Annette Levy Willard
Psychology News Press, paperback, £9.99
It seems wrong to say that this book entertained me, but Annette Levy
Willard is, after all, a journalist, and used to the demands of a sheltered
and possibly indifferent readership. Consequently her diary of the '33
days war' waged in Lebanon and Israel during the summer of 2006 is a story
told with ironic humour as well as compassion and insight. Given the depth
of the human tragedy described, this may seem inappropriate but the author
was present throughout and witnessed first hand that ego, frivolity and
humour can co-exist with heartache and bloodshed. Perhaps it's what we
call the human condition.
To stay on point, this book catalogues the monumental mishandling of
the terrorist threat of Hezbollah by the Israeli government. A war was
waged so that Israel's civilian government could prove they were military
savvy, so that the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah could prove that Israel
is not invincible and, right back at the beginning, so that one captured
soldier could return home. Meanwhile the Lebanese people landed the unfortunate
role of host-cum-human shield in this power play, incurring by far the
highest death toll of the war despite not having officially fought in
Levy Willard's short-and-sweet style, along with her tactical and political
insights, drag a compellingly coherent story out of the quagmire that
is Middle Eastern politics and the United Nations’ well-meaning
interventions. Snatches of her interviews with everyone and anyone involved,
including diplomats, soldiers, military spokespeople, restaurant owners
and her own 103 year old uncle (who was too old to leave Haifa when the
missiles began to hit) mean that this story is told from nearly all sides.
Had the author been offered the chance to infiltrate Hezbollah herself
I doubt she would have passed it up. Her bravery and commitment to truth
is striking and often inspiring.
In the end no one is really sure who 'won' this war, if anyone did. Those
seeking to make sense of it would do well to start here.