In the age of the internet, we, as a Lebanese, are bound to stumble on Israelis who are just like us – browsing around – and many of them actually reading the blogs we write, the pages we share, possibly even following us on twitter and others befriending us on Facebook.
For example, in the past few months, I’ve gotten over 3000 users from Israel to read this blog. And I cannot not allow it. And frankly, I don’t mind them reading.
I don’t have Israeli Facebook friends – I felt like this had to be put out there to prevent any sensitive folk from starting to hurl treason charges from the get-go.
My question is simple: when does our internet interaction with Israelis become illegal? Is replying to a comment by an Israeli on this blog considered illegal? What if I didn’t know he was Israeli? Am I supposed to track every user’s IP to know their country of origin? Can I not reply to emails by readers who happen to be Israeli and who are telling me that they enjoy what they have to say?
I’m not advocating normalization. In the case of war, I – Elie Fares – would be the first to support whoever wants to defend my country because they are, at the end of the day, my people. But don’t you think that worrying about an email or blog reply to another person who might as well be just like us is taking it too far?
This reminds me of a day when I was searching for an article to read about Lebanon’s oil reserves. One of those articles was on Haaretz, which required you to register in order to be able to read the article. And I couldn’t register because I didn’t know if that would be considered illegal as well. Is that normal? Is that how things are supposed to be?
I recently received an email from an Israeli whose name I won’t mention – and the email was touching. People advised me not to reply. So I didn’t. But I really, really wanted to. Not because I “approve” of the state of Israel. Not because I want to leak out information which I don’t have. Not because I want to feel a rebel in doing so. But because the following email really does warrant a reply as decent as the email itself:
Thank you for your email. I’m sorry I couldn’t reply earlier and I believe this isn’t quite the reply you were expecting. But it’ll have to do for now. I was told not to reply via email. Others told me of a workaround that couldn’t be tracked but that would have been way too fishy. So I figured I’d do it here, out in the open, because I really have nothing to hide. This is, after all, a simple reply to an email.
I sent this Hala’s way. She didn’t have too many kind things to say which is understandable if you ask me because she’s the one who was hurt due to repeated wars not me. So I will never fully understand what she has gone through. But she has said this with which I agree: “We know that human beings do not enjoy killing each others unless they’re sick people, your soldiers follow orders, they fear orders, they are taught to be obedient for their “cause.”
I am not as young as you think I am – voting age in Lebanon is 21 and I’m already beyond that point. And thank you for always reading – even if it’s about the road state in my country.
I’m afraid your wish will never happen in our lifetimes. It’s the way things are. But I know many Lebanese would love to visit our enemy to the South.
So what is our legal limit as Lebanese when it comes to internet contact which is becoming frequent lately with Israelis? Where is that line that we don’t really want to cross?
I get visits on my tiny blog from Israel too which we can’t control.
I hope our dears in charge don’t gang up and start and intranet and isolate us from the world. Aren’t Israeli websites blocked here?
No they’re not. Israeli websites end with the .il domain and they’re all accessible.
I’d like to know the answer to this as well. Also the email from that Israeli is actually nice.
The answer is in the comments – it’s “illegal.”
You’re welcome 🙂
Hahahaha, so I as a carrier of a dual citizenship having only visited Lebanon once for 4 weeks can be legally prosecuted in Lebanon for my interactions with people of Israeli decent in my home country of Australia. That’s an awesome law.
It’s a retarded law – as obvious by it being from 1940something. My friend Hala and I could be persecuted for stumbling on Israelis in France :p
Thank you Mustapha.
Talk about laws that need some major updating.
““The moral of the story is that the subject is highly politicized and sensitive, and one must be very cautious,” El Meouchi said” (From NowLebanon’s article) This is exactly what my friend – lawyer- told me when I asked her a couple of days ago… I quote: tell him not to answer coz 7atta law ken tasarrouf de bonne foi aw une simple reponse a une question ca peu etre mal interprété w bi lawfkoulo khbar”. I think that as the laws are so old, everything related to the internet is unclear and that’s why we should be very careful – they can consider virtually anything as a trahison or illegal “interaction with the enemy”
I was thinking about this as well and it could legally go both ways, no? I mean does the internet go under this law of theirs if the law itself never dreamt about such an invention to begin with?
So the law currently dictating our Internet behavior was done before the Internet was invented?
Only in Lebanon.
