Viewpoint: From the Lebanese Student Association

BY RYAN JABER
Serine Abou-Chakra
Published July 23, 2006

In the midst of a hostile atmosphere in the Middle East, the people of Lebanon have long struggled to maintain a sense of peace and security in their country. In fact, Lebanon has still not fully recovered from a 15-year-long civil war (1975-1990), one which soiled the streets of its cities and villages with blood and death.

Overlapping with this civil war was the two decade long Israeli occupation, which ended in 2000. In an effort to move forward, the Lebanese population of just less than four million began their reconstruction efforts. In the last six years Lebanon has been on its way to building a solid democratic government supported by the United States and a stronger economic capital. Beirut, the nation's capital, was beginning to lay claim once again to its title as the "Paris of the Middle East." With the revitalization of the country's industries and the beauty of its natural landmarks, Lebanon anticipated more than two million tourists this summer, many from the United States.

On the morning of July 12, Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon and Israeli troops clashed on the shared border, which sparked the escalation of violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians and threatens Lebanon's very infrastructure. The beauty of Beirut, once shining along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, is now littered with debris, smoke and ashes. At the peak of tourist season, many of Lebanon's visitors are stranded due to the destruction of airports, roadways and bridges. Businesses and public places have been shattered by Israel's long-range missiles. As each day passes with bloodshed, both Lebanon and Israel taste the bitterness of the ugly realities of war.

As the world examines the intensifying situation between Hezbollah and Israel, many fear the recurrence of yet another war that could possibly tear apart Lebanon and its people. While countries are condemning Hezbollah's actions, they're simultaneously describing Israel's defense as "disproportionate" and "excessive." To date, 500,000 Lebanese civilians have been displaced. More than 300 have been killed, and more than 1,000 wounded.

At the same time, dozens of Israelis have been killed, and more have been displaced and wounded. As both Hezbollah and Israel draw heavy criticism from the international community, more crucial is the increasing toll on innocent civilians on either side of the border. One death is often one too many, and this situation is certainly no different.

The Lebanese Student Association stands together as it watches this situation unfold with concern. Many members are at unease as they worry for friends and family members currently in Lebanon and the surrounding areas. We hold hope for a ceasefire along with a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in the Middle East, as we condemn violence on both sides. Despite the massive amount of damage that Lebanon has taken, we have faith that our country will rebuild its cities and roads through its strength and historically proven determination.

- Jaber is an LSA senior and a cartoonist for the Daily. Abou-Chakra is an LSA senior, Mackie is an LSA junior and Makhzoum is an Engineering graduate student. The writers are members of the Lebanese Student Association and are writing on behalf of that organization.