Monday, November 20, 2006

Letter from Lebanon--#43 The Aftermath [part II]

Here's another Letter from Lebanon, written by Rosie Akl.

November 20, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,
I wish all those celebrating Thanksgiving a happy and blessed one. To the Lebanese, I wish them a happy independence day (November 22), although many may question, independent from whom?

Letter from Lebanon--#43 The Aftermath: Part II

The last “Letter from Lebanon” that I wrote before the war, dated June 26, 2006, was entitled, “Summertime, and the living is easy…” I started the letter: “Nothing brings out traditional Lebanese hospitality more than at summertime when these fun loving people, who even during the darkest moments of the war, never ceased to enjoy all that life brings.” How these words would come back to haunt me. Before the summer w ar, Lebanon was on a “high.” The country was preparing itself for the best summer since the (prior) war and the departure of the Syrians. On July 12, that all came to a screeching halt.

The 34 day July war destroyed not only much of the infrastructure of the country, but it also broke the confidence of the Lebanese. People remain very nervous fearing that “something” might explode again. And if it does from the Israeli side, it is known that Israel will come in even harder. Israel continues to openly violate Resolution 1701 by flying reconnaissance flights near the Lebanese border, maneuvers that threaten the already feeble accord between the warring parties. The United Nations force in the south of Lebanon has demanded on numerous occasions that Israel stop. In addition, the Lebanese government, already strained from the 2005 Hariri murder, the dozens of car bombs that followed and the departure of the Syrians, has been further weakened by constant political infighting, making progress slow to get Lebanon back on its feet.

Hizbullah has been gloating, causing deeper divisions among the different Lebanese political parties. Tensions have risen so high that the Lebanese are unsure whether a war will erupt from within or outside its borders. Certain parties, but especially the Shia under Hizbullah are demanding greater power in this fractured and weakened government. They are threatening to stage peaceful demonstrations but others may also demonstrate and the peacefulness may become strained. Already six cabinet ministers have resigned. Compromise is a concept few are willing to accept.

Why is Lebanon in this mess? This is not an easy question to answer, of course, but I will attempt to address some facets of the answers. After the Taif accord, the Lebanese army was not allowed to rearm itself, not that it ever had a strong army to begin with. It does not have one single military airplane. The helicopters that it does have are from the dinosaur age. Its arms are old. The Shiites who live primarily in the southern part of Lebanon, bordering Israel, are vulnerable to Israel’s aggression. They know that Israel has F-16’s, reconnaissance planes, nuclear arms, clus ter bombs, just to mention a few of its military capabilities.. Living next to such a neighbor makes one very nervous. If your own government does not have the wherewithal to defend you, what do you do? You no longer depend on your government but yourselves. Hence, one of the reasons for the birth of Hizbullah. And, obviously Hizbullah is forced to look for sources of its arms outside the country. In this case, Syria and Iran. If the western powers had allowed the Lebanese army to build up its arms and military arsenal properly from the beginning, there would have been no reason for Hizbullah to be forced to defend itself. When the other militias disbanded, their reason to exist ceased with the end of the war, as most of their fighting was among themselves. But the Shiites that formed the Hiizbullah militia were still defending themselves against Israel. In the south of Lebanon, there are not only Shiites, but also many Christian communities. Nevertheless, the Shiites dominate the region. When your land has been occupied by a foreign power, meaning Israel, for over 15 years it is not easy to freely and willingly trust them. The Shiites, sidelined by the Lebanese government, depended upon Hizbullah who not only protected them but also developed significant social programs including building schools, hospitals, and improvin g water and electricity supplies to homes. For the Shiites, Hizbullah was the group they could turn to when in need. Who are you going to support when times get tough—the one who helped you, of course.

