Lebanon's Fate at the Hand of Israel
by Armen Kouyoumdjian*
July 24 , 2006

Once again I have had to redirect my report towards a subject other than
the one I had planned to cover this week-end. Israel's assault on the
Lebanon cannot leave me silent. May I also declare that more than ever in
this particular case, I shall not tolerate any critical reaction to what I
am about to write, none whatsoever. This is not a moment for debating in
the Agora, and if you (or your mother-in-law to whom you pass-on these
papers) do not like it, do not read them.

PROGRESSIVE TREND   Believe it or not, I used to be quite a fan of Israel
during my young days in Beirut. I do not think it has anything to do with
the fact that we are of the same age (I am 12 days older than Israel and
much, much wiser). It probably relates to my early interest in military
affairs. I even applauded its victories in the 1967 war, though it fucked
up my last summer in Beirut, before I left that city for good in September
of that year. It probably had not much to do with the several Jewish
classmates I had at both school and university there, many of whom ended up
for a short while in Israel before leaving it in disgust. I myself avidly
followed all the great military prowesses with great admiration. I soon
realised how wrong I was.

My first inkling that this was not a show to be admired came on December
27, 1968. I myself was just recovering from the May student revolution at
the Sorbonne where I was studying, when Israeli commandos flew into Beirut
airport and blew up in cold blood the 13-strong fleet of its once proud
Middle East Airlines. Hey, I thought, this is not war, this is vandalism.
If that did not change my mind, the following four decades have given
plenty more ammunition. The 1978 invasion of the South, the 1982 occupation
of half the country with the resulting destruction, and the Sabra and
Chatila massacres. Any lingering doubts that may have remained within me
would have been swept away when Menachem Beguin stopped Armenian scholars
from attending seminars on Genocide in Israel, after which followed
repeated denials of the Armenian Genocide by various top Israeli officials,
finally culminating in an unholy alliance with Turkey. They even instructed
Jewish organisations worldwide to shamefully collaborate in the negation
campaign. Begin's real name was actually Wolfovitch (hey, just like that
guy at the White House).

THE TARGET  The country which Israel has now decided to obliterate is not
just any country. It is the cradle of the ancient Phoenician civilisation
that gave the world its first modern alphabet, and pioneered international
commerce. It has been the home of great artists and thinkers. It has given
birth to some of the world's most brilliant business brains, and at least
half a dozen country in Latin America have had presidents from among the
ranks of the large Lebanese Diaspora. In my Beirut school we spoke three
languages during break, never discriminated in any way among the many
communities which made up our classes, in an educational system the quality
of which I never saw again in the three countries where I have subsequently
lived. We followed the latest pop music and films from all around the
world. Half a century ago there were two French-language weeklies dedicated
to movies in Beirut. There is not a single one in Chile.

Above all this was the most hospitable country and people to have ever
roamed the earth. I cannot compare the slap-up banquets that hosts used to
come up with whenever one visited, to the visits my own sons made to the
houses of their Chilean classmates when, during a study session of several
hours their mothers would not even serve them a glass of water. Though it
does not apply to my own family history, when Armenian survivors of the
1915 Genocide arrived in the Lebanon, itself in the midst of a famine and
other difficulties, the local authorities built an entire village (Anjar)
to house as many as they could. The Armenians owe the Lebanese, and in fact
Arabs in general, a debt which can never be repaid enough.

This country, whose modern independence is recent, is built on a fragile
equilibrium which cannot easily take traumas. It is not the solid balance
of the cement-less vault of medieval cathedrals, but the delicate one of a
pyramid of Chinese acrobats. Mess around with one and the whole thing
collapses, as happened several times over the past half century. To expect
its authorities and modest armed forces to do other people's dirty work in
as unrealistic as it is unjust. If the genesis of the Hezbollah problem are
Iran and Syria, supposedly card-carrying members of the Axis of Evil, how
come their territory is not being attacked, whereas poor Lebanon is

THE PERPETRATOR AND HIS ACTS    The answer is: the cowardly bully always
targets the weak and defenceless. To call Israel a Terrorist State would be
an undeserved compliment. Terrorists at least have an ulterior motive,
however warped it may sometimes be. Israel is a Vandal State. Vandals just
destroy for the sheer pleasure of causing harm. Within a few days, this
trading country's transport and energy infrastructure is in ruins, and half
a million of its population are refugees. Its painful recovery from a long
and also foreign-induced internal conflict has been wiped out at a stroke.
Its trading and tourist activities are dead. It will probably have to
default on its large public debt, much of which is held by its own banking
system which in turn might become insolvent. Customs revenues are one of
the main sources of treasury income. The cosmopolitan fabric of its
population will once again be ruined by the mass exodus, which will take
years to reverse, if ever. Meanwhile, there is an immediate humanitarian
problem of massive proportions, when medical help cannot even get to the
victims, and the power shortage prevents even those getting to a hospital
from getting proper treatment.

