Terrorism and Tiaras
Two weeks into the 2006 Second War in Lebanon, as Israel tried to put a stop to Hezbollah rockets that were pummeling huge swaths of the northern part of the country, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in the region. She had come to tell Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to do his best to eliminate the terrorist threat as swiftly as possible.
During a press conference with Rice in Jerusalem, Olmert said that he was “determined to carry on the fight against Hezbollah.” This undertaking was particularly difficult, due to the fact that the arch-terrorist organization supplied by Iran placed its headquarters and bases in civilian apartment buildings and strategically stashed military materiel under structures such as nurseries and a baby-formula factory.
Yes, in keeping with Islamist terrorist tradition, Hezbollah welcomed the killing of men, women and children on both sides of the border. While aiming its missiles at Israeli population centers, it simultaneously hid behind civilians in Lebanon, delighted whenever an Israeli sortie resulted in high casualties. It also knew that Israel was taking great pains to pinpoint terrorists and their infrastructure, so as to minimize the killing of noncombatants.
In addition, it was confident it could rely on Western media outlets to report on the higher death tolls in Lebanon. This imbalance was a result of the care Israel took to protect its populace, which was holed up in bomb shelters for weeks, in contrast to Hezbollah’s purposely putting the people it dominated in harm’s way.
In true liberal – ad nauseam — fashion, Olmert’s press conference included a clarification of Israel’s mission.
“We are not fighting the Lebanese government or the Lebanese people,” he stressed. “We are fighting against Hezbollah.”
At the time, this statement was irksome to those of us who were sick of Israel’s walking on eggshells even when under massive artillery fire. Hezbollah was and is an active participant in the political system in Lebanon, holding several seats in parliament. For this, the Lebanese government and people should be held accountable by the West, not constantly touted as a paragon of relative modernity in the Middle East.
On Sunday, two events occurred to drive this point home.
The first was an Israeli helicopter strike on a convoy in the Syrian province of Quneitra, which killed 12 terror chiefs, among them Hezbollah operatives, a commander and a number of Iranian Revolutionary Guard members. This targeted killing (for which the Israeli military has not officially taken credit) comes on the heels of an interview that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave to the Lebanese TV station Al Mayadeen on Thursday.
During the three-hour (!) interview, Nasrallah openly threatened Israel.
“The resistance in Lebanon has everything the enemy can imagine and not imagine,” he said. “We have weapons of all types, whatever comes to mind.”
Following the preemptive strike, aimed at dealing a critical blow to Hezbollah operations, Israel went into high alert. In anticipation of vowed revenge attacks from Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, Israel dispatched Iron Dome batteries to the north and citizens were warned of potential danger.
The second event on Sunday — which has been as widely publicized as the snake-head assassinations — took place in Florida, during preliminary preparations for the Miss Universe contest.
Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, snapped a selfie with Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, who was standing next to Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan. When she uploaded the photo to Instagram, all hell broke loose.
The Lebanese media attacked her for fraternizing with the enemy, and Lebanese bloggers and Twitter-users called for her tiara to be torn off her head.
The Lebanese government is now weighing such a measure, for which there is a precedent. In 1993, it decrowned Miss Lebanon for appearing in a photo arm-in-arm with Miss Israel.
Rather than taking a stand on “world peace,” as is laughingly customary during beauty pageants, Greige went on both the defensive and the offensive.
First she swore that she had done her best to avoid having any contact whatsoever with Matalon, whom she accused of “photo-bombing” her without her permission. Her agent went even further, accusing Matalon of having stalked Greige for the purpose of having her competitor’s title taken away.
Matalon took the opposite position.
“Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game, only for three weeks of an experience of a lifetime that we can meet girls from around the world and also from the neighboring country,” she said via social media.
On Monday, Matalon appeared on the “Today” show, where she reiterated her disappointment.
“We need to remember that we represent the country and the people, not the government and not the political issues,” she said.
Of course, Matalon had been foolish to assume that Israel’s neighbors want the same kind of peaceful relations with the Jewish state that she envisions. Though it would be logical for a Lebanese beauty queen to identify with a counterpart from a free society, rational behavior is not the norm in the Middle East.
Her Miss Universe pageant bio is enlightening in this context.
“[F]rom Al-Koura village, north of Lebanon, she graduated two years ago with a masters degree in civil engineering and is very enthusiastic about her field of work,” it reads. “Despite the unstable situation in Lebanon, she is overwhelmed with the continuous hunger of Lebanese citizens for survival, resistance and most importantly success.”
Note the word “resistance.” Not love. Not kindness. Certainly not peace.
Such attitudes are what enable the likes of Hezbollah to flourish. Let us keep that in mind during the next war that Israel is forced to fight against terrorists using innocent people as human shields.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.'” This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.