An article in Wednesday’s Dearborn Press & Guide, “Businessmen organizing funds to rebuild Lebanon,” announced how local Lebanese-born philanthropist and executive Yousif Ghafari, has joined with three other American executives to create the U.S. Lebanon Partnership Fund. The fund is meant to provide resources to assist in the reconstruction in Lebanon following the recent conflict. Joining with Ghafari and his company, Dearborn-based GHAFARI, Inc., are leaders of Intel Corporation, Cisco Systems, and Occidental Petroleum Corporation. The fund complements $230M in U.S. taxpayer funded aid already going to Lebanon by means of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Naturally, there are already a significant amount of private charities contributing to Lebanon, many of them from right here in Dearborn.
Mr. Ghafari, whose motives seem genuine, has been known to support President Bush’s Middle East policies, and is no apologist for terrorism, expresses a desire the fund would help “re-establish an economically strong, democratic Lebanon that has hope for a bright future.” Executive John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco, also stated the Partnership’s hope to focus on “long-term solutions” in Lebanon.
But there are two big problems not addressed by Mr. Ghafari’s press release, both having a bearing on long-term solutions and whether or not there can be a bright future in Lebanon.
The first problem with the aid pouring into Lebanon from public and private sources around the world is Hezbollah. Every dime of it passes through the hands of this murderous terrorist organization.
As the Washington Times reported in a September 2 editorial, President Bush’s man running the $230M USAID program to Lebanon, administrator Randall Tobias, was unable to rebut reports that all government and private assistance, including funds from the Red Cross, actually goes to Hezbollah.
Tobias outlined a program whereby USAID would have to “work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to distribute U.S. aid. The problem is that in Hezbollah-dominated regions of the country -- including southern Lebanon, Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon -- it is virtually impossible to find NGOs that are not beholden to Hezbollah.” And, quoting a dispatch from Lebanon appearing in the New York Times, “Groups like UNICEF and Mercy Corps are having trouble trying to help civilians with[out] aiding or going through Hezbollah.”
Nor do I see any reason to believe that the same channeling of funds to Hezbollah isn’t going to happen with Ghafari’s partnership contributions, as well. Nor, for that matter, why it won’t happen to the many local Dearborn charities and fundraisers that are sending money, much of it well-intentioned, (much of it not) for the rebuilding of Lebanon and assistance to family and friends there.
And so what is the harm if the money does go to Hezbollah? Hasn’t it turned out that Hezbollah are the now good guys, having morphed from a terrorist army into a charitable organization as soon as the cease-fire with Israel (to which Hezbollah refused to be a party) was signed? Hezbollah is now being widely described not for its terrorist identity, but for being a social services agency looking after the poor and dispossessed of southern Lebanon.
One report, from Bint Jabail in southern Lebanon, “Hezbollah takes lead in rebuilding south Lebanon,” describes how Hezbollah, through its Struggle for Reconstruction wing, Jihad al-Bina, is handing out up to $13,000 per house, and locals are impressed that Hezbollah got there faster than other aid groups, and are less bureaucratic. The report describes one bombed-out resident, Jumaa, beginning to rebuild his business:
“Already he has made a start, and Jumaa says it is the very Shi'ite group that sparked the war by capturing two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 cross-border raid that is now helping get him back into business.
"’Hezbollah turned up very quickly after the war,’" said Jumaa. "’They saw my wrecked truck, machinery and tools in need of replacing and my house in ruins.’"
This reads just like the voiceover on an Allstate commercial I saw on CSI last night. I half expect Jumaa to smile into the camera as he shakes hands with green-helmet guy in a gold blazer and says, “Those bombs really did a number on my plumbing shop. But once the dust settled my local Hezbollah fighter was there, and he couldn’t have been more friendly and professional!”
The article doesn’t need to mention that Hezbollah, (which has never registered anywhere as an insurance company), can afford to be generous when it gets to control funding from USAID, and the Red Cross, and any of the other organizations that never made a decision for Hezbollah to be their agency in charge of distribution. (Nor is it remarkable that Hezbollah showed up so fast after the Israeli withdrawal, since they had orders to rush back into their former villages to inventory their remaining weapons caches. ) But what are you going to do? The reality is that Hezbollah still runs southern Lebanon.
But how can that not cast a shadow over Mr. Ghafari and his partners’ optimistic efforts on behalf of Lebanon? I can’t imagine they think they can come up with any long-term solution for rebuilding Lebanon that doesn’t even address the long-term problem of Hezbollah.
Which leads to the other problem of philanthropy aimed at Lebanon relief--the problem that also happens to be Hezbollah.
