LEBANON, PALESTINE, IRAQ… THAT MESS WE CALL THE MIDDLE EAST

I remember, just over a year ago, sitting at a table at the opening of a gorgeous rooftop bar in Beirut. It was a typical Beirut Night, with drinks and friends and the whole nine yards.I remember the view: Beirut looked so beautiful. And it was, for one last night.

 

I remember going back home around four in the morning, after our usual stop at the 24hour breakfast place.

 

An hour later, Beirut was at war.

 

 

It was one thing being at war with Israel. But then we turned on each other. A cold war, yes, but a war nonetheless.

 

It was one thing when the United States went to war with Iraq to eliminate Saddam or the "weapons of mass destruction" or whatever polittically correct excuse they used to do it. But then the Iraqis turned on each other -in a not so cold war.

 

It was also one thing when Palestinians were fighting together for their cause. But they turned on each other, too.

 

 

We coud make it simple and see it as a pretty black and white scenario: The anti-western Arabs are fighting the pro-western Arabs. But when is anything simply black and white in the Middle-East? The problem is that no one seems to understand that gray area.

 

 

I sat at that same rooftop bar in Beirut two months ago. It had the same gorgeous view. The people around me were still smiling, looking gorgeous, drinking and dancing and being Lebanese. An hour away from that very place, Lebanese soldiers were fighting Fateh Al Islam. Just an hour away, bullets were flying, people were getting killed. But we were drinking and dancing and being Lebanese. Most would probably say that's a pretty careless attitude -what kind of people would be partying with a war going on an hour away?

 

 

Well, the kind of people who live in the Middle-East. The kind who have lived on and off wars their whole lives. The kind who are fed up, the kind that just want to live. Because they know that no Quartett meeting, no US sponsored Israeli/Palestinian meeting, no Arab league meeting is going to magically make everyone get along.

 

 

You can watch videos about Lebanon tourism (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/world/index.html) and you can read about the UNIFIL mandate being extended for another year. You can see pictures of the beaches and the nightlife and the destruction and the bombs. You can talk about the election of the next Lebanese president or the next Miss Lebanon.

 

 

Maybe we have become blase -and war is just another thing that's happening in our country, and we either make it a part of our lives or we ignore it. There are those who want to keep fighting, and there are the others, those who want the fighting to just stop -who can't remember what we were fighting about in the first place. There is the UN, with its endless resolutions that never really get fully implemented, with its adoption of the International Tribunal and with its peacekeeping forces on the ground... and there is the U.S., with its billion dollar deals with Israel and Saudi Arabia and its "no-pulling out" policy -because no one wants another Vietnam. And there we are, Arabs, stuck in the middle. But the UN is a bureaucracy and the U.S. is a country thousands of miles away and the only people really feeling the heat are those of us who live or try to live in the Middle-East.

 

 

And so we dress up, put make-up on, get in our gorgeous cars and go to the biggest nightclub in Beirut.

 

 

Because, that mess we call the Middle-East, we also call it home.

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About Yasmina Hatem

Yasmina Hatem was born in Beirut, Lebanon where she spent most of her life. She started writing for a French weekly newspaper for teenagers when she was 15 years old and has been active in journalism ever since. She attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and obtained her Masters of Science in May 2007. She currently lives in New York City and works for Al Arabiya News Channel at the United Nations.

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