Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Our people

These images hail from reuters and AP and other sources. They need to be seen. Some of them may be distressing. These are Lebanese people, innocent people in Tyre, Beirut, the country. I can tell you that from here all Lebanese people are united against Israel.


Blogger Lilu said...

So, is this what we have come to?

I am an israeli, long time subscriber of Time Out Tel Aviv.
I've learned of this blog from this week's issue, which I recieved by email, and it includes (I imagine you know) an article written by you, Ramsay, documenting the past few days in Beirut.

I read your comments about Israel, and your description of Beirut, as well as your commentary of us on this blog. All this deepens my sadness of this situation so much more, because I really think I would've expected better of a man like you.

You've met israelis (Time Out Tel Aviv editors was it not?). Your description of Beirut is my description of Tel Aviv. The stories of your crew, now documenting the damage and pain, mirror the stories of too many friends of mine from the north of Israel. The pictures on this post - we have the same pictures from here - Tiberias, Naharia, Carmiel, Kiryat Shmona.

By the way, I am a design student. I have friends studying the same in Haifa, a big bustling port city with great nightlife - or so it used to be. It is now being bombed every day. The people are not in the streets, they have either fled further south or are locked up in the shelters. Today two children in Nazareth have been killed by rockets - they were 3 and 7 years old. Israeli Arabs, by the way, not that it matters, because the blood of innocent children is the same everywhere. And do you know there are two young men missing somewhere in your country, one of them a newlywed, hijacked probably never to be seen again? they were not attacking anyone. They were on border patrol.

In your article you ask why we do not go out in the streets and demonstrate? those of us who have yet to be targeted, are busy trying to help our friends and family, refugees from the north, and waiting to see when the attacks reach us. We are concentrating on supporting our injured, innocent brothers and sisters. And we wait, losing sleep at night, waiting to hear a siren.

We are not your enemies, and we do not see you as such. There is one real enemy, yours and ours. We are sad for your victims as well as for ours, and we have no wish to go back 20 years, we have all suffered enough from that time. But what WILL take us back 20 years is the hate and misunderstanding, such as I am hearing in your own words. Are you really all united against all of us?

You are victims. So are we. We are the same, don't you know this by now? if we are to demonstrate and protest, why aren't you doing the same? why are you letting a whole part of your country be controlled by a pack of bullies, directed by the very Syrians you thought you had driven out, officially deemed as terrorists by the U.N.? why are they controlling your southern borders instead of your own country's army?

I've always thought of the Lebanese as a people who could be great friends of ours. So similiar to us in so many ways. All of us just wanting to enjoy our lives in peace, have fun, go out, experience everything. I saw the uprising against Syria, and I was proud, I saw your strength - standing up for yourself, for your independance. So where has that gone now?

I thought of explaining the Israeli actions, our side. But then I think, we aren't children, and that's not what's important. We should not be regressing to taking sides, to hating. We should be collaborating and ending the violence once and for all, standing up together to those responsible for this situation. Widening the gap between us is what they want. It's not what we want. Don't let them get what they want.

10:05 PM  
Blogger naji said...

i want to comment on lilus comment but dont know where to begin. i cant even begin because the issues here and my feelings about them are bigger than anything i could possibly say with any articulacy. but i ask you this: if you dont see us as your enemies then why are you killing us? you have destroyed more than a PART of our country-- you have no idea what you have done. i know and ram knows that there are good and bad alike in every country. that israelis hurt and die and wish and hope just as we do...but the fact remains that "israel" maintains a military occupation in the land next to ours and "israel" is now bombing our PEOPLE, not hezbollah ; today your army hit a VERY christian beirut neighborhood. i dont think hassan nasrallah was there, do you? the world knows of your suffering and your peoples suffering. it is never forgotten, never goes unmentioned. all we are trying to do is let people know that we suffer too, DEEPLy. historically, the arabs were not the ones who hurt you. you lived amongst us as equal citizens. all we ask is for the same humane treatment. it is mind boggling that you still cannot understand that.
love you ramram

2:11 AM  
Blogger Lilu said...

but I could ask you the same questions, naji, you see...?
"why are you killing us if you do not see us as enemies..."
But in both cases the quetion would be in the wrong place - because you and I aren't parties in this fight, we are just the ones paying the price for it.

I am sad to hear you think I (we) don't understand that you are suffering deeply, because we all know, we really do, and we want it to end. We know what it's like, actually. I'm not talking about the holocaust, by the way, though it seems you were refering to it, I always think that using that as an explanation for action is an excuse and a disrespect - we are here now, not 60 years ago. But we know what cities being bombed by rockets are like, now as well as many years before, and we know what death and destruction in the midst of our cities and every day life is (though I wasn't going to link the intifadah to what's happening now, to me these are different battles though Hizaballah sees otherwise). We live this every day, to us this is the routine.

