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 Home » News » Saudi - Sunday 16 Jul 2006

Israeli Terror Bombing Revives Painful Memories

JEDDAH, 15 July 2006 - Friday is usually the quietest day of the week in Jeddah, as people direct their energies to prayer and their families, but this day was more solemn than most as a sense of foreboding seemed to grab hold of the city with news spreading about the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the widening conflict in the Middle East.

Newspapers were selling quickly as Saudis sought more information about Lebanon's plunge back into war.

Almost all the Arabic newspapers ran banner headlines with heart-rending photographs of the victims of the Israeli bombardment.

"Lebanon in Flames," screamed Okaz Arabic daily, "Israel Strangles Lebanon," reported Al-Jazirah. "Israel Tightens Siege of Lebanon," said Asharq Al-Awsat, which also highlighted a statement by the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt blasting Hezbollah for escalating tensions in the region. "Hezbollah Operation Whets Israeli Appetite for War, Hostilities," wrote Al-Eqtisadiah.

Most of the Saudi newspapers highlighted the Saudi statement in which the Kingdom placed the blame squarely on Hezbollah. One person described the Saudi stand as premature, but others welcomed it and described it as sagacious.

"The Kingdom is trying to defuse tensions. Nobody gains from war. We have been in this situation before. Lebanon has seen the horrors of war. Plain destruction hurts the Arabs," he said.

A Saudi official, quoted by the Saudi Press Agency, said Hezbollah's brazen capture of two Israeli soldiers was not legitimate. The Kingdom "clearly announces that there has to be a differentiation between legitimate resistance (to Israel) and uncalculated adventures."

The statement continued, "The Kingdom sees that it is time for those elements to alone shoulder the full responsibility for this irresponsible behavior and that the burden of ending the crisis falls on them alone."

But the anger on the street was palpable. All the Saudis who this correspondent spoke to supported Hamas, and many were angry about the US veto of a proposed UN resolution calling for a halt to Israel's invasion of Gaza.

"Ninety percent of the Americans are good people. They are God-fearing people. They are being hoodwinked by this tiny minority that holds the levers of power in the US," said a top Saudi academic. "America will have to come out of this vice-like grip of the Zionists. Everything about them is illegitimate," he added.

Several Saudis noted that American-made Apache helicopter gunships and F-16s were the equipment the Israelis were using to bombard Lebanon and Gaza.

"It is the Palestinians' legitimate struggle," said another Saudi man. "Israel cannot change history. It is an occupying nation. The world cannot deny Palestinians the right to defend their land. It is their land. It will always be theirs." Most of those who were reading newspapers said that they had seen everything on television, yet they wanted to read it in the newspapers.

"Images on the television are fleeting. But a newspaper gives you the real feeling of what is actually happening there," said one reader. "We get different perspectives," he said.

Once known as the Paris of the Middle East, Beirut was a popular tourist destination in the 1960s and 1970s. After the civil war and the Israeli invasion of 1982, Lebanon's fortunes faded until a decade ago when the guns fell silent, and foreign investment and tourism returned to the country.

But the recent bombings and talk of war have brought back painful memories.

"This brings back too many bad memories. Lebanon will never know peace," said a Lebanese expatriate based in Jeddah.

"I feel sad about Lebanon being bombed. Deep down I am happy that Israel is feeling at least five percent of what we are going through," said an employee at the Saudi Oger Company.

"Hezbollah is currently the only political party in Lebanon fighting to save the country," Dalia Salaam, a Lebanese Middle East analyst, was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera TV station. "The US and Europe should ask Israel to restrain itself. After all, no one - not even (US President George W.) Bush or the Israeli government - can afford to escalate the situation."

"Whatever the agenda of Hezbollah is, it is not necessarily the agenda of the Lebanese people," said travel agent Ramzi Salha, speaking on the same TV station. "They have not been designated by the Lebanese people to decide what is best for the country."

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza and Lebanon has roused the sentiment of rage in the Arab street.

"How do you justify killing scores and causing untold hardship to thousands for the kidnap of three soldiers? It is absolutely no coincidence that the Jews have not known any peace for 3,000 years," said an angry Saudi teacher in Jeddah.

"Israel should respond by releasing all children from Israeli prisons, as well as all other prisoners who are held without charge. They should treat others the same way they expect to be treated. End the occupation," said Walid Al-Jaleb, a Saudi of Lebanese descent.

"All Israel has done in the days since the kidnapping of the soldier by Palestinians is kill innocent people.... What did a six-year-old child do to them? If they want to be treated as humans they need to behave that way themselves. I am not a part of either world, but when one sees the actions of Israel, I think all Lebanon is doing is making a statement. Although I don't like violence in any way and am all for peace, let's face it: This is the only language Israel understands as it is the only language it uses," said A. Murthi, an Indian expatriate.

The Vatican also issued an extremely critical statement deploring Israel's attack on Lebanon. "The right of defense on the part of a state does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially when it concerns the protection of the civilian population," Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano announced on Vatican Radio. "The Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon - a free and sovereign nation," the cardinal said, noting that he felt "close to the people who have already suffered in defending their independence."

"The dismal response of Middle Eastern leaders and their disparaging sectarian comments is reminiscent to the very reaction of medieval leaders of the various Muslim fiefdoms and provinces in Arabia to the brutal Crusader-occupation of the Holy Land as mentioned by Amin Maalouf in his epic 'The Crusades Through Arab Eyes,'" said Mustafa Alam, a Lebanese university professor.

"Pan-Arab secularism has experienced a downfall and in recent years Arabs, and Muslims have learned that resistance against Zionism and Israel's brutality has to come from a united pan-Islamic front. At such a crucial moment in history, will we as an Ummah let our sectarian and theological differences come in the way as Muslim lands are bombed? Israeli US-made bombs don't discriminate and differentiate between Shiite and Sunni - they kill all," he said, while referring to the criticism of the Shiite militia Hezbollah.

"Hezbollah, Hamas and the Israelis; Sunni, Shiite or Jew, we must all pray for peace and an end to this nonsense that divides us and kills our children," another man said. "Hopefully, our prayers will be answered."

Siraj Wahab, Arab News

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