Israel is eager to help its northern neighbor, Lebanon, despite the two countries being officially at war. But one demonstration of Israeli solidarity following Tuesday’s devastating explosion in Beirut has some Lebanese and Israelis up in arms.
The Tel Aviv Municipality regularly lights up its City Hall in the colors of foreign flags to show support for nations enduring catastrophes or celebrating great achievements.
And on Wednesday night it did so for Lebanon.
“This evening we will light up City Hall with the flag of Lebanon. Humanity comes before any conflict, and our heart is with the Lebanese people following the terrible disaster that befell them,” tweeted Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
Many Lebanese reacted angrily, though it was noted that the more hostile responses came from those who support Hezbollah, the terrorist militia whose dominating role in Lebanon is despised by most average Lebanese.
“Sure, they’re raising our flag now, but soon enough they’ll destroy our country and violate our country’s sovereignty,” wrote one Twitter user.
“As a Lebanese citizen, it disgraces me for Tel Aviv to show Lebanon solidarity. Anyone who circulates those photos I will consider a collaborator,” tweeted another.
“We will be the ones to light up Tel Aviv — with our rockets,” threatened a third.
For years, most Lebanese have been fearful of publicly speaking out against Iranian proxy Hezbollah. But with Lebanon now on the verge of collapse, many no longer have anything to lose, and are openly blaming the entire situation, including Tuesday’s explosion, on Iranian interference in their country. (See: Voices From Lebanon – A Country Under Fire)
A step too far?
Most Israelis were supportive of offering aid to Lebanon in the wake of the humanitarian tragedy in Beirut.
But not a few voices, particularly to the right of the political spectrum, questioned the Tel Aviv Municipality’s decision to display the colors of a nation that remains dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
“It is possible and necessary to provide humanitarian aid to civilians who were hurt in Lebanon, but waving an enemy flag in the heart of Tel Aviv is moral confusion,” insisted Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Rafi Peretz.
“This is crazy. Lebanon is officially a terrorist state,” added Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair Netanyahu, referring to the fact that Hezbollah effectively controls Lebanon.
Shortly after, the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted a picture of the Tel Aviv City Hall display as a positive sign of coexistence and solidarity, even with our enemies.