Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hezbollah laying down its arms.... fat chance

The Lebanese bear the brunt of the Hezbollah – Israeli battle. That’s for sure. But some more than others. Many Shia families have had to flee their homes in Haret Hreik, as Israeli jets began pounding this southern suburb of Beirut. Then most of them sought refuge in their Bekaa villages. Upon arrival Israeli leaflets told them they had to leave again, because Israel was now going to bomb the south. Where to next? You tell me ... how the hell can people escape if all the main roads and bridges connnecting the south to Beirut and the rest of Lebanon, have been destroyed by Israeli bombs? You tell me?

The Bush administration is blaming everything on Hezbollah’s kidnap of two Israeli soldiers. Although I am everything but a fan of the Hezbollah ideology and believe that the organisation has really overplayed its hand this time just to stay in power, this viewpoint really is a willful oversimplication of facts and context.

The Lebanese government kept on pumping billions of dollars into rebuilding Beirut’s down town area, while it might have paid more attention to the living conditions of some of its people, for instance its Shia population in Haret Hreik and the South; living conditions that were and still are light years away from the prosperity of Beirut's Achrafiye or pleasure dome Jounieh .

The fact is that the Lebanese government never did so. Hezbollah simply filled the gap in providing a lifeline in terms of affordable medical and educational facilities; in very much the same way in fact, as it had already done in the south of Lebanon in the early eighties, when Israel invaded the country for the second time (the first time being in 1978). Back then the Lebanese government was hardly in sight either, although it did have a good excuse at the time, namely the raging civil war.

Hezbollah became a powerful resistance organisation and an important player in the Lebanese political arena. But even after the civil war had finished, the battle was not over yet, at least not in the south, where Israel held on its buffer zone. Hezbollah’s guerilla warfare eventually paid off, causing former Israeli PM Ehud Barak to withdraw Israeli troops in May 2000. Still, Hezbollah did not disarm.

Were it not for the present plight of the Lebanese people, it is almost ironic that Israel's so-called self-defense is right up Hezbollah's alley, as the latter now even has a better excuse for not wanting to lay down its arms. But while those two parties refuse to back down in fear of losing face, a whole nation is losing its human dignity.