Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Faces of Lebanese who did not receive Twelve Thousand dollars from Iran and Hezbollah

Elza S. Maalouf
The irony of another war in Lebanon was overwhelming for those of us who lived it so many times before...Objective blogging was not an option anymore. I felt like screaming and blaming not reporting and giving an opinion...Enough lies! Sifting through opinions, analysis and so-called facts does not change the ugly reality on the ground.

I stopped blogging and started working. I will write later about the kind of work we are doing for Lebanon and the region...

But for now, I want to put a face to the innocent Lebanese who's lives were torn apart and no government, Hezbollah or international community to help... In his last appearance on TV, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah promised $12,000 in assistance to each family that has lost its home. Many Arabs and Lebanese are raving about the efficiency of Hezbollah in its swift response to supporting the affected Shia....

Well, not all affected were Shia or Hezbollah...The others were left behind with an incompetent government and a rotten bureaucracy that takes for ever to respond to their needs. Thankfully charitable and religious organizations as well as fellow Lebanese are helping with whatever resources they have.

Their Faces...

Renee a proud mother of six boys, had a small farm with chickens, cows and goats and owned the village's convenience store and a candle factory that she ran with her husband and children. Renee today was sobbing on TV telling the LBC reporter that her and her family have lost everything...Their house, their animals, their crop, their candle factory, their store and any money they left at home....The family is staying at a monastery in another town, the boys who are 14 and 15 and younger are working at stores in the neighborhood to save some money for food, clothing and hopefully for their return home...

uncle Sameeh, a proud Lebanese in his 80s, was taking care of his stroke ridden wife when the bombs fell in front of their new house in Western Bekaa. He immediately called neighbors who moved him and his wife to the village's church. The church was bombed and his wife fell and broke both her arms. Sameeh has been tending and olive grove for most of his life. Through his hard work in this grove he was able to support his family, educate his children and build a new house for the children to come and visit. Well...the olive tree burned to a crisp, the house was bombed and Sameeh's life savings are no more...

Many more stories of this human tragedy and pain ridden faces are unfolding...

Much more can be said...but the eyes tell the stories of never ending pain....and the words are an invitation to action...Let the thread of compassion, peace and resilience weave together a new fabric of hope for left behind Lebanese and left behind citizens of the world.

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Watch out, America. Let’s not be fooled this time!"

Elza S. Maalouf
Thank you Elza for posting Seymour Hersh’s article in The New Yorker. Mr. Hersh is one of America’s foremost investigative journalists, a specialized craft he has been practicing for 40 years. I am confident in Mr. Hersh’s information. He has been right over and over again – on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and many others.

Basically, Mr. Hersh says that the US gave Israel the green light on attacking Hezbollah two months before the actual bomb campaign started for a number of reasons all dealing with Iran.
o To once again prove that an air campaign can work (which, by the way, it didn’t as Israel had to put boots on the ground within three weeks)
o To disarm Hezbollah’s missiles, so that when the US attacks Iran Hezbollah can’t attack Haifa and Tel Aviv with missiles.
o And lastly, to show the skeptics in the military that an air campaign can work without ground troops.

So, any truth to this? Well, while most of the newspapers headlined Bush’s speech today with a statement that “Hezbollah was to blame for the destruction and death in Lebanon,” at least one AP writer, Nedra Pickler, picked up on another statement. She writes, “President Bush said Monday the monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah was part of a broader struggle between freedom and terror and ‘we can only imagine how much ore dangerous this conflict would be if Iran had the nuclear weapons it seeks.’ “

Remember, how two days after 9/11, the rhetoric started on the alleged connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq? Watch out, America. Let’s not be fooled this time.

Blog posted by Shirley Schwaller.

Shirley Schwaller is a former business journalist, whose areas of expertise included the oil industry. She wrote for various US and foreign newspapers, including AlSharq Al Awsat in Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon: Hanoi or Hong Kong??

