July 19, 2006
It takes a cynic of unfathomable proportions to spin the current onslaught on this nation as a way to “empower” the Lebanese government to take control of the south, as Shimon Peres did yesterday. The audacity! To terrorize the civilian population in order to make them turn on Hizballah is not only cynical and bound to fail, but criminal. In what way was Hizballah utilizing a milk factory to send rockets into Israel? How does bombing a paper mill and a pharmaceutical plant “empower” the Lebanese government? What is happening is nothing less than the destruction of Lebanon, a collective punishment of the already weak for their inability to immediately pacify a powerful political force within their borders.
There has been a lot of helicopter activity over the Mediterranean outside my window today. I’m not sure if they are U.S. helicopters involved in evacuation efforts, or if they are Israeli helicopters on a mission of destruction. The mood here is still one of sadness. It blows my mind how quickly things have changed; just a little over a week ago I was enjoying the pleasures of this recovering city, and now it is once again bleeding, while I stay close to Hamra, since there is no telling if I can make it back if I venture too far out. There is simply no way of knowing which bridges or tunnels will be bombed next. Doctors from American University Hospital are being set up with rooms in the dorms; it’s the only way to ensure that they will be able to make it to work. One of them usually has a brief drive from his home to the seaside, where he would then take the highway to Beirut. The other day as he was driving to work he passed over one of the usual bridges, and a few minutes later his mother calls and tells him to turn back because the Israelis bombed the bridge. Well, he responded, I already passed the bridge… Now it takes him three hours to travel the same distance because he has to take back roads.
I’m seeing fewer and fewer westerners, and if I didn’t have a previous connection to this place and felt pretty much at home here, I’d probably feel left behind. Although, I know that’s not true, as I understand it, not that many have been able to evacuate yet. I know that my former roommate, who is a British citizen, is still waiting for a call just like I am. I have already elaborated elsewhere on my ambivalence when it comes to the evacuation, and I will not go into it again, but my previous position still stands.
Fortunately, I have people close to me here and I feel close to this place. It strikes me as ironic that I would end up living a war in the same dormitory I stayed in my first semester here, several years ago when I first got acquainted with Lebanon. Those were the happiest of days, and these are the saddest of days. For the time being, I pass the time through following the news, walking through the streets of Hamra (where very few stores are open), and watching DVDs. For some inexplicable reason, I bought a documentary on DVD entitled “Beirut under Siege: 1982.” I don’t know if I really want to see that right now, it’s the kind of thing you want to watch when you can say: “Look how far we’ve come since then.” Right now…well, we haven’t come very far.