Saturday, August 05, 2006

From Berlin...

Friday, August 04, 2006

If you can't handle it, then don't read it...

In light of all the Mel Gibson-style anti-semitic "dangers" of today, please don't take offense reading this lively debate. Or, just don't read it if it might offend you.

It interests me more (most of the time) to hear the opinions of people who don't work for the media, than to hear the opinions of those who do (who are more often than not subjected to censorship). Journalists often risk losing what would have/could have been a fresh perspective on vital world issues (in this case it's more like an ancient world issue -- so maybe fresh isn't the right word). And besides, they're in the business of reporting/analyzing the news, which is tough enough as it is, and leaves them little time (or freedom) to express what they truly believe and feel as human beings.

The views expressed below do not express my own beliefs, but we're all people, no matter who or what we're affiliated with, and people (and their beliefs) must count not just for something, but for everything. Over here are only three people engaging in what I consider a lively debate...Again, I'm not trying to offend anybody. And I haven't even bothered to check who these people are or what they do, cuz it doesn't matter.

The Problem is Chutzpah

by Jennifer Winkler

Uri Avnery in his article, "Anti-Semitism & Zionism", relates a pivotal incident in his father's life:

One day, during a session of the court, a young lawyer cried out: "Jews like you are not needed here anymore!"'

I think almost everyone reading this will focus on the quote without its final word, that is, "Jews like you are not needed here." That's a pity, because the last word is a clue to an important discovery.


We are told that the story of the Jews is one of ever-repeated persecution, that arises spontaneously and seemingly inevitably out of some kind of inherent flaw in (goy) humanity.

Well, it's time to study this history, and not be simply fed it by those with fantastic ulterior motives - as we have realized it's time to study the Israel/Palestine issue, and not be simply fed an interpretation by one side of it.

Can this history be found? It can. It needs diligence and true objectivity, however. One has to have one's guard up, of course, vis-a-vis one-sided preferential interpretation. Most (though not all) that I have found is written by Jews and is especially accommodating to Jewish-defensive interpretation.

It seems bizarre of course that some people would be attacked all the time just because they were what - different? They were attacked by people who usually didn't have much. Why would these attackers waste their limited resources so much on attacking Jews? Why would nature (the-survival-of-the-fittest) gear them up to waste themselves so on senseless attacks?

Another obvious question to ask is, "Has something like what has happened to Jews happened to anybody else?" In this regard I am reminded of an article I once read in the (wonderful) National Geographic magazine. It was an article about a rural area in western Canada. There was a sect (Christian) of people who were very tight-knit. Their many families lived and cooperated together on the same large farms as a unit (like a commune or kibbutz). Other people living in the region had great animosity toward the people of this sect. Yet no wrongdoing was associated with them. It seems to me they evoked hostility merely because they worked at an advantage relative to other people.

From all that I have read it seems the Jews are "guilty" of operating at an advantage relative to other people: the advantage of inherent chutzpah (my dictionary says it's from the Yiddish, meaning "gall, brazenness"). If ever there was a word explaining the entire advent of the Israel/Palestine conflict that would be it!

If Jews have been simply disliked, why did this dislike occur time and again only after a period of warmth and cooperation with Gentiles? Jews in early fourteenth century Spain were prominent in positions of privilege and power and intermixed with, even married, the natives. LATER sentiment against Jews arose. Jews were prominent in the Weimar regime of Germany. There was much intermixing of Jews and Germans. LATER sentiment against Jews arose. Similarly in the USSR and the Soviet satellites.

Somehow repeatedly the non-Jews got quite fed up with the Jews. Even in texts written by Jews there are hints why. The book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, contains references by contemporary "antisemites" to "wealth (Jews) amassed through thieving and cheating" (to which Palestinians can relate) and the idea that Jewish absence would "make the German people again the master in its own house" (to which Americans can relate).

We hear always that pograms and persecutions took place. Rarely we get a glimpse of what motivated them. But, briefly, in his book The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State, Benjamin Ginsberg mentions Czechoslovakians being irritated by "tremendous influence" of Jews and "animosities" caused by "Jews in the government" being cited as the cause of a pogram in Poland.

The Fatal Embrace importantly observes that Jews, through the centuries of their diaspora, frequently have assumed unpopular and coercive roles in government, such as that of tax collector and inspector. They characteristically have striven for positions within the frameworks of power. They have tended to be partisan, moreover, forming close ties with particular regimes; these ties would haunt them when regime change later occurred. Jews were highly associated with Soviet block Communism, being mutually supportive and probably mutually discrediting.

These, and many other, references and my own personal observations indicate that Jews strive at life, at progress and prosperity, with exceptional gusto. Their drive and assertiveness is overwhelming to non-Jews and puts non-Jews at a considerable relative disadvantage. Therein lies the problem. They're just too pushy, they're hard to compete with.

Observing this, and determining to protect against Nazi-type actions, what should we do? Give the Jews a state of their own? What sense would this make? Why would you take high-performance people and put them in a team of their own? A super team that in a global community would outcompete and annoy the rest of us.

And, indeed, this is exactly what they have done. They've mastered an intricate task that Arabs have only just begun to realize exists: making America do exactly what they want AND with essentially no one who matters cognizant of it. (America is being plundered psychologically, as well as materially, and generally neither Americans nor their Arab foes recognize it.) In fact, what we have seen happen in Palestine is what you would expect if the problem was not (mindless) persecution of Jews, but a big dose of innate Jewish chutzpah.


