Thursday, September 28, 2006

Final Report, the Eleventh from Lebanon: Interview with Hajje Rima Facky

September 27, 2006
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 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 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 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 the Hisb 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 womem. 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. Know what we say and what is our reality in Lebanon. Work to expose the government and leadership in the USA, expose their ties with Zinists here. I do not understand how the American people allow their money, the money of the people, to be used to kill 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 republicants, 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. Nasralah 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 Israelies are killing women and children and all people and demolishing homes.

I asked if Hisbullah will attempt to Liberate those Lebanese villages that were occupied in 1948. 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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Final Report, the Eleventh from Lebanon: Interview with Hajje Rima Facky

September 27, 2006
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 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 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 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 the Hisb 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 womem. 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. Know what we say and what is our reality in Lebanon. Work to expose the government and leadership in the USA, expose their ties with Zinists here. I do not understand how the American people allow their money, the money of the people, to be used to kill 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 republicants, 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. Nasralah 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 Israelies are killing women and children and all people and demolishing homes.

I asked if Hisbullah will attempt to Liberate those Lebanese villages that were occupied in 1948. 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

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Report Number Ten from Lebanon: Nearing the end of our trip

September 24, 2006

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 though 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 Vd 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 reminded us as a preliminary 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 messagtes 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 Hibullah 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 Number Six to come]

Report Number Seven from Lebanon

September 24, 2006
Samia A. Halaby

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 and I remember her saying that she goes home at 3:00. 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…dust as fine as talcum powder.

In Jenine, 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.

In the old town, the structural facts 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 kooled, tossed askew against remains of walls.

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 it was on the incline of a mountain. The ceiling was low and they warned me not to strike my head. They said everyone stuck 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.

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 for us to 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 dirver stopped and asked someone who ran off o 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. Arround the graves were families with children siting 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 he building were place large cards holding the name of each one of the victims. Some had photographs of the victims in the beauty of living. 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.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Report Number Eight from Lebanon: The Divine Victory

Sept. 22, 2006

On the way back from the south of Lebanon on Sept. 21, we watched groups of people walking north to attend the great victory celebration planned for the following day. By noon the next day, large crowds of people were already gathered at the site of the big celebration. By three, 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.

I noticed that everyone in Lebanon was talking about the sectarian divisions but Nasrallah reminded them that there were no sectarian divisions 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 that is not Hisbullah.

He also declared that they 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 there is a safe and defensible Lebanon at a future time, Hisbullah’s weapons would naturally be 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. Pride and optimism were clearly the message he wanted to communicate

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 but also congratulating the people, their dignity, and their will to resist. Beirutis were to their vast majority in support of the victory celebration. But everyone in Lebanon has the quality of making things work regardless of what. Little problems and little knots dissolve in the general willingness to grease the motion of life, to make a bit of livelihood, to respect other, to laugh a little. If the Palestinian trait is stubbornness, then the Lebanese trait is clearing the little problems.

Report Number Nine from Lebanon: A swim at the beach

Sept. 23, 2006

We arrived at the beach, one that is built out of cement balconies of many levels over rock next to the famous Rauche. On the cement slabs were many spots of oil, some large 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 their hundreds had had to be replaced. They were all new. Red floating rectangular volumes of plastic were tinted with oil. The chain of floats marking 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 seawater, and they lounged under 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.

I recognized the location of this beach from my own childhood when I was first there as a refugee from Palestine between 1948 and 1951. At the inlet we used to swim in, 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 to the many taxi drivers with whom I went going here and there to my many appointments. The taxi drivers of Beirut on this day, Sept. 23, the day after the victory celebration and the first day of Ramadan, were all lit-up with hope and joy… their 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 unlike.

Nasrallah animated these men unlike anything else. His goodwill 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. 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 Five from Lebanon

September 22, 2006
Samia A. Halaby

Today we decided to use the public taxi called service to get to the southern village in the surrounds of Nabatiyye where we were schuled 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 résistance 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 did not reply, he published some of his finding on his own. This brought a huge negative and angry response from the 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.

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 in 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 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 Netherland, 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 on 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.

