Saturday, August 05, 2006

Lebanon's Christians turn on Israel as bombs rain down

My colleague Adrian Blomfield and I filed this piece for London's Daily Telegraph today about the consequences of yesterday's attacks in Jounieh. It poses questions once again about Israel's motives and is reporting from the front.

Lebanon's Christians turn on Israel as bombs rain down

By Adrian Blomfield and Ramsay Short in Jounieh
(Filed: 05/08/2006)

It was the most astonishing escalation on a particularly bloody day.

For the first 24 days of Israel's campaign against Hizbollah, Lebanese Christians in the Beirut area believed they were protected from the mayhem gripping other parts of the country.

But a 15-minute air raid soon after dawn yesterday on the attractive port of Jounieh destroyed the complacency of the Christians and served to turn them against the Israelis. The capital of Lebanon's Christian heartland is unused to such violence.

Even during the 15 years of the 1975-1990 civil war, when Christian and Muslim militias sowed destruction across the country, Jounieh survived unscathed - a party zone of nightclubs and beach resorts 10 miles from Beirut.

The Israelis' target was not the Christians of Jounieh but its bridges, two in the town and two a little to the north. The intent was to sever the last artery connecting Beirut to the outside world, and in that the Israelis succeeded.

But the strikes also destroyed whatever support Israel still enjoyed among Lebanon's Christians.

Among the dead was Joseph Bassil, a Christian. Out for his morning jog, he passed under the Fidar bridge, to the north of Jounieh, just as it was destroyed by a bomb that pitched cars into the ravine below. He was crushed to death and three motorists were killed. "Hizbollah has never bombed us here, yet Israel bombs us here - so who are the terrorists?" asked Manal Azzi, a 26-year-old HIV specialist, as she stood in the chasm where the Fidar bridge had stood. "We have spent 30 years rebuilding this country and now Israel is taking us back to the Middle Ages."

As the scale of the civilian casualties in the early stages of the conflict became clear, Lebanon's Christians dutifully expressed their solidarity with the Shias in the south. Yet some Christians remained unconvinced.

On Thursday, the hillside resort of Broummana just outside Beirut seemed a place untouched by war. Many of Beirut's trendy Christians had escaped here at the start of the conflict, and the party was continuing in its bars and restaurants. "We cannot blame the Israelis alone for this," said Elie Dahoud, sipping on a beer. "The Shia are our enemy and it is they who have brought Lebanon to disaster."

But by last night he had changed his mind. "I was wrong," he admitted. "The Israelis no longer care who is Muslim and who is Christian. We are all enemies to them."



Anonymous Nicholas T said...

RS - it seems like you were waiting to publish/post this anti-Israel support piece.... you think that spinning the truth will help you once this war is over?

Christians will never support Hez, and we will never support Iran and Syria as we cant accept their values and beliefs!!

only reasons why we express anger is that its a bloody inconvenience not to have fuel , no bridges to get to places, no fun and its the summer.... but my anger will still remain with Hez for starting this shitty shitty campeign!!

lets hope that it ends soon as Im still dreaming of my first trip to TelAviv for a 'dirty' fun weekend.

Lebanon needs to support Israel and not bloody Iran and Hez. you need to learn from us Christians.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are so right on! Let me say this for everyone to hear: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER....will we EVER support Hizbollah!

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Supporting Israel in this conflict Nicholas is a betrayal of your nation, as a Lebanese. There is no spin on this story - this is what the people say. The writers of this blog are respected, proven journalists. How you can be Lebanese and an Israeli apologist is sickening to the bone.
Lebanon is not being fought because of Hezbollah. Make no mistake. Israel started it. Israel is fighting Lebanon because it wants instability and cannot handle Lebanon becoming a powerful economic democracy. Are you one of those LF members who went to train in ISrael during the last war by any chance?

1:11 PM  
Blogger Anon said...

Although Hezbollah are at the very least antagonistic the latest strikes can never be justified or supported. By absolutely no means.

Manal Azzi’s question in the piece, although rhetorical, demands consideration at the very least - if not an answer.

A supporting report in the Telegraph, also by Blomfield, entitled ‘Beirut’s lifeline destroyed by air strikes’ adds depth to this post. If anybody would like a scan of it let me know. Nicholas (et al) these reports provide an insight into the ramifications of the decisions being made, no matter what the strategic intent...they do not, nor should they, place bias on either side.

In London today there is a ‘Ceasefire Now’ demonstration, called by CND, Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the British Muslim Initiative. It starts in speaker’s corner (Hyde Park) at 12pm local time. Demanding a ceasefire in London, the recent news will add impetus.