Elza S. Maalouf
This marks the first day of the cease-fire and the displaced Lebanese could not wait to go back to their destroyed towns and neighborhoods. At 8 Am sharp the cars where lined up towards Nabatieh, Tyre and further South. People are driving back from Syria to their homes in the Bekaa. Amazing spirit! Cars full of happy faces were heading back to the unknown...

I watched the Lebanese TV stations filming families searching the rebels in and eerie Dahie-South Beirut, for remnants of family photos, papers, clothes, books and kitchenwear. A couple, husband and wife, climbed the torn in half building wanting to get whatever they can from their apartment on the 5th floor. Around two hundred buildings that housed thousands of families were destroyed.

Since most of the US media networks pick and choose what to show us, insulting our intelligence at times, I have to rely on few Arabic channels that show the reality on the ground. Yes, I can do away with the rethorics on al-jazeerah and other Arabic channels. However the live shots from Lebanon speak volume. The destruction is devastating...

Lebanon is at a cross-road now: Would Hezbollah stick to its Hanoi choice of armed struggle? Or would the other leaders be wise enough to bring Lebanon on the way back of its Hong Kong path?

In the pictures of destruction I see show Hanoi, but the resolve of the Lebanese shows Hong Kong.

A Lose-Lose Situation

Elza S. Maalouf
The third lose is for the Bush administration who "was closely involved in the planning of Israel's retaliatory attacks," according to the New Yorker'saugustt 14 article by Seymour Hersh. Hezbollah was considered a threat to Israel's northern borders safety and Israel was watching the militant group reinforce its military infrastructure in Southern Lebanon with great concern. There is no doubt that Isarel had military plans in place to hit Hezbollah. However this article shows that these plans were approved and encouraged by the US administrationn who thought that a full blown attack on Hezbollah inLebanonn can "serve as a prelude to a potential American premptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations." Now the US has to think about a new strategy to deal with Iran's defiance and nuclear programs. The one they had in mind will not work now! Israel and the US miscalculated the military power of Hezbollah as well as the Lebanese unwillingness to turn against Hezbollah.

Hezbollah proved to be stronger than Israel thought a militia would be, and gathered the support of some of the Lebanese people and the Arab street. Many Israeli soldiers were killed and the Arab media praised the 'success' of the first Arab military power to defeat Israel. Hezbollah and its supporters think they won...

Israel also thinks it won?! They managed to weaken Hezbollah's stronghold in Southern Lebanon and Dahieh and parts of the Bekaa. Their initial stated goal to have a legitimate Lebanese military power at the border will come true if the resolution 1701 will be implemented.

Hezbollah lost and Israel lostNotnot to mention the shameful Human tragedy.

The Lebanese government who failed to disarm Hezbollah before is now armed by the UN resolution 1701 that was accepted by the Hezbollah ministers in the cabinet. However Prime Minister Saniora canceled today's meeting in which the cabinet was supposed to discuss the disarming of Hezbollah south of the Litani river. Hezbollah sent a message with Speaker Berri that the Shia militia refuses to disarm. Saniora refusing to compromise, cancels the meeting!

Israel is having internal troubles of its own where the extreme right is gaining grounds and Olmert's cabinet is loosing popularity. Their plan to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure in order to turn the Lebanese against Hezbollah did not work. What Israel did not realize is that its destruction of a fragile infrastructure and the loss of innocent civilians aggravated even the most moderates of Lebanese. And, No...Lebanese cannot turn against Hezbollah at this point; the Shia militia is only armed militia in Lebanon, no one can fight it at this point. No Lebanese wants to start another civil war especially that the country has been bleeding for more than 30 years.

Is there a lesson for the administration to learn here? of course. Do not Bomb an Ideology!!!

The shock and awe strategy Israel and the US used in Beirut to send a message to Iran, was received by Iran who sent a message back through successfully testing with Hezbollah a number of Iranian-made advanced weapons systems.

In a lose-lose-lose situation the world has to wise up!

(Here's a link to Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article : )

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Peace?! What a Foreign Concept...

