Monday, July 31, 2006

Drying Up

It's now more apparent than ever: there is definitely an Israeli blockade on Lebanon. Nearly all gas stations in Beirut are closed and the very few remaining are rationing the fuel that is left in the country. According to government sources who spoke to Beirut Live, the rationing will keep Beirut supplied with fuel for a maximum of 20 days. However, some petrol station owners also disclosed that there is enough fuel for at least 8 days and at most 15 days.
The rationing is now limited to a range of 10,000LL-20,000LL per car, just enough to fill 1/4 of an Audi A3 fuel tank if the higher limit is taken into account.
Few options to resupply quickly are at hand. First, two Algerian fuel boats are offshore Lebanon waiting for a green light by Israel to enter Lebanese territorial water. However, it is doubtful Israel will give such a green light. Secondly, Syria stated that it will provide Lebanon with oil from its strategic reserve via land. However, not only would I doubt Israel will allow this to take place, but also Syrian oil has such high amount of sulfur in it that our car engines would 'explode' every 5 minutes - something I dont think any Lebanese can handle these days.
If no solution is found quickly, and no cease-fire is agreed on, I think we will soon revisit Lebanon by foot (or bicycle). Hey, that's not such a bad thing...

Beirut protest at Qana attack

For those of you who want to know what happened on Sunday at the protest against Israel's attack of Qana, below is the piece I filed for the DT. What can safely be said is that despite much disagreement with Hizbullah in some quarters of the Lebanese population, the Qana affair has only helped sway people towards more sympathy with Hizbullah (as I said yesterday).
I must say I have never seen so many everyday Lebanese people as angry as they were Sunday, and so many moderates feeling that any ideas they had are undermined by seemingly mad moves by Israel that do no cause for peace any good. Whether Hizbullah fired a rocket from nearby - we await investigations from both sides - the point surely is that any radar system on well-equipped planes could (and must) detect almost 60 people in a building, and surely would choose not to hit them. If they hit them anyway, if it doesn't matter who dies as long as Hizbullah are hit in some way, if it doesn't matter how many civilians die, then clearly Israel doesn't seem to value any human life is the logic running round Beirut. That is the opinion on the streets, and that is the opinion that will need to be won over if there is going to be understanding. I hope that understanding can come.

Thousands vent anger with attack on UN offices
From Ramsay Short in Beirut

(Filed: 31/07/2006)

Several thousand angry protesters smashed the windows and ransacked the offices of the headquarters of the United Nations in Beirut yesterday, venting their rage at Israel, the UN and United States after the Qana attack.

What began as a mild protest by about a hundred or so protesters turned violent as hundreds more people, many waving Hizbollah flags and chanting "Death to America! Death to Israel!", flooded into the city's Riad Al Sohl Square.

Lebanese protesters break into the United Nations headquarters in Beirut, after the Qana attack
"Down with the UN who allow this Israeli murder," shouted one man.

"This is Israeli murder. Plain and simple. They are killing us the Lebanese people, taking our lives and homes. We will all fight them," said Kamal Wazzine, whose family is from Qana. He was wearing a yellow Hizbollah bandana.

The marauding few downed their sticks and bats only when two Hizbollah members of parliament, using loud speakers, urged the demonstrators to stop. "I know you are angry, but I appeal to you to go home. This is not in our interest politically," parliament speaker Nabih Berri said on local television.

Shortly afterwards, dozens of Lebanese soldiers arrived at the scene and cordoned off the building.

A UN statement said there were more than 80 Lebanese and foreign staff members in the building. The demonstrators smashed offices and equipment on two floors. A fire was contained shortly after it started, it said. No UN staff were injured.

There was not one shred of blame or anger against Hizbollah, which through this one Israeli attack has gained enormous popular support.

Speaking with a microphone, the popular Lebanese singer, Julia Butros, a Christian from the South, famous for her anti-Israeli patriotic songs during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, caught the public mood, blaming Arab leaders and Israel.

"Thank you Arab rulers for your silence on these Israeli attacks which makes you accomplices in the murder of Lebanese people," she said as the crowd jeered. "Thank you Israeli children for sending your presents to the children of Qana, who unfortunately couldn't open them because they were asleep."

In the crowd, which included many women and children, Salma Salam, who described herself as a moderate Shia, said: "The Israelis have done it again, committed a blatant murderous attack on Lebanese children at Qana, again. Ten years on."

She referred to the Israeli bombing of a UN base in Qana in 1996 that killed more than 100 people sheltering there.

There remained lots of support for Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah's leader who has been hiding out in an impregnable bunker in Lebanon, as demonstrators repeatedly chanted his name.

"I will support Nasrallah now. He is the only one who can fight the Americans and Israelis," said Salam.

Hizbollah vowed to punish Israel. "This horrible massacre, like the others, will not remain unpunished," the group said in a statement.

Beirut's cultural life

I know this is getting away from Qana a little bit but it's worth the read.

In Beirut, Cultural Life Is Another War Casualty

Published: July 31, 2006

BEIRUT, July 30 — The invitations had been sent long ago and the ads paid for and printed. Despite the shells shattering a few miles away, Ghazi Abdel Baki, a Lebanese music producer, was determined not to cancel the release of his label’s latest album at the Virgin Megastore in this city’s former opera house. For him it was also a small act of resistance on the second day of the war.

In the end he didn’t have much choice: the store was shut down after Israeli warships were spotted in the Bay of Beirut. Since then the Internet site of Mr. Abdel Baki’s production company has carried this small notice: “We are not updating our Web site because we are under siege!”

The war in Lebanon is now in its third week, freezing life in mid-flow. A summer season that looked as if it would be highly successful for tourism was suddenly interrupted, as were numerous music festivals, theatrical and movie openings and, because this is Beirut, wild parties. For Lebanon’s burgeoning cultural scene, the conflict has put a stop, at least for the moment, to the patient work begun after the civil war ended in 1990.

Now some movie theaters are opening their doors to refugees, artists are signing manifestoes against the war, commercial stations have turned into 24-hour news channels, and most restaurants and bars are closed. What was supposed to be Beirut’s first break after last year’s traumas — including the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister — has been shattered.

“This was to be a turning point for us after years of hard work,” said Mr. Abdel Baki, 36, whose label produces both 10th-century Andalusian music and modern fusions of bossa nova and Arab rhythms. “But in 24 hours your life is suddenly turned upside down. Even if this stops now, who is going to have the energy and the stamina to produce music, organize a concert or even attend a show?”

Much of what has made Beirut appealing in recent years, at least to adventurous travelers, are the handful of Phoenician, Roman and Crusader ruins in Baalbeck, Sidon and Tyre, a boisterous night life and a naughty reputation. But beyond the ruins and the rowdy image, Lebanon’s artistic expression, after years of neglect, was also blooming.

“The city was thriving,” said Ramsey Short, the British editor in chief of Time Out Beirut, a four-month-old publication that had become an indispensable tool to navigate Beirut’s busy cultural and entertainment scene.

The July issue, with its cover story on Lebanon’s summer festivals and its 114 pages, has become a memento of a time that never happened: all the events and shows have been canceled. The next issue has been postponed until further notice.

“Just like that, it’s all gone,” Mr. Short said. “And I don’t think we’ll return to that world any time soon.”

The war caught most people by surprise. Dozens of festivals, concerts and shows have been canceled, including elaborate months-long programs in Baalbeck; in Beiteddine, south of the capital, where open-air concerts are held in a 19th-century palace in the Chouf mountains; and in Byblos, a coastal town north of Beirut. Ticketholders are being reimbursed. Organizers of Liban Jazz, scheduled for September, are trying to keep that festival alive, perhaps as a charity event in Paris. Along the bombed-out coastal highway in the south between Beirut and Tyre, dozens of fancy resorts are deserted, their once-pristine beaches polluted by an oil slick.

The Baalbeck International Festival, set inside stunning Roman ruins in the middle of the Bekaa Valley, east of Beirut, was to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Organizers had scheduled performances by Lebanon’s national diva, Fairuz; the Ballet Theater of St. Petersburg; and the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Opera of Nice in a joint production of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

Thousands of well-to-do Beirutis had bought tickets and were prepared to drive two hours to attend these open-air productions between the temples of Jupiter and Bacchus. Instead, in the town of Baalbeck itself, away from the historic ruins, Israeli Air Force planes have leveled dozens of buildings in recent days. Baalbeck is a stronghold of the militant Shiite group Hezbollah; the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon began after a Hezbollah raid into Israel on July 12.

“I feel stupid because I was so optimistic,” said Carole Ammoun, a 27-year-old actress who had been performing in a local version of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” called here “Hakeh Nesswan,” or “Women’s Talk.” The play, which was originally scheduled for five nights, had been extended for three months straight.

“It was such a compliment to perform in something that was successful and that people enjoyed,” said Ms. Ammoun, a bubbly woman with a large flashing smile. “We broke so many taboos talking about sexuality in an Arab country. There was a real sense that we were opening new doors.”

The performances have been suspended, and Ms. Ammoun said she can’t decide what her real role is today. “I feel frustrated, I feel angry, I feel castrated,” she said.

Some artists have channeled similar feelings into their work. Mazen Kerbaj recorded a musical piece with his trumpet and the sound of bombs falling on Beirut in the background for a duet he called “Starry Night.” He has also created a popular blog ( on which he posts cartoons, sketches and caricatures he has created in recent days. Most are about the war. One picture, called “Terrorism Is a Funny Word,” says: “Lebanon is being sold for the price of a word: TERRORISM. What a bad joke!!!”