Ms. Winkler may be contacted at:

[JTR Comment: This is a reply by David Meir-Levi, described at one web site as "an American-born Israeli) to Jennifer Winkler (who has an article about Jewish "chutzpah" (obnoxiousness) posted at this web site). Meir-Levi's text was emailed to us by "Becky Johnson." Judging by what we found in a search of her email address on the Internet, Ms. Johnson is a quintessential self-deluding Jewish (or married to one?) "leftist." One one hand, she's an activist for the "homeless" in Santa Cruz, California. Swell. On the other hand, when it comes to Jewish identity, she turns the tables completely: she is an ideological activist/apologist in the enforced homelessness of the Palestinian people by the apartheid Israeli state. Hers is a classic case of shameless, two-faced, Judeocentric hypocrisy. (Her article shafting the Palestinians concludes with this: "This article can be reprinted at no cost by not for profit organizations that work for social justice." Such a comment is immoral, corrupt, grotesque, and obscene.)]

Dear Ms. Winkler,

Thank you for showing us just what a problem Jewish “Chutzpah” is. I found your article (published recently in Indymedia) very interesting. You have almost hit the proverbial nail right on its proverbial head. Jewish “Chutzpah” is, indeed, a (but not “the”) problem.

It is important to note that we Jews are different, and always have been. It is our destiny to be different. We learn this from the non-Jewish prophet Balaam, in Numbers 23:9 (“…Lo it [Israel] is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations”).

And, indeed, enough of world Jewry have lived their lives in a way to fulfill this destiny that Jewish history is an attestation to the price to be paid for being different. But, don’t forget, it takes a lot of “Chutzpah” to be different. Social pressure, especially when it is exercised with violence and intimidation, can be very difficult, even dangerous, to face up to, and to stare down.

For 2,000 thousand years when the world reveled in polytheism, the Jews had the “Chutzpah” to say “NO…there is only one God”…and to then suffer the enmity of the polytheists. For 2,000 years since the onset of Christianity, the Jews have had the “Chutzpah” to say “NO…there is more than one way to worship God, there is more than one path to the Father, and we Jews prefer our own path”…and to then suffer the brutal, soul-withering, relentless, lethal Jew-hatred of much of the Christian world, a hatred that reached its apotheosis in the Holocaust. For 1,400 years since the onset of Islam, the Jews faced the Moslem world with the same message….and suffered the dhimmitude and persecution that Islam imposed upon the “People of the Book”.

Inherent in the Jewish message of the right to be different is the assertion that all humanity has that same right, and no one should be persecuted because he/she/they may choose a different path of communion with God. That is a message that we Jews have had the “Chutzpah” to relate to the world on a daily basis for 4,000 years. And it is only in the past 200 years (since the Enlightenment period in Europe) that this message has begun to take root in the West. Intolerance has the Middle East still mired in a medieval mindset. Some societies are slower learners than others.

So why do I say that you are at least partially right, that this “Chutzpah” is a problem? Because it is indeed a problem for those for whom difference is a threat. It is a problem for those for whom non-conformity is frightening. It is a problem for those who demand agreement, for whom mindless conformity is a value, for whom uncritical obedience is a virtue. That is why, historically, the Jew has always been the natural enemy of the totalitarian, the dictator, the tyrant. From Haman to Hitler, from Seleucus to Stalin, from Antiochus to Arafat…the Jew has stood up to them all, stared them all down, and in doing so paid a horrific price for our “Chutzpah”.

In sum, difference is a threat only to the primitive mind. “Chutzpah” is a problem only to the insecure soul. So that is why I say that you have ALMOST hit the nail on the head: Jewish “Chutzpah” is indeed a problem….but only for some.

David Meir-Levi Menlo Park, CA USA

February 19, 2004

PS. Regarding your article’s egregious errors of history, fallacies of logic, lapses of rational thought, and mendacious mis-representations of the current Mid-East conflict….we can discuss those in a separate email.

This is JTR's "Palestine Man" response to Mr. Meir Levi:

Dear Rabbi Meir-Levi:

I have a question for you. Do Jews have a monopoly on "chutzpah" like everything else? Is the right to say "NO" reserved exclusively for Jews? If we are talking about the word "chutzpah" itself, yes, it is a Yiddish word. If we are talking about the concept of "chutzpah", as you define it, meaning saying "NO!" and resisting social injustice (as well economic injustice), I always thought those rights were innate (meaning even us "inferior" Gentiles are born with them), and God-given. But then, you Jews seem to think we Gentiles worship a different God, therefore not only are we a different species, we are of a different world.

The Palestinians decided, I guess, that they too, had as much right to "chutzpah" as you Jews, and had as much right to say "NO!" and defend their basic human rights against the injustices of your Judeocentric jingoism and Zionist tyranny. What about the "horrific price" they have paid for their "chutzpah?" Over 3, 000 civilians dead, out of a population of 1.8 million. You do the math, and use the same ratio to figure out what that would mean if we were hypothetically talking about a country with the same population as the United States. How many million people would that translate as? And this is NOT counting the casualties of the First Intifada.

First of course you say that "It is our [Jews] destiny to be different". Self-exclusion has always been a trademark of Jewish culture, the underlying message being of course, "we are not like the rest of you (Gentiles), which makes us special". Then of course comes your claim that, "Inherent in the Jewish message of the right to be different is the assertion that all humanity has that same right, and no one should be persecuted because he/she/they may choose a different path of communion with God". Does that explain the Judaization of Jerusalem, and declaring the Old City as part and parcel of "Israel's Eternal Capital", and making two of the world's greatest religions, Christianity and Islam, captives to Zionism? Does it explain the hundreds upon hundreds of Christian churches and Muslim mosques that were destroyed in the Galilee (which the "Partition Plan" had designated as part of an Arab state), and which continued to be destroyed when Sharon embarked on his "Mitzpim" project, which meant displacing and uprooting more Palestinians and replacing them with Jews (after all, Sharon's philosophy was, "the Galilee has been annexed. It's ours. Whatever's there is Jewish").

