In this scene from The Syrian Andrew recognizes that he knows very little about regional politics. Camille, an elderly statesman and former judge who lives close to the Israeli border, has taken him under his wings and is patiently explaining the intricacies of Israeli-Lebanese politics.

“Forgive me, but you people know nothing of what goes on outside America. 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.” Andrew wondered what kind of a naïve idiot he must seem to this old man. “The US says that Hezbollah are terrorists. Is that true?”

“It depends on who you ask. 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 on 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’re 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 like pennies and toy guns compared to the military aid Israel receives. That’s why there’s popular support for a non-state resistance movement like Hezbollah, which is capable of facing off with Israel.”

“What a complicated mess,” said Andrew. “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 also Shiites.”

“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 Marjeyoun and in Hezbollah territory, the bombs will drop near here and maybe kill you. It’s pretty straightforward.”

This book is available for purchase here.




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