No Hezbollah, We Are Not Ready For War


When Hezbollah retaliated by attacking the Israeli army convoy on Wednesday, my knee-jerk reaction was to call my friend who was the most touched by the 2006 war. She’s a medical student in my class, lived all her life in a village right at the border, spent several sleepless nights back in July 2006 huddled in an underground shelter her family had and still cowers away from sudden loud sounds to this day. She had a test that day, and she was devastated.

As she tried reading Internal Medicine off her iPad while checking news on her phone, she frantically called her parents who told her that schools had closed in the region. People had rushed to the bakeries to buy all the bread they can get. Grains had run out of the market in minutes. Flashback to 9 years prior to presentation, in 2015. Welcome to Lebanon, where the fragile stability in which you try to thrive can be taken away in a second.

For several tense hours, we all wondered what awaited us next. Would we have to go through yet another July war, but in January? Can we handle another war? Do we really want another exacerbation of the situation we’re perpetually in?

As I caught up with news online, I remembered back in July 2014, at the ER of the hospital I’m rotating in when a colleague from the South told me about the house his family had built.

It was a big mansion near Tyr, he said. A massive structure with dozens of rooms and beautiful views, he boasted. They were building it before 2006 but it got destroyed in the war by an Israeli shelling. His moment of pride came when he shared with me how in the 8 years since, his family had rebuilt the entire house, this time bigger, fancier, bolder, and that when the mansion gets destroyed again, as he was sure it would, they would be only too willing to rebuild it once more, bigger, fancier and bolder. “I miss war,” he said. “I can feel my body itching to fight.”

I shrugged him off back then, despite me knowing that he echoed a lot of people in his sentiment. It was madness to me that this cycle would become close to normality. In Lebanon, it is normality.

As such, following the attack on Wednesday, many figured bringing up the data-side of 2006 would sober up some people. 1300 dead, billions in damages, ruined infrastructure, bridges destroyed beyond recognition, economy in tatters, millions of cluster bombs, political repercussions from which we haven’t begun to recuperate 9 years later, just to name a few.

In a way, if all of the previously mentioned data existed in another country, it would guide people away from what caused them, towards more stability, more security, and less volatility. In Lebanon, however, these statistics are as irrelevant as this blogpost you are wasting your time reading.

We are a country ruled by law of emotion. This is not exclusive to Hezbollah and its supporters. It transcends them to all sects and regions. Those up in a fit about Nasrallah’s speech today would only gladly shoot up in the air hundreds of bullets when their politician graces other screens and would also pump their fist in their air in synchrony with the see of “labbaykas” they are in.

People convince themselves that their politics today are what they are because of current times. Those views, however, always stem – almost with no exception – from those same political parties benefitting their supporters in one way or another: protection during the Civil War, financial support in times of need, cover-ups for high profile murders (Yves Nawfal anyone?), wastas for med school admissions….

As such, what Hezbollah did on Wednesday, what Hezbollah is doing in Syria, what Nasrallah said today and what might or might not happen in the coming days are all broad headlines and actions that, for Hezbollah’s supporters, only serve to reinforce the notion their party of Allah is unattainable, beyond reproach, beyond questioning, beyond criticism, and, for lack of better word, allah-like, especially for those whose “faith” was waning. They should have known better. Repercussions obviously be damned.

In a country of emotional rule of law, repercussions rarely matter when the statements and actions preceding them are feisty, ambitious, grand and resistive. The lives of this country’s people are also only a matter of plus or minus numbers when their death and sacrifices are for a greater cause that, in the greater sense, only moves at a snail’s pace except in the eyes of those who view those deaths as advancing that grand cause.

