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Lebanon: Internal Strife

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“A certain hunter…came one day upon a cave in the mountains, where he found a hollow full of bee’s honey. So he took somewhat thereof and carried it to the city, followed by a hunting dog which was dear to him. He stopped at the shop of an oilman and offered him honey for sale…As he emptied it that he might see it, a drop fell to the ground, whereupon flies flocked to it and a bird swooped down upon the flies. Now the oilman had a cat, which pounced upon the bird, and the hunter’s dog sprang upon the cat and killed it; whereupon the oilman ran at the dog and killed it and the hunter in turn sprang upon the oilman and killed him. Now the oilman was of one village and the hunter of another; and when the people of the two villages heard what had passed, they took arms and rose on one another in anger, and the sword continued to play amongst then until many of the people died…”
Peace brings happiness and serenity to the world, yet peace seems merely a concept, for it is so far away in the Middle East. Two countries, Lebanon and Israel, have rarely been able to experience sustained peace since the 1970s. Before understanding the conflict in Lebanon and Israel, one must understand a brief background of each country.
Both countries are located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon is a small country, about the size of Connecticut, which consists of about four million people. Two-fifths of Lebanese are Christian, while three-fifths are Muslim. On the other hand, Israel is a little larger, about the size of New Jersey, with six and a half million inhabitants. One-fourth of Israel consists of Arabs while the other three-fourths are made up of Jews. Both countries are extremely similar and vary mostly by religion.
Ever since Israel’s formation in 1948, Israelis have virtually been sitting on a volcano, always fearing an eruption of war and violence. In the 1970s and 1980s, Lebanon had a very weak, inefficient, and often corrupt central government with a greatly differentiated social structure. Thus, a terrorist group known as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was able to form in Lebanon, with the goal of regaining their original homeland that Israel had “taken” away from them. In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon, because the PLO was forming a state within Lebanon. The civil war crippled the government and destroyed the capital city, Beirut. Since the PLO was also launching guerilla raids against Israel from Lebanese soil, the Israeli army was forced to enter Lebanon in June of 1982. The Israeli army remained in southern Lebanon until 2000. By the new millennium, Lebanon and Israel reached what seemed like a peaceful plateau. Beirut was rebuilt and became a popular vacation city and business center. Lebanon’s government had grown stronger and political leaders had revised the constitution. Balance of power was achieved, as only Christians could run for presidency, only Sunni Muslims could run for prime minister, and only Shi’a Muslims could become speaker of parliament. The relations between Israel and Lebanon looked promising until July 12, 2006.
During this thirty year intermission, the PLO in Lebanon had been replaced by Hezbollah, or “Party of God.” Hezbollah was formed in the early 1980s with the goal of ending Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Wednesday, July 12 took the entire world by shock. Hezbollah guerillas captured two Israeli soldiers, killing many others and sparking war in the south of Lebanon. Lebanese residents, hoarding canned goods and batteries, claimed that it was as if the civil war had returned. On July 17, Hezbollah unleashed its biggest and deadliest missile into Israel, killing eight people in Haifa, a major city. This action prompted Israeli militia to drive their army into Lebanon and sent Israeli warplanes into Lebanon, killing 45 and wounding more than 100. On August 13, 2006, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution for a truce, agreed between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of Lebanon. Yet, Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah claimed that the resolution had not changed anything. “Nasrallah claimed ‘The war did not end, because the aggression [was] still going on,’ and added that his forces would stop fighting only ‘when the Israeli aggression stops’ and Israel’s troops leave Lebanon.” After a meeting that lasted over five hours, Lebanese government officials finally approved the cease-fire plan, despite some “reservations” from the two Hezbollah ministers in the cabinet. The two ministers believed that the resolution blamed Hezbollah for the war and seemed to vindicate Israel. Following, Lebanon deployed fifteen hundred soldiers to the south of Lebanon, who joined an international peace keeping force and the ten hundred Israeli soldiers already in place.
