Monday, July 31, 2006

Results after 19 days

Human Toll in Lebanon

- 600 civilian deaths, a third of which are children (this number might double once rescue workers are able to reach 13 inaccessible villages where bodies are buried underneath destroyed residential buildings)

- 1,600 injured civilians

- 750,000 refugees (representing 12% of the population), of which 100,000 are sleeping in empty schools, parking lots and public gardens

- 65 killed and wounded (mostly women and children, many handicapped) in Qana when an Israeli airstrike leveled a four-story residential building used as a shelter by refugees

- 4 international UN observers killed in an attack on their post in Khiyam even though the UNIFIL had warned the Israeli army several times that they were hitting too close

- 2 Indian UN peacekeepers wounded in an Israeli air raid on their post

- Attempts at creating a humanitarian corridor unsuccessful because of the destroyed bridges and roads that do not allow access to the villages that have the greatest humanitarian needs in the South

- Inability for ambulances and civil defense crews to reach areas with heavy civilian casualties because of intense bombardment

- Only 10% of the humanitarian aid needed has arrived to the country by ship or plane

- Refusal by Israël to allow for a 72-hour truce as requested by Jan Egeland, the UN's top official for humanitarian relief, to evacuate the wounded, the children, the elderly and the disabled from the crossfire

- Bombing of a medical convoy from the Emirates

- Bombing of 2 Red Cross ambulances (Israel claims that Hezballah uses ambulances to move weapons, yet there has been no proof of that and only civilians have died when these ambulances were attacked)

- Bombing of 3 hospitals

- Bombing of fleeing civilian cars and buses

- Over 4500 air attacks mostly on villages where civilians haven't been able to evacuate because of the bombings and destroyed roads

Human Rights and War Crimes implications for Israel

- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights claims that Israel's actions in Lebanon could lead to the prosecution of its military commanders. A statement was issued suggesting that the failure to spare civilians is a clear violation of international criminal law.

- Human Rights Watch claims that Israel has used artillery-fired cluster munitions in populated areas of Lebanon. Researchers on the ground in Lebanon confirmed that a cluster munitions attack on the village of Blida on July 19 killed one and wounded at least 12 civilians, including seven children. Human Rights Watch researchers also photographed cluster munitions in the arsenal of Israeli artillery teams on the Israel-Lebanon border.

- Human Rights Watch claims that Israel may be guilty of war crimes, citing: the destruction of about 60% of a nine square blocks area of southern Beirut composed mostly of apartment buildings, attacks on the village of Srifa, in which 10 houses were destroyed and at least 42 civilians killed, attacks on a vehicle of villagers fleeing Marwaheen, in which 16 civilians were killed. All these events took place despite the alleged absence of legitimate military target in sight.

- Blackened bodies of children and civilians are showing up in hospitals with no sign of being burnt (hair is still present) indicating that Israel is using weapons with toxic material. Tests indicate the presence of an unidentified chemical substance. The Human Rights Watch is still to verify whether Israel is using phosphorus in their weapons.

- Amnesty International has denounced "blatant" violations of international law and called on the UN to deploy an immediate fact-finding mission to investigate attacks against civilians and other breaches of international law.

- Amnesty International has also called for an arms embargo on Israel and Hezbollah amidst concerns on the transfer of weapons from the US to Israel, via Britain

Lebanese Infrastructure, Economical and Industrial Toll (overall losses valued at more than 2 billion dollars)

- Air, sea and terrestrial blockade

- Bombing of the Beirut International Airport

- Bombing of the Rayak military airport and Qaleiat domestic airport

- Bombing of the ports of Beirut, Jounieh, Tripoli and Tyr

- Bombing of the roads from Beirut to Damascus

- Destruction of at least 5000 private homes and residential buildings in villages in the south of Lebanon, in the south of Beirut and in the Christian center of Beirut, Achrafieh

- Bombing of hundreds of firms and industrial factories (losses valued at more than 150 million dollars)

- Destruction of the main Lebanese milk factory, « Liban LAIT », of a tissue paper factory, a bottle factory, a packaging firm and a wood plant

- Bombing of food and humanitarian trucks

- Destruction of all the main bridges (at least 100 bridges, most of them newly built, including Mdairej bridge, the highest one in the Middle East, which cost an estimated 44 million dollars), dams and overpasses

- Destruction of more than 600km of roads (many in the south, making it impossible for civilians to flee their villages)

- Bombing of religious symbols: Imam Ali mosque (Baalbeck), prayer centers and Greek orthodox church

- Bombing of most power plants, power stations, sewage plants, water facilities, fuel stations and transport trucks

- Bombing of the historical port of Byblos resulting in a huge oil spill

- Destruction of the historical headlight of Manara

- Bombing 300 meters away from the World Heritage site of Baalbeck's ancient Roman temples of Jupiter and Bacchus, the largest ever and best preserved temples which carry the six highest Roman columns in the world.

- Bombing of Lebanese military barracks and radar installations which are not supposed to be weakened or involved in the fight

- Bombing of the telecommunication infrastructure (losses valued at more than 15 million dollars): mobile networks of Faraya, Jounieh, Zghorta (in the Christian areas), radio antennas, TV stations LBC and Manar

- Biggest ecological crisis ever in the Mediterranean resulting from the bombing of the Jiyeh power plant: 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of oil have spilled into the sea, affecting not only 1/3 of the Lebanese coast, its sea life and marine ecosystem (including the endangered green turtle), but also the coasts of Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Greece and Israel. This oil spill is of the size of the Erika oil spill that affected Spain and France but its impact more serious considering that it is not an open ocean as with the Erika oil spill.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I do not want....

I do not want to talk about massacres
I do not want to talk about what defines a massacre? How many children have to be killed to be counted as a massacre? How many smaller Qana massacres have been forced upon us by the US/Israeli hand in these weeks? in these years? How many more to come? How many larger Qana massacres?

I do not want to talk about massacres
I do not want to talk about children's dreams stolen from them, children being killed while on their mother's breasts.
I do not want to talk about the one-day old baby killed by the Israelis.
I do not want to talk about the father who lost his entire family yesterday. And the fathers who lost their entire families today. And tomorrow? What about tomorrow?

I do not want to talk about self-defense.
How butchered that very word has become.
I do not want to talk about how mainstream western journalists use the term self defense only when referring to Israel and the term terrorist only when referring to Lebanese. Is our life simply less valuable?
When will we be granted the right to "self defense"?
Then again, I don't want that right.
I don't want the right to commit the massacres the Israelis have grown all to fond to commit against us (and against our Palestinian brothers)

I do not want to talk about self-defense
I do not want to talk about how Israeli fighter jets have been hovering intensely, as I write these words, over the skies in
and El Koura
Do you know how it feels? To see enemy fighter jets over your cities, your villages, your homes, and to know that they have the ability to destroy your city, your village, your home, to kill you, or worse, to kill your family, and to know, all the while, that you do not have the power to protect yourself against those fighter jets?
And they talk about self-defense.

No. I do not want to talk about any of this.

I want to talk about my mother.
My mother, worried for her daughter's safety.

I remember the words that June Jordan wrote in her poem 'Moving Towards Home,' written after the Sabra and Shatila Massacre

"I need to speak about living room
where the land is not bullied and beaten into
a tombstone
I need to speak about living room
where the talk will take place in my language
I need to speak about living room
where my children will grow without horror
I need to speak about living room where the men
of my family between the ages of six and sixty-five
are not
marched into a roundup that leads to the grave
I need to talk about living room
where I can sit without grief without wailing aloud
for my loved ones
where I must not ask where is Abu Fadi
because he will be there beside me
I need to talk about living room
because I need to talk about home

I was born a Black woman
and now
I am become a Palestinian
against the relentless laughter of evil
there is less and less living room
and where are my loved ones?

It is time to make our way home."

Born Lebanese. Born Arab.
Naturalized American.

What does it all mean?

Time to make our way home.
To a place where human life is regarded as a life, and not as a calculation for a political end

- Rania Masri
El Koura, Lebanon

Qana Again: Stop this Madness

It is mid-morning here in Nablus and the sound of bullets are ripping through the air from somewhere very close by. Sirens are wailing in the distance. Yesterday, around midnight, special Israeli forces assassinated two activists near the old city of Nablus. The scattered volleys and the sound signatures of different caliber bullets are tell-tale signs of a funeral procession.

But what I see in front of me on the television screen is much more disturbing. Videos of little boys and girls, all dead, being pulled out from under the rubble of a building. It is much too painful to look for more than a few seconds at a time. The faces are too vivid, too close up, too real. Anyone watching, and I know that tens of millions are watching, cannot help but feel completely devastated and outraged, especially those, like myself, who have children of the same age group as the ones on the screen.

I see the word Qana on the bottom of the screen and, for a very long minute or two, I think that what I am watching is old footage of the Israeli massacre of one-hundred Lebanese civilians in the village of Qana during operation "Grapes of Wrath" in 1996. But wait. Were not those victims burned in a fireball of bombing as they sat in UN shelters? The ones I see now are not burned at all. They are completely intact with just a fine, even coat of dust on their lifeless bodies. Then it suddenly becomes clear: another massacre at the same village, Qana, ten years later. So far, they have pulled fifty-five bodies out of the shelter, thirty of them children.

