THE BLOG
07/18/2006 09:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Blogging in Beirut: Drawings From Heaven

Two cartoons that appeared in the streets of majority-Christian neighborhoods in Beirut over the last week. Probably they were dropped by Israeli planes although I have heard at least one person speculate that they were distributed by anti-Hizbullah factions inside Lebanon. The top one I found one morning on a second-floor balcony so that would indicate plane-drop, unless it's the upstairs neighbors. The bottom one I found on a sidewalk. The top one is green; the bottom I've seen in both yellow and pink. They're hard to find in Gemmayzeh, where I live. Either not that many fell here or people are collecting them.

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The top one says:

To the Lebanese people
Know!!!
To your face a brother and to your back a snake!!!

That's the leader of Hizbullah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's head on the cobra. He's coming out of the southern suburbs to strike the city.

The bottom one has Nasrallah as a cobra (the markings on the snake's hood are bombs) being charmed out of a basket bearing Lebanon's national symbol, the cedar tree. From left to right playing flutes are Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They're all seated on an outline of Lebanon. The Nasrallah-snake is saying "Need anything?" or "Any favors?"

I'm no Art Spiegelman. I think the cartoons look like nothing so much as what they are, clumsy war propaganda. During the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990 Maronite Christians here were at times "secretly" allied with Israel. Dropped exclusively it seems in majority-Christian areas, the
cartoons are an attempt to firm up those good old sectarian boundaries that guided and defined the civil war and which the Lebanese have been working so hard to get past. They've had success at this. Through the spring Lebanese leaders from all sides held periodic, all-inclusive meetings, known as the national dialogue, to address certain national bugbears such as what to do about Syrian influence over the presidency and about Hizbullah's arms. Not much concrete progress was made but it was something that these people were together in one room and making similar sounds about a united nation.

The national dialogue was also instructive as to how weak the Lebanese government is. Syria occupied and controlled and ran this country until its army withdrew in April 2005. The question since has been whether Lebanon can stand on its own two feet. The country was trying.

No apparent progress was made during the dialogue toward disarming Hizbullah. Nasrallah faithfully attended the talks; the idea was Hizbullah would be incorporated into the Lebanese Army. It didn't come close to happening. Holding the Lebanese government or the Lebanese people responsible for Hizbullah not disarming bespeaks a basic ignorance of Hizbullah's military strength, its crucial role in providing social services and de facto local governance in much of the south and of the Lebanese government's lack of strength.

The implication of the bottom cartoon is that Hizbullah is a tool of Syria, of Hamas, and of Iran. Small course in Middle Eastern politics behind that one. In any case bad drawing and why can't Assad sit cross-legged?