“A Cynical Manipulation”: On Israel’s Empty Gesture of Goodwill to Beirut
No words can appropriately describe the horror that has befallen Beirut. Whether this massive explosion was the result of reckless negligence, stupidity, an act of terrorism, or a combination of all of the above – it was horrifying. As the people of Beirut pick up the pieces, our thoughts and our hearts are with them. And indeed, expressions of love and sympathy can be found on social media from people throughout the world.
One such expression of solidarity, however, was revolting. The municipality of Tel Aviv lit the building which houses city hall with the colors of the Lebanese flag. And while some may see this as an act of magnanimity, showing solidarity with an enemy country, one is hard-pressed to find words to express just how disgusting and cynical this is.
The city of Tel Aviv sits on the ashes of Palestinian towns, villages, and homes, and the residents of some of these destroyed places ended up as refugees in Lebanon. Tel Aviv has never shown any remorse or taken responsibility for this crime. Tel Aviv never showed solidarity with the people of Beirut during the countless Israeli assaults that for decades had brought immeasurable suffering to the people of Lebanon and Beirut in particular. Now all of a sudden, since the violence was apparently not caused by Israel, someone feels a need to express solidarity. Give me a break!
A cynical manipulation
In reaction to this “gesture” by the city of Tel Aviv, my friend Umar Al-Ghubari from Palestine posted on Facebook, saying that it was “A cynical manipulation of Lebanese pain” for the “White City” to decorate city hall with the Lebanese flag. Tel Aviv is known also as “The White City,” and its mayor, Ron Huldai, is a former Israeli air force fighter pilot and a retired general in the IDF. He is among the war criminals that over the years has brought death and destruction to Lebanon.
In addition to that, the Tel Aviv city hall sits opposite Rabin Square, named after Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli army chief, defense minister, and prime minister. As an officer and a commander in 1948, Rabin played a major role in the forced exile of Palestinians, many of whom found themselves in Lebanon.
It is very likely that the children of those Palestinians Rabin expelled from their homes were among the victims of the Beirut explosion. Rabin was also involved in the brutal Israeli siege and bombing of Beirut.
Umar went on to call Israel, “Lebanon’s serial abuser,” and recalls the 1948 destruction of villages in south Lebanon and subsequent massacres by Zionist militias. He specifically mentions the massacre of the village of Hula.
Territorial ambitions in Lebanon
Zionist assaults on Lebanon began very early. Having territorial ambition in southern Lebanon, Zionist militia units began attacking and destroying Lebanese villages as early as 1948. In one case, the Lebanese village of Hula was conquered without so much as a fight and most of the people fled. Several dozen men who remained, between 35-50 according to some accounts, were placed in a house and shot to death by a Jewish militia. Then they blew up the house over the bodies. This, according to reports, was not the worst massacre that the Zionist militia committed in Lebanon at that time.
The commander of the unit that committed the Hula massacre, Shmuel Lahis was court marshaled. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to seven years in prison. That sentence was reduced to one year after an appeal before Lahis received a pardon by the President of Israel. He went on to study law and was later appointed to the highly prestigious position of head of the Jewish Agency.
Further attacks on Lebanon by Israeli fighter planes, the Israeli navy, Israeli commandos as well as invasions of regular forces continued through the decades. Israel never thought twice about massacring Lebanese civilians and causing enormous structural damage to Lebanon. The Israeli invasion of 1982 which was followed by a twenty-year occupation cost countless lives, both Lebanese and Palestinian, and included the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
During its ruthless 2006 assault on southern Lebanon Israel created a million homeless refugees and by the way, had attacked the village of Hula once again.
The Naqba, the catastrophe that Israel brought on Palestine starting in 1948, resulted in hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees fleeing to Lebanon. The newly established state of Israel made it impossible for them to return and confiscated their land and property. Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing created a huge population of impoverished refugees who had to rely on aid and still do to this day. There can be no doubt that descendants of those refugees were killed and injured by the blast.
There is no doubt that Palestinians have made enormous contributions to the countries in which they found refuge. However, the fact that countless newly homeless Palestinians had to seek refuge in Lebanon, and that Israel is preventing them from returning home, created an enormous burden on the small country of Lebanon. Furthermore, Israel’s heavy support for minority right-wing Christian militias in Lebanon has contributed to the destabilization of a country that was already politically fragile.
An ongoing tragedy
Israeli journalist Orly Noy, writes in the progressive Hebrew publication Mekomit, that “even if Israeli is not directly involved in the current disaster, it is a major contributor to the ongoing bloody chaos that plagues its neighbor to the north.” Noy continues on to say that had the Tel Aviv municipality displayed the same solidarity with Lebanon each time Israel had attacked it “Then displaying the Lebanese flag would have had a different significance.” She continues that “if the municipality raised black flags each time Israel slaughters people in Gaza, then the show of solidarity would have had real meaning.”
That, however, is not the case. Tel Aviv, much as the rest of Israeli society, by and large supports Israel’s bloody assaults on Lebanon and its slaughter of Palestinians. So it should come as no surprise that this “gesture” by Tel Aviv was not received warmly.
Solidarity by abusers is not welcome
My friend Umar ends his post by declaring, “Lebanon does not want solidarity from its destroyers and abusers.” He adds, what has been proven, is that Beirut does not want empathy, nor does it seek donations from Israel.
Feature photo | A municipality building is illuminated with the Lebanese flag In Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 5, 2020. Sebastian Scheiner | AP