Among the many
ethnic groups that have found fertile ground for success in America, few have
achieved the degree of proportional prominence of the Lebanese-Americans. In
most cases, their fellow Americans [non-Lebs] are unaware of that fact since
these Lebanese-Americans go about their lives without broadcasting the heritage
of which they are so proud. Many of us, at least those who are boomers or older,
do remember Danny Thomas, Casey Kasem, Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka and Tiny Tim . .
. and the occasional reference to their ethnicity. But outside of the
entertainment world, such reference was seldom made.
Not in my case. I
have come to know many Lebs, mostly entrepreneurial types, both overseas and
stateside. In California, in the Pacific Northwest, and specially in Kansas
where their influence in Wichita had extended for over a century, the Jabara
family name in the most prominent light. Col. James Jabara was America�s first
triple jet ace in the Korean War; and there were other Jabaras in the academic
and business worlds.
I am also well
aware that success of Lebanese in America extends to all confines of society:
the arts; entertainment; writing; engineering; the sciences; the military;
education; business . . . and, yes, politics -- local, state and national
elective and non-elective positions. Then, there is my favorite, and
controversial, advocate for true democracy: Ralph Nader.
Why am I bringing
this point of pride with people of Lebanese descent? Does it have any
connection with what�s happening in Lebanon today or . . . should it have?
Of the 25,000
Americans in Lebanon (mostly Lebanese-Americans) when Israel started its
defensive-offense, or offensive-defense, there is little question that many, if
not most, felt upset, if not outright betrayed, by how their government -- the
US government -- was reacting to the situation. Not many images of those
feelings were shown in the American media, but much of the international press
was able to capture the anger and the despair they felt.
It was only logical
that here in the US the Lebanese-American community would be up in arms in
response to both Israel�s actions and America�s cheerleading of those such
actions -- to the point where it became irrelevant whether the policy that
brought about this conflict had originated in Tel Aviv or in Washington.
Conversations between Lebs in situ and their families in the States crossed the
T�s and dotted the I�s as to the reality that was taking place . . . never mind
Hezbollah and the rest.
resorting to a high level of networking, the Lebanese-American people let those
assumed to have power and influence, and in accord with their views, know how
they felt. Except that at the end of the day those people in Congress had very
little power and, on an issue involving Israel, zero influence. They were put
in the embarrassing position of having to deny their own feelings, forced to
lend their voices to the rest of the choir lauding Israel�s actions. It was
either that or else. Else, one asks? Can anyone fathom the repercussions for
straying on this support vote for Israel by condemning or even appearing
lukewarm to Israel�s actions? Forget about reelection!
Whether there is a
parasitic or a symbiotic relationship between the United States and Israel, the
bottom line is that the existing alliance is enmeshed in such a way that the
fate of one nation is tied to the fate of the other. And that to think for a
moment that any group, other than the Israel �lobby,� can exert any influence
on America�s political behavior is like subscribing to the existence of a
make-believe world. Yet, Americans prefer to remain in denial.
Power and influence
in matters of foreign relations in the United States are an �all or nothing�
situation when Israel is involved. You either possess all the influence, or you
have none. And to make matters worse, things have changed very little in the
two millennia since Tacitus told us, �In times of tumult and discord bad men
have most power.� Bad men . . . not in terms of �good and evil� as Bush
simplistically would have Americans believe. The battle for peace is not
between good and evil, but between �the purveyors of suffering and those who
suffer.� Indeed, the purveyors of suffering are the bad men who have most
At this point the
situation in Lebanon is quickly becoming a lost game . . . with just a few
seconds left in the political clock, and the Peace team having the ball deep in
its own territory. Peace is certainly in need of another football hero like
Doug Flutie (a Leb, of course) to save the day with a Hail-Mary pass . . . but,
although we know that Bush has the arm to throw the pass and save the day, he
is unfortunately playing for the other team, not the Peace team.
Lebanon is being severely punished, death and destruction mounts elsewhere in
the Middle East, from Gaza to Iraq. Everything is interconnected; and that goes
for Syria and Iran. But doesn�t this situation create the perfect opportunity
to have a cease-fire everywhere and set up a round table to sit everyone,
e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e, and try to mend the thousand broken fences? If synergy has
proved to work in biology and in business . . . why not give it a try in
diplomacy, relations between nations and peoples?
In truth, the
catalyst needed for the process to take place would require Bush switching to,
and quarterbacking, the Peace team. He will never have a better opportunity to
clean up the mess he inherited, and the one of his own making.
chance of that happening is probably one in a million.
� 2006 Ben Tanosborn
Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer,
resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business
consulting firm. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.