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Friday, October 20, 2006




Natural Allies

There can be no doubt about one thing - the latest IDF's visit to Lebanon passed as a very unpopular event there. On another hand apparently many Israelis were sure that the Lebanese would see the whole thing as a great opportunity to rid themselves of Hezbollah. So they were surprised to discover that the Lebanese do mind destruction of the bridges and they love to use their airport and that some Lebanese, God forbid, are even harboring brotherly feelings towards their Shiite compatriots.

Now many Lebanese can't stand anything even remotely smelling of Israel, while many Israelis came to conclusion that the Lebanese are just regular Arab assholes who can't figure out properly what are their real interests. The situation is aggravated by the habit many Israelis have developed recently of coming to Lebanese blogs and posting there. Lebanese Political Journal at times looks as if the poor L.P. is under siege there by a horde of Israeli posters. Some Lebanese apparently got so disgusted with the whole thing that they stopped coming to his blog.

Finally Ehud Olmert and Livni were doing overtures recently towards Sanyora offering negotiations and expressing willingness to discuss everything including Shebaa. But this time Sanyora has decided to break his usual routine of bursting in tears, sweeping after him the whole audience. He took this opportunity to show that he knows to be tough and promised that the last of the Arab states would sign peace with Israel and only then, and only then, Lebanon may consider the idea.

I don't know how the Lebanese see Israelis but many Israelis consider Lebanese a special case, as the name of Jean's blog, The Middle East Exception. Lebanese Christians are perceived as a sort of a super race of the Arab nation (Israelis, by the way, have no idea that many Lebanese Christians take being called Arab as a personal insult). Every second Israeli is sure that Hariris are Christians because they are rich. Many Israelis think the country to the North is actually similar to Israel and Beirut is an Arabic version of Tel Aviv.

It's hard to know how similar Israel and Lebanon are indeed, when one's primary source of information comes from trading insults with the other side across blogs. But it's possible that Lebanon is indeed closer to Israel in many respects than to its Arab neighbors. For example both countries are parliamentarian democracies and base their free market economies on free trade and integration into global economy. One thing may be pointing to the possibility that Beirut has indeed crossed the line dividing Western civilization from the Middle East. Beirut is apparently tolerant of sexual minorities and has gay clubs. It's hard to know how Beirut compares in this respect to the situation in such bastions of Israeli secular culture as Tel Aviv where one's sexual orientation is one's own business and doesn't trouble anybody, but in any case gay clubs are unthinkable in any other country in the region.

Anyway, however similar Tel Aviv and Beirut may be, the last Israel's attempt to turn the clock back in Lebanon by twenty years has unleashed the wave of unmitigated hostility towards Israel in Lebanon with the notable exception of the coquettish elderly Lebanese women, or so the joke claims. It has also undermined the optimism some Israelis were cherishing about the possibility to get at least one normal neighbor in the sense of being a modern country.

The current rage of hostility between the two nations is very unfortunate because both countries share not only democracy, free market economy and a very problematic history of mutual relationships. They also share the same enemies and, unlike Israel and Lebanon, the enemies of the two counties see themselves as allies and so Iranian weapons flow to Hezbollah via Syria, while Hamas has its headquarters in Damascus and is receiving military training and advise from Hezbollah. Syria Iran and Hezbollah/Hamas see themselves as allies to the point that they cooperate and publicly pledge support to each other.

To create a coalition of the Iranian Shiite theocracy, secular semi communist Syria, the Shiite fundamentalists of Hezbollah and the Palestinian department of the Sunni Muslim Brothers movement is an impressive feat. For sure if the dictators and the fundamentalists from the two conflicting strains of Islam managed it, it should be possible for Israel and Lebanon too. But while the two countries are under a simultaneous attack by the members of the Tehran Damascus axis, the idea of alliance or cooperation is unthinkable in Lebanon and unimaginable in Israel. Many Lebanese are totally disgusted by this war mongering, villages and towns flattening, cluster bomb using, Palestinians torturing, women raping, babies killing and even cats and dogs harassing ... in short very evil, evil means very very very evil, Zionist entity. And many Israelis seem to have reached the conclusion that the Arabs are always the same backward shit whether they are praying in mosques in Saudi Arabia or dropping acid on techno parties in Beirut. But it makes sense for the two sides to rethink the situation, if only for the sake of their own survival. Because theoretically Israel and Lebanon are a perfect case of natural allies, even though practically they are not.

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