In order to understand the obligations and ideals behind the situation, it is important to examine Hezbollah, and not to automatically deem them unauthorized because they are a terrorist group. Hezbollah was the region’s leading radical Islamic movement, and was embracing the Palestinian cause as Hezbollah had said publicly that it was ready to fight against Israel. For years, Iran and Syria have provided Hezbollah with funding and weapons to support the Palestinian cause. As attacks on Israeli targets increased, the military aid followed. To this day, the most concerning part of Hezbollah are its tactics. For numerous years, Hezbollah carried out suicide bombings and kidnappings. However because of Hezbollah’s funding from Iran and Syria, a dynamic welfare program has been established, which continues to benefit thousands of Lebanese people. Recently, Hezbollah has gained considerable support in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s social service program is popular within the Shi’a community. Despite all of this, the United States government still lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, while the Lebanese government declares Hezbollah as a “national resistance movement.” The question is which title is correct?
War can prevent; it cannot create. It can prevent an enemy from destroying your life and home and thus enable history to continue on its course. But it cannot construct new textures of relationship or create the harmonies and mutual interests necessary for the establishment of a new and better international order.
Obviously, each side, Lebanon, Israel, and Hezbollah, has varying ideals and obligations. To begin, Israel holds holds an obligation of justice because they must defend the country that the United Nations gave to them as their homeland. Israel also has an obligation of faithfulness because Judaism has taught them that their people were meant to return to Israel. Social responsibility and justice are also extremely important ideals for Israel, because of the delicate situation facing them. On the other hand, Israel is breaking the obligation of non-maleficience because their retaliation to Hezbollah’s actions does not give them the right to take away more lives. It is also true that Israel holds an extent of moral responsibility for its actions. When the decision to bomb Lebanon was made, the Israeli government was fully aware that the action would provide consequences and that the government held a high degree of understanding regarding the situation.
At the same time, Lebanon holds obligations of self-improvement, reparation, and justice. For over half a century, Lebanon has been striving to return to its past reputation as the “Paris” of the Middle East – a thriving, peaceful, and democratic country with a strong economy and government. Due to Lebanon’s past with the PLO and the recent wars with Israel, Lebanon also holds an obligation of reparation. Lebanon’s government implores the country to “set peace.” Another extremely controversial ideal for Lebanon is the ideal of freedom. Lebanon prides itself in being one of the few pro-western countries that believes in freedom, that is why the PLO and Hezbollah have been easily able to thrive. Finally, Lebanon holds an obligation of justice because Lebanon continually seeks justice in order to form a lawful community.
Finally, Hezbollah has multiple obligations and ideals. To fulfill their goal, Hezbollah holds obligations of faithfulness and justice. This is because Hezbollah is extremely religious and they believe that any means of returning Israel to the Palestinians will accomplish their purpose in life. At the same time, Hezbollah also has an obligation of reparation and an ideal of social responsibility, because Hezbollah’s cost to Lebanon is one that will probably never be repaid. Thus, their social programs and benefits to the Lebanese citizens help to achieve this goal.
After the war, on August 14, 2006, Lebanon was left in shambles. Hezbollah had fired thousands of rockets at civilian targets in Israel, and an estimated 1,200 Lebanese civilians and hundreds of Hezbollah fighters had died, along with only 119 Israeli military and 43 Israeli civilian casualties. For the first time in over four decades, the Lebanese Armed Forces patrolled the border with Israel. However, the war had destroyed homes, businesses, and infrastructure and had displaced nearly one-fourth of Lebanon’s population. Lebanon, already severely indebted, suffered over $5 billion in damages and financial losses. The war had also caused numerous pro-Syrian ministers, Shi’ite ministers, and Hezbollah ministers to withdraw from the Lebanese cabinet. In November of 2006, the cabinet Minister of Industry, the ex-president’s son, was assassinated, reiterating that the country remains in tangles.