I was reading a comment the other day which proposed a 15,000 strong UN/NATO force be deployed in place of UNIFIL to orchestrate a ceasefire and work authoritatively under a NATO style Chapter VII mandate. This would allow the enforcing of peace if Hezbollah OR Israel were to break ceasefire conditions. The force would comprise mainly of French, Turkish and Pakistani peace-keepers, to ensure the force was mindful of all stakeholders.

To me this makes sense. The sooner the ‘powers that be’ decide on a multi-lateral and a decisive course of action the better. Articles like the one in this post will never need to be written again, and both Hezbollah and Israel can be brought to task.

1:43 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

Amazing - you see nothing wrong with the pigs of war bombing indiscriminately to destroy the country and whoever happens to be in the area at the time. Your hatred runs so deep that it's ok for the pigs to trample even you. How is that different from "martyrdom" by suicide bomb? Except that it takes a lot more courage to intentionally blow yourself up rather than just be in the way?

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

u wanna have a "dirty" fun week end in tel-aviv this is so thoughtfull of u especially when 1000 innocents have been killed for fun !! do u really believe that hizballah started this thing dt u remember when israel cheated on the lebanese by not giving them all their prisonners ????
i didnt get what u said :"you think that spinning the truth will help you once this war is over?" does that mean ur expecting a civil war after this one ??and does it mean u r prepared for it ?u said : "we will never support Iran and Syria as we cant accept their values and beliefs!!" the question is can u accept israel's beliefs ??
we both know syria has murdered lebanon for 30 year but israel did the same thing and USA (wich i think u support her beliefs) also did the same thing just read what they have done during the lebanese war and what they r doing now for israel to kill every lebanese in lebanon even u and me!!!
one last thing u said :"you need to learn from us Christians." what exactly do u mean by that? r u some kind of spy?
hezballah needs our support right now and i support them(just in this period)for 1 simple reason if it werent for them we would now be occupied and humiliated by their army dt think they love u becoz ur christian after all thy killed the christ and their religion clearly states that ALL other religions are inferior...
long live lebanon with his christians his muslims and his druze living side by side...

4:39 PM  
Blogger Dariush said...

Nicholas T: "lets hope that it ends soon as Im still dreaming of my first trip to TelAviv for a 'dirty' fun weekend.

"Lebanon needs to support Israel and not bloody Iran and Hez. you need to learn from us Christians."

Typical Kataeb scum. Lips surgically attached to Israel's collective schvantz.

Less worried about the destruction of his own country, then wether or not he'll be able to hook up with Ukrainian sex slaves in Tel Aviv.

A chip off the old Gemayel block.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous human said...

you people sound heartless. is this what christianity taught you? we arabs (not extremists) supported world trade victims (werent they christians)? leave hez, israelies, christians, muslims... we are all humans and it is inhumane what is happening in lebanon.. you think hez are the ones getting affected? or is it innocent women and children. all of you who are making fun of a serious situation there will come a day where you will cry blood tears for whatever reason... coz god is watching and we all need to keep politics aside do you think its fair to kill thousands of children and women and elderly ppl for just 2 israeli hostages? think ppl think dont be selfish talking about your dirty weekends you are being dirty speaking this way...

7:49 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Whether it is Islam or Christianity, there are always a few rotten apples that spoil the bushel. So it is here. While it's understandable right now that there is a lot of anger, let's get one thing clear - innocent people are dying on both sides of this conflict, and it must be stopped. Not all Christians hate Muslims and support Israel... not all Israelis are evil, and certainly not all Muslims are radical fundamentalists. Lebanon has been facing a political and/or military crisis of one sort or another for more than 35 years - it's not as though this nation has ever had the opportunity to get its bearings. Yes, Hezbollah use the Lebanese as pawns in this game, but the Israelis don't have to be so accommodating.

I hope this crisis will make the political leaders in Lebanon realize that allowing militant groups to operate out of its territory is no longer acceptable, and I hope Israel will consider for a moment how this overreaction will create enemies for decades.

But I don't think the 70 year old grandfather, nor the 8 year old girl, are in much of a position to affect change. Thus, I have a problem with any logic that makes it alright for them to pay the price with their lives.

Americans like to treat this as an academic exercise... we have that luxury because we don't have mortar rounds going off in our streets. I have a feeling we would see the world a bit differently if we had to live with that kind of threat.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Camarada said...

Some hate Israel
Some hate Syria and Iran
But the sad thing is... no one seems to love Lebanon as much as they hate their enemies.
Each group has opened a war of its own and who the Loser is, but poor Lebanon that NO ONE DESERVES!
if only once we can learn from our mistakes but i guess we have done nothing since the end of the bloody disgusting civil war but hate and hate and hate eachother more...
Lebanon will never be what it used to be, will never be strong coz no one wants it to be.
Israel is a problem, syria is another... but the biggest problem in Lebanon is LEBANESE PEOPLE AND SECTARIAN MENTALITY!

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great comment camarada !!!! honnestly!!

