When the Lebanese judo team at the Olympics found itself within eyesight of the Israeli team, they refused to proceed with their practice. They refused to be seen by the Israelis. They refused to practice with them looking at us. The organizers ended up erecting a separator between both teams.
This isn’t the first time something like this happens.
When a former Lebanese beauty queen had her picture taken with an Israeli contestant at some international pageant, she was sentenced to prison back at home. How could she take that picture? How could she be that disgraceful to her country? How could she be so tactless to all the martyrs that died fighting the big bad zionists?
The picture is not just a picture.
Whenever both countries find themselves within the same competition, such as the Olympics, there’s a constant worry for Lebanese contestants to somehow end up against Israelis. Why so? Because they would be required by some law, I suppose, to forfeit their game and be eliminated – regardless of all the hard work they had put in to get to where they are.
As for the Israelis, they simply don’t care. They proceed as if the Lebanese is like any other nationality: a contestant they want to beat at the sports at hand. And the sad realization is that they always win and it’s always undeserved because of us forfeiting.
When I was in Spain last year, we had a girl with an Israeli flag come up to us and talk with a Lebanese dialect: “fiye etsawwar ma3kon?” (Can I take a picture with you?).
We vehemently refused. I was part of a group and there was a sense of urgency and even slight worry in how my group wanted to leave that place and get away from those Israelis as fast as we could. I remember how my heart raced as I was pushed away as fast as possible from that square in Madrid.
One person from our group looked behind and he saw that Israeli trying to take a picture with us and the Lebanese flag in the background. So he ran over and stopped her. What if that picture ended up on Facebook, that person later said, we’d all face havoc back home.
And it’s precisely that – why is it that WE have to be the ones that forfeit their sports games? Why is that WE have to be the ones to throw a tantrum for being inside the same gym as Israelis? Why is it that WE have to be the ones worrying about being in the same picture with an Israeli flag even if we didn’t mean to? Why is it that WE have to be the ones leaving touristic sites? Why is that WE have to always be on the losing end?
Why is that THEY always win? Why is it that THEY never forfeit? Why is that THEY don’t worry about being in the same gym as us? Why is it that THEY have the audacity to ask for pictures with us without worry? Why is it that THEY get to get us to worry about something so meaningless such as being in the same premises?
It’s simply because if we were in any of those scenarios, we’d end up being labeled as traitors. The problem is entirely psychological – and this is Lebanon’s main weakness towards Israel. We may be able to beat them militarily, albeit with heavy costs. But when it comes to almost everything else, we don’t own up to it and we falter.
It’s not our fault. It’s the fault of the state of governance that instilled this fear in us. The fear of them and the fear of retribution back home. Is this fear justified? Should we really always worry if an Israeli spoke to us on Facebook or Twitter or any form of platform?
Did you even know that they are closely observing us and making studies out of our social media behavior? Why are they so unfazed by us?
The law tells us yes. Don’t do it. Don’t address them. Don’t talk to them. Don’t get near them. The law tells me to stay away from anyone like that when I go to France next week.
But I have to ask – wouldn’t it be great, for instance, if the Lebanese judo team – instead of forfeiting – kicked those Israeli’s asses and won fair and square? Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to tell those Israelis a few words in a political debate that would put them where they belonged?
Wouldn’t we feel pride and maybe lift our heads a little higher instead of always having our tail between our legs as we walk away from metaphoric battles?
I quote J.K. Rowling who said: “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” And when it comes to Israel, this is the perfect sum up of our situation as Lebanese. Isn’t this the time to stop being afraid?