If you thought the backlash to the Tel Aviv municipality projecting a Lebanese flag on the side of its building was strong inside Israel, try the backlash inside Lebanon.
Many Lebanese took to social media on Wednesday to express their ire over the attempted gesture of solidarity by the Tel Aviv municipality with the victims of the previous night’s Beirut port explosion. The blast, which was apparently caused by the ignition of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, has claimed at least 135 lives, and left over 5,000 injured and 300,000 homeless.
“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.
Israel announced Tuesday night that it had reached out to offer humanitarian aid to Lebanon after the massive blast rocked Beirut. The disaster has pushed Lebanon, already laboring under an unprecedented economic crisis, to the brink, and hospitals have struggled to cope with the influx of injured.
“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,” Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai wrote on Twitter.
Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted that he was opposed to displaying the colors, falsely claiming that it was illegal. The Prime Minister’s office, however, sent out a photo of the Lebanese flag, accompanied by a statement affirming “support [for] the Lebanese people.”
Many other countries, including Jordan, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates, also lit up major public buildings to express solidarity with the victims of the blasts.
The closest thing to yesterday's disaster in Beirut was when Israel bombed *checks notes* Beirut https://t.co/zX8ceTHVuy
— ibn baldwin (@joeyayoub) August 5, 2020
Using the hashtag “We don’t want it,” many Lebanese expressed their rejection of both Israeli solidarity and offers of medical aid. Some also shared remarks by politician Moshe Feiglin, leader of the Zehut party, who had said that the Beirut port blast was a “wonderful celebration.”
“As a Lebanese citizen, it disgraces me for Tel Aviv to show Lebanon solidarity. Anyone who circulates those photos I will consider a collaborator,” another user wrote of the brightly lit municipality building.
ٍSome users — especially those supportive of Hezbollah — said that they hoped for violence.
“We will be the ones to light up Tel Aviv — with our rockets. Tel Aviv is already lit by the ghost of Imad and Jihad [Mughniyeh],” wrote Mohammad Ali Sakr, referring to two leaders in the terror group — a father and his son — allegedly killed by Israel.
“We don’t want anything from you, you are our enemies… you who killed the children of Qana,” wrote Saad Dai’ri. Around 106 Lebanese civilians died in the 1996 incident in the village of Qana, when Israel shelled a United Nations position in an attempt to strike back at Hezbollah fire. The prime minister at the time, Shimon Peres, expressed “bitter surprise” that civilians were in the area.
Others posted photos of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority’s central broadcasting station had also been lit by a projection of the Lebanese flag.
Israel has fought two major wars against Lebanese forces, which many in the country recall painfully. In 1982, Israel invaded after repeated cross-border attacks by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and ended up occupying a strip of southern Lebanon until 2000. In 2006, Israeli forces entered Lebanon again following the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.
“Israel is the largest source of martyrs and wounded in all of Lebanon…it is absolute evil. Working with it is forbidden,” wrote Jamal Chaiito, posting photos of First Lebanon War destruction and the Qana incident.
Some appeared to disagree, saying that they welcomed Israeli aid.
“But we do want it — peace, that is. Screw Iranian ideas,” wrote Hussein Nasr, who describes himself as a resident of south Lebanon.
Tel Aviv has in the past lit up its City Hall with the colors of other countries going through disasters. The municipality’s tribute to Egypt’s flag after an attack on Christian Copts in May 2017 was the first time the gesture was made toward an Arab country, although unlike Lebanon, Egypt has a peace accord and ties with Israel.