Under the Radar Normalization: «Israelis» Flocking to Lebanon Uncensored
News of "Israelis" entering Lebanon has been circulating. In the light of this, one tends to question how the inflow from the "Israeli" entity to Lebanon happens when the latter is considered as an enemy state, not to mention that any contact with the former is outlawed and regarded as normalization with the enemy.
"Israeli" media reported that in the past year, hundreds of Christians from the "Israeli" entity had made pilgrimages to holy sites in Lebanon. Groups of all ages, sometimes up to 50 people, spend a week in Lebanon on trips organized by the Galilee's [al-Khalil] Christian clergymen, mostly under the radar.
"These are not underground trips or infiltration, but a very orderly process," said one organizer. "But due to the sensitivity, we try to keep a low profile. It's a purely religious visit, a pilgrimage. Just as Muslims go to Mecca and Medina, we go to the holy Christian sites in Lebanon," the organizer said quoted by the "Israeli" daily Haaretz.
Acts of normalization with the "Israeli" entity - whether publically or secretly - should be punishable. But in a country like Lebanon, where the state is doing very little to provide livelihood for its citizens, acts of normalization pass with impunity.
Not withholding the fact that when Pope Francis visited the "Israeli" entity in May 2014, he was accompanied by Lebanon's most senior Christian cleric, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch, Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi.
Rahi disregarded the expected criticism and visited Christian communities in the entity, toured Haifa and Jaffa, and went as far as the ruins of the village of Bir'im in the Upper al-Khalil. He also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and proposed a plan to help Christians of the "Israeli" entity to visit Lebanon's pilgrimage sites. Churches in the entity and Lebanon started working on the project... An act of normalization by a state official!
Furthermore, a number of Arab artists and writers from the "Israeli" entity were invited by cultural institutions or to take part in a song contest have visited Lebanon, with a Palestinian passport issued for the trip. The last visitor was actor Mohammad Bakri, who took part in a series of performances in Beirut... yet another act of normalization that went unpunished by the state of Lebanon!
Similarly, a group of Druze clergy from the "Israeli" entity visited Lebanon's holy sites in 2010. The group crossed into Lebanon from Jordan having been questioned briefly by the "Israeli" authorities who then turned a blind eye as they crossed... another unpunished act of normalization!
The so-called "Israeli" visitors crossed into Lebanon using a Palestinian passport that was issued in a not-so-complicated process. "First you have to register through the church. The names are passed on to the company that organizes the trips for the Maronite church, and are given to the Palestinian Interior Ministry, which issues passports," an al-Khalil village resident told the "Israeli" daily.
According to the daily, a Palestinian official said the pilgrims' Palestinian passport is a kind of temporary transit pass, valid for one specific visit and is returned on the way from Beirut to Amman. Members of the pilgrimage group receive the trip plan in advance and are given clear instructions.
The trip is based on a tacit agreement involving Lebanon, the "Israeli" entity, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. The entity allows the groups to leave for Jordan, with whom there is a so-called "peace agreement", and return from it, with their "Israeli" passports, without asking what happens during their stay in Amman. Jordan lets them leave for Beirut with their Palestinian passports, while Lebanon receives pilgrims carrying Palestinian passports.
"Clearly there's an understanding here on all sides. The fact that there have been no hitches and that nobody has been taken in for questioning or arrested by any side - as long as the group members stick to the plan - attests to it," said one priest who went on the trip.
A traveler who returned recently said that on the way back at the border crossing in Jordan, visitors didn't hide the fact that they had been to Lebanon, saying that the conduct of the "Israeli" crossing officials gave them to understand that they know everything.
Is normalization with the "Israeli" enemy worth every penny Lebanon gains from such visits? Is exposing the homeland to "Israeli" threat camouflaged as visits by these so-called "Israeli" visitors worth it?
Is it reasonable that as sovereign state like Lebanon - which has been invaded by the "Israeli" usurper and whose South occupied for 19 years by the same enemy it is normalizing ties with - to let such visits pass by unpunishable?
Source: Haaretz, Edited by website team