reported the suicide attack against the Haifa restaurant, one item went
unnoticed by the international media. The reporter said "the restaurant is
co-owned by an Arab. A number of Arabs were killed in the explosion." At
first sight, there is no striking news in it. It is not the first time Arabs
are killed by istishadis (Islamist suicide bombers). Nor would it be
impossible that Israeli Arabs would be casualties in jihad operations
against the Jews. One-third of Haifa's population is Arab. Moreover, many
"scholars" of jihad have long warned that Muslims and Arabs could
become collateral damage of martyrdom strikes. That has happened and will
happen and al-Jazeera's panels will always find an answer to it. But the
south Haifa restaurant was not owned by an "Arab," nor were most of the
killed workers "Arabs." And here lies the issue.
The owner of "Maxime," the South Haifa restaurant is a Lebanese Christian.
George Matar is not an Arab Muslim; he is a
Maronite Catholic from
Lebanon whose roots are Aramaic. Many of the workers who got killed or
injured are Lebanese Christians, as well. Al-Jazeera and many Arab media
outlets missed that point, possibly intentionally, since indicating the real
ethnic and religious identities of this owner and some of the workers would
open a new file on the jihadists both in Israel and in the Middle
East. Why would the Islamist suicide bombers particularly target a Lebanese
Christian restaurant in Israel, when they could have attacked an Arab-Muslim
culinary establishment anywhere else in the city? Mainstream Jews in Haifa
eat at all kinds of restaurants, especially on the Sabbath. So what's behind
Hanadi's mission? Was she there to kill Jews or Christians -- or both?
How did "Abu Charbel" (George Matar's acronym) ended up being bombed in
Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad? Was he part of that war between the
Islamists and the Israelis? All law-abiding civilians basically want peace
and security, regardless of whether they are Jews, Christians or Muslims.
Only fanatical ideologies transform them into "missiles" - such as the
bomber Hanadi Jaradat or "shreds" such as the companions of bombed George
Matar. But while we know more about the perpetrators of jihad and
their views of the world, most around us knows much less about those
Christians of Lebanon,
crushed in an exploding Middle East.
George Matar, his family and his relatives, including a nephew who died
during the blast just days before his wedding, all came from across the
border. Up in Lebanon, one million and a half Christians live under Syrian
occupation and Hezbollah intimidation. Almost half of the country's
Christian ethnic group
is the older community of Lebanon. Descendent from the ancient
known also as Phoenicians, the Lebanese Maronite and Melkite
Catholics and Orthodox Christians
resisted the onslaught of the Arab-Islamic
than 13 centuries.
Defeated after a 15 years long war with the PLO, Syrians and Islamists, the
Christian community fell under the fate of occupied nations in 1990. But for
a whole decade, a small portion of these Christians, along with a number of
Muslims and Druze,
chose to ally themselves with their Jewish
neighbors. In the most
southern part of the country, they formed an enclave, called by the world,
Israel's "security zone." In May 2000, the Clinton Administration and the
Barak Government abandoned those "last of the Mohicans" to Hezbollah. More
than 6,000 Christian Lebanese crossed the borders into Israel, in an
unprecedented exodus. Baathist Syria, Khumainist Iran and the Wahabi
jihadists claimed victory. The "infidels were driven out of Lebanon
today, tomorrow the other infidels will be driven out of Palestine," chanted
the butchers. Among the thousands of refugees in the Galilee, were men and
women who had no other choice but to restart their lives of "infidels" south
of their homeland. Matar opened a restaurant in Haifa.
Hezbollah and the Palestinian radicals wanted to follow the Lebanese
Christians into their exile. Out of Beirut, scores of Khumeinist and
pro-Syrian propagandists called on the jihadists of the "occupied
lands" to strike not only against the Jews, but also against the other
Lebanese "agents" who took refuge amongst them. Anti-Maronite hate
literature abounded in Syrian-occupied Lebanon, and in the cyberworld.
Throughout the 1990s dozens of statements were made by Islamists and their
allies across the continents vilifying the Christians of Lebanon, especially
those from south Lebanon's security zone. These were among the very few
Christians who openly allied themselves with the "Zionists." In jihad
logic, they were also Zionists, and hence should be targeted as such.
politicians and leaders in the region warned against further persecution of
Christians in the Middle East after September 11 for fear of raining their
issue internationally, the Jihadists to the contrary escalated their war
against all "people of the book." The worse people of that particular book,
in the eyes of the non-tolerant Jihadists are those who stand by each other
and take refuge into each others. In this case, those Lebanese Christians
who chose to live in Israel as a free people instead of abiding by Hezbollah
and Syria's diktat in now-occupied Lebanon. Hence, their fate has merged
with Israel's, i.e, annihilation by martyrdom operations. Matar's "Maxime"
restaurant was the direct result of that diktat.
In the Middle East, Jihadists were always known to chant "today's Saturday
and tomorrow's Sunday," ("al-yom al sabt wa ghadan al-ahad") alluding
to their war of annihilation against the Jews first, then followed by the
Christians. But in Haifa's operation, the Jihadists seem to be impatient. In
fact for the soldiers of Bin Laden around the world there is only one day
from now on: Saturday is Sunday. Hopefully moderate Muslims will hasten a
long-awaited reform, without which holy wars will continue to engulf
Walid Phares is a Professor of Middle East Studies and Religious Conflict
and a Terrorism expert with MSNBC.