July 27, 2006

The Smart Bombs Smashing Lebanon Aren't so Far Away

The smart bombs smashing Lebanon arenít so far away
Fredericton man worries for family

As missiles from Israeli F-16s reigned down upon Lebanon, smashing the runway at Beirut international airport, a compound used by Hezbollah militants and the Liban Lait milk factory, Fredericton resident Yousseff Nakhale was trying desperately to make contact with his wife and daughter who are living in the country.

"I tried to call them yesterday (July 18) and today (July 19) and the phone didn't ring, there was no line. I tried on a cellular and a regular phone," said Nakhale, who was born in Lebanon and has worked in New Brunswick's restaurant business since 1998.

His wife has Canadian citizenship, and may have been shuttled out of the country by the time [here] goes to press. Nakhale's daughter and her three children do not have foreign passports. "My daughter is in more danger. She took her kids and her mother and went to the mountains." Fighting between the Israeli army and Hezbollah guerrillas based on southern Lebanon began on July 12, when Hezbollah, a Shiite political organization who elect legislators, run hospitals and launch attacks, captured two Israeli soldiers from an outpost, and demanded they release Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails.

As of July 18, Israeli air attacks had killed 242 Lebanese, while Hezbollah rockets fired into Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities left 25 dead. The majority of casualties on both sides, as is the norm for post WWII conflicts, have been civilians.

"There is a deepening humanitarian crisis that needs immediate international attention," said Nathan Derejko, Atlantic co-ordinator of humanitarian issues for the Canadian Red Cross, which is supporting an international call to raise $9.07 million to help fund the materially strapped Lebanese Red Cross.

After the country's 1975-1990 civil war ended in a treaty, the government was legalistically divided upon ethnic lines, with Christians, Druze, Sunni and Shiite Muslims each controlling a percentage of legislative seats.

Hezbollah, which translates to 'party of god', is a multifaceted social, economic, religious and political force, controlling 18 per cent of seats in Lebanon's parliament and backed by Syria and Iran.

The fundamentalist organization won notoriety during the 1980s, when it used terrorism and guerrilla war to force Israeli and American occupation forces out of Lebanon.

Their recent missile attacks on Israeli towns and the capture of two Israeli soldiers amount to a clear and violent breach of international law.

But with 50,000 soldiers, the Lebanese government doesn't have the force to shut down Hezbollah.

Moreover, any attempt to do so would plunge the country back into civil war and shatter its fragile democracy. Innocent Lebanese civilians should not be punished with death for Hezbollah attacks.

Israel's disproportionate destruction of civilian infrastructure including bridges, water treatment facilities and roads, amounts to collective punishment against people who are guilty of one thing: being Lebanese.

In Ottawa, Stephen Harper, who's government was embarrassingly slow in getting Canadians in Lebanon to safety, called Israel's attacks, "measured", putting Canada at odds with almost the entire international community and -consequently- in perfect harmony with the Bush regime.

The Lebanese have suffered ten times the number of dead as the Israelis.

Israel has one of the world's most advanced armies and receives $3 billion in U.S. aide every year, more than any other country on the planet.

Lebanon's 'army' cannot even control the country's borders.

The systemic destruction of civilian infrastructure by a nuclear power against a recovering country can hardly be described as 'measured'.

Before descending into vicious sectarian civil war beginning in 1975, much like the one currently tearing apart Iraq, Lebanon was considered the 'Paris of the East'. Its capital Beirut was a glamorous modern city with a well-educated religiously diverse population.

Prior to Israel's latest bombardment, things were on the up and up for Lebanon: the economy was growing and the country's tenuous democracy was starting to work- imperfectly of course.

All that has changed. And the latest repercussions will continue to make 'peace in the middle east' more elusive than a desert oasis.

At his home in Fredericton Yousseff Nakhale isn't interested in talking about religious or political dischord.

"I don't have any idea what happened with Isreal or Hezbollah or the government. Nobody likes this war. It's no good for anybody. Everybody is scared."

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