Another shows two faces screaming at each other. The bearded one says, “Allahu Akbar” (“God Is Great”), the other answers, “Freedom & Democracy.” In the middle a tiny, shy face asks, “Can I say something?”

In Hamra, Beirut’s faded former commercial district, Hania Mroué had been looking forward to July as she opened the Metropolis, a theater for art-house movies. For the premiere, attended by the culture minister and the French ambassador, she picked “Les Amitiés Maléfiques” (“Poison Friends”) by the French director Emmanuel Bourdieu, which won the Critics’ Week Grand Prix in Cannes. The next day the war began.

Now about 40 people from Beirut’s bombed-out southern suburbs sleep in her movie theater and offices, which are two floors underground. During the day she shows films and documentaries to keep the children busy.

Last Monday she decided to reopen the theater to the public for daily screenings at 6 p.m.: early enough, she said with grim Lebanese humor, so the audience can go home before the bombing begins.

“It’s important to be able to talk about other things than Israel and Hezbollah,” said Ms. Mroué, 31, whose soft features belie her steeliness. “We will have all the time to analyze, to argue and even to cry about all this later. This is why theaters like this are important: so that you can live, even during a war.”

Last week she asked two doctors from the nearby American University of Beirut hospital to vaccinate the children in the theater. At the same time she somehow managed to obtain a Sri Lankan movie — “The Forsaken Land” — that had been stuck in Damascus for three weeks. Next she plans to show movies by the late Lebanese filmmaker Maroun Baghdadi about the country’s civil war.

“It so hurts my heart to admit this that words fail me,” she said. “We had such a promising year. I don’t think we’ve realized what we have just lost.”

At sunset Beirut’s intellectual and artistic crowd has returned to Cafe Rawda, where the Mediterranean licks the city’s rocky shores. This open-air restaurant offers scented water pipes, the best views of the sun melting into the sea, and a refuge from the city.

Rawda reopened recently, but it is still short staffed since all its Syrian waiters left when the conflict began. Airplanes on their final approach to the nearby airport no longer drown out conversations: the airport has been closed since the beginning of the conflict.

As everywhere, the war dominates discussions. Many talk about feelings of loss, abandonment or despair. What seems to rankle most, though, is the sense that a huge collective bubble has been pricked without warning.

“It took a long time to get to where we were,” said Mr. Abdel Baki, the musician, as the sun slowly dropped into the sea. “Things won’t be the same anymore. It’s the uncertainty that’s unsettling. It shows how precarious our lives were.”

The Power of Prayer

This is another war advertisment which is worth many claps. It seems God will come to rescue all of us from the madness of man by destroying the enemy. Again, this real war advertisment was found on Haaretz and when visiting its website you read the following:

"For thousands of years it has been proven that the Jewish people have the ability to incapacitate and destroy their enemies through increased Torah study and prayer.

Sign up now for weekly Torah commentaries.We invite you to participate in over 15,000 online classes that are currently being attended by about 100,000 people around the world every week."

I never knew that prayers could destroy ones enemy. Maybe we should all pray a little bit more for the destruction of the other. I am sure God would love that idea. How Bizarre...

History Repeats Itself

Tonight we have been terrorized by couple dozens of Israeli F16's flying very low above our heads. It sounded like a continuous thunder in the sky, one that would never stop. All over Beirut for over 30 minutes, the sound was terrifying. Even residents in the North of Lebanon could hear them. What is the goal of this? What is the reasoning? Oddly enough, while all this was happening at around midnight I received a local news alert stating the following: "Israel announced it agreed to a 48-hour suspension of its air activity in Lebanon to investigate the massacre in Qana." How ironic! I even had hard time reading it because of the loud sound of these planes.
Maybe its the IAF's way to say not to miss them too much, they will be back!!!

In the meantime, I pay my respect to the poor children killed yesterday in a horrible strike in Qana. I pay my respects to the 250 other children killed so far in this war which has caused some 700 deaths and over 2,000 injured. I also pay my respect to the 100+ civilians killed in Qana in 1996, during another Israeli onslaught on Lebanon. It seems history does repeat itself.

(Qana, July 30th 2006)

Traumatized Lebanese children may suffer

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Once again, Lebanon's children are seeing what they shouldn't - visions of death and destruction that may scar them for life. And those are the survivors.
A third of Lebanese killed in Israeli attacks against Hezbollah guerrillas are children, the U.N. humanitarian chief said. Experts warn the conflict is taking a heavy psychological toll as well.
"You can't run away from the sound of bombs," said Nadine Maalouf, a child psychologist who has been working with traumatized children.
Lebanese are no strangers to violence, having suffered through the 1975-90 civil war and Israel's 1982 invasion. But parents who lived through those conflicts had hoped to shield their children.
Instead, they have found themselves helpless in the face of relentless Israeli airstrikes on guerrilla positions in Beirut and southern Lebanon that have flattened entire neighborhoods.
"There was a plane that made a pffff sound," 11-year-old Noor el-Hoda Sherri said, recalling her terror during the bombardment of her Haret Hreik neighborhood, which destroyed her apartment building.
"My heart was hurting. It was pounding very fast," she said, squeezing her chest. "I was thinking, 'This is it, we are going to die. This is our destiny.' I said, 'God will now punish me for all the things I did wrong'" - then listed childhood transgressions such as lying to her mother or pushing around a younger girl.
Ali Kalash, 14, said that when an Israeli missile hit Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV studios in Haret Hreik on July 13, he and a dozen friends - anticipating more attacks - scribbled their names on a water tank near their homes "so that we can recognize our homes when the war is over."

His family's apartment building was destroyed in the strike, and they sought refuge in the same underground shelter as Noor el-Holda and her family.
"I was thinking we're all going to die and we'd never come back," Ali said.
U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland estimated that a third of the hundreds of people killed in Lebanon were children. UNICEF spokeswoman Susan Lagana said Friday that Egeland's figure was based on numbers compiled by UNICEF.
"There is something fundamentally wrong with a war where there are more dead children then armed men," Egeland said Friday at U.N. headquarters in New York. "It has to stop."
At least 443 people - mostly civilians - have been confirmed killed in Lebanon since fighting broke out after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 cross-border raid. On Thursday, Lebanon's health minister put the number at as many as 600 civilians.
Fifty-two Israelis have been killed in the fighting, including 19 civilians who died in Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel. Three were children - two boys, ages 4 and 8, from the town of Nazareth, and a 15-year-old girl from the village of Mughar. All were Israeli Arabs..

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Insanity of War

What Israel did today was grotesque and horrible beyond words. It's too easy to channel this anger into revenge and then translate this into increased support for Hizballah, especially for all those excited political activists out there who don't actually live in this country or care deeply about it falling into further oblivion. But if Hizballah does indeed retaliate tonight or tomorrow by shooting a missile into a civilian area--essentially committing the same kind of crimes that Israel does, albeit on a smaller scale-- then things are only going to get worse for us, all of us. Earlier today, CNN asked a Lebanese blogger about her opinion of this conflict.
Her response: "violence begets more violence"
Tonight on this bloody Sunday, I ask all those who are fighting this war with great zeal, whether at the helm of an F16, katyusha, stick or pen-- I beg you, take a breath, as hard as it may be, and ponder those four simple words.

No words for this really

I have just been to a protest in downtown Beirut against the Qana massacre this morning. Now there are almost 60 dead. The last body to be pulled out of the building which is close to complete collapse was an 8 year old boy. I have to file some reports now. I will write more on this later and delete this post. But in the immediate moment I can tell you that the Lebanese are united with Hizbollah more now than at any one point so far in this conflict. Today is a turning point. The anger on the streets is unstoppable. What really can Israel be thinking? What can they be thinking? I will not post the images of the children. Not now. More later.

Qana, We Scream...Again


A rare look into Hizbullah's military arm

They are highly disciplined, highly motivated and ready to fight. This article is a very rare look into how men of Hizbullah's "active" group think and act - and most importantly what their aspirations are. It would be hard for me to comment on them now because I wouldn't want them to settle scores with me later (kidding). I think this article by the Guardian is very much worth the read, and I will leave it to you to comment your thoughts on the group's fighting arm.

As the shells fall around them, Hizbullah men await the Israelis
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, south of Tyre
Saturday July 29, 2006
The Guardian

Inside a well-furnished apartment in a village on the outskirts of Tyre, with shelves of books piled from floor to ceiling, a black turbaned cleric and three men sit sipping bitter coffee. By the door is a pile of Kalashnikovs and ammunition boxes; handguns are tucked into the men's trousers. The four are Hizbullah fighters, waiting for the Israelis.

"Patience is our main virtue, we can wait for days, weeks, months before we attack. The Israelis are always impatient in battle and in strategy," says the cleric, Sayed Ali, who claims to be a descendant of the prophet. "I know them very well."

As if to make his point, the sound of Israeli shells blasting the surrounding hills shakes the door and shutters every few minutes. Ali does know the Israelis. He started fighting them at the age of 17 when they invaded Lebanon in 1982. Three years later he was arrested with two of his comrades and spent a few months in an Israeli prison. Within weeks of his release he was fighting them again.That's what he did for the next six years.

