Monday, November 13, 2006

Press release: Wrong side of the border/ U.N. Past time to disarm Israel

Salam all,

Among others, compañera Caoimhe Butterly and I will be engaging in a 4-day symbolic hunger strike in front of the UNIFIL office in Tyre (Sour), south of Lebanon. Please find information below.

I will try to continue blogging during the coming days and also through out the upcoming anti-war conference in Beirut, but it all depends on internet connection available. We call upon people worldwide to take action against the contineous and relentless offensive in Gaza.

In solidarity

Press release: Wrong side of the border/ U.N. Past time to disarm Israel

Following the recent massacre in Beit Hanoun, a group of citizens, united by sense of outrage at the silence of western and Arab governments, will be engaging in a four day hunger strike, outside of the UNIFIL office in Tyre in solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza.

Nationalities participating include Lebanese, Palestinian, US, and Irish activists. The participants have worked for the past months in humanitarian and community projects in villages in the South. This symbolic hunger strike will take place from Tuesday 14^th November till Friday 18^th ,2006. Participants will be engaging in a water-only hunger strike and maintaining a 24-hour tent for the four days in front of the UNIFIL office.

We are choosing to be hungry in solidarity with those who have no choice. As a result of continual economic and military siege the majority of Palestinians now live in extreme poverty.

This hunger strike seeks to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the speed at which UNIFIL forces were deployed in the south of Lebanon, where in occupied Gaza despite repeated Palestinian and international calls for an international observation force, citizens remain unprotected and vulnerable to repeated Israeli assaults. We call on the United Nations to disarm Israel, and to send peacekeeping observers to Gaza and the West Bank. We state that there is more need for U.N. troops in Gaza than in the South of Lebanon. If the mandate of the UNIFIL aims to provide protection to people in the south then their responsibility lies on the other side of the border.

We are taking personal responsibility for national silence. We wish to state that in the face of governmental and civil society silence we have a responsibility to act, and that we recognize that the situation in Occupied Palestine is fundamentally linked to events in Lebanon.

We call on civil society in Lebanon to join us in our symbolic hunger strike to mourn the victims of the attacks in Gaza and to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle.

The participants in the protest invite the press to visit the tent for a press conference on Tuesday the 14^th at 1 pm. The tent will be located across the road from the UNIFIL offices in Tyre, next to the Central Bank.

Contact people, Caoimhe Butterly and Imad Mortada - 00961 70 974238 (languages spoken Arabic, English, Castellano, and French)

Participants in the action and other grassroots activists would also like to invite the international delegations visiting Beirut for the anti-war conference for a meeting on Thursday, 16th of November at 9 pm at T Marbouta café, Pavillion center, first floor, behind Antoine Bookstore, Hamra street.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Meeting Ahmad on the Burnt Side of the Border!

I arrived to meet Ahmad after a high emotionally-charged trip through the destroyed villages along the Israel-Lebanese border. We stood there silently sobbing watching the forbidden land that we consider Palestine as we puffed our cigarettes along with our frustration and helplessness. On one side of the border total destruction, burnt land and graffiti of resistance; and on the other side, green fields and tidily arranged houses protected by Israeli military. All look serene rendering the scene more brutal and surreal. Borders never looked more ridiculous and painful, a winding barbed wire with fences and military roads marking the separation, cutting through a land that looks very much alike. A land that is one, a natural continuation divided by a war machine and ruthless bombing. We had to leave quickly; the feeling of helplessness and frustration in the face of such a ridiculous fence and such grave injustice was too intense to bear.

I met Ahmad in his village, Dayr Seryan, in the south of Lebanon while he was playing with his friends around plastic water tanks stacked in front of the village´s school. The tanks were waiting to be distributed part of relief programs and were the source of imagination for the kids game. They were playing war, using the water tanks as shelters, running around throwing little stones at each others then screaming “go to the shelter, go to the shelter” before they run laughing to hide between the lines of grey water tanks and stay still for a while before they storm out and start throwing pebbles again. Even as we sat to talk we were not spared few pebbles and laughs from the crowd inciting us to leave the interview and join the game. Ahmad is 12 years old and he spent 21 days in his village during the war before they left during the 24-hour ceasefire declared by Israel – a ceasefire Ahmad told me was restricted to aerial bombing while the Israeli cannons thundered in the distance. He caught my attention from the first minute, the way he spoke calmly with a smile and much confidence, and the way he stared at the ground and took time to think before he answered. His friends were all around us, teasing him to which he responded with a wide smile and closed eyes as he turned his head down. Ahmad´s father works in Qatar while he lives with his mother and two siblings, an older brother and a 5-year-old sister – in the village.

