Lebanon loses after clashes with Unifil

In an opinion piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat, Randa Takieddin asks: "Who benefits from the recent confrontation in South Lebanon between Unifil and villagers?"

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In an opinion piece for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat, Randa Takieddin asks: "Who benefits from the recent confrontation in South Lebanon between Unifil and villagers?" Recurrent skirmishes in the last few weeks benefit Iran, Syria, Israel and Hizbollah at the expense of Lebanon and the people of the south. Iran can use the clashes as a political message sent to nations, such as France, that have agreed to sanctions. Syria benefits as it could be called upon to impose peace-keeping forces much like its role before 2005. Israel rejoices at the recent altercations because they prove that it is under imminent threat and therefore needs to resort to war to defend its security. As for Hizbollah, it is another way for them to assert that they are the only power in the country.

Unifil's mission has always been to preserve peace. The latest attacks proved to participating nations that the incidents were carefully plotted. Although the level of violence was controlled and limited to stone throwing, it nevertheless undermined Unifil's status. Southern Lebanon is once again being used as a battlefield for Syria, Iran and Israel. Lebanon would be the biggest loser if Unifil were to depart.

In 2007, Saad Mehio, a columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej, visited Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah to discuss peace proposals in light of escalating intra-Muslim conflict. Warnings of a deteriorating situation were everywhere at the time; they burgeoned in Iraq, were present in Lebanon, and then spread through many other Arab countries. "When I proposed to hold a spiritual summit in which senior religious scholars in the Arab world, Iran and Turkey would come together and agree to stem the roots of conflict, he rose to his feet and began a speech as he would when addressing a massive crowd."

"That must happen today. You can't wait till tomorrow," Fadlallah said. "I have long observed regional and international attempts to ignite a Muslim civil war. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to save Islamic unity." The summit never took place, but intra-Muslim violence did not regionally escalate either. The man, who authored 80 books on Islamic jurisprudence, was a vibrant proponent of liberal Islam.

"Temporary marriage remains the biggest doctrinal issue separating Sunnis and Shiites," wrote Dr Abdulhamid al Ansari in a comment piece for the Emirati daily Al Ittihad. Some Shiites deem it a blessing revealed in the Quran intended to make everyday life easier, while most Sunnis condemn the practice, disputing its presence in the Quran. The writer sheds light on this type of marriage where it is still practised.

Some Shiite scholars justify such unions as an efficient way of limiting decadence and debauchery. However, has it actually done so and decreased the number of illegitimate children?  Reports show that more than a quarter of a million illegitimate children are born out of temporary marriages. Fathers still refuse to claim them as society disapproves of the children of such marriages. As a consequence, abortions have been performed leading to the death of women at the hands of black market doctors in countries that bans abortion. An increase in Aids cases is also blamed on the phenomenon.

The coming few weeks will be decisive in Turkish-Israeli relations after Israel announced that it will "never" apologise for its attack on the Freedom Flotilla over a month ago, in which nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandos, commented Mazen Hammad in the opinion pages of the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. The meeting two days ago between the US president Barack Obama and the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington may have been an opportunity to change Israel's attitude.

This came after the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu offered Israel two options to avoid a complete severance of ties between the two states: Israel must either present an apology or accept an international probe into the incident. Some analysts expressed surprise at Mr Davutoglu's statement, particularly as it came only days after a secret meeting between the Turkish foreign minister and the Israeli minister of industry, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is considered the only official in the Netanyahu cabinet supporting an international inquiry.

"Our advice to Israel, if it were to take it, is that it should start pacifying an angry Turkey still bereaved by the loss of its sons to Israeli bullets in international waters," the columnist said. * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem rmakarem@thenational.ae