It really pains me to see what great miscommunication and misunderstanding there is between our people. It's just a really damn shame because I think it damages us almost as much as the bombs themselves.

So here's my attempt at dissipating some of the misinformation...
You have to understand, we are not targeting the Lebanese. We did not plan this, we didn't want it. I say this to you as your average young israeli student, living in Tel Aviv, who served in the army. The israeli army? it is me and my friends, people like us. So I know exactly what we think and want, and you must believe me, this isn't it. You have to know that we didn't start this, right? you have to try and think logically for a second. You do know that if Hizballah hadn't attacked, nothing would've happened, right? I promise you that. Believe me we have enough problems to deal with, we don't need any more. We had no wish to get into Lebanon. We had no plan for it. We didn't just come in one day, we were pulled in. And we are just trying to make it all stop, but once and for all. After years and years of taking hits, constantly, of losing friends and family, there comes a point when you have to say - enough. Enough taking it quietly. We can't take it anymore, so we try to do what we can to defend ourselves. Is it working or not, well that's another debate, but it is all we mean. You tell me, naji, do you think we should have just let the terrorism go on? let our two kidnapped soldiers disappear forever? let our northern villages be bombed without reason? let Hizballah come in? surely, after your own Cedar Revolution, you must understand the point of getting up and acting when you can't take it anymore. Of having no choice but to do something.

You ask about the bombing of the christian neighbourhood. Well, you don't think Nasrallah was there - I actually think maybe he was. So did our army. Honestly. There is so much that goes on that you are not aware of, even there in Beirut, on the next block. Don't you know Hizaballah? they are dominating a big part of your country, don't you know what they are like? they know how to hide in all sorts of places, and one of the best places to hide when under attack is in an urban environment, with civilians around to be a human shield. Don't you see this is what they are doing? this is what they have done from the start? it seems to me they are blinding you, but they are after all very clever, I would'nt expect less of them. Do you really not see they knew this is what would happen? think about it - to Hizballah we are the enemy. They know us. Do you really think they didn't know that provoking us this way would bring on a response? of course they did. They knew damn well we wouldn't just sit quietly by. They probably had a good idea we would try to find them in Beirut. They knew all this, and they made it happen. So do you think they care much about your lives? thay have made you their human shields, they have planned it... you think Israel is doing the bombing, not Hizballah - well, that's just the thing. Hizballah is bombing your people, it's just they are using the Israeli jets and bombs to do it. Tell me, did they ask for your permission before putting your lives on the line first? Is that ok with you?

I am happy at only one thing. No matter what we each think, we are having this dialog here and now. This is just one small conversation, but I wish for many more dialogs like this, across the border, from as many people as possible.. I think it's the only way to get understanding and peace. Maybe one day we could have these talks face to face over a beer in Beirut or Tel Aviv, I would like that (we all would). I hope you agree.

Thank you anyway, for the reply. Be safe.

12:11 PM  
Blogger lens said...

lilu, forgive this for sounding like an attack, but your naivete astounds me, boggles my mind, blows my eardrums out.

Lest you forget, this is not the first time Israel destroys half of Lebanon in its delusional quest to "weed out terrorists". Israel CREATED Hezbollah after its carnage of 1982. Israel FUNDED Hamas in its early days (and this is well documented, please look it up) in order to create an alternative to the frightening apparation of a secular Palstinian nationalist movement. You have become so blinded by the mention of the word terrorism that you can no longer see anything beyond.

While I do not belittle your country's experience of violence, let me assure you it does not begin to compare to the long list of havoc your country has wreaked:
displacement, massacres - Sabra and Shatila (your war hero, Sharon, is to us, and to most of the world, a war criminal) - Qana, billions upon billions of dollars of infrastructure damage, violation of airspace, illegal arrests, torture in Khiam prison and in Palestinian prisons, terrorization of an already traumatized country with sonic booms (and believe me, they are scary), dropping 500 kilo bombs on civilians, blocking ambulances from reaching hospitals, arresting peaceful protestors, grabbing land by building an illegal wall, breaking the west bank up into cantons by building illegal settlements, blockading Gaza, punishing democracy because it doesn't suit you, occupying South Lebanon for 24 years, destroying the ENTIRE INFRASTRUCTURE of a country that has only rebuilt itself in the last 15 years... do you want me to go on? Because I can.

I feel sorry for you and your friends, forced into military service, but you are all complicit in this madness, because you do not question your country's propaganda, you do not research the facts, you do not speak out except to parrot what you have learned. If any Israeli believes for one second that the Arabs hate them because they are Jews, that is dangerously, dangerously naive and simplistic. This is not about the two soldiers. You must know that. As a human being, I beseech you to research the facts, "the facts on the ground" as your government likes to say. Thank you for listening.

