Thursday, August 03, 2006

beirut will never die

after feeling so helpless all day... not being able to channel any energy into any work, i made my way over to a meeting we were having concerning the oil spill. there were about 10 of us there. i looked around the room and thought about how beautiful everyone was.

here we were gathered in a makeshift office in one of the relief centers... daring to meet up, under the bombs and threats... to talk about our environment and what we were going to do about it.

in the room next door, my sister who is only 24 years old, now head of the medical unit at the relief center, was organizing prescriptions and pills. it is so funny... people call her doctor now. she has a ba in liberal arts. because she has been at the center since day one and took charge of the medicine and distribution, she is now Doctora Lana. :) in a week she learned how to do stuff it takes people years to do at universities!

in the room next to her, people were meeting to set the plan of distribution of milk and diapers for the next day.

despite the threats of Beirut being blown up today, here were people working... here were every day people, coming together to help in any way they could. i was filled with so much love..,being around such passionate people.

something changed tonight. i guess when you are looking at death, straight in the eyes, you find a new kind of courage. you realize how important it is to hang on to what you have. you fight for life with a new kind of passion.

i have spent the last 3 weeks mourning the loss of Beirut... mourning the loss of my dreams and my work.

now, it's time to accept what is happening and take charge of the situation.

beirut, she will never die.

36 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never will Beirut die! Rspecially as long as people like you have a voice!

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there "before".I wanted to go to university in Lebanon. I was guest and friend...and totally enchanted. I lived with my family for years in the Middle East...loved the people...the culture...the beauty and felt at home and so welcomed. I cry with all of you for this devastation. For what so many tried so hard to achieve. I grieve the losses and am so sad.
Willow

2:12 AM  
Blogger Ramzi said...

Beirut was never the place.
Beirut is us.

And they can't kill us all...

3:30 AM  
Anonymous lb5 said...

i have spent the last 3 weeks mourning the loss of Beirut...

You mean you have spent the last 3 weeks mourning the loss of Hezbollah headquarters in Harat Hurayk?
Come on, Beirut will be a better place without Hezboirut. We should thank Israel for cleaning our city.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous anja said...

It was moving to read your words zena. Thank you for expressing what it is like right now in Beirut. I am Canadian and care about what is happening to the Lebanese people. Fighting and more fighting and I refuse to take sides if it promotes conflict. I can hear the compassion and life in your thoughts, this you preserve. Know and be encouraged that people around the world do care and do pray for your safety and an end to this fighting.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had the Hezbollah fighters chosen to give up themselves or committed suicide on the first day Israel began its offensive, Beruit would have avoded its devastation

4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a strange Democracy that is come to these Holy Lands. Only hearts for Gold will be left with a voice. When will rightness live among Men?

5:29 AM  
Blogger Bshariff said...

Beirut will never die, never did and never will.

Some people say clean up Hezbollah, the single issue that face Arabs and Lebanese are people with lack of support to each other, little minds do not understand that support will draw us together to a clser agenda. There are many open minded people in Lebanon and you can look at the small minded people.

Speaking to so many people in lebanon last few days, moral is high, everyone is helping everyone. Proud of everyone.

People can not try and divide the lebanese people...Just can not.

Thank you

6:07 AM  
Blogger Bshariff said...

Let's pray for Lebanon and peace among all of us.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Ginni said...

liFe goes on my dear... but why r we condemned to kill fellow humans...I would never know... I am shocked... plain & simple...

8:03 AM  
Blogger Fares said...

Assad is the natural choice
PEACE To Lebanon

9:57 AM  
Anonymous http://hrw.org/ said...

http://hrw.org/
http://hrw.org/
Human Rights Watch:

This report documents serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Lebanon between July 12 and July 27, 2006, as well as the July 30 attack in Qana. During this period, the IDF killed an estimated 400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and that number climbed to over 500 by the time this report went to print. The Israeli government claims it is taking all possible measures to minimize civilian harm, but the cases documented here reveal a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Since the start of the conflict, Israeli forces have consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost. In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.

The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. However, those cases do not justify the IDF’s extensive use of indiscriminate force which has cost so many civilian lives. In none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in this report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes.