All the reports from the news agencies and all witnesses on the scene say there is no presence of Hizballah fighters or rocket launchers in the area. Why this mass killing? A case of faulty intelligence? A completely confused pilot? An errant "smart" bomb? Or, more likely, yet another abject lesson to the Lebanese in the south that they should all leave their houses and villages ahead of a scorched earth policy? Indeed, this scenario is a recurrent theme over the past 17 days: Almost everyday a single house in an otherwise peaceful village is suddenly obliterated by a one-ton bomb from an F16. The number of victims from a single family usually ranges between eight and thirteen. Shortly thereafter, there is a mass exodus. The difference this time is that there were tens of people from two families in this large house.

On the face off it, the world has not changed. The only difference between this latest attempt by Israel to resolve festering political problems by military means is the increased intensity and pace of destruction and killing. But something has changed. The 1996 Qana massacre led to world-wide condemnation of Israel, to an early end to the Israeli invasion, and to the political demise of then Prime-minister Shimon Perez who ordered the strike. This time, I suspect, the US will blame the massacre on Hizballah, the Israeli military will intensify it air campaign, the Israeli public will still reamin steadfast in its support its government's war, and the world will watch helplessly as this madness goes on.

In the most fundamental sense, and unless something drastic and unexpected happens, Israel has already lost this war. All the big players know this already, though some parts of the Bush administration and the Olmert government are in denial mode. Yesterday, Nasrallah made what amounted to a victory speech and already the Arab governments and European community are re-configuring their policies to adjust. Just 48 hours after making big threats, Rice is back in the region in an emergency mission to limit the damage to Israel and to try to salvage something from the debacle. Until that happens, Qana will remain a warning to all that military power can exact a very painful price, even in the face of defeat. Ironically, the only possible way for Israel to ensure a political turn around -- to cause a rift in the Lebanese government and public opinion -- has just been buried in Qana, along with the children.

Beshara Doumani


Beshara Doumani

Qana, again

This is, of course, what we’ve all been expecting. The deadly, dreary, re-enactment of massacres past and those to come. An inevitability, as long as F-16s battle above residential towns and villages against guerilla fighters carrying their rocket launchers on their backs. And now the TV is filled again with pictures of the innocent dead, petrified in their sleep, clutching each other forever, strewn across streets and under buildings, rigor mortis preserving for eternity their last, terrible, seconds.

But although it was predicted, expected, and even played-out like a miserable repeat episode in the southern village of Qana – the site of an earlier massacre by the Israeli Air Force in 1996 – it is still awful, it is still wrong, it is still evil, and it is still avoidable.

The facts will come trickling in, preceded by the excuses: the Israeli military will insist the civilians were warned, will insist Hizbullah fired from the village first; Hizbullah will deny firing from houses, will argue the Israeli drones, above the village all day, had recorded the civilians’ presence; the remaining, bereaved family members will say, again, how they had nowhere to go, no way to leave, and that the roads out have been unremittingly bombed for the past week.

But none of it will matter. Not to those who make callous, calculated decisions from their comfortable, removed safety, nor to those who sell and deliver the weapons. The innocents suffer, and only the impotent care.

The families will grieve. The children will grow up without their mothers. The memorial at Qana, already displaying the coffins of 106 civilian deaths, will swell by at least 55 more, at least 20 of them children’s sized. And the atrocities, tacitly and repeatedly permitted, will continue.

We need to find a way to make this stop. Not just in this war, nor just for this region. If justice cannot be served, cannot be used as an effective deterrent, then a new answer is needed. If we, the outraged, cannot offer anything better than official, inarticulate platitudes, then we are also to blame as the cycle of violence swells again. We must be more than pained voyeurs.

For today, an immediate ceasefire is needed. Let the dead be buried, let the families grieve, let food, water and medicines be delivered the isolated villages in the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon. For tomorrow, we must do something more.

Sonya Knox
West Beirut

Another massacre in the blessed Qana!

From 1 to 3.30 am this morning, US-funded, US-supplied Israeli bombs were bombing Qana, the same village in which the Israeli committed the 1996 massacre, killing 103 civilians in a UN camp. They bombed, this time, a residential apartment building, far from the road, in a fully residential area, in Qana,

This morning, the Israelis destroyed this 3-story apartment building, in which - at least - 53 civilians were seeking refuge.

26 children. 26 children killed. What was their crime?

No one was able to come to the bombed site until 8 am this morning.

As the Lebanese civil defense forces are attempting to remove the bodies, the Israeli planes continue to hover and continue to bomb the roads.

Among the bodies of the killed that was removed was a woman, martyred, with her child on her arm.

Among the bodies that have been removed was a 2-year-old child.

Because of the bombing, the ongoing bombing, because of the destroyed roads and the consequent lack of necessary equipment, the Lebanese civil defense forces have been forced to leave the bodies, and possibly the wounded, in the rubble, as is the case, all too often, in this terrorist war.

A woman, whose uncles and cousins were killed in this attack, screamed her support to the resistance and her belief in resilience.


For 18 days, this village has been besieged. And now this.

Who will the Israelis massacre next?
Will the US press even report this massacre? Will they present this atrocity as an act of 'self defense' on behalf of the Israelis?


My tears are dry.

-Rania Masri
El Koura, Lebanon

how do you rescue your country? ...

Al-Jazeera released a story entitled, "Israeli invasion of Lebanon planned by neocons in June (2006)."

The story reads: "It was done at a June 17 and 18 meeting at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference in Beaver Creek, Colorado at which former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud Knesset member Natan Sharansky met with US Vice President Dick Cheney [the true president of this "administration".] The purpose was to discuss the planned and impending Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invasions of Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. Cheney was thoroughly briefed and approved the coming assaults - before Hamas' capture of an IDF soldier on June 25 or Hezbollah's capturing of two others in an exchange first reported as occurring in Israel and now believed to have happened inside Lebanon after IDF forces illegally entered the country."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Children Refugees...

Lebanon’s Children – Voices from the War By Ramzi Kysia

On Saturday, July 29th I spoke with several children from South Lebanon at a refugee center in the Chouf region. These are their stories, in their own words...

Hadeel Moussa, age 12, from Dar al-Hamis:
“Israel made us refugees and destroyed our homes, and this is why we came here [to the refugee center] with our families... I saw bombing and I was so afraid...
They are not bombing a certain place, they are bombing everywhere. I want to tell people in America to ask Israel to stop bombing because we didn’t do anything.
We’re not the ones threatening anyone. Stop bombing because it’s not the fault of the children. Why are they bombing and killing children?... They are killing lots of children and they are bombing everywhere.
Hezbollah is just trying to resist, and to defend from what Israel is doing... We need a cease-fire, and some kind of treaty to stop bombing for both sides... Why hasn’t this happened? No one is answering. If America asks Israel to stop bombing, and we will ask Hezbollah to stop bombing, because there are killing too many people.”

Hussein Hamoud, age 15, from Tyre:
“I am a now a refugee because of the war between Hezbollah and Israel, and Israel has tortured us, and destroyed our homes, and killed our children... I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen killing and destruction - everything. We were sitting in our house [in Tyre] when suddenly Israel bombed a factory for manufacturing medicine that is near where we live.
Firths thing, this factory has maybe more than forty workers. This factory helps a lot of people. It isn’t related to war or to weapons. When they bombed, pieces from the bombs came to our home too. At the same time they bombed a building, and in this building there were a lot of killed people and injured, and some were my relatives. One of them killed was my friend... If Hezbollah is destroyed it will be easy for Israel to cross our borders at any time, and there will be no one to resist... Israel crossed our borders, and entered to our towns, and killed a lot, and destroyed a lot. This was not for self-defense... I want to say something to George Bush: Ask Israel to cease-fire and stop destroying our homes. And for the Americans, if they are not believing what is happening here, to come and see for themselves. They will have the proof...”

Aboud Aboud, age 12, from Dar al-Hamis:
“I’m here because of the Israeli bombing. I saw destruction and the killing of people, the voices of the bombings and the planes all around, and the news of what was happening everywhere. I was scared, especially of the voices of their planes. Israel wants to take Hezbollah’s weapons, but they should not take them because if they do then no one will defend Lebanon, and it will be destroyed more than it is...
There should be a prisoner exchange and Israel to go back to their country. Hezbollah will not disarm, and [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah will not give in.
I want to say to the Americans - don’t dream of destroying Hezbollah. They should come to Lebanon and see what is happening. If they don’t feel safe coming here then ask Israel to stop bombing for one day, and then they can come and see. We are children, refugees in schools, and we have the right to go back to our homes.”

Zahra Musa, age 11, from Beirut:
“I live in Beirut. We went [to the South] for summer vacation and Israel started bombing. So we came here and we don’t know if our house is destroyed, or what happened there. There are no roads, they bombed the bridges, and there is no way to go safely to our home in Beirut... Hezbollah took two [Israeli] prisoners.
This is good because Israel took lots of Lebanese prisoners... Hezbollah don’t want to give them back, so Israel started this war and bombing. Maybe in some diplomatic way things could be resolved. They are fighting, and Israel is fighting because the two Israeli prisoners are important to them as human beings. I ask them to make a treaty for Israel to take the two prisoners and Hezbollah to take the three Lebanese prisoners.”

