lebanon-burning: by Michael Robinson Chavez
Bent Jbeil, Lebanon 2006.
For the past 20 days Israel forces have been pounding the Hezbollah stronghold of Bent Jbeil where Hezbollah fighters have ferociously fought back Israeli troops killing at least 8. Many civilians were unable or unwilling to flee the scene and are now leaving the scene after the Israelis called a temporary stop to airstrikes. This was after an Israeli bomb killed over 50 people including 34 children in nearby Qana. Short staffed Lebanese Red Cross workers struggled to help the injured and traumatized from the shattered remains of Bent Jbeil on Monday.
Traumatized, Namad Baidoun screams as she walks out of the shattered ruins of Bent Jbeil. She and her sister survived through 20 days of constant bombing and warfare by moving from house to house.
Lebanon, a country so beautiful that it has been likened to a pearl on the Mediterranean, is a tormented land being ripped apart by sectarian differences and proxy wars. The Middle East, while always volatile, is entering a time of massive transition. The Arab Spring has shaken the region to its core: Tunisia and Egypt have sent their autocratic leaders packing, Bahrain’s Shiites struggle to emerge from the shadow of the Saudis and their own Sunni monarchy and most importantly for Lebanon, Syria’s dictatorship is pitched in an increasingly brutal battle for their country.
I was absolutely stunned the first time I visited Beirut. A native Californian, I was immediately reminded of home, Mediterranean climate, snowcapped peaks within sight of the sea and some of the best food to ever land on my palette. The politics of Lebanon however are never far from view, whether it be the scars of civil war or the belligerent words of vying political powers. The country boiled over in summer of 2006 when Hezbollah staged a brazen raid on Israel kidnapping two soldiers and killing seven in the process. The retaliation was swift and relentless. For 34 days Israel pounded the country, especially the south. I was based in Tyre along with some of my colleagues working for The Washington Post. Together we gingerly ventured out onto the destroyed roads in an effort to reach the villages and photograph what was happening to this largely Shiite region, and a stronghold for Hezbollah.
Lebanon is just a scene in a larger twisted play being acted out. As the struggle for dominance in the Middle East evolves further into a clash of Sunni vs. Shiite powers, or nationalistically, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, who knows what other countries and regions will fall under the category of pawns in a bloody chess match. For power. For oil. Let's hope that the bridges can be built before the canyons become too wide.