It doesn’t make the news very often in Europe, but Israeli warplanes do not limit themselves to attacking mythical military targets in Syria. As UNIFIL reports, they are continually violating Lebanese airspace (and UN resolution 1701). Yesterday, 2 of their war planes even flew over the opening ceremony of the new Chabrouh dam in the mountains above Beirut, as if to check whether it’s a good enough target for the next Israeli attack on the country.
In other news, it is now confirmed that the Bekaa cannabis harvest this year is the biggest since the end of the civil war: between 7,000 and 7,500 hectares have been planted and harvested, yielding an estmated turnover of some $225 million (the top turnover during the civil war years was $500 million. Impoverished farmers are sick and tired of government neglect of their sector and of waiting for promised subsidies that do not arrive. As a result, hey have started taking matters in their own hands, helped in no small way by the political deadlock in the country and by the army being occupied wtih the Nahr al-Bared battle right through harvest time. A farmer is quoted by AFP today saying “If the state leaves us in peace for the next three years, our agricultural crisis will be over and we should be out of the woods”. That pretty much sums up the feeling of many people all over Lebanon about their political elite, which is mainly occupied (when they’re not bickering over who will get which lucrative state job) grabbing whatever taxes they can reap and whatever foreign aid ‘for the reconstruction of the country’ they receive, while ‘developing’ and ‘reconstructing’ only downtown Beirut. Meanwhile the people in the south, the north and the Bekaa (i.e. virtually everywhere outside Beirut) are completely neglected in every respect, whether infrastructurally, economically or financially. And then the same self-serving US-backed elite have the nerve to complain that ‘Hezbollah creates a state within the state’ – it doesn’t. It creates a state in the space where the corrupt elite of this country can’t be bothered to create one.
As I have reported earlier, the police tried to start a (mostly symbolic) eradication campaign, but they gave up when they got shot at (reportedly ther was even an RPG-attack) the day they started, when the tractor drivers they hired for the job refused to cooperate as they had received death threats. The cannabis plantations are run and protected by powerful interests (which in Lebanon invariably also means powerful militias) ranging from tribal groups to Hezbollah. In another of the many ludicrously misguided plans to ‘discourage’ the farmers from growing cannabis, the UNDP has announced it will next year start on a scheme ‘in cooperation with the government’ (and here is the first reason why it’s ludicrous) ‘to provide farmers with industrial hemp used for clothing anf fabric’ (and here’s reason two why it won’t work: industrial-grade hemp doesn’t cost anything but neither does cannabis-grade hemp ($8 a kilo for seeds), and contrary to the first variety, the second actually generates enough profit, without additional subsidies, and without any need for expensive fertilizers, while the seconddoesn’t. If wheat prices would be sufficiently high allow farmers to make a decent living, or if the subsidies promised to those farmers for growing non-profitable crops like wheat or hemp would actually make it past the sticky fingers in Beirut, the farmers wouldn’t be growing cannabis in the first place. I mean, what’s the problem anyway? You wanted a free market, didn’t you? Well there you go, you’ve got one. Now deal with it.