Friday, September 08, 2006

Lebanese Youth Call on US to Respect Democracy

By Rima Merhi

Friday, September 08, 2006
First person by Rima Merhi

In an ugly world where we can no longer distinguish between terror and the so-called war on terror, Lebanese youth take courage and energy from the real values of democracy, freedom, justice and human rights as taught at our universities, particularly the leading American universities in Beirut.
There is a real pressing danger that despite our commitment and passion for American ideals, Lebanese youth are becoming more and more isolated from the US in light of its foreign policy in the Middle East. "Israel's right to defend itself" has left us with a country in ruins amid a humanitarian crisis and environmental catastrophe that has taken our country back at least 20 years.

The whole world witnessed Israel's right to defend itself at the heartbreaking repeat massacre in Qana at the end of July. The apology of the Israeli government will not bring back the dead. It will not erase from our memories the sight of children and women agonizingly being pulled out of the rubble.
We acknowledge with equal sadness and regret the loss of innocent civilians in Israel. Lebanese youth watch in horror as the leading superpower and role model in the world sets a very dangerous precedent for allowing skirmishes across borders to escalate into full-blown disproportionate wars and crimes against humanity. Generation after generation are fed more hatred, poison and anger.

The universal principle of "human rights" in the Arab world have come to symbolize American double standards, if not blatant racism against Arabs, lack of respect for our culture and traditions, and ignorance of the socio-political realities that form our political systems. Lebanese youth urge the US government not to push us to the point of despair by giving us and our governments a fair hearing. The Bush administration must not doubt that the marginalization of one-and-a-half million Shiites, constituting more than one-third of the Lebanese population in a highly volatile region, will only lead to civil war in Lebanon and more terrorism in the world.

For years we witnessed first-hand the pain that angry, marginalized groups inflicted on each other. That pain and anger runs deep and has sadly inflicted a new generation.

Last year in democratic elections, Hizbullah was awarded seats in the Lebanese government. The Lebanese government sought to build a more representative form of government that fosters national identity through allegiance to the state.

Lebanese youth urge the US government to respect our democracy and help our government empower the Lebanese Army to take control over every inch of Lebanese soil. Despite the cease-fire, Israeli planes continue to hover over Lebanon, making it impossible for the Lebanese government to call for the disarmament of Hizbullah.

We would like to remind the Bush administration that Lebanon is not Afghanistan or Iraq. Lebanon is not governed by a dictator, nor is our society made up of tribes or clans. We have a nascent democracy that is representative of 18 sects in one of the smallest geographic countries in the world. Lebanese youth are one of the most educated in the Arab world. Two months before the July war, our government approved a bill in Parliament calling for the establishment of a youth shadow government - the first of its kind in the Arab world - to give youth a real voice in the country.
We are the same youth that led the Cedar Revolution, bringing an end to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon in March 2006. The dream of an independent, sovereign and democratic Lebanon was turning into a reality. We felt empowered to make our mark on history. With pride we watched the Arab masses turn to Lebanon as a potential beacon of true democracy in the Middle East. Bush applauded the partial fulfilment of Resolution 1559 and promised the Lebanese that "Freedom shall prevail in Lebanon. The American people are on your side!" Four months later, Bush gives Israel the green light not to destroy Hizbullah, but the whole of Lebanon.

We can not help but feel truly disappointed by the Bush administration. We are no different from American or Israeli youth. We share with all youth a desire for peace, democracy and sustainable development. Last July Lebanese youth expressed faith in the US government when I testified in the US Congress on our aspirations for national reform. The July war is a devastating blow to our morale. The big powers gamble with our futures once again by using Lebanese soil to fight non-Lebanese wars.

Lebanese youth refuse to live in the past. We refuse to survive in fear. We refuse to be robbed of our future. The "New Middle East" has to be a place where we work together to learn from the lessons of history. First and foremost, we must address the roots of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. No one will deny that Israel is no more secure today than it was 40 days or 40 years ago! By fighting the war on terror with more terror and imposing conditions that lead to the further marginalization of minority groups, the US is neither bringing security nor democracy to the region.