Elza S. Maalouf
It was much easier for me to think rationally about the war in Iraq. Like others who are interested in the Middle East or come from it, I was able to analyze the situation in Iraq to the best of my ability, discuss the issue with Iraqi friends or on the various listserves, and try to use developmental theories to justify certain decisions made by the US or by the Iraqis.

With this Lebanese tragedy, I find myself struggling not to scream at people who don't see the situation from my perspective. All the socio-political, psychological and spiritual theories are reduced to a reactionary thinking on my part. I guess that the loss of souls and the pain of so many people with whom I share history, roots and DNA made me regress to a narrow ethnocentric mindset. Nothing is wrong with that, I know. However I wonder why I don't feel the same intensity when I read about the genocide in Darfur, and the famine that the world can prevent in Niger.

When I say I have a worldcentric view, I know that I mean it on a 'good day'...not when Ali, Fatima, George, Mohamad and Marie from Southern Lebanon, Beirut or the Bekaa Valley are displaced, wounded or in pain.

I do feel for every Israeli and Lebanese mother suffering for a child, a husband or a brother. They have nothing to do with politicians, militias and war. They just happen to be there living with hopes and dreams of a happy family and a better future...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Arabs Awakening? Thank you Iran!

Elza S. Maalouf
What Israel was not capable of doing, Iran did.

The Arabs are united in their support of the Lebanese government and are pulling their weight at the UN as a true partner of major international players and not as a humiliated subordinate.

The true dance has begun...The West has been taking positive steps and faux-pas towards the Arabs, and the Arab world always responded in 2 paradoxical ways: either radical opposition to anything from the West or a sort of submission by some Arab governments against their citizen's will. The Lebanese tragedy helped the Arabs take a proactive step towards the West, asserting their existence and cultural unity for a positive cause. This could have been sparked for many reasons, including:
  • The fear of public opinion within their own countries and to avoid the birth of a Hezbollah style opposition within their own land. The Arab regimes are holding on to their power and they don't want to tip the fragile balance.
  • The danger of Iran confiscating 'the Arab cause' against Israel. Since Iran rushed to support Hamas and teamed up with Syria in its support to Hezbollah. In becoming the Godfather of 'the cause' Iran pulled the rug from under the Arab leaders’ feet.
  • A desire by some Arab leaders to break free from the old paradigm of constant conflict in the region and focus more on building their own countries’ economy and the development of their infrastructure.

Well, I am not going to break into the traditional Arab chant 'oulouloul' that we Arabs scream in weddings and celebration...I will hold my breath for now and hope for the best and for better days for my homeland.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Which Lebanese Think What of Hezbollah? and Why?

Elza S. Maalouf

The sensation-driven Western and Arab media have been rehashing the so-called 'eye opener' results from a 'scientific survey' conducted in Beirut between July 24 and July 26 by the Beirut Center for Research and Information. 800 Lebanese were surveyed on a variety of topics including the performance of the government during the crisis as well as how Hezbollah and its actions are viewed in general. According to this poll 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbollah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. It interestingly shows a rising in the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hezbollah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.

The death of innocent civilians and the destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure took its toll. Lebanese no longer blame Hezbollah for sparking the war by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but Israel and the US instead. The latest poll by the Beirut Center found that 8 percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from 38 percent in January.

Did the media expect different results?? Guest 'experts' on Larry King and other shows repeat these numbers with shock: the Blasphemy!! Lebanese are under siege, dying, loosing their homes, their jobs, their country's hope and infrastructure, knowing that the Western world can easily let go of them because they 'harbor' a terrorist organization...and the West is asking them to think 'rationally' about who, started what, and why?

It is a well known fact that when it comes to safety and survival, people regress to adapt to the present life conditions. Hey, even Democrats supported George Bush's war in Iraq after the tragedy of 9/11. Looking back, we can see how people feel and make decisions when their loved ones are hurt and when their National security is in danger.

These are the Lebanese who were surveyed. Not the Lebanese who were re-building a state-of-the-art infrastructure, re-designing the government and electoral laws , and woking hard on National Unity. These are the Lebanese who were divided, used and abused by Syria, the PLO, Isarel, the Arab world and the international community.

Yes, there is a lot of guilt to go around all the parties involved and the Lebanese leaders especially. However, with all the responsibility that the different Lebanese factions bear for their loyalty to the tribe/clan/sect instead of Nation and being influenced by Syria, Iran, Israel or the US, not by a patriotic agenda, the Lebanese people are not solely to blame for Hezbollah's existence and actions. Here's a short list of the causes of this current crisis:

  • This US administration is one of the first administartion proactively promoting 'democracy' in the Middle East, but alas, with no appropriate implementation startegies that can match the various value-systems in the region. Geo-political startegist Dr Don Beck offers a more appropriate approach he calls "Stratified democracy" suggesting that different democratic forms may be appropriate for different stages of cultural development and ways of thinking. Instead of the cookie-cutter Western style democracy suggested by this administartion. (you can read more about the concept
  • The US supported UN resolution 1559 and helped the Lebanese government demand the withdrawl of Syria, but left a weak Lebanon alone to focus on the mess created in Iraq. The United Nations, European Union and the US did not continue the process of rebuilding the only true democracy in the Arab world; rebuilding its army, government institutions etc... Did they think that after a 30 year Syrian occupation and many wars Lebanon can do it on its own?
  • The military vacuum created by Syria's withdrawl was filled immidiately by Hezbolla's militant arm encouraged by Syria (to whom Hezbollah stayed a faithful ally) and financed by Iran, its ideological source. Too bad the other super-powers in the world did not do the same for the Lebanese army!
  • Lebanese leaders who were divided between true Patriotic leaders including Walid Jumblat, Saad Hariri, Sameer Geagea, Nabih Berri(?), and Syrian allies including Franjieh, Karami, Nasrallah, Arslan and Aoun who tiptoes around both camps. The old sectarian divide of Christians against Muslims, and Druze against Chritians, was replaced by a new divide of patriotic loyality vs. Syrian-Iran loyality and something in between (yes, Lebanese politics keeps getting more and more confusing). Now, Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Druze are equally divided betwen both camps
  • Israel made a fatal mistake invading Lebanon in 1982, withdrew completely in May 2000, but kept hundreds (Human rights watch account for more than 30) of Lebanese detainee in Israeli jails with no plan of returning them to their country. Israel says that these Lebanese are a threat to its security even though IDF took these Lebanese from Lebanese soil.
  • Hezbollah kept its armed miltia and focused on its own dream of a state with a state, with no account for National Unity or Lebanese sovereignty. All other Lebanese miltias disarmed. If anything, Iran, Hezbollah and Syria want a return on their investment. The billion of dollars advanced by Iran and blessed by Syria had a specific agenda that is unfolding now. The fortresses they built were not for the Lebanese people and Lebanon, they were Hezbollah's...
  • The Israeli government shortsidedness and violence against Lebanon is not providing the safety and security for the Israeli people and is elevating Hezbollah to a cult status among some Lebanese and Arabs. even though Israel is trying to target Hezbollah locations, these locations are unfortunatelly situated among civilian targets. Nothing can justify the death of innocent civilians. This strategy and even the most intended precision is not working! Israel is loosing innocent civilians is that working for their families? how much safety is Israel providing now?
  • The destruction of bridges, airports and buildings....

Time for Fresh thinking!! Long term solutions for the Arab-Isareli conflict are mandatory. For the people's sake on all sides: for Lebanese, Israeli , Palestinian and Syrian children's sake, not for the few egocentric leaders...

Back to that 'Eye opener' survey...This survey does not represent the true feeling of all Lebanese people. Not the Sunni, Shiite, Christian and Druze Lebanese I talk to. Most Lebanese are in pain about the souls we are loosing, angry about the destruction and the displaced, and angry at the show of power on both sides that is sacrificing their future and their children's future...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dare I whisper to Syria? Israel Occupies YOUR Golan Heights

Elza S. Maalouf
Historically, Syria always played a major role in Lebanese politics and socio-economic affairs. Under Ottoman rule, Lebanon's small principalities and heads of districts had to report to the Governor of Akka (now Israel) and the Governor of Damascus (Syria). Unfortunately, not much has changed since then, the same context with a different content. Israel is now an 'enemy' state, however Syria is considered a 'brotherly' state and both states hold the future of Lebanon in their hands.

