Twelve Reports from Lebanon - by Samia A. Halaby

#INTRODUCTION -- Twelve Reports from Lebanon

Report Number One from Lebanon:  Flowers in Bint Jbeil

September 17, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

Introduction

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As a result of the unprecedented hostility of the Israeli attack on Lebanon, many in the activist community, worldwide, traveled to Lebanon to examine and report, motivated by the lack of truthful reporting in the corporate media.  Samia Halaby led two fact-finding delegations, one from Amsterdam and one from New York.  They interviewed many key individuals and visited Dahye and the villages and towns of the south.  Dahye is a working class neighborhood of Beirut composed of high-rise apartment buildings.  During these visits, they interviewed residents and examined the extensive destruction of the Israeli bombing on civilian life.  Israel carpeted the south of Lebanon with single-fuse cluster bombs during the last three days of the war, and for this reason the delegation had to be mindful of where they walked

In the south of Lebanon, a popular revolution is taking place, and its chosen leadership is Hisbullah.  In speaking with people, their animation, their sense of community, their commitment to the collective of the community, their disregard of individualism, their complete moral and emotional assurance of what is good and right, their total disrespect of inequality animates them and all they do.  In Bint Jbeil we saw almost total destruction and this destruction encompassed all parts of life yet in the middle of this damage there were a few amazing Jewels of life bubbling open -- an assertion of sumoud (persistence).

In the south of Lebanon the landscape is covered with the dust of missiles and destruction.  The trees, the weeds, and the cultivated plants have a sickening yellow dust that immediately impresses a sensation of poison and death.  Inside the villages, the dust and garbage spread through all parts of the town regardless of the damaged areas.  Areas of massive destruction looked like strange cliffs and fields shattered cement interspersed with bits of brightly colored cloth or plastic.  Children's shoes, schoolbooks, clothing, shards of wooden furniture, and shiny bits of metals were all smashed flat and embedded in the rubble.

Of all the villages that we saw, Bint Jbeil was most completely ground-up by Israeli missiles sent with messages of racist hate.  The town seemed abandoned with some amazing exceptions.  Shop after small shop had its doors damaged, pockmarked, bent out of their frames, made inaccessible by mounds of broken cement.  Slabs of cement hung precariously askew from bent lines of steel reinforcements.  Yet in the middle of this general yellow-gray there were some precious flowers of life blooming from somewhere deep in the hearts of the people.

A brave woman wearing the traditional Muslim scarf ran over to us as we were interviewing a father, grandfather, and grandchild trio who were opening their shop to a street of destruction empty of people.  The father told us that this is his shop and this is his land and this is his village and nothing is going to remove him from it.   At the side of his shop door was a huge gash where cement and cinderblocks were absent, yet sandals, slippers, shoes, and shoe boxes were being arranged enticingly, colorfully like blooms of organized labor and beauty in the midst of the Israeli created destruction.

Across the street was the woman's shop where beautiful scarves, folded and stacked, or hanging from their corners in bunches -- waving in the air.   On either side of the shop were mounds of destruction, garbage, and closed shops all damaged and bent.  The shop looked like a pungent rare flower springing to life amidst the hostile rubble.  This is resistance, this is courage, this is determination, this is the flower of Sumoud (persistence), this is the revolutionary spirit that will bring an end to the Zionist and Imperialist enemy.

Down the street there was music and a few more open shops.  The magnetic enthusiasm of the songs drew us irresistibly.  We found a cart with tapes, CDs, and other Hisbullah paraphernalia all joyfully presented.

After spinning around to see as much as possible we began our drive to Aintura where our friend from the scarf store met us excitedly to tell us more about what she and her friends saw and heard during the attempted Israeli tank invasion of the south.  She said that she was there all the time and that on top the hill just outside Bint Jbeil, she and others watched as the Israelis bombarded Bint Jbeil and Aintura.  They cried to see the destruction but were determined to stay.  She proudly pointed to where several rows of olive tress curved along a mountain, and told us that the Israelis never got beyond that line and that the brave defenders were able to stop them and their tanks.

I think of how I did not buy a pair of slippers or some scarves.  They would have been both useful and beloved.  But the experience of revolutionary Sumoud remains, and its international nature is clear.  Our friend of the scarf was just like a worker in Yugoslavia, some years before the fall of working-class rule, who waited for me and a friend on the road knowing that we would be hours in a restaurant that she had directed us to.  On our way out we found each other and she took us home with her and gave us incredible in-depth details of the life of a worker in a working-class state.  She was enlivened by the same energy as our new friend in the south of Lebanon.

Always, the revolutionary spirit skips a few unfortunate ones.  As soon as we were away from the shoe and scarf shops, a little jeep came by and I asked if they would let us interview them; and the old man near the door and his son behind the driver's wheel immediately began to apologize saying that they were not Arabs, that they were Phoenicians.  I was taken aback and began to wonder what on earth they saw in me to say such things.  This is especially disturbing since the Israeli border is still so close and since the Israelis are known to make hostile excursions into the area.  Did the man and his son in the Jeep think me an Israeli?  Did they think me an American reporter?  After a bit of discussion, they seemed to flip politically and the son gave an interview that contained no indication of his Phoenician I-am-not-an-Arab apology.

An older woman came running trying to tell us her personal problems.  There was much that was interesting in what she said.  Her family lands had been partially occupied by the Israelis since 1948 and more was taken during this past war of July 2006.  She was angry and told of her many responsibilities with which she could not cope.  She had to care for four grandchildren whose mother lived in American and who refused to take them over to America so that they would be safe.

I noticed that each and everyone one of the people we talked to was wearing clothes that indicated they had a clean organized domicile, and that they must have had water in which to wash.  No one looked like they lived in the dust and destruction, while we, arriving in a van, walking around briefly, were dusty and disheveled.

