LEBANON: “WE HAVE LOST FAITH IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY”
“WE HAVE LOST FAITH IN YOU BECAUSE YOUR DEMOCRACY GOT EXPORTED TO US WITH YOUR MISSILES, AND WE ARE CONSUMING THEM WHILE YOU ARE CONSUMING OUR NEWS.”
Beirut – 30 July 2006 – I have been feeling numb for awhile because the news over the past few days has been overwhelmingly focused on the displaced, on the mind-searing stories of the 750,000 Lebanese people who have had to flee in fear, leaving behind all of their worldly possessions. The television and radio stations broadcast heart-rendering pleas by people who have lost their loved ones… Stories of their rising anxiety about homes they left behind in towns that are now reportedly in rubble…Awful scenes of people murdered on the roads as they fled… Stories of hair-raising destruction witnessed by the refugees on those roads.
At times I get confused: Am I seeing and hearing the old stories of Palestinians who fled their homes in mortal fear back in 1948?
Then I shake it off. No: I am in Beirut, it is 2006, and these are the stories of the Lebanese who have been rendered refugees, but by the same perpetrators of the 1948 displacement: the State of Israel.
Sometimes I have been collapsing. I cannot even write, or talk…I’m beyond sad for my countrymen, and for my French niece and nephew, who were excitedly dreaming of an adventurous summer in Lebanon, where they hoped to learn about their heritage, to attend a performance of the legendary Fairuz in Baalbeck, and to see the ancient ruins about which they’d read in their school in France. My niece was especially awaiting this visit; now it is far too dangerous for them to come here.
So I have been increasingly feeling imprisoned, in a jail cell that is getting smaller and smaller by the day. I miss strolling by the sea. I miss reading some news. In particular, I miss receiving good news…
Good news: Analysts are claiming Israel lost the war! Israelis themselves are now saying this. I never imagined in my life that I would hear of a defeat of the state of Israel without feeling victorious and elated. But I feel neither.
INSTEAD, I AM SCARED TO FEEL HAPPY. FOR I KNOW WHAT HISTORY TELLS US: THAT ISRAEL WILL NEVER ACCEPT THEIR LOSS; THAT THEY WILL EITHER KEEP ON KILLING US OR INVADE AGAIN SOON. GOD SAVE US FROM WHAT THEY WILL DO NEXT!
We woke up this morning to the news of another massacre in Qana, the little town that suffered so much in April of 1996. Reporters are still choking on the dusty air while they reported from the scene of the crime. The broken bodies of children and women start to come out.
Ten bodies were removed. Twenty bodies were removed. Forty bodies were removed.
More than 50 bodies have now been removed.
The mangled carnage is ghastly beyond belief. Twenty-one children under ten, many women, and then under them, still more women and children.
The rescuers from the village are lucky people who survived the bombing. One of them told the story to the Lebanese reporters, which is as follows:
“We were 63 people from two extended families in that shelter, we came to this house because it is in the middle of Qana; our houses are mostly on the outskirts of the village and whenever Israeli shells we get hit with shrapnel. We decided we needed to move to this house since it is in the middle, and we will be safer. We have been staying here for more than fifteen days; we do not leave the house, and the Red Cross kindly brings water and food for us. At 1:00 AM, after everyone was asleep, my cousin called me to have a cup of tea. I went to his room, and as we were just about to sip our tea, we heard a huge explosion and loud screams, ‘Yaa Muhammad!’, as dust filled the air. My cousin started to cry,’My family, my children…they are gone!’ I started to comfort him.”
“Then, a few minutes later, another Israeli missile hit this same building again, and there was so much dust that we could not see…. So we fled to the center of the village, and we started to yell for anyone who was still there, and could not make the move to Beirut. We told them there is a massacre, and we need their help! They started to call for the Red Cross, for other rescue
organizations, and for the Lebanese Army. We kept crying for help. From 1 AM until 8 AM, the very meager rescue team that you see — the Red Cross, a few Lebanese army soldiers, and mostly people from the village — arrived to help us.”
An Al-Manar reporter becomes so emotional that he is barely able to control himself, and keeps repeating Islam’s traditional saying,”God is Great!”, after each sentence. He is seeing scenes of grotesque horror: the smashed corpses of babies, one child, two children, three children. A total of 57 innocent civilian non-fighter people have been unjustly murdered — and half of them are children under 13 years of age.
With each body removed from under the rubble, journalists run to take photos.
CLICK! FLASH! CLICK! FLASH!
How can they do it? I am outraged on behalf of the dead. Even as their souls are hovering somewhere above their shattered bodies, they are being turned into lurid objects for the camera to catch…grisly objects for some photographer who is hoping for that “killer” shot to advance his or her career.
