Thursday, July 20, 2006

The conflict in Lebanon ...

The Christianity Today weblog has an interesting summary and roundup of the "Christian" reaction to the war. And yes, someone is blaming the gays for this one too. [As they note. "It was Lebanon! Not lesbian!"] Lebanon has the largest number percentage of Christians of any country in West Asia (I prefer that term, which is in common use here, to the Middle East. Lebanon is West of India, not East :-)) The Maronite Catholic Partiarch was in Washington and appealed to US officials to intervene.

I surfed over to Ha'aretz yesterday to read some of the stuff on Israel's moderate daily. One thing I found a little startling: one op-ed piece (How good it feels to be seen in a just war) believed that this was a golden opportunity for Israel because there is almost unanimous international support. Maybe in the West. Hardly elsewhere in West Asia (though there isn't the level of outrage that one would have expected). In India, the reaction is a bit schizophrenic. At one level is a very popular sentiment: look how Israel responds to terrorists! It takes care of its citizens. We should do the same with Pakistan. An admiration for Israeli belligerence and machismo. And at the official level, as well as in the generally anti-American intelligentsia: there goes Israel again. How dare they! The news coverage is almost exclusively about the civilian casualies in Lebanon, with hardly a mention about the shelling of Haifa and northern Israel.

Last night on NDTV the Minister of State for External Affairs, Anand Sharma and the Israeli ambassador to India were questioned on the bombings. The anchor was trying to be a little too clever in trying to make a clear link between the Bombay attacks and what's going on in West Asia. The Israeli ambassador laid the blame for civilian casualities squarely on the shoulders of Hezbollah: they're using them as human shields. It's their fault. The diplomatic correspondent of The Hindu made a point, which seems to be pretty common here, that the Israeli response seems disproportionate. That Hezbollah is pretty much out of the control of the Lebanese government.

India has nearly 12,000 nationals in Lebanon who're being evacuated.

Anyway. I have no expert analysis to add. I tend to be sympathetic towards Israel. The view from Beirut, however, is horrific.

5 comments:

assiniboine said...

"Lebanon has the largest number of Christians of any country in West Asia." Well, given that Egypt is technically in Africa as opposed to "West Asia," but if we're talking Near East aka Middle East....

Gashwin said...

Hmm. Wasn't including Egypt, though, I guess it does fall under the rubric of "Middle East." Not sure "West Asia" can include Egypt though ... it is in Africa after all. Ah the categorical joys of taxonomy ... :)

assiniboine said...

But actually, a quick check in the CIA factbook discloses that even excluding Egypt Lebanon doesn’t have the largest number of Christians in “West Asia”:

Lebanon — pop 3,874,050, 39% Christian = 1,510,879

Syria — pop 18,881,361, 10% Christian = 1,888,136

Egypt — pop 78,887,007, 10% Christian = 7,888,7001

Iraq — pop , 3% Christian = 803,501 (which is a lot of people we tend to forget about)

Gashwin said...

Oy. Mea culpa ... and yes, Iraq is most definitely "West Asia."

Maybe as a percentage, Lebanon has the highest number of Christians? Maybe that's what I was wanting to say ...

assiniboine said...

Well, indeed. And our American friends are not accepting ANY Christian refugees from Iraq just now, though the deadly backlash against Christians there can reliably be attributed to Mr Bush’s “War on Terror.” Well, they’re not Southern Baptists, I guess. Wogs into the bargain. (Whatever became of Franklin Graham’s plan to mount a campaign to convert Iraqis to his form of Christianity, one wonders?) One of the local Turkish kebab places here has Muslim rosaries and pictures of Istanbul all over the walls; I made bold to ask them where, precisely, in Turkey they are from, Turkey being my very favourite holiday destination. Well, they’re Iraqi Christians, it turns out. But my query of the kids in the rather better Lebanese kebab place, “King A-Hiram,” which was met with total bafflement (“Why the “A”? I do assume that we are talking about Hiram King of Tyre, the guy King Solomon resorted to for cedars of Lebanon for the Temple in Jerusalem…”) is now answered. They were all on the telly the other night wondering what has become of Mum, who was back home visiting Beirut when our Israeli friends decided to bombard anyone and everyone, and they are Mohammed and Suleiman and Ali. Oh.