Does it explain the fact that you Jews have taken 78 percent of historical Palestine, and have moved thousands of settlers into the remaining 22 percent, leaving nothing but a few large population centers, and a dry strip along the "Judean" Desert for the Palestinians? Does it explain the fact that you have not only stolen the land, but also the water aquifers in the Occupied Territories, stealing what little water is to be found in this parched and arid little corner of the world? Does it explain the fact that you have formally annexed the Golan Heights, which has enabled you to steal water from the Sea of Galilee, which Syria would have been able to share had you not stolen this vital piece of her territory which was its main access to freshwater? Does it explain your theft of water from the Jordan River, and during your occupation of Lebanon, stealing water from the Litani River?

It seems that those who are not Jews, are not entitled to share the world with Jews. Everything in the world, and the universe belongs to Jews. But then according to the Talmud, God is a real estate agent who favors the Jews in any land or water dispute, and only Jews matter. The rest of us, we poor, unfortunate, miserable Gentiles, are the "least of brethren". We are inferior. We are dogs waiting for the Jews to throw us an unwanted chicken bone.

Meanwhile the Palestinians had the courage to decide that they were not going to sit back and vote themselves out of existence. They decided it was time to say "NO!" and think of their survival as a people. They decided that their land and their crops and their homes were key to their survival, their lifeblood, their livelihood, their future. They decided they were sick and tired of being continuously raped as a people, humiliated, belittled, oppressed and stripped of not only their ancestral homeland but their dignity. They decided they would not let IDF thugs and terrorist settlers break their spirit. They decided it was time to exercise "CHUTZPAH".

Sorry, Rabbi, THIS is the one thing you can't take away from them. And it may upset you deeply Rabbi, but the truth is, the millions of diaspora Palestinians have as much right to that old, famous tune, "If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem...".


Jennifer Winkler responds:

In this particular controversial subject area one finds a lot of people severely bound to dogma. There is a certain stock formulary of Jewish ideas about Israel, which can be found on Internet forums, newspaper letters to the editor and everywhere else that people in the Western world talk about it, that in fact has so little variation one could imagine it is written by the same person (though of course it isn’t).

Living by dogma and living by one’s wits are radically different paths. It is probably the most significant difference among those in contention over Israel/Palestine and perhaps among people generally. I can’t argue with the people of dogma, because they don’t know what argument is. My already abundant efforts at it have clarified that.

In David Meir-Levi I perceive such attachment to dogma and therefore not much point in directly communicating with him. But for those people not bound to dogma I’ll compose a retort.

Whatever may be true about Jewish directions in history, one thing is pretty clear: it hasn’t worked, not over the very long haul, anyway. Engineers do “failure analysis” when their bridges fall down. Well, when persecution keeps happening, failure analysis needs to be done too. What happens when an engineer won’t admit he ever could make a mistake? He won’t see his mistakes, and then of course he won’t correct them. It becomes probable that the failures will be repeated.

Now what people usually say at this point is: how can you blame the victim? Or (even if only a scant amount of blame is suggested): why are Jews always blamed? In reply one must say: since when is anyone excused from responsibility and potential blame, and why should goyim always be blamed?

Attention has been given to the matter by Jews, but it has been so driven by an insistence on self-blamelessness, that persecution is explained entirely in terms of Gentile weaknesses, e.g. jealousy, etc. Indeed there are likely to be Gentile weaknesses figuring in it. But there are indications that there is more to it than that.

To say it once, anyway, for the record, my quest in sharing my article “The Problem is Chutzpah” is to fulfill a personal civic duty I perceive. The events of Sept. 11 prompted me to examine matters related to the Middle East. In peeling back the layers of issues, I find a startlingly serious one behind it all: a misconstrual of the Jewish situation as being one of mindless persecution by the Goy. Being a misconstrual it has prompted corrective actions that are unsuitable – in fact logically they stand to make matters worse. Unlikely as it may sound, I feel I’m doing my duty to try to save people from the dangers of their unseeingness, as I would holler “Fire” to a building’s occupants if I saw that it was on fire and thought they didn’t know.

For supposedly intractable persecution the answer was deemed to be a separate state. But, alas, it takes more than a flag and real estate to obtain independence. Benjamin Ginsberg in The Fatal Embrace, Jews and the State paints a picture of a history of Jewish activity in countries of the diaspora wherein tight alliance with the powers of the land was achieved and used to extract benefit. This occurred in Spain, Russia, both czarist and Stalinist, Germany and many other places, spanning both medieval and modern times. How can one now not look at the neocons in America today and not see it there too?

What is culture? Habits, ways of operating that are ingrained, pre-scripted human behavior that as individuals we pick up from those around us. It is inherent to the business of being human. After eons of latching onto ruler entourages as a way of life and survival, why would this type of behavior disappear suddenly upon the nominal establishment of a Jewish state?

Because the processes of fundamentally changing behavior have not been carried out, Israel is not functioning as a sovereign state but as a protectorate of the United States. Thus, Jewish people, if they’re pledged to the welfare of Israel, remain as ever dependent on the whims of Gentiles.