Ali Nasser, age 14, from Shoukeen:
“I’m here because we ran away from the war. Israel bombed all the homes in the South, all the villages, because they want to destroy Lebanon. They don’t have a reason, and the Arab world wants this - they don’t want Hezbollah or Lebanon. The Arab world believes it was Hezbollah who started this war, but it was Israel.
Hezbollah is a resistance force, but they think Hezbollah is a terrorist force. Hezbollah is defending our lands. Hezbollah sent rockets to Israel, but they are responding to Israel’s rockets that they sent to Lebanon. Israel struck first. Hezbollah should respond, because the Israelis are killing innocent people... America should help the Lebanese people in this situation, to protest the killings and ask for a cease-fire.”

Fahtme Nasr, age 14, from Nabatiyeh:
“I’m a refugee because of the war, because of what happened... They start bombing, both Hezbollah and Israel, so we picked up our things and came here. Our house is not destroyed, but there was damage to lots of homes in our neighborhood... Americans should convince Israel to talk to Hezbollah and negotiate so that things can be as they used to be. Why aren’t they doing this? They should at least try.”

Ramzi Kysia is an Arab-American essayist and peace activist. He spent a year in Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness, the Chicago-based predecessor to Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( He is currently living in Lebanon.

the enemy among us

“you’re going to Qasqas?”

“yeah. even if there’s no cabs it’s only a twenty minute walk.”

you’re standing at the Bishara al-Khoury intersection. Basta and greater west Beirut spread to one side and Nasra and greater east Beirut gather on the other. north the causeway empties into the sparkling, reconstructed downtown. South, the way ascends through Ras al-Nab‘a, Barbir, Qasqas, and beyond that the ruined Dahiyyeh – beirut’s southern suburbs – and points south.

the street is dark but for a lit street lamp every third block or so. there’s no traffic running north or south. overhead, the whine of an unmanned israeli reconnaissance drone sounds like a cross between a student-flown Cessna and an annoying blue-arsed fly. flies. there’s a second drone airborne tonight.

at some point on friday it formed in your head that you wanted to sleep in your own bed that night. the drone will keep you company as you walk.

sleeping in your own bed isn’t as problematic for you as it is for many in this country. for Lebanese who live in dahiyyeh, south Lebanon and parts of the biq‘a valley, sleeping in their own beds is either ill-advised [because the houses they reside in may soon not exist anymore] or impossible [because the houses don’t exist anymore].

in some cases, within those collapsed houses are still the bodies of dead relatives – the living unable to retrieve the dead because, 16 days into the conflict, it still isn’t safe to do so.

your own situation is more modest.

Qasqas is just north of dahiyyeh, which means it’s not threatened by Israeli warplanes or gunboats. this was less certain in the first week or so of the israeli attacks, simply because of the israeli military’s innumerable regrettable hits – or rather the number of hits it should regret – whether unarmed UN truce monitors, ambulances, relief trucks or civilian population centres generally.

but it’s in the cruel and dirty nature of this war that, if you’re a poor Shi‘a Muslim living among other poor Shi‘a, your life, property, and livelihood are more at risk of annihilation.

Qasqas is just close enough to dahiyyeh to make the first days of the attack unbearable. so you and your flatmates migrated a kilometre of two north. you stayed on there for a couple of weeks simply because the building your flat’s in, the ma‘rouf building, has no generator and no internet connection – both necessary for your work.

but the subcontracted international work - which arose in the first couple of weeks because the foreign media couldn’t get anyone into the country at first - has dried up. there’s still international news crews around, covering the conflict by day and taking photos of stylish lebanese women in beirut-area bars by night.

but, as was predicted, interest has slackened in the wake of the last foreign evacuations and will slacken still more as the story grows stale in the european and american public consciousness. arab women mourning the loss of a loved one, arab men, women, and children being killed by Israeli soldiers, or by soldiers dressed the way Israeli soldiers dress, is tragically commonplace in the media.

so you’re walking home, alone with the darkness. every now and then a car will pass, find an empty spot and pull over. at one point, a loaded flatbed truck blows past, obviously destined for dahiyyeh. the israeli drones witness all, though you have no idea exactly what they’re looking at.


geographically speaking israel, and therefore israelis, are very close to Beirut, but you rarely see them here. the first time you ever saw an israeli soldier personally was in may of 2000, when the israeli army made a hurried evacuation from its south lebanon occupation zone.

for a surreal few weeks, the only thing standing between the two countries was a few strands of razor wire, so it was possible to stand there and stare at helmeted solders in full kit as they stared at you, m-16s in hand. behind you, outraged and triumphant lebanese stood on the high ground hurtling abuse at the soldiers on the other side, taunting them for the outrages of a decades-long occupation.

now the israelis are back, but via many different media.

by now everyone has heard of the leaflets. dropped from israeli warplanes, they feature cartoons depicting hizbullah secretary-general hassan nasrallah in various unflattering caricatures - whether as a snake dancing to the tune of hamas, damascus and tehran, or an evil jinn rising up out of dahiyyeh to devour Beirut.

there are wide assumptions, too, that there are plenty of israeli mossad and special forces coming into Beirut with the international press corps. some of this is paranoia, of course – a product of having lived too many years in a town where conspiracy theory is both pastime and habit of mind.

but there is solid precedent for such suspicions too. we met several israelis here in 2000, in town to cover israel’s flight from the south and carrying american passports. If you can get in to do journalism, you can get in for something else.

you mention your amusing paranoia to your boss - lets call him Khalil. Khail’s seen a lot. He remembers, as a young man, cutting down a tree to block the road to Saida during lebanon’s 1958 troubles.

“paranoid?” he said. “do you know how many phone calls i’ve received since this thing started? they’re all the same. ‘hello, I’m such-and-such a foreigner in beirut with good Arabic and I wonder if I could get a job with your newspaper.’ ‘i’m sorry,’ I say, ‘but we have no room.’ ‘okay. I hear you have lots of interns. I can just come and do that, right?’ ‘no I’m sorry,’ I say, ‘we have no room.’ ‘okay. can I just come in and sit in the newsroom and watch?’

“ya khayyi,” Khalil says, “they think we’re monkeys.”

during the first couple of weeks - when it was still a hacks’ market as far as selling Lebanon stories was concerned - you’d picked up a gig with a certain international magazine of business. there were parallel stories running from various writers around the region, including israel.

one day, this email materialises:

Dear Jim,

I'm Gideon, the guy in Jerusalem. ….

I have a question that you might be able to answer…
Israel says it is attacking Hizbullah
strongholds (right now the focus is on Bint Jbeil).
Are there several such places, well-identified, and
where are they distributed? I'd like to compare the
Israeli army's claims of what it needs to target
(insofar as it's willing to divulge them) with the
facts on the ground.

Thanks, and best wishes

you blink at the message for a second, then call one of your colleagues over.

“is this israeli journalist really expecting me to:
A/ know where hizbullah’s military strongholds are?
B/ tell him where they are?”

“and if so,” she smiles, “is he a spy or merely stupid? or does he just think you are?”

you politely informed “gideon” that such information was not generally available and - given israel’s massive air superiority and fondness for assassinating hizbullah leaders - not likely to be publicised.

for some reason the usual “thanks for your help” line didn’t come back.

you’ve reached the rubbish bins in Ras al-Nab‘a now. people have been noticing there’ve been a lot more flies in beirut since the israelis came back. it has the aspect of an old-testament plague about it, they’re so thick. it’s provoked some to wonder what the flies are feeding on.

on the other side of the road you notice a bus and a car parked on the side of the road. families are silently packing suitcases in the vehicles in preparation for leaving.


earlier on friday evening, a friend of yours from the paper walked hurriedly into dragonfly, a bar in the gemayzeh quarter, and felt the need to ask the waiter to stand between her and some guy. she’s a gentle, well-educated blue-state american who fled her country when the US supreme court appointed George W Bush president.

“what’s the problem?” you ask.

“oh my god. i just had this awful argument with this american guy. What a bastard.”

you soon see the cause of her problem when a belligerent-looking lebanese-american guy starts tearing into the waiter who’s been tasked with protecting her.

Dragonfly shuts early, so you drift next door to torino express, one of three bars that’s been open throughout the conflict.

You see belligerent man has ended up here as well. in a few seconds he catches sight of you and staggers over. you reckon he’s spoiling for a fight with some foreigners - all of you are hacks but only one, a woman, is lebanese.

“you journalists?” he asks, his lip curling in derision.


He casts an aspersion or two over the others, who blink back at him quizzically. he walks up to you, then, perhaps because you’re standing.

“you look like the leader around here.”


“how long you been ‘covering’ this?”

“covering what?”

“Lebanon! The war!”

“I’ve covered Lebanon for eight years. I live here.”

he blinks at you angrily. “this story. How long have you been covering this story?”

“since day-one. I was here when it started.”

“you gettin’ lucky?”


“gettin’ lucky. you gettin’ fucked a lot?”


