A world map without Lebanon
By Belen Fernandez, 07 Mar 2012 16:03
For all of the ruckus made over past decades about an alleged plot by various groupings of Arabs and Muslims to drive the state of Israel into the sea or otherwise exterminate it, the Israelis have been permitted to regularly test-drive methods of converting annihilationist rhetoric into reality.
One can ponder, for example, which of the following scenarios constitutes a more direct threat to human life: mistranslated metaphorical ruminations by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the injustice of the occupation of Palestine or the elimination during Operation Cast Lead of 1400 people, primarily civilians, in a matter of 22 days in the Gaza Strip – which the very existence of this overcrowded coastal enclave would appear to represent a superior effort to drive populations into the sea.
The February 24 edition of Lebanon’s Daily Star outlined the response of Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to updated existential threats emanating from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu:
The statement from the [Lebanese] presidential palace mentioned that during a news conference in Switzerland, Netanyahu said it is not a secret that Israel will attack Lebanon, adding that it will do so with the support of the United States, the West and Arab states from the Gulf. He was also reported to have said that ‘in the new world map there is no state called Lebanon’.
The purging of Lebanon from the world map would incidentally occur in contravention of other contemporary Israeli policies vis-à-vis its northern neighbor, such as the turning of Lebanon’s clock back 20 years – an objective verbalised by IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz during the July War in 2006. Given Lebanon’s undeniable presence on the world map in 1986, Israeli interference in this case with the space-time continuum portended slightly less dire consequences.
As for Israel’s post-2006 warning, according to which the state of Lebanon would suffer indiscriminate retaliation in cases of unseemly behavior by Hezbollah, it is not clear whether this is the strategy that Netanyahu envisions as culminating in the revised world atlas. Nor is it clear how the scope of Israeli targets in Lebanon during the July War – power plants, bridges, milk factories, Christian joggers north of Beirut, children in a pickup truck evacuating Sunni villages under Israeli orders – was indicative of discrimination between the state and Hezbollah.
Israel has nonetheless exercised gracious restraint along its border with Lebanon over the past few years, despite deliberate provocations such as Lebanese army interference in IDF landscaping efforts and attempted invasions by Palestinian refugees failing to heed Golda Meir’s assessment that Palestinians do not exist.
In forecasting Lebanon’s deletion from the world map, it is of course possible that Netanyahu is simply offering a benign suggestion regarding the potential lack of a coherent Lebanese nationality with solid historical roots. In the case of Palestine, such suggestions resulted in the benign destruction of 530 Palestinian villages, the killing of approximately 10,000 Palestinians, the expulsion of nearly a million more, and the spontaneous erection of Israeli nationality.
As for Netanyahu’s reported boasting of US support for an impending Israeli attack on Lebanon, the foundations of this expectation may include the fact that the 2006 slaughter of 1,200 persons in said country – most of them civilians – was hailed by the US State Department as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East“.
Political analyst Marwan Bishara has meanwhile drawn attention to other well-placed disciples willing to assist in the propagation of Netanyahu’s weltanschauung. In reference to Barbara Walters’ favourable reaction to the Israeli premier’s announcement on her show that Israel may attack Iran without warning the US, Bishara remarks: “No point imagining what would happen if a Russian journalist asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a hug and kisses after telling her audience all options are on the table regarding war with Israel and the United States.”
In the event that cartographers take Netanyahu’s words to heart regarding the incompatibility of Lebanon with the new world map, the Israeli leader might do well to expound on what the new non-Lebanon will be, exactly – aside from an Israeli water source and cluster bomb repository.
Netanyahu should also keep in mind, when making decisions of such geopolitical import, that Israel’s current existence as an apartheid state is facilitated by the proximity of alleged existential threats. As for more mundane drawbacks to the elimination of state of Lebanon, Israel would no longer be able to render its hummus products more palatable to the export market by disguising them as Lebanese.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in November 2011. She is an editor at PULSE Media, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, CounterPunch, Guernica Magazine, and many other publications.