If attachment to the ruling elite is perilous, as Ginsberg’s analysis reflects, then why would it not be in America too? And why would it not in fact be the most dangerous Jewish co-opting yet, because unlike in any previous instance, it’s so blatantly in service of an exclusively Jewish thing: Israel.

What can be expected from people who say “Don’t tread on me”, upon your treading on them?

Israel Extends Strikes North of Beirut, Hitting Village

August 4, 2006, New York Times

Israel Extends Strikes North of Beirut, Hitting Village


HALAT, Lebanon, Aug. 4—Israel unleashed airstrikes across Lebanon Friday, severing the last major road link to the outside world and killing more than 30 people.

The bombs destroyed four bridges along the main north-south highway in what had been the largely untouched Christian heartland north of Beirut and far from Hezbollah territory. With the road from Beirut to Damascus already cut at several points, this was the only practical way to bring in relief and other supplies from Syria, tightening the sense of siege here.

At the steep gorge here cut by the Fidar River, which runs down the mountains to the Mediterranean, dozens of Maronite Catholic residents gathered to stare in stunned silence at a 200-yard stretch of four-lane highway blasted into rubble. The supports for the bridges rose like cliffs at either end.

“Where are the Katyushas of the Hezbollah here?” asked Joseph Abihana, referring to a type of rocket that has been fired at Israel from the southern part of Lebanon. He said he was awakened by four bomb blasts. “We are used to being a safe area here, but now there is no safety. I blame the Israelis.”

The airstrikes began in the early morning hours, hitting familiar targets in Hezbollah’s southern Beirut strongholds of Haret Hreik and Bir Abed, already largely flattened, and in the sprawling slum known as Dahieh on the southern edge of the city. They spread for the first time to the little port and fishing village of Uzai near the Beirut airport.

In the Bekaa Valley, hard against the Syrian border, an airstrike killed at least 28 seasonal farm workers loading fruit and vegetables into a refrigerated truck. Ali Yaghi, the head of the rescue service in the tiny village of Qaa, told reporters that others may be buried in the rubble. Israel has frequently fired upon vehicles it suspected of carrying fighters or weapons, but these have also included water drilling rigs, convoys of medical supplies and minivans of fleeing civilians.

Fierce ground fighting continued in the south on the 24th day of the war, with Israel bringing more artillery to the border to pound the hillside villages and Hezbollah hiding places. Israel also called up more reserves to bolster the roughly 10,000 troops already in Lebanon. The Israeli army said two soldiers and an officer were killed today when they were struck by an anti-tank rocket.

The Israeli army said it has established positions in about 11 southern villages, but in more than three weeks of fighting it has met stiff resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas. Amid criticism in Israel that the prosecution of the war has been too slow, military officials were reportedly gearing up for a harder push, with a goal of securing a wide buffer zone and the possibility of at least temporarily occupying the port city of Tyre.

Throughout the night, dozens of air raids shook villages in the vicinities of Tyre and Nabitiyeh behind the front lines.

But Hezbollah’s ability to fire rockets into Israel remained intact. By nightfall, Israeli officials said, 195 rockets had landed, killing at least four people. The Israeli police said that 2,500 rockets had been fired into Israel since the war began.

The wave of bombings was yet another crippling blow to Lebanon’s infrastructure, painstakingly rebuilt over the past decade after years of civil war. Lebanese officials say 71 bridges have been destroyed — including elaborate overpasses on the Damascus road — and estimate the damage at $2 billion and rising. Nearly a quarter of the population of four million has been displaced, they say, with many finding temporary shelter in schools. There has been widespread damage to homes and businesses in the south and in the Shiite neighborhoods of Beirut.

On Friday, the war came home to the Christian heartland, a place as different as night and day from the poor and pious Shiite strongholds of Hezbollah. As the steep mountains rise up from the sea, the landscape is often lush and spectacular. Several of the bridges hit Friday were near the major resort area around Jounieh, site of the Casino Du Liban, which is famous for its floor shows.

While many Lebanese Christians have long distrusted Hezbollah and other Muslims and Druse (there were, after all, 15 years of civil war along sectarian lines), and many criticized the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 that touched off the conflict, comments Friday indicated that the damage Israel has inflicted on Lebanon has shifted that equation.

“Public opinion is 100 percent against Israel from this area,” said Camille Chamoun, scion of one of the three major Christian families who mounted militias against the Muslim and Palestinian forces during the civil war and whose faction was aligned with Israel during its 1982 invasion.

“This is just an excuse to hit more of our infrastructure,” said Manal Azzi, a 26-year-old health worker who lives next to the destroyed bridge.

“I’m here speaking as a Christian,” she went on. “Israel is our main invader and has been for the last 50 years. Right now we’re getting more civilian casualties, so we’ll have another war in 10, 15 years.

“They talk about a new Middle East. To serve who? Israel and the United States. Israel is itself a terrorist state backed up by the United States.”

Residents in Quzai, adjacent to the Hezbollah stronghold of Haret Hreik just south of Beirut, awoke Friday to the shattered remains of a fishing fleet decimated in an especially heavy bombardment that killed one Lebanese soldier in a guard post nearby.

Pieces of boat hulls, engines and shrapnel were scattered throughout the field, and were flung several blocks away, injuring one person. Nearby, a Hezbollah-funded youth center was decimated in the early morning attacks that rattled nerves and signaled a widening of bombing outside Haret Hreik, where most of the bombing has occurred.