For the last five years he has been finishing his theology studies in Tehran. A month ago, he was asked by Hizbullah to return to southern Lebanon. He arrived a week before the fighting began.
Standing at the window, he points to the banana plantations between us and the blue Mediterranean. "I have fought for years in these groves. We used to sit and wait for them [the Israelis] to make a move and then we would hit. They always moved too quickly, too soon."
All over the hills of south Lebanon hundreds of men like Sayed Ali and his comrades are waiting - some in bunkers, some in farm houses - for the Israeli troops to arrive. Sayed Ali and his men spend most of their time in the building where his apartment is, moving only at night.

"We stay put and we don't move till we get our orders, and this is why we are not like any other militia. A militiaman will fire whenever he likes at whatever he likes," explains one of the men, who says he has been involved in firing Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. "We have specific orders. Even when we fire rockets we know when and where [to fire] and each of the men manning the launchers runs to a specific hiding place after firing the rockets."
He says Hizbullah fighters expect the site of a rocket launch to be hit by an Israeli airstrike or shell within 10 to 15 minutes.
Another of the men, who says he is Sayed Ali's brother, explains how Hizbullah teaches its fighters patience: "During our training we spend days in empty buildings without talking to anyone or doing anything. They tell me go and sit in that building, and I go and sit there and wait."

According to Ali, Hizbullah operates as "a state within the state", with its own hospitals, social organisations and social security system. "But we are also an Islamic resistance movement, an indoctrinated army," he adds. "I would go and knock the door at someone and say we need $50,000, he would give me [that] because they trust us."
The fighting force of the organisation is divided into two: the "active" group, whose task is to serve in Hizbullah, and the reserve, or Ta'abi'a, as it is known in Arabic. The active fighters get monthly pay. The reserves are called on only in time of war, and receive bonuses but no regular pay. A third section, the Ansar, comprises people who support or are supported by the organisation.

Ali, the commander of Hizbullah in his village, and his men are part of the active force, and their orders are to wait for further orders. "Hizbullah hasn't even mobilised all its active fighters, and the Israelis are calling their reserve units," he said.
Hizbullah prides itself on its secretiveness and discipline. "We don't take anyone who knocks at our door and says 'I want to join'. We raise our fighters. We take them when they are young kids and raise them to become Hizbullah fighters. Every fighter we have believes that the ultimate form of being is martyrdom." The three men nod their assent.

Shia symbols and mythology play a big role in the ideology of Hizbullah, especially the tragedy of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet who in the 7th century led a few hundred men against the well-organised army of the caliph in Damascus. He was slain in Karbala, and Shia around the world commemorate these events in Ashura.

"Every one of those fighters is a true believer, he has been not only trained to use guns and weapons but [indoctrinated] in the Shia faith and the Husseini beliefs," Ali says.
He and his fellow fighters have been preparing for the latest conflict with the Israelis for years and he acknowledges the support received from Iran.
"When we defeated them in 2000 we did that with [Katyusha] rockets. We had six years to prepare for this day - the Americans are sending laser-guided missiles to the Israelis, what's wrong if the Iranians help us? When the Syrians were here we would get stuff through their supply lines, now it's more difficult."

The TV is blaring patriotic songs and pictures of destroyed bridges, houses and buildings. The men are feeling confident - only a day earlier the Israelis suffered heavy casualties in the village of Bint Jbeil.
"Our strategy is to hit the commandos and the Golani units like we did in Bint Jbeil," Ali says. "Those are their best units. If they can't do anything, the morale of the reserve units will sink."
For Ali and his comrades, the latest conflict is a war of survival not only for Hizbullah but for the whole Shia community. It is not only as a war with Israel, their enemy for decades, but also with the Sunni community. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have all expressed fears of Iranian domination over the Middle East.

"If Israel comes out victorious from this conflict, this will be a victory for the Sunnis and they will take the Shia community back in history dozens of years to the time when we were only allowed to work as garbage collectors in this country. The Shia will all die before letting this happen again."
He says that even if the international community calls on Hizbullah to disarm as part of a peace deal, he and his men will not lay down their arms. "This war is episode two in disarming Hizbullah. First they tried to do it through the Lebanese government and the UN. When they failed, the Americans asked the Israelis to do the job."

Despite Israel's claims to have inflicted heavy losses on Hizbullah, Ali insists his side is in a strong position. "Things are going very well now, whatever happens we are winning. If they keep bombing us we will stay in the shelters, and with each bomb more people support the resistance. If they invade they will repeat the miserable fate they had in 1982, and if they hold one square foot they will give the Islamic resistance all the legitimacy. If they want to kill Hizbullah they have to kill every Shia in the south of Lebanon."

And even when the battle with the Israelis is over, he adds menacingly, Hizbullah will have other battles to fight. "The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

What war?

Last night I ventured out beyond my neighborhood for the first time in two weeks. Admittedly I’ve been a bit obsessed with preparing for worsening siege conditions and the prospect of renewed internal, sectarian tensions across the country. Don’t forget that aside from the relentless Israeli shelling we’re also dealing with a million people made homeless, i.e. a quarter of the country’s population on the move, and an all-out blockade from land, air and sea. Add to this suspended reality, reports of minor clashes between pro-Hezbollah refugees and their neutral or anti-Hezbollah hosts, and you can see why I’ve been just a little edgy.

Basically I spend my days stocking up on dry foods, gasoline, water, etc. as well as taking a few security precautions around the house; fixing old locks and having an ironsmith put up bars on a couple of our street side windows. But my friends are insanely oblivious. They have been haggling me for days now, literally begging me to shake off this hermit-like existence and re-enter the blur of the Beirut nightlife scene which we once enjoyed regularly, often on a daily basis. I know they are nuts—I mean there are F16 fighter jets in the skies dropping the occasional bunker buster bomb, an earth shattering experience if you’ve ever felt one dive into a residential building nearby. But with cabin fever beginning to set in, at one point you may think to yourself, ‘what the hell am I doing?’

Around 11:30 PM yesterday I did just that. It was day 17 of Israel’s rampage on Lebanon (a.k.a. Friday night) as I ascended to Broumanna, a pine forest mountain retreat where a nascent café and pub scene has supposedly been revived, despite the carnage being wrought on the city below. I live on a hillside just outside Beirut about 500 meters below fabled Bromanna, which with the reconstruction of the capital over the last decade, has steadily faded from its post war glory days—not this war that is, the previous one which ended 14 years ago. Speeding up the winding mountain road, I am not sure what to expect. The street lights are out and I pass only about 3 cars throughout the entire course of the 20 minute drive. Then, out of the black, it’s as if I’ve entered a time warp. There is a massive traffic jam, young revelers spilling onto the streets, restaurant terraces overflowing with patrons and obscene techno beats crashing out of bars onto the town’s narrow main road. I hear a rock band playing cover songs in the distance. Welcome to Broumanna 1992, I think.

After central Beirut was reduced to Swiss cheese in the 1970s and 1980s, this town and other Christian cities on the Northern coast of Jounieh became the country’s defacto entertainment capitals. With absolutely no place to park my car, I begrudgingly hand the keys over to a couple of valet attendants who claim to be members of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia that was disbanded after that war. I meet some friends at a patio bar where the scene is arrestingly bizarre. At least 200 young jet setters squeeze past each other, dressed in designer jeans and tight fitting tops—both guys and girls that is. Visibly overwhelmed, waiters and waitress struggle to take orders and carry trays stacked with bottles of orange juice, vodka and whiskey. Smiles and laughter radiate through the crowd, hair done, faces painted, necks and hands shimmer with sparkling jewelry or “bling.” The clamor of small talk glides through the air.

Suddenly, a halting popping sound, almost like a gun shot. The crowd goes silent for a moment turning around only to glimpse a giggling waiter holding a bottle of champagne. A half hour later, some of our friends head back down to Beirut, while the rest of us decide to hit up a few more clubs. We walk into "Cheers," a Western themed bar with cowboy hats hanging on the wall. Immediately we are struck by the site of three young women gyrating madly on top of the bar to Freddie Mercury’s classic tune, “I want to break free.” Two girls rub up against one another provocatively, while a television set hanging from the ceiling plays images of death and destruction in the background. The scene is similar next door at a place called “Safe bar”. Camouflage military mesh hangs from the ceiling. The smell of humidity is suffocating but no one seems to care. A muscular young man wearing a superman T shirt plays with a strobe light, pointing in every direction. A girl standing on the other end of the bar whips her head back and forth to reggae beats sending her curly afro bouncing while twirling her mini skirt furiously. She mouths the lyrics and then pinches her fingers together at the corner of her mouth, imitating the smoking of a marijuana cigarette.

The song is sung by popular Jamaican artist, Sean Paul, who was scheduled to perform in Lebanon as part of one of many music festivals planned for this summer. But the show happened to coincide with day 2 of Israel’s military campaign and the country has since been ravaged-- economically, infrastructurally, and psychologically. Also scheduled to visit Lebanon this summer were hip hop artists Snoop Dogg and Jay Z. Only a few weeks before all this madness started, I found myself at a press conference in a luxury hotel asking the international rap superstar, 50 Cent what he thought of Lebanon. That night he would play to a crowd of around 10,000 cheering fans, many of them between the ages of 8 and 15. “It’s a beautiful country,” he said, adding with a smirk: “Beautiful women.”

