This is a passage from The SyrianIn this scene, Andrew, an American, has just arrived in South Lebanon on the eve of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. An elderly gentleman takes him under his wings and tries to teach him something of the local history.


“Camille, how in the name of Christ did all this shit start between Lebanon and Israel? In the States we’re told that Israel is a victim of Arab aggression. You said Israel had invaded Lebanon four times. I’m confused.”

“Forgive me, but you Americans know nothing of what goes on outside your country. And when it comes to the Middle East, it’s even worse. What gets reported in the States as truthful narrative isn’t anything of the kind.”

“I wouldn’t go that far…”

“Never mind—I’ll do my best while you’re with me to explain the realities here. The trouble began in the late 60s, early 70s when Yasser Arafat and his PLO began cross-border attacks into northern Israel. As was their right, the Israelis retaliated, but each time with more and more force until they finally created a permanent military presence here. It was out of resistance to that occupation that Hezbollah was born.”

Andrew looked around. “It’s a strange and humbling feeling to vaguely understand some of this from the news at home, and then come here and find it all alive, flesh and blood, real conflict—not just news.”

He wondered what kind of naive idiot he must seem to this old man. “The US says that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Is that true?”

“It depends on who you ask,” said Camille. “Israel calls them terrorists because it wants a reason to destroy them. Remember George Bush’s war on terrorism—‘you’re either with us or against us?’ He declared that any group the US didn’t like was a terrorist organization. Well, Israel got in the act. They demanded the US declare Hezbollah a terrorist group and insisted it give up its arms. If you ask the vast majority of Lebanese about Hezbollah, they will tell you that they’re a home-grown resistance movement born out of a twenty-two year illegal Israeli occupation. They argue that Hezbollah should never give up its arms because they are Lebanon’s only deterrent against another Israeli attack.”

“And where does the Lebanese Army fit into all this?”

“Our army isn’t capable of defending Lebanon against an Israeli attack. The leadership is weak and divided. Aid packages from the US are laughable. They are a pittance and look like toy guns compared to the military aid Israel receives and they are already one of the most powerful armies in the world. That’s why there is popular support inside Lebanon for a non-state resistance movement like Hezbollah, which is capable of facing off with Israel.”

“What a complicated mess,” Andrew said. “Why does Israel want to attack Hezbollah?”

“It was Hezbollah who threw Israel out of south Lebanon in May 2000 after their twenty-two year occupation. No Arab force before had ever dealt Israel such a humiliating blow, but that’s just part of the equation. Geopolitically, there’s a much bigger issue at play—the proxy war between the US and Iran. Using Israel to attack Hezbollah is an indirect attack on Iran, since they are the ones who back Hezbollah. But the real target is Syria.”

“What’s Syria got to do with all of this?”

“Syria is the conduit between Iran and Hezbollah. In order to weaken both Iran and Hezbollah, Israel and the US must destroy Syria. There’s also a religious component here. Syria is ruled by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Iran and Hezbollah are both Shiite.”

“Ah, yes, religion again—messing everything up.”

“In this case, it’s an inter-Islam war, which is even more worrisome. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf nations, mostly Sunni, support the US and Israel’s attempt to destroy the three Shiite entities. They fear a Shiite revival and want to maintain their Sunni dominance over the Islamic world.”

“So if a war begins, I’ll be caught right smack in the middle of it.”

Camille glanced at Andrew. “And since you’re in south Lebanon and in Hezbollah territory, the bombs will drop near here and maybe kill you. It’s pretty straightforward.”

This books is available for purchase here.




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