#Picture files for Report No. 1

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#Old town Bint Jbeil 3 -- photo s.h. sept 06.jpg

#Old town Bint jbeil -- photo s.h. sept 06.jpg

#Row of shops Bint Jbeil -- photo s.h. sept 06.jpg

Report Two from Lebanon:  Attack and Defense or War

September 17, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

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We visited the hospital at Bint Jbeil on September 16, 2006, and were easily given an immediate opportunity to talk with the director of the hospital who told us about the injuries and death of people in the village and showed us where the hospital was hit.  The Israelis hit the hospital in three locations damaging the central electric exchange of the buildings, the generator, and the operating theater.

In Bint Jbeil we passed a school building whose entire curtain wall had fallen revealing rooms with children's school chairs and tables.  Near Khiyam we saw a primary school damaged beyond use.  In Khiyam, we saw a museum bombed to uselessness.  Everywhere we saw homes, whole neighborhoods, and even whole towns bombed to shreds.

In Sur (Tyre) our delegation met with a doctor at the largest hospital and we received detailed information about civilian injuries, deaths, and the fact that injuries continue on a daily basis due to cluster bombs.  He also explained to us that there were two wars: one was of fighting between defenders of the south and the attacking Israelis, and one was a large scale attack on the civilians of Lebanon who were represented and defended by Hisbullah.

We have been told by the environmental expert and AUB (American University of Beirut) professor, Rania Masri, that one million and one hundred thousand cluster bombs are spread throughout the southern landscape and that they represent a manifold expense and danger that will not be solved for at least ten years.  This cost will be, first that of homes and infrastructure, then that of the economy, and lastly that of agriculture.  Agriculture will be the last to be fixed as it will take that long, perhaps as long as twenty years, to diffuse the cluster bombs that explode unpredictably.  This will create extreme economic pain for the farmers of the south and impoverish the area further.

We could easily see that the Israeli attack on Lebanon of July 2006 was a criminal attack on civilians and civilian infrastructure.  And we heard from the people that this was something even a donkey could figure out ¬≠ western media notwithstanding.  So why do those who read the western press insist on being so mystified?  Of course, me dummy, their interest! Instinctively, everyone knows the direction whence their interest is served.  So who is it who support Hisbullah and who attacks it?  Those who benefit or lose by it, of course, dummy!  Donkey!  At the base is our pocket that pays to fill our stomach.  The one thing that I do wonder about is why no one has built a huge stomach for us all to worship!  Or maybe I am a blind donkey!  Maybe the dome of the senate in DC is just that.

But, hey, even people of Dahye have a joke ¬≠ Dahye, the worst hit civilian neighborhood of southern Beirut.  There in Dahye they say that their apartments have gotten hugely more valuable now after the virtual rain of US missiles and bombs; because, finally, in spite of all the crowding of poverty, they have an ocean view.

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Report Number Three from Lebanon: Occupied Palestine48

September 18, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

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As we approached the southern border and were only yards away from the many Israeli posts where invisible Zionist soldiers could and did spy on us, some members of the delegation and southern Lebanese referred to it as Israel.  I immediately reminded them that that was Palestine, occupied and learning the lessons of Hisbullah's success.  But what I saw was neither Palestine nor southern Lebanon as I looked over the fence from the several points that we visited.  What became clear was that Israel was not the enemy of Palestine and now the enemy of Lebanon, slowly expanding its occupation, using its movable borders, its killer earth movers, its US armaments, its cowardly use of soldiers against civilians, and it racist destruction.  What disappeared was the specificity of nations and what appeared was the digestive system of imperialist greed on the march ¬≠ the greed of desperation in the background of a disintegrating capitalist economy.

I looked at the Dutchmen in the delegation and told them that if Israel bordered the Netherlands, they would be experiencing this attack and the demonization of the western press.  Israel is the face of imperialist attack, and Judaism is a pawn manipulated against Islam.  People here talk about the many different sects that will render Lebanon an arena of civil war.  Yet they overlook the basic sectarian division that is Zionist Judaism on the one side and Hisbullah Islam on the other.  The religious nature of Zionism escapes them, is made invisible by media brainwashing.  Yet, the religious aspects of Hisbullah's Islam blinds them to its heroic accomplishments.

Hisbullah works against sectarian division within Lebanon, a divisionism promoted both on the diplomatic and military fronts.  On the political front the US does its utmost to make arrangements with sects leaving out others.  On the military front, the Israeli selective targeting of US made weapons is obvious even to a donkey.   Poor communities both Hizbullah's Muslim and others were hit while wealthier communities -- especially those Christians in the ruling class -- were unharmed.  The infrastructure of the entire country was attacked in all places.  The class intentions of the Zionists and the US was studied and brutal -- divide the country along class lines, kill the poor, reduce the number of workers, make them more desperate, cheapen their labor, seize their lands, and call it all the "birth pangs of a New Middle East" -- that being the "Middle East" of America and Israel not the Arab national lands and homes of the Arab people.

Report Number Four from Lebanon:The Mountain of Radam and Jihad al-Bina'

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On September 15, 2006, as we were returning from our trip to the south we saw the insignia of an organization of Hisbullah called Jihad al-Bina'.  Western press for obvious reasons of greed and conquest deliberately misinterprets jihad, the name ascribed to Muslim service to the community.  The Arabic word Jihad means to do one's best.  It is what we urge children to do to earn good grades.  Refusing to understand Jihad is much like the insistence on saying that Allah is the god of the Arabs, refusing to translate this particular word as God, the same god along with the same accompanying religious discourse that forms the core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Jihad as service to the community can be military or social.  Jihad al-Bina' is the service of building for the community.  Jihad al-Bina' is volunteering to help beautify, build, and rebuild.  Its practice right now here in Lebanon in the southern districts of the country and of Beirut is amazing.  The energy and enthusiasm with which work is going on to rebuild the damage created by Israeli-delivered US-made weapons is amazing.  The effort is historic -- rapid, vigorous, optimistic.  The jihad of evacuating disaster areas is equally amazing.  Dahye and its surroundings were evacuated in approximately 36 hours.  Now, after the war, the people have received enough money to rent a home for a year and buy new furniture.