This report is based on extensive on-the-ground research in Lebanon. Since the start of hostilities, Human Rights Watch has interviewed victims and witnesses of attacks in one-on-one settings, conducted on-site inspections (when security allowed), and collected information from hospitals, humanitarian groups, and government agencies. Human Rights Watch also conducted research in Israel, inspecting the IDF’s use of weapons and discussing the conduct of forces with IDF officials. The research was extensive, but given the ongoing war and the scope of the bombings, Human Rights Watch does not claim that the findings are comprehensive; further investigation is required to document the war’s complete impact on civilians and to assess the full scope of the IDF’s compliance with and disregard for international humanitarian law.

While not the focus of this report, Human Rights Watch has separately and simultaneously documented violations of international humanitarian law by Hezbollah, including a pattern of attacks that amount to war crimes. Between July 12, when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight, and July 27, the group launched a reported 1,300 rockets into predominantly civilian areas in Israel, killing 18 civilians and wounding more than 300. Without guidance systems for accurate targeting, the rockets are inherently indiscriminate when directed toward civilian areas, especially cities, and thus are serious violations of the requirement of international humanitarian law that attackers distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians. Some of these rockets, Human Rights Watch found, are packed with thousands of metal ball-bearings, which spray more than 100 meters from the blast and compound the harm to civilians.

This report analyzes a selection of Israeli air and artillery attacks that together claimed at least 153 civilian lives, or over a third of the reported Lebanese deaths in the conflict’s first two weeks. Of the 153 civilian deaths documented in this report by name, sixty-three of the victims were children under the age of eighteen, and thirty-seven of them were under ten. Israeli air strikes also killed many dual nationals who were vacationing in Lebanon when the fighting began, including Brazilian, Canadian, German, Kuwaiti, and U.S. citizens. The full death toll is certainly higher because medical and recovery teams have been unable to retrieve many bodies due to ongoing fighting and the dire security situation in south Lebanon.

The report breaks civilian deaths into two categories: attacks on civilian homes and attacks on civilian vehicles. In both categories, victims and witnesses interviewed independently and repeatedly said that neither Hezbollah fighters nor Hezbollah weapons were present in the area during or just before the Israeli attack took place. While some individuals, out of fear or sympathy, may have been unwilling to speak about Hezbollah’s military activity, others were quite open about it. In totality, the consistency, detail, and credibility of testimony from a broad array of witnesses who did not speak to each other leave no doubt about the validity of the patterns described in this report. In many cases, witness testimony was corroborated by reports from international journalists and aid workers. During site visits conducted in Qana, Srifa, and Tyre, Human Rights Watch saw no evidence that there had been Hezbollah military activity around the areas targeted by the IDF during or just prior to the attack: no spent ammunition, abandoned weapons or military equipment, trenches, or dead or wounded fighters. Moreover, even if Hezbollah had been in a populated area at the time of an attack, Israel would still be legally obliged to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize civilian casualties resulting from its targeting of military objects or personnel. In the cases documented in this report, however, the IDF consistently tolerated a high level of civilian casualties for questionable military gain.

In one case, an Israeli air strike on July 13 destroyed the home of a cleric known to have sympathy for Hezbollah but who was not known to have taken any active part in hostilities. Even if the IDF considered him a legitimate target (and Human Rights Watch has no evidence that he was), the strike killed him, his wife, their ten children, and the family’s Sri Lankan maid.

On July 16, an Israeli airplane fired on a civilian home in the village of Aitaroun, killing eleven members of the al-Akhrass family, among them seven Canadian-Lebanese dual nationals who were vacationing in the village when the war began. Human Rights Watch independently interviewed three villagers who vigorously denied that the family had any connection to Hezbollah. Among the victims were children aged one, three, five, and seven.

Others civilians came under attack in their cars as they attempted to flee the fighting in the South. This report alone documents twenty-seven civilian deaths that resulted from such attacks. The number is surely higher, but at the time the report went to press, ongoing Israeli attacks on the roads made it impossible to retrieve all the bodies.

Starting around July 15, the IDF issued warnings to residents of southern villages to leave, followed by a general warning for all civilians south of the Litani River, which mostly runs about 25 kilometers north of the Israel-Lebanon border, to evacuate immediately. Tens of thousands of Lebanese fled their homes to the city of Tyre (itself south of the Litani and thus within the zone Israel ordered evacuated) or further north to Beirut, many waving white flags. As they left, Israeli forces fired on dozens of vehicles with warplanes and artillery.