Its 2:00AM and we head for a fourth bar, this one called “Cheyenne.” I wonder how many of these hole-in-the-walls opened over the last few days to capitalize on the devastating situation. None compare to the fantastic multimillion dollar establishments in downtown Beirut, designer roof top clubs that rival anything I’ve ever experienced in London, Miami or New York. For now though, much of their clientele have fled to the perceived safety of Broumanna and other remote mountain areas, hoping for an eventual return to their up scale watering holes. I can’t believe there is a line outside Cheyenne, a run down joint that has about as much class as a whorehouse. Behind the bouncer, the doors rattle with the beats and debauchery coming from within. “Can the four of us get in,” my friend asks. “Sorry, we don’t even have room for one,” he says, as if caught by surprise. Later that night with much hesitation I would head back down the mountainside to drop off a friend in Beirut. The streets and highways are chillingly empty for a Friday night. Usually there would be a gaggle of bakeries and restaurants still open, even at 2:30 AM.

Later, when I walk out onto the dark parking lot of my friend’s apartment building, I hear the relentless humming of propellers in the air, an unmanned drone, I imagine. I wonder if my vehicle, the only one on the road at that time, looks suspicious from the sky. Should I speed up or slow down? The next morning, a neighbor tells me about an Israeli strike on a car traveling very close to the roads we took through the city that night. Was I paranoid or was the drone really out there? Later in the afternoon I head to the neighborhood gas station on word that the gasoline crisis we have been anticipating is finally upon us. I ask the gas station owner, a short friendly man who always seems to be smiling, about the amount left in his reserves. He assures me that he has ample supplies. “For a week,” I ask. “Less,” he says, his face turning more serious. “About three days.”

In the evening, I get a call from one of my drinking buddies. He urges me to come to a bar in Beirut. “Everybody’s going,” he pleads. “Do you know that we might not have gasoline in three days?,” I ask. “Why would you be driving around during a gas crisis?” He sighs. “Crisis? Whatever man.”

Facts and Figures

Watching Beirut die

This is a piece from my friend, the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain published online in He talks about his experience here, the impressions of the country, of Beirut, where he was makming an edition of his popular Discovery Channel TV show 'No Reservations'. It's long but worth reading.
For those of you who are feeling that perhaps we are getting too political - it is hard not to - I am endeavouring to post some more personal experiences and give you more reporting from on the ground that I feel we need to see and people's voices that you outside need to see. More soon. Ramsay

Watching Beirut die

We went to Beirut to film a TV show about the city's newly vibrant culinary and cultural scene. Then the bombs started falling, and we could only stand on the barricades of our hotel balcony and watch it all disappear -- again.

By Anthony Bourdain

July 28, 2006 From where I'm sitting, poolside, I can see the airport burning -- the last of the jet fuel cooking off like a dying can of sterno. There's a large, black plume of smoke coming from the south of the city -- just over the rise, where the most recent airstrikes have been targeting the Shiite neighborhoods and what are, presumably, Hezbollah-associated structures. My camera crew and I missed it the first time they hit the airport. Slept right through it. Woke up in our snug hotel sheets to the news that we wouldn't be making television in Beirut (not the show we came to do anyway), and that we wouldn't be getting out of here anytime soon.

Any hopes of runway repair followed by a flight out disappeared two nights ago, when we watched from the balcony of my hotel room as missiles, fired from offshore, twinkled brightly for a few long seconds in the air, then dropped in lazy parabolic arcs onto the fuel tanks.

We knew by that time what was happening in the south: Hezbollah rocketing Israel, the Israeli army mobilizing along -- and even crossing -- the border, firing artillery, reserves being called up. Frightened visitors from other Gulf states and the Lebanese -- including our local fixer -- had headed for Syria, but planes had been hitting that route out repeatedly, making the already unattractive option of camera-bearing Americans crossing into that unwelcoming country even less attractive. An exit by sea was out of the question in light of a total naval blockade. We were stuck. The other American guests -- at first secure in their "This doesn't concern us" and "They won't target us" and "We're just waiting for word" mode, were now visibly worried.

Everything had begun so beautifully. Our fixer, Lena, was bursting with enthusiasm when she met us at the airport. After months of preproduction, finally we were here! Finally, the American television crew had arrived -- to show the world how beautiful her country was, how lovingly restored, how hip and forward thinking in the years since the bloody civil war. On the first day of filming, we'd had a sensational early lunch of hummus, kibbe, stewed lamb and yogurt at Le Chef, a local, family-style joint in a charming neighborhood. The customers at the tables around us in the tiny, worn-looking dining area chattered away in Arabic, French and English. Stomachs full, my crew and I headed over to Martyr's Square and the Rafik Hariri memorial; a few blocks away, our fixer and friends pointing out old scars and new construction, trying to explain how much Beirut and Lebanon had changed since the man's death in 2005. They spoke effusively of the calm, the peace, the relative tolerance that had followed the galvanizing effects of Hariri's assassination. Each smiled and pointed at the giant photographic mural of the million-person demonstration that had led to Syria's withdrawal from their country; Ali, our unofficial tough-guy escort, pointed at a tiny dot among the hundreds of thousands in the photo and joked, "That's me!"

They were so proud of how far they'd come, how much they'd survived, how different and sophisticated Beirut was now. They spoke of all the things they had to show us, the people we had to meet. Significantly, the word "Syria" was still spoken in slightly hushed tones. Speaking too long, too loud or too harshly of their former occupier, it was suggested, could still get you killed. (An outcome not without precedent.) We walked along the road leading to a cordoned-off area by the St. George Hotel, where Bardot, Monroe and Kim Philby had once played -- back when Beirut was called the "Paris of the Orient" without a hint of irony. The buildings in the area were still in ruins, a roof torn off, the old hotel -- under construction when the targeted blast that killed Hariri occurred -- still empty. The Phoenician, across the street, which had also been destroyed, had recently been completely rebuilt. A modern hotel like any other, but they were proud of that too. Because, like Beirut, it was still there. It was back.

Then, in the blink of an eye, everything went sideways: Relaxed smiles froze and disappeared. Suddenly, there was the sound of automatic weapons firing randomly in the air from a nearby neighborhood. And fireworks. Then cars -- a few of them -- teenage kids, women and adults, some leaning out the windows and waving Hezbollah flags and flashing the "V" for victory sign, celebrating what we were told, after a few quick cellphone calls, was the grabbing of two Israeli soldiers. Our fixer, a Sunni; Ali, a Shiite; and "Marwan," a Christian, who'd just minutes ago been pointing proudly at the mural -- all three looked down in embarrassment, a look of sorrow, shame and then resignation on their faces. Someone muttered "assholes" bitterly. They knew -- right away -- what was going to happen next.

Not that that stopped the party -- initially anyway. Beirutis like to tell you (true or not) that they partied right through the civil war. That it wasn't "cool" to seek shelter during an airstrike. That we "shouldn't worry. All the nightclubs have their own generators." That night, we continued to shoot (and drink heavily) at the opening party for the newly relocated Sky Bar, a rooftop nightclub with a view of the Mediterranean. Moneyed Beirutis -- all of them, it seemed, young, sexy and ridiculously beautiful -- drank vodka and Red Bull, and swayed (if not exactly danced) while Israeli jets flew menacingly low overhead. Were it not for the warplanes, it could have been Los Angeles or South Beach, Fla. The crowd was English speaking -- with the kind of West Coast, television accents you hear on sitcoms. Many were Lebanese Americans, returned to the country of their parents, or émigrés to America and Britain who'd left during the civil war and only just come back. I met and talked with Ramsay Short, the young editor of the newly launched Time Out Beirut, and he bragged effusively about their recent "Sex Issue," its cover depicting a woman's bare legs, panties bunched around the ankles. The issue -- provocative, to say the least, in a largely Muslim country -- had sailed through without censorship or even major complaint. Ramsay was happy about that. As he was happy that his town had rated its own edition of the snarky, urbane city guide. "There are only 15 cities in the world with a Time Out," he told me happily, "and Beirut is now one of them!" He did not look up at the planes. Later, we hit Barbar, a late-night post-nightclub shawarma joint where his mood became more pensive. Even then, before the first airstrikes, I think he too knew what was coming.

I have only including the beginning of the article for the rest of it go to this link:
Click Here for Rest of Article


This is absolutely classic. I think its one of the greatest ads ever (found on Haaretz). Pizza Hut and Domino's watch out, PizzaIDF is on its way.
Respect for the solidarity though.

Bomb and Build

The location and size of the attacks on Lebanon is depicted in the image above. The image displays bombings up to 27th of July. Please click on it to have a better view.

Movement of the Displaced Population
The Israeli attack on the South and the southern suburbs of Beirut has caused a large number of people to flee their homes in the search of areas that have not as of yet been directly targeted by Israeli bombs. According to government sources, a total of 866,780 civilians are currently displaced with 106,780 seeking refuge in schools in Mount Lebanon and Beirut. The displaced have mainly found shelter in schools and relief agencies with government officials stating that approximately 652 have opened their doors for these innocent civilians, moreover; approximately 550,000 have found shelter with families, friends, churches, and mosques. The remaining displaced population has left Lebanon to settle in neighboring countries.

