Sunday, July 23, 2006

From Abdul Rahman, in Beirut

From Abdul Rahman, my good friend who is in Beirut

Of course I am not Slavoj Zizek, using movies to create political and social analogies and link them to reality. But my brother sent me an sms saying “did you see the Last Samurai, doesn’t Nasrallah remind you of Kasimoto?”

So I was thinking about it, and in a way my brother was right. Amid the total silence of the Arab world and of blind acceptance of a status quo dictated by the West, the people who are still resisting, who are still using words like “self determination of the people”, “independence”, “struggle”, “cause”, are being viewed as last Samurais.

I don’t want to romanticize or poeticize the current situation, but when I hear the new Arab Liberal Pro-Western rhetoric (and there are a lot these days) or the mainstream street, it really may seem that resistance, independence are old words that have no use these days, outdated, not the fashion anymore. And people talk about new means and new ways/instruments/tools to resolve these problems. Hold on a minute, I agree that any conflict is fought on many fronts, with a diversity of means, but the resistance of occupation cannot be fought differently.

Why should people resist differently?

Why are the occupied pushed to find new ways of resistance, when the tools and methods of exploitation have never changed, the bombs are more lethal, that is about it. The causes have not changed, the problems are the same, and occupation is occupation whether it happened in the 19th or in the 21st, the fact that we have internet these days does not replace the armed struggle when an army invades, when an army occupies, and when an army violates all rules and regulations towards another one. Just because technology has advanced and is providing us with new invented needs, these do not replace the basic rights, the basic needs, of groups and individuals, these do not change.

BEIRUT

In Beirut, yesterday, I felt that we are living a war. I was walking through the streets of Hamra, usually pretty quiet and empty at night, except for the restaurants and pubs. But last night, the streets were a little crowded with people taking walks. Most of them were the refugees who flee their homes. Since the forced migration is big in numbers (over 500,000 all over the country), and since many of the public schools, originally used as shelters, are packed and full to the maximum, people are being sheltered in very random locations, all over the city, underground parking structures, garages, small homes or old destroyed empty buildings, old closed cinemas, roofs, family friends.

Their situation is very hard, and the fact that they are displaced in a non-organized manner, it is even harder to assess, to do proper relief work, and organize everything. Finding these new shelters becomes harder, and usually by chance or by words of mouth. So at night, when the small rooms become hot and humid, the people are out in the streets breathing some air, and you feel that the city has changed in that way, in its social character.

The displacement is still taking place. The places we usually go to (outside the schools) are increasing in numbers. So we arrive to a building to give the food portions, only to find out that the number of familes has increased, or to tell us that the building next door is sheltering new families. The ideal situation is to call a centralized organism responsible for coordinating relief and emergency efforts, such as the high council for relief works, but unfortunately they are not as productive or effective as needed.

The challenges are very big on the ground. The food supplies, the mattresses, the medication are not really in shortage in the capital yet. The blockade is not total here, but people are talking about a week to 10 days time frame where things could start to be missing since the containers at sea cannot enter the ports as well as the planes.

However the problem we are facing is the exploitation of the prices from the suppliers and the merchants. They are abusing the situation, they know that they are essential to the relief efforts, and many of them are increasing their prices. The mattress (with a cover) that usually costs $7 is now costing $11 without a cover; in other places the price is as high as $20. The banks are holding the dollars, the merchants only want dollars and if you are stuck with Lebanese currency they exchange it at a higher rate.

So again, not in this time of hardship, the citizen is the one paying all the prices, his/her house is destroyed, he is paying more money for food, more money for public transportation, and the government again is incapable of protecting the citizen in these times.

The big institutions are profiting or the worst case balancing cost and profits and few are losing. So we also spend a lot of time looking for these institutions decent enough to keep their prices as low as possible and splitting also the cost between them and the consumer.

WAR AND RELIEF

I never lived this situation before. The changes are happening at a fast pace, too fast to absorb everything at once. The people are leaving, most of the foreigners have left, a lot of Lebanese also left, family members, friends, colleagues at work, or they found refuge in the mountains. You find yourself alone, in a city full of new people who arrived from the South and the Southern suburb of Beirut, where many Ground Zeros have taken place. The people are leaving.