Not only in Lebanon. In Israel as well. For instance, as we are having elections this week, the law states that the media can no longer publish polls or political propaganda 48 hours prior to the elections. The law was written before the invention of blogs, facebook, etc. So political propaganda is still to be found on the internet…
Also, I would like to join in SD’s letter and say that, though this may be hard to believe, I also do not know any soldiers who mean or meant to kill civilians. It’s not our way. And I also hope that one day we may be able to visit each other’s countries, although it seems unlikely at the moment.
I daresay the law we’re discussing is much older and more out of date.
Regarding the second half, yeah a lot of people will find it hard to believe. Many will even go as much as believe you are IDF spies snooping around.
Well, I could say I wasn’t an IDF spy, but that’s just what an IDF spy would say 🙂
With regard to the law, I find it interesting to read your blog, because very often I see that things happening in Lebanon, have also recently been passed in Israel (Israel’s anti smoking law was also updated a few years ago, forbidding smoking in bars, and it is also not upheld). A few days ago you wrote about the first civil marriage in Lebanon. Israel doesn’t have civil marriage at all, only through the religious courts. Israeli Jews who want to get married in a civil ceremony go to Cyprus just like the Lebanese…
Well technically the civil marriage thing was a loophole that might not even work except if the president puts his weight behind it.
Either way, if that couple’s marriage ends up being approved (I doubt it will) or even if it doesn’t, it won’t be long before we have it. But yeah, a reader named Daniel told me your situation was the same.
I was surprised actually.
Precisely – but they have so many other laws to think about now that this comes at a second rate.
The best place for this sort of Israeli-Lebanese dialogue was the old Lebanese-forces.org forum before the site administrator closed it down (it was not officially linked to the party). That site was frequented by Israelis (and others) and I don’t remember anyone having any problems talking to Israelis.
When I was in Lebanon I signed up to haaretz and had my account running for a while. If you are a Lebanese citizen and are reading Haaretz, one excuse you could use it to say you thought it was German owned (which is partly true).
Working right with the stereotype? 😛
It’s a sad thing that you need an excuse to register for a newspaper to read an article about your country.
Some time ago I saw an interview with Shimon Peres. I’m pretty sure the interviewer was Lebanese.
Some years ago Lebanon banned Palestinian novelists with Israeli passports. But Palestinians with Israeli passports and part of a political party in Israel were allowed, because they came to praise Hezbollah… Seem pretty abritrary to me.
In a way it makes sense not to fraternize with an official enemy. On the other hand it seems your government will go as far as to ban Arabs from Israel whose message is one of peace. So it just helps the situation to remain thesame.
Anyway like before I offer my middleman services. But do pay in euros.
I don’t think they are as adamant about the internet aspect of things as they are on those who go around secretly and leak out information and whatnot. Not sure about the whole passports thing – but I would assume the holder of an Israeli passport, no matter who he is, cannot enter Lebanon. I’m surprised about that story of yours so I’ll double check it.
We don’t deal in euros, sorry.
Tried hard to find a Lebanese source rather than an Israeli one, but there you go: http://www.yalibnan.com/2010/04/07/2-israeli-arab-novelists-unable-to-collect-their-lebanon-literary-awards/
First Israel wouldn’t let them go to enemy Lebanon, then the Israeli Supreme Court gave them permission after quite a hectic courtcase. This was described by the Lebanese organization as: “This is a small victory for Palestinians inside Israel who live under colonial and racist policies enforced by the Israeli government.” And then Lebanon banned them access anyway, but maybe it was more of a bureaucratic issue?
Second story, mostly Israeli sources, but here’s a British article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jul/24/israel
At the time all of them members of the Israeli parliament, Wasil Taha, Jamal Zahalkam and Azmi Bishara visited Lebanon and Syria in 2006 to support Assad and Hezbollah. The latter fled from Israel because he was accussed of helping the enemy. The two former are AFAIK still in the Israeli parliament. Some people tried to get their party banned but that was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court, who usually take the piss out of the far-right. They only have three out of 120 seats anyway (and predominantly Arab parties have only 11 out of 120 seats in total).
It could have been a peaceful thing tho, maybe they went to Lebanon on behalf of their constituents to ask Hezbollah not to aim at Palestinian villages again in the next war :).
By the way, an Israeli journalist secretly went to Beirut a few times a few years ago, she’s a co-founder of a Leftist/progressive web magazine for which people from both Israel and Palestine write. In a CNN interview she says she received dozens of supportive e-mails from Lebanese people for showing Beirut and Lebanese as normal people. I do not necessarily advocate such cross-border adventures though.