Displaced Data
106,780 people are sheltered in 652 schools
550,000 people are sheltered with families, friends, churches, mosques etc.
210,000 people are still in Syria, Jordan, Cyprus, and Gulf area.
Total of 866,780 people displaced

The table below provides a break down of displaces citizens that are seeking refuge in schools / other entities (non-household):

42,271 people are in 296 schools/other entities in Mount Lebanon
32,465 people are in 144 schools/other entities in Beirut
24,151 people are in 110 schools/other entities in South Lebanon
4,523 people are in 59 schools/other entities in Bekaa
3,370 people are in 43 schools/other entities in North Lebanon
Total of 106,780 people in 652 schools / other entities throughout Lebanon

Casualties / Damages
According to Lebanese government sources, the Israeli attack on Lebanon which commenced on July 12, 2006 has caused the death of 600 innocent civilians and the injury of 3,225.
Israeli bombardments have resulted in the destruction of airports, ports, TV stations, broadcasting antennas, bridges, roads, and villages. Preliminary figures reveal the following damage to infrastructure:

Description Quantity
Vital Points
(airports, ports,
water and sewage
electrical plants etc.): 27
Roads: 600 Km
Fuel Stations: 23
Bridges: 62
Over passes: 72
Private houses
/ apartments: 6,200
sector (factories,
markets, farms, etc.): 160

Demolished infrastructure has reached an estimate of 2 billion USD which is broken down as shown in the table below:

Division Approximate Damages (Million USD)
Transportation 386
Electricity 180
Telecommunications 85
Water 70
Housing and Trade Organizations 1,144
Industrial Organizations 180
Gas Stations 10
Military infrastructure 16
Total 2,071

Good thing President Bush pitched in to help reconstruct Lebanon last night. But unfortunately the true damages are far greater than simply the physical damages. One estimate is that the Lebanese economy is bleeding away at the rate of $70m a day, due to lost revenues from such major earners as construction and tourism. Others put the figure still higher. The Finance Minister stated that the real cost has exceeded several billion dollars since all major economic activities are completely halted. This includes tourism, aviation, import/export, agriculture and even industry. And this economic meltdown comes in light that Lebanon has the highest debt to GDP ratio in the world standing at 180% compared to GDP (debt is $38 billion). Some 50% of the government's revenues, which it acquires from economic activity, goes to servicing the debt. Whats next for Lebanon? An economic shock? Additionally, the credibilty of the economy has taken a severe blow. Lebanon was becoming a magnet for petro-dollars, now that the economy is in shatters I wonder if private sector money will trickle in.
A good thing though is that donations began to be awarded. Already Saudi Arabia donated $500 million and deposited $1 billion in the Central Bank to reinforce reserves. Additionally, and as mentioned earlier, Bush clearly stated that "we will reconstruct Lebanon, we will reconstruct all the houses so that people can go back home."
Oddly enough, the USA provides the bombs, and then reconstructs the houses. I wonder if Americans are happy tax payers.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Grapes of Wrath

(A beheaded Lebanese infant, April 1996)

Does anyone remember the Qana massacre, in 1996? It was a day of horror, a day of grief in Lebanon. It was another time Israel hit a UN-base, but this time it was packed with civilians seeking shelter from yet another onslaught on Lebanon. These are the sort of events that fuel Hezbollah, these are the reasons which makes them strong. Not religion, nor fanaticism. On that day, all of Lebanon lived another black day. On that day, Israel created yet more fear that quickly changed into further support for Hezbullah. Does any Israeli know of this event? Does any non-Lebanese know of this event? If you do or don't wouldn't you think that something is wrong? Wouldn't you agree this is the oppression that gives birth to desperation?
Who better describe this horrible event than Robert Fisk?

Robert Fisk
The Independent
19 April 1996

It was a massacre. Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this. The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disembowelled. There were well over a hundred of them.
A baby lay without a head. The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world's protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong. In front of a burning building of the UN's Fijian battalion headquarters, a girl held a corpse in her arms, the body of a grey- haired man whose eyes were staring at her, and she rocked the corpse back and forth in her arms, keening and weeping and crying the same words over and over: "My father, my father." A Fijian UN soldier stood amid a sea of bodies and, without saying a word, held aloft the body of a headless child."The Israelis have just told us they'll stop shelling the area", a UN soldier said, shaking with anger. "Are we supposed to thank them?"

In the remains of a burning building - the conference room of the Fijian UN headquarters - a pile of corpses was burning. The roof had crashed in flames onto their bodies, cremating them in front of my eyes. When I walked towards them, I slipped on a human hand...Israel's slaughter of civilians in this terrible 10-day offensive - 206 by last night - has been so cavalier, so ferocious, that not a Lebanese will forgive this massacre. There had been the ambulance attacked on Saturday, the sisters killed in Yohmor the day before, the 2-year-old girl decapitated by an Israeli missile four days ago. And earlier yesterday, the Israelis had slaughtered a family of 12 - the youngest was a four- day-old baby - when Israeli helicopter pilots fired missiles into their home. Shortly afterwards, three Israeli jets dropped bombs only 250 metres from a UN convoy on which I was travelling, blasting a house 30 feet into the air in front of my eyes.

Travelling back to Beirut to file my report on the Qana massacre to the Independent last night, I found two Israeli gunboats firing at the civilian cars on the river bridge north of Sidon. Every foreign army comes to grief in Lebanon. The Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinians by Israel's militia allies in 1982 doomed Israel's 1982 invasion.

Now the Israelis are stained again by the bloodbath at Qana, the scruffy little Lebanese hill town where the Lebanese believe Jesus turned water into wine. The Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres may now wish to end this war. But the Hizbollah are not likely to let him. Israel is back in the Lebanese quagmire. Nor will the Arab world forget yesterday'a terrible scenes. The blood of all the refugees ran quite literally in streams from the shell-smashed UN compound restaurant in which the Shiite Muslims from the hill villages of southern Lebanon - who had heeded Israel's order to leave their homes - had pathetically sought shelter. Fijian and French soldiers heaved another group of dead - they lay with their arms tightly wrapped around each other - into blankets. A French UN trooper muttered oaths to himself as he opened a bag in which he was dropping feet, fingers, pieces of people's arms. And as we walked through this obscenity, a swarm of people burst into the compound.

They had driven in wild convoys down from Tyre and began to pull the blankets off the mutilated corpses of their mothers and sons and daughters and to shriek "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great") and to threaten the UN troops. We had suddenly become not UN troops and journalists but Westerners, Israel's allies, an object of hatred and venom. One bearded man with fierce eyes stared at us, his face dark with fury. "You are Americans", he screamed at us. "Americans are dogs. You did this. Americans are dogs. "President Bill Clinton has allied himself with Israel in its war against "terrorism" and the Lebanese, in their grief, had not forgotten this.

Israel's official expression of sorrow was rubbing salt in their wounds. "I would like to be made into a bomb and blow myself up amid the Israelis", one old man said. As for the Hizbollah, which has repeatedly promised that Israelis will pay for their killing of Lebanese civilians, its revenge cannot be long in coming. Operation Grapes of Wrath may then turn out then to be all too aptly named.

The Cedar

You can try to chop as hard as you like,
the Cedar shall always stand against any strike.
It has not fallen to civil war or occupation.
And shall certainly not fall to any aggression.
Let us deal with our own problems internally,
but if you want to help, come to us, diplomatically.

Peace Lovers

This is what the Israelis think about the war on Lebanon. What they unfortunately dont know, or maybe dont understand, is that civilians and Lebanon's infrastructure is being hit hard, not Hizbullah alone. The country has been ruined, and yet the IDF "should hit harder". I would have at least preferred the Israeli respondents to state that the IDF should continue its effort, if anything, not increase the strength of its strikes.

More than 70% of Israelis support intensifying the offensive in Lebanon, now in its 17th day, according to a poll published Friday by the nation's biggest-selling daily Yediot Aharonot.
Some 71% think the Israeli army "should hit harder" in its strikes against Hizbullah, compared with 26% who think otherwise.
Some 80% say they are satisfied with the military's performance in the conflict and 82% think the conflict in Lebanon is justified. Some 65% of Israelis support the mobilization of additional reservists for the conflict, said the poll, conducted before the security cabinet announced it had given the green light for the call-up of up to 30,000 more troops.
The poll was carried out by the Dahaf Institute among a representative sample of 513 Israelis. The pollsters gave a margin of error of 4.2%. They did not specify whether the poll was carried out before or after the death of nine Israeli soldiers in fighting Wednesday.
Courtesy of AFP

Long Live the United Nations

This is a scan of The Times (27th July issue) on the killing of the 4 UN observers in Lebanon by a 'deliberate' Israeli attack on an observation post in south Lebanon. I know this is covered in every major newspaper around the world, but posting this on Beirut Live shows our sincere support to the United Nations and the important work it continously performs in Lebanon and around the world. Its a shame that the UN Security Council only expressed "shock" to the attack and didnt condemn it - a statment that was watered down because of US support to Israel. I have to thank Mortimer for sharing this article with us, which I think is one of the best I have seen.
Please click on the image to see a larger image of the scan and read the article.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Forza Azzuri

This is an email which has been turning around Lebanese inboxes in the hundreds. A friend of mine (and a fanatic of Italian football) recieved it and shared it with me (a fanatic of French football). Maybe Zidane's headbutt really had a significance after all!!! Sense of humor is still in the air, at last a good sign...keep the smiles rolling...

Keeping the spirit high -
In 1982, Italy won the world cup and Israel invaded Lebanon
In 2006, Italy won the world cup and Israel invaded Lebanon
Message to all Lebanese people:Next time Italy wins the world cup,
we all go immediately down to the shelters!!

