The massive explosion last week in the port of Beirut was only the latest violent disastrous chapter in the tortured history of Lebanon.
For a country with a landmass of a little more than 10,000 square kilometers — about 4,000 square miles, or, to put it in perspective, less than one-tenth of the size of New York State — Lebanon has had an oversized portion of infamous headlines during its relatively brief history as an independent country.
Once part of the Ottoman Empire’s province of Syria, it was the League of Nations that decided that Lebanon would be administered by France and become part of the French colonial empire following World War I. After the country was granted independence in 1943, it had enormous potential. Geographically located in a position to serve as a regional center for finance and trade, it did have some limited periods of prosperity — only to see those gains wiped away by years of brutal civil war and relentless infighting.
As Hamodia’s Military Correspondent A. Pe’er explains in these pages, it appears that what happened in Beirut this time wasn’t a terror attack but a case of gross negligence, of allowing the unsupervised storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in a heavily populated area. Now the port, a source of national pride and a historic site that linked East and West, is gone.
In addition to the heavy losses, including more than a hundred people dead and thousands injured, news reports tell of approximately 300,000 people left homeless and an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion in property damage, including silos full of grain that was to be rationed out to the public over the next few months.
In an ironic twist, it was the leader of its former colonial ruler, French President Emmanuel Macron, who came to Beirut to offer help and support. As he walked between the buildings wrecked by the explosion, residents vented their fury at Lebanon’s leaders, crying “Revolution!” and “The people want to bring down the regime!”
For his part, Macron warned that he wouldn’t give “blank checks to a system that no longer has the trust of its people,” and said that any international aid will bypass the government and go directly to aid groups and the population at large.
Yet what was not addressed was the real reason why the people of Lebanon were in such terrible straits well before this latest disaster: It is the Hezbollah terror group.
Headquartered in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, with a significant presence in the Bekaa Valley and Southern Lebanon, Iran-backed Hezbollah, which also has close ties to the Assad regime in Syria, is not only one of the gravest threats to the security of Israel and an international exporter of terrorism, it is also the primary cause of instability and mayhem within Lebanon itself. For many Lebanese, it is the fear of being killed that forces them to support Hezbollah. For too many others, it is an anti-Semitic hatred of Israel and hatred of the United States that drives their decision to choose the side of an unadulterated evil.
Like a person, a country can only be helped if it agrees to try to help itself. As long as the people of Lebanon continue to support and give shelter to Hezbollah, no foreign assistance can save this country as it hurtles down the path of self-destruction.