However, those repercussions that don’t really matter are lived and felt by all. Yes, we all live them, contrary to those who have been pointing fingers lately to say that even the 2006 war wasn’t felt by everyone. I was there in 2006 when my part of the Lebanese Bible Belt had more Ali’s than Elie’s. I was there when those Ali’s in my hometown wept at the sight of their demolished homes. I was there when my neighbor was wailing as his son narrowly escaped death at the Madfoun bridge when it was bombed. I was there when every single Lebanese without exception looked at the skies in horror as smoke from across the country filled the horizons.

Between 2006 and 2015, we have done very little, if nothing at all, to lessen the repercussions of a possible new confrontation with our enemy down under. For instance, have we at least made sure that civilian casualties this time around wouldn’t be in the four digits and that we wouldn’t lose children whose only fault was being of a certain region, living at a certain time in Lebanese history, by building shelters for them? No. We can’t even tell our people جهزوا ملاجئكم  because they don’t have any. In a culture of the glorification of death, such souls don’t matter.

Today, Hezbollah says it’s ready for war, as it would obviously say. Hezbollah’s entire existence is well-rooted in its preparedness for conflict. I would be surprised if they weren’t. Hezbollah’s supporters would pretend they are ready for war as well. Eventually, in the case of war, the country would also follow suit in supporting our countrymen against Israeli aggression, despite us just waiting until the dust settles to point the finger and shout that we did not ask for this, while people tell us that the whole “another” war rhetoric is futile since the mere presence of Israel invokes lack of safety. But I digress.

The problem with Hezbollah being ready for war is that, once more, it reinforces the notion that they believe they exist in void, which is something they are repeatedly failing to understand. Nasrallah’s party may be ready to roll, but that party operates within the confines of a country that I’m sure he’s sad to be stuck in called Lebanon, a country that extends beyond the borders of the Litani, in which millions other than Hezbollah’s militants exist, in which there are now 1 million plus refugees that are freezing to death, in which there is no president, in which the government is so handicapped it couldn’t convene following Hezbollah’s attack on Wednesday, in which we are facing one of the toughest economical situations in years, in which the entire status quo is hanging on a fragile line that few want broken. And that country, in all its irrelevance, is not ready for the war that Hezbollah doesn’t even want but is “ready” for.

Back in 2006, Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview (YouTube link) that if he had known kidnapping the two soldiers at the border would lead to the July war, he wouldn’t have done it. I highly doubt the country is in a better state this time around. Either way, this isn’t something we get a say in.

Al Arz Tahini… Made in Israel

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An Israeli company is using the Lebanese Cedar to market the well-known Tahini, used to prepare dishes such as Hummus, in order to sell it in some major markets.

Check out the pictures of the item, taken by Twitter user @KhaladK:

Before you freak out, the pictures are not taken in Lebanon. Mr. Khalad is one of the many Lebanese who decided to seek a better life abroad. In his case, the country in question is Australia, which is where the pictures were taken.

According to @KhaladK, the Israeli product is of a better quality than its Lebanese counterpart, which leaks the oil it contains and isn’t as appealing. He didn’t purchase it of course. He sent me the pictures out of curiosity’s sake.

There’s nothing scandalous, in my opinion, about this. I just found it interesting and possibly conversation-worthy to point out the use of the Lebanese Cedar to sell a Lebanese paste by companies residing in non-other than Lebanon’s sworn enemy.

Globalization sure transcends blue lines. The tahini is also kosher.

Thoughts, if any?

AUB Returns to Lebanon

A couple of days ago, I blogged about a mistake on an American research symposium that listed the Lebanese university AUB as located in Israel.

Following the publication of that post, it got picked up by various news outlets, such as L’Orient Le Jour, Annahar, Kataeb and New TV who shed light on the matter as well.

Today, I checked the program of the symposium and it seems the mistake has been corrected: AUB is listed as in Lebanon.

AUB, Lebanon

I was told that such mistakes aren’t always a bad thing as they help shed light on the research they are part in. I personally believe, however, that research should be able to stand on its own merits and not employ such gimmicks in order to turn ears.

