ATTAC Lubnan Liban Lebanon أتاك لبنان ـ الجمعية اللبنانية لأجل عولمة بديلة

Open letter from besieged Beirut

Tuesday 18 July 2006, by Webmoudir

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

MONDAY JULY 17, 2006

NOT A BATTLE OF EQUALS

Regardless of how one sees Hizbullah’s kidnapping of Israeli soldiers (a tactic that they learned from Israeli itself) and its subsequent defense of Lebanon, Israel’s response has been an egregious violation of international law and human rights conventions including the Fourth Geneva Convention.

We in ATTAC LUBNAN protest to the international community against this gratuitous use of excessive force in Lebanon, the disregard for human life, the deliberate destruction of civil infrastructure, and a calculated plan by Israel to cause a humanitarian crisis of massive proportions. Furthermore, we protest that no US or Western mainstream media outlets, let alone few governments, have reported that this aggression is not only illegal and a contravention of human rights conventions but beyond the pale of any “civilized” nation let alone one that receives billions of dollars in aid from the United States not to mention trade privileges in North America and Europe.

Israeli officials have admitted that this offensive has been planned for some time. The truth is that the civilian population of Lebanon, its civil and economic infrastructure, and its overall economy for the next several years are all currently being held as ransom to push Israel’s political agenda. This agenda includes the disarming of Hizbullah and full implementation of 1559 and might also include provoking Syria into an expanded regional war, which would allow the US to open up a full air campaign to target Bashar al-As’ad’s ossified, authoritarian regime and to eliminate through force Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States, Great Britain, EU and G8 have virtually exonerated Israel of the massive amount of violence and bloodshed that it is inflicting on Lebanon. Most news agencies are reporting this offensive as if it were a battle between equals. This is NOT a battle of equals. On Sunday, "8 killed in Haifa" was the BBC’s and other US media’s headline while at the same time 15 children, women, and men were TARGETED and KILLED by the Israeli army. Since that time scores of other innocent civilians mostly children, women, and elderly have been massacred in their homes or in their cars fleeing.

This is NOT a battle of equals where 16 Israelis dead equal more than a 184 dead Lebanese, the COMPLETE destruction of Lebanese infrastructure, and millions Lebanese and several tens of thousands of foreigners being held hostage.

ON THE GROUND,

On the ground, a grassroots coalition leftists and secular groups have now been transformed into a relief service for refugees able to flee the Southern Suburbs or al-Dahiyah with several non-political social groups and NGOs joining in.

The Seniora government has taken its time to alleviate the mounting humanitarian and refugee crisis. The government is clearly split with half, including the bloc with which Minister Mouawad and Seniora’s ruling coalition are associated, indirectly and tacitly supporting the siege in hopes of breaking their most well-organized, well-funded, and disciplined opponent, Hizbullah. Consequently, Beirut and all of Lebanon is under a complete state of siege and the Southern Suburbs, which is bearing the brunt of the attack, at least in Beirut, is deserted. What roads, highways, tunnels and bridges have not been destroyed, are highly unsafe as we have learned in Marwaheen where fifteen innocent men, women and children were massacred in their cars on Saturday and several others killed fleeing in their cars since.

It is not ironic that they were refugees fleeing their village at the command of the Israeli army only to be executed in their vehicles in flight. When the Guardian reports that Brigadier General Dan Halutz announced today (July 17) that “Nowhere (in Lebanon) is safe” in Lebanon, we clearly see that Israel is carrying out not a military campaign against a sovereign enemy but in fact a clear and deliberate policy of terror in Lebanon.. Mimicking every occupation army in the 20th century, they callously blame all Lebanese civilian causalities and deaths on Hizbullah, asserting they “provoked” Israel’s “justified” retaliation. Isn’t this what Shaykh Nasrallah says when her refers to the tens of Lebanese and thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Isn’t this the logic of the “resistance” to punish, retaliate or fight Israel who illegally engages in multiple forms of collective punishment not only in their siege of another sovereign country (Lebanon) but also in the past several weeks in Gaza? Yet, Hizbullah’s retaliations if not aimed at military personal is careless throwing a handful of missiles into Israel, praying for them to do damage. Contrarily, Israel has engaged in targeting civilian homes, neighborhoods, cars, minibuses, and fleeing pedestrians with F-16s, Apache helicopters and gunships.

