The Death of the Phoenix

Israel just could not accept having a hugely successful Arab country as its neighbour, writes Mishal Kanoo.

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By  Mishal Kanoo Published  July 30, 2006

|~||~||~|Israel just could not accept having a hugely successful Arab country as its neighbour, writes Mishal Kanoo. The phoenix is a strange bird. Mythical in concept, it rises from the ashes to spread its wings and show off its brilliant colours once again. But I guess, like all beautiful creatures, there is always someone who is jealous of it and can’t abide the fact that someone or something else has displaced them and has to spoil it for all. A few years ago, I wrote an article about Lebanon being that very same Phoenix that did rise from its ashes and spread its colourful plumage for all to see and enjoy. But then not everyone is prepared to enjoy what others have and they don’t. Lebanon had done something no one else had done in the Middle East – they threw away their past woes and decided to love life. Unlike other Arab countries who, if they went through the blood bath Lebanon had gone through, would have buckled down under all the weight that was thrown at it, the Lebanese people decided that they could not change the past but the future was within their hands and they were going to make the most of it. All was fine for about a decade. Business was booming again. The main city of Beirut was coming back to life. Banks were mushrooming all over the country. The construction boom was in full stream mode and the people were happy. I say happy because when Lebanese grumble over the state of internal politics and the state of the economy yet fill the nightclubs at night, things are fine indeed. Then it all changed this month. Hizbullah kidnapped a couple of Israeli soldiers and all hell broke loose in Lebanon. The Israelis are now holding the Lebanese government accountable for this incursion knowing full and well that they could not control Hizbullah when they were the minders in Southern Lebanon. Yet they decry that this week that the government is accountable for something they could not do when they were the proverbial overlord. Their response was a full-scale invasion without ground troops… so far. They bombed Lebanon. Destroying infrastructure and attacking anything that moved under the pretext of potential Hizbullah guerillas, Israel is like a man gone wild using a shotgun on a hornet that stung him. To the untrained eye, Israel is using military context as a reason to defend itself, as it claims. To the more critical eye, Israel knows exactly what it is doing. To destroy the infrastructure and buildings is something horrific. To deliberately kill innocent civilians is something even more catastrophic. But Israel knows damn well that their incursion into Lebanon will render this country dead, economically speaking, for at least a decade to come. Why? Let’s face it, who, in their right mind, would want to venture into Beirut in the next few years after seeing what Israel is willing to do to them at the smallest spark? Who is willing to enjoy a vacation in Lebanon knowing that Israel could bomb them to death or invade there at will? Who would be willing to invest in lands and properties there only to see that all they invested has turned to dust or has lost nearly all of its value overnight? Most importantly, Israel has showed the world that the Lebanese government is not in control of its own borders, so how can they be a safe place to invest? All of these questions come to mind of the rational, cautious investor. And Israel knows this only too well. The only potential main threat to Haifa port was Beirut port. The only potential main threat to the Israeli vacation hotspots was coming from the Lebanese vacations hotspots that even Israel could not compete with. The Arabs know that, but more importantly, the Europeans who went there knew that. Now, how many brave Europeans would venture to Lebanon to enjoy their vacation or invest their money? As for the Gulf Arabs, we are the most fickle and frightened investors in the world… okay I might be exaggerating, but that is what it feels like. We move our money to where the glitz and glamour are. Now that Lebanon has lost a lot of the spark and shine, it is hard to see many people from the Gulf going back there for a while. Even this was calculated by Israel as they know how much Gulf money went into bringing the Phoenix back to life. All those grand buildings and lavish palaces that dotted certain parts of Lebanon are now a thing of the past. I can’t see this money flowing back into Lebanon for quite a while. And this is exactly what Israel wants. The issue of Hizbullah was the excuse. Their main goal has been to show that the Arabs are insignificant and will never be anything more. See ex-congressman Paul Findley’s book, “Deliberate Deceptions”, to read from their own leaders’ thoughts quoted verbatim. Beirut was one city in a neighbouring country dared to prove otherwise. All I can say is that thank God Dubai is not in a neighbouring country. Mishal Kanoo is the deputy chairman of the Kanoo Group.||**||

3305 days ago
Mohamed Ebrahim

Lebanon will be like the Phoenix and rise again. Perhaps it will be a while before the Europeans make their come back. This does not mean that the Lebanese will give up on their country. If the Europeans do not come back, some of the locals may jump in and take the opportunity of what they have left behind. Lebanese spirit will be hard to break. They keep falling and still they manage to get up! After all Struggle is the meaning of Life and Hope is a necessary part of faith.

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