Decades ago, this neighborhood was lined with luxurious beaches and resorts. But during the civil war, it was populated by refugees who built shanty towns and houses that have remained here ever since.

More than 400 fishing boats and trawlers, most of them moored in a dock, others stored in a nearby field, were destroyed in the bombings in an hour-long barrage by helicopters, aircraft and warships off the shore, residents said.

“The planes came from above, and then we heard ships shooting too,” said Jihad al Hoss, who lived across the road. “They hit 30 or 35 rounds into the area. But what fault is it of the fishermen in all this?”

Parts of outboard motors were scattered everywhere, and the smell of diesel fuel and motor oil pervaded the area, which is just across from a runway at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International airport. Fishermen rushed into the area to inspect their boats, warning others who arrived at the scene to turn away to avoid being disappointed.

“They’ve destroyed our homes, and now they’ve destroyed our livelihood,” said Fadel Alami, who dove into the water to salvage parts from his wooden fishing trawler. He managed to recover the registration booklet for the boat and pieces of a sonar device, but, he said, the rest is all gone.

“We still have our dignity, and Seyed Hassan will help us get the rest back,” he said, speaking of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

A Christian woman who gave her name as Um Claude, wearing a black cloak and looking downtrodden, rushed to her home, which overlooked the docks. She scrambled to remove clothes and belongings, ordering her son to help her. All the windows had been shattered, and the top floor of the house was riddled with shrapnel.

She had escaped the house the night before as planes began circling overhead, she said, and stayed with relatives in another part of town. Her son, who only gave his name as Claude, climbed over a fence to help his mother.

“Why are you crying mom?,” he asked as she came up the stairs. “We have to be steadfast.”

“How can I not cry, just look around you,” she said. “But we have to persevere. Hassan Nasrallah will change this.”

Lahoud: Israel is waging "war of starvation"

Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST, Aug. 4, 2006

Israel was waging a "war of starvation" on Lebanese civilians in an effort to force the Lebanese government to agree to Israel's demands, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said in a statement issued Friday.

His comments came after Israeli warplanes bombed bridges and roads in Christian neighborhoods north of Beirut, killing 5 civilians and making travel between suburbs increasingly difficult. Missiles struck the country's main north-south highway - its primary artery to the outside world, through Syria in the north.

"The Israeli enemy's bombing of bridges and roads is aimed at tightening the blockade on the Lebanese, cutting communications between them and starving them," Lahoud said.

He linked the new raids to Israel's failure to win quick victory in the south, where Israeli soldiers have been mired in ground battles with Hizbullah guerrillas for several days.

"Today's air raids confirm that Israel is trying to compensate for the losses of its army in the south ... by cutting off the only coastal highway remaining to transport aid to displaced people and refugees and supply the country with oil products, foodstuffs and aid," Lahoud said.

"It is a war of starvation launched by Israel against Lebanon," he said. "It is an aggression that has exceeded Israel's declared objectives. Israel has now decided to destroy Lebanon."

This article can also be read at

Employees of FOX Resign

From Mideastwire

As Safir, an independent newspaper, published in its August 4 issue a letter of resignation from two employees of the American Fox television network Sirine Sabbagh ad Jumanah Karadshah. Sirine wrote: "Dear all, We would like to inform you of our resignation from the 'Fox News' network in Amman, despite the fact that we didn't work directly for your network but we helped facilitate your work in the Middle East for the past three years. Our decision to resign is based on moral issues as we could no longer work for a news network that claims to be just and moderate, while being farthest from this. Your network is not only a tool in the hands of the American administration's and Israeli propaganda's hands, you are also war mongers without any sense of decency or even professionalism. You violated all the moral restraints and red lines. The Arab mother cries over her babies same as any American or Israeli mother. Arab blood is not cheap, and we aren't barbarians.
You should have been more responsible and had more decency when you decided to side with one faction against the other. You should have been responsible in what you sow [for your] naïve viewers.

"For the three years in which we worked for you, we believed that you would come to hold some respect for the people that inhabit this part of the world. But your scandalous snobbery and unilateral behavior in covering all the struggles in the Middle East do not show anything other than your lack of humanitarian compassion and unqualified support for Israel. Your lack of professional sense has made you a laughingstock throughout the world. Your lack of experience and your racial narrow-mindedness is not merely a mark of disgrace on all the American media, but also represents how your television networks are run amid countries that you only despise.

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Sirine Sabbagh
Jumanah Karadshah - As Safir, Lebanon

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Israel, Not Hizbullah, is Putting Civilians in Danger on Both Sides of the Border

Israel, Not Hizbullah, is Putting Civilians in Danger on Both Sides of the Border

By JONATHAN COOK; August 3, 2006 - Counterpunch


Here are some interesting points raised this week by a leading commentator and published in a respected daily newspaper: "The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert embeds his soldiers in Israeli communities, next to schools, beside hospitals, close to welfare centres, ensuring that any Israeli target is also a civilian target. This is the practice the UN's Jan Egeland had in mind when he lambasted Israel's 'cowardly blending ... among women and children'. It may be cowardly, but in the new warfare it also makes macabre sense. For this is a propaganda war as much as a shooting one, and in such a conflict to lose civilians on your own side represents a kind of victory."

You probably did not read far before realising that I had switched "Israel" for "Hizbullah" and "Ehud Olmert" for "Hassan Nasrallah". The paragraph was taken from an opinion piece by Jonathan Freedland published in Britain's Guardian newspaper on 2 August. My attempt at deception was futile because no one seems to seriously believe that criticisms of the kind expressed above can be levelled against Israel.

