Over the past few days there have been a number of news-worthy items which I considered posting about. Every time such an item cropped up I debated with myself, whether I should set aside the post I’m already working on in order to write something else, but eventually I came across pieces by other authors who had already said the things I had to say, quite often in much better words. So I’ve been posting links and short updates on the blog’s Facebook page about the rockets that the Palestinians have been firing from Gaza despite the ongoing “peace talks”, about the 26 murderers whom we released this week, making a mockery of our legal system and opening the wounds of the bereaved families of their victims, about the wounded Syrian children who are being treated in Israeli hospitals. I don’t like to repeat things that have already been said. I feel that having a blog is a bit pointless if I’m only going to parrot other people’s words and ideas, so if someone else has already said it and said it well, by all means, go ahead and read their words.
But tonight I feel that I have something to say which takes precedence over my other pending posts.
The object of “The Wizard of .il” is to show the more positive sides of Israel which usually don’t get voiced over the international media. The media shows conflict and war. Peace is an absence of occurrences and is therefore not newsworthy. The result is that readers overseas often view Israel through one prism only- the Israeli-Arab conflict. It’s quite frustrating to be viewed as a land of generals and tanks and fighter planes and Krav Maga and Mossad agents and exploding buses and missiles from Gaza when there is so much more to your country which just isn’t shown because it isn’t “newsworthy” and doesn’t include any “action”. So I took it upon myself to write about the other stuff. True, I also write about the conflict, but it’s always been about the other stuff, about the positive.
That is why I am slightly hesitant to write this post. What I’m about to write isn’t good or positive and it definitely doesn’t show Israelis’ good side. But I think that it has to be written and that it would be dishonest to ignore it.
A bomb blew up in Beirut, Lebanon, this afternoon. At least 20 people were killed and 120 were wounded. The explosion occurred in the southern Dahia neighborhood, known as a stronghold of the Shiite terrorist organization Hizballah. Even though it is likely that the targets of the attack were Hizballah terrorists, it is safe to assume that a large number of innocents were killed and wounded as well.
I’ll take into account that not unlike most Israelis, overseas readers are also not very involved in the latest news from Lebanon, so I’ll sum it up (I’m aware that in this summary I’m actually doing to Lebanon the exact thing that I complained about being done to Israel- focusing on the conflict. Obviously, there is a lot more to Lebanon than the information relevant to this post, but I’ll leave that to Lebanese bloggers):
Lebanon is a country split along sectarian lines. There are many sectarian groups living not-so-harmoniously together. The result is that Lebanon has spent a significant portion of its history in civil war (1975-1990). Today, the leadership positions in the country are handed out according to sect. The President must be a Maronite Christian. The head of the military is also a Christian. The Prime Minister is always a Sunni Muslim, etc.
In 1982, after a series of brutal terrorist attacks which came from Lebanon, including the assassination of Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Israel got involved in the Lebanese civil war in an attempt to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist organizations in southern Lebanon. The result was a Vietnam-esque situation in which Israel was unable to root out the terrorists but was also unable to pull back for fear of the terrorist organizations gaining control of the border area. The 18 years in which Israel fought alongside the mostly-Christian South Lebanese Army (SLA) against Hizballah in southern Lebanon succeeded in unifying Lebanon around a common cause of driving the Israelis out (not that they were pro-Israel before that).
So, none of the sects in Lebanon have much love for Israel. Hizballah gained its power and is the strongest military force in all of Lebanon, even more powerful than the Lebanese army, due to the large support it gained as leading the “Muqawame”, the “resistance”, against Israel. Every so often, they stage an “incident” on the border with Israel to prove that they are the only ones fighting us, the common enemy. The army never bothered to rein them in, because they were doing Lebanon a service. Today it is too late.
But the civil war in Syria seems to be a turning point in Lebanon’s history. Hizballah, which is controlled by Iran and supported by Assad’s regime in Syria, has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces against the Syrian rebels. The war raging in Syria is a war between the Sunni rebels and Assad’s Alawite sect, which is “related” to the Shiites. The result is that tensions in Lebanon between Shiites and Sunnis are sky high. In some places, such as the northern city of Tripoli, there has been open fighting for months between Sunnis and Alawites. Meanwhile, the Maronite Christians and the Sunnis have had a rude awakening to the fact that Hizballah isn’t the protector of Lebanon it has claimed to be. Many Lebanese are watching helplessly as their country spirals towards what seems like another inevitable civil war.
The bombing this afternoon in a Shiite area is most likely just another episode in the Sunni-Shiite battle. A previously unknown Sunni organization, possibly Syrian, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Nevertheless, Lebanese leaders across the board have pointed their fingers at Israel as being the culprit, which is highly unlikely. Actually, from the point of view of Lebanese leaders, pointing fingers at Israel is the most logical course of action, even if there is not a grain of truth to it, because it is probably the only way to slow the downward spiral towards civil war- by giving the Lebanese a common enemy.
Israelis’ view of Lebanon is complicated. We have recently fought a war against Hizballah (2006). I myself was serving in the IDF at the time. My brother’s high school is named after Roi Klein, a fallen soldier from that war, a hero who jumped on a grenade and gave his life in order to save his men. Friends of my parents lost their son in that war. Many of my friends were on the front line and lost friends in the terrible battles which took place then. And of course, the entire north of the country had to live under a barrage of missiles for 33 days. We have good reason to be angry.
On the other hand, most informed Israelis understand that we were fighting against Hizballah, not Lebanon. During the war, the IDF made a point of avoiding Lebanese-Army targets and only firing at Hizballah targets. There were, of course, mistakes, like in any war. But the objective was stopping Hizballah. We hoped that somehow the Lebanese people would understand that this wasn’t about them, but about the terrorist organization controlling the south of their country and that they would eventually realize this, rise up against Hizballah and throw them out. This was a rather naïve idea at the time, but today, 7 years later, things seem to be heading in that direction.
