Lebanese and Israeli Bloggers Empathize Online

Lebanese and Israeli Bloggers Empathize Online

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Paris– Beyond ideology, snippets of a true dialogue are beginning to appear between Israeli and Lebanese bloggers on the Internet. Ignoring their political differences, they benefit from the human, not to say intimate, aspect of blogs to engage in a conversation that conventional media cannot enable…

“With the web, the war becomes personal”

Ramzi, 27, lives in Beirut. The first post published on his blog, launched just two years ago, attested to the challenge of living in a country so invaded by tourists that it becomes difficult to find a seat at the terrace of a café. In early July, he mentioned the fact that, while waiting for a visa, he kept cancelling his plane ticket and saying “goodbye” to his friends. Today, he comments on the “Israeli aggression” through, namely, advertisements full of humour and poetry. Several Israelis have written to him in the form of comments to condemn the “waste” of this war, express their compassion, wish for a quick resolution to the conflict and call for peace between “neighbours”. Ramzi summarises this in a single line: “With the web, the war becomes personal” – thanks to blogs, amateur videos posted on the Internet and to the comments posted by Internet users.

This was the “first time that residents of ‘enemy’ countries engaged in an ongoing conversation while missiles were falling”

For Lisa Goldman, a Canadian-Israeli journalist and blogger who lives in Tel Aviv, this was the “first time that residents of ‘enemy’ countries engaged in an ongoing conversation while missiles were falling”. And the examples abound. Thus, the first person to react on her posting dedicated to an anti-war protest last Sunday was a Lebanese woman who condemns the state of siege, the destruction of her country and the death of civilians but adds that “with people like you, the dialogue will continue; we have no choice”.

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Beyond generating this type of civilised dialogue between citizens of warring nations, the Internet also creates otherwise more unsettling situations where the military, and those who support it, are kept informed of the consequences of their actions by the very people they are bombing. Last Monday, Shachar, a Tsahal soldier usually stationed at the Lebanese border, was on leave to attend a funeral. He took advantage of this by consulting a collaborative and very popular blog, Lebanese Bloggers, in order to stay informed of what is happening on the other side of the border: “We can’t see all the bombing in Lebanon from Israel (naturally, we’re focusing on bombs in Israel)”.

When hate fades away…

For several nights now, Lisa Goldman has found herself “chatting” live with a Lebanese man she met through his blog. Sitting on the roof of his apartment building in Beirut, he describes his impressions to her while Israeli missiles fall on the city “in a human, personal way that no newspaper article or television news segment can convey”.

More generally speaking, what comes out of these conversations—through blogs or interspersed commentaries between Israelis and Lebanese—is a feeling of powerlessness and sadness regarding this conflict over the civilian losses it has caused, and over the policymakers of their respective countries and their international allies who have subjected them to this fait accompli. Hope is also present in these conversations, for while many Lebanese bloggers today feel hate toward Israel and will now refuse any contact with Israelis, most of those who communicate online do not consider themselves as “enemies” but as “neighbours”.

Lisa Goldman goes even further: “When the anger dissipates, perhaps they will remember the personal connections with their ‘enemies’”. Catching herself dreaming that the next generation of Lebanese and Israeli politicians and business leaders will benefit from such intimate relations, she concludes that “it’s not so easy to kill someone you know… as a human being, not simply as ‘the former enemy’”.

Jean-Marc Manach is a journalist for Le Monde. He also maintains a blog, rewriting.net, a distribution list on the information war, guerrelec, and a research interface of 200 search engines and databases, manhack.net.

Excerpted from an article distributed by Common Ground News Service– Partners in Humanity (CGNews)
First published in Le Monde, July 19, 2006.
Reprinted with permission (excerpted without permission)

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