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Lebanon, beauty ravaged by destruction

Submitted by Jakob on 23 July, 2006 - 21:49.My Blog | Politics & Society | Travel

I'm back in Sweden after two strange weeks in Lebanon, filled with wonder, excitement but also nervousness and frustration due to the situation that is unfolding there. I've been experiencing a relatively unknown country that deserves more than it reputation has. It is a beautiful country, situated on the rolling hills and mountainsides overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, offering beaches, mountains, skiing and a capital with a vibrant culture and nightlife. Lebanon is a fusion of west and east, hard to define but easy to love for its eclectic progressive young soul and generous cuisine.

Unfortunately I never got to see as much of it as I wanted since four days after I arrived Israel attacked the airport in south Beirut and begun what is now taking place, by some named the July War. Ironically, when I told friends and family where I was going, the reaction was that it was a dangerous place. It's a common reaction, and it is, or rather was, inaccurate. Ever since 1992 and the definite end of the civil war, Lebanon has been a safe destination but with the recent events, people's reactions became ironically true.

What this war has shown with extreme clarity, among other things, is how biased our media is. I have been watching several news networks, European, American and Middle Eastern and I must say the American media has all but failed to do good journalism, unbiased coverage of the conflict from all angles, in an objective and factual manner. Another thing that has come to many people's attention is how unstable the situation in the Middle East still is, and how complicated it is to solve.

At this time, Israel is targeting infrastructure and civilian structures in Lebanon under the pretense of fighting the Hizbollah, the terrorist organization that captured two Israeli soldiers and gave Israel the reason it needed to launch this, clearly well-planned and organized, campaign against Lebanon. Hizbollah does indeed threaten Israel and its citizens and I do not think anyone sane would argue that Israel doesn't have a right to fight it, but what I do not understand is the wanton destruction of Lebanese homes, roads, bridges, airports, dairy factories, supply chains, communication networks, television stations and several other civilian structures. Israel seems to aim at punishing Lebanon collectively for its inability to protect Israel from the Hizbollah, and they do not do so by trade sanctions or by diplomacy but by killing civilians, apparently using the same terrorist tactics as those said to be their enemies.

The situation is complicated since Hizbollah enjoys great support among many Lebanese who consider it to be the only thing that is able to stand up to Israel and protect the Lebanese. Indeed, the heavy Israeli assault on civilians and infrastructure, the heavy bombing which will have extreme consequences for Lebanon's economy and growth, only adds to the dissent and the support of this organization which doesn't think twice about targeting civilans.

Lebanon is not a backwater state, it's a modern country, a thriving small democracy with bad neighbors, the totalitarian Syriah in the east and north and Israel to the south, countries that are sworn enemies. Having been ravaged by civil war for over ten years, Lebanon has risen out of the ashes and has become a growing tourist destination, an open westernized society with more American chainstores and fast food franchies than my own home country, but also a country with great rifts in some places, dividing rich from poor, Christian from Muslim. Despite its success and its stubbornness and the ghosts from its terrible civil war, Lebanon has many problems left to solve, and they haven't become fewer now. The widespread support for Hizbollah, most common in the Muslim community, makes it almost impossible for the government to deal with the organization and the government's tacit pro-Syrian stance, a willingness to depend on its neighbor for military support, makes carrying out an effective policy against Hizbollah almost impossible. Added to this the alleged corruption and you have a very difficult situation to handle.

Indeed, a country's army should be the sole militia in a country, and be under direct control of the elected government but with Lebanon so torn and damaged since the war the politicians and the army haven't been strong enough to ensure Lebanon sovereignty of its terroritory. As a result the government has indirectly and passively left the task of watching the southern border to the Hizbollah, fearing an Israeli invasion or attempt to seize territory, something which only the Hizbollah could repel. Indeed the Lebanese armed forces could not possibly offer considerable resistance to the well equipped and heavily supported, not to mentioned battle-hardened, IDF.

What is important right now is that the attacks on Lebanon cease and that an international effort is made to disarm the terrorist branches of the Hizbollah and to protect civilians on both sides. Placing foreign troops in south Lebanon can be a risky affair as it may be considered another form of occupation, but considering how ill equipped the Lebanese army is to deal with the problem, there seem to be few other options. The risks associated with an escalated conflict are too great to oversee, suffice to say they'd be disastrous and would not only threaten the countries in the area but also many European countries. With that in mind, it is in everyone's interest that the situation is resolved soon and that Israel starts respecting the Geneva convention and stops its crimes against humanity, ceases its state terrorism against the civilian population of Lebanon, and takes responsibility in helping rebuild the infrastructure it has now destroyed.

Here are some sites that are of interest

Lots of beautiful photos of Beirut, from air as well as ground. Many of the sites seen in the pictures are now damaged or destroyed as a result of the Israeli attacks. brings you the latest news about what's happening in the partially destroyed capital of Lebanon, fresh photos and news 24/7.

OnTheFace, the blog of Lisa Goldman, a citizen of Israel who writes about the conflict from several different angles. Her site contains links to Israeli as well as Lebanese bloggers writing about the conflict. - This site contains some rather shocking photos of war. This is the true face of war and shows the victims of the Israeli attacks, photos the IDF and the pro-Israel media don't want you to see as it would tilt the scale considerably. After all, in war, controlling the media is A and O, something the US quickly learned after the war in Vietnam.

Save the Lebanese Civilians Petition, a petition to urge Israel to cease its attacks on civilian Lebanese, attacks that have so far caused a total death toll of close to 400 non-combatants. In the same period of time, 35 civilian Israeli have been killed as a result of Hizbollah attacks.

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