Monday, September 04, 2006

Consumed by Demons

A few months ago a Lebanese-Canadian executive who blogs using the moniker Perpetual Refugee traveled to Israel to assume control of his company's subsidiary from the incompetent Israeli management. Expecting a hostile reception and prepared to wield his wrath as revenge for the humiliation he felt as a child in Israeli-occupied Lebanon, he instead discovered warmth, affection, and devotion as the Israelis looked to him as their leader. He thus experienced what he called "Decompression", feeling at ease encountering Israelis as people, not as an enemy. He accepted and dealt with the shock of meeting his former occupiers and "ghosts" --the Israeli Arabs whom other Arabs never seem to talk about. Soon he was dreaming of this future between the Lebanese and Israeli peoples:
I can image the drive up to Beirut from Tel Aviv. You'd of course take the scenic route. The Mediterranean always on your left hand side. I would assume you'd leave in the morning, the sun already having risen in the east. It would be sunny. It usually is. As you drive north past Haifa, the terrain starts to roll. The hills become mountains. Acrne. Nahariyya. Then the border. The Lebanese customs officer smiles and being Lebanese, starts to chat you up. He'll impress you with a 'Bokaltov' followed by 'Bienvenue a Liban'. You enter without any problems....

Then Hezbollah launched rockets into northern Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. For their safe return, Hezbollah demanded nothing less than the release of a Lebanese criminal who proudly confessed to and was convicted of cruelly killing a four year-old Israeli girl after murdering her father. Had Israel accepted such an exchange, the freed criminal would have been hailed as a hero, a bold statement to the world that killing innocent Jews was an activity to be accepted and encouraged. A previous prisoner exchange in 2004 had thus demonstrably brought no peace. The Lebanese themselves seemed to have accepted that this was the proper state of affairs -- in my opinion, they felt no responsibility for Hezbollahs actions, even though Hezbollah was part of their elected government.

Faced by such an existential threat, Israel responded with a military offensive to greatly reduce Hezbollah's power and its entrenchment in the Shi'ite society of Southern Lebanon. Doubtless when Israelis stop thinking that Arabs are out to kill them, Israelis will stop attacking them in self-defense.

This summer's conflict puts a different perspective on our Perpetual Refugee. He saw his family and acquaintances as weak and defeated, and decided that was unacceptable. He has made a value choice: that for him and his kind to have power over others is more important than ideals of universal peace, freedom, and prosperity, and rule of law. To him, Israelis are now the terrorists, and it doesn't matter one little bit that had it not been for Hezbollah's attacks and kidnappings, Israel would never have responded with a military offensive.

Of all the acts Hezbollah has perpetrated, the creation and perpetuation of lasting hatreds is the most despicable, and probably one of the outcomes its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, desired most.

The Perpetual Refugee is now lost to us, consumed by the very demons he tried so hard to escape from. Let us mourn.

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