First there was the General whose army unit in Marjayoun was taken hostage by the Israeli army. Instead of resisting the occupiers, he served them tea and strolled through the courtyard of the barracks with them.
Then the wife of March 14th Minister Michael Pharaon, Mona Pharaon, was caught on camera raising her glas and toasting the "success of The Israeli army."("Je bois a la sante de l'armee Israelienne".)
Yesterday morning I had breakfast with a close relation of my former roommate, at a little foul & hummus bistro in Hamra. She, a Maronite, spent the entirety of the war in her village on Mount Lebanon. Squeezed in amongst a horde of heavily perspiring men wolfing down a heavy breakfast on their way to work, she told me (and her Shia boyfriend) how she dreamed of visiting Israel as a child, to visit her high-ranking SLA collaborator uncle -- who faces 20 years in jail if he returns to Lebanon. (She wasn't a child in 2000 when her uncle fled to Israel, but rather a few months short of adulthood.) She added, "I was speaking to my cousin in Israel the other day. She loves it there. I used to ask my mother if my uncle had killed anyone. She said no. He was just responsible for delivering things. My mother never lies."
The foul & hummus nearly dropped (or rather, drizzled) from my mouth; her boyfriend and I stared at eachother in disbelief at this public proclamation. In a hushed voice, he told her to keep quiet as the whole restaurant fell silent. Seeking to alleviate the tension, she added that her father was impressed with Hezbollah's military performance when the fighting ended, and that he was "not with Israel, not with Hezbollah."
That same Shia boyfriend then reported how he had seen his family's house in southern Lebanon on CNN, as it was being occupied by Israeli troops. Apparently they showed Israeli soldiers sleeping in their beds. What a bizarre romance.
I'm moving to a new apartment for the fifth time in 11 months. Every time I move, I employ the services of a certain Zuheir and his red pick-up truck. Zuheir refuses to go "up stairs", because he -- a hobby physicist-- knows that what goes up most come down, a fate that he seeks to avoid in his line of work. He insists that he will help load the truck; according to his superior judgement, this is best done by laying the dishes down one by one on the floor of the truck and placing the couch, cupboard, stove on top of them. This is his seasoned strategy, perfected over the years; he won't budge. I labored to find another pick-up truck service to no avail. And the Syrian workers haven't returned, so I'll be schlepping by myself. And Zuheir will watch the girls get sweaty, and occasionally glance at his watch to indicate that he is in a hurry to do nothing.
My new roommate, Maya, works for an NGO that provides relief for the displaced in Beirut and to villages in the South. Her Sunni Beiruti mother complains, "Why are you helping the Shia?" But she admires Hassan Nasrallah and has declared him a Sunni.
The expected droves of nations eager to contribute to the UNIFIL force have failed to materialized. The Bangladeshis are keen to come patrol the south, but Israel refuses troops from nations with which she does not have diplomatic relations. That effectively excludes Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia and a few dozen others. The French who wanted to "lead" the mission will now only contribute two hundred soldiers. Additionally, they demand a "clear mandate", as if dodging Israeli missiles accidentally lobbed at their outposts isn't enough to bide their time. They could also author a UNIFIL cookbook. UNIFIL "fusion cuisine" could soon be the newest hit in metropoles all over the world.
Dozens of people have been killed and wounded in the past week by unexploded cluster bombs in southern Beirut and in the south. A further casualty of the ceasefire is the return of the khaliji tourists, who fled Lebanon before Dan Halutz had time to sell his stocks. Apparently they are coming back to enjoy the rest of the summer. I want to rent a room on the top floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel, and drop pamphlets warning them: "Dear Khaliji tourists, as loyal allies to your royal families, we are giving you forewarning: All hell is going to break loose again. Leave while you can. Signed: The State of Israel." Or, "Saad Hariri would like to invite you to his birthday party/ barbecue along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Dress code: Shia. Bring your Hezbollah flags. See you there."
And this from Haaretz:
"Ministers recall that Olmert's aides joked about the possibility that he would make a victory speech in Bint Jbail, the site of Nasrallah's speech on Israel's spider web in May 2000. The Shin Bet security service's VIP protection detail would have never authorized this, but the mere fact that it was discussed is an indication of how surrealistic the conversations became among decision makers.
The IDF carried out three operations in Bint Jbail during the war, and did not conquer it because of its sprawling urban character."
Sprawling urban character? Bint Jbeil is at best a town, ordinarily home to 20,000 people. That would have been very Wilhelmian of Olmert to crown his victory in such a symbolic place on the enemy's territory. The Ministry of Tourism could then promote Bint Jbeil as the Versailles of southern Lebanon.
Maybe Olmert will give it another shot. The Israelis launched a commando raid today on a village in the Bekaa.