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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
Debate III: Israeli and Lebanese
A Lebanese man in Beirut and an Israeli living in the border town of Shlomi exchange emails on the conflict in their countries. This is the third instalment of their correspondence.

SALEEM KHOURY, BEIRUT, LEBANON

Saleem Khoury

Dear Gordon,

I truly believe that you wish us safety and we feel likewise that you and your family should live in peace.

You say Israel targeted the airport and the Beirut-Damascus highway to stop Iran and Syria supplying arms to Hezbollah. OK, but that argument doesn't explain the rest of Israel's bombing strategy. Why does Israel return to bridges it has already destroyed to bomb the bridge foundations? Why, other than to make the job of rebuilding harder for the entire Lebanese people.

Why is Israel bombing the aerials of all Lebanese satellite TV stations? What has that got to do with Hezbollah? It is still firing rockets, so what has Israel achieved other than destroying the country?

You say Lebanon should have sent its army to the border. Well, that's like me asking my six-year-old son to protect our house. The Lebanese army is the weakest member of the family. Since the civil war ended Lebanon has spent its money on rebuilding the country, not on equipping its divided army.

But it is not for Israel to do what the Lebanese army cannot do.

Send me some oranges from my grandfather's orchards... which is exactly where you live

Hatred starts young on both sides, not just among needy Muslim children. One of today's newspapers has a picture of Israeli children writing messages to Lebanese children on 155mm shells. One reads: "From Israel and Daniele".

You have to be in Beirut to understand all the miseries here. All the school buildings are currently being used to shelter some of the 750,000 displaced people. So where are my kids going to go to school in September?

You say Hezbollah will never accept that Israel is here to stay. Well, Hezbollah has only ever had two demands for Israel: leave the land it occupies in Lebanon and free Lebanese prisoners.

Israel is here to stay. But it should pull back from the land it occupies, including the Shebaa Farms. And it should give back the land it stole from the Palestinians. Israel knows it is a thief; it stole a country.

Maybe you could send me some oranges from my grandfather's orchards. From the land he had to leave in 1948 - which is exactly where you live. My grandfather used to own acres and acres of land where your settlement now is. It's such a coincidence, of all the Lebanese and all the Israelis to be in a debate...

My mother's village is al-Bassa, now called Bezet. I have a picture of my grandmother on that land in 1946. It's less than 2km from Shlomi where you are. Where was your maternal grandmother in 1946?

Israel must return our land. Then I will be the first person to cross the borders and offer you a case of fresh Lebanese apples.

Yours,

Saleem

GORDON ORR, SHLOMI, ISRAEL

Dear Saleem,

If you say that your grandmother came from al-Bassa I won't dispute this with you. I make no secret of the fact that I came here from England.

But I would like you to know that my daughter-in-law's parents fled Tunisia, a "moderate" Arab state, because their lives as Jews in a Muslim state had become untenable.

I don't know under what circumstances your grandparents left. A large part of the local population stayed, including the family from Nazareth whose two children were killed [on July 19th] by missiles, fired indiscriminately as usual against civilians [by Hezbollah].

[Hezbollah leader] Nasrallah declared that they are martyrs to the Muslim cause, which I hope will be of some comfort to their parents.

I personally opposed settlement in the West Bank and Gaza, and was delighted when we finally pulled out of Gaza.

But I simply did not anticipate the almost constant shelling of Israeli settlements in the south. And let's not forget, the occupation of those lands came as a result of a war foisted upon us by those who denied our right to exist.

My first experience of Katyusha rocket fire was in November 1978. The first shell fell some 10m from a public phone box which I was using. Twenty-eight years on, it is still continuing.

A Katyusha missile is not a weapon of self-defence. Its purpose is to terrorise civilian populations. The current missiles even have ball bearings packed into their warheads to increase their destructive power.

Like it or not, Hezbollah represents a large segment of Lebanese society

The 1982 Israeli invasion was misguided, but it came about in a desperate effort to curtail the endless attacks on civilian targets from Lebanon.

The hope then was that we would eventually come to a peace agreement with the President-elect, Bashir Gemayel. That of course ended when he was assassinated - in retrospect a logical move because why would anyone in Lebanon want peace with Israel?

The north of Israel has been hit by so many missiles that huge numbers of people have taken refuge in the south. My son, who lives some 10km south of here, has had missiles fall close to his home. We are more concerned for his safety than our own.

Like it or not, Hezbollah represents a large segment of Lebanese society. And they are supported because of their avowed aim of destroying Israel, not in spite of it.

And for that reason they allow Hezbollah to fire their missiles from within houses and schools, and put all of your population at risk.

Israel cannot be blamed for the inability of Lebanon to control Hezbollah or even to strengthen its own army. It is in your hands to find a way to control your own population; not doing so will always be the opening for such tragic instability for us all.

The destruction of Israel will not happen. What worries me about Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda etc is that they believe their actions will bring about the end of the State of Israel, and therefore any amount of pain and suffering is justified.

In hope of happier times,

Gordon






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