Two Israeli air strikes are known to have hit humanitarian aid vehicles. On July 18 the IDF hit a convoy of the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates, destroying a vehicle with medicines, vegetable oil, sugar and rice, and killing the driver. On July 23, Israeli forces hit two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances in the village of Qana.

As of August 1, tens of thousands of civilians remained in villages south of the Litani River, despite the warnings to leave. Some chose to stay, but the vast majority, Human Rights Watch found, was unable to flee due to destroyed roads, a lack of gasoline, high taxi fares, sick relatives, or ongoing Israeli attacks. Many of the civilians who remained were elderly, sick, or poor.

Israel has justified its attacks on roads by citing the need to clear the transport routes of Hezbollah fighters moving arms. Again, none of the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, independent media sources, or Israeli official statements indicate that any of the attacks on vehicles documented in this report resulted in Hezbollah casualties or the destruction of weapons. Rather, the attacks killed and wounded civilians who were fleeing their homes, as the IDF had advised them to do.

In addition to strikes from airplanes, helicopters, and traditional artillery, Israel has used artillery-fired cluster munitions against populated areas, causing civilian casualties. One such attack on the village of Blida on July 19 killed a sixty-year-old woman and wounded at least twelve civilians, including seven children. The wide dispersal pattern of cluster munitions and the high dud rate (ranging from 2 to 14 percent, depending on the type of cluster munition) make the weapons exceedingly dangerous for civilians and, when used in populated areas, a violation of international humanitarian law.

Statements from Israeli government officials and military leaders suggest that, at the very least, the IDF has blurred the distinction between civilian and combatant, and is willing to strike at targets it considers even vaguely connected to the latter. At worst, it considers all people in the area of hostilities open to attack.

On July 17, for example, after IDF strikes on Beirut, the commander of the Israeli Air Force, Eliezer Shkedi, said, “in the center of Beirut there is an area which only terrorists enter into.”1 The next day, the IDF deputy chief of staff, Moshe Kaplinski, when talking about the IDF’s destruction of Beirut’s Dahia neighborhood, said, “the hits were devastating, and this area, which was a Hezbollah symbol, became deserted rubble.”2

On July 27, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that the Israeli air force should flatten villages before ground troops move in to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers fighting Hezbollah. Israel had given civilians ample time to leave southern Lebanon, he claimed, and therefore anyone remaining should be considered a supporter of Hezbollah. “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,” he said.3

International humanitarian law requires effective advance warnings to the civilian population prior to an attack, when conditions permit. But those warnings do not way relieve Israel from its obligation at all times to distinguish between combatants and civilians and to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from harm. In other words, issuing warnings in no way entitles the Israeli military to treat those civilians who remain in southern Lebanon as combatants who are fair game for attack.

In addition to recommendations to the Israeli government and Hezbollah that they respect international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch calls on the U.S. government immediately to suspend transfer of all arms that have been documented or credibly alleged to have been used in violation of international humanitarian law in Lebanon, as well as funding or support for such materiel, pending an end to the violations. Human Rights Watch calls upon the Iranian and Syrian governments to do the same with regards to military assistance to Hezbollah.

This report does not address Israeli attacks on Lebanon’s infrastructure or Beirut’s southern suburbs, which is the subject of ongoing Human Rights Watch research. It also does not address Hezbollah’s indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel, which have been reported on and denounced separately and continues to be the subject of ongoing Human Rights Watch investigations. In addition, Human Rights Watch continues to investigate allegations that Hezbollah is shielding its military personnel and materiel by locating them in civilian homes or areas, and it is deeply concerned by Hezbollah’s placement of certain troops and materiel near civilians, which endangers them and violates the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. Human Rights Watch uses the occasion of this report to reiterate Hezbollah’s legal duty never to deliberately use civilians to shield military objects and never to needlessly endanger civilians by conducting military operations, maintaining troops, or storing weapons in their vicinity.

The armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is governed by international treaties, as well as the rules of customary international humanitarian law. Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 sets forth minimum standards for all parties to a conflict between a state party such as Israel and a non-state party such as Hezbollah. Israel has also asserted that it considers itself to be responding to the actions of the sovereign state of Lebanon, not just to those of Hezbollah. Any hostilities between Israeli forces and the forces of Lebanon would fall within the full Geneva Conventions to which both Lebanon and Israel are parties. In either case, the rules governing bombing, shelling, and rocket attacks are effectively the same.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Amir Buchbut and Itamar Inbari, “IDF: Hezbollah Did Not Intercept an Israeli Aircraft,” available in Hebrew at http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/450/601.html, as of July 28, 2006.

[2] Hanan Greenberg, “Three Reserve Battalions Called Up," available in Hebrew at http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3277527,00.html, as of July 28, 2006.

[3] BBC News Online, “Israel says world backs offensive” July 27, 2006

9:58 AM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

The graffiti you posted above this is lovely, and I admire your strength, and that of your sister.
The invincible spirit of love and triumph and caring and hope never dies.
And no--Beirut will not die.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Zena

I keeping linking back to your posts, wanting your voice out in the world I inhabit.

Stay safe and strong.

12:12 PM  
Blogger temperate said...

There is a big demonstration in London this weekend, to demand an immediate ceasefire - yet again. We keep trying, and have you in our thoughts.

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

remamber this:
This war is going no where!
it is going to last for at list 2 to 3 more years!

5:33 PM  
Anonymous fragitsa said...

dear zena,
for days i have been thinking of how i would feel had i been in your situation. i am now starting off to go where you were 6 years ago. i want to give to athens. to create a beautiful life there for myself and for others. for refugees, for friends, for people.
i want to build bridges of communication between people, to help love grow where it is most unlikely. i want to do so many things..
i keep imagining myself 6 years down the road after all the investment and work and the neverending dreams..after all the faith in humanity i would have gained despite the adversities.. going through what you are going through now.
i cry everyday. never a war has affected me so much. and i ma so far away. thank you for sharing your experience with the world.
i want to know. i am glad i know. i want the whole world to know.
i cannot believe it. i simply cannot believe how this can be possible. i cannot believe the arrogance, the coldbloodedness.
where were these people raised?
did they not come from a mother's breast and tear of joy? did they not ever feel their heart melt as their loved one kissed them behind their ear? have they never rejoiced as the wind blows through their skirts? (but they don't have skirts do they? these are all men..). i know they are human too.
they have burried their humanity deep deeep deeeep.

your message today was beautiful.
it showed me that one shoudl not lose that faith in humanity. that it is something very precious. that should be guarded and given strength..not abandoned even the most horrid of situations. or especially there.

beirut will never die.
it will only grow stronger and even more beautiful once it heals from its wounds.
love,
fragitsa

9:49 PM  
Anonymous fellow human and artist said...

Zena, Hang in there. Though no one wants this war, it is here and that is reality. My opinion will not be popular on this blog, but I've never cared much about popularity. If I could say one thing to the Lebanese people that they would actually listen to and accept, it would be, "Rid yourselves of Hezbollah." I would say this, because I don't believe Lebanon will ever see any permanent peace unless every last remnant of Hezbollah is chased out of Lebanon and made to stay out for good.
This is not about choosing a side or about politics. I don't care much for politicians or activists, either. I am an artist, like you. This is about common sense self preservation for Lebanon.
On a more personal note: May God be with you and watch over you and yours. May Beirut survive and then florish. Keep the faith.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Zena,

here you can see how much the People of the World care about you all.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/mundouno_/

With love.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Patrick Hromas said...

My grandmother once said that Beirut was 'the Paris of the Middle East'. I don't know much about politics. But I have been to Paris. I know it is a beautiful city full of beautiful people. I think if Paris was under attack by Germany for example, the U.S. would send peacekeepers in. Hey that already happened...

I have an arts degree. I wonder if I would have the courage of your "Doctor" friend?

3:54 AM  
Blogger MERKOVA said...

ZENA .... your a crack head. Beirut will die and rebuilt again and will die again if you people do not know whats wrong and whats right. If your country keep harboring terrorist organizations. Israel's WRATH will fall to lebanon again and again.

lebanon is such a hopeless country.

11:44 AM  
Blogger MERKOVA said...

to HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ...... Where were you idiots when saddam murdered thousands of his own people and murdered thousands of Kuwaitis. Your organization is like a leech. It finds a host to suck blood. Human right watch found a host ..... lebanon.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Saro Napoli said...