TIRED ARGUMENTS   The main argument presented by Israel to justify its
actions is Self Defence. This does not stand any scrutiny. Both national
and international laws restrict your field of action in this respect. If
you are a private individual and someone throws stones at your house, you
can try to stop them and nobody will blame you for it. However, you have no
legal nor moral right to go to his house, kill his family, set fire to his
possessions, and then go on to do the same with his neighbours, the whole
town where he came from and the whole country it is situated in. Articles
33 and 147 of the Geneva Convention are very clear about banning collective
punishment and destroying targets of no military relevance.

It is amazing that a state with a secret service and armed forces that
carry such a high reputation, could not seek out the Hezbollah culprits who
"kidnapped" three of its soldiers (whatever happened to the concept of
prisoners of war, aren't they part and parcel of a military conflict?).
Instead, not just areas known to be used as Hezbollah hideouts, not just
the country's entire infrastructure, but residential areas of both Muslims
& Christians, not to mention United Nation posts and more have been struck.
Now there is a land invasion developing. The refugees who cannot leave the
country are clogging up the capital, causing an immediate refugee situation
which will then turn into deep social tension.

The territory of Lebanon will not only accumulate understandable additional
hatred against Israel, but will become a place of unrest which cannot be of
any comfort to its neighbour. Their old claim to annex Lebanon up to the
Litani river may be fulfilled, but it will only increase the pressure in
the overpopulated remainder of the country. Physics 101.

Let me get on to a more controversial argument, that of Israel's Right to
Exist. I think by its behaviour as a Rogue State, it has long lost this
right. Having a right to a country is not divine, even for God's chosen
people. It is a capricious gift of history. Some have it, others have it
for a while, and others never get it. Nobody has the right to mess up the
whole of humanity every few years, in order to "guarantee" their own
geographical survival. The Kurds are a nation that never managed to have a
country, but they are not responsible for the 1973 start of the long rise
in oil prices, which were multiplied by 30x in the following 33 years. The
Poles have been in and out of having a country for most of their history,
and though France and Britain went to war for them in 1939, they were sold
down the river as soon as WWII ended. The Kashmiri are fighting for a
country. We Armenians were without one for the best part of a thousand
years. Did we go out and steal anybody else's country as a result? Does
Hillary Clinton say for us what she said last week ("We will stand with
Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli
ones"). Those values appear closer these days to those of Corporal
Schillgrüber in the 1930's.

THE CURSE    If it is anything but a small consolation, everyone I have
spoken to in recent days has been highly critical of Israel. It is
understandable that the US administration has done nothing to prevent or
stop this outrage, but the indifference of the Europeans is harder to
fathom. In any case, the damage is done. A wonderful country has been
wilfully destroyed. It might recover, one day. There is a spot just north
of Beirut,  a gorge through which flows the Nahr el Kalb (the River of the
Dog). From Antiquity, it became a tradition for conquerors passing through
Lebanon to carve their names on the stony walls of the river bank. Assyrian
kings, Egyptian Pharaohs, Greek and Roman generals and the more modern
armies (such as the nostalgic Régiment de Marche du Tonkin of the French
Army). Tourist guides loved to show them to visitors and say: "they all
came, they all went, but we are still here"). Maybe, Insh'allah, they will
still be there again. In the meantime, I am putting an old Armenian curse
on the State of Israel and all those who sail in her, adding that if God
elected that as the country of his chosen people, I do not know who is the
schmuck who gave Him the voting bulletin. The Armenian Curse is very
effective but secret, though I can tell you that compared to its
consequences, the Seven Plagues of Egypt appear as harmless as an old
ladies' bridge afternoon.

The day before Yom Kippur, you have to seek forgiveness from all the people
you have wronged. On the day of Yom Kippur, you have to seek forgiveness
from God. There are things, however, which have no forgiveness.

Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and
the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of
every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. Thou shalt fall
upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD." (Eze

*Armen Kouyoumdjianis a prominent, well known Armenian economist and thinker, specializing in Latin America and is widely consulted by businesses in that area. He is also a member of the Center for Strategic Studies in London.