Wednesday, July 19, 2006

July 19, 2006

The carnage in Lebanon, particularly in the south, is difficult to understand, even for us here in Beirut. Images of children torn to pieces by Israeli bombs are impossible to process for anyone with the least bit of human empathy. If I have learned one thing about what it is like to be bombed, it is that it is not so much the fear of getting hit yourself that makes your pulse go up in overdrive whenever you hear the bombardment, but rather the knowledge of what those explosions do, knowing that they are tearing humans to pieces and delivering tragedy to those who survive.

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.

16 Comments:

Blogger MAZe said...

Unbiased, unphased and reporting it first hand but itching to go to sverige ... take care my friend.

3:13 AM  
Blogger dede said...

Reading the way you write about the situation I think you must failed your exams!
It's very simple and childish to put the blame on the side you already dislike.
Few question (from hundreds!) you should ask yourself:
Is there any conflict between Israel and Lebanon?
Did Israel attack Lebanon in any way before last Wednesday?
Why Israel is attacking Lebanon now?

It's O.K. to be concerned and worried about war, every war, we all are. But you, as a scholar, must know that there are times that war and destruction is inevitable.
Israel doesn't want to fight with no one of its neighbors!
But believe me, "enough is enough!"
A nation can not live as a hostage on the hands of terror. Israel can not tolerate a terror organization who declares every day that its only target is the destruction of Israel and attacks Israel when ever he feels like, kidnapping and killing soldiers and civilians against every law.
Name me one country in the world that will accept that kind of situation without response.

More of it. If you that naïve and can not see the linkage between the Iranian atom plan and the attack of the terrorists that started the war, you really should go back to your first year in school.
The whole war was planed and started deliberately by the terrorists only to divert the world mind and to get the Iranian war preparations out of the world attention, to buy them time to reach the un returning point, and the hell with the consequences to the two countries and the suffer to the all the civilians.

I'm really sorry that you are blinded by propaganda.
Thy say in the news that there are 500,000 refugees in Lebanon. I just want you to know that most of the citizens of the north, almost a third of the Israeli population are in the same situation.

The different between the Lebanese worries to the Israelis worries and fears is huge! They all know that we never intend to harm citizens and warn them before attacking to leave the place (accident can happened and will happened in every war). From the other side, the terrorists of the Hizballah are targeting deliberately and blindly city centers and hospitals in purpose to kill as many civilians as they can.
As I say, there are two sides of every coin, and before pouting the blame on Israel like you do, try to open your mind, learn and understand.

David,
Israeli from Haifa.
Between terrorist missiles.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I got to your blog from Lebanese Bloggers... your heart's in the right place, which is good. Though don't forget that you're in a country which is limiting your access to images of one side of carnage, and funneling it to many images of gore on the other. Yes, children are being killed and that is unacceptable. On bothe sides. And I'm not going to play the moral relativism game, just because Israel lives in constant fear of attack and has therefore built more bomb shelters per capita, thereby limiting its casualties. But Hezbollah is not leafletting in Israel and telling civilians to evacuate at all - and they are solely aiming for maximum infrastructural and civilian casualties. You have every right to hate Israel and question their motives if that's your opinion. But you also must acknowledge that whatever their reason for striking that powdered milk factory and pharmaceutical company... both of which, by the way, which can be used as components in bomb-making... they were nevertheless chosen, pinpointed non-residential targets.

When the Israeli government says it wants peace, I personally believe it. But after enough rocket attacks by Hezbollah, aimed solely at attacking civilians, the Israeli government had to do something when the Lebanese government did nothing. And is still doing nothing. And when Israeli soldiers were kidnapped without any provocation at all, what was Israel supposed to do? Israel wants its kidnapped soldiers back, not driven or flown to Iran. They want Hezbollah crippled, without any more missles shipped or driven or flown in from Syria. But no one from Lebanon has ever been stopping them from crossing the borders. The evidence of the missles recently deployed against Israel has been direct proof of that. Lebanon may have been a peaceful country minding its own business with a hostile terrorist group in its midst in your opinion. But if Lebonon outright refused to control that group, at some point someone else must.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Hardig said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Just to clarify a couple of things in reference to some of the reactions here: One, I do not claim to present scholarly articles in this blog. This is a personal, eye-witness account of what is happening where I am, how I perceive things from here. To the extent I have offered political analysis, I think so far it has been restricted to the statement of Israel's objectives with the current campaign, and why I doubt the Israeli strategy will be successful. As far as I know, nothing I wrote in that brief analysis conflicts with the presence of Syrian or Iranian interests, or Israeli concern with these interests.