It is setting the scene for future disaster by turning moderate law-abiding peace-loving Muslims who are neglected and abused by the system into harsh vengeful radicals that cause a threat to the world at large. No amount of propaganda to the contrary will be effective so long as the facts on the ground speak for themselves. The "New Middle East" has to be a place where we respect our borders with one another and break the vicious cycle of hatred and revenge with tolerance and forgiveness. It has to be a place where we embrace our common humanity.

Rima Merhi is a Lebanese youth activist. She wrote this article for The Daily Star.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CALL FOR PHOTOGRAPHS

James Moore, of the John Moore Foundation, a highly prestigious organization that has a long history of supporting the arts in the UK (the prestigious John Moore Prize for painters amongst other art projects that are funded in Liverpool) approached Mai Ghoussoub of Saqi books to express his sorrow and anger at the Israeli aggression on Lebanon and asked her if she would be interested in curating/organizing an exhibition about Lebanon to take place during the Liverpool Biennale which is due to start on 15 September.

James Moore has put a 5 storey building at the disposal of local artists to exhibit during the Biennale, and he is offering 2 floors for a show on Lebanon.

The idea is to ask Lebanese people, those who have been affected by the war and those who have lived through its traumatic period, to express through taking one or 2 photographs how they felt, and feel now, about the war and how it has affected and altered their lives.

The hope is not to receive photographs of physical damages such as destruction of buildings and roads etc., of which there is abundance in the media.



UMAM -Documentation and Research-is taking in charge the organization from the Lebanese side and will be curating this exhibition in Beirut as soon as possible.

Photos from film camera, digital camera and mobile phone camera are welcome.

There is no age limit



Deadline September 05 2006 at 6 pm

Size for photos that will be sent by email: 1000 pixels (the largest side of the photo) in RGB mode saved in Jpeg 6

Make sure that the file is saved under your name

Please send your digital photos at hagegilbert@gmail.com

For prints please call 03760581 or 03235753

Lens on Lebanon: Grassroots media activism

Lens on Lebanon is a grassroots documentary initiative formed during the devastating Israeli bombardment of 2006.
This initiative has been structured as a collaborative endeavor in which Lebanese in the south and the southern suburbs of Beirut, along with Palestinian refugees and other vulnerable communities, will team up with networks of activists, artists and filmmakers, both locally and abroad, to create a community media website for both political and historical documentary purposes.

Donated equipment is currently being distributed by a network of experienced volunteers. We have assistants in Sidon, Beirut, and Tyre, and extensive contacts in the south and in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Lens on Lebanon is also working in close coordination with existing activist groups, including the International Solidarity Movement (now operating in Lebanon) and other relief organizations such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

How you can help

While our volunteer network on the ground is ready and operational, and we have received significant donations of equipment, our financial resources are very limited. We are seeking monetary donations to cover the costs of additional editing equipment, transportation expenses, and overall maintenance expenses for the website.

While further donations of equipment are welcome, at the present moment operating costs are our most pressing concern.

Online donations can be made through Paypal on our donations page.

For those who would like to make a donation, but require a 501c(3) tax deduction form, please contact us directly at: info@lensonlebanon.org.

Tell your friends and colleagues about this project!

http://www.lensonlebanon.org

Friday, August 18, 2006

THE ARMY IS BACK, BUT DON'T EXPECT IT TO DISARM HIZBOLLAH

Robert Fisk
Inependent Online
Published: 18 August 2006


Now you see them, now you don't. Hizbollah weapons? None to be seen. And none to be collected by the Lebanese army. For when this august body of men crossed the Litani river yesterday, their officers made it perfectly clear that it would not be the army's job to disarm the Hizbollah. Nor was anyone in Lebanon surprised. After all, most of the Lebanese troops here are Shias - like the Hizbollah - and in many cases, the soldiers who crossed the Litani are not only from the same southern villages but are related to the guerrillas whom they are supposed to disarm. In other words, a typical Lebanese compromise. So whither UN Security Council Resolution 1701?