Freedland, like most commentators in our media, assumes that Hizbullah is using the Lebanese population as "human shields", hiding its fighters, arsenals and rocket launchers inside civilian areas. "Cowardly" behaviour rather than the nature of Israel's air strikes, in his view, explains the spiralling death toll among Lebanese civilians. This perception of Hizbullah's tactics grows more common by the day, even though it flies in the face of the research of independent observers in Lebanon such as Human Rights Watch.

Explaining the findings of its latest report, HRW's executive director, Kenneth Roth, blames Israel for targeting civilians indiscriminately in Lebanon. "The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military's disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians. Our research shows that Israel's claim that Hezbollah [sic] fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel's indiscriminate warfare."

HRW has analysed the casualty figures from two dozen Israeli air strikes and found that more than 40 per cent of the dead are children: 63 out of 153 fatalities. Conservatively, HRW puts the civilian death toll so far at over 500. Lebanese hospital records suggest the figure is now well over 750, with potentially many more bodies yet to be excavated from the rubble of buildings obliterated by Israeli attacks.

Giving the lie to the "human shields" theory, HRW says its researchers "found numerous cases in which the IDF [Israeli army] launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military objectives but excessive civilian cost. In many cases, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some instances, Israeli forces appear to have deliberately targeted civilians."

In fact, of the 24 incidents they document, HRW researchers could find no evidence that Hizbullah was operating in or near the areas that were attacked by the Israeli air force. Roth states: "The image that Israel has promoted of such [human] shielding as the cause of so high a civilian death toll is wrong. In the many cases of civilian deaths examined by Human Rights Watch, the location of Hezbollah troops and arms had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around."

The impression that Hizbullah is using civilians as human shields has been reinforced, according to HRW, by official Israeli statements that have "blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants, arguing that only people associated with Hezbollah remain in southern Lebanon, so all are legitimate targets of attack."

Freedland makes a similar point. Echoing comments by the UN's Jan Egeland, he says Hizbullah fighters are "cowardly blending" with Lebanon's civilian population. It is difficult to know what to make of this observation. If Freedland means that Hizbullah fighters come from Lebanese towns and villages and have families living there whom they visit and live among, he is right. But exactly the same can be said of Israel and its soldiers, who return from the battlefront (in this case inside Lebanon, as they are now an invading army) to live with parents or spouses in Israeli communities. Armed and uniformed soldiers can be seen all over Israel, sitting in trains, queuing in banks, waiting with civilians at bus stops. Does that mean they are "cowardly blending' with Israel's civilian population?

Egeland and Freedland's criticism seems to amount to little more than blaming Hizbullah fighters for not standing in open fields waiting to be picked off by Israeli tanks and war planes. That, presumably, would be brave. But in reality no army fights in this way, and Hizbullah can hardly be criticised for using the only strategic defences it has: its underground bunkers and the crumbling fortifications of Lebanese villages ruined by Israeli pounding. An army defending itself from invasion has to make the most of whatever protection it can find -- as long as it does not intentionally put civilians at risk. But HRW's research shows convincingly that Hizbullah is not doing this.

So if Israeli officials have been deceiving us about what has been occurring inside Lebanon, have they also been misleading us about Hizbullah's rocket attacks on Israel? Should we take at face value government and army statements that Hizbullah's strikes into Israel are targeting civilians indiscriminately, or do they need more serious investigation?

Although we should not romanticise Hizbullah, equally we should not be quick to demonise it either -- unless there is convincing evidence suggesting it has been firing on civilian targets. The problem is that Israel has been abusing very successfully its military censorship rules governing both its domestic media and visiting foreign journalists to prevent meaningful discussion of what Hizbullah has been trying to hit inside Israel.

I live in northern Israel in the Arab city of Nazareth. A week into the war we were hit by Hizbullah rockets that killed two young brothers. The attack, it was widely claimed, was proof either that Hizbullah was indiscriminately targeting civilians (so indiscriminately, the argument went, that it was hitting fellow Arabs) or that the Shiite militia was so committed to a fanatical war against the Judeo-Christian world that it was happy to kill Nazareth's Christian Arabs too. The latter claim could be easily dismissed: it depended both on a "clash of civilisations" philosophy not shared by Hizbullah and on the mistaken assumption that Nazareth is a Christian city, when in fact, as is well-known to Hizbullah, Nazareth has a convincing Muslim majority.

But to anyone living in Nazareth, it was clear the rocket attack on the city was not indiscriminate either. It was a mistake -- something Nasrallah quickly confirmed in one of his televised speeches. The real target of the strike was known to Nazarenes: close by the city are a military weapons factory and a large military camp. Hizbullah knows the locations of these military targets because this year, as was widely reported in the Israeli media at the time, it managed to fly an unmanned drone over the Galilee photographing the area in detail -- employing the same spying techniques used for many years by Israel against Lebanon.

One of Hizbullah's first rocket attacks after the outbreak of hostilities -- after Israel went on the bombing offensive by blitzing targets across Lebanon -- was on a kibbutz overlooking the border with Lebanon. Some foreign correspondents noted at the time (though given Israel's press censorship laws I cannot confirm) that the rocket strike targeted a top-secret military traffic control centre built into the Galilee's hills.

There are hundreds of similar military installations next to or inside Israel's northern communities. Some distance from Nazareth, for example, Israel has built a large weapons factory virtually on top of an Arab town -- so close to it, in fact, that the factory's perimeter fence is only a few metres from the main building of the local junior school. There have been reports of rockets landing close to that Arab community.