I also believe strongly that if the Palestinian question had been properly addressed and resolved in 1948 when the creation of the modern state of Israel was forced upon them, the Middle East would not be such a fire bed as it is now. That is not to say there would not be other problems. No country is without some unrest, or discontent among the population. But I invite you to visit the Palestinian camps; They are real. These are testimonies to what Israel did to the Palestinians. More than 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon live in squalor. They do not live in nice condominiums in a nice neighborhood. They live in shantytowns. Every day of your life you are reminded that you have no real home, that your home was taken over by some Jew who came from Europe, Africa or the United States. These are facts. All you have to do is drive in the outskirts of Beirut, along the coasts, or in the Bekaa to see the refugees. Can you imagine being a refugee for mor e than 50 years? Can you feel the resentment that builds up in a person whose life has been taken away? And while a person’s heart goes out to the Palestinians and their lack of homeland, it is also a reminder that because of the creation of Israel, and the mass exodus of the Palestinians, these people poured primarily into Lebanon, but also Syria, Jordan, as well as Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.. This flood of refugees created a demand on the Lebanese that they were not able to cope with. The list of tensions and problems caused by the Palestinians issue is long and cannot be dealt with completely in this letter.

And finally, the last issue I would like to address pertains to religion. It is difficult for an outsider, myself included, to understand the degree to which religion plays a role not only in everyday life, but also in politics. Americans, who grew up with the belief and acceptance of the separation of religion and state, probably no longer think about the separation, as it is taken for granted. But here, religion is fully integrated into politics. Most political parties are aligned along religious beliefs. From the beginning when the state of Lebanon was formed, the unwritten, thus verbal part of its constitution, stipulated that the president would be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Moslem, and the speaker of the house, a Shiite Moslem. The clergy, (Christian and non-Christian), have played a large role in Lebanese politics from the beginning. The political leaders are lined up along their religion obedience and many people follow blindly. “I belong to this particular party because I am a Maronite. I belong to that party because I am a Druze (another Moslem sect). I belong to the Amal party because I am a Shiite.” A few secular nationalistic parties do exist, but without much of a following at this time; however, they were very popular at the time Lebanon earned its independence. And because religion is at the core of who a person is, an attack on the party is like a personal attack. The unspoken,under the table alliance between the clergy (again, all the clergy) and the feudal lords (war lords, political leaders, etc.) keep the allegiance to the country in second place, right after the allegiance to one’s religion or sect. Topics such as rebuilding roads and bridges and improving the economy fail to be perceived as a Lebanese/national problem. Most Lebanese cannot seem to put LEBANON first and their religion next. And I believe as long as the Lebanese do not see Lebanon as a whole with its own problems that must be resolved, they will never get beyond the political morass that continues to stalemate this country.

Many Lebanese parliamentarians as well as outsiders are pushing and the UN resolutions are demanding that Hizbullah disband its arms, which is critical. But for the Shiites to have confidence in the Lebanese government, the Lebanese army must first be brought up-to-date militarily and not remain weak. If the UN and Western powers prohibit this, as they did before, Hizbullah will have reason to become stronger not weaker and where will that lead Lebanon? The Palestinian issue must be resolved fairly and imminently. Now Tony Blair is stating how important it is to resolve that problem as if he were discovering something completely new. The United States cannot be viewed as in independent broker when it sides with Israel completely. And yet, it is precisely because of Israel’s frequent occupations and mistreatment of the southern Lebanese that Hizbullah was formed and earned i ts popularity. A new formula should be found to deal with this issue. Who would you want to defend you in getting back your lands and rights, those who took it away in the first place? And finally, within the Lebanese borders, the Lebanese have to learn how to design programs that benefit all of Lebanon, because the good of all of Lebanon will serve all its inhabitants. These are tough issues that need to be resolved, sooner than later. Without their resolutions, Lebanon cannot find the peace it deserves.

Rosie AKL
An American in Lebanon



At 4:02 PM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

Israel continues to openly violate Resolution 1701 by flying reconnaissance flights near the Lebanese border

Here is UNSC 1701. Where exactly does it forbid reconnaissance flights by Israel?

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous sda said...

The sea is the same sea, the arabs are the same arabs...
only fight...once you start war with israel and than cry like some babies...than you start war with yourself, and also cry...
why are you so love to fight?? I don't evey country there is arguments, but they don't go to civil wars..for what?? shaba farms? samir kunmtar? god? I am sure that he isn't happy when you fight each other..
god find something to do except of know there is education, economy, love money...why do you all the time fight??

At 7:17 PM, Blogger _z. said...

This is really hilarious!

