Saturday, October 20, 2012

20-Oct-12: Do the Lebanese comprehend what they're up against?

The scene in Beirut yesterday [Image Source]
Our focus here is terrorism, not politics. When we express a view about what the government of Lebanon is saying and doing, it's not because we have a political viewpoint that we want to sell. It's because there is something borderline-absurd in what they're doing, and it has to do with terrorism. Like many other governments, they seem to fail to understand terror and terrorists in the way that governments must.

Yesterday afternoon, just as the Sabbath was commencing with the setting of the sun, we saw initial reports of a bombing in Beirut. We wrote about it briefly ["19-Oct-12: All the problems of the Middle East depend on solving the demands of the Palestinian Arabs. Not."]

It's now Saturday night. With the Sabbath just ended, we can see that Beirut suffered a serious and worrying blow yesterday, and are facing difficult days ahead. The BBC says tonight ["Anger erupts as Lebanon mourns Beirut bomb victims"]
A day of national mourning is being held in Lebanon amid opposition protests over a massive car bombing a day earlier in Beirut. The dead included internal intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan, who was close to the anti-Syrian opposition. Protesters have been blocking roads in Beirut and other cities. The opposition blames Damascus for Friday's attack. PM Najib Mikati offered to resign, but President Michel Suleiman has asked him to stay on in the national interest. The announcement came after the cabinet held an emergency meeting on Saturday. Mr Mikati said he had agreed to remain in his post, adding that Lebanon needed to remain unified, strong and secure...
The damage was significant:
...Friday's car bombing had left three people dead - revising the death toll down from eight. More than 80 people were wounded. The blast occurred in a busy street in Beirut's mainly Christian district of Ashrafiya, creating widespread destruction. No group has said it carried out the attack. Mr Hassan - described by officials as the main target - had close links with opposition leader Saad Hariri, a leading critic of the government in neighbouring Syria. Mr Hassan led an investigation that implicated Damascus in the 2005 bombing that killed Mr Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He also recently organised the arrest of a former minister accused of planning a Syrian-sponsored bombing campaign in Lebanon. [BBC World Service]
Wissam al-Hassan was the head of intelligence in Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, and had been the senior person responsible for the security of former PM Rafik Hariri who was himself assassinated in a huge bombing attack carried out, like Friday's, in the heart of Beirut. Like Friday's attack, this was laid at the feet of Syria and its Hizbollah allies.

So do the ministers in Lebanon's government understand where the threats are coming from? Do they prioritize their country's resources in order to protect their citizens?

Let the BBC answer, in a report published a few hours before Friday's bombing.

Homeland angers minister over depiction of Beirut
[BBC October 19, 2012]
A Lebanese minister has threatened to sue the makers of hit US TV series Homeland for misrepresenting Beirut in a recent episode of the show. Back to Beirut, the second episode in the new series of Homeland, showed a terrorist meeting on Hamra Street - an apparent Hezbollah stronghold. The episode was actually shot in Israel. Lebanese Tourism Minister Faddy Abboud said filming "did not depict reality". "It was not filmed in Beirut and does not portray the real image of Beirut." "It showed Hamra Street with militia roaming in it," he told the Associated Press, adding that the real Hamra Street was actually a popular neighbourhood of shops and cafes. Mr Abboud believes the depiction of the city could have a negative impact on tourism. "This kind of film damages the image of Lebanon - it is not fair to us and it is not true," he told Beirut's Executive magazine. "We want to take action, we want to write to the filmmakers and producers and demand an apology. And we are planning to raise a lawsuit against the director and the producer." [More]
Tragically, you can't make this kind of thing up. We did a quick check with Google Maps and it appears Hamra Street Beirut where the Homeland episode was set is 5 km or less from the scene of Friday's Beirut bombing. Of all the things the Lebanese have to worry about, we would think being portrayed in a TV series that happens to be filmed in Tel-Aviv ought to rank at - oh, let's see - about the bottom.

As far as we can tell, Lebanon's minister of tourism has not yet been asked to quit. Given who is attacking them, Lebanon's citizens need all the capable leaders they can get. The sooner their politicians abandon cheap political rhetoric and endless rantings about perceived threats from Israel, the better the chances they will make their streets safer than they are today, and face up to the real dangers.

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