11.08.2006Blogs on the Middle East CrisisWhen More Than Just Weapons SpeakThe internet knows no borders – this is illustrated nowhere better than in discussions among Lebanese and Israeli bloggers about the war in Lebanon. Ingmar Kreisl reports
Many bloggers use the internet to communicate with the other side – for Israelis and Lebanese it is the only way to make contact.
Lebanese and Israeli bloggers are writing about their experiences and views on the war. They write from bunkers in Israel, high-rise apartments in Beirut, and internet cafes. Often they elaborate not on politics but on the everyday consequences of the war, broken dreams, and their hope for a quick end to the fighting.
Lebanese artist Zena El Khalil, for example, began keeping a blog when Israel started its offensive, describing her feelings every day since the bombing commenced.
Two weeks after the bombing began, her entries expressed resignation and despair. On the second of August she only wrote: "I feel so helpless."
Many Lebanese feel their lives have reverted to the state of things during the civil war, when power outages and long lines at the supermarkets were normal. Zadigvoltaire wrote in his blog about the supply situation in Beirut when the bombings began: "No antibiotics, no electricity, and less and less gasoline."
The blogs often express a conviction that internal Lebanese problems must be put aside in the face of the crisis and a united front maintained against the "enemy.” According to a study by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hezbollah’s resistance against the Israeli army.
Growing support for Hezbollah
One of them by the nickname of Gaztastic writes: "Let us Lebanese forget our domestic political problems for the moment and try to unite in order to defend our country… It is time for us to join together and protect our country."
In a blog called Beirut.spring, begun after the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Hariri, Mustapha writes that he understands Hezbollah as his political enemy, but nonetheless as part of the Lebanese political system and thus a part of his country.
On the other side of the conflict, in Northern Israel, people are likewise living in fear of the next missile and the next air raid alarm. After the Israeli army left Gaza and the possibility of a retreat from the West Bank arose, many Israelis began to feel a glimmer of hope for the peace process.
The escalation following the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers came as a shock to many Israelis. One blogger from Northern Israel described his feelings upon his return from a long vacation:
"I left a country that had been relatively quiet… just a month later I have returned to find a country in the grip of drama and tragedy all over again."
Life under constant attack
Similar to their Lebanese neighbors, Israelis living within the reach of the Katyushas describe the fear of living under constant attack.
At kishkushim.blogspot.com, a group of students describes their life in Haifa since the beginning of the attacks. "The sirens sound again and we run out into the hallway, which is the only place in the apartment without a window, wall or door to the outside."
Although politicians on both sides are not talking with one another, the people are starting a dialog. Many bloggers use the internet to communicate with the other side – for Israelis and Lebanese it is the only way to make contact.
"Hello Lebanon, hello Israel," writes Israeli Ben Basat in his blog. "I don’t know what will happen, but we should use the advantages and the power of blogging to create a forum for everyone."
More and more commentary from Israeli bloggers finds its way into Lebanese blogs – and vice versa.
Contact despite the war
One example of the contact being established between the people of both sides is the Israeli-Lebanese blog arabisraelipeace.com, which was initiated by an Israeli and a Lebanese. The site’s purpose is to facilitate an exchange between the two sides and "bring together Arabs and Israelis."
Israeli soldiers also seem to perceive blogs in Lebanon as a source of information. Sachar wrote in a blog: "Hey, I am an IDF soldier stationed at the Lebanese border (…).We can't see all the bombing on Lebanon here from Israel (naturaly we're focusing on bombs at Israel), so you're pretty much updating me on what's going on. (…)I don't want to start arguing about who's right and who's wrong, the finaly word is that it's not right that civilians get hurt in the process, from both sides..”
Because people can write commentary on any entry at a given site, many discussions have been carried out directly between Israelis and Lebanese in which individuals explain their views.
Despite these positive developments within the community of Middle Eastern internet bloggers, it must be remembered that they represent only a small fraction of society. Most bloggers are young, well-educated academics who chat with each other in English. Shiite refugees in emergency shelters who had to leave everything behind are not among them.
Whether or not the bloggers really are who they say they are is another question. Theoretically, anyone can claim to be Israeli or Lebanese in a blog, but no one’s identity cannot be verified.
© Qantara.de 2006
Translated from the German by Christina M. White