This is incredible… You guys must have an elaborate search engine, an aggregator, or a certain program that directs you to some key words in blogland…

This, at least, has been consistent with my blog. How do you guys show up! LOL

Every time someone utters the word “Israel” you swarm up like crazy, defending, attacking and doing whatever you do best…

Don’t get me wrong, this is very commendable. I wish we had something of that sort – this is a call to all the Lebanese Bloggers who know something about programming and stuff. We should at least learn how to do that from our neighbors to the south.

Solomon the second! Welcome to my blog my friend,

sda… sod off! (You want to be here, you be nice now! Otherwise, I am not interested in hearing what you think you have to say)


I couldn’t open the link you sent, and I don’t know the UNSC 1701 clause by clause. However I don’t think a country can go flying above another, even for reconnaissance purposes, without its permission… don’t you agree?

I can give you a childish answer too. Ever since I was a kid, I knew that not all the BOOMS I hear are bombs of wars (civil or otherwise). I also learned that 80% of the BIG BOOMS that used to make me jump off my chair at school, and wake up startled in the morning, are Israeli Fighter Jets, breaking the sound barrier.
This is a small form of terror too, plus it is very degrading and humiliating… but you already know that.

So please, do not violate our airspace, even if it is for reconnaissance reasons…

(PS: I am not interested in a discussion that goes along the lines of... yeah tell HA not to throw Katyushas, khaybar or whatever…they started it and whatnot, sort of like a conversation sda would carry…
I am not stupid, I know those things, and posting this letter written by Rosie does not necessarily mean that I agree with ALL what she has to say.) Let me reiterate, I DO agree with her… BUT in order to be absolutely comfortable, I would have to add a lot of things to the equation (i.e. I also blame H.A).

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

Your blog is listed in the OpenLebanon aggregator; that's how I got here. (At one time my blog was listed there, too.)

Try this link for UNSC 1701, or this one and scroll down to 1701. You'll need Acrobat Reader on your computer or Browser. Read Clause 15. That can be interpreted as authorizing Israeli overflights and even encouraging Israeli air attacks on Hezbollah arms shipments. UNSC 1701 was carefully crafted so all diplomats involved, including Lebanese ones, were quite aware of this. Essentially, as long as Hezbollah receives arms shipments, Lebanon agreed to yield its sovereignty on overflights and has no further say in such matters. I suppose Lebanese politicians count on the fact that their constituents trust them so much, and the Lebanese press hates Israel to such a degree, that no one will bother to check.

I'm not Israeli, I'm American. I was in West Berlin once, asleep, only to be rudely woken when Soviet jets cracked the sound barrier overhead, just to intimidate people. The paradox Lebanon experiences - which Berlin didn't - is that if Israeli aircraft flew any slower, that might encourage somebody to attack them, which might start a war all over again.

When Israeli jets conduct actual bombing runs, they are flying subsonic, correct? So as long as you hear the sonic booms, you know there is peace. Do what I did in Berlin: groan, turn over, and go back to sleep.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

Looks like you're gone from the aggregator, and that you removed sda's last comment, too. If that's how you want it, I don't have to come back here again,either.

But beware:

I can find nothing more poisonous than to rot in the stink of your own reflections.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger _z. said...


I am not sure why I am "gone" from the aggregator... I shouldn't.
No mate I just checked it, I am still there.

Of course I removed sda’s comment.
She/He was wondering why I attacked her/him, and was bitching, whining and blaming again. Well you see, I didn't attack you, I attacked her/his, only because she/he is a stupid ignorant fool... that's all. And I said, I am not interested in that sort of discussion...
I am sorry if she/he happens to be your friend.

This is NOT a political blog, and I don't intend it to become so. It just turned this way during the war. I can't wait for it to go back to its original devotion.
However, if I indulge a friend every now and then, and publish something political written by them, I would like the discussion to remain, healthy, sane, and constructive. Sort of like the exchange of words you and I had (even though we may disagree, we can still remain civilized can’t we?)

I am really sick and tired of the throw of accusations left and right, the bitching and the blaming... this doesn't impress me at all... and I don't care for it... we are turning in circles.

