Photo: Ron Cantrell

Friday, May 25, 2007

THE BLAME GAME

The UNIFIL (the United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon) soldiers gesticulated obscenely at us as we slowed down at the Lebanon border. My jaw dropped. These were supposed to be "peace keeping forces." We had to pass through these blue beret-clad soldiers. Our Israeli license plate and armed soldier chaperone tagged us as having come into Lebanon from Israel. Though the hatred of the U.N. soldiers was a real shock, it wasn’t the first surprise of the day. Moshe, our armed chaperone had taken us to a Palestine refugee camp near Tyre where a U.N. aid truck was surrounded by angry Palestinian men shouting at the driver. These enemies of Israel treated Moshe, an Israeli soldier, as if he were their brother. “Moshe,” they said, “Please can’t you stop the U.N. from coming here? They are not bringing us anything . . . they are stealing what little we have.” Another shock was clever news editing to exaggerate damage from Israeli bomb strikes, to the point of photographing buildings that had been destroyed in Lebanon’s civil war years before. If one news source was reporting a bloody war, you can bet all the others had to trump the story because of expensive advertising time on prime-time news spots.

That was 1982 and three trips into Lebanon left me so angry at the media’s misinterpretation of what was happening there I left my family for a three-month speaking tour to Europe and the USA in an effort to tell my own photojournalist eye-witness account. We didn’t have the luxury of cyberspace then. The reality was that the UNIFIL soldiers reaction was merely the fruit of reporting that was viciously biased against Israel from almost every media source.

In the successive 25 years, it has come to be reality that any two people groups fighting almost anywhere in the Islamic world can be blamed on Israel. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora just addressed his nation regarding the Lebanese Army battering the Palestinian Refugee Camp near Tripoli. There, the "blame game" surfaced again. "Militants are the target, not our Palestinian friends," Siniora made clear. He ended his "state of the nation"-style speech bringing Israel into focus as the ultimate culprit in Lebanon’s troubles.

Don’t forget Siniora’s speech last year at the U.N. General Assembly. It was telling. Lebanon’s Prime Minister broke down in tears describing Hezbollah’s control over his country. The spectacle proved only one thing: Presidents don’t weep. Siniora’s break down meant he was not in control. However, in the end, in his frustration, the blame was thrown onto Israel. Logic fails here. Kidnapped soldiers, thousands of rockets launched by Hezbollah to which Israel responded to stop the volleys of bombs, and somehow, magically, they are at fault.

For the sake of clarity, let’s play along with the blame game for a moment. The reference is of course to the Palestinians "fleeing" their homeland because of the Israeli 1948 War of Independence. According to the blame game, their homeland from time immemorial, was lost. A pastoral Middle East had been "invaded" by non-Muslim interlopers who, on top of that insult, were Jews. Indeed the Arabs did flee, but the facts on the ground are not what they seem.

It is vital to note that the name "Palestine" was an insult to the Arabs of this region as early as 1936. Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, a noted Arab leader here addressed the British Peel Commission and told them just that. Abdul Hadi claimed even our Bibles were in error with maps labeled Palestine. "Foreign" to the Arabs was how he described the "Palestine" label.

It was only in 1964 that Arafat decided the term "Palestine" would work for him. Out of nothing came the myth of a Palestinian State. With the constant retelling of the story, and searching for shreds of evidence to support the myth, Palestine came into being.

The myth didn’t remain within the boundaries of Israel, however. By 1970, Arafat declared statehood in northern Jordan. It was the wrong place to put himself forward. The late King Hussein massacred Arafat’s followers in the month of September, termed thereafter "Black September" (I suggest the movie Munich). Fleeing into Lebanon, the new refugee population threw the delicate balance of Lebanon into a tailspin from which it has never recovered. Don’t forget that the West Bank was under the government of Jordan between 1948 and 1967 and it was never referred to as "Palestine," but rather, "Greater Jordan." Jordan was not interested in a Palestinian State.

The initial flight of the Arab population in 1948 happened at the demand of the surrounding Arab nations. The cry from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and others was for the Arabs to get out of the way so the Jews could be wiped out without danger to Arab populations. When the attacking nations failed to realize their goal of victory over the Jews, a refugee problem began that has not ended, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and other Arab states. Why? After all, almost a million Jews were forced out of Islamic Arab nations in retaliation for the ‘48 War. However, there are no Jewish refugee camps in Israel. All the hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been absorbed into the fabric of Israeli life. Conversely, Arab refugee camps have been kept in squalid refugee camps for political reasons. They have never been absorbed and fester in poverty to create a frustrated angry fighting force, in the hopes they will aim their violent rage at Israel.

The genie is now out of the bottle in Lebanon. The Lebanese Army are poised to eliminate the uprising within the Palestinian refugee camps. So, let’s keep the blame where it belongs. Surely, this situation will not just simmer. Hezbollah is out of the lime-light at this moment. That is definitely contrary to their M.O. Expect them to step up to the plate soon and take the spotlight. Likewise, Iran’s President has just issued a severe warning to Israel not to meddle in Lebanon this summer: ‘If this year you repeat the same mistake of the last year, the ocean of nations of the region will get angry and will cut [the] root of the Zionist regime from its stem . . ."

All this darkness, makes it easier to see the light clearly. If God was not for Israel with the horrible odds against them, they could never stand.

1 comment:

Nate Long said...

I am really enjoying this blog and I hope you will keep it up.