One may ask which party acted as “the good guy?” Unfortunately, there is no definite answer, because each party faulted at some point. Hezbollah is preaching the solutions to moral issues and is creating a problem by establishing these views as Lebanon’s own. Hezbollah is acting as the leading force of the country, even though they are just an Islamic power, influenced by Syria and Iran, not Lebanon. In fact, “The biggest rocket, which Israel said was Syrian-made…[left] congealing pools of blood on the platform.” Yet, Hezbollah has been commended for their actions. Supreme leader in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Hezbollah “a genuine Islamic movement whose progress should become an example for the Muslim world,” even though Hezbollah almost diminished their supply of rockets and lost hundreds of its best guerilla fighters. So “why is Hezbollah allowed to remain in Lebanon?” Since Hezbollah is one of the only organizations in the country receiving funding, there has been a surprising amount of service done to the Lebanese society on Hezbollah’s part. In the last few years, Hezbollah has distributed tens of millions of dollars, most of which was provided by Iran. While at the same time, due to destruction caused by Israel, the Lebanese government held damages estimated in the billions, not including the loss of tourism and commerce. “All we have is 1,000 dead and widespread destruction,” said Jamal Ghosn, a Lebanese citizen, “Hezbollah’s stature has grown. But the biggest losers are the people.” Another citizen, Hani Mudaid, claimed “I saw all the bad things of the war. It’s very hard for me now to see my kids see them too.” One must also remember that Lebanon attempted democracy, yet they were taken advantage of by PLO, Hezbollah, and other extremists groups who were turned away in other Middle Eastern countries. Just because they had laws did not mean that extremists would follow them. All were accepted in Lebanon, a country of free speech; a safe haven. Unfortunately, democracy is a double-edged sword, and freedom is appropriate only up to a certain point. However, when extremists forget respect for persons, they endanger the country that they were welcomed in and threaten the country with war. Now is time for the Lebanese government to create a new definition of freedom.

Now the question is “who is responsible?” Israel believes that the Lebanese need to be able to control Hezbollah, yet Lebanon is unable to remove Hezbollah, a member of their ministry, because the Lebanese constitution states that all majorities will be represented. “Israel’s military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, warned that ‘nothing is safe’ in Lebanon and that Beirut itself, especially Hezbollah offices and strongholds in southern Beirut, would be a target.” The cautious Lebanese government does not have enough power to displace Hezbollah, because the government does not want to spark another civil war. Many even fear that allowing Hezbollah to continue is strengthening Iran and Syria, “the axis of terror,” thus endangering Israel, if not the world.
If Lebanon can not take control of Hezbollah, did Israel have the right to attack Hezbollah? The rest of the world feels that Israel’s actions were too harsh. “The European Union criticized Israel for ‘the disproportionate use of force’ in Lebanon ‘in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel’…and that ‘the imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified.’ (As stated previously, the majority view in the world backs the Lebanese government, criticizing Israel for intruding, yet one must realize that the majority view is not creditable, as it has been proved that the majority does not necessarily consist of well-informed voices.) However, Israel claimed that most stored weapons were among the civilian population in apartments, stores, and garages. Israeli forces felt that it was essential to destroy the airport and major highways in order to diminish the transfer of weapons and supplies for Hezbollah. It is important to note that the majority of targets hit were strategically planned, including the bombing of Beirut’s main runway, not the new airport terminal. The contradiction is that many reporters, like Paul Salem claim that “[they have] been through towns where there is not a single house left.” One must also keep in mind that Israel suffered greatly from the war as well. The war provided few military achievements and the war exposed Israel as a weak and vulnerable state. A columnist from Jerusalem’s main newspaper, Haaretz, claimed that the Israeli citizens were amazed that “…the Israeli Defensive Forces could not bring down a tiny guerilla organization to its knees for more than a month.” In the future, it is highly unlikely that Israel will be able to afford future wars. Israel must now realize that Hezbollah is not the real threat to Israel’s survival, Iran and Syria are.
