It might be
dominating the front pages and leading the TV and radio news – but do
Australians really care about the latest outbreak of conflict in Israel and Lebanon?

Innocent
civilians on both sides are being killed – but they’re being killed somewhere over
there. What’s more, they’re being killed in a region that has been a war zone
on and off for almost 60 years. Conflict between Israel and Lebanon dates back to the 1948 War of Independence.
Lebanon was torn by civil strife between 1975 and
1990. Israel invaded in 1982.

The official
response to the plight of Australians caught in the conflict has been stock
standard. “We are in a very difficult situation
doing all that can be done,” the Prime Minister said yesterday.
“I understand why people are anxious. I understand why people are desperate with
worry about their loved ones. My counsel and my response to them is that we are
doing all we can, but we are in a war zone, and when you get into a war zone,
particularly when you are an innocent third party, it’s very difficult.”

Their desperation makes a good story, but
it’s doubtful that it strikes a deeper note with average voters. While his
words may offend the sensibilities of subscribers, punters probably agree with
Piers Akerman’s comments from today:

The latest Middle East conflagration has
flushed out a new class of dual nationality super-snivellers who believe mere
possession of an Australian passport guarantees them security in their “other”
homeland… Lebanon is half a world away, not an hour’s flight from Darwin.

Abraham Constantine from the World Lebanese
Cultural Union of Australia and Asia claims his community feel there is not enough being done to get
people out.
“They’re starting to feel like second-rate Australians,” he says. A significant percentage of the population
would surely respond by asking that if they are Australians, what are they
doing in Lebanon in the first place.

Terrorism, the Cronulla riots, crime and
simmering racial strife in Sydney’s west have scarcely fostered understanding between the broader
population and Australians with links to Lebanon.
The official response will be polite, but voters don’t care.

Peter Fray

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