A new delegation came and we went outside with Dr Qubeisi to meet them thinking of the importance of an expanded meeting. It turns 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. 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 police. The 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 stood in the 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 pass. So we sought another taxi going in our original direction all to no avail. Of course it all seems bleak as we stand 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 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.

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 where they fixed breakfast, bathed, changed clothes, and cooked lunch. 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 though 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 in.

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 in the 70 and about 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 themselves and that they must 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 may live in dignity and good health. He said that they considered how the Palestinians lived in their refugee camps, and that 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 intelligence services had completely penetrated them and there was a successful divide and rule principle used against them. He was persuaded that most Arab government 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.

Monday, September 18, 2006

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

Samia A. Halaby
Sept. 18, 2006

On Sept. 15 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 the term jihad--the name ascribed to Muslim service to the community. It 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, and it is amazing. The energy and enthusiasm with which work is going on to rebuild the damage created by Israeli delivered, U.S.-made weapons is amazing. The effort is historic--rapid, vigorous, optimistic.

The jihad of evacuation of disaster areas was 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. 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.

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 racist practices and the apartheid of Zionism, the destruction of nations, the assassination of leaders, the theft of resources. "Self-defense" is the hostile killing of civilians on neighboring lands, the bombardment and destruction of a neighbor’s land. "Freedom" is the kidnapping of others, 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 commitment, and its influence with those who have no influence grows.

Report Number Three from Lebanon: Occupied Palestine 48

Sept. 18, 2006

As we approached the southern border and were only yards away from the many Israeli posts where invisible Zionist soldiers could and did spy 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 the 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 Lebanon, crawling always with its movable borders and its 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.

Hizbullah works against sectarian division within Lebanon, a divisionism promoted both on the diplomatic and military fronts. On the political front the U.S. does its utmost to make arrangements with some sects, and leave out others. On the military front, the Israeli selective targeting of U.S.-made weapons is obvious even to a donkey. Hizbullah country was hit while non-Hisbullah areas were left unharmed, even while the infrastructure was attacked in all places.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Report Number 2 from Lebanon: ATTACK AND DEFENSE or WAR

Sept. 17, 2006
Samia A. Halaby

We visited the hospital at Bint Jbeil 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 theatre.

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 Sour (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 of fighting between defenders of the south and the attacking Israelis, and one a large-scale attack on the civilians of Lebanon, who were represented and defended by Hisbullah.

We have been told by environmental expert and 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 10 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 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 supports 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 D.C. 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 U.S. missiles and bombs; because, finally, in spite of all the crowding of poverty, they have an ocean view.
Report Number One from Lebanon: Flowers in Bint Jbeil

Sept. 17, 2006
Samia A. Halaby

In the south of Lebanon, a popular revolution is taking place, and its chosen leadership is Hisbullah. In speaking with people, 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, an assertion of sumoud (persistence), bubbling open.

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 of 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 with beautiful scarves, folded and stacked, or hanging from their corners in bunches, waving in the air. On either side of the shop was 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 a flower of resistance; of courage; of determination; this is sumoud; 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 Aaitaroun, where our friend from the scarf store met us excitedly to tell us more about what they 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 Aaitaroun. 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 a wonderful memento. But the experience of revolutionary sumoud remains, and its international nature is clear. Our friend of the scarf store 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.

Another 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 the United States and who refused to take them over to the U.S. so that they would be safe.

But I noticed that each and every one of the people we talked to wore 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.

Monday, September 11, 2006



Report from Lebanon: Day 1

LeiLani Dowell

We arrived in Beirut, Lebanon today after flying into Amman, Jordan yesterday--where the first signs as we walked into the terminal in Amman were those of greeters waiting to receive people off our flight from DynCorp and Black Water--the same mercenary corporations that the rich hired in New Orleans to protect their property after Katrina. These free-lance mercenaries were most likely headed to Iraq.

Today, we went to the neighborhood of Haret el Hreik in South Beirut, a large Shiite community, where Hezbollah has strong support and Hezbollah television station Al Manar was housed. Israel razed the station in their first days of bombing, as well as most of the neighborhood of seven or eight story apartment buildings, to the ground. Huge craters were all that remain of many buildings--craters created not by the excavation of the debris, but by the magnitude and force of the bombs dropped.