I think the first matter is pure bureaucracy while the second one is political. Lebanese politicians went to Gaza lately to express support but Lebanese writers can’t dream of going to Gaza. That’s the closest parallel that I can draw.
I wouldn’t read much into it though – if you have an Israeli stamp on your passport, you might as well kiss your entry to Lebanon goodbye as many have learned the hard way.
I heard of that Israeli journalist. It caused quite a ruckus over here when they found out. I don’t necessarily approve of it because you never know if it was just reporting or if she had an ulterior motive. However, I’d be worried about those Lebanese who emailed her if the state wanted to go through with it.
Which makes me wonder Elie. What would you do if an Israeli reporter showed up in a cafe next to you?
I wouldn’t know they’re Israeli because I don’t recognize hebrew. But if they introduced themselves, I’d excuse myself and walk away.
Back when I used to be active on my blog, I and many other bloggers received several emails in July 2006 from Israeli media who wanted to interview us on our stance on the war and whatnot, but I politely declined.
However, I know there was an active forum going on between young Lebanese and Israelis, with constructive discussions on many topics. There was also chatting, email exchange, etc.
Is it the forum that Joseph mentioned in his comment?
I don’t think they monitor these open arenas of sorts as much. But they need to update the law to know what’s the limit quite clearly.
I think the beauty of cyberspace is its freedom… Mainly the freedom to get out of a rusted reality, generalization cliches, and stagnating crappy situations. It gives you the possibility to dream and thus move forward.
So within that same respect of our majority (as our people) implies a respect of a minority and its freedom… does this minority that believe in good of man exist in lebanon? are we bred to hate in the absolute? then why do we fear taking a step away from the masses that protect us? why do we behave like fish hiding in numbers?
I believe that good willed people exist in Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iran and Israel, etc… and I believe cyberspace harbours this good. I still believe in democracy and respect of our majority, so in this dilemma lies our courageous efforts of daring & convincing.
I have heard Ronny, on Ted Talk, I recommend you visit his Facebook page too, and looking back at my post ( http://wp.me/p1VbnC-uR ) commenting his talk, I am sure I could have done more than that, but I limited my freedom to less than his. I noted the same limitation in your open reply to the email. Is it healthy for our community, Our Lebanon? Some argue with me that it is best like that for now, I don’t know… But was surely worth the effort…
I can’t watch the Ted Talk video because it’s blocked at uni. So will check it out later. But I have seen the pictures before actually and I liked them.
Your post reminds me of something I wrote in late July which received a not-so-favorable response. I still stand by it because I find that those who were criticizing didn’t get it. But the truth is that the majority of Lebanese think like them: https://stateofmind13.com/2012/07/29/lebanons-weakness-to-israel/
Either way, I agree with you. When someone – regardless of nationality – sends me an email like the one SD did, the least I can do is reply because it is a kind-hearted email. Alas, it seems it’s much much trickier.
Just read the post, I think your last question should have been: when would we stop fearing our own… After all you said it: life goes on every where else.
I don’t think any way of formulating that question would have gotten some to think differently.
Elie, you might find this TEDx talk interesting.
Another person has already linked to the video in this post. So I’ve seen it – and I think it’s fascinating. I’ve “liked” the Facebook page. The sad thing is the Lebanon page which he shows in the video is no longer there.
Great blog and great article; thank you for sharing.
It took me a long time to come to see Israelis as fellow human beings, rather than dehumanising them as enemies. Ending one’s personal prejudice and dehumanisation of the other are a first step towards peace.
It’s true that many Lebanese see Israelis as Satans but the fact is that they have done Satanic things to us. Diabolical ones. And it’s hypocrisy to pin the blame on politicians alone. It’s important to mention that.
Having read up a lot on the subject and tried to understand the Israeli mind, if you will, in some ways I’ve come to feel sorry for them.
I came to the conclusion that it’s an interesting, dynamic, yet very disturbed, society. Every society has its complexes but few as much as the Israeli one.
I want peace because it’s in the long term interest of our part of the world.
But before that can happen, Israel needs to undergo a fundamental change of attitudes, a change of mentality.
I’ve always seen the Israelis who don’t want war as much as me as human beings – because that’s simply what they are. I think other countries have done equally satanic things to us but we don’t mind that somehow. Serious double standard over there.
who’s gonna sue us?
with all the corrupt shit in this country this is the least of the problems to start solving.
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