Back in 1998 I had the pleasure of spending a couple of weeks travelling around Lebanon:
I have to say it was one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring and friendly places I’ve ever been. The scenery can be breath-taking, from sandy beaches to mountains to forests to deserts, it’s got the lot. There are ancient ruins built at the height of the Roman empire (which means they’re the biggest) including the largest standing columns on earth. My jaw was on the floor looking at some of these monuments in Baalbek. And the people were not what I’d expected at all. After years of war I thought I’d find people with their heads down, battle-hardened and bitter. But I found people young and old with a bright, optimistic outlook on life who were amazingly friendly and more westernised than me! In fact I’d rate the people I met above New Zealanders on the friendliness scale – and that’s saying something.
But the one thing I took away from the trip was that the picture I had in my head before going of what Lebanon was going to be like, especially with the friction with Israel over the border (which I went to – quite an intimidating area with all the razor wire and UN troops) from the western media was completely different to what I actually saw. Up until then I assumed that people like the BBC would bring you the truth but there’s no such thing as the truth, just someone’s opinion on a series of events. And they won’t necessarily be your opinions if you’re there on the ground. Plus the media have to watch what they say, they can’t go taking sides – even if they’re right – especially against large, powerful nations, so they take the middle ground. It was eye opening to see things first-hand without the media bias. Don’t believe all you hear!
However the fact that Lebanon was no longer a place to be feared and looked to have a bright future with Israel pulling their troops out, peace throughout the country and Beirut being rebuilt made me happy. Lebanon deserved a break from once being the Paris of the Middle East to a war-torn nation. The people deserved it.
So it won’t surprise you to learn how sad I was to see it all kicking off again. I’m not going to take sides and say Israel are wrong for bombing Lebanon (which they are – Hezbollah having munitions in civilian areas? ask yourself who’s telling you that’s the truth and if it’s just an excuse), and I’m not going to say it’s wrong for Hezbollah to launch rocket attacks at Israel (which they are – what do you expect to happen if you do that?). The time for saying who’s to blame is long passed. After decades of terrorism in Northern Ireland it was abundantly clear that at some stage or another people were going to have to just stop fighting and move on. No amount of bombing, military presence, arrests or anything was going to stop it. You can’t make one side give up by intimidating them – especially when it’s on their home soil.
It doesn’t matter who throws the first stone. If someone gets hurt, then retaliates and someone gets hurt on the other side, then it just goes on from there from one side to the other. For every civilian that gets killed in an Israeli bombing raid you’re creating more Lebanese who hate Israelis. For every rocket that kills an Israeli you’re going to create more Israelis who want blood spilled to even the score. It’s human nature. And it’s completely self-defeating.
It’s disappointing to see the international might of countries like the USA and UK just standing by watching without attempting to intervene. Although to be fair, Israel is a nuclear power who don’t have to listen to people like the USA if they don’t want to. But if Israel end up occupying Lebanon again then you can expect many more years of war – and it’s so obvious that’s the outcome it amazes me the Israeli leaders think it’s the best approach to meet their goals.
I just feel badly for the people. It’s always the innocent civilians that get caught in the crossfire in situations like this. If someone was bombing my town and my family was killed, you can bet I’ll pick up arms against them. And I won’t care if what they’re doing is just in their eyes, my hurt and pain will motivate my revenge plenty. And since violence begets violence, it’ll never end. And if I can think that way, then so can anybody, no matter how friendly, positive and hospitable they are. War is easy. Peace is very very hard. Never take the easy option.