The woman we are staying with told us that Israeli planes dropped flyers telling the people to flee their homes before the bombing began. When we asked her whether she had copies of the flyer, she said no--like others, she was too afraid to leave the house because Israel was randomly targeting people on the street.

Under a rain of thousands of bombs targeting hundreds of buildings, people fled the neighborhood. Today we could see men, women and children returning to the area to sort through the rubble for anything they could find that remained of their homes. The destruction is devastating in a way that I can't even put into words.

And yet the work of cleaning out the debris -- a monumental task -- has already been undertaken by Hezbollah. The resistance movement has crews in the area, loading debris onto trucks and cleaning out shattered apartments. We watched several workers carefully removing furniture from an apartment on the fifth floor of a ruined building, as a service to the family that resided there. And with all this work going on, workers today had hosed down a large area and were setting up plastic lawn chairs and speakers for a religious event they were having tonight--we were told that Hezbollah organized it so that the neighborhood could feel like it was getting back to its life.

On our way, we passed one of the many highway overpasses that had been bombed during the Israeli assault. While traffic was definitely slower because of the damage, what we noticed was that the area beneath the break had already been cleaned, and people were sitting around it leisurely, even selling their wares to cars that passed by. The images of a trip I took to New Orleans after Katrina came to my mind over and over today--where, in the same amount of time, nothing had been done to restore the area for the people who lived there; and where, I know, one year later, little-to-nothing has been done.

We were able to talk to some of the workers and neighborhood residents. What struck me the most about our conversations is that every single person told us, "The Lebanese people are not against the people of the United States. We know the difference between the people of the U.S. and its government, and it is its terrorist government that we are against." There was a clear understanding that this most recent attack of Israel on Lebanon was sanctioned and funded by the U.S.

Hezbollah has adopted the slogan "The Divine Victory," and beautiful signs can be seen throughout Beirut with this message in English and Arabic--some emblazoned with pictures of katuschkas, some of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Other billboards emphasized the overwhelming civilian toll with pictures of wounded children and the Israeli term that they only struck, "extremely precise targets." On top of the ruins of bombed out apartments and other buildings, signs read "Made in U.S.A." and "The New Middle Beast." It appears that the "Divine Victory" slogan serves not only as a reminder of the great triumph that the Lebanese resistance movement has just won; but also as motivation for the ongoing struggle, the struggle against imperialism that the resistance movement here is confident will be won.

Tony Blair was in Beirut today, and protests were scheduled. There is also a demonstration being called to mark the anniversary of the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, here in Beirut, on Friday. Stay posted.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Video excerpts from the initial session of the Campaign for Accountability are now available online at YouTube:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New York meeting scores U.S.-Israeli war crimes

By Deirdre Griswold
New York


Sep 5, 2006 11:24 PM

It isn’t easy to construct a protest meeting about the recent U.S.-Israeli assault on Lebanon that provides details on the enormity of the aggression against that small Arab country and at the same time fills in the historical context so anyone can under stand what happened and why.

Such a meeting could easily take an entire weekend and be called a “teach-in.”

Yet on the single evening of Aug. 30, the International Action Center hosted a variety of speakers at a meeting hall across from the United Nations. Their crisp and focused remarks went right to the heart of why both the Zionist regime and the U.S. government—the world imperialist power that has bankrolled and armed Israel since 1948—should be in the dock for war crimes.

The meeting didn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be. As the overflow crowd listened intently and applauded strong statements of support for the anti-colonial resistance in the Middle East, a Zionist group demonstrated outside. Neverthe less, every seat was filled. Scores more stood in the back and along the sides.

The audience was thoroughly multinational, with Black, white and Latin@ North Americans, including people of Jew ish background, as well as Palestinians, Leb anese, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and others from the Middle East and South Asia. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations was also in attendance.

A picture is worth a thousand words. The terrible destruction meted out by Israeli bombs and missiles to towns and cities in Lebanon was presented in still shots, as Leila Hamidi of Arab Women Active in Arts & Media and Ahmed Eid of Al-Awda: Palestine Right to Return Coalition gave eyewitness testimony.

