Monday, July 15, 2002

Here in Beirut, the atmosphere is very much like Tel Aviv.
Unfortunately so is the weather. I seem to be unable to resist
comparisons between Israel and Lebanon. Add some Hebrew, some
Jews, and you would not be able to differentiate between the two
cities. I assure you that the exaggeration is only slight. The attitudes toward life even seem similar, and so it
the food. (Like in Israel I canot get enough of the zatun
(olives).) Here though the locals do seem quite bitter. The word "Jew" or "Israel" is taboo and
something worthy of hate, you really can't mention them, even as a
passing reference. For instance you would get a dirty look if you
asked `do you get Israeli Television here?'. (They do not, though
you would think that they would because it is so close.) Whereas
in Israel talk of Arabs is not worthy of a second thought, unlike
say, talk of the Nazis, which is still a word that will get you
dirty looks. I don't dare mention that I have ever been to Israel,
let alone lived there for three years (or even that I am Jewish).

All over the streets here there is anti-Israel symbolism.
Murals of kalashnikovs erupting through the earth smashing through the Star of David, or the many posters showing a fist doing the same.

Last night at 2:30 AM a guy "B" kind of knew (she really knew his
brother) named "R" took me and her on a tour of the southern
part (suburb?) of Beirut called Daha. We met him in a bar, while
drinking last night. Daha is mostly controlled by two Shiite
groups. The older one Amal, and the more recent and more famous,
Hezbollah. You can see the flags of the two parties all over as
well as the pictures of the leaders. We also passed Sabra and
Shatilla, the refugee camps where there were a few massacres, one
of them quite famous. The famous one was committed by the
Phalangists, who are Lebanese Christians. They murdered about 340
people in the mid-80s toward the end of the Israeli invasion of

A bit of history: Lebanon was involved in a bloody and barbaric
10 year civil war. Toward the end of it, Israel thought it could
take advantage and support one side. It hoped that in exchange
for support Lebanon would sign a peace treaty with Israel, and
that would be the end of the border conflicts on Israel's north
and Lebanon's south. However the side Israel supported did not
win, and was not able to maintain power for more than a few weeks.
So Israel got little out of the whole thing, so they settled for
occupying a strip about a mile wide in the south of Lebanon as a
buffer zone.

Anyway the side Israel supported, the Phalangist Christians was,
like everyone else, thinking that it was still fighting the civil war. So they did what everyone else had been doing during the civil war,
and killed people. But since the Phalangists were affiliated with
Israel, the blame went squarely on General (now Prime Minister)
Sharon's shoulders. Allegedly he knew or should have known that
this might happen and done more to restrain the Phalangists. He
did not, so he is blamed.

The people of Sabra and Shitilla are treated like crap by Lebanon.
Even though the camps are less than a mile south of Beirut, the
people are not allowed much. They are not allowed to work in
Lebanon, and the Lebanese soldiers treat them like garbage. They
are constantly hassled and arrested and other things. (We saw an
arrest right at the gate of Shatilla last night.)

Despite all the Arab rhetoric about the poor (haram) Palestinieans the
people in the camps get about USD 40 a month to live on. Lebanon once
needed to dig up more Christians so that their parliment can vote
in the mandatory 60 percent Christians, so they gave the few
Lebanese Christians Lebanese passports. Otherwise they are
paraias in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world. Their sole
function seems to be to exist in abject poverty for the benefit
of the anti-Israel propaganda machines in the Arab world. Without
them there would be little reason to hate Israel as much, and the
Arabs might start looking at the real sources of their problems,
ie, their own government. Then their own governments would then have
to give them things like freedom and stuff.

So the palestinieans get screwed for the sake of keeping the rest of the Arab world screwed. Somehow every Arab I have ever meet knows this, and articulated it to me clearly, and still blames Israel for most of the problems in the middle east, especially the Palestiniean one.

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