Read the interview...

Stop "Autumn Clouds" from killing civilians in Gaza! ACT NOW!

The Israeli military is engaging in an continuous offensive in Gaza, which resulted so far in more than 300 injured, and more than 70 killed - mostly civilians. Please take action urgently to stop this madness named by the Israeli military “Operation Autumn Clouds”.

I just came from a candle vigil at the mass graveyard of the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. The pain is unbelievable, it is the same story again and again with the civilian toll rising. More actions are planned in Lebanon in solidarity with the people of Palestine and those being massacred in Gaza. I do not know what to say... I chose to post an account from Beit Hanoun... please read on...

Appeal from the people of Beit Hanoun -
click here

The Massacre of Beit Hanoun

From Electronic Intifada, Yousef Alhelou writing from Beit Hanoun, occupied Gaza Strip, 8 November 2006

One day after the Israel army declared that it had pulled out and completed Operation Autumn Clouds in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, 24 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and the West Bank, 19 people were killed and at least 45 were injured as a large number of shells were fired at the town. Another five Palestinians were killed in Jenin, northern West Bank by Israeli army fire.

The series of incidents began at 6 a.m., when eyewitness said that dozens of tank shells and missiles landed simultaneously in a small and limited area in Beit Hanoun. Ambulances found it difficult to evacuate the wounded. According to Palestinian sources, some of the shells landed on a house, killing 11 members of one family called Al-A'athamein, including a nine-year-old child and a 73-year-old woman. Israeli sources confirmed that artillery shells were fired Wednesday morning. Incredibly, they said it was not yet known whether the matter was a technical error or a human one.

Sources in Gaza reported that some of those killed were hurt after shells hit a group of civilians who arrived to aid those hurt in the first barrage. Residents in the area were called to donate blood for fear that the number of casualties would be higher. Khaled Radi, a Palestinian Health Ministry official, said all the dead were civilians. He said seven children and four women were among the dead.

Radi also said at least 45 more were wounded, all civilians. Four hospitals are treating the wounded across Gaza. Emergency and first aid director in the ministry of health, Dr Moa'aweyah Hasanein announced that the latest round of Israeli war crimes in Gaza has resulted in a new massacre in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Nineteen innocent civilians, including seven children and four women, have been murdered brutally as they slept in their own house. This brings this week's toll alone to around 80 Palestinian martyrs and more than 350 have been injured.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

When Rain Becomes the Nightmare: National Day Against Cluster Bombs!

When it comes to cluster bombs, rain was again an issue; a big tent was put up in Martyr´s square in downtown Beirut to host the event to avoid the pouring sky. Many NGOs, local and international, gathered to raise awareness about this indiscriminate weapon and to voice a demand for a ban on its manufacturing, distribution and usage. School children and adults toured the multiple sections of the event, an extensive photo exhibit revealing the perilous impact of these weapons in Southern Lebanon; a booth and area where specialists illustrated the stages in constructing prosthetics and artificial limbs, and where the public could also try them along with wheel chairs; a puppet show for children raising awareness amongst the children; a musical concert by handicapped children; a re-production of a contaminated zone and a display of the different types of cluster munitions coupled with demining demonstrations; an exhibit of products and crafts made by Lebanese victims of landmines. The event included signing a petition (sign online) against the production, trade, stockpiling, and use of cluster munitions.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

UNIFIL... out and about!

On the 15th of March, 1978 the Lebanese government submitted a complaint to the Security Council against the Israeli invasion and occupation of the entire southern part of the country except for the city of Tyre and its surrounding area. As a result, the Security Council adopted resolution 425 and 426 in which it called upon Israel to immediately cease its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory; and decided on the immediate establishment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) whose troops arrived in the area on the 23rd of March 1978.

According to the Security Council, the interim force was created for three purposes: Confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security, and assisting the government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. UNIFIL claims success of the implementation of two of the objectives; confirming the withdrawal of Israel – which is not true since Israel holds military presence in the Lebanese Shebaa Farms and recently in the Al Gajar village; and assisting the Lebanese government in regaining control in the area – a role whose credibility and effectiveness are very ambiguous.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Eyes on Aita El Shaeb!