I am now at my computer, trying to tell my friends what I am watching, in outrage and disgust, on the television screen; in other words, I am doing a body count.
I write to an American friend, and then I get an e-mail back from her: “I wish you could send me footage for people here to see in the U.S.!”
I am not sure how much you need to see in order to feel outrage, in order to refuse these savage wars of aggression, in order to denounce this rampage of murderous butchery and wanton destruction.
I think: Why should I send footage for you to see? If the eye sees while the brain is dead — dead from the bloody images you see so frequently that they get normalized — what then happens if you see? Maybe you’ll send me an apology?
Write creatively about it? Try to aestheticize this? Call for another theater performance with eloquently-spoken words in order to give people an incentive to come here, or to act? But they won’t come.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU SEE? WILL YOU CRY A BIT, LIKE ME, AND MAYBE GO ABOUT YOUR DAY AS PLANNED? WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU SEE? WILL U.S. PUBLIC OPINION CHANGE?
But can there be any people who do not yet know what is happening here? Do they need to see the dead in order to know who to vote for the next time, in a country where there is virtually no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats?
Does it require more knowledge for you to realize that wars which kill innocent people are unjust and unjustifiable? Do we need to see more dismembered bodies, more demolished houses, and more shattered dreams? Do we need to see more horrific scenes of real women and children weeping, their hearts broken, in order to humanize those who are dying? Do we need more of this pornography of war?
Is there not a danger that the repetitive viewing of these crimes and atrocities will only result in emotional numbness, collective amnesia, or sadistic schadenfreude? Is it simply knowledge that you lack? Is it the courage to understand what we already know? OR IS IT THE COURAGE TO DRAW CONCLUSIONS THAT YOU LACK?
Put our knowledge into your practice. Integrate our mental anguish into your emotions. Be passionate about what we know.
THAT WILL GIVE US, AND YOU, THE COURAGE TO ACT.
How many more massacres do you have to see to know that the State of Israel is unconscionably brutal? Aren’t the massacres at Deir Yassin, Kafar Qasem, Safsaf, Tantoura, Sabra and Shatila, Qana I, Marwaheen, Sour/Tyre, and now Qana II, enough information for you to know the meaning of STATE-SPONSORED TERRORISM?
Just how many blood-curdling shrieks from the dying, and horrified outcries from the grief-stricken, do you need to hear before you will finally act out of a commitment to humanity — a humanity that hopefully still links you to me, and to so many more, above and beyond this sick voyeuristic consumption of pornographic images from wars?
To tell you the truth, my friend, we who are here have lost faith in the idea that “public opinion” is capable of changing anything. We have lost faith in the idea of an “international community” that can help us by stopping these massacres.
The U.N. is now just another cold and unfeeling puppet face of the U.S. government puppeteers. Or it is simply an organization that is as helpless and powerless as we are here. U.N. representatives have also been dying under the bombs alongside us, AND YET NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO CONDEMN ISRAEL.
SO WE ARE EXPERIENCING A LOSS OF FAITH . . .
We have lost faith in you because we do not think you can act on your knowledge, or that your knowledge even matters anymore.
We have lost faith in you because we think your governments do not give a damn about how you think or what you think. We have lost faith in you because you do not live in real democracies, and hence your opinion does not matter anyway!
WE HAVE LOST FAITH IN YOU BECAUSE YOUR DEMOCRACY GOT EXPORTED TO US WITH YOUR MISSILES, AND WE ARE CONSUMING THEM WHILE YOU ARE CONSUMING OUR NEWS.
Finally, please read two firsthand reports from Lebanon by the courageous, internationally-respected American journalist Dahr Jamail:
 Dahr Jamail’s 7-30-06 Inter Press Service article, “If You Haven’t Left Yet, You’re Hezbollah!” [Israel is killing innocent civilians who haven’t left southern Lebanon because they’re sick and elderly who cannot be moved, poor rural families with no place to go, lack vehicles in which to flee, or are too afraid to travel on roads that the Israeli air force has been routinely bombing.]:
 Dahr Jamail’s 7-29-06 IPS article, “Oil Spill Hits Lebanon” [Israeli air force has intentionally targeted Lebanon’s economic infrastructure by releasing 35,000 bombs that have destroyed 70 bridges, highways, seaports, water plants, electrical plants, and radio/TV broadcasting stations. Israel knows Lebanon is economically dependent on international tourists who visit its legendary beaches. Nevertheless, Israeli air force bombs just struck a Lebanese site and released a huge oil spill. Now the rapidly-spreading oil slick has created an environmental disaster of the first magnitude that is killing marine wildlife and destroying the beautiful coastline of Lebanon.]: