Sunday, March 25, 2007

My Favorite History Irony: East and West Beirut

If you think current Lebanon is nothing but contradictions, I can't think of a better example to show the most ironic Lebanon ever; which is during the Israel invasion of Lebanon in 1982. When the Israelis were welcomed to East Beirut, they isolated West Beirut. (However, the scenario was almost the same with much less brutality, when the Syrians bombarded East Beirut for 100 Days as well). This is taken from John Boylin's Cursed is the Peace Maker (Applegate Press, 2002, P.161)from Philip Habib (Presidential American Diplomat During The Israeli Invasion till 1984)

“That was West Beirut. The Siege was absurdly localized. While the Muslims of West Beirut were the Israelis’ targets, the Christians of East Beirut were the Israelis’ allies. From the veranda at Yarze, Habib could look on the two cities of Beirut at night and marvel at the eerie contrast. Muslim West Beirut would be dark as a cave. Against the Blackness he could see fires burning here and there from the bombings, or the occasional headlights of a car taking a run for it. Just across the Green Line, he could see Christian Beirut lit up as Manhattan.

West Beirut was a skeleton of a city. Everywhere you looked were blown-out buildings: facades with no sides, no back. Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets screamed overhead at night, sometimes shattering sleep with sonic booms, sometimes dropping cascades of flares that lit up the whole city in a fantasy of yellow light. The jets dropped aerial percussion bombs that sounded as if the whole city were collapsing. There were no more coffins for sale in West Beirut; people rented and returned them.

Meanwhile, East Beirut was a party town. People there still jogged, played tennis, and ate in restaurants. By day women in bikinis water skied and sunbathed on the beach; by night they wore their finest jewels to cocktail parties and sampled the smoked salmon and caviar. People living in the Christian suburbs, says Bob Dillon, “could easily forget that the rest of the country was going to hell.”


Bedouina said...

This scene from Habib's point of view resembles scenes from this summer - all those pictures of Lebanese partying up in the ski resorts.

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Read Tabitha Petran on the Israeli bombardment/invasion of South Lebanon 1978 - it looks very much the same as 2006, including the Israeli "failure" to achieve goals, and the carpet of cluster bombs left behind in the fields.

Ms Levantine said...

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
tho' they come from the ends of the earth!


MarxistFromLebanon said...

loool, actually now in this bi-polarity, there are no east and west, there are per street cantons in case a war breaks... I think if a war breaks a person would dig through his apartment floor and shoot his neighbor... luckily for us, neither the domestic warlords of both camps nor Saudi Arabia/Iran want a war.

Bedouina said...

Well the State Dept. is organizing young American writers to take trips to Syria & Lebanon over the next few months. (I'm not published enough yet to be invited, plus I don't know if they'd send me at this point) Two of the teachers in my program are going. I figure that State wouldn't be sending all these young American stars to the LEvant if they think they're really going to bomb Syria.