3:36 PM  
Blogger dobegs said...

I am delighted to see debate and conversation. this is encouraging and I wish we do a lot more of this on both sides. It will be really good if someone from Hizbullah also joins this discussion so they can see this excellent discussion and dealling with hurt and pain of everyday people who wants to have a good and respectful life.

Love, Dobegs

3:38 PM  
Blogger Lilu said...

dear lens, I think you're missing my point. I was really trying to avoid the usual pointless back and forth defensive arguments... talking about history and who did what to whom first, who has the right to do what, and so forth - to every statement of yours about israeli actions I can give the opposite, every conspiracy claim I can also counter, any mention of being blinded I can say the same of you. You have your reliable sources, so do I. You say propaganda, I say prapaganda. Let's call the whole thing off?
It isn't getting us anywhere is it. Each one of this can be endlessly convinced he knows better, and we are probably both wrong. This type of argument is all too familiar, no? has it ever solved anything?

The whole idea was talking about the here and now. About misunderstandings and misconceptions. About the regular people. Tossing accusations is what everyone has been doing around here for 60 years or so, seeing as we're all still in the same old mess I think I can safely conclude that's not a very productive way to go about. I was just trying to invoke a different type of dialog, for a change, for the very reason that the other types of dialog have never amounted to much so maybe this would. I just wanted to try and minimise the hatred that is growing, if only from one person to the other, because THAT isn't helping anyone. Bloodshed is still bloodshed, whether it is 1 innocent civilian or 100, it shouldn't happen. You need to find the source and root it out.
I was trying to let you know we are human beings, I'm not sure that you do. It is mostly ironic to me, by the way, that the way you speak and the things you say sound EXACTLY like words I hear from Israelis in various situations we get here.. It is amazing to see how much you and us are the same. We really are. For that reason, we should be able to understand each other. That's all I was getting at.

You're welcome, and thank you for listening and replying. Cheers to all participants of the discussion, here's to many more joining.

10:23 PM  
Blogger lens said...

Lilu, the fact that we are all human beings I do not dispute. Not in the least. We all deserve life - a dignified life.
But you cannot pretend as well that context is unimportant. What is happening now is not born out of thin air. The anger you see now, exploding so violently is because of years upon years of systematic mistreatment. You cannot deny that Israel has brutally chipped away at the dignity of the Palestinian people, herded them like chattel, tried to dismantle every hope they could ever have at nationhood.
Do you know why a two-state solution is no longer viable? Because of "facts on the ground". The West Bank is actually a collection of 38 different cantons, separated by illegal settlements, which will never be dismantled, where people from neighboring villages cannot move freely, where they spend hours at checkpoints to go a distance of 10 km. To say nothing of the Wall. And besides that, do you know what it's like to be a refugee all your life? To belong nowhere? To have no passport? Don't you think it causes great psychological trauma, in addtion to physical harm in the shape of repeated military incursions, medical care and aid being blocked? And South Lebanon, do you think the people were treated any better there? Khiam prison (and the village has incidentally been reduced to rubble in the last few days) is a notorious center of torture. If you can ever visit Lebanon, visit Khiam. Look at the crude instruments strapped to the wall, designed to seperate flesh from bone over the course of weeks, months. This is not propaganda. I have seen this with my own eyes, heard tales from the dead-eyed survivors.
Indeed, you don't have to go that far. Why do you think Israelis are not allowed into the West Bank? Is it for your safety? Because some Israelis do manage to visit, and they are unharmed - except psychologically, by the shock of the truth about what their own state has done.
That's why I tell you it's not about the two soldiers. As Arabs, many of us feel connected to one another by shared culture and language, as I'm sure Jewish people the world over feel connected to one another by shared heritage.
In Lebanon we have countless camps housing Palestinian refugees, refugees we've taken in from their destroyed homes, destroyed lands.
I'm not trying to paint Hezbollah as these selfless saviours. To be sure, they have their own ruthless political agenda. But the timing of their kidnapping is not coincidental - it came two weeks after Gaza was being blockaded, when the international community said nothing, nothing, as they are green-lighting the bombing of Lebanon now for one more week. To level a charge at Israel in the international community is to be branded an anti-semite. Well I'm not afraid of that. Because I too, am a semite.
And the kidnapping of the one soldier in Gaza actually came in response to the kidnapping of two Palestinians, a doctor and his brother, a fact that went unreported everywhere except in the Turkish press.
All I ask, Lilu, is that you try to see the truth for yourself. It's not far away. It's in your own back yard.
All this is is said not to excuse any casualties on your side - because there is no excuse for innocent lives being lost. I will not say "collateral damage", as the Israeli government has been calling the 350+ Lebanese civilians who have been killed in the last seven days. I will not see death in the form of the collective. But nor do I choose to see life from the position of the individual, to say, as long as me and mine are fine. If you do believe that we are one, that we are all human, that we are no different, make an effort to find out how all of these conflicts are connected. It's not easy to discover that your government has been lying to you. But maybe because I'm Lebanese, I'm used to it and I expect no better :)
I feel no patriotism towards my land in the form of government or flag, or national anthem. This is all bullshit. I feel a connection to my people - people who as we speak are getting ready to rip each other apart after this bombing raid ends, if it ends: those who say enough, we've suffered enough for the Palestinians, we have nothing to do with them, and those who say we haven't suffered a fraction of what our brothers and sisters the Palestinians have suffered.
If we have any hope to get through this conflict, we have to work together, as Arabs and Israelis, for the sake of common dignity. We cannot stand idly by while their dignity is being stripped from them, like flesh from bone.
Ok, I've rambled enough.
I'm glad to be having this conversation with you.

