An attempt by Jews to show love towards Beirut (Lebanon) on social media was met with hostility from my fellow Lebanese. Someone who goes by the name Walaa Mrad wrote, “They send their aircrafts over our country, they claim more land, threat, kidnapp (sic), kill, bomb it”.
So I am writing to my fellow Lebanese to talk about this.
I would not be writing this if I lived in Lebanon because I am not suicidal. Communicating with Israelis for any reason is banned in Lebanon. If I lived there, I would stay silent with regard to Israel, just like the vast majority of Lebanese people do. But since I have the luxury of free speech, I use it.
I grew up in Lebanon, and I lived through 10 years of civil war, so I am aware of the fear of getting killed or maimed by a bomb while you are in the street just going about your business or even sleeping in your bed at night. I was lucky that no member of my family was killed during the war, but I have close friends who lost loved ones senselessly; they still have not totally recovered decades later.
War is horrible. In fact, I left Lebanon because of it. I empathize with Lebanese people who wish to leave but cannot, and I admire those who decided to stay to make the country peaceful and prosperous.
Nobody can reasonably expect Lebanese people to be thankful that Israel invaded or bombed parts of Lebanon and that Israel still flies military jets over their heads on occasion. We can however expect Lebanese people to demand from their politicians that they make the changes necessary to ensure that none of this happens again.
So what changes can Lebanon make?
Avoid attacking Israel
Ensuring that Hezbollah or other groups refrain from attacking Israel would be a start. This by itself would almost guarantee that there would be no other war with Israel. The 1982 war with Israel was the direct result of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) attacks on Israel from Lebanese soil. The 2006 war with Israel was the direct result of Hezbollah attacks on Israel from Lebanese soil.
Contrary to what Mrad said, Israel has no interest in Lebanese land. Israel occupies only the tiny (22 square kilometers) Shabaa Farms, and Israel already stated that it is willing to evacuate it if it were to come under the control of UN peacekeepers, so all that stands in the way of that land going back to Lebanon is Lebanese will to make it happen.
There is no valid reason for Lebanon to be attacking Israel.
When Israel is attacked, it responds, and its response is calibrated to deter further attacks. This should not be surprising to anyone. Just like Lebanese people, Israelis do not wish to live with the constant threat of bombs falling over their heads.
There is no way around this: do not attack Israel.
Avoid threatening Israel
Since there is no reason to attack Israel, there is also no reason to threaten it. Among other threats, a billboard was placed by Hezbollah near the Israeli border with the words “We are coming” in Hebrew. When Israel is threatened, it must prepare itself for an attack, and that includes flying military jets over Lebanon looking for shipments of weapons to Hezbulah. Remove the threats.
Avoid praising those who threaten Israel
When the president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, praises Hezbollah for threatening Israel, and even claims that the Hezbollah army is a “complement to the Lebanese army”, this is equivalent to a direct threat against Israel.
More recently, in a fit of self-delusion, Aoun boasted that the Lebanese are united against Israel and that Israel could not win a war against Lebanon. As if to prove Aoun wrong, at about the same time, Lebanon’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri resigned from abroad, “citing an assassination plot against him and accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world”.
Avoid this dangerous and juvenile posturing.
Avoid putting terrorists in charge of Lebanon
By including Hezbollah in government coalitions, Lebanon is sending a clear message to Israel that Hezbollah and Lebanon are one and the same, which means that every threat or attack by Hezbollah against Israel is a threat or attack by Lebanon against Israel. Do not elect terrorists, and do not include them in the government.
Discuss peace with Israel
Since Lebanon has no reason to attack Israel, it also has every reason to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel. An agreement that guarantees that the Lebanese government will prevent any attack against Israel from its territory will ensure that Israel has no reason to send military jets flying over Lebanon.
Despite the complexity of the context (Iranian influence, Hezbollah’s military dominance, traditional Arab hatred towards Jews, and so on), the issue of war between Lebanon and Israel is in fact very simple: leave Israel alone, and it will not harm Lebanon. Lebanese politicians who have integrity and courage should choose peace for their citizens rather than a hostile stand-off that benefits no one other those who are eager to shed blood and destroy lives.
Of course, because of the context, for politicians to take such a stand would mean putting their lives in danger and even risking civil war, which is why Lebanese politicians do not take this stand. I can hardly blame them since I left Lebanon altogether. Lebanese people such as Walaa Mrad should however be at least honest enough to admit that for another war with Israel to be avoided, changes must come from within Lebanon; nobody can make those changes on behalf of Lebanon, not even Israel.