True, the French are on their way - or are supposed to be. It is the French - whose own General Alain Pellegrini already commands the small UN force here - who will run the new international army in Lebanon. But are they supposed to disarm Hizbollah? Or fight them? Or just sit in southern Lebanon as a buffer force to protect Israel? The French are still demanding - very wisely - a clear mandate for their role here. But Lebanon does not provide clear mandates for anyone, least of all the French.

The Lebanese gave their soldiers the traditional welcome of rice and rose water when they drove over their newly built military bridges on the Litani. But then, some of the same villagers once gave the same traditional welcome to the Israelis in 1982 - and to Hizbollah after that. But the Lebanese army represented peace in our time - at least for a while - to those who are still digging the corpses of their dead families out of the hill villages of southern Lebanon.

It looked good on television, all those clapped-out Warsaw Pact T-54 tanks and elderly Panhard personnel carriers on flatbed trucks, supposedly returning to the far south for the first time in 30 years. Of course, it wasn't true. Though not deployed on the border, thousands of Lebanese soldiers have been stationed in southern towns since the civil war, dutifully turning a blind eye to Hizbollah's activities, providing none of their fighters were rude enough to drive a truck-load of missiles through their checkpoints.

Among those Lebanese soldiers most familiar with the south were members of the 1,000-strong garrison at the southern Christian town of Marjayoun, who fled after Israel's small ground incursion a week ago. And herein, as they say, lies a tale. For their commander, the Interior Ministry Brigadier General Adnan Daoud, has just been arrested for treason after Israeli television showed him taking tea with an Israeli officer in the Marjayoun barracks. Even worse, Hizbollah's television station Al-Manar - which stayed resolutely on air throughout this latest war despite Israel's best attempts to bomb it out of existence - picked up the Israeli tape and rebroadcast it across Lebanon.

Prior to his arrest, General Daoud was even rash enough to unburden his thoughts to Lauren Frayer, an enterprising reporter for the Associated Press who arrived in Marjayoun in time to record the general's last words before his arrest. The Israelis, he said, "came peacefully up to our gate, asking to speak with me by name". An Israeli officer who introduced himself as Col Ashaya chatted to Daoud about future Israeli-Lebanese military relations.

"For four hours, I took him on a tour of our base." the general said of "Ashaya". "He was probably on an intelligence mission and wanted to see if we had any Hizballah in here." But an hour after the supposedly friendly Israeli left, Israeli tanks blasted their way with shells through the gates of the Lebanese garrison. The Lebanese soldiers did not fire back. Instead, they fled Marjayoun - only to find that their long convoy, which included dozens of civilian cars, was attacked by Israeli pilots who killed seven civilians, including the wife of the mayor, who was decapitated by a missile.

In Beirut, all this was forgotten as the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, repeated that there would be no more "states within a state" and that the Hizbollah would leave the area south of the Litani. This statement came under the category of "a likely story". Not only do most of the Hizbollah live in villages south of the Litani but several of their officers made it clear that they had told the Lebanese army not to search for weapons. So much for the disarmament of the Hizbollah south of the Litani river. And so much for President Bush's "war on terror" which the Israelis claim to be fighting on America's behalf.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The bombs stopped...
and now what?

Should we stand there and blame the guilty
where is the unity everyone was talking about a few weeks ago
now we're back to a national "dialogue"
or a variety of "monologues"
we're back to the essential issue
the internal issue
the political isue
While Hezballah fought Israel and resisted its army
will they accept to live as a nation
a peaceful nation
without confronting and provoking Israel again..and again

Will Lebanon become Shiia? become a religious country...an Islamic country?
Is that the goal of the Hezb.?
Should this be a goal at all?
I wonder...will religion win...
or civility and diplomacy
I wonder...will Lebanese brothers fight one more time
or unite and stay tight

My opinion doesn't count
the opinion of the strongest will
right now the winner seems to be the resistance
but do I want them to apply their rules to our country?
do I want them to decide for me and my family who is the ennemy and how we, as a nation, should fight it?

