To the untrained ear, the sound of Israeli drones is almost indistinguishable from the roar of generators. We've had serious power shortages over the past few days. I'm talking 15 minutes of electricity per day. Don't start your washing machines! They'll stay on the pre-wash cycle for a week.
After the civil war, I've been told, generators were all the rage in Lebanon (for those who could afford it), because of acute electricity shortages and damage to the infrastructure. People grew accustomed to the noise, and would even bring generators on picnics to the countryside, to power their stereos or what not. If I stay in Beirut, I'd like Santa to bring me a generator for Christmas. Would the IAF target an old bearded man in a deer-drawn sleigh? Appropriate headlines: Rudolph the terrorist deer hit by a missile. Israel intercepts sleigh-load of toy weapons bound for Lebanon.
"War menus" accomodate indecisive people; the American obsession with unlimited options never suited me. Eating in Beirut is like a visit to Wok'n'Roll, that fabulous Chinese food court joint. Do you have beef? No. Do you have tofu? No. Do you have pork? No. Chicken, chicken. We have chicken. Only chicken. Spicy chicken, super spicy chicken, swee' en sauwa chicken.
So the Israliens (that's what they call them here, no pun intended) have launched a large-scale invasion. A guy told me yesterday, "the more soldiers on Lebanese territory, the more targets for us". I assume Olmert --which must be the Israeli name for Homer on The Simpson's, since it's 'Omar' in the Arab version-- knows that. Even though he's an idiot, who stranges his strategy/ tactics/ objectives/ demands every other day. Sigh, the decisive predictable brutality of Sharon is sorely missed. I've heard quite a few people lament his absence. Now the Israeli troops seem to be spreading out, rather than amassing in one place where the "invisible" Hezbollah fighters can attack them all at once.
I didn't see any Hezbollah fighters when I was in the south the other day; they must have been disguised as dead toddlers. I did see beefed up UNIFIL soldiers, though, at the Rest House hotel in Tyre. I expected them to look scrawnier, armed with paperclips and other weapons that are banned from handluggage on airplanes. I didn't even know they have automatic weapons. They do. But they just sit around a lot and pose for Benetton commercials. Very colorful bunch indeed. If Israel has its way and NATO is sent in to enforce a lasting ceasefire in the south, they won't want Indians and Fijans to do the job. I suspect their first pick will be Americans and Britons, and a few other parties from the grand "coalition of the willing" in Iraq.
Speaking of which, why hasn't anyone suggested a bufferzone in the north of Israel? The Lebanese have a case to make for feeling existentially threatened, after three invasions and countless bombing campaigns during the past 30 years. Five kilometers on either side would do the trick. Who can argue that that's not a fair solution?