Second, I do not put blame solely on Israel for the current situation, nor do I accuse Israel of acting out of an evil spirit, but out of a concern for security for itself and its citizens.

Third, I have stated that I disagree with the methods of both Hizballah and Hamas. I see no justification for the killing of civilians on any side. But the fact of the matter is that I am here in Beirut, I am seeing the results of Israeli bombs. If I were in Haifa, I would be writing about the results of Hizballah rockets.

Rather than aiming at offending me as much as possible, a much more constructive action on the part of dissenters to the views presented here, could be to present us with insights from other places, such as Haifa.

Dialogue, see? That way we can begin to understand each other, instead of throwing sand in each other's faces. How does that sound?

7:43 AM  
Blogger dede said...

In a missile attack to the center of the city of Nazareth 15 minutes ago, The Hizballa killed 2 children's age 8 and 10, Arab Israeli citizens and wounded tens other.

As I said before, just to kill as many Israeli citizens as they can.
Do you think they warned the children's before the attack?

7:56 AM  
Blogger dede said...

Sorry for not responding to your post earlier. I can only dream of the day we can speak to each other in a peaceful manner. I'm truly sorry if I offended you, I only tried to be sarcastic after reading your post.
After all today Haifa was attacked several times by missiles and the nerves are a bit shaken. I appreciate your response.
Thank you.
Hope for better days soon.
david

8:11 AM  
Blogger ryoushi said...

Why can't Arabs rid themselves of the criminals in their midst?

I admit here in America I don't have many Arab acquaintances. I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a Muslim Lebanese American a few weeks ago before all these troubles started.

He kept trying to turn our conversation into a political one, condeming our President and Israel. Finally I had to explian how things looked from my perspective.

I told him I couldn't understand why a religion that claimed to be peacful had so many followers intent on either converting or killing us infidels.

He replied oh there are only a few of those criminals among us for every one of them there are thousands of peace loving tolerant people.

I said well why don't you kill them instead of leaving it up to Americans and Israelis.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Ronen said...

are you removing comments of people who oppose your opinion on the situation?

shame.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Hardig said...

Ronen,

Where did you get the idea I have removed comments? I haven't removed any comments whatsoever. Please, don't throw out unfounded accusations.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Cyrus said...

My name is Cyrus Farivar and I'm an American journalist who writes for Wired News (www.wired.com). I'm doing a piece on Lebanese bloggers. Would you be available to be interviewed sometime soon?

Thanks,

-Cyrus
(www.cyrusfarivar.com)

2:06 PM  
Blogger Shaina said...

Thank you for writing this blog.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Daggerlady said...

Dear Andy, my sister Ana Paula de la O sent me your blog. I just have no words to reply to your posts, I can`t imagine how you should feel right now, but I hope everything goes well and you make the best of decissions. Take care and my heart is with you.

9:23 PM  
Blogger DhiaK said...

I think with all that's happening, you are all very much entitled to be afraid, upset and disoreinted with blame. Please remember to read this author's blog simply as he has introduced it - as an eyewitness account to his surroundings. After monitoring all the feedback and news from around the world as closely as i have been, this post is by far the most honest and the one source of information i now rely on. So, thank you... i pray this all ends soon but in the meantime, please do keep us updated as you have been.

1:50 AM  
Blogger yaron said...

hi hardig,
In contrary to what dhiak just said, i want to adress the politial sicentist in you and not just the eyeitness.
I think there's a basic question if the lebanoneze goverment was UNWILLING or UNABLE to control HA. If it is unwilling you can probably see the sence in this horrible war. personaly i think it was more unable but i have very little knowledg of the situation over there. Do you think you can give your insight as a scholar living in lebanon?

lycka till and ta hand om dig,

2:32 AM  
Blogger Hardig said...

Yaron,

Thanks for your well wishes. The issue of Hizballah's disarmament has obviously been one of the most sensitive ones in the Lebanese national dialogue. I don't think there is any question that the current government wants to see its authority extended over all Lebanese territory.

However, with the delicate political balance between the various sects in Lebanon, and Hizballah's civilian achievements (i.e. healthcare, social development etc.), especially in the south, has led to a situation where any forceful military action by the Lebanese government to disarm Hizballah could very well lead to the breakdown of the army along sectarian fault lines.

This is why it is not very useful to compare the number of Lebanese army troops, with the number of Hizballah fighters (I think Shimon Peres put the numbers at 50 000 Lebanese army troops versus 7000 Hizballah fighters).