Jihad al Bina' also is clearing the rubble and moving it at an amazingly rapid pace to form a mountain of rubble, Jabal al Radam.  Trucks loaded with rubble arrive at the rate of one each minute -- 1350 per day as the taxi driver tells.  As we climbed the mountain, we saw embedded in the rubble the torn bits of family life.  Shoes, clothes, curtains, shards of furniture, bits of rugs, closet doors, children's books, school books, shards of kitchen utensils, all torn to shreds, all smashed, all dusty, all mixed in an ugly salad of dust, shattered cement, broken glass, and bent steel.  But the dust formed the largest percentage of the mix.  I try to imagine the power that made dust out of life.  I try to imagine the will to resist and rebuild.  What miraculous, monumental will of mankind, what determination, what beauty is leading the people to such heroism!

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Meanwhile, to cover the horrors of the crime in Lebanon, the western press has been redefining the dictionary.  Terrorism is the defense of one's own community and the preservation of its life and culture.  Democracy is the racism, apartheid, and murderousness of Zionism, the destruction of nations, the assassination of leaders, and the theft of resources.  Self Defense is the hostile killing of civilians on neighboring lands, and the bombardment and destruction of that neighbor's land.  Freedom is the kidnapping of others, and their torture and imprisonment.  Piety is Jewish and Christian blindness to Islam.  Fascism is the moral practices of Muslims in the Arab world.

Many are confused here and everywhere.  Hizbullah keeps its head and its commitments, thus its influence with those who have no influence grows.

Report Number Five from Lebanon:

September 22, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

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Today we decided to use the public taxi called 'service' to get to the southern village in the surrounds of Nabatiyye where we were scheduled to meet with the Nuclear Physicist, Dr. Muhamman Ali Qubeisi who claims that he found high radiation in some of the pits created by Israeli bombing in the south of Lebanon during the July 2006 attack.

Dr. Qubeisi was interested in telling us his history and his work record, all of which were both impressive and interesting.  He spoke English flawlessly as he told us all this including the fact that he was also a US citizen.

He began by giving us a background on the history of Israeli attack on the southern area of Lebanon.  We knew from other interviews that in 1948, the Israelis had grabbed a large chunk of southern Lebanon which included approximately six villages.  We knew that this fact was not well known because the villagers, in order to receive UNRWA help, said that they were Palestinian.  Dr. Qubeisi then added to our knowledge that when the Israelis occupied the south of Lebanon in 1982, they began to build settlements near the Christian area and near the sea.  Thus, when the people of the south became familiar with the continued Israeli attack on their lands, they thought of the Palestinians.  They realized the importance of resistance and supported Hisbullah who supports the cause of the Palestinians.  The people of the south know that the difficulties of Palestinian refugee life arise from the prohibitions of the Lebanese government.  Dr. Qubeisi continued, that yes, the Palestinians should return to their homes as they want to, but treating them like animals is not right and does not send them home faster.

Qubeisi continued saying that when he saw Dahye (southern neighborhood of Beirut) after the war for the first time he immediately went to the Lebanese Council on Scientific Research, a council of which he is a member and which is part of the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission.  He asked that they meet to make a plan to test for chemical weapons and radiation.  But as they exhibited reluctance and did not reply, he published some of his finding on his own.  This brought a huge negative and angry response from members of the Council and the Commission.  He feels that he must continue to do the research, get foreign interest, and publish findings and do so quickly for the safety of the residents.  He thinks others are remaining quiet so that they would not unduly frighten people.

Dr. Qubeisi said that he tested some deep pits made by Israeli weapons and that his results indicated that there is uranium in the soil.  He measured 50 nsV on the outside rim of the pits and 300 nsV in the heart of most pits with the exception of one which measured 800 nsV.  It was explained that 50 nxV was within normal range but 800 and 300 were very hight.  However, it was conjectured by Henk Van der Keur, a member of our delegation and staff member of the Laka Foundation (Documentation and Research Center on Nuclear Energy) in the Netherlands, that if these measurements were taken from the first moment and included the ash, that the higher measures could be due to the concentration of uranium in the ash -- a natural process which does not indicated the presence of nuclear weapons or the use of Depleted Uranium.  Van der Keur's conjecture was based on measurements they took of Dr. Qubeissi's many samples stored just outside of his house in the back yard -- all of which measured within normal range.

A new delegation came and we went outside with Dr Qubeisi to meet them thinking of the importance of an expanded meeting.  It turned out to be a press delegation from Austria.  While we were meeting them, Dr. Qubeisi locked his house and apologized to us.  We begged him to open it again for us to get our things.  The other delegation and Dr. Qubeisi made their excuses and we were thus ejected.  Being out in the country with no taxi information, we begged for a ride to the nearby town where we could find a taxi.

It was then merely 11:00 am and we were in the south without a car, but at least on the edge of a town that did have lots of transportation services.  We decided to go to Bint Jbeil for a second time and do a more thorough investigation and spend time walking around the most damaged downtown area.  We took a 'service' who asked us about a permit and we did show him ours.  A Permit is needed from the Lebanese military in order to travel to Lebanese lands south of the Litani river.  At the checkpoint, our permit turned out to be a three-day permit instead of a 40-day permit as we had been promised by the military police.  The military bureaucrat did not want to keep calling about us and our driver was impatient, so we were ejected, forced to pay our full taxi fare, and found ourselves standing in the hot sun while soldiers shunted us from spot to spot out of their way.  Lost and a bit shocked we tried to flag various vehicles.  Ten minutes after the departure of our taxi the bureaucrat waved to us that we could head south and that our pass was valid.  So we sought another taxi going in our original direction all to no avail.  Of course it all seemed bleak, hot, painful, as we stood there in total rejection between no no and then yes and maybe another no.  One of the soldiers offered to flag us a cab and told us to wait in the shade of a road sign.  The sun is hot beyond belief.  The soldier succeeded where we had failed.

We were fortunate in the driver we got even though four of us sat in the back like sardines.  He took us to his home in Hula, the communist town, and we talked with his mother and father in law and with his wife, all of whom had stayed in the area during the war.  His mother in-law was easily the individual who controlled the conversation, supported by the son-in-law, to tell what she experienced.  While we were there, the children came in, ranging in age from the oldest approximately 12 to the youngest, approximately 2 years of age.  The mother-in-law and the wife together told us the story of what happened to them.