The bombs stopped...
and now what?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Ray of Hope through the Dark Clouds of Sadness

A ray of hope has penetrated our hearts these couple of days, lifting the heaviness of the sadness in our hearts just a bit. The cease-fire card is finally beginning to be played. Of course it should have been placed on the table with authority from day one of this nightmare, but better now than later, better now than never.
People around the world, ordinary people like you and I, have been speaking up, whether by going to peaceful demonstrations or vigils, by leaving their visions and thoughts for a better humanity and a better world on media websites, by adding their names with conviction to cease-fire or peace petitions, by writing letters urging their mps to take urgent action, by working with humanitarian organizations abroad to donate or collect clothing, medicine, food or money or whether by actually going into the field and helping those in need themselves. These actions, these positive, peaceful, humanitarian actions do make a difference put all together. If every single person in the world were to cry out from the depths of their soul and from the depth of their hearts ‘ CEASE-FIRE NOW’, ‘PEACE NOW’, ‘NO MORE VIOLENCE NOW’, whether with Lebanese, French or Chinese accents, their voices united together would create a force of goodness. A force so strong and so convincing that it could bring a ray of hope back to this country that was only a month ago beginning to take flight again. A force so strong, it could bring faith to the people in this area- faith that trees, homes and laughter will once again rise up from beneath the ashes and wipe their tears of despair away.
Of course it will take time. Nobody is expecting a miracle here that would be hoping for too much. Even the once innocent hearts of children have been touched by the cold cruelty of realism. Their hearts may beat passionately and happily once again but in their beating, will pulsate murmurs from this present darkness. Dreams will continue to be haunted for a while. To convince those thinking of leaving not to leave, will take time. To convince those who have left to come back, will take even longer. To resurrect entire villages and towns from their knees and from the rubble they have been reduced to, will take time. To rebuild over a hundred bridges and roads and return them to their once bustling state, will take time. To rescue our once glistening seas from the oil they are now choking in, will take time, experts say over a year. Many are the fish and other sea creatures that have suffered. Much time will pass before we will be able to promise a visiting turtle a safe summer home. Much time will pass before our children can once again bath in the gentleness of Mother Nature’s comfort. It will take time. It will take time. But though it will take time, the strength to rebuild, the strength to re-dream, the strength to recall is there.
Yes… we recall our dream of a peaceful, strong, united Lebanon. We recall the fact the first alphabet was created here in Lebanon and that our nation was once known as the Pearl or Paris of the Middle East. We recall the fact that though Lebanon was destroyed many times before, it was rebuilt, again and again and again, perhaps over seven times.
Like our ancestors did before us, we will not give in to the dark smoke of despair or to hatred. We will stand up again and rebuild. We will reconstruct our dreams and our hopes. Christian, Moslem, Druze or other, we will hope again. This time united as Lebanese, Lebanese with a dream to have a peaceful, strong, united, independent nation.
Not able to sit home any longer between the four walls of my room, I , like many others, got up these last couple of days and joined in the force of civil unity. Encouraged by a friend of mine, I went to a school today, housing many of the refugees who had to flea their homes in the South or in Southern Beirut. Armed with papers, colour pens and a thirst to hope, I spent two hours colouring in with children who more than welcomed me. It did not matter that they were mainly Moslem and that I was Christian for we are part of the same humanity, both Lebanese, both hoping for a better present and a better future. It did not matter that I was a returnee and spoke terrible Arabic. Our language was the same, one of love, one of solidarity. Happy to have something to do, they drew houses and trees and hearts. Many drew a Lebanese flag. My friend and I, Moslem and Christian, side by side, put up their pictures up on a wall in the school. Their dreams to have a safe home, their dreams to have a happy childhood, their dreams to grow up in a peaceful environment should not be taken away from them. They have the right to a happy life. They have the right to live in peace. They have the right to hope like any another child.
A couple of days before, again encouraged by the same wonderful friend, I went to help another group of citizens, pack food for refugees. A group of volunteers stood in a line and we went from one to another with our bags wide open, watching them put in bread, then rice, then lentils, then tomato paste etc. I later went up to another group of people and was welcomed with open arms. Together we sat on some steps and put in milk, sugar and tea in rationed portions in some bags. Raja, a refugee from the South opened the heavy bags for us. We took orders from a nine year old red-hair with lots of freckles. Amani… her face will probably come back to me throughout my life. These moments are certainly leaving their imprint in the albums of my soul.
Many refugees, having to flea their homes and having lost them, have no choice but to sleep in parks, parks with little water, and little hygiene. Many children run around dirty, one was covered in flies. Another group of refugees tried to find refuge in one of these parks yesterday as another wave of attacks was heard. The parks being too saturated, they had to trudge back to the buses and accept to be taken to parks in the North. Food, medicine and emergency kits have been sent from many countries abroad, but not all aid is managing to come in due to the blockade. Even if aid manages to come into Lebanon, it cannot always be taken to the South, where it is needed the most as many of the roads have been cut off. Lebanon… like a kinder toy being dismantled has been cut up into different sections, isolating areas from one another.
I pray, from the depth of my heart, that this call for a cease-fire, that has FINALLY come, will be respected. I pray that this call will last. I pray that this ray of hope will be strong enough to allow the colors of these children’s dreams to come true.