Background of war

Much history was covered in the first section of the program: the role of British imperialism in promoting a Zionist state in the Middle East that would collaborate with the European colonialists against the Arab masses; the myths propagated by both Zionists and imperialists that denied Palestinian history in order to seize the land for a racist settler state; the imperialist powers’ carving up of the Middle East’s oil during World War I; and the many wars carried out by Israel against the Palestinians and their neighbors.

The youthfulness of the presenters was quite remarkable. None had been born when Israel invaded Egypt in 1956. Only one was an eyewitness to the 1967 war when Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Some may have been young children when Israel again fought Egypt and Syria in 1973, or when it occupied Lebanon in 1982 and allowed the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Nevertheless, these presentations were strong and factual.

LeiLani Dowell of the youth group FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together—and Fatin Jarara of Al-Awda co-chaired with feeling and efficiency.

Dustin Langley of We Won’t Go addressed the continuity of U.S. imperialist policy in the Middle East, from Truman’s active role in setting up Israel to the Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957 to Bush’s doctrine of intervention today.

Charlotte Kates of New Jersey Solidarity/ Activists for the Liberation of Palestine challenged the legitimacy of a racist settler state in historic Palestine and pointed to the unbreakable struggle of the Palestin ians to be free.

Alex Majumder of LeftShift.org discus sed two important documents: the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916 and the Balfour Decla ration of 1917. These codified the British imperialists’ aims to exploit the Middle East after World War I and control both its rich oil resources and a passage to Britain’s South Asian colonies.

Wael Mousfar of the Arab Muslim Ameri can Federation was the only speaker old enough to have witnessed the 1967 war. He criticized Arab regimes—Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—that had collaborated with the Zionists and the United States. He pointed out how at that time the Jordanian army had withdrawn its troops from the West Bank, allowing Israel to walk in and take over. The only fighting was on the Syrian front, he said. The resistance in Lebanon this time, however, shows that “the future is with the people.”

Media distortions

The next section focused on the U.S. media. Anita Rosenthwite of the IAC summarized the enormous human rights abuses committed by Israel and asked: “Why don’t the corporate media ever call Israel war criminals? ... Like the Iraqi resistance, we must not be shocked and awed.”

Arturo J. Pérez Saad of Workers World newspaper traced the connections among huge U.S. media conglomerates and the biggest military corporations in the world. General Electric, for example, owns NBC, CNBC, Telemundo, Bravo and msnbc. com. It also builds jet engines for the military and nuclear reactors.

In a videotaped interview, British Member of Parliament George Galloway, a boldly outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, talked about the political role of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire.

Trishala Deb of the Audre Lorde Pro ject, a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit, transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, topped off this section of the program. She debunked as “hypocrisy and deception” the argument that somehow U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan would “liberate” women and lesbian and gay people there. “The most dangerous fundamentalist forces are those driving the ‘war on terror,’” she said.

Undeniable war crimes

The subject of U.S. and Israeli violations of international law was briskly but thoroughly covered by the next group of speakers.

Armed conflict, according to the UN Charter, is only justified in self-defense. If not, “then everything that follows is a war crime,” pointed out attorney Abdeen Jabara of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Israel has been allowed to get away with countless war crimes by its patron, the United States.

Attorney Julie Fry reminded the audience that collective punishment is a war crime. But Israel tried to punish the entire Lebanese people by attacking water supplies, power plants, roads and bridges, and forced over one-quarter of the population to flee their homes.

Mia Cruz of FIST then introduced a graphic slide show from Lebanon showing the scope of the death and destruction there.

Walter Williams of PeopleJudgeBush. org reminded people that cluster bombs and white phosphorus—used by the Israeli army in Lebanon—are aimed at civilians and hence illegal.

A former Israeli soldier, Michael Kramer, talked about Golan, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. When Kramer was stationed there in 1973, the Arab population had shrunk from 147,000 to 6,000. Now the area has 18,000 Zionist settlers, in violation of many UN resolutions demanding its return to Syria.