The mother in-law began to tell us the story of their taking refuge.  When ever I made the mistake of saying shelter they would immediately correct me.  A place for refugees to gather and a shelter were clearly different and they well knew that difference.  At first they were coaxed into going to a center for a few days where they would be cared for by the Red Cross.  But there was nothing there but a bit of water to drink and no food and no facilities to bathe.  They had been rushed out and had no extra clothes with them.  After three days they braved the bombing and went home walking.  The first thing they did was begin cooking a lunch and fixing breakfast and then they bather and changed clothes.  After lunch they decided to walk uphill from their house in the country, surrounded by orchards and cultivated fields, and go stay with their in-laws up the hill in a house in town that they thought was more able to withstand the bombing.

On the way up the hill, they were pursued by missiles from the air and each time just escaped by mere yards.  Approximately 4 to five missiles were aimed at them.  One was so close that after raising her head from the spot she had hidden herself in, a spot to which she had run to thinking to throw her face onto the ground so that if the missile fire would reach her it would burn her back not her face, she could not see her husband as the air was thick with smoke and dust.  She felt that she was blind.  When she did find her husband, he had shrapnel injuries.  They did reach their destination feeling great fright.

One night as they were in the basement of the house where they sheltered with their in-laws, a missile hit the house and damaged it.  It had struck only meters away from the area they were sheltered.

The mother told us bout the children, how they all suffered from diarrhea and vomiting and fever.  The adults also suffered from it but not to the extent of the children.  Once one recovered another would get ill again.

The driver talked about the Palestinian fighters of the seventies.  He told us that he worked for Hizbullah in his youth but that now he had to leave it all because he needed to work and support his children.

He said that they have to seed and have many children against the danger that the Israelis might kill a few.  He asked us to consider, was it not better to sacrifice a few of the children now so that all who survived might live in dignity and good health.  He said that they considered how the Palestinians lived in their refugee camps, and that miserable life was not a life fit for humans, and that it was better to sacrifice in order that the whole community might survive against the Zionist enemy.

About the Palestinian fighters of the seventies, our driver said that they were good and honest and brave but that by 1978-79 they began to be silly and exploit privilege, and that foreign intelligence services had completely penetrated them and there the principle of divide-and-rule was used successfully against them.  He was persuaded that most Arab governments and much of the Arab population are more concerned with their own private pleasure and comfort than they were interested in honesty and integrity.

More details coming soon.

Report Six from Lebanon:  The Pictorial Report

September 21, 2006

All photos taken by the author, Samia Halaby, on September 21, 2006

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Here is an amazing picture taken of a home in Bint Jbeil on September 21, 2006 where the front of the room had been removed by an Israeli missile and the living room is open to view from the street.  The dust and destruction reminded me of Israeli handiwork done in Palestine -- especially parts that I photographed in Beit Jala, Beit Shour, and Ghazze.

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This is one of the thousands of bits of color that is the remains of family life scattered among the ashes and rubble of the general destruction in the heart of the old town center.  A town center that once was full of magnificent old style stone architecture.  The shredded fluff once was the clothing of family members, or it was the curtains, mats, and rugs of the family.  The excessive power of the explosions blew them into twirls of fluff scattered here and there.

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This is a photograph of the three members of the D4 delegation examining the Israeli war crime of targeting civilian life in the neighborhoods of the south of Lebanon and southern Beirut.  Here they are walking down the ancient center of the town which had many buildings that are centuries old -- now turned to ruble.

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This is a photo of the wasteland created by the Israelis in neighborhoods of Bint Jbeil.

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This is me on September 21, 2006 standing at a lookout point where we could see a huge panorama of Palestine48 now occupied by the Zionist enemy.  Everyone I talked to agreed that this is occupied Palestine and that it will be liberated.  Immediately behind the lookout is the fence that the Israelis build and next to it a road just like those they have in the strangulation wall.  In front of me on the road is house after house that has been hit by missiles and is beyond use.  I explained to the local residents my respect of their sumoud and told them that were it not for their resistance and the heroism of their defenders, they would have been refugees like us.  They all agreed.

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This was our second visit to Bint Jbeil and we saw more and more of life coming back to the town.  Here is a baby pussycat sitting on one of the stones thrown about by the bombs, a stone near the doorstep of her home, waiting for the family to return.  Note that the rubble here is of old hand hewn stones fallen from a very old house.  Behind the cat is a bit of color from a book or box.  We saw many children's books all through the neighborhood.  Inside the windows of the homes till standing we could see extensive damage.  I had asked why the garage doors of the stores were bent in various ballooned shapes.  The answer was that the bombs created pressure that blew out all windows and doors and bent the metal garage doors of the store fronts into various ballooning shapes.

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This wonderful woman stood at the newly opened door to her living room -- an entire wall blown off -- with the content of her home turned to rubble.  She called to us to go inside and visit.  Our time was short and we declined. onceamultistoryapartmentbuildingnowapitindahye.jpg

All the building in one hole -- maybe thanks to those bunker busters.  This is a picture of a building in Dahye, a neighborhood of southern Beirut, now turned into a hole in the ground.   Maybe it was a bunker buster or maybe just many bombs one after the other that managed to grind a multi-story building into dust and leave it a hole in the ground and nothing more.  We will remember all this for many many generations and Israel will have to pay for its crimes.  Israel is not more than a criminal in the collective popular memory.  This photograph was taken September 18, 2006.

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These are private cars that are burnt, melted, some leaning on shattered walls and rubble in Bint Jbeil.  These were outside a neighborhood of private homes.  The metal carcasses are scattered as though weightless, tossed like bugs, from the force of the Israeli bombing

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This is a scant shelter where 45 people huddled during the first 14 days of Israeli bombing.  It was under a building which was severely damaged.  Their survival is a miracle as most homes surrounding this shelter were damaged well below the ground floor level.