“name’s jimmy.” he sticks out his hand. “what’s yours.”


jimmy blinks at you again, as if surprised. over jimmy’s shoulder you see the concerned-looking face of the gentle, potato-shaped man who was with him earlier in dragonfly. He’s sitting at the bar, looking over his shoulder at you, his eyes radiating silent pleas that you forgive his friend’s rude behaviour.

“you carry a camera,” jimmy accuses

“no. i’m a writer.”

“you’re a photographer.”

“no. i write.”

“‘i write.’ what kinda goddamn touché is that? ‘i write.’”

“what do you do for a living?”

“doesn’t matter -”

“- sure it does. you asked what i do so I can ask you what you do.”

“i have the GM dealership here.” he throws his shoulders back and glowers at you.

“this shit must be hard on business.”

“don’t matter,” he spits. “business was shit before.”

“well, people here seem to prefer german cars.”

“Lebanese are stupid that way. GM is the best cars in the world but they can’t see that ‘cause they think everything European is better. stupid fucking lebanese.”

“how long you live in America?”

“texas. I lived in texas.”

“how long?”

“I left here in 1981. I came back in 2003. you American?”


“Sudafed,” he smiles gleefully. “You got Sudafed there.”

You blink at him.

“do I look like a criminal to you?” he asks.

absolutely, you say to yourself, then smile, “You look like a guy in a bar to me.”

“i smuggled Sudafed into the states from canada.”

“why would you have to smuggle Sudafed into the states?”

“it’s illegal,” he fumes triumphantly. “you know why? they use it to make crack cocaine!”

eventually you disentangle yourself from jimmy, and wander over to say hello to a Lebanese filmmaker you know – let’s call him rafiq. Rafiq lived in America for a long time too – studying film in Montana, of all places, before returning to Beirut. he still keeps a house in California and just came back from there a couple of days before the Israelis ruined beirut airport.

Rafiq sips on a shot glass of vodka and explains why he thinks this war is finished. there’s been a lot of such enthusiasm in Beirut for the last couple of days. there’ve been no strikes on dahiyyeh – no concussions to remind beirutis that people are dying in the south.

“did I tell you about my phonecall?” rafiq asks.

you shake your head.

“i got woken up by an international call the other day,” he chuckles. “I thought it was my wife, so I picked it up. Turned out to be from Israel.”

“Israel? How’d you know it was from Israel?”

“this guy said in perfect Arabic:

“‘this is the state of Israel. we want peace for the Lebanese people and we want you to help us battle the devil nasrallah. We urge your compliance for the sake of peace between Lebanon and Israel.’

“But don’t quote me on the exact wording,” he peers through his glasses. “it was early in the morning, and I’m drunk.”

You arrive in Qasqas and are astounded to find the lights in the mar‘ouf building are on. Lights are on in east Beirut at night, so you’d been anticipating an 11-storey-long walk up a darken stairwell to get to the flat.

you turn on the computer and sit down to write for a few minutes before the booze and the weight of the day send you spiralling into your own bed.

the amount of electricity that’s been available throughout this siege has been remarkable. there’s been only nominal rationing since the mess started – odd considering that the power plants run on diesel that’s being kept out of the country by the israeli blockade.

perhaps there’s something to those rumours that Syria, with whom Lebanon shares a regional power grid, has been sending those amps in for free. if so, you wonder how grateful Beirutis will be after it’s all over.

Jim Quilty, Beirut, 29 July

Does anyone STILL believe this Israeli war is over 2 soldiers?

17th day of attack and the results are…
A report by the Lebanese Higher Relief Council reported that the number of casualties due to Israel’s continuous bombardment has been grossly underestimated. According to paramedics and emergency response crews, the true number of casualties could near 1,000 deaths. “In Tyre alone we had 125 dead and 150 missing or buried under the rubble”, said Sami Yazbek the head of the Red Cross operations.

The Higher Relief Council official reported that a total of 866,780 Lebanese are displaced; 106,780 are sheltered in 652 schools across Lebanon, 550,000 are sheltered with families, friends, churches, mosques, even public parks, and 210,000 have left to neighboring countries such as Syria, Jordan, Cyprus, and the Gulf area.

Friday, July 28, 2006

What can YOU give?Appeal for Funds for Relief Work in Lebanon


The humanitarian situation in Lebanon is very difficult. The large numbers of refugees from the South and the Southern suburb of Beirut due to the Israeli aggression pose many challenges on the ground.

The displacement and forced migration is still taking place as I am writing these lines today. In Beirut, the big shelter spaces (mainly public schools) are completely full, and many families are being dispersed throughout the city of Beirut, making the relief efforts, the assessment of needs, the medical assistance of these families, more difficult and challenging.

Many organizations, civil societies, political parties, individuals are working to provide refuge, shelters for the people, as well, as basic food supplies for survival, and medical care when needed.

Israel, is still obtaining the green light from America, European and Arab governments, to continue its destructive war upon the civilians, under the pretext of fighting the resistance which is a legitimate voice for occupied people anywhere in the world. The Israel army, by causing death among the civilians, and causing strong damage to the civil and public Lebanese infrastructure, aims to create a division among the Lebanese population, to divide the Lebanese opinion vis-à-vis the role of the resistance, and to pressure the government. Any violent and bloody pressure put upon any population for certain political aims is the definition of terrorism; in this case state terrorism…

The war profiteers exist among our society, just like every where else, the prices for mattresses and supplies are also increasing.

We are calling on people all over the world to raise funds, and send it to us. If you already know people and organizations, go ahead, if not, I am providing you with a list. I am sorry but the list is of course incomplete, I cannot at this point list, all organizations involved in the relief works.

The money will go to:

Buying mattresses for the refugees. In Beirut, we are in short of THOUSAND of mattresses so far. The families continue to arrive, since the bombing is continuous. Also, the merchants increased their prices as a dirty way to make profits. So one small mattress cost $12…
Buying canned food and bread. Each family receives a bag a day with bread, tuna cans or beef, can of beans, diapers (if infants), milk powder, baby milk (if infants), soap, cleaning products, Kleenex… one portion costs around $10-15.
We are cooking also for the schools that shelter the refugees and we need to buy the basic materials. We found this option as a good one, because it is saves us cost also… cost $700 a week
Implementing a Hygiene unit, with a hygiene kit for each family, with all the necessary products for a proper healthy environment, $10 first kit per family…

This is about a rough list of things we are buying… All basic needs for the refugees. Their number is very large and it continues to increase, especially if this war continues… many families also will need some time to go back since the southern suburb of Beirut is on the ground for many parts of it…

Why donate to Small NGOs?

The big organizations, international and governmental associations, such as Red Cross, High Council for Relief, UNICEF…, Doctors without Borders,… are active among the public spaces opened to welcome big amount of families and displaced. The public schools used as shelters are assisted by the Big associations, with all the basic needs, food, medicine, doctors, mattresses… And the big names have also been receiving a lot of money and donations from around the world.

An important aspect of the displacement, especially within the city of Beirut, is that the lack of opening new public spaces, is pushing the families to be dispersed in a very spontaneous and non-organized matter in the city, basically in any possible found space with a roof; garages, warehouses, old apts in empty buildings, rented apts, old cinemas, roof tops …. These families, and they constitute a big percentage among the displaced (sorry no statistics), also all newly displaced are following this path, so these families are not being assisted by the Big NGOs, but rather by the small ones, within the neighborhoods they usually work around….

Please spread the word… The list is incomplete, and all apologies for that… please provide with other names to add to the list…

List of NGOS

Nasma Center (where I am volunteering as well as T MARBOUTA involvements)… helping over 600 families… food ratios
A/C #: 02 430 20 047 465
A/C #: 890 0057 343
UID: CH 035 040

SAMIDOUN, SANAYEH RELIEF CENTER Coalition of NGOs, Lebanese and Palestinian Students, Zico house, helping over 12,000 refugees… food ratios, medical teams and medications, shelter
A/C #: 618 9003

NGOs Platform Saida, I don’t have the number, but Saida has been a big shelter place for many southern villages, over 75,000 refugees are finding shelter in Saida, almost equivalent to the number of the population of Saida… food ratio, medical care, shelter
A/C# 0017-128 374-002 USB

Najdeh Association, Lebanese NGO and also part of the Palestinian NGO group in Lebanon, providing relief works and assistance in the Palestinian refugee camps for the new refugees …
A/C: 363 95
PHONE: 00 961 1 30 20 79

LADE – Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections – also organizing a relief campaign
A/C NAME: Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections
A/C #: 013 004 360 016454 02 5

T MARBOUTA café, not a formal NGO, but we are cooking for 700 people a day, buying and distributing mattresses and covers, providing hygiene kits and units for each family….
A/C #: 745324-03


Abdul-Rahman Zahzah

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Please read this post...

Pity the living and the days to come
Hanady Salman writing from Beirut, Live from Lebanon, 25 July 2006

Do read this article.
Do read this eyewitness account.

- Rania Masri
El Koura, Lebanon

50 cent, Paul Van Dyk, the Foreigners, but never the refugees...


