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Beirutis put little faith in protest as means of ending Israeli war on Gaza.

Byline: Florence Thireau

Summary: Protests continued in Lebanon and around the world this week, calling for an end to Israeli hostilities and global action to stop what the UN Human Rights Council on Monday called "grave" abuses committed over the past 18 days of violence in the Gaza Strip.AaAs Israeli tanks moved closer toward the center of Gaza City Monday.

BEIRUT: Protests continued in Lebanon and around the world this week, calling for an end to Israeli hostilities and global action to stop what the UN Human Rights Council on Monday called "grave" abuses committed over the past 18 days of violence in the Gaza Strip.

As Israeli tanks moved closer toward the center of Gaza City Monday, and the death toll rose beyond 900 lives, many of them women and children, The Daily Star went to the Beirut neighborhoods of Achrafieh and Mazraa for a local perspective on whether protesting against the Israeli war in Gaza would be effective in ending hostilities.

Respondents generally expressed pessimism, believing that protesting against the current war, both locally and abroad, would have little effect on international action to halt the violence that has cost so many Palestinian lives over the past few weeks.

Many said that their political apathy, and their lack of faith in the political parties that are often demonstrating, namely Hizbullah, kept them from participating in protests. This attitude was manifested on the streets of both Achrafieh and Mazraa.

In Achrafieh, Mariet said: "I don't think that protesting will accomplish anything. I'm not political, so no I would not protest."

Nearby, George echoed her sentiments: "No, it's not going to change anything. I'm not political, so I won't protest myself, but even if I was, protesting is not going to change the situation in Gaza."

Colette, 40, said: "I reject Israel's policy and I blame the Lebanese government for its lack of action regarding Gaza. I regret that only Hizbullah and Palestinians are protesting in Lebanon. I don't support Hizbullah so I cannot protest with them."

Two younger women nearby, Samia and Nour, echoed her sentiments, that they wished to protest, but did not wish to protest or stand with Hizbullah. But they said they were, "shocked by the deaths of children and women."

Down the street, Amir, an Armenian living in Beirut, expressed a similar lack of faith in any progressive action stemming from protesting, but went further in his analysis: "Look, it's a genocide, and I'm Armenian. I know all about that. But it doesn't matter what [protesters] say ... How many times have there been protests? Protests of 1.5 million people even! Is there any change? There has been 25 years of war, at least. The problem is political and when we're talking about politicians, what will protests accomplish?"

Still, Amir believed that "if someone has a view to resist, and he's defending his home, let him resist, and let him protest." Regarding global protests, he said: "Maybe it will have an effect. I don't know."

Claude, 55, said: "I regret that Christian parties are not organizing protests in Achrafieh. For some it might seem like Gaza's situation is a Muslim problem, but all Lebanese people should be concerned. I recognize Israel's right to defend itself as well as the Palestinians.' I think Lebanon's government is the best amongAa Arab governments ... It gave $1 million to the Gazans and I am expecting good results from it. Giving money is [better] than protesting in the streets."

Nadine took a more radical tone. "I'm very shocked by this systematic targeting of innocents such as children and women in Gaza, but I can't help thinking that it is not Lebanon's problem. Lebanon should try to focus on its own problems. Our best solution is isolation. We welcomed Palestinians in our country 60 years ago and it created a lot of problems. Media are always defending the weakest, but I don't think that the weakest are always innocent. All these protests are useless. We should focus on the next legislative elections. Besides, in a democracy, the only legitimate way of protesting is to vote."

In Mazraa, Osama told The Daily Star that "protesting isn't going to change anything, and ultimately it won't bring anything good for the Palestinians."

However, further down the street, Mohammad was more vocal: "Israel is doing something terrible. They're using phosphorous bombs, committing war crimes, and they should stop it. There is no reason for this war, and if there is a reason, they should give us one. There are poor people in Gaza, women and children. How can they say this war is with Hamas? However, I don't believe that the Palestinians who are here and in [the Occupied West Bank] are doing enough." Asked about protesting specifically, he replied, "I don't know. It gives an opinion, and that's important. I will protest if I feel I have to."

At a jewelry shop in Mazraa, Samer said: "Locally, I don't think protests will accomplish anything. But globally, I do think so. Perhaps it will change the stance of people in Europe or America to see protesters standing with the Palestinians. But in the Arab world, no. It will not change anything. So no, I would not protest myself here in Lebanon. It is meaningless here."

Ahmad, a 21-year-old journalist in Mazraa, was more positive. He told The Daily Star that "Lebanon is the only Middle Eastern country where you can protest without fearing to be arrested, unlike Egypt or Syria. We all know that protesting in Beirut can create a 'domino effect' in the Arab world."

But unfortunately, Amhad's sentiments were not shared by most Beirutis, who felt that no amount of vocal protests would change or solve the Gazans' current predicament as they face violent siege at the hands of the Israeli military.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Jan 14, 2009
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