Report Number Seven from Lebanon

September 24, 2006

Samia A. Halaby

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On Thursday September 21, 2006, I returned to Bint Jbeil guiding members of the Netherlandish delegation from D4.  We walked again through the streets and I searched for our friend of the scarves store.  It was 3:30 PM and I remember her saying that she goes home at 3:00 PM.  I was sad to miss her.  But I was glad to see more signs of life in town on the main road and in parts of the old town.  We walked through the old town and I searched more carefully with my eyes for the remains of family life in the neighborhood.  I remembered the destruction in Jenin and I could see that here the destruction was more complete, more thorough.  It was as though the neighborhood was put in its entirety into a monstrous machine which ground it to dust.  We stepped in many inches of fine beige dust‚Ķdust as fine as talcum powder.

In Jenin, I saw puddles of shoes and clothing, or batches of kitchen ware, or large bits of wooden furniture in specific sections of rubble.  Here in Bint Jbeil's old town, there were no such things.  There were, however, strange bits of colored cottony clumps of fiber.  I conjectured that the explosive power of missiles had blown things into clouds of dust and fiber and that the clothing, turned to fiber, had coalesced in the roiling air into these twirls of colored fiber with bits of stubborn woven parts.  Only in a few places, I saw complete shards of things like a fragment of a decorative lamp or a piece of a fork or metal button. shelterinbintjbeil.jpg

In the old town, the structural components behind the architectural style, that of arches and domes, was revealed.  Arches, cross vaults, domes, holding floors above them, revealed the stone filling between the underlying structure and the floor above.  I remember my father telling me that in his childhood, the builders, once they completed a dome would build the side walls up to the next floor then fill the hollows with rubble.  The children would then be invited to stomp it so that it would be compacted before the floor of the next level was laid.  While this was a lesson in Byzantine building methods, it was also an indication of the precious old homes of the old town now ground to talcum and rubble.  Israeli crimes against civilian life extend to crimes against the art and culture of ancient civilizations.

In the old town and up the hill of the old town, I saw and photographed several mosques which were damaged.  I saw cars on the main road burnt and bent, melted metal carcasses now cooled, tossed askew against remains of walls.  One of them must have gotten so heated that after all the parts burnt, the metal hull had melted enough to flatten down on the ground and was later tossed against a wall like the carcass of a bug flattened in a book.

As we were leaving the old town, we asked directions from some men clearing rubble and collecting scrap metal.  They asked us if we wanted to see a spot where 45 people jammed together, taking refuge from the bombing, and we said yes.  I tried to photograph the dark spot where they lit a faint little lamp for me.  I saw clothing, pillows, toys, blankets, and children's books.  The place was low, a cellar open on one side as the house was built on the incline of a mountain.  The ceiling was low and they warned me not to strike my head.  They said everyone struck it many times each day.  I said that I would not and I walked around with my head down but in the end, as I exited, I did strike my head on the cement.

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I asked the men, how it was that the town was defended and that the Israelis never got inside.  They said that they were not there and had no idea how it was done, and one of them smiled as he said that leaving us to conjecture what we might.

We finally found a cab out of Bint Jbeil.  It was hard as it was evening and no one wanted to go out of town at that late hour.  Still yet there were taxis available and the price was tourist high.  We finally found a reasonable man who for a bit extra took us to Et Tire so that we might see the family who had waved a white flag but was bombarded by a helicopter nevertheless.

Before we could go to the site where the 95-year-old mother had died after her daughter had waved a white flag, we had to get approval from Hisbullah.  This was done via human telegraph ¬≠ a method invisible to us.  The driver stopped and asked someone who ran off to ask someone and we waited till someone ran back with an OK.  As we waited In Tire we watched men clearing rubble and trucking it out of town.  Jihad al Bina' was at work.

On the way back, our driver offered to take us to see the sites of the old and the new Qana massacres.  We took a quick look at the old site and saw the long graves with the many names.  At the new site, we were amazed to see that it had been completely floored over and had become a collective grave with special stone burials above it for the bodies of those who were killed.  Around the graves were families with children sitting in chairs surrounding the graves receiving messages of condolence from those who came to give them. Some were reading from the Koran over the graves.  Along the remaining wall of the building were placed large cards holding the name of each one of the victims.  Some had photographs of the victims in the beauty of their living selves.  Children came and went to some of them and arranged and rearranged the flowers or added some.

We saw the photograph of a fighter who had been martyred elsewhere and we saw the pictures of his children who died at Qana -- pronounced Anna in Arabic.

Report Number Eight from Lebanon: The Divine Victory

September 22, 2006

Samia A. Halaby

victorycelebrationsm.jpg

On the way back from the south of Lebanon on Thursday September 21, 2006, we watched groups of people walking north to attend the great victory celebration planned for the following day.   By Friday noon, large crowds of people were already gathered at the site of the big celebration.  By three in the afternoon, it was a sea of yellow flags waved by millions of supporters of Hisbullah.  As much as I would have wanted to be there, I decided that it was wiser to go watch it on TV with a friend.  As I arrived, the opening reading had just finished.  My friend said she cried at the mention of those who died because she remembered how many Arabs had died in recent decades due to Western oppression.  As Nasrallah talked, we admired his style and his honesty, and my turn came to feel sad when he talked about Palestine and made his promises to Palestine.

Nasrallah is clearly a nationalist leader completely in touch with and animated by popular support.  He talks directly to the people at hand.  He does not give them ample time to cheer.  They, in their millions, go to total silence the minute he starts talking again.  What western leader could claim such popular support?  Maybe in their dreams!

I noticed that everyone in Lebanon was talking about the sectarian divisions but Nasrallah reminded them that there were no sectarian disagreements, but rather political divisions.  This was excellent but fell short, of course, of clarifying these political divisions as being divisions along class lines.

Another important aspect was his leadership in regard to Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan, including them in the general Arab nation and urging unity and liberation, and the cessation of sectarian struggle in Iraq.  He made clear his disregard of Arab states and their governmental leadership.