There was nothing brotherly about Syria's 30 year occupation of Lebanon. Their presence was marked by blatant abuse on all levels; an overt meddling in government affairs by Syrian politicians and army generals, 100s of innocent Lebanese detained in Syrian jails, assassinations of politicians and outspoken journalists, constant humiliation of Lebanese civilians by Syrian military. Women, men and children were constantly harassed at check points, in their homes and their workplaces. Syrian army generals deployed to Lebanon and politicians from the Alawit ruling minority amassed fortunes from the occupied country through questionable dealings in partnership with questionable Lebanese counterparts who were granted immunity and protection ...

An independent Lebanon with a sovereign government and a booming economy does not exist in Syrian eyes. It goes against Syria's ultimate ambition of re-establishing 'Greater Syria' that includes the Golan Heights that Syria lost to Israel in the 1967 war. It also includes Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and parts of Egypt and Turkey. According the Syrians the current borders with Lebanon, Jordan and Israel are not the internationally recognized borders, and as such they call them 'temporary regional' borders.

Since Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, diplomatic ties were abruptly severed by the Syrian regime. Today, for the first time (and to cease the moment) Syria's foreign minister Walid Moallem visited Lebanon and announced rhetorically to the press that he not only supports Hezbollah's war but that he "wants to be a soldier in Nasrallah's army." The question is why doesn't Syria fight its own war to reclaim ITS Golan Heights which includes the disputed Shebaa Farms region?? why does Moallem want to be a soldier in a Lebanese militant group to fight Israel??and why the 'sudden' infatuation with a Lebanon they helped weaken for 30 years?

The obvious answer is that Syria wants a seat at the negotiation table that is going to shape the future of the Middle East and the power centers in the region. Syria lost its seat as a power broker in the region when it couldn't control the flow of insurgents into Iraq and the passing of UN resolution 1559 that called on Syria to end its military presence in Lebanon. But in reality Syria never left Lebanon. With its withdrawal it empowered Hezbollah and helped solidify it as a state-within a state. Syria ran to Iran's arms when big brother and sister Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported the withdrawal from Lebanon and the UN investigation into Hariri's killing that implicated Syria's involvement.

It seems that now Syria has come back strongly from the brink of irrelevance!... thanks to Hezbollah's reckless disregard to the fledgling Lebanese unity and to Israel's unrestrained military actions that are not achieving their objectives of eliminating Hezbolla's military infrastructure. Hezbollah's guerrilla style war is defeating the IDF and its military prowess in ways that no Arab army was able to exhibit in previous wars with Israel.

The theatre of this regional unfolding drama is Lebanon as usual...and the victims are the innocent Lebanese. Let's try a different venue from now on: how about Damascus or Tehran??!!

On a personal note....

Elza S. Maalouf
Well, this tragedy managed to get to me and I woke up yesterday with a burning fever.
Since this war started, I promised myself to keep my emotions in check and do my best to be proactive spiritually, mentally and emotionally. But I guess the death of innocent people and the sadness that my fellow compatriots are feeling can touch the essence of the soul...

When Iraq's war started, my Iraqi friends living in the US, said that they were guilt ridden. Living in a 'normal' country and being able to buy food and play with their children felt too extravagant to them, when their cousins and friends in Iraq were struggling to survive.

Now, I can relate...and I did relate before, everytime we had to pack and flee Beirut for few days during the civil war. It almost felt better when we stayed in shelters with our families and friends.

Every day I talk to family and friends in Lebanon, and I hear the echoes of despair and disappointment with the world...Lebanon is after all a scapegoat and a proxy battleground...

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Proxy War Between Iran & The United States

Elza S. Maalouf
"Lebanon has become a proxy battleground for Iran" said Druze Leader Walid Jumblat, most senior Lebanese polititian and a close ally of Prime Minister Saniora.

