Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pax Lebanona

The bombing of Lebanon enters its third week and the peace talks in Rome have failed, while Tsahal, the Israeli Defence Force, has suffered its worst day of losses so far, with 14 soldiers killed in clashes with Hizbollah. Hizbollah are providing stiffer resistance than expected, being armed with sophisticated 220mm rocket launchers, and yesterday they showered northern Israel with 100 rockets. The fact that these undoubtedly came from Syria only underlines the Israelis' resolve and reason to prosecute the war to its end, whatever that may be.

I am not going to go into the rights and wrongs of the conflict (this balanced and well-documented Wikipedia article can provide background - though be wary, as ever on Wikipedia, of the complete accuracy of entries); suffice to say however that Israel's reaction has been excessive, a comparison of the body counts on either side demonstrates this. It might also be useful to remember that the British government, during the IRA 'spectaculars' throughout the 1970s and 1980s never deemed it necessary to bomb either Dublin or Belfast as retribution; nor did Felipe Gonzalez's hardly admirable Spanish government do the same to the Basque Country (particularly that part of it that lies outside Spanish borders and where many separatists took refuge) during ETA's even bloodier bombing campaign. Like Israel's over-reaction during the Intifada, the bombing of Lebanon will only intensify resentment of the country in the region. We Europeans are often a bit too self-righteous when it comes to criticizing Israel - we would probably be just as resolute in the face of suicide bombings and rocket attacks - but we have known, in our own circumstances, when to temper our responses to suit the outrage. There are, no doubt, greater geo-political considerations at play, many of which are emanating from Washington, but there is no guarantee that these considerations will ultimately be good for Israel.

For a ground-level view of what is going on in Beirut, check out the blog of Lebanese artist and musician Mazen Kerbaj, blackly humorous and packed with the prolific Kerbaj's illustrations and cartoons. My favourites are the gnomic "Sleeping and Waking Up" and "Freedom Flag", hilarious. There is also this link to a recording Kerbaj made of himself playing his trumpet on his balcony to the sounds of bombs exploding in the surrounding neighbourhoods. It's more eerie than catchy and unlikely to end up on your iPod.

For a greater range of blogs on the crisis, from Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese nationals, go to The Truth Laid Bear's syndication, a link for which I am indebted to Limerick man Eamonn Fitzgerald's always entertaining, if crazily right-wing, Rainy Day blog. Hello again, Eamonn.