How these kind of attacks are being unfairly presented in the Israeli and foreign media was highlighted recently when it was widely reported that a Hizbullah rocket had landed "near a hospital" in a named Israeli city, not the first time that such a claim has been made over the past few weeks. I cannot name the city, again because of Israel's press censorship laws and because I also want to point out that very "near" that hospital is an army camp. The media suggested that Hizbullah was trying to hit the hospital, but it is also more than possible it was trying to strike -- and may have struck -- the army camp.

Israel's military censorship laws are therefore allowing officials to misrepresent, unchallenged, any attack by Hizbullah as an indiscriminate strike against civilian targets.

Audiences ought to be alerted to this danger by their media. Any reports touching on "security matters" are supposed to be submitted to the country's military censor, but few media are pointing this out in their reporting. Most justify this deception to themselves on the grounds that in practice they never run their reports by the censor as it would delay publication.

Instead, they avoid problems with the military censor either by self-censoring their reporting on security issues or by relying on what has already been published in the Israeli media on the assumption that in these ways they are unlikely to contravene the rules.

An email memo, written by a senior BBC editor and leaked more than a week ago, discusses the growing restrictions being placed on the organisation's reporters in Israel. It hints at some of the problems noted above, observing that "the more general we are, the free-er hand we have; more specific and it becomes increasingly tricky." The editor says the channel will notify viewers of these restrictions in "the narrative of the story". "The teams on the ground will make clear what they can and cannot say -- and if necessary make clear that we're operating under reporting restrictions." In practice, however, BBC correspondents, like most of their media colleagues, rarely alert us to the fact they are operating under censorship, and self-censorship, or that they cannot give us the full picture of what is happening.

Because of this, commentators like Freedland are drawing conclusions that cannot be sustained by the available evidence. He notes in his article that "this is a propaganda war as much as a shooting one". He is right, but does not seem to know who is really winning the propaganda offensive.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is

Exchanging open letters: On Lebanon, the U.S.

The Daily Star , Thursday, August 03, 2006

An open letter to the American president

By Salim El Hoss
Special to The Daily Star

Dear Mr. Bush,

We heard you express your regrets regarding the casualties of Israel's ravaging war against my country, Lebanon.

I hope you have been furnished with a true profile of the atrocities being perpetrated in my country. You pose as being at war with terrorism. Let me honestly tell you: Charity starts at home.

Israel is wantonly indulging in the most horrendous forms of terrorism in Lebanon: indiscriminately killing innocent civilians at random; not sparing children, elderly or handicapped people; demolishing buildings over their residents' heads; and destroying all infrastructure, roads, bridges, water and power arteries, harbors, air strips and storage facilities. Nothing moving on the highways is spared, not even ambulances, trucks, trailers, cars or even motorcycles, all in violation of the Geneva Conventions and human rights.

The displaced population has reached more than one fourth of the total population of my country - all suffering the harshest and most miserable of conditions. The victims include thousands of killed and maimed.

If this is not terrorism, what is?

Israel's savage assault has been labeled retribution for Hizbullah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers. This smacks of collective punishment, which constitutes a brazen violation of the Geneva Conventions and human rights. Furthermore, the alibi is far from plausible. The two Israeli soldiers were abducted for the express purpose of reaching a swap of hostages with Israel. In fact, Israel had acceded more than once to such swaps in the past. Why would a swap of prisoners be acceptable at one time and a taboo, rather a casus belli, at another? This created a conviction among the Lebanese that the sweeping assault against them was premeditated, and the abduction was only a tenuous excuse.

Israel is indulging in terrorism at its worst, at its ugliest, using the most lethal and sophisticated weapons you have supplied them.

We the Lebanese are justified in seeing in Israel as a most atrocious terrorist power, and seeing in you a direct partner. Mr. President: You are indeed a terrorist practicing the worst variant of terrorism as you condone the annihilation of my country, precluding a cease-fire to be announced, supporting the aggression against my people politically and diplomatically and bolstering Israel's destructive arsenal with the most lethal weaponry.

Mr. President: You are not fooling anybody with your alleged war against terrorism. In our perspective, you and Israel are the most unscrupulous terrorists on earth. If you want to fight terrorism, we suggest that you start with your administration and your hideous ally, Israel.

You repeatedly claim that Israel is acting in self-defense. How preposterous! Self-defense on other people's occupied territory is tantamount to one thing: blatant aggression.

You call Hizbullah a terrorist organization. We call it a legitimate resistance movement. There would have been no military wing of Hizbullah if there had been no Lebanese territory under Israeli occupation, if there had been no Lebanese hostages languishing in Israeli jails, and if Lebanon had not been exposed to almost daily Israeli intrusions into its airspace and territorial waters, and to sporadic incursions into Lebanese land and bombardment of civilian targets.

You cannot eliminate a party by demolishing a whole country. This would have been achieved peacefully by Israel withdrawing from the land it occupies, releasing Lebanese prisoners, and desisting from further acts of aggression against Lebanon.

Israel is the most horrendous terrorist power. And you, Mr. President, are unmistakably a direct partner, and hence a straight terrorist.

Salim al-Hoss, former prime minister of Lebanon

August 1, 2006

Beirut, August 3, 2006

An Open Letter to Dr. Salim al Hoss, former prime minister of Lebanon

Dear Dr. Hoss:

Your open letter to the president of the United States (Published on the front page of the Daily Star, August 2, 2006) presents a strong complaint incorporating the sincere and emotional grievance of many, if not most Lebanese. President Bush is urged to reflect on the case you made and to come to his own conclusions.