Iran, defiant about its nuclear program, is using Hezbollah to hit the US at 'home' in Isarel. It looks like both countries are flexing their muscles while squishing Lebanon in the process. If this is Iran's war, and Iran being 'the birthplace of suicide bombers' during the 1980-88 Iraq/Iran war, how can Israel eliminate that through bombing Lebanon?

It was during that war that Ayatollah Khumeini made the decision to balance out Iran's military inferiority by propagating the martyr ideology. The most famous martyrs were 12 to 13 year old boys who strapped bombs around their waists and threw themselves under Iraqi tanks. This mantle is taken on today by few brain washed Palestinians and members of Hezbollah. Those 'believers' cannot imagine something more 'beautiful' than death as a martyr. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's Leader, boasts with pride when talking about his 'martyr' son who died fighting the Israelis in the 80s. Nasrallah believes that his son's martyrdom will garantee the whole family's 'entry to heaven'.

Iran Today

Unlike the rest of the Arab world where most governments spoke out against Hezbollah contradicting the Arab population who are in full support of Hezbollah's 'resistence', Iran's government is trying to convince Iranians of the 'just' cause of Hezbollah. Most Iranians are indifferent towards the Palestinians or Hezbollah and 'silently' oppose their government in its support Hezbollah's offensive. Their focus is on their decaying infrastructure and economic problems brought about by blinded ambition to become THE superpower in the region. The Iranian people do not understand why their current government has to pour 100s of millions of dollars into Hezbollah coffers; more than 1 billion/year to subsidize Syria's fuel shortage. One of the most frustrating facts to Iranians is that their oil-rich country has to pay $7 billion/year to subsudize their gazoline, 46% of Iran's gazoline is imported. Iran lacks refining capacity and the government spend money on military equipment and support of terrorism before they spend it on infrastructure.

Iran's goal is to assume the role of the leader of the Arab world and the Muslim world, and to import Khumeini's version of Islam to these countries and redeem the unatainable glory of the Shia sect.

Did Iran create Hezbollah?

Khumeini's revolution started few years before Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, and the PLO were expelled from Beirut. A faction of the Shia in Lebanon who did not benefit from Amal, the existing Shia militia at the time , saught help from the Iranians who were looking to spread the Khumeini vision to all Shia in the Muslim world and to the Muslim world period. The Shia sect that follows the teachings of Imam Ali (the Prophet's cousin) was historically treated as 2nd class religion in Islam. And the Shia living in the Arab countries were/are treated as 2nd class citizens.

Iranian revolutionary guards and Iranian activists helped start Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1982. Hezbollah now is a more independent entity, however supported and financed by Iran. It remains a vanguard Islamist organization with similar values to other Sunni Islamist organization in the region.

(...more in tomorrow's post)

"We Warn You, These Images are Disturbing for our Viewers" CNN

Elza S. Maalouf
I stayed up late watching the news in desbelief...Bridges in Maamaltine and Jounieh were bombed and people were killed there. I lived 2 Kms away from that bridge. No Hezbollah there. It is an area that fought against Hezbollah during the civil war...

In Quaa, a poor agriculture town in the Bekaa valley, 20 workers were killed on the spot while having breakfast. They were packing fruits. It is the season for the tastiest fruits of Adonis's land...

CNN warns its viewers from ' the disturbing images' they are going to see.

These are my countrymen and women...these are my Homeland's innocent children...They are now "Disturbing Images"....

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Threats to Bomb Beirut and Tel Aviv

Elza S. Maalouf
Nasrallah threatened to bomb Tel Aviv if Israel bombs Beirut. Israel responded by saying that it will wipe out Lebanon's National symbols!

Ok, so here's the story...

