August 5, 2020
BY: Jonathan Feldstein
I thought of my friend “Sami” today after hearing of the massive explosion in Beirut. I got to know him before I moved to Israel as the guy who would stand at the exit of the local Costco. He was always happy and pleasant as he engaged me and my kids while checking our receipt, drawing his trademark happy face with a yellow highlighter, signifying that our purchase had been checked. His behavior belied the fact that he had suffered a great deal as a Christian refugee from Lebanon where he saw and experienced tremendous evil and hatred.
As we got to know one another, he and his wife visiting my home and me and my wife visiting theirs, he began to share about his past. “The terrorists stole everything,” he stated very matter of fact. He was not just referring to his material possessions, but how they stole his previous life, and his homeland.
After 9/11, we discussed his working for the FBI to use his native Arabic to track and prevent more terrorism. He loved and was grateful for America giving him and his family a new life, and a future. Another time, he praised Ariel Sharon, Israel’s former Prime Minister and Defense Minister who was assailed for leading the 1982 Lebanon War deep into Lebanese territory, with major casualties on both sides. He prayed that Israel would go in and finish off the terrorists who had stolen everything. I suggested that perhaps Lebanese Christian refugees like him could go back into Lebanon through, and with the support of, Israel to take back their country.
It’s not yet known the cause of the massive explosion that shook Beirut, leaving more than 100 casualties and hundreds more wounded. The explosion was reportedly heard as far as Cyprus, 150 miles away. There are many speculations, but we may never know for sure. We can’t believe the Lebanese government reports because it’s influenced if not controlled by Hezbollah, corruption is rife, and rarely can it be relied on for anything but lies and covering of its tracks for its own malicious purposes.
I’m proud that Israel was one of the first to offer support, humanitarian relief and to open its hospitals for Lebanese for whom there’s not enough room in their own hospitals. I pray for their recovery.
Certainly, if this was not an accident, it’s reasonable that whoever was behind it did not expect the carnage that followed. Perhaps.
In 2005, Hezbollah terrorists (are alleged to have) detonated a powerful 3000-pound truck bomb alongside the motorcade of then Lebanese Sunni leader Rafik Hariri. 22 people were killed, and dozens injured, along with great loss of property. This week the verdict is expected in a UN tribunal on the Hariri murder. When made public, it could cause an outcry that would be no less explosive.
If Hezbollah was indeed behind that assassination that killed so many, about 20% of the casualties of this week, is it any less probable that Hezbollah might be behind this week’s explosion? Maybe it was something that they initiated that got out of hand. Maybe it was an attack targeting one of their massive weapons caches. Maybe it was just indeed a “workplace accident” with a powerful explosive “fertilizer.” Maybe, on the eve of the verdict, this was just a distraction from the havoc Hezbollah has created in Lebanon, and the ruined economy, with some reports saying that their debt has skyrocketed to nearly $100 billion. Maybe Hezbollah is looking to find a scapegoat for its vanquishing of Lebanon and its economy.
Either way, hopefully it will be a wake-up call, albeit a harsh and devastating one, for the Lebanese people to finally realize that Hezbollah is a foreign Iranian-backed terrorist organization that at best has done a bad job. At worse, as the main influential party in their government and militia independent from the Lebanese Army, it has no interests of the Lebanese people in mind as it continues its rape of their country.
Maybe this will be a wakeup call for them to take action to take back their country, like my conversation with “Sami” many years ago.
Another nefarious influence Hezbollah has brought to the region is the accumulation of an estimated 150,000 rockets pointed at Israel. Some years ago, Israel publicized a map highlighting (some of) the known sites of where these missiles are stored. Many are “hidden” right in the middle of civilian populations. Perhaps Hezbollah believes that Israel won’t target these sites because they are in towns and villages among houses and schools. But the release of the map made it clear that with the threat of 150,000 rockets, Israel will not hesitate to protect itself and its people.
Israel usually refrains from commenting on any possible military operations, neither confirming nor denying possible responsibility. This strategic ambiguity has many features ranging from keeping its enemies guessing and worried, to preventing their need to retaliate against a known Israeli strike. In this case, Israel issued an immediate and unambiguous denial of any involvement, while offering humanitarian relief.
Hopefully, whatever the cause of this week’s devastating explosion, the Lebanese people will recover, and resolve to remove the cancerous Hezbollah domination of their country that constricts and kills off parts of what used to be a vibrant society and economy that’s now on the verge of collapse.
I pray that they do this sooner than later, to prevent an emboldened Iranian backed Hezbollah from launching any of its rockets at Israel, and the crushing response Israel is no doubt prepared to deliver if and when such an attack happens. God help Lebanon and us all if it gets to that situation. It will make the casualties of this week’s explosion look like child’s play.