The foreign workers are leaving. And you ask a question these days or you realize that the foreign workers are really important and in huge numbers in Lebanon. I mean you read about it, but once they start to leave you live these facts. These are the people working in homes, in gas stations, cleaning the streets. And they are slowly disappearing, and the garbage is piling up in the streets, a lot of gas stations are shut down.

I am sure many Lebanese people are looking for a job, in the same time, I never understood why such a poor and small country like Lebanon needs that many foreign workers, when its people have trouble finding jobs. This is not Dubai.

During war, also for some reason, the people become more transparent. Maybe it is because of the fear that washes away of the superficial layers, or because we are all exposed, our homes are exposed and unprotected, the streets, the lives of people, may be because when rockets come form the sky you stop seeing the sky as a protective envelope. Eeverything becomes open and exposed even the inside of us.

To be honest, Beirut is still safe compared to the South, to Saida, Tyre. There is a certain freedom to travel around the city, the entrances to the city are not blocked completely, the electricity is present not 24 hours, but still, and we are trying to help and support the people.

The relief works, are little bit disorganized, due mainly to the increasing and constantly changing problems and challenges. The lack of coordination between different groups is clear, and this is due to the lack of centralization. The Government, the ministry of social affairs, is not strongly present in the streets; they are more talking on TV.

And the problem is not political, really, it is not because of the fact that they are politically in disagreement with Hezbollah, but the Israeli aggression is devastating. The Israelis are experts in waging wars on populations. They arrived to the shores of Palestine in the early 20th century wearing military fatigues and they still didn’t take them off. This is a war on the people, and the war is very methodical, with a plan, it is not spontaneous at all. We feel it here on the ground.

CIVIL SOCIETY AND YOUTH

Civil society and the NGOs these days are doing a really good job in providing the structure and the organization for the relief and emergency works. They are at the heart of the relief work. Just like in past conflicts, embargoes, and occupations. They are active on the ground, very active, and they constitute the spinal cord of the humanitarian work in Lebanon. They learn to separate the humanitarian needs from the political issues. And they are focusing on the people. So despite all the difficulties faced here, the Youth, the University organizations, the NGOs, are responsive to the needs and they are trying to create a strong support here in Beirut, in Saida, and all over the country.

The people helping on streets are united, despite their political differences, their sects, their classes, and focused on the humanitarian aid. So for the raised funds, for the donations and we are in need of help in that way, please send to the NGOs on the ground.

SOUTH

This is where many of the Israeli massacres are taking place; these are the villages the refugees are fleeing. The South is closed off, no food, no medicine, no water can enter. Last night, around 10pm, while tuning the radio channels, we heard an Israeli message to the Southern villagers to leave their homes heading North. They were menacing the trucks and cars going to the South. They said they were going to hit any moving vehicle in the direction of the South. Yesterday, they had a mass grave in Tyre, where they buried over 80 civilians. Also, Tyre and Saida are embargoed and the basic needs are slowly decreasing, and the entrances to the city are blocked since the bridges were destroyed.

WHAT CAN YOU DO

RAISE FUNDS AND HELP US THRU THIS HARD SITUATION TO BE ABLE TO PROVIDE THE PROPER RELEIF AND EMERGENCY WORKS TO THE DISPLACED PEOPLE. Money would be the easiest way these days, thru Western Union, or via banks, since food supplies and medicine are hard to get to different areas due to the blockade. I will write an appeal to explain to you where the money is exactly going to, the different organizations.

DEMONSTRATE FOR PALESTINE AND LEBANON. If you are in the Arab countries, your own governments have responsibility towards the situation. The Arab silence is intolerable…. The Arab governments are providing a certain green light, and they need to be exposed. Prayers at this point are not enough, and we cannot just sit and watch and we have been doing for long long time. if you are in America or Europe, especially in America, part of your tax money is actually in use these days by the Israeli Offense Forces.

More on Giving Money Later

[posted originally on kabobfest]

3 Comments:

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