Karina Mellos-Schecter of FIST descri bed the illegal Israeli wall that runs for 408 miles, snaking through Pales tinian villages and farms and separating the people from their jobs, land and schools.

Noel Winkler of Al-Awda explained how U.S. “anti-terrorism” laws have devastating economic effects on the people of Palestine.

There were oohs of disbelief as Emelyn Tapaoan and Carol Holland of the IAC ran back and forth unrolling a voluminous scroll of paper until it crisscrossed the meeting hall many times. It was made of hundreds of UN resolutions, taped end to end, that had censured and condemned Israel but never been enforced.

Maria LaHood of the Center for Constitutional Rights addressed the 1996 Israeli attack on the UN refugee compound in Qana, Lebanon. After over 100 were killed by shells designed to explode in the air, maximizing civilian casualties, Israel said it had been a “mistake.”

U.S. accountability

The final section of the program dealt with U.S. accountability for Israel’s criminal acts. Reviewing the many UN resolutions on Israel that were disregarded, and the one that the United States used to launch its first war on Iraq in 1990, Samia Halaby of the Defend Palestine Com mittee concluded that “the UN provides a cover for U.S. imperialism.”

Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against the War detailed U.S. aid to Israel—which has amounted to $90 billion since 1948. This includes helicopters, jet planes, missiles, armored personnel carriers, and collaboration on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. Letwin decried the investment of union funds in Israeli bonds and pointed out that U.S. union leaders critical of the war and of Israel have been targeted and removed.

As always, Ramsey Clark received a standing ovation when he spoke. The former U.S. attorney general struck a somber tone, warning, “What makes the current situation so dangerous is that they [the Bush administration] see the current of history running against them.”

He characterized the attack on Lebanon as “a naked war of aggression with no possible justification—the supreme international crime.” Remarking on the effectiveness of the Lebanese resistance movement, he said wryly that “if Bush were serious about rebuilding New Orleans, he’d invite Hezbollah to do it.”

Clark urged the U.S. movement to act to prevent the very real possibility that Bush may use military force next “against Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela or Cuba.”

Sara Flounders of the IAC unveiled an ambitious plan to get more material—books, pamphlets, packets and online sites —into the hands of students, workers and the general public as part of a broad campaign against war crimes. She invited the audience to participate and support the project.

The hour was late but the hall remained full.

Ardeshir Ommani of Stop War on Iran Campaign detailed U.S. crimes against the Iranian people. He rejected Bush’s lying slogans of “Islamo-fascists” and an “axis of evil.” Dean Bardouka of Al-Awda descri bed the hardships confronting Palestin ians. Bill Doares of NYCLAW labeled Israel a “tool of corporate power” intended to prevent the emergence of an independent Arab nation.

The people’s resistance was the final topic.

Joyce Chediac of Workers World newspaper described how Hezbollah was built in the 1990s “by the Lebanese people’s struggle to evict Israel,” and contrasted its vigorous reconstruction of Lebanon to the crisis still facing Black people from New Orleans. Imani Henry noted the diversity of groups standing together and defending the right of the peoples of the Middle East to resist attack. Ahmed Eid of Al-Awda conveyed what it was like to grow up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.

Remi Kanazi’s recitation of a poem on Palestine brought many to tears.

The meeting was a strong affirmation that international solidarity can leap many barriers in the people’s struggle against imperialism and war.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Will U.S.-Israel honor cease-fire?

Lebanese unity behind victory

Published Aug 16, 2006 10:24 PM

In every conflict, morale is a material factor. Often it is the decisive factor.

Now that a cease-fire has gone into effect—on Aug. 14—after Israel’s brutal 30-day bombing and invasion of Lebanon, it is clear that Lebanon has emerged more united than at any time in its history. Hezbollah has a new standing and wide popularity all over the country.

The entire war, in which Israel had full U.S. support, was based on arrogant assumptions of technological superiority and a political miscalculation that the bombing of whole towns, reservoirs, fuel storage depots, roads, ports, bridges and hospitals would divide the Lebanese people and force Hezbollah to disarm.