We’ll never know the details of how such a mistake remained in the program till a week before the symposium started. But I guess what matters is the bottom line: getting it fixed. Good luck to those who are presenting the research and I hope they do a good job.

Neshan and Jon Stewart, The Zionist

Is there anything better than your healthy dose of Zionism to kick off the day?

While hosting Bassem Youssef on his show yesterday, Neshan decided that Youssef’s friend, the infamous Jon Stewart, is nothing more than a Zionist. Just because he’s Jewish.

Bassem Youssef was polite enough to tell Neshan that, contrary to popular belief, Jon Stewart’s religion has nothing to do with his political mindset, that he is a defender of the Palestinian cause, etc.

Of course, you might as well have been talking to a wall.

Not to expect the mentality set forth by the likes of Neshan in this part of the world is absurd. But what’s shocking is that someone like Neshan – a self-proclaimed educated individual (you only need to listen to his degustation of every letter in an Arabic sentence) – doesn’t know the simple and yet very important fact that we all need to grasp: Jewish does not equate Zionist.

Instead of trying to stop the perpetuation of this blatant racism and incessant ignorance, Neshan not only fuels them but helps affirm them in the minds of the millions who already believe such ideologies.

In what world is Jon Stewart a Zionist? In the world of ignorant individuals who can’t get past their hate, their prejudices, their closed-mindedness, their ignorance, their racism.

There’s nothing different between what Neshan believes and between those who believe all Muslims are terrorists. Except maybe one generalization gives the people in this area some drive, some peace of mind while the other makes them rally in anger.

In the grand scheme of things, Neshan is irrelevant compared to Jon Stewart. I don’t even like his style of interviewing. But he apparently represents a mentality that people with the exposure he has should not possess. And that mentality is more dangerous than his presumed pretentiousness.

The Attack (2013) – Movie Review

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Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack might as well be considered as the most controversial “Lebanese” movie of recent times. But that’s not saying much. The hype surrounding the politics of the movie has been resounding. But does The Attack deliver on all the promises the director and the people who like him gave?

Amin (Ali Suliman) is an Arab-Israeli surgeon living and practicing medicine in Tel Aviv. While receiving some humanitarian award from the Israelis, Amin receives a call from his wife who sounds distressed. He doesn’t give it much attention, the focus is all on him. Soon enough, while having lunch at the rooftop of their Israeli hospital, the surgeons hear an explosion. 17 casualties ensue, 11 of which are children… And it’s Amin’s wife Siham (Raymond Amsalem) who committed the attack. Between the barrage of the Israelis who suddenly turn on the man they believe they sheltered into becoming one of them and the guard of the Arabs who believe Siham did a noble thing and are disgusted by the “bastard” who left his heritage and home to integrate in a place that is not his, Amin seeks out to find why his wife became a radical person who managed to get convinced to blow herself up for the Palestinian cause.

Sounds good, right? Well, in theory it does.

The Attack is divided into two parts. The first one is what can be called the Hebrew segment in which Tel Aviv is shown as a bustling cosmopolitan city whose people are as disassociated with the conflict raging outside their city’s confines while the other half is the Arab part, situated in Nablos, whose people struggle in their everyday life and revel in the idea of martyrdom, turning Siham into a local heroin. In a way, each part serves to pitch each side’s case.

I found the take on the issue, which the movie tries to do, shallow and borderline grating at times, even in its tackling of Siham’s radicalization which The Attack finds even more astonishing due to the fact she’s Christian. The Attack doesn’t go as deep as it should. it remains up there, flapping around the stereotypical stories of both sides – the action/reaction scenario that never ends. It never asks the tough questions: are the reactions warranted? Are they the best way to tackle the actions that led to them?

And I, for one, am glad and fully supportive of not choosing The Attack as Lebanon’s Oscar submission last year because there’s nothing Lebanese about the movie at all. In fact, the Lebanese elements of the movie are a mention of Hassan Nasrallah and Beirut – separately.