The consequence in Lebanon is that most people can’t or won’t go from town to town to safer ground, as it seems as dangerous to move as to stay put. Consequently, cities and villages in the South such as Sidon, Tyre, and Nabatiyah are completely isolated and cut off. Millions of Lebanese along with tens of thousands of foreign nationals are stranded throughout the country. The pounding of al-Dahiyah, the international airport, and the port is clearly audible throughout Beirut along with an almost constant drone of warplanes over head, dropping flyers whose adolescent, silly, and juvenile quality ALMOST makes one wish for bombs!

In addition to a naval and air blockade that is being actively enforced by nightly bombing of several Lebanese ports, Israel has carefully destroyed all land routes leading to Syria except one remaining corridor to the North. Previously, many of us not living in the South or the Southern Suburbs were tense but felt confident that Israel would concentrate on those areas. However, Saturday’s immense attack proved us wrong. The air offensive hit every part of the country. To date (Monday July 17), the Israel air force has bombed regularly the ports of Beirut (which is right next to the cities downtown and bordering densely populated residential areas in East Beirut, Tripoli, and Jounieh ports. In addition to major bridges and civilian fuel supplies to the airport and electricity power plants, they bombed Lebanese Army airport and radar posts but also civilian-owned telecommunications infrastructure. R’as Beirut was hit for the first time on Saturday when Israelis in American made and paid for Apache helicopters blew up the civilian lighthouse on the Corniche (only about 200 meters from the American University).

Tyre, Sidon, Nabitiyah and other towns in the South along with densely populated and extremely impoverished al-Dahiyah are however bearing the full force of Israeli aggression as they have been subjected to a relentless and merciless siege by air and sea since Wednesday July 12. These areas along with rural villages have suffered the lion’s portion of the civilian causalities, which has now reached almost two hundred in only six days.

REFUGEES AND REFUGEE RELIEF

On Saturday, the Lebanese Army shut down an "Open Sit-In" (camp out) in Martyr’s Square that the coalition of secular progressive groups, including ATTAC LUBNAN, launched on Wednesday in solidarity with the Palestinians under siege in Gaza. Ironically, the Israelis chose to make us comrades of those who have been suffering a horrific siege in Gaza. The Lebanese Army shut us down because we (between 30-100 people at any given time) were camped near the main artery and bridge between East and West Beirut and they feared that it too would be destroyed. Fortunately, this sit-in provided us with a ready made working group that transformed quickly into an on-the-ground and virtually spontaneous refugee relief coalition. See http://sanayehreliefcenter.blogspot.com/

This coalition was sorely needed in the first days of the Israeli offensive. The pro-American Lebanese government and Nayla Mouawad, the Minister of Social Affairs, have done little for these refugees. Only Saturday and Sunday, the government sent out “officials” to ask what is needed only to disappear and never be heard from again. Only yesterday, Monday June 17 did the government open up public schools for these refugees to sleep.

These refugees, many among the poorest communities in Lebanon, have few safe places to go as most of them are from the southern Lebanon, which is both inaccessible and equally dangerous. Currently, the coalition based in Beirut’s progressive Zico House and Nadi al-Liqa report that there are several thousands of refugees spread out in twenty-five of public schools in R’as al-Naba’, Hamra, Karakas, and elsewhere. Currently, there are 350 refugees in Sanaya public garden, mostly women, children, and elderly, sleeping without shelter. The coalition has been providing some with food and bedding. However, they are desperately short of food stables, dried milk, baby-formula, sleeping mats, clothes, diapers, and medicine as well as adequate medical assistance.

We, ATTAC LUBNAN, urge our friends and comrades and all people of conscience to action for Lebanon. We urge you to contact your government and local representatives, whether in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, or South America, to call for an immediate and unconditional cessation of violence by the Israelis both in Lebanon and Gaza. We call for you to voice your rejection of Israel human rights violations, use of collective punishment, and disregard for civilian populations..

Finally, we urge our Jewish and Palestinian comrades inside Israel itself to reject the irresponsible and reckless policies of the Israeli government and pressure it to sit with all parties in the region for a lasting and equitable peace.

Stephen Sheehi, Beirut, Lebanon ATTAC LUBNAN Lebanon

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