Wednesday, July 26, 2006


A Lebanese man in Beirut, Saleem Khoury and an Israeli living in the border town of Shlomi, Gordon Orr, exchange emails on the conflict in their countries. This is the third instalment of their correspondence. The full correspondence can be found on the BBC website, Middle East section.

Dear Gordon,

I truly believe that you wish us safety and we feel likewise that you and your family should live in peace. You say Israel targeted the airport and the Beirut-Damascus highway to stop Iran and Syria supplying arms to Hezbollah. OK, but that argument doesn't explain the rest of Israel's bombing strategy. Why does Israel return to bridges it has already destroyed to bomb the bridge foundations? Why, other than to make the job of rebuilding harder for the entire Lebanese people.

Why is Israel bombing the aerials of all Lebanese satellite TV stations? What has that got to do with Hezbollah? It is still firing rockets, so what has Israel achieved other than destroying the country?

You say Lebanon should have sent its army to the border. Well, that's like me asking my six-year-old son to protect our house. The Lebanese army is the weakest member of the family. Since the civil war ended Lebanon has spent its money on rebuilding the country, not on equipping its divided army. But it is not for Israel to do what the Lebanese army cannot do. Send me some oranges from my grandfather's orchards... which is exactly where you live.

Hatred starts young on both sides, not just among needy Muslim children. One of today's newspapers has a picture of Israeli children writing messages to Lebanese children on 155mm shells. One reads: "From Israel and Daniele".

You have to be in Beirut to understand all the miseries here. All the school buildings are currently being used to shelter some of the 750,000 displaced people. So where are my kids going to go to school in September?

You say Hezbollah will never accept that Israel is here to stay. Well, Hezbollah has only ever had two demands for Israel: leave the land it occupies in Lebanon and free Lebanese prisoners. Israel is here to stay. But it should pull back from the land it occupies, including the Shebaa Farms. And it should give back the land it stole from the Palestinians. Israel knows it is a thief; it stole a country.

Maybe you could send me some oranges from my grandfather's orchards. From the land he had to leave in 1948 - which is exactly where you live. My grandfather used to own acres and acres of land where your settlement now is. It's such a coincidence, of all the Lebanese and all the Israelis to be in a debate...

My mother's village is al-Bassa, now called Bezet. I have a picture of my grandmother on that land in 1946. It's less than 2km from Shlomi where you are. Where was your maternal grandmother in 1946?
Israel must return our land. Then I will be the first person to cross the borders and offer you a case of fresh Lebanese apples.