As a movie, The Attack works. It’s a decent thriller. There isn’t a dull moment, constantly keeping up the pace it sets from the get-go. The camera work, cinematography and locations are all well-done. But don’t expect it to blow you away. The acting, however, is superb. Both lead actors do a great job in their roles. Amsalem’s portrayal of Siham is gut-wrenching at times as is the life Ali Suliman gives her husband.

What The Attack manages to do, which might be the most important thing, is create a discussion. I watched the movie with 4 other Lebanese while on a stay in Paris – the movie will not be released in Lebanon – and we spent almost 40 minutes huddled outside the cinema center discussing what we had just seen. As a nation, though, Lebanon is possibly nowhere near ready for such a movie to be screened although the current state of Israel is eye-opening to what we, as a country, are so desperately lacking.

3/5

The Conclusion of Dahye’s Missiles: Tripoli Is Not a Lebanese City

2 missiles fell in Beirut today, targeting Hezbollah’s stronghold Dahyeh. Nobody knows why the missiles were fired.
They could be to serve as further proof for the need to extend parliament’s mandate. They could be to show that Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is not inhumane but very needed.
They could have a multitude of reasons. But I don’t really care.

Minutes after Dahyeh was hit with the two missiles, the level of panic rose to enormous levels. Lebanese media was all over it with live coverage from the sites of the missile launch, conspiracy theories along the lines of المؤامرة على سوريا were being thrown around, to name a few.

Our minister of interior Marwan Charbel was the first Lebanese official to visit the site in question. More will soon follow because can you imagine them not visiting an area that was just targeted with two missiles?

Guess again.

Over the past week, the capital of North Lebanon was hit with thousands of missiles and mortars, 1200 of which fell in one single night.

How many official visits happened to the city? Zero.

How extensive was the media coverage for the battles? Let me quote a friend of mine who has been following the news very closely: “I was honestly convinced the electoral law was the most important thing taking place today.”

Did you know that snipers are still shooting aplenty across the city?

Even the politicians of Tripoli were quicker to condemn the missiles of Beirut than the missiles of their own city.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the realization we’ve all been pondering over for a long time now. It may be within the confines of our beloved and much-spoke about 10452km2 but the Northern city of Tripoli might not be effectively part of this country at all. And we never had such temporally close examples to back that claim up.

We complain about some media’s hypocrisy in the way they talk of the region’s conflicts. And yet we do it, and we keep doing it. The missiles that hit Tripoli are not as important. The latest toll of 31 dead which fell in the recent battles is not important. The reasons why Tripoli is being victim for repeated battles are never spoken about. The citizens of the city who live in terror for days and nights are never really cared about. They are as irrelevant as the city they call home.

What is this Lebanon you speak to me about? Hold on while I push the snooze button on Dahye’s missiles and the 3 injured Syrians who are on their way to rehabilitation.

The Israeli Aircrafts Invading Lebanon’s Airspace

Israeli warplanes have been invading Lebanon’s airspace ever since I can remember. Most of us are used to them and their sound. Many get angry when they see them patrolling our skies. Others have simply grown accustomed to tuning them out.

What do our governments do regarding those aircrafts? They complain to the U.N. Because that’s the only thing we can do.

Over the past few days, the frequency of the breaches of Lebanon’s airspace by our Southern enemy has been dramatically increasing. The jets have been flying at a lower altitude than usual. And still our country hasn’t done anything. I guess addressing the issue is redundant at this point.

We send out drones. They send out jets. Tit-for-tat.

I have to wonder: how many more breaches of Lebanon’s airspace should happen before our country decides to invest in some anti-aircraft weaponry? Are we waiting till we start digging into our oil and gas reserves for that?

However, I may have found the key element into getting our government up in a fit regarding the breaches. Dear Marwan Charbel, the pilot driving that airplane is gay. Are you sure you want to let him in?

Until then, perhaps we should start advertising our airspace as another touristic attraction? It sure sounds like one.