The rescue and relief efforts are continuing despite the challenges and the hardships all along. No more big public spaces to shelter the families by big numbers. Now, they are concentrated in very random places and in small numbers. The situation is continuously deteriorating each day, or each hour even. and we are faced with a new problem: The big rescue institutions like red cross, high council for relief, and others are focusing on the big places, the groupings of 600 and more families... Other parties and big institutions are also doing the same, so you can find for example a school provided with 2 meals a day while some families on the roof of a building are paying their own meals and will be out of money very very soon... This is where the role of small NGOs, of solid grassroots work is needed and it is being accomplished but with minimal resources. The important sums of money, the donations, the tools, are going only to the big names. And the challenge is really to find these refugees who are randomly allocated in the city of Beirut. The donations are starting to arrive to the big organizations, but they do not have the human power nor the on-ground experience to use it outside the schools, and unfortunately the link between all groups is not easy to make...

Another important issue to discuss; what is the role of the private sector in this kind of tragic situation? The private schools, most of them, are still shut down, they have not been opened yet to allocate new refugees... The private hospitals are just starting to get involved in the rescue and relief efforts, with the financial administration carefully monitoring spending, and they only want to get involved in the big schools and gatherings... by the way, TV Cameras are only present in the big crowds of refugees anyway, and this where many organizations want to be....

Emergency departments in private hospitals are still charging people... some have provided a small team or space, but nowhere as serious as their means can procure... The private companies don't seem to be donating much money, instead they are worried about their own personnel stuck at home who cannot finish his/her work deadline... For the ones who are giving money and efforts, well, we respect their role and we encourage more to give and to be involved in the relief works… Big private public spaces who usually welcome big concerts, book fairs and exhibitions such as Biel and Forum of Beirut are used as centers to evacuate the foreigners... I am not sure if both of them... But anyway, they are not being used to shelter refugees... The space is big enough to provide a healthy environment... also from a logistic point of view, it will become much easier to provide all the necessary needs, to make all the necessary assessment, humanitarian and medical... BUT NO.. The priorities do not converge at this moment.... The citizens are not as important as teenager consumers dancing to Paul Van Dyk DJ music, or as important as the Foreigners who are evacuating the country…

The private sector needs to be more involved in what the entire country is going thru... The private sector along with the public sector and the civil society constitute the pillars... The government is obviously weak, it cannot absorb all this tragedy, and the civil society is working hand to hand trying to only focus on the humanitarian aspect without losing time in the politics at this point. The Private sector needs to also be responsive to the needs of our society; it needs to mobilize in the Humanitarian operations...

and this is another strong disadvantage and failure of the so-called globalization today, where capital and money/profit become more important than people. Public institutions are more aware and closer to the needs of the people. The capital that floats around the world seems to be very much detached from the workers, the geography, and the environments invested in. Another failure of the American economical system who is trying to be forced in our markets and our countries….


As you may all know, the newly reconstructed Downtown (15 years ago) is one of the strongest symbol of the Post-civil war era of Lebanon. However, due to the high land prices, it became very hard to buy or rent in the Solidere region… and many renovated buildings, I don’t have exact numbers, but definitely many buildings, are still empty for the past 12-15 years, awaiting for business companies… is it too naïve to think about Solidere company to open these empty apartments to the refugees??? May be it is… but they thought about it from another side of the issue… the Government has deployed many soldiers at every entrance to downtown, every street leading to downtown, in order to protect these entrances and not let in anybody in there… This is the military force needed to protect the capital….


Tuesday was a very violent day here in Beirut and the South. In Beirut, many attacks from the war ships took place in the afternoon backed by aerial bombing, and the sound was bouncing off the walls of all the buildings in the city. Tyre was continuously being targeted today including the neighboring villages... The Israeli Offense Forces were trying to enter Bint Jbeil which is very close to the frontiers but they still haven't managed to do so completely. The failed meetings with Condoleezza Rice in Beirut are giving more time to the Israeli aggression to take place.

Anyway, nobody was really optimistic about Rice's arrival to Beirut, and the fact that she came here before Tel Aviv shows that she has nothing really to say, probably the same conditions given early by Israel, the israeli soldiers back, the International forces in the South, and the disarment if Hizbullah... Of course these conditions are not acceptable, and any third party involved in serious cease fire would call for an unconditional one... Israel seems to have a political umbrella these days, just like in Falasteen, however, on the ground, its troops are being stopped by a strong resistance on the Lebanese side. The Lebanese resistance is fighting on its grounds, its is in control of its territory and its military actions, it is defending itself, and it is well prepared for such a situation. The Israelis, the International community, many Arab governments, are underestimating the infrastrutucture of the resistance in the South... They have been focusing on the external alliances and the external Network of Hezbollah and its ties with Syria and Iran, which for some reason meant a weak internal structure and this is not the case... Not at all, Hezbollah, never expected a fair International community, but is well prepared at the ground level…


For the people who are stuck in the 80s, the quick and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from the South in 2000 has opened the door for a new era... There is no Yasser Aarafat in Beirut today, where many political leaders will come to and convince him to leave Beirut, there is no boat after few weeks of heavy bombings that will take the fighters to Tunisia or another country, it is an Israeli-Lebanese conflict, of course linked to the big Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will remain at the heart of the liberation movement of the Arab world and of the renaissance of the Arab world as free and independent...

I do not personally differentiate between a Lebanese or a Palestinian cause, all causes in the world are related, the exploitation and the bombs do not differentiate between us... But the people who used to talk about the war of "others" on our land, and that Lebanon is used for other conflicts, well this is different, and this argument cannot be used...

This is a war waged by Israel on the Lebanese people. This is very clear when over 500,000 are fleeing their homes, where infrastructures are not being just disabled but completely destroyed... If you want to disable the airport for military logistical reasons you can hit it in a smart way, but when you continuously pound many missiles, many runways, the fuel tanks, this is complete destruction and the aims become the complete destabilization of an entire country, not just a simple strategic military operation...

also, the people who are holding in the South, if they are holding still, if they are stopping one of the strongest technological armies in the world, it means that there is a belief in what they are doing, that for them this a war of existence, their own existence, their own independence, and their own liberation…. There is a point of no return for the resistance in the South of Lebanon… And the resistance is rooted in the culture of the South, in the villages, there is a strong culture of resistance there, and this is where military choices for the Israeli will be limited… The war has a different meaning on the Israeli side, although some politicians claim that this is a war of existence, which is not…. But it is not up to politicians to say so; it is also up to the populations to decide, and the soldiers on the ground and the Israeli people have a different look, their war is an offensive one, and their attachment to the land has also a different nature… Let us not forget that Israel is still the biggest theft project of a land in the 20th century…


Abdel Rahman Zahzah
Beirut, Lebanon

The Children of Sarah and of Hagar: An Open Letter to Condoleezza Rice

Madam Secretary,

Whatever people may have thought of the policies of the Bush administration, many, if not most, have respected you for your meteoric rise from an underprivileged African-American background in the racially segregated American South to the highest corridors of power in Washington DC.

This is what boggles the mind when one contemplates your defense, and indeed, active support of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon.

As is well known, you grew up in Alabama, the cradle of the US Civil Rights Movement, partially started off when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man simply because she was black. This background of racial discrimination is a frequent theme in your speeches. And yet you are prepared to defend Israel when it practices a blatant form of racism, slaughtering innocent Lebanese and Palestinians en masse, quite apart from its perennial hunger for land and water that don’t belong to it. This is besides the fact that it practices a blatant form of apartheid. This word is what first comes to my mind because my mother wrote her MA Thesis on the subject, which was a comparative study between racial discrimination in Israel and that practiced in South Africa, that being in 1967, the year of the Israeli blitzkrieg that occupied an amount of Arab lands nearly ten times the size of Lebanon. . But whereas the Apartheid regime was brought to its knees by sanctions and other international pressures as well as the ANC movement under the inspired leadership of Nelson Mandela, the Israeli Zionist regime continues to be nurtured and encouraged in its racist and criminal conduct by the international community.

It must be noted that the Jewish people themselves were, just over half a century ago, exposed to a hideous form of racial genocide. Yet they continue to practice a form of racial cleansing (albeit far smaller and different in scale) against the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples, while they shamelessly exploit the Holocaust to extort money to subsidize their state and to manipulate the Western public to win its sympathy. The German people to this day bear a complex of guilt towards the Jewish people because of what their forebears inflicted upon them, although Jews were by no means the only victims of Hitler’s holocaust, records being quite clear that among its victims were also Slavs, Gypsies, and other races, besides certain segments of society such homosexuals, handicapped people, and others.

The fact is that though there are were, and to some extent, still are, sizeable communities of Jews in many Arab countries who have coexisted with their Moslem and Christian compatriots (despite occasional persecution and discrimination) for centuries, Israel continues to deny the full rights of citizenship to its Arab nationals, a fact perhaps most poignantly illustrated in the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, for all intents and purposes the Palestinian national bard.