Hide and Seek...and crystal balls

Has anyone seen this man?

The question of the day: where is Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah?
Ever since the IAF declared that it shook southern Beirut with over 23 tons of explosives and released 5 massive and 19 medium-sized missiles two days ago, you would guess that Dahiyeh and Haret Hreik are not the kind of places you want to be in.
However, the IDF, IAF and Mossad believe that Nasrallah is deep underground (at least 40m), in a complex network of bunkers that span throughout all of southern Beirut. Some rumors also state that the bunker could be 6km long!!! Well after seeing that an Al Jazeera interviewer was able to reach Nasrallah for an exclusive interview (the interviewer was masked so as not to reveal the hiding location) you would guess that Nasrallah is everything but in a bad position. And his bunker is everything but covered by tons of debris. Its as if he was taunting the IAF by having a face-to-face interview.
Interestingly enough two reports were released today about Nasrallah's possible whereabouts. The first stated that he could be hiding in the Iranian embassy close to Beirut's Golf Club. This was quickly denied by the Iranian government:
"Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi has rejected the rumors being spread by the 'Zionist' regime suggesting that Hezbollah secretary general Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah is at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, MNA reported. "

The second report however was the more amusing one. It stated the following:
"( Hizbullah terrorist chief Hassan Nasrallah traveled to Syria late Wednesday night in a bulletproof vehicle, according to a Kuwait newspaper. Nasrallah is expected to meet for talks with Syrian officials on Thursday to discuss developments in Hizbullah’s war against Israel."

How bizarre!!!
Well lets see if the American made bombs - the GBU-28s (bunker busters) - will have any effect on the main bunker of Hezbollah in southern Beirut and will reveal the real location of Nasrallah. I wouldnt be surprised if they dont...

But its important to note that renowned Lebanese psychic Michel Hayek had apparently predicted in Jan. 2006 that Hassan Nasrallah will be assassinated in the Summer of 2006. Beirut Live acquired a document which the psychic never revealed because of its content. Among other unbelievable events Hayek stated this:

Summer 2006: Assassination of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on the Syrian borders by an Israeli air attack (helicopters) while escaping from Haret Hrayk following an Israeli attack on the southern suburb of Beirut.

Only time will tell what the future holds...

The End of Yaroun

Picture: Fatima and Hussain Tehfi in Tyre.

The End of Yaroun

By Kathy Gannon
Associated Press
26 July 2006

Clutching his 1-year-old son, Ali Abbas Tehfi pushed his wife and their 2-year-old son into a car and prayed. Trapped for two weeks in a border village at the epicenter of a raging ground battle, the American and his family made their escape Wednesday. But Tehfi's elderly grandmother had to be left behind in Yaroun, because she was too frail to travel. He said more Americans were still stuck in the town.

"I can't even talk about it. It was a disaster. It was worse than a nightmare. I saw dogs and cats on bodies that couldn't be taken from bombed-out houses. We ran from one building to another trying to escape the bombing," he said.

"It didn't stop. It didn't stop even for a day. Everything is finished," he said.

Tehfi waited in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre on Wednesday with at least 100 other foreigners, most American, for evacuation out of the country and back home. For Tehfi, home is Los Angeles.

Born, raised and educated in the United States, Tehfi and his wife Fatima came to Lebanon in June to introduce their sons, Hassan and Hussain, to their roots and to family members still living in the country.

But he found himself in a war zone. Yaroun lies in a tiny pocket in southeast Lebanon where Israeli forces have launched their ground incursion across the border, meeting fierce resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas.

In the town of Bint Jbail, just up the road from Yaroun, there were reports of 12 Israeli soldiers killed Wednesday in heavy battles.

In Tyre, 20 miles from Yaroun, Tehfi sat with his wife, sons and parents waiting for a boat to Cyprus — and eventually home.

Two-year-old Hassan has an unruly mob of brown hair and his face was pockmarked with mosquito bites. His brother, Hussain, a chubby baby who hasn't started walking, was born prematurely and still has breathing problems, his father said. Hussain smiled slightly as he was rocked by his grandmother, Zainab Tehfi.

Ali Abbas Tehfi said people swarmed the cars when they arrived to take evacuees out of Tyre.

"People just jumped into the car, some even without shoes and some people just seemed to come out of the walls. We didn't know where anyone was before, everyone was just trying to stay alive," he said.

The expatriates said the U.S. Embassy in Beirut had worked to arrange their evacuation. They didn't know the details.

Tehfi said many more Americans were still trapped in Yaroun. "I don't know who is alive and who is dead. If you weren't in the main area when the cars came you were left behind," he said.

The United States expressed concern Tuesday about an unknown number of Americans stranded in south Lebanon without safe passage out. "We are aware that there are an undetermined number of Americans at locations in southern Lebanon," the State Department said.

Some 15,000 Americans have been evacuated from Lebanon since fighting erupted between
Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas two weeks ago. The last scheduled boatload of U.S. citizens was to leave Beirut Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

Brig. Gen. Carl Jensen, the U.S. evacuation commander, said everything possible had been done to assure the safety of Americans.

"As long as there's one American here who would like to depart, that's what we're here for and that's our job, and i would agree with you that i think our efforts to date here have been pretty remarkable," he said.

Tehfi's father, Abbas, stepped forward, a diminutive man in his 60s with dark brown eyes and two weeks of gray stubble on his face.

His voice was strong until he began to talk of his family left behind in Yaroun.

"My mother is still there in Yaroun, still there," he said, his voice choked. He turned away, bowed his head and cried.

Abbas Tehfi said he rescued an 8-month-old boy during an airstrike only to see him die hours later. "I thought, my God, he will live. But two hours later he started to throw up and he died," he recalled.

Before the war, Yaroun was a village of about 6,000. Ali Abbas Tehfi said it is nearly empty now, with most residents fleeing and many killed in what he described as indiscriminate bombing.

Samair Reda, a young California woman who also escaped Yaroun, said the bombs were hitting anything that moved.

"I don't care if it is military fighting military. That is their business, but I don't understand why the people are being killed. We don't know how many are dead. So many houses are collapsed. I saw myself people under the cement blocks but we couldn't help them," she said.

Reda's daughter, Nejmah, a shy girl who tried to hide behind her mother, turned 2 on July 17.

"On her birthday we ran twice to escape the bombing," she said, adding that her husband had risked his life to search for food but the family still faced severe food shortages and was nearly out of powdered milk for their daughter.

Reda and her family arrived in Yaroun on July 11, the day before the bombing blitz began in response to a cross-border Hezbollah attack that left eight Israeli soldiers dead and two captured.

Nejmah's face was covered in small red sores from mosquito bites. Her long, brown hair was pulled back from her face. "I haven't been able to wash her. We didn't even have time to unpack our luggage when the bombing started. I have been wearing the same clothes since it began," she said.

Exhausted and still shaking from their ordeal, the rescued Americans interrupted each other to try to describe the horror. Many had never heard a bomb before. Their closest experience had been war movies.

"I don't know where to even begin. I saw parts of bodies. I saw small children and old people and women stuck in the rubble. But you know what was so hard was not being able to help. My father kept sending me to look for my grandmother and I was scared but we had to go out and try to find people," said Hassan Ghachan, a high school student from Belle, Calif., whose eyes widened as he recalled the horrific scenes.

Ghachan said the memories still haunt him. "Last night I woke up I thought I heard a rocket."

"And on the road coming to Tyre yesterday we saw cars that had been rocketed with dead people still inside. There were so many cars I couldn't count. I couldn't even look at some of them," he said.

The daily bombing of the village by Israeli jets separated families. Reda has lost track of her sister and brother-in-law. "We don't know where they are, whether they made it out alive," she said.

As she spoke, several other women approached. Each had a story of relatives who were missing or feared dead, or who they prayed had escaped.

"I tell you honestly, from my heart, I love everyone. I don't care their religion or their belief," Tehfi said. "But I don't understand what I saw. It was a massacre. It was a massacre."


I ask all you respectable bloggers out there a question. Does it make sense to destroy innocents' homes and kill their residents? War is a horrible thing indeed. People do die during wars, true. But how can one people understand the gestures of the other if horrible, senseless things are being done?
There are two sides to this equation. Two different people seperated by a transparent border are suffering in their own ways. All we see here is our destruction, all you see there is your destruction. We need to come to our senses, we need to listen to each other. But none of that will happen if both sides continue harrassing innocent civilians. Every time a house is bombed, wherever it is, the residents of that house will suddenly transform into the same people they always detested. Its just a vicious cycle...
The following is the extract of the accounts of a New York Times journalist in South Lebanon. Please do tell me, does this make any sense? Is this humane?

The earsplitting crack hit just a few blocks from the mayor’s office, where Ghassan Farran, a doctor and member of the city council, was sitting Tuesday night. He dropped to the floor. Pieces of debris flew through an open window. An Israeli bomb had pulverized a seven-story building a short distance away. Mr. Farran stood up and walked to the window. The lights were out. A giant cloud of black smoke filled the sky.
“This is the new Middle East,” he said, his voice shaking with anger.

