Offering to help Lebanon doesn’t mean hailing its flag

It is one thing for Jerusalem to offer assistance, but it quite another that Tel Aviv cover its municipal building with the flag of that enemy country as a symbol of solidarity.

Smoke rises after an explosion was heard in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/ISSAM ABDALLAH)
Smoke rises after an explosion was heard in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020
Following the horrific explosions that ripped into Beirut on Tuesday, leaving at least 135 dead and more than 4,000 injured, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed his condolences to the people of Lebanon, and offered assistance, “as human beings to human beings.”
President Reuven Rivlin, too, expressed his sorrow, saying that Israel “shares the pain of the Lebanese people in this time of disaster and extends its hand to help at this difficult time.”
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman tweeted, “Humanitarian aid to Lebanon – now is the time to rise above any conflict.”
Lt.-Col. Avichay Adraee, head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, tweeted, “Under instructions from the defense minister and the foreign minister, Israel has reached out to Lebanon via international diplomatic officials and offered the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid. Israel has much experience in these areas and has proven it by the humanitarian delegations it has sent throughout the world in recent years.”
That’s for sure. The following examples, which don’t even scratch the surface of Israeli missions to other countries struck by tragedy and natural disasters, are illustrative.
In October 2018, Israel dispatched members of the military and police to Jordan to assist in its search-and-rescue efforts after flash floods took the lives of 18 people and left 35 others injured.
In April 2015, Israel sent teams to help Nepal in its effort to confront the Gorkha earthquake, which killed nearly 9,000 people and injured another 22,000.
In March 2011, Israel flew crews to Japan, rocked by a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that killed some 16,000 people and buried more than 2,500 in the rubble.
In January 2010, Israeli aid workers arrived in Haiti to help the country devastated by a massive earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced an additional one million.
In August 2009, Israeli medical teams provided relief to Taiwan during one of the worst typhoon seasons in its history, which left hundreds dead.
In September 2009, Israeli squads headed for the Philippines – battered by Typhoons Ketsana and Parma, which took the lives of 600 people – and set up field hospitals to treat the injured.
In August 2005, Israel helped the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which caused more than 1,200 deaths.
In October 2005, Israeli relief crews traveled to Kashmir to help the Pakistan-administered area hit by a monstrous earthquake that killed more than 80,000 people.
In December 2004, Israeli teams rushed to the scene of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, which left 227,898 dead.
The list goes on, and this one doesn’t even include the ongoing medical treatment provided to Syrians wounded in their country’s bloody civil war, or to the family members of Hamas and Fatah terrorists who have undergone surgeries in Israeli hospitals.
Not that any of the above matters, mind you, since the Lebanese government so far has snubbed Israel’s overtures. Many, if not most of its citizens, also consider the Jewish state a mortal enemy. One Beirut resident interviewed on Wednesday by Channel 12’s Ohad Chemo, for instance, said matter-of-factly that he “would rather die” than receive help from Israelis.
It is ironic that Lebanon’s key beef with Israel is the latter’s tough stance on the former for housing and harboring the Shi’ite terrorist organization Hezbollah, which takes its orders from the ayatollahs in Iran. Hezbollah exploits the Lebanese people by using them as shields for its nefarious activities and by storing missiles under their homes and schools. It also constitutes a powerful bloc in the Lebanese Parliament.
Taking the utmost care to avoid harming Lebanese citizens in the summer of 2006, when Hezbollah rockets were raining down on northern Israel without let-up, the Israeli government went so far as to endanger IDF soldiers in the process. Yet the ceasefire agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which put a stop to the fighting, ended up being little more than a temporary bandage on a deep gash.
DURING THE years that passed since then, Hezbollah has been working, unfettered, to rebuilt and increase its arsenals. It also constructed a network of terror tunnels through which to transport weapons and abduct or kill IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians. The IDF sealed off the last of these underground menaces last year in June.
This has not prevented Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah – holed up in a bunker – from repeatedly threatening Israel with grandiose “retaliation” for IDF strikes on weapons convoys, terrorists and Iranian operatives.
Three years ago, he even vowed to launch a missile attack on Israel’s ammonia storage facility in Haifa. The impact of this, he said, would be equivalent to five nuclear bombs. He also boasted that in such an event, tens of thousands of Israelis would perish.
Though the true cause of this week’s blasts at an ammonium-nitrate warehouse in the Port of Beirut has yet to be determined, all eyes are on Nasrallah. At the very least, he is viewed by the Lebanese public as indirectly responsible for the mishap, since it’s hard for anyone to believe that such combustion occurred simply as a result of 2,750 tons of “fertilizer” somehow being sparked. A more likely scenario is that missiles were hanging around the hangars as well.
Lebanon was in bad enough shape already, thanks largely to Hezbollah’s preventing reforms that would have made the country eligible for foreign financial aid. On the verge of economic collapse – in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, to boot – having Hezbollah saber-rattling in Israel’s direction was the last thing the Lebanese government or people wanted.
Meanwhile, the verdict of four Hezbollah terrorists charged with the 2005 truck-bombing assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was supposed to be handed down in the Netherlands at the end of this week. But, out of respect for the victims of Tuesday’s explosions, the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon decided to postpone the court hearing until August 18.
Nasrallah must be cowering in his hiding place right now – and not for fear of Israeli plots. The Lebanese people are fed up with him and the ill that he has wrought. His puppet-masters in Tehran probably aren’t too pleased either. No wonder he canceled the saber-rattling speech he was planning to deliver via video on Wednesday evening. He’ll be lucky to stay alive long enough to produce his next clip.
This is not to let Lebanon off the hook where its attitude toward Israel is concerned, however. On the contrary, both Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab have been aiming their ire over recent Hezbollah-initiated cross-border incidents not at Nasrallah, but at Netanyahu.
It is thus that the decision by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai to illuminate City Hall with the Lebanese flag on Wednesday evening not only was out of place, it was outrageous. To stave off the criticism that he knew would ensue in certain circles, Huldai explained on Twitter, “Humanity takes precedence over every conflict, and our hearts are with the Lebanese people in the wake of the horrible disaster that befell it.”
It is one thing for Jerusalem to offer genuine assistance to innocent men, women and children in distress, including when they hail from an enemy country. It is quite another for Tel Aviv to cover its municipal building with the flag of that enemy country as a symbol of solidarity.
Messages matter. Israel’s message to Lebanon, as to all of its enemies, is that it does not wish to be at war, but will not hesitate to fight to defend itself. Nor will it waver when extending a hand during times of humanitarian crises.
Huldai’s message is more like an unrequited love letter to an entity that would never return the gesture. Shame on both of them.