Nasrallah praised the Lebanese military and called them brothers and said that it was the government, the disunited government, which was responsible for turning them into an adding machine of Israeli incursions rather than the heroic men that they were.  He added that they must be armed with modern weapons.

Nasrallah urged everyone to work for an honest, clean, moral, responsible, united government.  He said that personalities are not important but that all should work for such a government of Lebanon -- a government that is not Hisbullah but rather a strong Lebanon.

He also declared that they, Hisbullah, are stronger now militarily than they were before the war and that they will never use their weapons against a single Lebanese.  He said that weapons are not forever and that once, at some future time, there is a safe and defensible Lebanon, Hisbullah's weapons would naturally become unnecessary.

Nasrallah also clarified and stressed how this victory was historic and that it was a victory not for Hisbullah but for all Lebanon, for Palestine, and for the entire Arab Nation and for all the poor and oppressed all over the world.  Pride and optimism were clearly the message he communicated.

Amazingly, the huge crowd came and went without tragedy or undue difficulties for the city of Beirut.  All over the streets, people were happy and banners waved in the air declaring the victory to be a divine victory.  The banners also bore respectful messages congratulating the people for their victory, commending their dignity, and their will to resist.  Beiruties were to their vast majority in support of the victory celebration.  So it was a great beautiful day without any problems.  That is because everyone in Lebanon has the quality of making things work.  Little problems and little knots dissolve in the general willingness to grease the motion of life, to make a bit of livelihood, to respect others, to laugh a little.  If the Palestinian trait is stubbornness, then the Lebanese trait is clearing the little problems.

And while the people of Lebanon were in motion, happy in their Nasrallah, in New York, some people were cheering and doing.  I received the email message that I reproduce in its entirely below.  It is like the beautiful horizon opposite the sunrise reflecting its beauty.

(talking about Hisbullah stickers) yay, yay they are here and all over the place. They came last Tuesday.

Everyone loves them. Bill jumped up and down and giggled like a little kid given free reign in a candy store, and my neighborhood buddies have been getting them out EVERY WHERE! NYC, Brooklyn, queens and Bronx and that is folks from here going out there to work etc. and they give some to friends and so on.

We had a concert in Tompkins square and I spoke and announced the 30th of sept. and the m.c. announced it 2 more times during the show. and he had a sticker on.  One of the band members had one on his guitar.

I saw folks wearing them at the show.  Punk rockers and hip hop fans, and even a few hippies.  They are on the poles and every where here.

The folks where you are now would love it.  Some kids even put them on their jackets and back packs.  One of my friends even laminated one on to a button to wear.

Some one put one on the handle of the cop shop in the neighborhood on Tuesday night and it is still there!!!!  And here it is Monday.  They have been staying up and not many have been removed.  I walked by the cop shop and there it was.  He told me he did it but it is a whole other story when you see it for yourself.  I walked by on Friday and I held in a lauding attack from hell and pretended I was coughing.  I had to hold it in because I was by myself and didn't want people to think I was one of those nut jobs laughing like crazy and I'm by myself.  So I held it in until I got to tribes and told Steve and we both cracked up laughing so hard it hurt.

One of my friends told me that he and four others where hanging out in the park and they all had stickers on their shirts and when they sat down, these 2 "Israelis" sitting there completed bugged out in fear and RAN out of the park, looking back in fear as they galloped the hell out of there, and my friends laughed so hard.  And they are mixed, one is Puerto Rican , 2 of them black , one Korean and the other one is white.  They are part of our neighborhood crew.

So tell your pals there that NYC is flying the flag!!

I am sooooooo happy!!!

yay!

Report Number Nine from Lebanon: A swim at the beach

September 23, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

We arrived at the beach, one which is built out of cement balconies of many levels over rock next to the famous landmark called Al-Rauche.  On the cement slabs were many spots of oil, some large pools and some small splatters.  They colored my feet and took a lot of scrubbing to remove.  Yellow awnings were discolored with various tints of tarry oil.  The deck chairs in the hundreds had had to be replaced.  Now they were all new.  Red floating rectangular volumes of plastic were tinted with oil.  I asked what they were and someone said that they had to do with the clean-up.  The many floats chained together to mark the safety zone for swimmers were all black.  As I had approached the beach from a distance, I had thought them all heads of hair, people swimming far out into the water as normal.  But no, no one was in the sea.  People swam in the pool filled with cleaned sea-water, and they lounged under the umbrellas looking over the beautiful ocean.  I stayed with my friend to attend the sunset.  And, it did set slowly turning redder and reminding me of my childhood days on the beaches of Yafa -- beautiful Arab Yafa, the bride of the sea, occupied by Israel.

I recognized the location of this beach that I was now swimming in, from my own childhood when I was first there as a refugee from Palestine between 1948 and 1951.  At the inlet where we used to swim, a flotilla of oil and garbage held me fascinated in horror.  I was told that it is merely a fragment of the many larger flotillas.  Plastic bottles of spring water once clear now were a thick oily black.  The slick of oil and garbage expanded and shrank with the waves.  Among the garbage was a yellow container floating upright tinted with various layers of black, refracting the rainbow colors of the sun, a thing of accidental beauty in the environmental disaster.

But today the beach waned in comparison with the many taxi drivers with home I rode going here and there to my many appointments.  The taxi drivers of Beirut on this day of Saturday September 23, 2006, the day after the victory celebration and the first day of Ramadan were all lit-up with hope and joy‚Ķtheir voice is Nasrallah and he had just spoken their thoughts to the world and they adored him.  One talked all the way in defense of Nasrallah arguing against all the accusations and in the end apologized for talking so much.  I told him he spoke the truth and he beamed beautifully.  Another listened to a radio covering the celebration event of the day before.  He listened intently all along the way even while his rickety car and radio made all manner of audible and palpable intrusions.  He listened with hope and joy alike.  His good will extended to his clients and to the world around him, to those who drove badly and to those who parked askew in the narrow street.  Nasrallah animated these men unlike anything else.  It was as though a new light was shining after years of imprisonment.   There are those that, of course, are sitting back and watching and complaining about the complexity of the political situation in the land of Lebanon.  Some claiming how in the good old days there were only three parties but that now there are 140 parties.

