“It could break out without any notice”… In Lebanon, the specter of war in people’s minds

From France, we could imagine Lebanon as a cursed country. A Nation marked by multiple wars, terrorism, political crises, a ravaged economy… Waël*, a 40-year-old Lebanese, refutes this narrative with a pragmatism that is quite classic for a university professor. “I don’t feel like we’re a cursed country. We just suffer the weight of our geography. On the regional scene, with the exception of certain Gulf countries which have been able to develop economic prosperity and political stability, who is doing better? Chaos, tensions and conflicts are everywhere. »

Here then, even when we reject the curse, pragmatism is tinged with fatalism. And it is not the fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip, following the Hamas attack on October 7 on the territory of the Hebrew State, which is likely to reassure. Especially when Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist movement, exchanges heavy fire with the Israeli army on the border. Based in Beirut, Waël is far from the direct consequences of the war. “It does not have a direct impact on my daily life, apart from the fact that I regularly follow the progress of the conflict, in Gaza or in southern Lebanon. »

“We have never lived in peace. It’s an illusion”

But in a country where confrontations with Israel are frequent, Waël knows, conflagration lurks, even in the capital. “There is an increased risk of war with Israel. It could break out without any warning,” he fears. Relatives of his have already left the country in recent days. For the moment, Waël remains.

In this conflict, there is the heart – “like many Lebanese, I condemn the war against the civilian population in Gaza and support the Palestinian people”. And the reason – “Like a large part of the population, I do not want Lebanon to go to war.” With Waël, it is always the principle of reality that prevails, and this is clear: “The Israeli army is known for its destructive force. Just look at what is happening in Gaza right now. And during the 2006 war, Israel heavily bombed Lebanese infrastructure.”

A war, or rather wars, still in everyone’s memory: “Like many people of my age, we experienced and survived several episodes of war with Israel, but also the civil war, between 1975 and 1990.” This is the fate of Lebanon. “We have never lived in peace, and in this region of the world, that remains an illusion.” Neither romanticism nor epic connotation in his words. “It’s not a walk, war is horrible for everyone. »

Hezbollah, an object of division in the country

“I am not a supporter of Hezbollah,” continues Waël. The Lebanese are divided regarding its role in domestic politics, and its involvement in the region’s conflicts. Part of the population raised their voices, demanding the neutrality of Hezbollah vis-à-vis the war in Gaza.” Political forces opposed to Hezbollah have adopted the following slogan: “Solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinians but against the extension of the conflict in Lebanon”, informs Waël. But other parties, notably the Free Patriotic Movement, have openly declared their support for Hezbollah in the event of a possible war.

Lebanon, really not cursed? “It is true that with the economic crisis and the explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020, feelings of disappointment and frustration are strong. But the country has the potential to emerge. Several dramatic events have already taken place since independence in 1943. Each time, we have always managed to rebuild. »

* At the request of our interlocutor, his first name has been changed.

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