Instead, the ruthless attack united the population as nothing else has in Lebanon’s long history. It is Israel that has emerged divided, consumed by infighting and purges, with its reputation as an invincible military machine shattered before the whole world.

The U.S. and Israel wanted to teach the Lebanese people a lesson through “shock and awe.” The people organized, mobilized and learned through their own experience a very different lesson.

The struggle is far from over.

Cease-fire resolution

The most important point to know regarding the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution on Lebanon is that Israel has never abided by any UN resolutions or been restrained by UN forces stationed for 58 years along its borders.

Just hours before the cease-fire was to go into effect, Israel used more than 50 helicopters to ferry hundreds of commandos into Lebanon in the largest Israeli military operation since the October 1973 war. Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel’s military chief of staff, had already said on Aug. 12 that he had tripled the number of his troops in Lebanon to 30,000. (New York Times, Aug. 13) Halutz said he expected the fighting to continue despite the cease-fire resolution.

The heaviest attack on Beirut since the war began came on the last day. Israeli bombers struck repeatedly at the working class Haret Hreik neighborhood in south Beirut. A hospital in Tyre was bombed repeatedly and fire brigades were unable to reach it. They struck in the Bekaa Valley and hit a power plant near Sidon.

A convoy of 500 vehicles of fleeing Christian Lebanese civilians, led by soldiers of the Lebanese army who had announced their plans to the Israeli forces, were targeted north of Merj’ Uyun.

After signing the UN cease-fire resolution, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, head of the ground forces branch of the Israeli army, told reporters that the-cease fire was not a cessation of Israeli army activity in the Lebanon arena. According to an Aug. 13 Reuters news report, Israeli officials said operations that were “defensive” in nature were permissible. Of course, Israel asserts that all its military actions are defensive.

U.S. and other Western diplomats asserted that they would not object to “mopping up” operations to “clear out” Hezbollah fighters.

Setbacks breed divisions in Israel

Israeli political, military and intelligence forces are in the midst of a deadly struggle to apportion blame for their fiasco in Lebanon. Although this war was more highly planned than any other offensive in Israel’s history, the military was completely unprepared and untrained for what it encountered.

Israeli miscalculation, like the U.S. underestimation of the Iraqi resistance, was based on imperial arrogance. The Israeli military had functioned as a colonial police force for years against an unarmed Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israeli onslaught was intended to divide Lebanon and reignite civil war. The failure of U.S./Israeli plans is pulling Israel apart politically. The media there is full of attacks on military leaders and politicians, demands for wholesale resignations, inquiries, investigations and charges. A vicious debate on failures in training, preparations, analysis and intelligence has emerged. The attacks and counter attacks are the best indication that the war has not gone well.

The military had promised that the entire war could be accomplished in a week or two, largely with air power.

In Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, columnist Nahun Barnea wrote: “We did not win. … Israel comes to the cease-fire announcement bruised, conflicted and disturbed.”

Channel 2 of Israeli television reported on Aug. 11 that several of the most senior military officials wrote a letter to chief of staff Halutz complaining that “the war plans were in chaos.”

An article by Uri Avnery, a journalist and writer with the liberal Zionist peace group Gush Shalom, has been circulating widely on the group’s Internet site. Entitled “What the hell has happened to the army?” it says Israeli officers were completely unaware of the defense system built by Hezbollah—the complex infrastructure of hidden bunkers with stockpiles of food, equipment and weapons.

Avnery makes the point, “If a lightweight boxer is fighting a heavyweight champion and is still standing in the 12th round, the victory is his—whatever the count of points says.”

In summing up the reason for Israel’s failure, Avnery makes the point that “the common denominator of all the failures is the disdain for Arabs, a contempt that has dire consequences. It has caused a total misunderstanding; a kind of blindness of Hezbollah’s motives, attitudes, standing in Lebanese society, etc. ... Even a strong army cannot defeat a guerrilla organization, because the guerrilla is a political phenomenon.”

