Tuesday, September 22, 2020 -
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Compassion for the victims in Lebanon

Watching the smoke engulfed scenes from the Beirut Port are heartbreaking. So many theories about the chemistry of what may have triggered this ammonium nitrate explosion are swirling. What exactly happened seems to be unclear at this point. Of course, conspiracy theories abound, too.

One thing that is not shrouded in complexity, though, is the tragedy of it all.

Lebanon’s flag displayed on Tel Aviv’s City Hall.

Viewing Lebanon on fire, an enemy state of the State of Israel, a state that is home to and who’s government includes Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terrorist group bent on Israel’s destruction, can potentially be complex.

But in these moments of deep vulnerability, when innocent civilians — not terrorist Hezbollah soldiers per se — are the victims in this tragedy, so much of Lebanon is stripped away and leaves the focus on the unvarnished humanity of the suffering, the innocent.

We all know the work of the devil of Hezbollah; of planting and storing ammunition in homes lining the border of the country, so as to diabolically present profound ethical conundra to IDF soldiers fighting off attacks, navigating the ethically thorny, and impossible, really, situation of human lives woven into military targets including. The typical human shields narrative.

The great majority of Lebanese “amcha” (people) are not Hezbollah, though. In fact, with bravery in their bones, an insurgence against Hezbollah — which have brought nothing but misery to the Lebanon — rose not long ago. Unfortunately, it was not supported by the West.

These Lebanese people are the innocents who pay the terrible price of being ruled by terrorists. As though their lives are not miserable enough, now this shattering, explosive accident of hundreds of thousands of pounds — possibly more — of ammonium nitrate leaves the human damage very far-reaching, combusting so much else in its wake.

As far as is known, this was not a Hezbollah cache of weapons, prepared to point at Israel. Regardless, the innocent lives paying the price for such an explosion is so unfair.

The real fuel to this fire would be to withhold compassion from Beirut at this time, due to Hezbollah terrorists’ outsized influence on the country.

I am so proud of the IDF spokes-man’s message of humanity and compassion in instantly offering aid to Lebanon.

There are moments in life, even within what might be a situation warranting a defensive battle, where war ought to be suspended, where truces ought to be called, even if just to remind us that we are people, we are fellow humans, before all else.

These civilians themselves are not the enemy. But even if they were, Judaism has a conscience in its response to even the justified vanquishing of enemies, who, after all, are human beings created in G-d’s image, even as over the course of their lives they may have morphed into sociopaths or evil, and clearly lost their way. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,” King Solomon guides us in the Book of Proverbs.

It’s been years, but I remember reading local Denverite psychologist’s Dr. David Kazzaz’s memoir about his childhood and coming of age in Lebanon.

He painted a charming picture of the famed Lebanon as the Monaco, or Riviera, of the Middle East. Since that childhood long ago, Lebanon and Beirut have witnessed the collapse of their culture and country.

Right now the crisis of the explosion in the port of Beirut is the immediate situation demanding our attention and our deep human compassion. The lives torn apart by this blast are staggering.

Even if only in its aftermath, perhaps it is possible to leverage the current surplus of attention now on Beirut, Lebanon, to trigger the active support of the West in concretely aiding the Lebanese people’s desire to exile the Hezbollah terrorists and other jihad leaders.

Perhaps that could be a first step leading toward peace with Israel.

Perhaps, over time, this can be looked back upon as the turning point when Beirut eventually re-entered into the era of being one of the jewels of the Middle East.

Perhaps in the future, we will not need to discern innocent Lebanese casualties from an enemy state, but be able to embrace Lebanon as a friendly state.

My heart is with the innocent Lebanese citizens in this terrible time.

Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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