Beirut will never die... It´s crazy what is happening... please be strong and tell us what´s happening over there...

P.S. if you want to share your experiences in my blog feel free to do... my blog is in italian but i can and will translate...

ciao
Saro

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too admire your strength and wonder if we as Americans could be as strong if this was happening in our country..........your photo is riveting.........thank you

3:25 PM  
Anonymous MERKOVA said...

MERKOVA = hopeless = asshole= shithead = not woth and answer = u are barking at the wrong tree sicko, see a psychiatrist if one is stupid enough to talk to u

5:45 PM  
Anonymous MERKOVA said...

MERKOVA = hopeless = asshole = shithead = not worth an answer = MERKOVA you are barking at the wrong tree sicko, see a psychiatrist if one is stupid enough to talk to you

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The root of this problem is the Arab-Israeli conflict which began in 1948 with the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from THEIR HOMES, to create the state of Israel.

Those refugees have led to formation of Hamas, Hezbollah and others.

Those who were forced from their homes over the next several decades after occupation have formed resistance against Israel.

There are millions of Palestinian refugees.

You need to address the occupation of Arab lands by Israel, the refugee issue and free the prisoners that are held in Israel in contradiction of international law.

Where are your grandparents from If I may ask.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous MERKOVA said...

I am sorry I have not introduced myself and just post a bunch of crap to annoy you all. Since my mother (that bitch) dumped me on the street soon after I was born to hide her shame, I was raised by an abusive adoptive family and I am so full hatred that I do not know how to bee nice

I can not help it, it is not my fault , I have not experienced love and affection and have hard time understanding those who talk about love

MERKOVA

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Peppe said...

That's the rightest approach in such critical period: face the fear, be patient and stay close to people who loves you. and if you'll feel lost again, just read these messages, dedicated to you and to our beloved lebanese...
italy pro-lebanon
-peppe-

8:54 PM  
Blogger MERKOVA said...

IDF pls keep up the bombing. I love the fireworks.

Im pro-lebanese

10:00 PM  
Anonymous aa said...

sam,

We have condemned attacks by Hezbollah, I am sure if you look around you will see it

I am afraid of fundamentalist in any form (hezbollah, alqaedeh, Zionism, and allow me bush kind of Christianity)

you say your are a well read gentleman, have you read failed states by prof. Chomsky, or heard his interview on the current events?

http://www.chomsky.info/books.htm

Noam Chomsky: U.S.-Backed Israeli Policies Pursuing "End of Palestine"; Hezbollah Capture of Israeli Soldiers "Very Irresponsible Act" That Could Lead To "Extreme Disaster"
Friday, July 14th, 2006
http://www.democracynow.org/
article.pl?sid=06/07/14/146258