So in order to even begin to understand the influence of Hizballah in Lebanon, you have to combine Hizballah's standing within the Shi'a community as being less corrupted and more able in general to supply their every day needs than the Lebanese authorities (the reasons to why this situation has arisen is of course a complex one in itself), with the actual feeling of legitimate claims on Israel with regards to Lebanese prisoners in Israel jails, as well as the territorial issue of the Sheba'a farms.

So, again, there is no simple "yes" or "no" answer to the questions at hand. Of course, one could make the case that the government is UNWILLING to forcefully disarm Hizballah, because in doing so it would risk civil war. Whether or not that means that the government is de facto UNABLE to do so is unfortunately up to interpretation.

In the future I intend to stick to my original thought with this blog, which was basically to provide a personal journal of my daily doings here in Beirut, but the question you asked was sincere and important and deserved a sincere answer.

3:43 AM  
Blogger citizen1311 said...

Michelle, I can understand you thinking that in the Arab world media agencies limit the scale of destruction that is happening in Israel under the hands of Hamas and Hizbullah. However, if you were in the Arab world you would be surprised to find out that every operation against Israel is recorded, reported and broadcasted by Al Jazeera & Al Manar but we still cannot deny the fact that the scale of damage and destruction inflicted on their Arab neighbours is much larger.

I am a citizen of both the USA and Australia and I must admit that the reporting on this crisis has been covered in full support of one party only and that is Israel. Since in the West we are only shown the Qassams & Katyushas striking Israel. What we don’t see is that Israel's northern border did fall silent for six years – and that was not when they had finally used enough violence against Lebanon - but when they decided to end their illegal military occupation of Lebanese territory. What we also don’t see is that the West Bank is still under the boot of occupation for almost 40 years, illegal settlements are flourishing, the best Palestinian farmland is seized, curfews imposed that generally last a fortnight, public humiliations at checkpoints, Midnight air raids, artillery bombardments, nightly sonic booms, destruction of homes and schools by Israeli tanks, an economic blockade, power supplies knocked out, shootings, target assassinations, the separation fence and every limply extended hand for an agreement, including that of Ismail Haniyeh, is immediately rejected. And after all this, if someone still has second thoughts, the winning answer is promptly delivered: "They started." They started and justice is on Israel’s side, while in fact Israel needs to wake up and have to acknowledge the ground roots of the conflict.

First, withdrawing from South Lebanon six years ago was undertaken without coordination with either the Lebanese government or Hizbullah, leaving two open sores: missing Lebanese citizens Hizbullah accuses Israel of holding; and a border dispute over the Shebaa Farms.

Second, target assassinations by Israel that constantly kill civilians in the West bank and Gaza and the scale of violence inflicted by the occupier, using force on an entire nation is ultimately going to lead to more Palestinian guerrilla attacks on Israeli army posts which are an obvious military target.
So the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers did not set off the present crisis, and for those complaining about violations of Israeli sovereignty by Hizbullah or Hamas, it may be useful to recall the tens of thousands of Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty since the late 60s, the massive air raids of the mid-70s and early 80s, the 1978 and 1982 invasions and occupation of the capital Beirut, the hundreds of thousands of refugees, the 28-year-old buffer zone and proxy force set up in southern Lebanon, the assassinations, car bombs, and massacres, and finally the continuing violations of Lebanese soil, airspace and territorial waters and the detention of Lebanese prisoners even after Israel's withdrawal in 2000.

There is no reason in the world why Israel should be able to enter it’s neighbours sovereign soil to occupy, destroy, kidnap and eliminate its perceived foes - repeatedly, with impunity and without restraint - while the other side cannot do the same. It is important to bear in mind that in both the case of the Hamas raid that led to the invasion of Gaza and the Hizbullah attack that led to the assault on Lebanon it was Israel's regular armed forces, not its civilians, that were targeted. It is hard to see how this can be filed under the rubric of "terrorism", rather than a straightforward tactical defeat for Israel's much-vaunted military machine; one that Israel seems not to acknowledge.

Ironically Palestinians do not pose a material challenge to Israel. They pose an ideological challenge. Raids like the one on the Gaza outpost remind Israelis that the Palestinians will not go away; this is why Israel cannot tolerate them. Despite the implementation of violent campaigns that began in 1936 by several Zionist groups such as Etzel (Irgun), Hagannah and Lehi (Stern Gang) against Palestinian civilians, town and villages driving half of Palestine's non-Jewish population into flight In 1948, - never to be allowed to return - in order for a Jewish state to be created on what had been settled by their Semitic Palestinians neighbours for centuries. Israel is still challenged to fulfil its vision: the consolidation of a state with a Jewish majority in a land in which barely half the population is actually Jewish. All that violence aimed at Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is to forcibly pressure them into leaving as each departing Palestinian will be triumphantly checked off the tally by Israeli demographers like Arnon Sofer who, anxiously monitoring what they unabashedly call the "demographic threat" to their country, obsessively calculate ratios of Jews to non-Jews.

What Israelis need to accept is that these people share the same land and repressing their national aspirations, 'historical’ rights, liberty, livelihood and dignity cannot carry on. The rhetoric in Israel is that these Palestinians can go and live with their Arab Neighbours, but when the French were occupied by the Germans, they resisted German occupation and they did not move into Belgium, Spain, Italy or Switzerland despite that these countries are their European neighbours. Nobody would have given any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they did not behave violently. That is a very bitter truth, but the first 20 years of the occupation passed quietly and we did not lift a finger to end it.

Today, Semites treat their Arab cousins as the flea, or the "other". I have heard and read Zionist fundamentalists panicking over the breeding rates of Arabs, expressing their disgust for their hygiene, debating their brain sizes, their inherent barbarism, their genetic inferiority which makes them and their states forever failures.

Hardened Zionists are unmoved by photos of dead infants in Beirut, tearful young evacuees fleeing that wonderful city because "they" don't feel pain and death like the rest of us. Alter one word in that plea by Shylock and ask: "Hath not Arabs eyes? Hath not an Arab hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" Israelis have to change their attitudes on racial hierarchies and their fervent belief that they were gifted preferential treatment by God.

Israel does have the right to defend itself but so do its neighbours. Israel is raining down a barrage of its latest military hardware, wrecking civilian infrastructure and human lives and in retaliation Hizbullah has fired Katyusha’s. This is not only "disproportionate," in the mealy-mouthed words of Western governments, it is collective punishment and - as if it needs repeating - a war crime. But we should expect no more from an army that talks about "bombing Gaza into the Stone Age" and "turning the clock back 20 years in Lebanon."

In both cases the damage being inflicted is achieving the same goal: severe disruption to the lives of the local civilian population and its isolation from the outside world. The pretext is that destroyed bridges, airports, refineries, power stations, water supplies and phone networks are one way to stop captured Israeli soldiers from being moved about. But it is difficult to believe this brutal overreaction in Lebanon and Gaza will yield the desired results. In all the chaos, Israel is creating more anger and enemies amongst the entire population of Lebanon and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

I am of Muslim Palestinian heritage married to an Israeli Jew living in Australia. I cannot imagine anything worse for our children other than to be in the midst of ignorance, hatred and racism that dominate religious zealots & extremist agendas and policies. The Muslins and Jews have always lived in harmony until the Zionists committed violent acts against their neighbours. During the golden age of Islam in Spain and at the height of the Islamic civilization, Sephardic Jews ruled dynasties in Grenada. There was never a conflict between Jews and Muslims. Eastern Jews were living all across North Africa and in Iraq and Yemen. What drove them out was the Zionist plan to colonize land that was already inhabited by people who called it home. It was neither the Middle Easterners nor the Arabs that killed 6 million Jews. It was Europeans who perpetuated genocide on their European Jew communities. However what is prevalent today in Israel is that Israeli Jews have become consumed with burning revulsion for all their non-Jewish Semite neighbours.

According to Yasmin Brown “Israel has become a racially orientated democracy. Its leaders are engaged in one thing only, i.e. maintenance of the their political power. As far as the Israeli political game is concerned, the rule is very simple, the more Arab blood you have on your hands the more you are suited to get on with your governing job. This rule obviously was in favour of Rabin, Sharon, Barak and Netanyahu. Olmert and Peretz are still quite far behind.”

Within democratic Israel the biblical call "pour out your fury upon the goyim" is translated into a Jewish secular pragmatic political practice. As Yasmin Brown recites this is a real tragedy

Israel will never succeed in imposing its unilateral notion of 'peace', the inhabitants of Gaza and the villagers of Southern Lebanon are slightly less impressed with the Israeli inclination towards peace. In Gaza and in Southern Lebanon it is rather clear that Arab resistance forces will oppose the Zionist unilateral agenda 'til the end of time. They all know that as much as it takes two to tango, peace will never prevail unless the Palestinian cause is properly addressed.

7:35 PM  

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