When the Aqsa Intifada broke out in September 2000, members of the Arab community in Toronto, Canada demonstrated in protest against the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and the violation of one of Islam’s most sacred sites. They were promptly accused by members of the Canadian Jewish Congress of being “anti-Semitic”. That, for its part, is difficult to comprehend, since we as Arabs are just as Semitic, the Torah and the Koran both teaching that we both spring from the seed of Abraham, they being the children of Sarah, his legitimate wife, and us being the children of Hagar, his concubine, a theme that they have used to put us down since time immemorial. The fact is that they are culpable of “Intra-Anti-Semitism” towards us.

The upshot, Madame Secretary, is that you, whose forbears, after being freed from slavery in 1865, were lynched and raped without mercy for decades, are now condoning even more horrific acts, this time not by a mob or secret society such as the Ku Klux Klan, but by an internationally recognized nation-state that claims to be a functioning democracy, dedicated to peace and justice.

Madam Secretary, how you are able to explain or justify this double standard in your ethical reasoning I must confess is beyond me. You have a great deal of explaining to do, and nobody can do it for you. What do you have to say for yourself?

Amer R. Saidi

Cinematic Resistance

Yesterday I met up with Wahid. Wahid, originally from Beirut, has been in Holland for about 5 years, inhabits a luxurious squat (a former factory) in the old harbour of Rotterdam, and runs an audio rental company. A few days ago he put up a large banner against the war; the banner seems to fit the building and blends in with the façade of multi-coloured windows. I was wondering how many people would notice it; and if they would, would pause, get off their bikes (this is Holland after all), and contemplate the senseless violence going on a few thousand miles away. Would they shrug off the uneasy feeling that civilians are being killed and the whole infrastructure of a country is being flattened with the approval of big daddy USA? Would they become angry at the injustice, and voice critique, or would they just not care.

It is cruel, though all too human, how the unacceptable and the absurd becomes normalised. The media attention in this part of the world is starting to dwindle: to the casual observer it is just more of the same in the Middle East: the usual generic media image of carnage and destruction. Yes, the front-page headlines started to disappear along with the evacuation of the foreign nationals, and the instant gratification of foreign news crews.

Wahid and I discuss what can possibly be done to raise awareness, capture people’s attention, and make clear that what’s going on is absolutely appalling, knowing very well that every action from our side would amount to be a grain of sand in the desert. Nevertheless, something has to be done.

It seems that media is our curse and our saviour. Every war reported on TV takes on the qualities of a bad Hollywood flick; the war of images is what eventually remains as sticky residue on the spectator’s eye. That is, if we’re lucky. If we manage to convey images that touch, and are visceral and burn and scratch the retina with reality, than maybe…maybe people might wake up.

Every Wednesday the squat hosts a free cinema. We will show Lebanese films, documentaries and artist videos till the cessation of aggression. We want people to get a sense of Lebanon, of Beirut, so it becomes real, not some vague abstract concept. Donations will be transferred to humanitarian relief initiatives in Lebanon.

It is strange, only 10 days ago I reviewed a DVD called Resistances: Experimental films from the Middle East and North Africa. I had questioned the ambition scripted within the claim to call a DVD compilation a resistance, and had wondered whether the curators could actually deliver. Now I find myself using that same terminology, and also faced with the question whether I can deliver.

More info:

Nat Muller, Rotterdam.

Tales of the absurd

Of towels

A shipment of hundreds of towels arrived today to the Nasra school in Achrafieh. Hundreds of hundreds, bagged-up by the dozen, creating a small multi-colored mountain in one corner of the open yard. No one is quite sure where they came from; apparently some lads arrived in the early hours of the morning, deposited them all from a small hatchback, and left without a word.

“They’re certainly not from the Memory-of-the-Martyr-Rafik-Hariri-Institution,” joked Abu Ali, “or the martyr’s face would have been sewn into each one.”

The population at the Nasra school is fairly small, and the distribution system well entrenched, so the towels just waited there, for Walid or one of the other organizing volunteers to hand them out according to family size. But Walid was late today, and the towels tempting.

“I want to talk to you,” said Imm Hassan, pulling me aside into her family’s corner of one of the larger classrooms. Imm Hassan and I haven’t interacted all that much. She’s from Aitaroun, in southern Lebanon, and seems to spend most of her time yelling at her veiled 10 year-old daughter, and reciting incomprehensible – to me at least – aphorisms a propos of nothing.

“I need the pink towels,” Imm Hassan says.

“We’ll be distributing them very soon,” I reply.

“No, it’s important,” she says, “I need the pink ones.”

“Look, there’s lots of towels,” I say, “I’m sure you’ll all get enough.”

“Listen to me,” she says, gripping my shoulders and speaking louder, so I’ll understand. “I need the pink ones, to match the set I already have back home.”

Of towels, II

A similar impossibly large shipment of towels apparently was also made to the Karm El Zeitoun school down the road. Mahmoud, one of the volunteers, was trying to count them when he was interrupted by Khalil.

“We need them,” Khalil says, his son on one shoulder, two bags on the other.

“Let me finish counting them,” says Mahmoud, “and we’ll pass them out.”

“No,” Khalil says, “we need them now.”

Mahmoud looked around, but everything seemed normal.

“Please,” says Khalil, “I’m begging you.”

“Look, we’ll hand them out in a little while. What’s the rush?” Mahmoud asks.

“We’re leaving,” Khalil says, “up to the village. I want to go now, before they start hitting the road. But my mother-in-law, she says she won’t get in the car until we get our new towels…”

From the Dahieh

Imane is 11, and self-possessed. She tells me when my sneakers don’t match my outfit, and explains that if I veiled, it wouldn’t matter that my hair always looks so untidy.

“We visited home today,” she tells me. Imane’s family lives next to Hart Hreik, Israel’s main target in the Dahieh, Beirut’s southern suburbs.

“We went home to shower, because our bathroom is cleaner. But all the windows are gone. Mama said it’s ok, that everything is safe. So we showered. There’s nothing better than a shower in your own bathroom. But the towels were so full of dust that I got all dirty. Then the Israelis came back. We could hear them because the windows are all gone. So we came back to the school, and Mama made me shower all over again.”

From the Dahieh, II

We have a family staying with us, a mom and dad and two energetic little boys. They’re from southern Lebanon, but spend the winter in Hay el Sellum, another neighborhood in the Dahieh, currently threatened by Israeli bombings.

Our neighborhood is overflowing with refugees and new residents. Their children play on the streets, arguing over football and who’s taller/older/stronger. Our family won’t let their boys outdoors, despite their pleading, because they don’t know the neighborhood. Last night, we convinced them to take a walk on the cornice, by the sea.

Ten minutes later, we had managed to walk approximately one block. I had run into exactly no one that I know; they had met three families they knew from Hay el Sellum.

“You’re here, too?” they asked each time. “Of course. And by the way your neighbor from the fourth floor is staying two buildings down.”

From the Dahieh, III

The Israeli military talks a lot about its precision, its laser-guided explosives, its pin-point targeting. Khalo Ayman just got back from a visit to the Dahieh, where Israel’s precision is potently evident in the numerous buildings collapsed onto the ground.

“I met Fadi today,” he says, “he was walking down the middle of the street.

“‘You’re still here?’ I asked him.

“‘Of course’, Fadi said.

“‘I was asleep at home on the 8th floor when they bombed. I woke up falling, and landed in my hallway. I stood up, and the doorway was gone. Then I walked outside. The building was gone, under me, so I walked down the hallway from my apartment that had been on the 8th floor, and directly onto the ground outside’.”

From the Dahieh, IV

Most of the apartment buildings in the Dahieh are completely empty of their residents these days. In the window of a ground floor apartment near the main street of Mouawad, a family left their parakeet behind.

Hanging in its cage, the parakeet squawks if anyone comes near. If you get close enough, apparently, you’ll hear a difference in the squawkings. At first, it’s normal parakeet noises. Then it changes. “Booom! Booom!” the parakeet shouts. “Squawk, squawk, BOOOM, squawk.” And it ducks it head under its wing, hopping around the cage.

Sonya Knox

West Beirut

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lebanese Families Find Shelter at Palestinian Camp

Lebanon between Truth and Justice

by Khatchig Mouradian
ZNet; July 24, 2006

I'm for truth, no matter who tells it.
I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against.
Malcolm X

On July 12 2006, fighters from the armed wing of the Lebanese political party Hizbollah launched a cross-border attack on Israel killing and injuring a number of Israeli soldiers and capturing two. The operation was dubbed “True Promise”; months ago, Hizbollah had promised in public to capture Israeli soldiers to exchange them with Lebanese prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, some for more than 25 years.

The very day the soldiers were captured, Sayyed Hassan Nasralla, the secretary-general of Hizbollah, declared that there was no intention on his part to start a full-scale confrontation, and that the only way to free the Israeli soldiers was through indirect negotiations leading to an exchange.

Israel, however, immediately launched a wide-scale military campaign, dubbed “Just Reward,” to free the two soldiers. Hizbollah first retaliated by shelling military positions in Israel’s north and, eventually, as the Israeli Army started bombing Lebanese infrastructure and targeting civilians, Hizbollah started shelling civilian targets as well.