Israel has intensified its attacks on Lebanon as warplanes launched fresh strikes on Beirut airport, communication networks, Lebanese roads and a power plant. Meanwhile, the US has vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip. MIT professor Noam Chomsky says the US and Israel are punishing Palestinians for electing Hamas, and says Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers subjects Lebanese "to terror and possible extreme disaster" from Israeli strikes. We also get comments from Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani in Jerusalem. [includes rush transcript]
___________________________________
Israel has intensified its attacks on Lebanon as warplanes launched fresh strikes on Beirut airport, communication networks, Lebanese roads and a power plant.
More than 60 Lebanese civilians have been killed in the offensive which follows the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.
Israeli jets bombed the main highway linking Beirut to Damascus, tightening an air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon.
The Israeli army said Hezbollah fighters fired more than 100 rockets on northern Israel on Thursday, killing two people, wounding 92 others and hitting Haifa, Israel's third largest city. Hezbollah denied firing into Haifa, but Israel described the incident as a "major escalation" of the crisis. The Lebanese army also responded to the offensive with anti-aircraft fire.
Israel has warned that the south of Beirut could be targeted. Israeli jets dropped leaflets on Thursday warning people to stay away from Hezbollah offices. Some areas of the city are now without electricity following an attack on a power station. Israeli jets also struck a pro-Syrian Palestinian group in eastern Lebanon. No casualties were reported.
The escalation has sparked international calls for restraint. The European Union and Russia have criticized Israel's strikes in Lebanon as disproportionate. President Bush said Israel has the right to defend itself, but should not weaken the Lebanese government.
The UN Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting later on Friday. Lebanon has urged it to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire. The US has already vetoed a council resolution demanding Israel end its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Eight of the last nine vetoes have been cast by the United States. Seven of those were to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
• Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is author of dozens of books, including his latest "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy." In May he traveled to Beirut where he met, among others, Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. He joins us on the line from Massachusetts.
• Mouin Rabbani, senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group and a contributing editor of Middle East report. He joins us on the line from Jerusalem.
AMY GOODMAN: We're joined on the phone right now by Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of dozens of books. His latest is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. In May, he traveled to Beirut, where he met, among others, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. He joins us on the phone from Masachusetts. We welcome you to Democracy Now!
NOAM CHOMSKY: Hi, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, can you talk about what is happening now, both in Lebanon and Gaza?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, of course, I have no inside information, other than what's available to you and listeners. What's happening in Gaza, to start with that -- well, basically the current stage of what's going on -- there's a lot more -- begins with the Hamas election, back the end of January. Israel and the United States at once announced that they were going to punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a free election. And the punishment has been severe.
At the same time, it's partly in Gaza, and sort of hidden in a way, but even more extreme in the West Bank, where Olmert announced his annexation program, what’s euphemistically called “convergence” and described here often as a “withdrawal,” but in fact it’s a formalization of the program of annexing the valuable lands, most of the resources, including water, of the West Bank and cantonizing the rest and imprisoning it, since he also announced that Israel would take over the Jordan Valley. Well, that proceeds without extreme violence or nothing much said about it.
Gaza, itself, the latest phase, began on June 24. It was when Israel abducted two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother. We don't know their names. You don’t know the names of victims. They were taken to Israel, presumably, and nobody knows their fate. The next day, something happened, which we do know about, a lot. Militants in Gaza, probably Islamic Jihad, abducted an Israeli soldier across the border. That’s Corporal Gilad Shalit. And that's well known; first abduction is not. Then followed the escalation of Israeli attacks on Gaza, which I don’t have to repeat. It’s reported on adequately.
The next stage was Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers, they say on the border. Their official reason for this is that they are aiming for prisoner release. There are a few, nobody knows how many. Officially, there are three Lebanese prisoners in Israel. There's allegedly a couple hundred people missing. Who knows where they are?
But the real reason, I think it's generally agreed by analysts, is that -- I’ll read from the Financial Times, which happens to be right in front of me. “The timing and scale of its attack suggest it was partly intended to reduce the pressure on Palestinians by forcing Israel to fight on two fronts simultaneously.” David Hearst, who knows this area well, describes it, I think this morning, as a display of solidarity with suffering people, the clinching impulse.
It's a very -- mind you -- very irresponsible act. It subjects Lebanese to possible -- certainly to plenty of terror and possible extreme disaster. Whether it can achieve any result, either in the secondary question of freeing prisoners or the primary question of some form of solidarity with the people of Gaza, I hope so, but I wouldn't rank the probabilities very high.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Noam Chomsky, in the commercial press here the last day, a lot of the focus has been pointing toward Iran and Syria as basically the ones engineering much of what's going on now in terms of the upsurge of fighting in Lebanon. Your thoughts on these analyses that seem to sort of downplay the actual resistance movement going on there and trying to reduce this once again to pointing toward Iran?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the fact is that we have no information about that, and I doubt very much that the people who are writing it have any information. And frankly, I doubt that U.S. intelligence has any information. It's certainly plausible. I mean, there's no doubt that there are connections, probably strong connections, between Hezbollah and Syria and Iran, but whether those connections were instrumental in motivating these latest actions, I don't think we have the slightest idea. You can guess anything you’d like. It's a possibility. In fact, even a probability. But on the other hand, there's every reason to believe that Hezbollah has its own motivations, maybe the ones that Hearst and the Financial Times and others are pointing to. That seems plausible, too. Much more plausible, in fact.
AMY GOODMAN: There was even some reports yesterday that said that Hezbollah might try to send the Israeli soldiers that it had captured to Iran.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Israel actually claims that it has concrete evidence that that's what was going to happen. That's why it's attempting to blockade both the sea and bomb the airport.
NOAM CHOMSKY: They are claiming that. That's true. But I repeat, we don't have any evidence. Claims by a state that's carrying out the military attacks don't really amount to very much, in terms of credibility. If they have evidence, it would be interesting to see it. And in fact, it might happen. Even if it does happen, it won't prove much. If Hezbollah, wherever they have the prisoners, the soldiers, if they decide that they can't keep them in Lebanon because of the scale of Israeli attacks, they might send them somewhere else. I’m skeptical that Syria or Iran would accept them at this point, or even if they can get them there, but they might want to.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky , we have to break. When we come back, we'll ask you about the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations comments about Lebanon. We'll also be joined by Mouin Rabbani, speaking to us from Jerusalem, Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group. Then Ron Suskind joins us, author of The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of its Enemies Since 9/11. Stay with us.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest on the phone is Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His latest book is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. I wanted to ask you about the comment of the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. He defended Israel's actions as a justified response. This is Dan Gillerman.