3:25 PM  
Blogger lens said...

I would like to add also that there are many people working in Israel hand in hand with Palestinian human rights organizations, because they have realized their common fate. I commend them all, because I think it takes an immense amount of courage to face up to one's entire society, to transcend nationality for the sake of the common human good.
If you can find the film Arna's Children, please do watch it. It's about (among other things) two Israelis (a mother and son) who start a theater group in the occupied territories.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Lilu said...

I know the film Arna's Children, mind boggling stuff.. amazing woman, her son too (very familiar with his work, he's a well known actor here).

I'm gonna try and give a short and summarized reply this time :)
I'm not denying that horrible things are happening to Palestinians and Lebanese, I'm well aware of it - it's just that we feel horrible things are happenning to us too. I'm not saying it as any sort of justification, just an explanation - in the same way you are giving your explanations. Nobody's perfect in this thing, not Israelis, Palestinians or Lebanese (I'm talking about leadership mainly, of course).. and there is not one party that holds sole responsibility for this mess, one that holds the solution. As for truth, each side has their own views, each side has its personal insight to different aspects (I don't know what your sources are, but I know some of mine are pretty damn reliable - horses' mouths and such). So regarding truths, all that you ask of me, I ask of you. Working together is a great idea, but it should be for everyone's dignity, there are victims on all sides.

You know, I think that in the end, though we hold different views of this thing, we actually agreed :) I wish everyone would do this instead of the fighting shite, might actually make some progress.
Im VERY glad to have this conversation with you, it's my only source of optimism these depressing days.

I feel as though I'm hijacking (no pun intended) Ramsay's blog though, I'm not sure this is what he was planning on, so I've opened a blog for the sole purpose of this type of talk. Would like to get the word out and get as much of this going as possible.. care to help? it'd be great to have the blog run by a mixed team.. in any case, all are invited to come and speak their minds:

3:37 AM  
Blogger udi said...

Lens, I feel I have so much to write to you that I’m speechless. I do know Israel part in creating Hezbollah – for the stupid idea to fight Amal. I also know we supported Hamas – for the stupid Idea to fight the PLO.
Sharon is not my war hero but rather the responsible for Lebanon war including Sabra and Shatila and many more. These and many other facts you mentioned are an historical fact about my country. Panta Rei said Heraclitos – the world is ever changing and in the year 2000 Israel fully withdrew from Lebanon (According to the UN) in part thanks to a movement of 4 naïve and brave Israeli mothers. I was really happy that day for the Lebanese and for us the Isrealis because it was an important moral step for all of us and a new spark for my dream to live in peace. From that day on Hezbollah every now and then is attacking our borders and our near border cities with Katyusha rockets. Last week after the rocket attacks on Israeli cities as a diversion for the killing of 8 Israeli soldier and kidnapping 2, I was so frustrated !!! We are not in Lebanon we do not want anything from you and it happens again and again. I really asked myself If I am the PM what should I do? Attacked ? Negotiate to return the 2 soldiers (and to invite the next episode). Lens I can only tell you that I really don’t know what I would do.
But all of that is not what I really want to write to you –I wanted to tell you that exactly as in the case of the 4 mothers movement I know that solution will not come from our governments It will come only from many people like you, Naji, Lilu and me.
Yes, each of us has his own narrative for our mutual sad history and these dialogs will help us to better understand each other. But this is not enough – we, now more than ever, must find a way to hold our hands together and make sure what happens now will never happen again!!! I don’t know how to do it but I know its up to us.

Million thanks for your words here.

4:48 AM  

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