Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Confronting the enemy

Sarah Karam is a senior from Beirut, Lebanon.

After almost a month of violence, the restoration of a nation once known as the French Riviera of the Middle East seems almost artificial. The Lebanese have awoken from their dream of golden beaches, extravagant nightclubs and countless tourists to Beirut’s living nightmare. Lebanon is facing an immediate humanitarian crisis and the damages to her infrastructure will take years to repair. But if the Lebanese have any hope of physically restoring their country, they have to address their social devastation first. An increasing number of Lebanese do not recognize Hezbollah for what they are: an illegitimate, hostile militia responsible for the destruction of a country and the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians. Instead they laud Hezbollah as Lebanon’s protector and Nasrallah as their savior.

Many have asked me why the government has not taken a strong anti-Hezbollah line and how they have allowed terrorists to speak for a sovereign state. My initial reply was to make excuses for the Lebanese prime minister and the cabinet by pointing to the fragility of Lebanese society. A plurality of religious sects has lived together in nervous peace since the end of the Civil War in 1990; the one true uniting factor remaining a determination not to resume fighting. But the fighting has resumed whether they like it or not. All Lebanese are suffering because of the actions of a group of criminals supported and funded by Iran and Syria. Even the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, and many other politicians have cowardly sided with Hezbollah.

Rage towards Israel and relentless destruction from the skies is clouding the air of reason in Martyr’s Square. It is easy (and somewhat understandable) to curse Israel and America after witnessing a U.S.-made F-16 with a blue Star of David on the side blow up an apartment block, and being bombarded with constant TV images of children with missing limbs being pulled out of the rubble. But while the Lebanese people suffer and swear revenge on their southern neighbor, their true oppressor gazes on through thick spectacles and recites rhetoric against the “Zionist entity” from his bearded beak.

The violence needs to stop. But the more Israel invests in this war, the less likely that is. Olmert is damned if he halts military operations and damned if he doesn’t. Accepting a ceasefire before accomplishing the goal of seriously crippling Hezbollah will ensure Nasrallah and his sponsors declare victory over the “Zionist” entity’s war machine and undermine the entire operation, whereas steadily pounding Lebanon from the air and advancing on the ground will provoke intensifying anti-Israeli sentiment and more death on all sides.

The time has come for the furor surrounding the “Cedar Revolution” to be put to the test. Can the Lebanese see Hezbollah for what it really is? Their role as a “resistance” against the Israeli occupation has no bearing since the IDF’s pullout in 2000. Hezbollah and Nasrallah are aggressors. And not just against Israel but against all peace-loving Lebanese.

It should be made clear that just because I condemn Hezbollah, it does not mean that I condone Israel’s actions. Far too many civilians have been killed, especially children. It’s hard to figure out why a small bridge linking my grandmother’s Christian village to the rest of the country has been destroyed or the power station in Jiyyeh, causing an oil spill across the entire coastline. It is becoming increasingly easier to make the argument that one of the strategies of the IDF is to pressure the Lebanese government to act by collectively punishing a nation — completely unjustifiable. I believe that Israel, as a self-proclaimed moral nation, has a responsibility to help finance the rebuilding effort once/if Hezbollah is disarmed. After all, it is not Lebanon that is the target.

Many so-called “pro-Lebanese” reading this may label me as an Israeli sympathizer, anti-Muslim, etc. Call me whatever you want. But if Lebanon is to have any hope of rising from her misery, her people must confront Hezbollah and expel all militia groups, of whatever religion or political party, once and for all. Perhaps then the rehabilitation of Lebanon to a Middle Eastern oasis will not be a dream, but a reality.


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