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