May green trees rise up from the black ashes of the rubble
May red roofs of villages rise up again to house their people
May the white light of peace prevail and take away the dark thick smoke of despair
From the bombs and hatred that have fallen.

May this ray of hope shine on us all, for we all deserve to live a life of peace and of serenity.

Nathalie Malhame
12th of August, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

RESTEZ AU LIBAN

Pour les premières amandes vertes que l'on croque, trempées de sel, et qui sonnent le glas de l'hiver,

Pour l'arbuste du balcon que l'on croyait mort et qui refleurit inexplicablement en décembre,

Pour le grincement familier de la balançoire sur laquelle on s'assoupit, enivrés de soleil, dans le chant des cigales,

Pour les klaxons « sauvages » d'un mariage d'été qui nous précipite pourtant tous au balcon pour voir si la mariée est belle,

Pour ces tribus de parents qui attendent à l'aéroport le retour au pays de l'enfant prodigue, et qui arrivent toujours beaucoup trop tôt,

Pour cette vieille mémé qu'on a refusé de mettre à l'asile malgré l'appartement de Beyrouth trop étroit, et que son fils continue d'embrasser chaque soir,
 
Pour cette femme voilée qui fait, au mois de mai, le pèlerinage de Harissa,

Pour le jeune policier du carrefour qui fait semblant de rêver quand on traverse un feu orange,

Pour le « Ya hala » claironnant du steward qui nous accueille sur l'avion de Beyrouth,

Pour cet automobiliste souriant en trois pièces cravate qui, un soir de Nouvel An très pluvieux, vous change votre pneu, sans vous rien demander

Pour ce soleil lumineux de janvier qui nous fait douter que la tempête terrifiante de tout à l'heure ait vraiment eu lieu,

Pour la voix si triste de Feyrouz qui réveille en nous une âme enfouie de villageoise d'opérette,

Pour l'odeur de la « mankouché » du matin  qui est bien plus qu'une galette au thym, comme la traduit  bêtement le dictionnaire,

Pour ces cerises de juin si  noires qu'elles colorent de violet les langues des enfants,

Pour la maison d'en haut qu'on fait plus belle que l'autre, parce que c'est là qu'au soir de notre mort, on accueillera les gens du village,

Pour les soirs de juin sur la terrasse, pour la vigne de septembre qui finit par nous offrir une grappe, pour les gardénias de mai,

Pour l'odeur mouillée de la terre après la première pluie,

Pour ne pas avoir froid, pour ne pas avoir peur, pour ne pas vivre seul, pour...

Pour tout cela .....  Restez au Liban!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006