DAN GILLERMAN: As we sit here during these very difficult days, I urge you and I urge my colleagues to ask yourselves this question: What would do you if your countries found themselves under such attacks, if your neighbors infiltrated your borders to kidnap your people, and if hundreds of rockets were launched at your towns and villages? Would you just sit back and take it, or would you do exactly what Israel is doing at this very minute?
AMY GOODMAN: That was Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Noam Chomsky, your response?
NOAM CHOMSKY: He was referring to Lebanon, rather than Gaza.
AMY GOODMAN: He was.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. Well, he's correct that hundreds of rockets have been fired, and naturally that has to be stopped. But he didn't mention, or maybe at least in this comment, that the rockets were fired after the heavy Israeli attacks against Lebanon, which killed -- well, latest reports, maybe 60 or so people and destroyed a lot of infrastructure. As always, things have precedence, and you have to decide which was the inciting event. In my view, the inciting event in the present case, events, are those that I mentioned -- the constant intense repression; plenty of abductions; plenty of atrocities in Gaza; the steady takeover of the West Bank, which, in effect, if it continues, is just the murder of a nation, the end of Palestine; the abduction on June 24 of the two Gaza civilians; and then the reaction to the abduction of Corporal Shalit. And there's a difference, incidentally, between abduction of civilians and abduction of soldiers. Even international humanitarian law makes that distinction.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what that distinction is?
NOAM CHOMSKY: If there's a conflict going on, aside physical war, not in a military conflict going on, abduction -- if soldiers are captured, they are to be treated humanely. But it is not a crime at the level of capture of civilians and bringing them across the border into your own country. That's a serious crime. And that's the one that's not reported. And, in fact, remember that -- I mean, I don’t have to tell you that there are constant attacks going on in Gaza, which is basically a prison, huge prison, under constant attack all the time: economic strangulation, military attack, assassinations, and so on. In comparison with that, abduction of a soldier, whatever one thinks about it, doesn't rank high in the scale of atrocities.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We're also joined on the line by Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group and a contributing editor of Middle East Report. He joins us on the line from Jerusalem. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MOUIN RABBANI: Hi.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you tell us your perspective on this latest escalation of the conflict there and the possibility that Israel is going to be mired once again in war in Lebanon?
MOUIN RABBANI: Well, it's difficult to say. I couldn't hear Professor Chomsky's comments. I could just make out every sixth word. But I think that Israel is now basically, if you will, trying to rewrite the rules of the game and set new terms for its adversaries, basically saying, you know, that no attacks of any sort on Israeli forces or otherwise will be permitted, and any such attack will invite a severe response that basically puts the entire civilian infrastructure of the entire country or territory from which that attack emanates at risk. Judging by what we've seen so far, it more or less enjoys tacit to explicit international sanction. And I think the possibilities that this conflict could further expand into a regional one, perhaps involving Syria, is at this point quite real.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the UN resolution, a vote in the draft resolution, 10-to-1, on Gaza with the U.S. voting no and for countries abstaining -- Britain, Denmark, Peru and Slovakia?
MOUIN RABBANI: Well, I think it would have been news if that resolution had actually passed. I think, you know, for the last decade, if not for much longer, it’s basically become a reality in the United Nations that it's an organization incapable of discharging any of its duties or responsibilities towards maintaining or restoring peace and security in the Middle East, primarily because of the U.S. power of veto on the Security Council. And I think we've now reached the point where even a rhetorical condemnation of Israeli action, such as we’ve seen in Gaza over the past several weeks, even a rhetorical condemnation without practical consequence has become largely unthinkable, again, primarily because of the U.S. veto within the Security Council.
AMY GOODMAN: Mouin, what do you think is going to happen right now, both in Gaza and in Lebanon?
MOUIN RABBANI: Well, I think it's probably going to get significantly worse. I mean, in Lebanon, it seems to be a case where Hezbollah has a more restricted agenda of compelling Israel to conduct prisoner exchange, whereas Israel has a broader agenda of seeking to compel the disarmament of Hezbollah or at least to push it back several dozen kilometers from the Israeli-Lebanese border. You know, the Israeli and Hezbollah perspectives on this are entirely incompatible, and that means that this conflict is probably going to continue escalating, until some kind of mediation begins.
In Gaza, it’s somewhat different. I think there Hamas has a broader agenda, of which effecting a prisoner exchange with Israel is only one, and I would argue, even a secondary part. I think there Hamas's main objective is to compel Israel to accept a mutual cessation of hostilities, Israeli-Palestinian, and I think, even more important, of ensuring their right to govern. And I think, at least as far as the Israeli-Palestinian part of this is concerned, Hamas's main objective has been to send a very clear message, not only to Israel, but to all its adversaries, whether Israeli, Palestinian or foreign, to remind the world that political integration and democratic politics for them are an experiment, that they have alternatives, and if they're not allowed to exercise their democratic mandate, that they will not hesitate, if necessary, to exercise those alternatives.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Noam Chomsky, right now industrial world leaders gathered in St. Petersburg for the G8 meeting. What role does the U.S. have in this?
NOAM CHOMSKY: In the G8 meeting?
AMY GOODMAN: No. What role -- they're just gathered together -- in this, certainly the issue of Lebanon, Gaza, the Middle East is going to dominate that discussion. But how significant is the U.S. in this?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I think it will probably be very much like the UN resolution that you mentioned, which is -- I’m sorry, I couldn't hear what Mouin Rabbani was saying. But the UN resolution was -- the veto of the UN resolution is standard. That goes back decades. The U.S. has virtually alone been blocking the possibility of diplomatic settlement, censure of Israeli crimes and atrocities. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the UN vetoed several resolutions right away, calling for an end to the fighting and so on, and that was a hideous invasion. And this continues through every administration. So I presume it will continue at the G8 meetings.
The United States regards Israel as virtually a militarized offshoot, and it protects it from criticism or actions and supports passively and, in fact, overtly supports its expansion, its attacks on Palestinians, its progressive takeover of what remains of Palestinian territory, and its acts to, well, actually realize a comment that Moshe Dayan made back in the early ’70s when he was responsible for the Occupied Territories. He said to his cabinet colleagues that we should tell the Palestinians that we have no solution for you, that you will live like dogs, and whoever will leave will leave, and we'll see where that leads. That's basically the policy. And I presume the U.S. will continue to advance that policy in one or another fashion.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Nahla said...

