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MODEST PROPOSAL

Not so fast, buddy, Beirut's my sister

July 23, 2006|Joel Stein

IT IS TIME for Angelenos to take up arms. No, we are not the most likely Hezbollah recruits -- so many of us being either Jews or Western imperialists or both -- but sometimes history presents no choice. Last month, Los Angeles decided to make Beirut its sister city. In retrospect, this may have been poorly thought out.

But what's done is done. And now we must act. Had we been brother cities, maybe we could let our little brother take a few licks, lose a couple of buildings and a bridge or two, and then give him a lesson about how to protect himself next time. But Beirut is not our brother city. She is our sister city, and when someone picks on your sister, you can't just sit there.

We, it turns out, have a lot of sisters. In fact, Los Angeles has 23 sister cities -- more than any other American city. And when your family is that big, some members are going to turn out to be the kind of girls who stay out late, hang out with the wrong guys and get themselves in trouble. I'm not worried about Bordeaux, France; Vancouver, Canada; or Auckland, New Zealand. But I'm keeping an eye on Split, Croatia; Lusaka, Zambia; and Jakarta, Indonesia.

One of our oldest sisters, however, is Eilat. Which is in Israel. That's right, our sisters are fighting each other. And as the only U.S. city with sisters in both Israel and Lebanon, we are the only ones qualified to go over there as peacekeepers and end this thing. This is why Washington has been waiting and doing nothing. This is our job.

Just as the fighting broke out, Los Angeles actually had a small delegation of troops stationed in Beirut to celebrate the new siblinghood: City Council President Eric Garcetti and his girlfriend, Amy Wakeland; Councilman Dennis Zine and Gus Malkoun of the city Bureau of Engineering and his family. Although Garcetti and Zine left before the fighting started, and Wakeland took off on a flight that was in the air when the Beirut airport was bombed, the Malkouns stayed on to fight. Or at least to hide until the airport opens.

We must join them. We have been eager over the years to celebrate with our sisters -- listing their names on the walls of City Hall, taking foreign exchange students, that crazy Los Angeles Sister City Festival in September at the La Brea Tar Pits -- but we also must be there during the less happy times, such as during precision bombing.

So, for the next month, we need to stop our developing and agenting and illegal immigranting and ship off to the Middle East. Meanwhile, our council will work on scoring Damascus as a sister. We'll have this thing fixed in no time. And then we're going to have a big family meeting and persuade Mom to get her tubes tied.

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JOEL STEIN'S weekly column appears on the Op-Ed page on Tuesdays.

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