Report Number Ten from Lebanon: Nearing the end of our trip -- The Delegation and Laila

September 24, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

It is now near the end of our trip.  One delegation left and the second will leave soon.  Some work will be left on behalf of Al Jissere Group in obtaining attention to the destroyed studios and libraries of the many artists of the south of Lebanon and the south of Beirut.

Our delegation's trip to Lebanon was inspired by the D4 sub-delegation that pushed us in New York to raise our heads from the heavy activist work and organize the trip.  In the end, I as a member of the New York Committee to Defend Palestine organized and led this delegation to Lebanon.  This is the fifth delegation of the NYCDP (New York Committee to Defend Palestine), with the support of Al-Awda members and NJSolidarity, that has gone to Palestine and now to Lebanon.  The first two were of activists visiting Palestine to learn about the situation ¬≠ a situation that pushes activists huge distances forward.  The third delegation took two experts on Depleted Uranium to examine sights in Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Shour, Bireh, and All of Ghazze for use of depleted uranium.  The 4th one was composed of museum curators who then created the "Made in Palestine" exhibition shown in New York by Al Jisser Group.

This most recent and Fifth delegation led two sub-delegations to Lebanon to investigate the results of the Israeli attack on the southern regions of the country and of Beirut.  The first delegation was the "Demand Accountability" delegation organized by Ramsey Clark in cooperation with the International Action Center.  Their fact finding mission will aid the "Demand Accountability" campaign by increasing the effectiveness of educational materials and by building enthusiasm through the realism of reporting of all delegates.  This sub-delegation was composed of Sara Flounders, Leilani Dowell, and myself, Samia Halaby who played the double role of general organizer and member of this sub-delegation.

The second sub-delegation is composed of three members of the D4 organization in Amsterdam, an organization concerned with collecting information on weapons and possible use of depleted uranium in order to combat attitudes in the Netherlands.  Their delegation was made up of Ed Hollantis, Sjourd Bosch, and Henk Van der Keur who is also staff member of the Laka Foundation.

Our first day was in Amman on September 10th, 2006, with only the IAC delegation, and we had the good fortune of being able to listen to Leila Khaled talking about her very recent visit to Lebanon.  She first reminded us that this was an attack on Lebanon, a country whose lands have already been occupied and re-occupied by Israel, and that there are parts that are still held illegally as for example the Shab'a Farms.  Leila reminded us that the Shab'a farms are an important water resource and that many small rivers emanate from there.

She also reminded us that this was the fifth attack on Lebanon by Israel.  Her conclusion from what she saw in Lebanon was that the Israeli attack had the deliberate intention of killing Lebanese civilians, destroying their homes and possessions, their economy and ruining the environment.  She reminded us that Dahye had at least one million residents.  She said she was staying near Dahye on the last day of bombing and she heard them drop the last twenty bombs just a very short time before the cease-fire agreement took effect and that they had a sound unlike anything else that she had heard, and that she has heard many US made bombs.

She said that the bombing implicitly aimed at dividing the towns from each other by destroying bridges and bombarding the roads.  It was a war of hatred aimed at women and children.  It was an obvious war of hatred like none she had seen or heard of before.  Many people could not be evacuated because Israel was targeting evacuees and hitting anything that moved.

The strategic bombing was done in a way that would turn the people of the south against Hisbullah.  She added that they did not bomb the Palestinian camps for the reason that they wanted them and the people of the south to resent each other.

Leila talked about Ghazze and how the Israelis have been calling families as they have all their names and numbers.  They call and order them to evacuate their homes because they plan to strike their homes.  When the families leave, nothing happens, so they go back.

When they do, the Israelis call them yelling at them saying that they warned them and now they only have five minutes to leave.  And then they bomb them whether they left or not.

Israel also called many people in Lebanon during the war and played recorded messages in Arabic declaring formally that this was the state of Israel calling them then detailing Lebanese war reversals and declaring Israeli victory.

Leila talked about the smarts of Hisbullah mentioning their call for face-to-face talks among all the political and religious groups and their careful detailed preparation.  She described them as highly educated, enlightened, and wise in their leadership.

Leila then talked about the social services that they provide the families of the south including hospitals, schools, and cultural activities.  One of Leila's primary observations was the visit she made at the beginning of her trip to the camps of Lebanese refugees in Syria.  She described that they were all from the Beka valley, as refugees from the south had not been able to get to Syria.  She also detailed for us how well cared for they were by the Syrian government. Finally, she pointed out that they would have all been permanent refugees like the Palestinians had not Hisbullah won the victory of defending Lebanese soil.

Report Eleven from Lebanon: Interview with Hajje Rima Fackry

September 27, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

On Monday September 25, 2006, our delegation had the opportunity to interview Hajje Rima Fackry, member of the Political Council of Hisbullah.  The following report is based on my notes which do not represent direct, accurate quotations of Hajjer Rima.

I asked her if she saw a contradiction between a strong Lebanese government and the people's movement noting that Nasrallah had on the Friday before said that Hisbullah wants a strong clean government and urges everyone to work towards it.  I also asked that since Nasrallah had correctly said that the differences between parties in Lebanon were political not sectarian, would Hisbullah consider going further and making a class analysis on that basis

Her reply was that there is no contradiction between a people's movement and a strong state.  We are, and are with, the huge majority of the population.  We hope that working together as a people we can make a strong state.  We have much in common and we want equality before the law.  Some institutions of the government seem not to serve the people, or to serve only some.  A strong government, not loyal first to the US or Europe or Israel, but above all loyal to the Lebanese people, is what we want.  Most Lebanese do not want interference from the East or from the west.  Those who see Iran as our maker talk nonsense.  I find no contradiction between a people's movement and a strong state.  After all we are the people of the state.