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see that most of you are blinded by hatred towards each other, and in that situation is very difficult to express an unbiased point of view.

I am not Arab or Jewish and I think that I can express an objective opinion about the current carnage going on in the Middle East.

The irrefutable truth and the root of all these problems is that Israel is occupying territories that belong to other nations. The fight will go on indefinitely until the day that Israel gives back the occupied territories to their legitimate owners.

When I put myself in the shoes of a Lebanese or Palestinian father whose kids have been slaughtered indiscriminately by the Israelis bombs, I can see why so many men and women choose to join the resistance organizations. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and that’s an irrefutable fact as well.

Giovanni - Orlando, FL

5:33 AM  
Blogger thomas said...

on another place, i asked, why didnt lebanon create a real strong army?

above, i found one answer.
many people in lebanon seem to cultivated, to fight the enemies of this country.

from the outside it seems, that the people, who love to fight, love only parts of lebanon or their own community.

as a result, there cant be a real lebanon. only lebanese people, with different ideas.

so war has more chances, than peace.
thats brutal.


7:32 PM  
Blogger Chris Baker said...

I would urge the journalist community in Lebanon to keep the photo's coming to AP, Reuters and AFP which are widely distributed online in the US. Photo's are very powerful online and the Israeli government is obviously dumping large numbers of photo's to the wire services for propaganda purposes.

Photo's featuring animals are always popular in the US - I've seen only one or two from Lebanon. The photo including the two satellite images of southern Beirut - before and after the Israeli bombing - was one of the most viewed photo's on Yahoo news, and for several days. More could be done like that.

7:36 PM  
Blogger LorMar said...

I am an American Christian and I've always wondered how christians around the world viewed many American Christans' unwavering support of Isreal (sometimes blind support). As for the bombing of Christian areas in Lebanon, I can't understand how any christian can simply dismiss the bombing and blindly support Isreal. That is not to say that they should be against Isreal. It is to say that as a christian, one should call right right and wrong wrong. If it happens that Isreal is wrong, no christian should refrain from speaking out.

1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. My own brother who is a fundamentalist christian believes that we should support Israel because they are "God's chosen" no matter what they do. I have never understood this, especially in light of what is happening now. I pray for peace for all concerned.

4:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both Israel and Hezb are bloody terrorists, one (hezb) fighting for a cause which is totally irrespective of lebanese priorities and the country's vision for a prosperous future where it can become - yet again - the economic, touristic, social center of the region. The other fights to destroy this ideology thinking it will achieve it - it won't.

Us Lebanese are stuck in the Middle, and despite the need for unity I cannot accept to be united to a party who inflicted a war on my country without asking me and I refuse to respect their ideology and fight for the "Arab cause".

I therefore have little mourning for the 1000 dead since these people have chosen to die like this and beleive that they have died as heroes and martyrs, these people were forced to die by hezb's ideology. By today, we all know that the people killed in Qana were sent there by hezb, because they knew that Israel would bomb there, these people were disabled (refer to the chief of the redcross's speech August 7th)and chose to die. I will not be a humanitarian during this war and for those who say we hate these enemies more than we love Lebanon, my position is FOR LEBANON, for the Lebanon I KNOW, for the Lebanon we all love -

Aanswering your attacks on the Lebanese sectarian mentality dear Camarada, I will tell you this isn't about "sects" this is about how you see your nation and what you wish for it, this is about ideology and I am truly sorry if I refuse to abide by ideologies based on war and the sacredness of the Jihad which implies fighting.

Why I refuse Hezb is because I love Lebnanon not because I am a Christian, I don't even go to church. So please stop going at it and blaming the Lebanese people, we all know us people have achieved great things across the world and if you really love Lebanon then you should not have a demeaning attitude towards its people.

12:36 PM  
Blogger AM said...

I am a Christian Lebanese too. The Lebanon I believe in is far from the Lebanon Nasrallah sees. My ideology is certainly different than his and his hizb's. However, in these times, I choose to place our differences behind us and invest in whatever is possible to save what is left of our country. I will definitely not stab HA in the back for the sake of Israel. We should remember our history and learn from our mistakes once and for all. Our differences will always be there but our differences are the reason behind us being a democratic country. Our differences provide a healthy political atmosphere if we know how to express them without force, keeping in mind first and foremost what is good for our country.
If there is something we should learn out of this war is that we can rule by being united. We can be strong and unapproachable if we all stand behind a government and we make this government strong. It's about time we realize that the world will not rescue us, it's about time we understand that *we* only love our country and *we* should do anything to keep it standing. The only way to do it is by being united and not letting anybody mess with us, being united despite our differences which I consider a normal feature of a democracy.

As for getting dirty, you can find hundreds place on earth to get dirty, you don't need to go to Tel Aviv for that, get a life!

10:17 PM  

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