Though the war in Lebanon has been a nightmare throughout its 13 years, that sad conflict sank to new lows this week.
That much should be clear from the fact that the International Red Cross was forced to suspend operations and withdraw from Lebanon because of death threats to its workers there.While Red Cross efforts have previously been halted in Ethiopia, Iran, and Uganda at the demand of the host governments, the withdrawal from Lebanon marks the first time in its 125-year history spanning two world wars and numerous other conflicts that the Red Cross has pulled all its workers from a country.
The death threats that prompted the Red Cross' withdrawal reinforce a sorry message from Lebanon to the rest of the world. The message is that foreigners are not welcome in Lebanon for no other reason than simply that they are outsiders. That goes even for those foreigners who take no sides in the fighting but merely want to help Lebanon.
Certainly the Red Cross was helping all it could. The international relief organization was providing badly needed medical and other assistance to at least 30,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon's sprawling slums. Thousands of poor Lebanese also benefited from the Red Cross.
But that didn't keep terrorists from kidnapping one recently released Red Cross worker and threatening others simply because the Red Cross is based in Switzerland. The terrorists are demanding the release of a Lebanese skyjacker awaiting trial in Switzerland. Never mind that by forcing the Red Cross to leave Lebanon, the terrorists are endangering far more lives than their threats could possibly save.
Foreigners should have learned to steer clear of Lebanon long ago. But now the message should be unmistakably clear: If Red Cross workers can't go about their humanitarian work in Lebanon without being subjected to irrational, unjustifiable threats, no one can.