A personal account
Beirut (1345 local time). German chancellor Angela Merkel will be taught a tough lesson in middle eastern politics the next few months. I do already know these lessons in theory, since I am here for two years now. But this time it could affect me personally in a more practical way, whereas until now life in Lebanon was among the easiest one could expect in this chaos ridden region.
Couldn’t it be clearer? An influential group of decision-makers in Beirut does not want German boots on ships in the land of the cedars. The German government was awaiting a call from the Lebanese government to the UN for the deployment of some thousand German troopers by Sunday high noon – but nothing happened. Officials in Berlin are still waiting for Beirut’s request, and there is no sign that such will happen, yet. German chancellor Angela Merkel and Lebanon’s prime minister Fouad Siniora – according to the Germans – were absolutely in line on that matter on Wednesday. It seemed, the call from Beirut was supposed to be only a matter of bureaucracy. Then the Levantine everlasting struggle for power taught the middle-east-inexperienced German chancellor the first lesson in a row of others to come: welcome to Lebanon, everything is possible.
So, my easy way of living could soon be over. Till now I am always welcome – anywhere – in Hizbullah areas or christian strongholds. Germany still is somehting of a moral authority, something admirable, which is – though being full western – not regarded as a one-sided swindler as is the US, who in the eyes of many Arabs speaks peace but delivers weapons to Israel. Germans are regarded as straight forward, trustworthy, strong and independent. Though, German chancellor Angela Merkel seems to be following the Bush administration on a track to an – obviously to them – unknown part of the world, embarking on a journey, and taking me with her, I would have been happy not to sign up for.
To be clear: The UN-mission in Lebanon is not very likely to disarm Hizbullah against the organisation’s will, which – effectively – would be German troopers role when blocking arms shipment for the islamic organisation. Rather more, mostly western country troopers are deploying to the Levant for the security of Israel by preventing the jewish state from going on with a war it can not win in the long term. Hizbullah has shown the world and – most of all – Israel’s enemies how to make a stand against the by far strongest military force in the Middle East. Others will study the results of the fighting very carefully and draw their conclusions for potential attacks on the jewish state which – should they occur in a well-organised and prolonged manner – could threaten the very existence of Israel.
Hizbullah and her followers feel that the UN is in the country only for one purpose: to take away their “resistance’s” weapons and – consequently – leave them defenseless to israeli attacks, which the jewish state has carried out by will so often in the past 28 years. The Lebanese army isn’t a match for “Zahal,” and there is much discussion on what will happen if the army is asked to take away Hisbullah’s weapons. Many troopers are Shiites, stemming from southern Lebanon. How likely is it, they will force their family members, neighbours and friends to turn in their arsenal to the western backed government of prime minister Fouad Siniora? And how likely will it be smugglers, or who ever ships reinforcements to Hisbullah, will surrender to international troops, potentially Germans off the Lebanese coast?
Now, how will it be, my life after Germans have moved into position in Mediterranean waters? Will I be regarded as an ally of the Bush administration too? As chancellor Merkel has been from the beginning she showed up in Berlin as one of the number one contenders of former chancellor Gerhard Schroder, who denied going to war in Iraq, though there is much of a speculation on how deep the German secrets service’s involvement was in calling in US airstrikes on marked targets inside Baghdad during the 2003 invasion. Will Hisbullah’s anger turn on me when I tour Beirut’s southern suburbs which have been turned to rubble by the American equipped Israeli Air Force (IAF)? Or will they still see me as the nice German who just seeks to getting an insight into the becoming more and more complicated power struggle in inner-lebanese politics?
Some days ago, I got a first taste of what possibly was going to await me, when I took a run on a byway north of Beirut. While stretching, a young man approached me. From my personal impression I guess he was not a christian and from southern Lebanon. But of course, I can not confirm that. He asked me: “Are you American?” No, I answered, I am German. Then something very unusual occurred, and that was the first time it happened to me. He went on pressing me, still in a joking manner, whether I was really German by asking if I could talk to him in my native language. I did, but still he wasn’t convinced and – while turning and walking away, a grin on his face – he replied: “Anyway, you are all working with the Americans.” This was the first time here – and I never hesitated to answer any question people asked me, since questioning and answering about one’s personal whereabouts is a kind of national sport here, I felt that I was not welcome anymore.
From that day on, I do ask myself seriously: Oh Angi, where are you taking me?
Addendum: For an insight into young (muslim) Arabs minds concerning their attitute towards the US, you might want to listen to a piece of audio which I recorded last year during the so called “cedar revolution”: “Those people (with knives) are not Lebanese. We are Lebanese! We are Lebanese and we love all people in America. But we don’t love Bush because he helps Israel to kill us.”