Israel has thus far “justly rewarded” the three runways and fuel depots of Beirut International Airport, all its seaports, most highways and roads connecting various parts of the country as well as those leading to Syria, tens of bridges in Lebanon’s south and east, factories, trucks, ambulances, TV transmission installations, thousands of buildings and houses. More than 360 civilians have been, again, “justly rewarded” by getting slaughtered, and more than a thousand received lesser “rewards” by being sent to hospitals and some 700 thousand (an estimated 15 percent of the country's population) have been “rewarded” with refugee status. President Bush said that Israel had the right to defend itself and, to date, the US has blocked all attempts by the international community to put a ceasefire in place. Hizbollah, in turn, has tried to impose what the Arab media and experts are calling a “balance of terror” by bombing northern Israel --most notably the port city of Haifa-- and causing a number of deaths and injuries among Israeli soldiers and civilians.

While United Nations relief coordinator Jan Egeland was saying that Lebanon was suffering a “major” humanitarian crisis and that Israel was violating “international humanitarian law,” the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, heading to the region on July 23, did not seem to be in a rush. “We have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one,” she said.

What started as an operation to liberate the 2 Israeli soldiers (if one is naïve enough to believe that) is now a US supported war to forge a “new Middle East.” If this renovation is anything in the same breath as the “Greater Middle-East” plans that are being implemented from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Palestinian territories, then Lebanon has just started to walk down the long road that the Bush administration sees as that of freedom, democracy, and security, and, if the country is lucky enough, three years from now, it will be as free, democratic and safe as, say, Iraq and Afghanistan are today.

What needs to be done? Attempts to wipe out, or even defeat Hizbollah, are in all probability doomed to fail. With the degree of “pinpoint accuracy” the Israeli army is displaying, the entire Lebanese people will be cleansed much before the rooting out of Hizbollah.

Implementing UN Security Council resolution 1559 and disarming Hizbollah by force are doomed to fail as well. Whether the US administration, the West in general, some “moderate” Arab states, and even many in Lebanon like it or not, Hizbollah has a broad grassroots support not only among the Shiites, the largest minority in Lebanon, but also among some Christian, Druze, and Sunni Muslim political circles, who are extremely angry at Washington’s overall pro-Israeli bias, and at the fact that the Bush administration is ignoring the UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which were declared to be at the core of the international initiative launched in Madrid in 1991.

Any initiative to solve the immediate crisis in Lebanon must involve an exchange of prisoners between Lebanon and Israel (and probably in the Palestinian territories as well), Israel’s handing down of the maps of landmines that the Israeli army had planted in southern Lebanon before its withdrawal in 2000, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Shebaa farms-- which, according to the Lebanese government and Hizbollah, is Lebanese soil. Even after all that, it is an illusion to believe that a comprehensive and lasting solution can be achieved without finding a true and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Khatchig Mouradian is a Lebanese-Armenian writer, translator, and journalist. He is an editor of the daily newspaper Aztag, published in Beirut. He can be contacted at

Broummana Diary

After nearly getting sunstroke waiting for the US evacuation at the Port of Dbayyeh, it was a relief to sit in the shade at the Charles Helou bus and taxi terminal, near the Port of Beirut. It wasn’t that the American evacuation was total chaos, or resembled the fall of Saigon, as some people have been quipping. I wish it had been like the fall of Saigon – there would have been a bit of urgency, perhaps. Instead, it was a combination of things that made the whole process so irritating, because they all seemed so unnecessary: the vagueness of the arrangements; the snail’s pace of the lines, when there were lines; the stifling heat and lack of shade (many of the evacuees had small children); nervous breakdowns; vomiting; fights, cursing and arguments over turf as we waited to move forward; Civil Defense personnel lobbing water bottles at the crowd to cool them down but almost splitting open the heads of little kids in the process. We were told we were going to Cyprus, but even that didn’t seem 100 percent ironclad. A rumor spread that the day before, a Canadian or American boat had ended up in Turkey instead, and you can imagine the effect that news had on the Armenians who were waiting next to me.

After giving up on the "organized" evacuation I decided to go to Syria by land, through one of the northern Lebanon border crossings. I showed up at the Charles Helou terminal and declined to take any of the cars headed for Damascus via the Bekaa Valley – there was the danger, and the steep prices of at least $100 a seat. At Charles Helou, there were the usual coffee and food vendors, drivers looking for fares, and people trickling in, until eventually the bus left for Tripoli. Only a handful of us made the entire trip to the border; the rest got off on the way, and others were picked up. We wound our way up the northern coast of Lebanon, which has barely been targeted by the Israelis. The only effects of the war I noticed were an absence of cable cars heading up to the Harissa cathedral near Jounieh, a bombed-out Lebanese Army post just outside Tripoli, a few relief trucks on the other side of the highway, headed south, and absolutely no mobile phone coverage. The bus dropped us off on the Lebanese side of the border. We walked a few hundred meters, did our Lebanese paperwork and ended up on the Syrian side, where several hundred Red Cross workers and other Syrian volunteers were ready and waiting to help people, under tents set up to protect people from the heat. I obtained my Syrian visa after calling the Ministry of Information in Damascus (I’m a journalist) and ended up completing the entire process in about as much time as it takes when there is no war.

After getting past Syrian customs I found an air-conditioned bus headed for Homs, full of refugees from Beirut and South Lebanon, but with some available seats. On the Syrian side of the border I felt some of the tension leave the bus, and me as well. Earlier this summer a friend gave me a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, about the bombing of Dresden in World War II.
I opened it, then stopped at the following lines:

"… there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds.

And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like Poo-tee-weet?
I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.

I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that."

We got off at the Homs terminal and I found another air-conditioned bus, leaving right away for Damascus. I fell asleep and when I woke up we were approaching the capital of Syria. The guy sitting next to me asked where I was from, and I told him Broummana. He said he was from Zahle, and informed me that the Israelis had just completed another series of bombing raids on the Bekaa, including the village of my friend from the southern suburbs of Beirut. What my friend had feared finally took place – his village became a target. "Once upon a time, the place was a Hizbullah office," he later told me. "Once upon a time." The bus arrived in Damascus and I caught a taxi into town. The first bus had cost $6.50, the second $5, and the third cost a dollar, as did the taxi. I asked the driver about the congestion and availability of taxis in Damascus, with around 200,000 displaced persons suddenly showing up from next door. He said that most of them were hanging out in Sitt Zeinab, south of the city, where the Shi’a religious shrines are located. The driver began relating stories about how some of these Lebanese were practically penniless, how they would go into restaurants and order only hummos and salad. "Not like the Iraqis," the driver said, referring to the wave of people fleeing to Syria in the last several years. "Those people have some money." I told the driver that Israel should now hit Syria, so that it could get rid of Lebanese, Iraqis, and Syrians. "Three-for-one, huh?" he asked, smiling and nodding. "What does it matter, 60 percent of the Syrian people are dead already," he continued, in what I took to be a comment on the socio-economic situation. I wondered if any other countries would end up dumping their populations here as the US continues its quest for a new Middle East.

Marlin Dick, Damascus, Syria
It was just a few days into the war and the battered old Mercedes taxipulled over in Hamra, a formerly splendid commercial district in Beirutwhose heyday had expired many years before.“Cola,” I said, referring to the neighborhood in southern Beirut named for a Coca-Cola bottling plant that had closed some time in the distant past.“Taxi?” came the response, the driver wanting to know whether I wanted thevehicle to myself for 5,000 Lebanese pounds (about $3.33) or was willing toshare with others for 1,000 pounds.Sharing meant the possibility of detours to other passengers’ destinations,and it had been a very long day. I nodded and hopped in the front seat ofthe battered sedan. We rode in silence until we were very near to Cola, whenyet another thunderous explosion went off further south in the Dahiyeh.

The driver inspected me out of the corner of his eye, trying to gauge my reaction to the destruction of his country. Was I one of those foreigners who thought the Lebanese were getting what they deserved?I muttered a colorful curse at Israel with a shake of my head. That broke the ice. He asked if I had a family and where they were, and Itold him I had moved them from our flat near Cola to one in Hamra, muchfurther away from the Dahiyeh. Then I asked about his family, which eliciteda deep breath and a clenching of teeth.“Dahiyeh.”My heart sank. I had just been to see my own 4-yeard-old daughters, and thebombs falling on the Dahiyeh had been enough to frighten them from severalkilometers away. This man’s children had a front-row seat.“Get them out of there,” I said, motioning with my hands. Between his broken English and my pathetic Arabic, he managed to make meunderstand that he had no other place to put them and no money to rent one. I told him he didn’t need money because the government had opened all publicschools as shelters for civilians displaced by the Israeli bombing campaign. Apparently unaware of the announcement, he thanked me profusely for theinformation and said he would go straight to his home to evacuate his family.

We had arrived at the corner of my street, so I told him to stop, handed him a 10,000-pound note and held up my hand to indicate that he could keep thechange. He wouldn’t take it – any of it. He insisted that I had saved his children and that he could not accept my money. Honor meaning what is does for many Arabs, it was a delicate moment, but we didn’t have enough language in common for me to argue the point, so I got out but tossed the note back into the car just as he began to pull away. Realizing what I had done, he stopped again. I think my expression told him I wouldn’t be taking no for an answer, so he touched his fist – clenched around the precious cash – to his chest and gave me a look of gratitude that cannot be described. Then he drove off toward the Dahiyeh.The feeling was instantaneous: In all likelihood I would never know if this man reached his family in time. I still feel it now, and I can’t imagine itever going away.

