Losing Lebanon...again

Juanna Sharvit, a Lebanese expat living in east Jerusalem, talks about her hopes and fears for Lebanon.

juanna sharvit 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
juanna sharvit 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
In a small warehouse in Ramallah, the birthplace of thousands of posters of Yasser Arafat, Sheikh Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, work doesn't stop for a second. Today it is the smiling face of Hassan Nasrallah that clearly dominates the territory. Nasrallah is in big demand today in Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin and also in east Jerusalem, where his posters are being sold in places that are hidden away from the prying eyes of the police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). "Nasrallah is our new hero, he is just like Salah a-Din al-Ayubi," says Rami, a student at Bir-Zeit University who is already the proud owner of a large collection of Nasrallah and Hizbullah posters. "This is a victory for Hizbullah and a victory for all Lebanese citizens, and also all Muslims and Arabs worldwide," he says of the outcome of the recent conflict in Lebanon, explaining that Nasrallah's name means in Arabic, "Allah's victory." But apparently not all Lebanese expatriates in east Jerusalem are pleased with the outcome of this conflict. Many do not identify with the achievements of the extremist Shi'ite movement, and if anything are terrified of the future implications of this conflict on both internal Lebanese and regional politics. Juanna Sharvit, a Lebanese woman who has lived in Jerusalem for almost 20 years, doesn't share the common euphoria about the long-awaited cease-fire agreement reached this week. She fears that the only party that gained from this agreement was Hizbullah. An anchor and a journalist on Israeli Channel 1, she closely follows the developments in her native country, although right now she says she feels "100 percent Israeli." In an exclusive interview with In Jerusalem she talks about her fear of future developments in the region, disappointment with the outcome of the conflict and nostalgia for the Land of Cedars. "In 2000, when we left southern Lebanon," says Sharvit, who is married to an Israeli, "it was done badly and only increased the popularity of Nasrallah, who claimed he was the one who chased Israel out of southern Lebanon. "He comes out of this conflict even more powerful and influential, because it seems that Israel didn't achieve even one of the goals it set for itself prior to this operation. I hope and believe we will get our soldiers back, but it will only be achieved through diplomatic efforts and negotiations. And this is exactly what Nasrallah said during his televised address on July 12." Right now, she says, "we have to admit that despite the killing of many Hizbullah fighters and the damage to the country's infrastructure, Israel has not achieved a thing." Sharvit believes the IDF wasn't given a fair chance to win the war. "And that's too bad, since during the past week there have been plenty of indications that Nasrallah is getting weaker - he implied that he is interested in a cease-fire, and there were lots of additional hints," she insists. "But by stopping the operation and pulling out of the country Israel just made him stronger in the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims around the globe. I trust that our army is very strong and it could have done the job, but since the orders from the political echelon were not clear, they were not free to do what they wanted and we lost a lot of soldiers." Sharvit speaks emotionally about her personal disappointment with this military ordeal. For her and many Lebanese citizens who live outside their country and were unable to visit there for many years, this war was very, very personal. "After the dramatic events of last year, when Rafik Hariri was killed, the Syrians finally pulled out of Lebanon, and a new, truly Lebanese government was elected, we started to develop hopes for the future," she says bitterly. "Of course, Lebanon is quite weak today, but we hoped that in time some kind of relations might be developed between Israel and Lebanon; however, after this war it will not happen, and Hizbullah will only grow stronger and more influential." And there is another scenario that frightens Sharvit a great deal: "Now that the Lebanese army will enter the south, one shot in Israel's direction will be enough to start a new war, since the Lebanese army will be bearing responsibility for the stability in this region, and we all know that this army is weak and incapable of preventing Hizbullah people from coming back to the south. "After all, they live there, they are the inhabitants of the south, so they will come back and hide the weapons, and it is an extremely dangerous development," says Sharvit, who recognizes most of the places in the south from the time she lived there. "I have spoken to many Lebanese people, in Beirut and in the south," relates Beirut-born Sharvit, who later moved with her family to the south, "and I heard a lot of disappointment and anger with Israel, for both ruining the country and not getting the job done! One of the women I spoke to tells me that when she found her house, in one of the villages in southern Lebanon, [it was] completely ruined, as the soldiers who stayed in the house completely destroyed it. She said that if Israel had at least achieved its goals by invading Lebanon, she wouldn't have felt so bad for the wrecked house. And this is what many people in Lebanon are saying today - because of this operation Nasrallah has only become more powerful." But what about the footage of refugees openly praising Nasrallah that we see on Arab satellites today? "Well, those who are coming back to the south are Shi'ites, and it's natural for them to support Hizbullah," she explains. "Also, the media, as usual, show only specific people and specific interviews, to strengthen a specific agenda. It's also important to understand that there is this strong victorious feeling among crowds, but at the same time, these are just the first couple of days after the cease-fire. "Many of them haven't seen their homes yet, and the harsh reality hasn't hit them yet. After they realize they have lost everything they owned, they will feel completely differently. And it will definitely take a long time to restore the south," she says. Today, Sharvit lives in Jerusalem but she still feels very warmly about Lebanon. "The Lebanese love life and know how to live, that's a known fact," she says.