little boy dismembered by the Israeli bombs in Southern Lebanon. A 4 year old lying in the rebels with no one around him to grieve over him or hug his body. A pretty 5 year old girl lost one of her precious blue eyes, her stare is soul chattering, it pierces the depth of the world consciousness. Wake up world!

A deja-vu in the Middle East…now it is Israelis who committed that murder, Yesterday Hezbollah committed the crime against an Israeli. Iraqis committed that crime against Iraqis, American soldiers against Iraqis, insurgents against Americans, suicide bomber against young Israelis…Christian against Muslim, Muslim against Jew, Jew against Christian and Muslim, and Muslim against Muslim…Ha! What humans can do in the name of so-called religion and God, Yahweh and Allah…in the name of Arab Nation, Jewish State and Shiite state…
Arab tourists left Lebanon the first 2 days of the attack. Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Sri Lankis, Philippinos, Indians are evacuating as I write these words. My family and loved ones in Lebanon are scared. Why is everybody leaving? Are we back to the 1975? Are these human’s lives more valuable than our lives? Does a passport give you the right to live or die?
It is hard to navigate this Middle Eastern ferocious Minautor’s labyrinth: Israel-Lebanon-Palestine-Syria-Iran-Hezbollah, Hamas…
It did start with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the inability of the Arab world to stand together and influence the peace process. But now it is here again in Lebanon, the country that suffered most from the Palestinian conflict and the country that is used as a scapegoat for the uncanny incompetence of the Arab world. I count the Lebanese governments in.

Now we’re here…amidst the old ugly smell of death and destruction.

"Get rid of Hezbollah?" I hope that by now the world watched enough CNN to get the sense that Hezbollah is not a terrorist group they can eliminate like a bad headache. Didn’t the USA try to ‘get rid’ of Al-Qaeda? Of Saddam? Hezbollah is an ideology and a social structure that is used by Iran as a proxy to balance the power in the region. So let’s establish this fact: Hezbollah, “The Party of God” is an organization ideologically and financially supported by Iran, that filled a religio-socio-economic gap for a large segment of the Shia population in Lebanon. This organization won the hearts of its civilian members through social services-hospitals, schools, picking up trash etc…Its military faction uses terrorist tactics to negotiate with Israel. Try to ‘get rid’ of that…
Same old, same old…The old war paradigm is an unhealthy one, deadly and costly, with the kind of shortsightedness that keeps misery going in the world!

Let’s establish one thing here: Israel, a sovereign democratic country, had the high-moral grounds on July 12th and could have gathered the whole world around it even Lebanese and Arab support. The Blood of the Lebanese children killed by Israel now and the horrible damage to the Lebanese infrastructure is creating a wider gap between Israel and Lebanon, and a stronger battle cry for the extremists. And Israel, Hezbollah, the Arabs who dumped the so called ‘Arab Cause’ on Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the weak Lebanese Leaders and the Western world should pay the price for such atrocities.
How dare Israel destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure and kill 375 souls and displace more than half a million Lebanese? I understand that Israel should defend its sovereignty and protect the Israeli citizens. But didn’t Israel learn that use of force and power alone is not protecting its other borders?

And Hezbollah!!!

Who put you in charge of Lebanon and who asked you to act on our behalf??? When over 70% of the population wants you to disarm like the rest of the Lebanese militias?

I understand and commend the services that Hezbollah provided to the disenfranchised Shia that were forgotten by the Lebanese government and kept weak by their corrupt leaders. As Lebanon has had its share of notoriously corrupt leaders from all sects and affiliations.

How dare Hezbollah sacrifice Lebanon for their own agenda??? They are sacrificing their followers first, innocent Shia children, women and elderly…as well as innocent Lebanese struggling to make ends meet...They have no moral qualms hiding heavy armament in a basement of a building housing several families and businesses.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

My Heart Cries for Lebanon

Elza S. Maalouf
I rushed to the phone to call family and loved ones in Beirut and the Bekaa valley , while watching TV in disbelief as the unfolding of yet another tragedy was taking place in my home country of Lebanon. The uncertainty in their voices and the despair in their words took me back to my teenage years, growing up during the civil war in Lebanon. I could even taste that despair and smell the ugly stink of war.

It was only last year that Lebanon resurrected from the crucifixion of the 20-year civil war and the cruel hold of Syrian troops. The United States called it the Cedar Revolution and the 1.5 million Muslim and Christian Lebanese who gathered in downtown Beirut called it “Freedom, Sovereignty and Independence.”

This dream was shattered on Wednesday July 12, when Hezbollah crossed the Israeli border and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah is a Shiite militant group that still refuses to disarm like other Muslim and Christian militias did at the end of the civil war. Hezbollah is an arm of the Shiite revolution in Iran with strong loyalties to Iran and Syria, not to Lebanon and its religious and cultural diversity.

Hezbollah acted independently guided by Iran and Syria. This armed militia initiated an act of war against Israel regardless of the consequences on Lebanon. Seventy percent of Lebanese do not approve of Hezbollah’s armed factions, and denounced the kidnapping and Hezbollah’s unilateral decision.

However, Israel’s response to the assault of Hezbollah is not only disproportionate but irrational, a sovereign country gone wild! Israel says it is trying to destroy the infrastructure of Hezbollah. What is really happening is that it is destroying the Lebanese infrastructure.

If Israel is thinking of destroying Hezbollah they are in for a surprise and the Israeli people have the right to know the truth. Hezbollah is not a radical party, Hezbollah is an ideology. It has gained more than a million supporters in Lebanon, largely through providing social services for the Shiite disenfranchised. Providing a safety net combined with their fiery rhetoric has taken this party to the legendary level of a mythic hero even though they are willing to sacrifice their people for their beliefs

My friend Bashir, a moderate Muslim from Beirut who never supported Hezbollah, choked on the phone when talking about the 500,000 displaced refugees and the death of innocent young children. He told me, “Of course we are against Israel now. They destroyed our dream. They want to eliminate an ideology by destroying ports, bridges, farms, electric plants, mosques and churches of a country that supports democracy and celebrates excellence in business and education. They are failing to destroy that ideology, and Lebanon is dying…” He couldn’t finish his sentence for the emotions welling up in him.

As a Lebanese-American, I didn’t sink into despair until the third day when I called my brother for the 10th time. He had just escaped the bombing around his workplace in the Bekaa. Now, my Christian brother has no income, no prospect of work, no way to support his wife and three beautiful children. Israel‘s actions are madness. The Lebanese people have suffered enough and if the world community had kept their commitment to UN Resolution 1559, which called for a disarmament of Hezbollah and a peace-keeping force on the border, this nightmare might have been averted.

I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America, and as a concerned citizen I want us to understand the implications of a war on innocent civilians and the way it impacts their thinking about who is their friend and who is their enemy. I grieve for my homeland and its great promise for democracy in the Middle East. Beirut, only a short while ago considered the “jewel of the Middle East,” lies in ruins and the multi-cultural, multi-religious population faces once again the ravages of war and its aftermath of rage.