Hisbullah has rules for being a member but it does not mean we do not have relations with others.  We have relations with Michelle Awn and with the Druze.  What we are interested in are wider relations with the sects because we need Lebanon strong.  Our capabilities are limited.  We believe our basic rule is that all in the world are human and related regardless of religion or belief or lack of it.  We are doing out best. We wish others to do the same.

I asked Hajje Rima How Hisbullah sees the fact that they have become an international force and have inspired people everywhere to seek liberation.  How do they view themselves in an international role?

International liberation is not our duty but the duty but of all peoples.  Each state has its people and they must liberate themselves.

A member of the delegation asked about women in the party.

We have a duty to communicate with other people.  We believe Islam must speak to all people.  We, as Moslems, believe in freedom, rights, and equality.  For us it is not strange that there is a woman in the leadership of Hisbullah.  We have had women from the very beginning.  We have women who work, doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers.   We have no problem with women.  The right to work and earn money is a right for women.  And the right to work in politics is also a right for women.  But we do have rules.  One of them is the wearing of the Hijab.  Half of Hisbullah's membership is women.

What can we do for Hisbullah outside in our own countries?

Clarify our point of view.  Understand what we say and know our reality in Lebanon.  Work to expose the government and leadership in the USA, expose their ties with Zionists here.  I do not understand how the American people allow their money, the money of the people, to be used to kill innocent people in other lands.  When people know the reality, they move against those regimes.

We in Hisbullah know that the American leadership will not leave us alone.  I follow their think-tanks in the US by reading their web pages.  They think that Hisbullah's rapid building (jihad al Bina') of homes, clearing the rubble and helping people, is a problem and they think that money should be donated to go directly to the government so that the government will be the one seen as helping the people.

They are preparing militarily against Syria and Iran and they think we will defend them; but we chose our time.  We are living in a time when foolish people and foolish leadership control the huge weapons of the US.  The US politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, both want Jews on their side and both support Israel.  They do not see or know that the relationship between the people and Nasrallah is symbiotic.  Nasrallah feels that it is a historic time, a turning point for the Arab world, and he meant to say -- look how we were able to stand up to them, do not be afraid of Israel.

How did we use the events and changes in the year 2000 when Israel was thrown out?  It too was a turning point and the Palestinians used this and began their second Intifada.  Nasrallah was urging the governments of the Arab regimes adjoining Palestine not even to help but to just allow weapons to pass to them.  The resistance in Gaza is good but it lacks weapons.  They invented the Qassam missile but it is not accurate, nor very strong.

A disaster is happening in Ghazze.  The resistance is good but do not have good weapons.  They are surrounded.  The Israelis are killing women and children and old people and demolishing homes.

I asked if Hisbullah will attempt to Liberate those Lebanese villages that were occupied in 1948.  In his speech Nasrallah mentioned only the Shab'a farms.

She said no, and added that the government of Lebanon in the cease fire agreement only mentioned the Shab'a farms as occupied and did not say anymore and thus we, as Hisbullah, promised to obey the government.  We can only fight for Shab'a.

Report Twelve from Lebanon: Departure from Lebanon, Telephone calls from Israel

September 29, 2006

By Samia A. Halaby

Discovering the war from people who experienced it, then describing it to others in written form, creates only an imperfect picture even if well done.  After the heavy first retelling of an event, smaller details emerge slowly, like the tail of a comet, as more time is spent socializing with people and as various situations and places remind them of their experience.  Also as listeners, it is hard for us to take it all in.  One of the surprises of the visit to Lebanon was finding out that people received telephone calls from the state of Israel.  As I was sitting with friends at a dinner party of the intellectuals, someone mentioned to another the funny accent of the telephone callers from Israel.  It was the first mention of this psychological attack that the Israelis were performing -- another type of war crime.

Many people from all walks of life received a telephone call with a recorded message in a slurpy accent typical of Israelis.  This message declared that it was a call from the Israeli government informing them that it has successfully entered Lebanon and has taken this or that location and won this or that victory.  The general reaction was disgust and disregard.  Some learnt to hang-up immediately when they received the call.  Some people received the calls repeatedly.  Can you imagine how you would feel if bombs are falling on your neighborhood and the enemy brazenly invades your fear with a telephone call of ill intent?

Another detail that came up more than once was the anguish produced by living near the site of the bombing.  People described the experience of the missiles focusing on the fact that the first thing one experienced was a miniscule earthquake coming totally without warning as the airplanes were too high to see.  Some people said the sound came later.  Others said that they heard a small boom when the missile was launched then a swooshing sound and then the earthquake, and more sound, then blinding dust.  The missiles had wind -- created a vacuum.  One artist showed me her home where all the glass was blown out and told me that the doors were forced open by the power of the wind or vacuum, small bits of glass and brown dirt covered her paintings and she had had to scrub them down.  She had no idea where the dirt had come from.

She also showed me a ceramic sculpture hanging on the wall by a thread deep in the studio protected by a high barrier.  She could not figure out why it broke.  Behind it was a small window of approximate 12 inches square.  We conjectured that the vacuum had pushed it forward and back against the frame and thus broke it.

Talking to people in Lebanon, one wonders how Israelis ever dream of having neighborly relations with people of the Arab World.  Clearly all they intend is to fill the pockets of a few so as to win their collaboration, thereby completing the pattern of US Imperialist domination and exploitation.

What inspires everyone about Hisbullah is their secrecy, their discipline, their self-confidence, and the very intelligent way they analyze and execute.  Finally, the formula for the assertion of the vast talents of Arabs has been defined and executed and is ready to be repeated by other groups, be they nationalist, Islamic, or secular and international.

And now that I am back in New York, I remember how on the airplane, all I could think of was how angry I felt at it all and how different this anger was from being there.  While there watching the people working hard to reverse all the damage had made me forget to be angry.  The oppressed classes of Lebanon are working hard because they are full of the brightness of revolution.  But now, I see it all in greater perspective, and my anger grows, and my stance towards Israel hardens.  There is no answer.  Israel must go.  We must disarm their military, dissolve the Israeli government, and shatter all its state apparatus.  No other way will freedom and liberation for Arabs, or safety for Jews, ever come.

Chavisa WoodsTribes