To Israel:
These National symbols are not Hezbollah's symbols, these are Canaanite, Phoenician, Roman and Lebanese symbols that keep the tourists coming and support the weak Lebanese economy. You have to remember that Lebanon does not recieve a fraction of the US foreign aids assigned to Israel. Without these symbols and in the absence of billions of dollars pouring in from the US, Lebanese like my cousin, aunt, friend and neighbors cannot survive.
You will be doing Hezbollah a service by destroying the Lebanese National symbols. Remember that Hezbollah's loyalty is not to Lebanon, it is to Iran. So if you truly want to hurt Hezbollah, bomb Iran's symbols not Lebanon's.

Blogs from An Ex-Israeli Soldier in Tel Aviv & A Lebanese Friend in Beirut

Elza S. Maalouf
In order to present a more comprehensive view of the crisis in Lebanon/Israel I invited Lebanese and Israeli friends to give their own perspective about the current war.

From Oren Entin, co-Founder of Integral Israel- Tel Aviv.

Since the war in Lebanon started, two characters in me are in constant struggle. One is the patriotic Israeli, an ex-soldier, who spent time in Lebanon and the West Bank and just wishes that his people would finally beat the “bad” guys. The second is a more complex adult who sees the big picture, is less emotional and wants to act smartly and carefully. I’ll begin by presenting the first perspective, which is closer to the point of view of the average Israeli.
This part of me sees things very clearly: Hezbollah’s attack on Israel was an unprovoked attack initiated after a new round of violence in Gaza where Palestinians were shooting Qassam rockets on civilians living in southern Israel. Both attacks, on Lebanon and Gaza, were targeting the IDF soldiers on the international borders, and also Israel civilians. It looked like Arabs saw the two pullouts (from Lebanon on 2000 and from Gaza on 2005) as a sign of weakness and as a result Israeli civilians were paying the price. This thought is unbearable to the Israeli mind.
This mixture of factors lead to full support from the Israeli population (including the Zionist left wing party of "Meretz") for a harsh response to deliver the message that anyone attacking Israel Will have to pay a heavy price. The average Israeli is generally against hurting Arab civilians, but in these two cases, Hamas and Hezbollah tried to take advantage of that sentiment and shot their missiles deliberately from populated areas. If Israel decided not to react it would mean that the blood of Israeli civilians is less important to the Israeli government than their own citizen’s blood.
Israelis are tired of living in a state of constant threat and war, and although they are not considered to be the calm and obedient type, this time the civil population of northern Israel made it clear to the government that they are ready to bear the missiles attack and to give the army all the time required to solve the problem and remove the Hezbollah missiles threats. Together with the civil support, the government also received a full support from the USA and G8 leaders, something which never happened before. That is why the government, IDF and civilians all feel that for the first time ever, they have the support of the world to act firmly against Hezbollah and Lebanon.
Now I’ll step out of this persona, and look at that the situation from a wider perspective. While I do agree that Israel has indeed the right to act against Lebanon, I think that being right and being wise is not the same thing. It is clear that Israel can't accept the threat on its northern and southern borders. But are the actions it chooses to follow going to solve it? Even IDF commanders agree this issue cannot be solved by military force only. The goals of this war are not very clear. At the beginning the stated goals were to get the captured soldiers back and remove the Hezbollah missiles threat from south Lebanon by forcing Lebanon’s army to take over control of the border in accordance with UN resolution 1559. These two goals cannot be achieved in a military way. Hezbollah will never release prisoners without negotiations and mutual prisoners change, and the Lebanese army, which consists of many Shiia Hezbollah supporters, cannot take control in south Lebanon from Hezbollah. Israel’s hope that the Lebanese government can put pressure on Hezbollah is futile, as in any country which knew so many internal conflicts and civil wars like Lebanon, it is always easier to unite against an external force than to start a war against the biggest ethnic group, which is part of the government and army anyway.
What can Israel do? Bombing Hezbollah forces into submission is a limited strategy because Hezbollah is a guerrilla force blended into the civilian population. As a result many civilians are killed, which strengthens support for Hezbollah, and erodes the international support Israel had at the beginning of this war.
If Israel wants to push back Hezbollah’s short range missiles threat from its northern border it must send many ground troops into Lebanon and not rely exclusively on the air force. But in this case the IDF will suffer many casualties, and even after controlling south Lebanon, Israel will have to stay there as occupier, or withdraw back and lose control again. After the eighteen traumatic years that Israel held south Lebanon, even the right wing in Israel hesitates to call for that.
Here is a different policy that Israel could have chosen to take:
1. Instant attack against Hezbollah without targeting Lebanon infrastructure.
2. Presenting an ultimatum to the Lebanese government to give back the captured soldiers and co-operate with UN resolution 1559, or else the Lebanese infrastructure will be targeted. Bombing and destroying can be done anytime, but shooting first and threatening after is not a good way to get cooperation
3. Acting immediately to get the G8 support for applying UN resolution 1559 by sending an International force that is strong enough to take the control over south Lebanon from Hezbollah
Although Israel’s response was just, it was very much the result of a wounded national ego. Two successful guerrilla attacks on the IDF which ended in captured soldiers are very threatening to a country which needs to have a strong army to survive in a hostile neighborhood. Israelis consider the death of a soldier as more severe than the death of an Israeli civilian because the soldiers are mostly young, and are generally called “our sons”. Another possible reason for that is the fact that actions against Israeli civilians occur almost daily while attacks on soldiers are less frequent. Israel’s new elected prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and defense minister, Amir Peretz, could not go against the policy of IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, and against public opinion.
Now it is the time for Olmert to reconsider his policy, especially because Lebanon is just a small side issue on the Middle East: The real problem does not lay in countries outside of Israel, like Lebanon, but with the millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank who are still fighting for their independence.
Olmert, who met with all the important Western leaders since he was elected, still hasn’t had a serious meeting with Abu Maazen, who is considered moderate Palestinian Leader and is accepted as a peace partner even by the high Israeli standards. If Israel would be as skillful and determined in its diplomatic peace making efforts as it is in operating the IDF, peace, or at least long lasting cease fire is possible. Until then, human life in the Middle East will continue being valued way too cheaply.