The strongest attacks within Israel are coming from right-wing politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party and the far-right forces of Avigdor Lieber man. They are pushing for a wider war and no removal of the thousands of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

All the Zionist forces—the hardcore right-wing, the centrists and the liberals—fear that the real damage from the war is that it has endangered their strategic relationship with U.S. imperialism as its attack dog in the region. This is the source of millions of dollars in U.S. military, economic and technical aid, investments and credits that flood into Israel on a daily basis and sustain an artificial economy.

Almost every article and attack in the Israeli media points out that the Israeli military was given time, support, equipment and diplomatic coverage to destroy Hezbollah and failed in its assignment. Itamar Rabinovich, a former ambassador to Washington, said, “Part of the reckoning will be our reputation as a strategic partner, when we tell the Americans, ‘Give us the tools and we’ll do the job.’”

Llamas in Lebanon

The Israeli media has been full of stories of bad planning, shortages and soldiers’ complaints of lack of food, water and equipment. Exhausted soldiers had to be rotated out every three days because the scale of Hezbollah attacks made it impossible to erect barracks, showers, field kitchens or command centers.

According to the Aug. 12 Washington Post, the Israeli military “was having so much trouble moving supplies over the rough terrain that it experimented with using llamas as pack animals. The experiment failed when an entire train of llamas sat down on the job, forcing the military to abort an expedition.”

The 60-ton Merkava tank is considered the world’s most advanced and the most able to provide protection for ground troops. It is the pride of the Israeli army. With deadly efficiency, Hezbollah fighters destroyed more than 20 tanks with anti-tank weapons. They also downed an Israeli air force helicopter with a new missile called the Wa’ad—Arabic for “promise.” And early on they destroyed one of Israel’s most important high-tech ships. Hezbol lah claims to have hit three Israeli ships.

One of the few journalists permitted to accompany Israeli forces into Lebanon was Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli political commentator. He reported in embarrassing detail the misfortunes of the unit he accompanied and made an analogy that will be recognized worldwide. “The battle between the IDF and Hezbollah is reminiscent of the famous Tom and Jerry cartoons. … Tom is a strong ambitious cat. Jerry is a weak but clever mouse. Jerry teases Tom. Tom fights back. In every conflict between them, Jerry wins.”

Barnea’s advice to Prime Minister Olmert is: “There is no sense in investing in a lost cause. Adding more ground forces to those already stuck in Lebanon will not bring about the hoped-for turnabout in the Lebanese gamble. With American support, Israel still has a chance of getting out of this war with decent accomplishments. Take what they are offering you, Ehud Olmert. Take it and run.”

Rebuilding Lebanon

One day after the cease-fire began, Hezbollah’s extensive social services system shifted from a war footing to the huge task of rebuilding. The leader of Hezbol lah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, promised that “the brothers, who are your brothers,” will take on the reconstruction.

The instructions to the whole population are clear. Each family should fill out a claim form listing address, size of house, scale of damage and furniture lost. Immediate payments will be distributed. Nasrallah promised to pay a year’s rent for those with destroyed homes, saying Aug. 14 that “we can’t wait for the government.”

Hezbollah’s immediate promise to aid in the rebuilding—along with widespread confidence that the resistance won a victory over Israel—is shaping a determined and united mood across Lebanon.

For more than two decades, Hezbollah’s social networks provided needed services, especially to Lebanon’s poor Shia population, that the weak, divided government could not fulfill. Before the Israeli attack, Hezbollah already ran a whole series of hospitals, clinics, schools and social centers.

When the Israeli bombing began, Hezbollah social services responded when the government could not. They provided the ambulances and the scores of searchers who pulled people from the rubble. They helped organize the placing of tens of thousands of refugees in schools, public parks and private homes. (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 16)

In Beirut alone, Hezbollah organized 10 mobile medical teams that cared for 14 schools each, in two-day rotations. This aid helped 48,000 people; another 70,000 were treated in houses by other professionals.

In a Hezbollah kitchen near downtown Beirut, volunteers worked shifts over vats of rice and stew to provide 8,000 hot meals a day—part of a 50,000 daily total they distributed across Beirut.

It is this mobilization of the whole population that made it possible for those fighting at the front to have the will and the means to successfully resist an all-out attack that both Israel and the U.S. had thought would be irresistible.