Saturday, August 26, 2006

Beirut dispatch

Marion sent me the following report at the beginning of this week. I apologise to Marion and to any interested readers for taking this long to post it. After a weeks holiday the previous week I got back to work and of course had to catch up with various things, so being busy was my excuse at the start of week, whilst for the last three days I've been in bed with the flu feeling generally crappy. Anyway at long last here it is. Some of the news events Marion refers to are now a bit dated, but as ever it gives a good insight into the diversities of positions within Lebanon.

Monday 21st of August 2006:

It is exactly one week since the ceasefire between Israel and Hizballah began and it has been calm except for the Israeli commando raid into the Bekaa, claiming it was planned to stop weapons shipments arriving for Hizballah from Iran. Alternatively the Lebanese minister of defence claimed the Israeli mission was made in order to capture a major Hizballah leader, and therefore failed as Hizballah fought off the attackers.

The situation today is the best since the beginning of the war:

There are no more bombers above our heads (until further notice); shipments carrying fuel and French UN troops have arrived in the south; refugees have been able to go back to their homes even if most of them found their homes turned to ashes; a few Lebanese parliamentarians have offered to rebuild some of the destroyed bridges from their own money; France has offered to rebuild six bridges as well; our Sunni Prime Minister walked side by side with Nabih Berreh, the most senior Shiite parliamentarian in the Dahiyeh district (the area most damaged in Beirut) inspecting the overall damage. This really comforted many Lebanese, as seeing the Sunni and Shiite leaders together, pushes away some fears that a civil war might start between those two Muslim groups due to the tensions resulting from this war.

On the other hand the Syrian president had a speech in which he not only supported Hizballah but also accused the Sunnis, Christians and Druze Lebanese leaders of being Israeli agents. Also he accused Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia for having supported the Lebanese government and not Hizballah. After his speech there was so much fury among the Lebanese politicians and each one had his reply to the Syrian president. I personally liked the Egyptian reply to Bashar al Assad which was very firm. As a result Syria apologized to Egypt by claiming it did not mean to accuse Egypt, but rather it had been a friendly jibe between two close Arab friends. If the Syrian President meant by his speech to separate the politicians in Lebanon or even establish fear among the Lebanese, I guess he was wrong since his harsh speech went back on him and his country only.

From its side, Hizballah has started paying cash, around USD 10 000, for each homeless family after the war. As a latest estimate, there have been around 15 000 homes destroyed by Israel. This huge amount of cash held by Hizballa was strongly questioned by the Lebanese government. Hassan Nassrallah assured them that it was not given to them by Iran, but who believes him? I wonder if those Shiite people whose homes were destroyed but who quickly were given money to rebuild their homes or to find homes to rent, will care at all if another war occurs if in they end they have lost nothing? They would not demand peace like the Sunnis, Christians and Druze are working for. And I think that is what makes Hizballah strong among this specific Muslim denomination.

But on the other hand though it looked strong after the fighting Hizballah is now gradually losing its power inside the country. Non-Shiite Lebanese who used to be neutral about them before the war, now hate Nassrallah for giving Israel the justification to destroy Lebanon, and for having decided the fate of millions of citizens without consulting the rest of the government. Ironically for Hizballah the Lebanese army has now deployed in the south: for many years leading up to this war Hassan Nassrallah threatened the Lebanese army not to come to the south where his troops, and secret tunnels and weapons warehouses are.

There is one additional thing to mention: Hizballah claims to have won this war, yet yesterday in a speech our Minister of Defence threatened Hizballah: saying that if any rocket is fired into Israel those responsible will be condemned and gaoled. Once there was a time when Hassan Nassrallah thought himself to be the only decision maker when it comes to Israel, a time when he thought himself to be the winner… I am sure now he will have to think again.

As for work, all companies are still working half day with some employees having half their salaries as I wrote in previous report. The Lebanese are divided into two parts: an optimistic half who are looking forward to a peaceful country once again, even if this will not happen for a month or two. The other half is extremely depressed; down, not motivated and most of all it has lost complete trust and faith in their Lebanon. This can be understood: it is not easy rebuilding the country once again. This portion of the citizens feels exhausted and need a little peace in their lives. We all want that, but I believe if we lose hope now, then we are giving up on Lebanon. The country is disfigured, strangled and needs the help of its people in order to get back on its feet.


KGS said...

That is the problem with the MAFIOSI control that the Hezbollah have over the southern portion of Lebanon. Nasrallah is nothing more than an Al Capone in his fiefdom of Hezbollahstan, that pays allegiance to the Islamomob in Tehran.

Nasrallah is a mafia don dolling out cash to those who lost their homes, letting them know "who has their best interests at heart, and its not the federal government."

Al was known for his "genorosity" when he wasn't busy smashing dissenting heads with baseball bats, or knocking off the his enemies.

Kirsi said...

hey toby! its kirsi. just found your blog. im glad to see u post marions reports from beirut. i was supposed to go to lebanon myself but now im just hoping to get my money and my boyfriend back. i guess they will reimburse my plane tickets in a month or so and i think my boyfriend will soon be able to come back to paris after 2 months in saida lebanon. what a rough summer. anyway, im pretty sure we'll make a documentary film on this war (boyf has filmed a lot, air raids and all) and i'll also be writing something more or less academic about lebanon in autumn. will keep u guys updated. say hello to heidi, will u? and charly and all the rest. ciao