Oren Entin is co-founder of Integral Israel ( )


From Tony Riachi, Beirut- Lebanon

Many Lebanese have kept their feelings, opinions, and actions to themselves and have not spoken out yet. My prayers are with all the innocent civilians that are paying a heavy price for the stupidity and recklessness of the irresponsible and evil gambler of innocent souls Mr. Hassan Nassrallah. Let us forget not his tactics! as he has done many times in the past and he has done it again today. His murderous and cowardice actions have resulted of yet another massacre in Qana. Firing missiles from civilian neighborhoods is not exemplary and Hezbollah should bear the responsibility of the outcome.
Voice your opinion and tell the world the truth! Israel has no good intentions; a manipulator of public opinion and Middle East policies of the US and its allies; a destructive force and a killing machine that seizes every moment to weaken its enemy, a reckless might that takes every advantage of its neighbors regardless at what price and whose expense. But, also lets not forget to tell the world the truth about Hezbollah. A Syrian accomplice that is giving Israel every reason and right to level off Lebanon, to commit its heinous crimes against the Lebanese civilians in the name of self defense and to continue its hostilities disregarding every international law and the international community at large. Both Hezbollah’s actions and Israel’s reactions are in favor of Syria’s impious agenda. Hezbollah is Syria’s puppet and evil doer; aiding Bashar Al-Assad achieves his 2005 promise to destroy Lebanon is not a lesser objective of Hezbollah - "Kill the people and burn the country" has become the motto and a common goal of Hezbollah and Syria! With Lebanon’s total destruction, Hezbollah can mark another milestone off of Syria’s EVIL to do list. What’s next?

If we, all Lebanese and only Lebanese, care about our country we will, in one voice, repeat Gibran’s Tueini’s oath "Al-Kassam". We will re-unite and get back on the street of Lebanon one hand, one spirit, and one nation. We should work relentlessly to make sure that Hezbollah lays down its arms, steps aside, and let the Lebanese Army do their jobs.

God Bless you and May God Bless Lebanon Free and Independent

Tony Riachi, Beirut