It seems that Hezbollah’s murderer-in-chief, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, (known to far too many in Dearborn simply as “Our Leader,”) was staging a victory rally last Friday at the very moment Mr. Ghafari and others were rushing rebuilding aid to Lebanon. Nasrallah made some telling remarks that weren't exactly expressing gratitude for all the international help repairing the damage:
Hezbollah's leader said Friday his guerrilla force would not give up its weapons until Lebanon was "strong," demanding changes in the government as he spoke at a rally of hundreds of thousands of supporters in a defiant challenge to Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah made his first public appearance since Israel launched its massive offensive against Lebanon on July 12, leading the "victory over Israel" rally in front of a sea of cheering supporters waving yellow Hezbollah flags in the bombed-out southern suburbs of Beirut.
The black turbaned cleric said Hezbollah possesses more than 20,000 rockets even after firing nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel during the 34 days of fighting, and he vowed that the U.N. peacekeeping force deploying in the south and helping guard Lebanon's borders from new weapons shipments will not affect the guerrillas' arsenal.
"No army in the world will be able to make us drop the weapons from our hands," he said.
Now doesn’t this speech coming from Lebanon's leading social services organization sound promising for Lebanon's future peace and reconstruction?
Nasrallah is wrong, anyway, that no army can disarm him. Any army of greater than 10,000 trained fighters, allowed to do so, could disarm Hezbollah within days, though civilian casualties would be high, thanks to Hezbollah’s devilish tactic of using Lebanese civilians instead of sandbags for their bunkers. Certainly the Israeli Defense Force could have disarmed Hezbollah, had it been let to do so. But at this moment, Israel is so jumpy it isn’t even willing to whack Nasrallah when he’s in Beirut in their crosshairs, bravely out of hiding in the broad daylight, not even disguised in his hijab and blonde wig.
But I expect Israel to recover from its momentary indecision, and then we’ll see something.
Instead of bragging that no army in the world would be able to make them drop their weapons, Nasrallah would have been more accurate to simply brag that no army in the world is currently willing to make Hezbollah drop them. And that includes the Lebanese army, the IDF, the UN forces, the U.S. Army, nor anyone else.
But I can’t imagine how anyone who cares about the people of Lebanon can receive a boast like that as good news for Lebanon, when it is obviously very, very bad news for Lebanon. It's bad news that Nasrallah feels strong enough to call for change in the government, defying Prime Minister Saniora, which is a guarantee of further instability and strife. It's bad news because it means that Hezbollah hasn’t changed a whit since July 12, and that Nasrallah is already looking forward to Round Two with Israel, which will be the Last Round for Hezbollah, but devastating to innocent Lebanese forced by Hezbollah into the crossfire.
In spite of all those dollars flowing into Hezbollah coffers, some portion of which is being diverted from weapons-buying solely to help purchase loyalty from local property-owners, none of those new buildings is ever going to be safe enough to qualify for insurance coverage as long as Hezbollah is controlling things. A still-armed armed Hezbollah is going to start firing rockets into Israel again as sure as night turns into day, because destroying Israel and killing Jews is the only mission Hezbollah ever had, or ever will have. And Israel’s response next time, after letting herself be uncharacteristically fooled into withdrawal before victory by the liars in the capitals of the world, will respond to Hezbollah’s next attack by making the July invasion look like a mugging in the park. And poor Jumaa’s business is going to be knocked flat again. But don’t try blaming it on Israel this time, Jumaa. You can thank green-helmet and the Jihad al-Bina for it.
But this could all be prevented, of course, if the rebuilders of Lebanon, the fund raisers, those who champion the safety and security of the people of Lebanon, start the rebuilding off right, by doing a proper demolition job of clearing Hezbollah out of there once and for all.
By demanding, when they send aid, that what’s left of the legitimate government of Lebanon start shaming the international community into helping Lebanon disarm and neutralize Hezbollah for good, as promised, but as no one is even pretending to do now. And as no one is demanding, including Lebanese patriots in Dearborn.
And you can finally stop misplacing blame onto Israel, especially those of you from southern Lebanon, (living there and by the thousands here in Dearborn), who know that region has been used for decades by people who don’t care about Lebanon, first by Arafat’s PLO, then by the Syrians, and now by Hezbollah, to stage their infernal, unnecessary wars against Israel.
If you can’t stop blaming Israel, and blame the real invaders and destroyers of Lebanon—Hezbollah—shame on you. Who can protect you from yourselves?
Many of us nonMuslims and nonArabs, have hearts that go out to the suffering victims in Lebanon. But we aren’t willing to see our charitable funds and giving misued paying for missiles so the same Hezbollah killers that caused all this can kill more Israelis, our allies, and draw down more destruction on Lebanese villages in the process--the villages Hezbollah lyingly claim to be defending. Lies too many of you insist on believing.
Hezbollah can defend Lebanon best by leaving, or better yet, by dying.
You are not in good hands with Hezbollah.