Amen Zena!

5:03 PM  
Blogger aryan said...

beirut will nevr ever die! its a beautiful city .. filled with culture and history! i don belive in god .. else i would have said that the perpetrators would rott in hell! i am a beliver .. a spiritualist .. i would like to say.. that those sitting the war room, and send fighter jets to bombard ur country... will deff see the pics or those killed. the headless torso's, bodies of innocents women and childen.. all of them! i assure u .. they will never sleep in peace!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Mark deSouza said...

great job!

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is one piece of art... May Allah bless Beirut with the title of "Conquerers of the Zionist Regime" ...

Beirut... will never die ! AMEN

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Coatesmoe said...

Crying for Lebanon! One of your family goes out and starts a fight with a neighbor. He then finds out that he picked the wrong person. He comes back with a bloody nose and decides to do it again. This time he hides behind his grandmother. He then decides to throw rocks. One of the rocks lands on the head of his grandmother and she dies. Every one in the family is now crying. The people say that was not right. Then your family member gets other family members to throw rocks. The a big rock lands on your house and kills more members of the family. Then there is a cry of unjustice. The question is? Did you not know that when you threw rocks at Israel, they would throw them back? I feel that no one has learned anything. Lebanon will rebuild and be destroyed again if it dies not learn to stop throwing rocks.

11:00 AM  

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