This being said, should you chose not to come back here again, is of course your decision to make... I would like you to come back of course, but if you don't, I will not lose sleep over it.

Anyway, from now on, there will be very little talk about politics, so if Architecture, Urban Design, and nostalgic ramblings interest you, you are more than welcome.

I will check the link you sent me as soon as I get the chance... thank you... but see words like "beware"... I don't like that... why did you have to say it!

Thank you for your contribution.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

Your blog is now back on the aggregator. I recall they sometimes had problems w/blogs occasionally dropping out. My apologies.

I'm not sda's friend. His/her point seemed to be that I was wasting my time - I don't remember why or what else, exactly - so I returned to re-read it and poof! comment gone.

The quote is a warning that rulers of their own domain can wall themselves into a dream-world where they delude themselves about the world beyond and dismiss their danger by misjudging its impact on their own lives.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Lirun said...

z. my friend.. i think we are waiting for our boys to be returned to us safe and sound..

i think if we are left alone and our people returned that you will find that israel has no interest in hurting lebanon and certainly not the good people of our northern neighbour..

wishing peace to us both..


At 11:46 AM, Blogger laila said...

look who's here, solomon..long time no see..
te3teer ya z..

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Peter said...

The paradox Lebanon experiences - which Berlin didn't -is that if Israeli aircraft flew any slower, that might encourage somebody to attack them, which might start a war all over again.

Shorter Solomon2: War is Peace and Peace is War.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger _z. said...

peter, who in Lebanon, can shoot down an israeli plane?

Hezbollah? The Army?
neither have efficient anti-jet weapons.
I think if they could thy would have already...

everytime a plane used to circle overhead and the army "tries" to gun it down, you would find the lebanese out on their balconies laughing.
It's like trying to hit a bird an eagle in flight, with a slingshot.

At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the power of Lebanon does not reside in weapons or the military - the power is the people themselves.
Rightly understood, that should suffice.

At 1:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For starters I have been following Rosie’s letter all through the July War and have enjoyed each and every one of them but I have found this one to be the best so far. It is interesting to me to notice that when a political situation is being discussed (and particularly if it is the Middle East) that people in general do not hear what others are saying but rather express their opinion in the matter regardless (a one-way radio if you may). I happen to agree with Rosie on a few more points than z. does. It is very important for people who want Hizballah to disarm, like I do, to realize that the way to do that peacefully is to reassure the party and people in Lebanon that it represent (a good percentage of the population) that its disarmament will not make it vulnerable to marginalization in a country where the political system is sectarian (very well described by Rosie). Any other way of carrying this about although might be ultimately successful will assuredly include along the way arming other factions in Lebanon and a civil war for the ride. As for solomon2, I doubt that he would have had the same opinion if we were talking about Russian airplanes flying over US soil in ‘reconnaissance’ flights even if sanctioned by the UN (although 1701 does not allow Isreali planes over Lebanon and yes I have read the resolution very carefully).
z. thanks for the space to write and Rosie keep on expressing your views.


At 5:37 AM, Blogger Red said...

Hi _z, I wanted to leave a comment to let you know I'm still here, still reading. However, I have no words. Rosie's Letter, as usual, gave me plenty to chew on, but it was your story about being woken up and startled by the booms of the Israeli fighter jets that knocked me sideways.

Politicians will talk until the cows come home, and we all regurgitate their words, analyze them, agree or disagree, but a simple statement like that really brings home the fact that it's real people who are the most affected, and nobody should have to put up with that kind of insidious psychological terror.

And of course, now the situation in Lebanon has taken a new sinister turn... My thoughts are with you and your family, man. Stay safe and strong.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

15. Decides further that all States shall take the necessary measures to
prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or
(a) The sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and
related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles
and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned,
whether or not originating in their territories;

Seems pretty clear to me. What is the problem?

At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmmm. So all states including Isreal are not allowed to give or sell weapons to any entity in Lebanon except the army.....and what does that prove?


At 11:28 PM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

Israeli overflights fall under the category of "using aircraft to prevent the supply of arms", etc.

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you put a lot of effort into your article, and it came out convincing and great!

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Lirun said...

just my boys.. thats all..


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