Yet Israel, Hezbollah, or Lebanon’s choices can not be properly assessed without taking ethics into account. In this case, religious ethics and metaethics is especially important because it is imperative to review sensible applications of religious beliefs and to examine the ethical systems. Unlike popular western religions, Islam is very different. Worshipers of the Islamic religion are very devout, praying at least three times a day. Islamics also tend to act as absolutists, because they believe that all of their acts are the work of god. Many members of the Islamic Hezbollah firmly believe that each of their actions, whether killing innocent Israelis or kidnapping soldiers, is completely ethical. Looking meticulously, the reason behind Hezbollah’s thinking is quite obvious. As most members of Hezbollah grew up, their consciences were conditioned by society around them, angered by the removal of Palestinians from their homeland. The Muslim society was not an ethnocentric environment, yet most Islamics simply believed that the Palestinians had just as much right to be in Israel as the Jews did. As the years passed, the adults who witnessed their parents’ hatred for Israel grew up to hold the same anger. Along with anger it is fairly easy to conclude that Hezbollah must hold the belief that God’s work takes higher value than respect for persons. To the people of Hezbollah, the ideals of faithfulness and loyalty were utterly important. The people of Hezbollah, passionate about protecting Lebanon and encompassed with anger towards the Israelis feel that their situation is the same as the principle of double effect. The people of Hezbollah must drive the Israelis out of Lebanon to cease their intrusion.
Now looking at Israel, it is clear that the Jewish people need a homeland to be able to survive. In contrast, the Israelis have a hatred for Hezbollah, as many leaders were brought up conditioned with media and society hating Hezbollah. Sadly, the people of Hezbollah grew up the same as the Israelis – hating each other. They also have separate moral codes based on religion, and the people of Hezbollah and Israel strive to follow them. Finally, as Lebanon seems to be the “monkey in the middle,” it is respectable that the country has been unable to react as their history has only consisted of a repetition of wars and rebuilding, and the ideals and morals of the Lebanese people have been extremely jumbled in the past decades. The decision-makers of Hezbollah, Lebanon, and Israel all grew up in societies that disliked each other, thus the hatred seems to be drilled into their brains. When decisions are made, there is barely a conscience that objects. Unfortunately, some leaders of Hezbollah, Lebanon, and Israel have become extremists because they have lost hope in the peace process. They believe that war is the only way of achieving solutions.
Obviously, the simplest answer would be for both Hezbollah and Israel to withdraw from Lebanon, thus allowing Lebanon to rebuild and strengthen their government. Iran could cut off funding to Hezbollah, and Israel could focus on their true threat, instead of wasting funding and human lives on fighting Hezbollah. However, since Hezbollah seems permanently implanted in Lebanon, it is very likely that Hezbollah and Israel will stay put. Thus, the only hope is for world powers to step up and arbitrate.
“Unless you have an amazingly bold act of leadership [in Lebanon]…we are on a steady spiral downward.”

FOOTNOTES:
Haley, P. Edward, and Lewis W. Snider, Lebanon in Crisis - Participants and Issues, pp.3
U.S. Department of State, Background Note: Lebanon and Background Note: Israel
Mouawad, Jad, and Erlanger Steven, Israel Strikes Lebanon after Hezbollah Missile Attack
Kifner, John and Myre, Greg After U.N. Accord, Israel Expands Push in Lebanon
Kifner, John and Myre, Greg After U.N. Accord, Israel Expands Push in Lebanon
Eban, Abba, The Beirut Massacre - The Complete Kahan Commission Report pp. VII
CQ Press, Middle East Tensions pp. 894
*It is not within the scope of this paper to discuss the relations of the Lebanese government and Syria, although Syria has had a history of involving itself within Lebanese politics.
Mouawad, Jad, and Erlanger Steven, Israel Strikes Lebanon after Hezbollah Missile Attack
Mouawad, Jad, and Erlanger Steven, Israel Strikes Lebanon after Hezbollah Missile Attack
Kifner, John, and Greg Myre, After U.N. Accord, Israel Expands Push in Lebanon
Mouawad, Jad, and Erlanger Steven, Israel Strikes Lebanon after Hezbollah Missile Attack
Fattah, Hassan M., and Steven Erlanger, Israel Blockades Lebanon; Wide Strikes by Hezbollah
Fattah, Hassan M., and Steven Erlanger, Israel Blockades Lebanon; Wide Strikes by Hezbollah
CQ Press, Middle East Tensions pp. 891
CQ Press, Middle East Tensions pp. 894
CQ Press, Middle East Tensions pp. 893





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