Mr. Husseini, the mayor, who presides over 67 villages in the Tyre region, said that in the worst-hit areas, bodies were still buried under the rubble, and he appealed to the Israelis to allow government authorities time to pull them out. Dogs were even eating them, he said.
“Who can accept this?” he said. “If we send ambulances, they bomb them.”
As for the food delivery, he tried to be optimistic. “When there will be roads, we’ll bring it to the people.”

Her full article can be found here:

Black Sands

(Ramlet al Baida, Beirut)

(Sporting Club, Beirut)

(Northern Coast)

(Damour, south Lebanon)
(All pictures courtesy of the Ministry of Environment)

Statement by the Ministry of Environment
10,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has spilled into the Mediterranean Sea along the coast of Lebanon with an additional 15,000 tonnes expected to follow.

On 13 and 15 July 2006 Jieh power utility located 30 Km South of Beirut directly on the coastline was hit by Israeli bombs. Part of the storage tanks caught fire and are still burning 10 days on. The fuel that did not catch on fire was spilled into the Mediterranean Sea as a result of the blast.

Due to winds blowing South West to North East and water current movement the oil spill was partly carried out to sea and partly dispersed along the coast of Lebanon. So far it has affected 70 – 80 km of both public and private rocky and sandy beaches along the Lebanese coast including public and private marinas/ports for boats/ships of fishermen and tourist resorts from the Damour region south of Beirut through to Tripoli in the North.

The Ministry of Environment asks the Lebanese community to assist it in its work and has prepared a Ministerial brief along these lines.

Some Impacts on the Environmental
· The marine ecosystem (fish species) is active in the summer and has been adversely affected, but the degree of damage cannot be estimated at this point in time. Thankfully, the bird migratory season had recently ended and therefore the numbers of birds affected is expected to be low.
· A small percentage of the heavy fuel oil might have evaporated due to exposure to the elements and does not have a lasting effect.
· A small percentage of the oil might be naturally decomposing because of the natural biodegradation process.
· A large percentage of the spill has emulsified and solidified along the Lebanese shore, clinging to sand, rock and stone as the pictures will show.
· Some of the biological impacts after an oil spill can include:
o Physical and chemical alteration of natural habitats such as when oil is incorporated into sediments
o Physical smothering effect on the marine life
o Lethal or sub-lethal toxic effects on the marine life
o Changes in the marine ecosystem resulting from oil effects on key organisms e.g. increased abundance of intertidal algae following the death of limpets which normally eat the algae.

Impacts on Human Health
Some possible short term adverse effects might include nausea, headaches and skin (dermatological) problems in residents living close to the effected areas or in beach goers getting in touch with the oil.

Plant crops and animal products from coastal farms close to the oil spill sites might have to be tested for hydrocarbon content to be declared safe for consumption.

The Ministry does not advise fishing off the quays and wharfs found along the coast from Jieh to Heri-Chekka until the complete scope of pollution is assessed.

Impacts on Tourism
The tourism industry has badly suffered. The acute impact of the war on this industry has been immediately felt by the nation. The chronic impact of the oil spill is disastrous on the tourism industry due to the length of time it is going to take for the clean up of the sand, the rocks, the shallow reef and the marine ecosystem as a whole.

Many public and private beaches have been heavily affected including boats/ships of fishermen and yachts and boats of tourists from all over the Arab world and the Mediterranean countries as well as boats of Lebanese nationals.

Beach-based tourism was a major economic activity in Lebanon and constituted a major part of the Lebanon’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Impacts on Biodiversity & the Fishing Industry
It is not possible at this moment to evaluate the impact on biodiversity because of the need of more detailed technical assessments carried out under safe national conditions.

The siege on Lebanon by the Israeli army has prevented the Lebanese fishermen from going about their daily work. This oil spill has added to their crisis by destroying the immediate marine habitat of the fish species off the coast. However, it is well documented in the literature that the concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons will be elevated above background concentrations over a substantial area. Biodiversity will surely suffer as in Lebanon it is highly concentrated on the coastline.

Other Shoreline Impacts
The Lebanese coastline is made up of mainly rocky shores. The initial estimates show that the mortality of limpets and other herbivores is high. Further detailed studies need to be carried out to assess the true scale of the damage.

When it rains, it pours...

Over the last two weeks, Israel's relentless military campaign has killed roughly 400 civilians and destroyed Lebanon's economy, but the number of Hezbollah rockets has only increased according to reports. This is a chart which illustrates the data, courtesy of The Times. On this side, missiles havent stopped striking all parts of Lebanon too, but no reports are available on the amount dropped yet by the IAF and IDF. All we know is that 23 tons fell on south Beirut. That was exceeded when 24 bombs hit that area yesterday, Tuesday.
mrtez and HB

Life Before Wartime in New York Magazine

This article just came out in New York Magazine. I get so damn sad to see all our dreams destroyed. The link is :

Life Before Wartime
Beirut as a case study in the fragility of cosmopolitanism.

By Liesl Schillinger

On Wednesday, July 12, the day Hezbollah raided Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers, Ramsay Short, the young British editor of Time Out Beirut, was at the opening-night gala for the new rooftop Sky Bar nightclub in the Beirut waterfront exhibition center called BIEL. Ricky Martin, 50 Cent, and Paul van Dyk had performed at the center over the previous months to thousands of lithe, sweaty Lebanese fans. “It’s a fantastic place, very Miami, very Fashion TV–style glamorous,” Short said. He was in an exuberant mood that night, chatting with the chef Anthony Bourdain, who was there on his first visit to the Middle East to film an episode of his show No Reservations. The city Short had lived in since 2001 was enjoying a vitality it hadn’t seen since the early seventies.

But even amid the fizz at Sky Bar, there was a mood of unease. As fireworks lit the harbor and hundreds of guests gorged on free food and drink, Israeli jets flew watchfully overhead. The next morning, Israel launched air strikes on Beirut and southern Lebanon, and soon after, Hezbollah began firing rockets into northern Israel. By the end of last week, southern Lebanon and southern Beirut had been devastated, and several northern Israeli cities had been hit by rockets, killing fifteen civilians; over 350 Lebanese civilians had been killed, and thousands of Americans were in the process of being evacuated, including Bourdain, who was holed up in a hotel called Le Royal until Thursday morning. “We were treated with incredible hospitality and pride everywhere we went for the first two days we were there,” he said. “In a moment, it turned to shit.” And a notice went up on the Time Out Beirut Website: “Beirut’s favourite entertainment and listings magazine is now suspended. Lebanon is being, once again, used as a battleground for a war that neither its government nor its people want. They are killing our city.” Or something more than a city: In a country that had been experimenting with becoming a cosmopolitan Middle East democracy (albeit one with Hezbollah in the government), much more was at stake than the nightlife.

To many Americans, the word Beirut is synonymous with warfare, not “Fashion TV–style glamorous.” U.S. citizens were forbidden to visit Lebanon for a decade after the horrific suicide-bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in 1983, and when the ban on travel was lifted in July 1997, the bulk of visitors were Lebanese-Americans heading to see relatives. But in recent years, a new lifestyle began to rear up in Beirut. Kids from Dearborn and other Arab-American enclaves came home with reports of Mediterranean sunsets, decadent discos, fabulous food, high-end beach clubs that were “L.A. times ten,” Roman and Phoenician ruins, red-tile-roofed hill towns, and snowcapped mountains. Curious travelers went to see for themselves, and journalists soon followed. It was a sort of exotic, frayed Utopia.

Warren Singh-Bartlett, Wallpaper’s Middle East editor, lives in Beirut. He’d stopped through eight years ago when backpacking and ended up moving there. “I love Beirut because it’s the most improbable city in the world,” he says. “When you think of where it is, when you think of the deep divisions in Lebanese society, when you think of the wildly different ways of living life here—it doesn’t make sense, it shouldn’t work. But it does. There’s a kind of anarchy here that’s beautiful. It’s creative, it’s so different to anyplace else in the Middle East.”

A Wallpaper-ish design culture was blooming. Architects like Philippe Starck and Steven Holl have projects there, and American magazines feature homegrown talent like Bernard Khoury, Nabil Gholam, Annabel Karim Kassar, and Nada Debs. In the current issue, Singh-Bartlett described Beirut as “a real-world Legoland.”

The Manhattan architect Joe Serrins had been part of the boom. Three years ago, he took on a million-dollar job designing a 5,000-square-foot apartment by the marina. Beirut took him by surprise. “I didn’t expect there to be camels roaming around, but I didn’t expect it to be so much like Miami,” he said. “Or Cannes.” He was supposed to fly there last Thursday to wrap up. Needless to say, the trip did not happen. ”It’s incredible now to think that they’re blowing up the airport,” he said. “It’s so tragic and frustrating. They put so much energy into rebuilding, and now this?”

Even before the current crisis, Lebanon teetered between competing realities. In 2005, former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who’d been behind much of the newfound openness, was assassinated in a car bombing. Most put the blame on Syria, and, in fact, international outrage at Hariri’s death helped Lebanon achieve what it had not been able to do in 30 years: get Syrian troops to withdraw from the country.

Meanwhile, many Americans still thought of it as unchanged from the eighties. Maha Chehlaoui, an actress who lives in New York, is astonished at how few of her American friends have asked her how her friends and family in Lebanon have fared over the past two weeks. “I’m convinced it is because they think Beirut has been under fire nonstop since 1975,” she says. “Ten years of peace is a blip on the radar, I guess. After all, ‘those people’ are always bombing each other,” she adds ironically.