Fotos from Aita El Shaeb - a village in the south of Lebanon close to the border with Israel/Palestine hosting around 10,000 inhabitants. The destruction is unbelievable, this is a small example of what you might see keeping in mind over 1.2 million unexploded bomblets as the result of Israel using cluster bombs during the war on Lebanon. An estimate of 80 percent destruction in Aita El Shaeb.

The village witnessed a battle between the Israeli occupation forces and the villagers joined by Hezbollah fighters.

Thanks for Blue Pi for providing the pictures.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Popcorn" bombs

It is estimated that Israeli bombings of Lebanon left more than a million unexploded cluster bombs and anti-personnel weapons. Few lie around in Yasmine´s garden. Yasmine is 11 years old from a small village in the south of Lebanon and a good tour guide around her family´s garden showing you the remaining unexploded cluster bombs. Two to give a count, one is hiding high in the grape vine and the other next to a little rock. They look nonthreatening, just little odd metal canisters calling to be removed. But Yasmine is good at protecting you; she asks you firmly not to touch them nor get close to them only to laugh later as she teases you that you can never know when the one on the grape vine would fall; "so you´d better be ready to run". “Sometimes brown vine leaves fall and we would run thinking it is the bomb... it is very scary. But after we run and hide and notice it is just a vine leave we laugh a lot. Only Allah knows when will it fall; I hope it falls when we are out on a visit, this way it will explode and we will get rid of it without getting hurt.”

Everybody speaks of the cluster bombs in the south. Ask anyone and you will get stories of where they were found, or how someone died or got amputated as a result of one. A daily fear that we are living with these days turned into a nightmare with the begining of the rain season – rainwater covering the bomblets with mud. Rain can smoothly push some bombs under rocks, can pat the grass on top of others and even bury it totally with mud. The rain started, and so did the nightmare. It is you and your luck with your life in your hand for years to come. So walk, move, touch and look carefully... it can be anywhere, and one tiny mistake is fatal. Read on!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hezbollah - The Beauty and the Beast within

Armed resistance against Israeli occupation and Israeli aggression on Lebanon and in affinity with the Palestinian struggle has been a mark in Lebanese modern history and society since as back as 1948. There have been communist, socialist, Lebanese and Arab nationalist, Palestinian, and Muslim parties and individuals in Lebanon that picked up arms against the Israeli war and occupation machine. Hezbollah is not the first to use armed struggle nor will it be the last as long as Israel continues its political and military agenda in the region; yet in recent years there is a noticeable absence of leftist and progressive groups from the resistance front. The absence of leftist and/or progressive armed resistance cannot be attributed to lack of support or conviction in such strategies but rather to the lack of arms and needed financial resources within leftist groups. The support for armed resistance against Israeli occupation within radical leftists groups in Lebanon is strong and is blended with serious criticism of Hezbollah´s political discourse on the internal Lebanese front - an intricate discussion that takes up a lot of space in the Lebanese society.

Before Hezbollah came into existence mid eighties, there existed a long line of armed resistance against Israel. There have been as well many operations with the objective of capturing Israelis for prisoner-exchange attempts whether for Lebanese prisoners, Palestinians or both. Hezbollah assumes a continuation for this extended line of armed resistance that was backed by a wide popular support strengthened by a diverse participation of Lebanese and Palestinian political parties. For example, one of the key figures in the current prisoners exchange equation, Samir Kontar, is imprisoned by Israel as a result of his active role in the resistance against Israeli occupation years before Hezbollah came into existence. This line linking Hezbollah´s armed resistance to an adorned herstory of struggle contributes today to its popular support outside its Shiite base. Yet it is important to note that Hezbollah´s popularity outside Muslim Shiite circles feeds on a leftist frustration - and a general Arab one - when it comes to confronting the Israeli war machine. The differences between Hezbollah´s armed resistance - both ideologically and in practice - from the precedent currents of resistance and from the discourse of a wide base of the supporters of Hezbollah´s resistance today, are clearly and strikingly marked by both sides. Yet the collective frustration resulting from the helplessness of leftist and progressive parties in the face of Israel, added upon by international criminalization of the resistance, both silent and vocal support for Israeli crimes, and the lack of viable alternatives, play an important role in shaping people´s views of the disarmament of Hezbollah.