Marc J. Sirois

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rim Shahrur, angry arab baby

Rim Shahrur. 18 months. Rashidiyyah refugee camp (near Sour(Tyre)).

To all of you who have been writing and attempting to excuse the (US-funded, US-supplied, US-supported) Israeli massacres of Lebanese, see Rim's tears, look at Rim's face... What else can I say?

To all of you who have been writing letters of solidarity, see the resilience in Rim's eyes.

Ah, what a crazy crazy world. The powerful play their vicious games to sieze control, steal resources, get their ego-fill, and always the same people suffer: the weaker ones, the young, the children...

Lest there be any confusion, the powerful that I allude to here are: Israel, US, and all those who offer their complicity.

-Rania Masri
p.s. here is an article I wrote - that was published in a North Carolina (USA) newspaper on Sunday. The article had to be less than 500 words.

internationals to the rescue

Now that the international press corps has arrived in Lebanon to tell the real story of what’s happening here – and making telephone and internet access that much more difficult for the rest of us – it seems fitting to set down some other international responses to the 2006 siege of Lebanon. Here’s four vignettes.

1/from Iraq

it’s early in the attack and you’re in the midst of crossing the old airport road, down Qasqas way, when our mobile rings. You notice it’s from Syria.


“Yes I must speak with Jim please!” a voice yells through a poor line.

“Yes, speaking.”

“This is Ahmad [let’s pretend his name is Ahmad]! Ahmad the sculptor!”

Ahmad is a former flatmate of yours from your brief stay in Syria in 2004. You were subletting a room in a house in Salamiyyeh, a district on the side of Mt Qasiyoun with a breathtaking view of Damascus.

Ahmad is the boyfriend of one of the French girls who shared the place with you. he is, in fact, a sculptor, working in bronzes. the running motif of much of his work is human-ish figures, usually striding forward. though winged, they’re always bound to the ground.

“Ahmad! Hi how are you?”

“I’ve been trying to call you for two days!”

“That’s nice,” you smile. “What can I do for you?”

“Habibi jim, you must come while you still can!”

“Come where, Ahmad?”

“To Damascus! Come immediately before it gets any worse.”

Ahmad is a Baghdadi, a refugee from the US liberation of Iraq, or rather the chaos that arose from the liberation. He approves of the American action, a fact that has less to do with his being shi‘a than it does his hatred of saddam hussein. “He wrote novels, you know,” he once confided, grimacing over his beer.

“Ahmad, thank you. but I have some work to do here.”

“Please promise you’ll come if things get too bad, ah?”

“I sure will.”

2/ from Juba

let’s say his name is Hillary. He’s a refugee from Juba. Few people, yourself included, had heard of Juba before. Conventionally people call it “southern Sudan” but he dislikes the term. he comes from a mixed muslim-christian familiy and raised a practicing christian of a vaguely catholic persuasion.

He was studying medicine at the university of juba when the Sudanese government transplanted the university – teachers and students - to khartoum.

“It took a few days before one of us asked the others, ‘what’s the university of juba doing in khartoum?’”

politics made Hillary a refugee. he ended up in the levant, spending a bit of time in Syria with his brother but eventually deciding to stay in beirut. for most of you acquaintance with him, he’s done manual labour, the drudgery accentuated by his unsuccessful efforts to find asylum in another country. Your encounters with him were usually in some bar or another – an environment that allows him to display his wit and intelligence to best advantage.

“as far as I’m concerned,” Hillary said a few days into the siege, “i consider myself fortunate if i get hit by an israeli missile.”

a year or two ago, Hillary made friends with a pastor of some obscure european protestant denomination. the contact got him an “in” with the local protestant theology school, so now he’s studying theology – something you applauded even while finding it amusing.

it’s been a challenging time for him and not because he’s not smart enough to get good grades.

shortly after he started he found that the Lebanese internal security wouldn’t grant him a student visa to study here. it seems washington was putting pressure on beirut to not grant visas to foreigners wanting to study religion in the region. al-Qaida’s influence is assumed to spread through students migrating around the muslim world to continue their education – so Hillary seems to have fallen victim to a wider effort to curb international terrorism. he remains on the case, though, and is still attached to the theology school.

He later had to contend with the racism of some of his Lebanese instructors. Then there was the challenge of the subject itself. “studying the old testament,” he said the other day, “will destroy your faith. it’s a book that justifies one people’s right to annihilate another.”

When you half hear him remark to Angus, a scottish friend, that he’d feel fortunate to be hit by an Israeli missile, you assume the joke hinges on this crisis of faith.

“why do you say that?” asks Angus.

“you know how much they cost,” he asks, “one of these israeli missiles. They cost a million dollars each. my insurance policy says if i die I’m worth $5000 to my family. that means if some Israeli kills me with his missile, my value increases.”

3/ from germany

you’ve known “Wim” for years. he was one of the founding members of the flat in Qasqas you share with another german, you usually call him “Otto”. It was while Wim and Otto were at the helm at Qasqas that the neighbours began calling the place “bayt al-alman” [the house of the germans], a practice that remains among the neighbours even though Otto is now the last german.

When you met Wim, he was a sociologist, who did some journalism on the side. then he abandoned the academy and turned to journalism. then he moved over to ngo work, though his passion remains journalism.

Wim was trapped in Europe, on vacation with his lebanese girlfriend when the israelis started bombarding beirut international airport. one evening, while you were commiserating with Angus over a couple of whiskeys in gemayzeh, Wim bounded into the bar.

“you came back!” smiles Angus.

“of course,” he smiles back. “there’s work to do.”

“how’d you come?”

“from damascus,” he says matter-of-factly.

you and Angus glance at each other, surprised.

“i thought the damascus road was shut.”

“oh it is, but you can still cross the border there. We drove via zahle. The driver didn’t know the way, though, so I had to direct him.”

“how much did you pay?” you ask. the siege had driven up the market price for taxis to damascus, in excess of $500 in some cases. rumours had drifted out that some drivers were trying to raise the rates going the other way as well, and that some gormless international had paid around $800 for a one-way trip.

“well i took a service [a shared taxi],” he said, “it was much more expensive that usual.”

“how much more?”

“over twice the usual sum,” he said. “thirty dollars.”


4/ from Palestine

“Miriam” is the friend of a friend who’s adopted you as her own. there was no introduction as such. she just emailed you one day a couple of years ago. she said she was friends with this friend and that friend of yours, all foreigners. Then she asked you how you were and said she looked forward to meeting you.

this went on for a couple of years. sometimes it would be email, sometimes it was a phone call. these communications were always a little disorienting since they would drop out of the blue for no apparent reason and not really go anywhere. your efforts to make your way to bourj al-barajneh for a visit never came to much. though Qasqas itself is right on the border between beirut proper and the southern suburbs, a combination of work obligations and alcoholic social life centres your life in northern beirut.

Miriam would ask how you were and then share some of the happenings in her life. this is how you discovered that she’d suffered an accident of some kind that had left her confined to her house. you learned about her daughter who was nearing the end of her high school.

One day you and Miriam actually met. she rang one Saturday to say she was on her way to Ruth’s house.

“oh?” you reply. you had no idea who Ruth was.


There was an impasse for a few seconds while you wondered how to interpret this information.

“would you like to meet for a cup of tea?” she eventually continued.

“oh. okay, give us a ring when you’re done at your friend’s.”

another long pause as she processed your line of code.

“she lives near bliss street,” she continued.

“okay, close to hamra, then. I’m in hamra now myself”

after a pause, she sighed. “do you want me to give you directions?”

“uh, sure. you’re inviting me to your friend’s house?”

“you don’t want?”

“no no. I’d love to.”

Miriam and her family live in bourj al-barajneh camp, in beirut’s southern suburbs. The suburbs have been particularly badly hit in this offensive because that’s where shi‘a muslims live and shi‘a muslims make up hizbullah’s constituency. that doesn’t mean all shi‘a support hizbullah, of course.

the Palestinians aren’t shi‘a, though they’ve had more than their fair share of problems with the israelis. this is why Miriam and her family live in a beirut-area refugee camp rather than in palestine. this is why her family never had a chance to migrate to a country of their own choosing.

a few days into the bombing, the mobile rang. It was Miriam and you immediately feel ashamed for not having rung her first.

“How are you jim?” she asks cheerfully. “Are you fine?”

“better than some. Where are you? are you still in the bourj?”

“no,” she laughs. “we decided to spend some time around the Arab University.”

The arab university is about 10-15 minutes walk from the flat in Qasqas, not far from shatilla refugee camp. you’d left Qasqas with your girlfriend (visiting from holland) because it was too close to the bombing. no bombs have fallen into your neighbourhood, but the noise when the missiles and shells hit is horrendous.

“how are things there? Do you have everything you need?”

“oh yes. dalia is bored and wants to go home,” she chirps back. “we have everything here. it’s like being in the camp.” There’s a pause while she says something to her daughter. “I have to go now jim. Do you need anything?”

Jim Quilty, Beirut, 24 July