Last Wednesday, Leila Buck and her husband, Adam Abel, a young Brooklyn couple, interrupted their holiday in Beirut and escaped to Damascus. Abel, who is a nonpracticing Jew, said, “Being American has been very difficult this last week, because just in a simplistic way, you’re hearing and feeling bombs dropped and you know they’re stamped with MADE IN AMERICA.” He continued, “In Lebanon, because it’s such a layered culture, people are going to ask you where you’re from, and not in a dubious manner; it’s done in a very cultural way. So when people would ask me where I’m from and conversations would become more intimate, I would always tell them I was American, and if they asked further, I told them my family was Jewish, and I was always embraced. There is a clear distinction between the feeling about the religion and the feeling about Israel.”

Singh-Bartlett was in Dubai on assignment when the bombing started. He flew to Damascus on Saturday and paid a driver $100 to get him home. They had to use the side roads since the highway was bombed out. Singh-Bartlett lives in Ashrafiye, the Christian section of Beirut, which contains the Rue Monot, lined with nightclubs and cafés. Much of the Israeli bombardment of Beirut has been concentrated on the poor southern suburbs, but last Wednesday morning, bombs dropped on two trucks in Ashrafiye that had apparently been mistaken for grenade launchers.

Singh-Bartlett does not defend Hezbollah—far from it. He points out that Lebanon is not Hezbollah. “Hezbollah could, with a single action,” he said, “determine the domestic and foreign policy of an entire country independently of that country.”

He was appalled that the city that had been stepping jauntily into the future was being so rudely pushed down. “Everywhere you go in the Middle East, they all want to be Beirut,” he maintains. “That’s exactly why it’s so disgusting that it’s being dismembered in front of me, why it’s being destroyed in front of me. People think of Beirut as a dark, scary place full of dangerous people. That’s not the city I live in. This is the place all the Arabs come to be free, this is where they come to think, this is where they come to play. This is where they come to try new ideas. And then if they like them, they take them home with them. Beirut makes things possible.”

The question is whether this sense of Beirut itself is still possible. Time Out Beirut’s first issue had only come out in April. “Time Out is a magazine about arts and culture,” Ramsay Short says. “But everything has been canceled and half my staff have left the country.” Last year, he published A Hedonist’s Guide to Beirut. “Maybe sales will go up,” he says. “It’ll almost be a collector’s item of what was this high point, what now seems like a dream.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Target Practice?

I am now truly convinced that the missiles used on Lebanon are precision-guided missiles. Too bad it was a Red Cross ambulance. Bull's Eye indeed!!!

The Birth...

(Picture depicts the attack that the Irgun 'terrorist' group undertook in 1946 against British assets in Jerusalem)

This is an excellent article written by Correlli Barnett, a military historian at Churchill College. This man witnessed what he calls the first terrorism in the Middle East.

July 21, 2006
By Correlli Barnett

Several of my good friends are American, but this does not inhibit me from criticising George W. Bush's catastrophically misguided invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Similarly, I have good friends who are Jewish, but this will not inhibit me from criticising the current 'total war' being waged on Lebanon by the Israeli state. The fact that some of my Jewish friends will read this article only makes me the more sad that I have to say, as a military historian, that this war is grotesquely out of proportion to the level of casualties and damage previously inflicted on Israel by Hezbollah. It is likewise grotesquely out of proportion to the taking hostage of two Israeli soldiers -- as are the ferocious Israeli attacks inside the Gaza strip in response to the taking hostage of just one soldier.
Certainly, Israel has the right to defend herself today as she has done successfully in the past. But surely her response to Hamas and Hezbollah should have been limited and precisely targeted rather than a version of the 'shock and awe' bombing which opened the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Israeli government should have learned that 'shock and awe' may only be a prelude to a protracted guerilla war. During the long and bitter struggle against the IRA in Northern Ireland, it never occurred to any British government that the IRA bases and arms dumps within the Irish Republic should be bombed by the Royal Air Force, let alone that whole districts of Irish cities like Drogheda known to harbour IRA terrorists should be destroyed. Equally, it has never occurred to a Spanish government that it would be right and proper to respond to the lethal, indiscriminate attacks by ETA (the Basque terrorist organisation) by savagely bombing and rocketing San Sebastian and other Basque cities.
Why should Israel regard herself as a p r i v i l e g e d exception? Why should 'the West' in general -- and Bush and Blair in particular -- also regard her as a privileged exception, rightfully entitled to conduct a savage total war in response to Hezbollah attacks no worse than those of the IRA and ETA? These questions are the more pertinent because Israel herself was born out of a terrorist struggle in 1945-48 against Britain, which then ruled Palestine under a United Nations mandate.
The so-called Stern Gang (after its founder, Abraham Stern) specialised in assassination, its most famous victim being Lord Moyne, the Colonial Secretary, shot in Cairo in 1944. But by far the most dangerous Jewish terrorist group was the Irgun Zvei Leumi (National Military Organisation) led by Menachem Begin, who after the creation of the state of Israel founded the Likud political party, and even finished up as prime minister. The group's propaganda stated its political aims with brutal clarity. First, what it called 'the Nazo-British occupation forces' must be driven out of Palestine. Then a Jewish state would be established embracing the whole of Palestine and Transjordan (as Jordan was then known). Too bad about the native population of Arabs, of course.
The group's logo, displayed on the fly-posters which I myself saw as a soldier in Palestine in 1946-47, showed a crude map of Palestine and Transjordan with an arm holding a rifle splayed across it. The Irgun's successful attacks included the demolition in 1946 of the wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem housing the secretariat of the British mandatory government and also the HQ of British troops in Palestine -- at a cost of 91 lives, Jewish, Arab and British, most of them civilians (for more info on this attack, click here . Another 'success' was the blowing-up of the Officers' Club in Jerusalem in March 1947. I saw the corpses lying on slabs in the morgue, spittle still bubbling out of their mouths. In combat with a terrorist group perhaps some 3,000 strong, a maximum of 100,000 British troops was deployed in a country about the size of Wales. There was a lesson here for George W. Bush and Tony Blair before their invasion of Iraq -- but of course a lesson unheeded by men with no interest in history.
In July 1947, the Irgun Zvei Leumi kidnapped two British Intelligence Corps sergeants as hostages to trade against the lives of three Irgun terrorists under sentence of death for an attack on Acre jail. Here is an exact parallel to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. But unlike the savage reaction of Ehud Olmert's government today, the British government in 1947 did not seek to apply pressure to the kidnappers by ordering the RAF to destroy large parts of Tel Aviv, and the Royal Artillery to bombard selected Jewish settlements suspected of being bases for the Irgun. In the event, the three Jewish terrorists were hanged -- and the Irgun in turn strung up the two British sergeants from a tree in an orange grove and booby-trapped their bodies.
Yet even then it did not occur to the British authorities to impose the kind of savage collective punishment that Olmert's government is now visiting on the Arabs of Gaza and southern Lebanon. A notice posted by the Irgun proclaimed that the two sergeants had been hanged because they were 'members of the British criminal-terrorist organisation known as the British Army of Occupation in Palestine', responsible for the murder of men, women, children and prisoners of war. The so- called 'murdered prisoners of war' were in fact terrorists hanged after due trial.
This Irgun proclamation signed off with the warning: 'We shall revenge the blood of the prisoners of war who have been murdered, by actions of war against the enemy, by blows which we shall inflict on his head.' So blood- thirstily selfrighteous is the language of this long proclamation that it could just as easily have been written today by Hezbollah or Hamas or Al-Qaeda. The sacred cause may be different, but the language and the type of mind behind it remain the same.
In the event, Jewish terrorism against the British finally succeeded. All attempts to negotiate a future for Palestine which balanced Jewish interests against those of the majority Arab population came to nothing. A project for a single state with Jewish and Arab cantons was rejected by the Arabs. An Arab proposal for a single state based on the existing Arab majority and a limit on future Jewish immigration was rejected by Jewish leaders. A two- state solution, proposed by a UN commission and favoured by Washington, was in turn rejected by the Labour Government, who rightly feared that it would be British troops who would have to impose the settlement on one side or the other -- or perhaps on both.
This, the chiefs of staff warned, would require two extra divisions on top of the two already in Palestine. With the Irgun campaign of bombing still going on, and the tally of British casualties mounting, Clement Attlee's Cabinet had quite simply had enough. They refused to impose the UN plan, and instead opted for unconditional withdrawal, even at the cost of (in the words of Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary) 'a period of bloodshed and chaos'. Another lesson here for Tony Blair in regard to Iraq? So Britain handed the mandate back to the UN and announced that British rule in Palestine would end in spring 1948. As it duly did. In the last months of the mandate, the security situation dissolved into three-cornered violence -- Jew versus British and Arab; Arab versus Jew and British; British versus both.
By the time the last British force had left, this violence had degenerated into anarchic civil war between Jew and Arab. It was just the prelude to the full-scale war between the new state of Israel and neighbouring Arab regimes wanting to extinguish it. The war ended in the successful conquest by Israel of the larger part of Palestine, and a tidal wave of Arab refugees into Lebanon and Jordan. Here is the origin of today's bitter Arab resentment of Israeli hegemony -- a resentment which powers Hamas and Hezbollah as they follow the path of terrorism first mapped out by the Stern Gang and the Irgun Zvei Leumi in the 1940s.

CORRELLI BARNETT is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.