Powered by WebAds

Sunday, July 23, 2006

'The war never stopped for the Shiites'

The New York Times has an article this morning about the youth of Beirut - those who have grown up in the aftermath of the 1975-90 Civil War. It includes this interesting bit of information:
Zainab Anis Jaber, 23, fled her home in southern Beirut when the terrifying pounding of Israeli rockets began. For Ms. Jaber, a religiously observant Shiite, the Beirut of glossy magazines, nightclubs, and luxury boutiques was always more distant than the dark side of the moon, and the scars of war were always near.

Today’s young Lebanese are a multifaceted group, hard to generalize about. But they came of age in a country that was supposed to be moving past war and the religious tensions that tore the country apart from 1975 to 1990, and they saw how a unified Lebanon drove Syria’s troops out last year after 29 years of occupation.


On the surface, the divides among these groups have been ironed out. But the war never really stopped for Lebanon’s Shiites. First they were driven out of their homes by the Israeli Army fighting Palestinian militants in the 1960’s and ‘70s. Then the slums into which they moved in Beirut’s southern suburbs were bombed in 1982. Now, once again, an Israeli assault is throwing hundreds of thousands of them on the road.

Ms. Jaber grew up in south Beirut. Her father was killed before she was born, when the Israeli Army invaded Lebanon in 1982. Her family was forced out of the town of Marjaayoun, when the Israelis occupied southern Lebanon for nearly two decades.

Last week, she was again a refugee, fleeing Israeli rockets on Beirut’s southern suburbs. She said she lost a relative during the recent bombing in the south.

Ms. Jaber now lives at her aunt’s home, close to the highway that leads to the airport and a short walk from the center of town, where life seems to have stopped 11 days ago. Much of that neighborhood, devastated in the early years of the civil war, was torn down a decade ago to make way for new buildings. By erasing the signs of the past, the developers sought a clean slate. But their efforts did little to help bridge the gap between Lebanon’s disenfranchised — including the country’s large Shiite community — and the rest of the country.

“We feel neglected,” Ms. Jaber said, walking past Martyr’s Square. Her round face and clear green eyes were encircled by a veil so that her hair was hidden. A long black robe revealed only sports shoes. “People in Beirut, especially the Christians, don’t understand what is going on in the south because they live in security and prosperity,” she said.

Ms. Jaber blames the other Lebanese communities for ignoring the south’s problems, and the government for having failed the Shiites. Only Hezbollah, which distributes funds and administers services and schools, provides for the Shiites of Lebanon, she said. Only Hezbollah, she said, can defend them against Israel. “My relatives in the south are fighting, not going out and partying,” she said. “It’s not a privilege for us. It’s something we’re forced to do.”

Thanks to Hezbollah’s financial help, she said, she went to college and earned a master’s degree.


Her experience is light-years away from Beirut’s image as a casual party town, where Champagne sells for as much as $7,000 a bottle, and excess is welcomed. “Coexistence does not mean compromise,” she said. “I respect them, but I don’t think we live the same life.”

A case in point: Before the siege, Lana El Khalil, 24, enjoyed going to parties in the cosmopolitan capital that Beirut had once more become. Now she is volunteering to help Lebanese refugees who have fled the airstrikes, as well as continuing her work practicing art therapy to help young children in a Palestinian refugee camp cope with the trauma of being uprooted.

Like many affluent Lebanese families, her family settled in Nigeria before the civil war. She returned to Lebanon when she was 16.

Although she is Druse, she says she is not religious. She says the Lebanese have been complacent, failing to face their past or the reasons the country spent 15 years tearing itself apart.

“We have opted for collective amnesia after the civil war; we pretended nothing had happened — we never said ‘never again,’ ” she said. “I rejected religion a long time ago because I saw what it did to this country.”

Now, Ms. Khalil said, “it seems like all the work, all the sweat, all the emotional toll spent building up, has been decimated.”

Unlike Ms. Jaber, many of the more secular younger set are furious with Hezbollah, contending the group has dragged Lebanon into a ruinous conflict.
In other words, the 'religion of peace' is once again perpetuating and bringing war to another country. If it hadn't been this, it sounds like it was only a matter of time until Hezbullah would have re-started Lebanon's civil war. That's a shame. Lebanon is supposed to be a beautiful country.


Post a Comment

<< Home