Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment on the village of Khiam in south Lebanon near the border with Israel on June 8, 2024 amid ongoing cross-border tensions and war in Gaza (AFP).

By Farah-Silvana Kanaan

There's something dizzyingly dystopian about seeing people on social media excitedly debating the chances that a genocidal entity will unleash an all-out war on your country.

As if it were a football match to place your bets rather than a second Gaza, three words used to describe a not-too distant Lebanon, if these vultures get their way.

Yet, despite the very real, very visceral threats — and official unconditional backing by the US — life goes on. In a recent Facebook post that went viral, a Lebanese person in the diaspora asks, "Is it safe to visit Lebanon?"

The response was as funny as it was cynical (yet undeniably true): "According to Twitter, no. According to Instagram — yes."

We wildly oscillate between the darkest of humour and quiet desperation.

Already at war

The most harrowing part of all this is that Israel is already conducting a war in Lebanon. The insistence of far too many outside —but especially inside — of Lebanon that a war might ensue this summer, when the people in the South have been terrorised by the incessant buzzing of Israeli drones, the continuous breaking of the sound barrier, white phosphorus destroying swathes of land, and at least 450 people killed since October 8, is insulting. Cruel, even.

Nearly 100.000 Southern Lebanese have had to flee their homes and their whole lives in the southern part of Lebanon. This is, by any metric, a state of war.

No matter how many people continue to shout that we brought it upon ourselves by supporting the resistance— should we not protect our land which Israeli leaders and citizens alike lay claim on every day?

Officials attend the funeral of Hezbollah Military Commander Mohammed Naameh Nasser, also known as "Hajj Abu Naameh," in the southern Beirut suburb on July 4, 2024 (AFP).

It seems like Lebanon is never not at war with Israel. Which is ironic, because our government does not even officially recognise Israel's legitimacy.

Israel has already bombed big cities like Saida, Sour, and Baalbek. It has assassinated a Hamas leader in Beirut. They like you to believe that Dahiye, a suburb destroyed by Israel in 2006 as punishment for allegedly supporting Hezbollah, is some sort of enclave, separate from the rest of Beirut. It's not.

It's just a rebuilt neighbourhood, around the corner from where I work. Where many people I know live with their families. Where they have one of the cutest bookshops in Beirut. Where they have the best burger in town. Although I'll admit that the latter is subjective.

Dozens of children were wounded in an attack on a school bus, young women were murdered in Sour, civil defence workers and journalists have been purposely targeted. This is already a war. A psychological and a physical war.

Deeply divided

Of course, further widening the war to the rest of the country is a scenario no one wants to see happen.

Although some (myself included) have wondered out loud these past nine months (and in, 2021, and in 2014, and in 2006, and and and): "Maybe an all-out war is what needs to happen, if that will ultimately lead to the utter and total collapse of Israel, the end of the occupation, and the liberation of Palestine," no one wants a war.

No one wants to be killed nor watch their loved ones be killed. No one wants to see Lebanon reduced to rubble yet again. It's not a phoenix, it's a country filled with human beings. And ancient history. And people whose loss would devastate other people.

It's only human to want to live without fear, in tranquillity, and despite what Zionists (and their powerful allies) try so hard to make you believe: Arabs are human, too. We are the actual children of light, who want nothing more than to come out from under the shadow of perpetually lingering devastation. Yet again.

"The Lebanese think," "the Lebanese want" — analysts, journalists, and cowardly people on social media love to speculate about the inner workings of "the Lebanese mind," but anyone who actually knows this country rather than exploiting it to further their career, or viewing it as some sort of mythical place, knows that there is no such thing.

Fire and smoke billows after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit areas in northern Israel on July 4, 2024 (AFP).

It is a country which is deeply, deeply divided. Some of us can barely function, knowing our brothers and sisters are slaughtered next door, and are torn apart with grief and guilt, because we don't do anything to stop it.

Others couldn't care less what happens to Palestinians and would welcome normalisation with Israel. — "It would be better for our economy," someone told me once. I never looked at them the same way again.

Waiting and watching

Many are grateful for Hezbollah's capability to protect not only the South but all of Lebanon.

Others blame Hezbollah for every single thing that goes wrong in this country and would rather see the South be occupied yet again than have them exist a day longer.

As if the South does not belong to Lebanon, as if it were a separate entity as if the South were not an intrinsic part of our culture, our rich tapestry of history and complicated present.

It is the South that intrinsically ties us to Palestine. We were once one. To many of us, we are still one.

It's now officially summer. When the elite flocks to Lebanon's ridiculously overpriced beach clubs — even access to the shore has largely been taken from us — those who get exploited by that same elite dive into the violently polluted sea teasing Beirut's coastline, and those in between still flock to Sour's free beaches, despite the daily threats of more buzzing, more bombs and more death.

The Lebanese are not resilient — do not call us that — we are human beings under constant threat of an illegally imposed faux-neighbour who wishes to destroy everything we hold dear.

And who delights in imagining our annihilation — "We'll send Beirut back to the Stone Age," they say. We laugh and we mock: "We have no money, no electricity, no water, we're already in the Stone Age, habibi."

What can we do?

We wait for the inevitable, we stomach the warmongering, the manufacturing of consent by Western media and politicians, the bloodthirsty Israelis and their allies salivating at the thought of our demise, while looking at Gaza, while desperately trying to comprehend why the world won't stop the slaughter of our kin, while our sanity is slowly but steadily eroded, while we try to maintain some modicum of normalcy — fully aware that nothing about this is normal — while we ask each other "how are you" when we know perfectly well what the answer is.

We wait while we try to answer the question "is it safe to come to Lebanon?," by those in the diaspora — many of them forced to be part of it — who have to make the impossible decision to come back and visit their loved ones, and be with them while a larger war looms, perhaps erupts ( "at least we die together") or decide against it, possibly being forced to watch the horrors unfold from afar because what if the airport gets bombed and they can't go back to their parallel lives abroad, which they worked so hard for, which enables them to send back the remittances that keep their family and most of Lebanon afloat?

There is no way of knowing. There is only the harrowing sceptre of uncertainty. There are only the threats and whims of the sociopathic Israeli state which, as we have seen, relishes in inflicting the worst horrors known to man. And then cries and gaslights the world about it.

Meanwhile, we wait. For the electricity to come back on. And for the end of the world.

Farah-Silvana KanaanFarah-Silvana Kanaan is a Lebanese-Italian-Dutch freelance journalist based print, radio and TV journalist. She was previously a business reporter and editor at The Daily Star Lebanon and her most recent written work has appeared in Middle East Eye and The New Arab. She regularly reports on Lebanon for Dutch national radio. As a journalist, she seeks to illuminate the myriad of tiny stories that make up the fabric of society, with a focus on Middle Eastern politics and culture.

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