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Tense dialogue over Lebanon
There was no shortage of tension in the ICC Auditorium Tuesday as the National Director of Muslim Public Affairs and a Georgetown professor of Government and International Affairs squared off in a discussion entitled Two Perspectives, One Conflict: A Dialogue on Lebanon, Israel and the future of the Middle East.
photo by Alison Gillis
The event, co-sponsored by the Muslim Students Association, the Jewish Students Association and the International Relations Club, began at 7 p.m. Scholar Ahmed Younis and Professor Robert Lieber spoke to an auditorium nearly full of students, most of whom are either studying or interested in international relations.
As one might expect, most students arrived with prior knowledge of the war between Israel and Hezbollah, as well as their own opinions.
“I’m very sympathetic to the Lebanese people,” Cameron Stainken (SFS ‘09) said. ”…they’re the ones who took the brunt of what happened this summer …. [the Lebanese] were the people who ended up being hurt by the conflict.”
When Patrick Eucalitto (SFS ‘09) was asked who was to blame for the war in Lebanon, he took a moment and remarked, “At this point, everybody is at fault for something.”
Lieber said that the Israeli government had done the right thing in bombing the Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. He compared the Lebanese casualties to German citizens killed in World War II, arguing that “death is always a part of warfare.”
Ultimately, Lieber said, Israel had no choice but to attack Hezbollah when they succeeded in capturing two Israeli soldiers and executing three others, after attempting to do so several times. He believed that it was the responsibility of the Lebansese government to protect its people.
“[The] state controls the legitimate means of violence within its country,” Lieber said.
Ahmed Younis denounced Israel’s actions. He said that Israel’s overreaction to Hezbollah, “has allowed extremists to appear more moderate.” He compared the Israelites who supported the bombing of the Hezbollah in Lebanon to Muslim extremists, and called on the audience to, ”… humanize … communicate … and condemn what is to be condemned.”
In response, Lieber told Younis it was ”… a mistake to assume that the Muslim world had embraced Hezbollah” and that he was troubled by the “cliches” in Younis’ argument.
Of the 13 students who had lined up to ask questions, only seven people were ultimately able to participate, largely due to the fact that the event ran 25 minutes longer than scheduled.
The event received a mixed reaction from the audience. Many said it was simply, “too long.”