Over the past year, I have been following the blog of a young Christian Lebanese medical student and have found that many of the issues bothering him are issues that bother me as well. Many of the social ills which he describes in Lebanon are relevant to Israeli society as well. He is not a big lover of Israel, but he is, along with many other Lebanese, slowly coming around to the truth that Israel is not Lebanon’s real enemy, but rather foreign forces- Syria and Iran, which are using it as a staging ground in an international game of power. Under different circumstances, we could have been friends.
In fact, compared to our disputes with Syria and with the Palestinians and compared to our disputes which we have already solved with Egypt and Jordan, our dispute with Lebanon seems to be the most trivial. We have almost no land disputes (except for a small area called the Shebaa Farms). There is a small dispute over oil rights in the Mediterranean, which could be solved easily. The only real obstacle to peace with Lebanon is the fact that a Jihadist Shiite terrorist militia is controlling the southern half of the country. Remove Hizballah from the equation and there could be peace tomorrow. There are, of course, bad feelings on both sides, but that is understandable and more importantly, not irreversible.
I found a Facebook page earlier this week which reports the missile alert sirens in the south in real time, which are usually not reported in the mainstream media. This is how used to this terrible situation we have become. Rockets rain down on Israeli cities and there is no mention of this in any of the main media outlets. But I digress.
This FB page reported on the attack in Lebanon this afternoon. The post said that the rescue teams were having difficulty reaching the scene, that Israel was being mentioned over and over again on Lebanese TV and that so far, they have reported 13 people killed. I just happened to go into the post and started reading the comments. The comments were disgusting.
– “I hope that by the evening they reach 1113”
– “Only 1113?”
– “It should reach a millionnnnnnnnn”
– “They always blame us… Maybe we dropped a missile and didn’t notice????? That happens too. lol”
– “Avi or Limor, I hope that you are just [pretending] to write like that because it doesn’t matter [whether you are] Right or Left, we can’t justify the death of innocent citizens, shame on us. “
– “Cry over our dead. what do we care about them? they can go to hell”
– “Only 13? Oh well…”
– “Alex, tell me what’s going on here with those two Leftists, they can go to hell together with Nasrallah’s terrorists. Leftists.”
– “All of Lebanon should burn, children, old people and women and everyone who lives there, especially in the area of the explosion don’t like us, so don’t go crying over the death of citizens. When they fired missiles during the war, did they aim at soldiers? No, they aimed for the entire country and they wanted as many people to die here as possible. So they can all burn, but all of them. No one should be left. I was in the war and I saw how a child and a woman and an old man were shooting at us like trained soldiers, they don’t deserve to live the sons of ***, so shut up”.
I brought only a few of the comments in a long string, which included a lot of trolls, such as the ones above, but also quite a few comments made by people who were equally aghast at the disgusting comments hoping for more Lebanese dead.
[I added punctuation marks in the translation, because most of the people commenting seemed to be partially illiterate and unaware of the existence of such obscure markings…]
The last two comments were aimed at me and another commenter. Anyone reading this blog knows, of course, that I am far from being a Leftist, but apparently, in some circles, when you dare to say that not all Lebanese are evil Hizballah terrorists, you automatically become a Leftist. It’s quite an effective way to end any real discussion.
True, this “discussion” happened on a page dominated by people who have lived under constant rocket fire from Gaza for the past 8 years. But my dinnertime online argument with these trolls has left me rather disturbed. How many of these trolls are out there (I counted 8 so far)? Are we really that bad? Are we really that racist? Is this racism? Or is this merely those bad feelings which I mentioned earlier, which are natural between two states which have fought three wars in 65 years? And how can I continue to post about Israelis treating Syrian children in Israeli hospitals, about Israel trying to be “a light unto the nations”, when some of us are still talking and acting like the very barbarians in Gaza, who hand out candy on the streets when they hear about a large traffic accident in Israel, whom we condemn?
King Solomon in the book of Mishlei (Proverbs) teaches us the lesson which is the heading of this post-
“Binfol Oyvekha Al Tismakh, U-vikashlo Al Yagel Libekha”
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice”
We try to live by this rule and I would like to believe that most of us do, but apparently not all.
So, to any Lebanese reader who may happen to stumble upon this post: the comments above do NOT represent us. We do not wish you harm. Our quarrel is with Hizballah, not you. Innocent people living in fear of bombs going off are something we know a lot about, and we do not wish it on anyone, even on our enemies. We send our condolences and wishes for peace.
To my readers in Israel: Living in Israel should teach us that nothing is ever black and white. We live in a country of stereotypes and social and religious groupings and we should know by now that generalization is almost always wrong. Even in Lebanon, an enemy country, not all Lebanese are our enemies. And even if they were- “Binfol Oyvekha Al Tismakh”- do not gloat when your enemy falls.
And to my readers overseas: I hope I have managed to put across the fact that these trolls are the exception which proves the norm. There have been a number of incidents over the past few years in which strings of Facebook comments, such as this one, have been reported by the media and their authors have been subjected to public shaming. And they should be ashamed. There are trolls in every society. Obviously that last commenter (“…They don’t deserve to live, the sons of ***…”) is angry, maybe even suffering from PTSD, and it is understandable that there would be a lot of anger between Israelis and Lebanese, but as a people that survived the Holocaust, we should know better than to talk like that.
So tonight, I am ashamed.
Binfol Oyvekha Al Tismakh.
Please comment, share and subscribe!
You can subscribe via e-mail or Facebook. The Facebook page often includes updates which do not appear here.