Yes, Israel bears responsibility for the tragic events you describe. But the equal responsibility of the notorious Lebanese political establishment for the ongoing tragedy cannot be ignored. And, Sir, you have been a pillar of this establishment since you first took the office of prime minister nearly thirty years ago.

As you know, Israel did not come into existence on July 12, the day the current chain of the events you described commenced. As a matter of fact it was proclaimed in 1947. Since then, countless, essentially similar, events, took place in Lebanon and around the region both in the form of regular wars or of military reprisals. The Lebanon-Israel armistice agreement of 1949 collapsed in the late sixties and Israel simply stopped recognizing it. Lebanese territory was repeatedly assaulted and occupied by Israel’s armed forces, particularly from the year 1978, which brought about Resolution 425. Under all these conditions, how come the government of Lebanon, controlled by the same political establishment that, at least from 1976, included you, totally failed to provide the necessary protection to the people of Lebanon and particularly the population of the South? How come Lebanon, through its government, failed to build the most essential military defenses on its Southern border or on the coastline, and has no air defense system to speak of? How come no public shelters whatsoever were built conforming to recognized safety standards to protect and secure the constantly threatened population all the way from the South to the North of the country?

I would like to remind you that the sincere and emotional complaint you made, eloquent as it may be, is not much different in substance from official statements recently issued by other Lebanese politicians and the Lebanese government including the sitting prime minister. Unfortunately, this has been the daily bread which the Lebanese people have been force-fed with from the year 1947. Complain, complain, complain, but do nothing! For why did the Lebanese not get, in addition to all those complaints, some statesmanship from the political establishment that rules the country since its independence day? Why was there no official action or credible plans to protect the people of Lebanon from Israel’s war machine? Why did the political establishment never allow the emergence of a responsible and effective Lebanese government that upholds the rule of law and protects human rights?

Dr. Hoss:

It is undeniable that Israel bears the direct responsibility for its recent action through superior fire power that killed and massacred countless innocent Lebanese civilians, men, women and children, and especially children, in violation of every conceivable rule. But you must agree with me that the Lebanese political establishment is at least equally, if not more, responsible, both morally and legally, and stands guilty of gross failure and wanton negligence characterized by reckless indifference to the consequences of its failure and negligence.

Moreover, I believe that complaints such as the one you made in your open letter to the American President often tend to cover-up criminal responsibility on the home front. Hence I ask you to join me in calling for the investigation of all Lebanese politicians who held public office as members of the government of this country over the past four decades. Such investigation must be followed by prosecution and trial of those indicted for their responsibility for the crimes of wanton negligence and reckless indifference against Lebanon’s suffering men, women and children. This prosecution is doable. It falls within our own reach and can cover crimes which are punished against under Lebanon’s penal code.

- Muhamad Mugraby

The author is an attorney at law, former professor of law, and president of the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law, Beirut.

Has a A world wide web war?

The answer is pretty much in the first two paragraphs of this article:

GIYUS calls Jews of world to web duty
By Linda Harel /
August 3, 2006

When noticed a poll on, a popular Arabic website, asking whether the current violence in Lebanon is an Israeli provocation, they decided to help balance the results.

A message with a link to the poll popped up on the desktops of GIYUS' Israel-loving members and soon, the poll results jumped from an overwhelming yes to an over 80 percent no.

GIYUS (Give Israel Your United Support) is a new project that has recently been released by the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) in order to balance anti-Israel sentiment expressed on the web and influence public opinion.

To accomplish this, they created Megaphone, a free tool that can be downloaded from their website. Megaphone allows alerts to pop up on users' desktops every time it finds an attention-worthy article, poll or forum on the internet. Students and members of pro-Israel organizations are encouraged to visit the sites and express their opinions.

In addition to making users aware of problematic biased articles and anti-Semitism, GIYUS encourages them to write letters of approval to the editors of sites that publish positive articles to help increase their popularity.

The project is designed to be interactive. Megaphone users can contribute to its growth by reporting both biased and commendable websites and polls for consideration.

To attract users from around the world, GIYUS translates polls into English, French and Hebrew, and soon Spanish.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bush’s Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father

August 2, 2006, New York Times
The President

Bush’s Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father


WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — When they first met as United States president and Israeli prime minister, George W. Bush made clear to Ariel Sharon he would not follow in the footsteps of his father.

The first President Bush had been tough on Israel, especially the Israeli settlements in occupied lands that Mr. Sharon had helped develop. But over tea in the Oval Office that day in March 2001 — six months before the Sept. 11 attacks tightened their bond — the new president signaled a strong predisposition to support Israel.

“He told Sharon in that first meeting that I’ll use force to protect Israel, which was kind of a shock to everybody,” said one person present, given anonymity to speak about a private conversation. “It was like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ “

That embrace of Israel represents a generational and philosophical divide between the Bushes, one that is exacerbating the friction that has been building between their camps of advisers and loyalists over foreign policy more generally. As the president continues to stand by Israel in its campaign against Hezbollah — even after a weekend attack that left many Lebanese civilians dead and provoked international condemnation — some advisers to the father are expressing deep unease with the Israel policies of the son.

“The current approach simply is not leading toward a solution to the crisis, or even a winding down of the crisis,” said Richard N. Haass, who advised the first President Bush on the Middle East and worked as a senior State Department official in the current president’s first term. “There are times at which a hands-off policy can be justified. It’s not obvious to me that this is one of them.”

Unlike the first President Bush, who viewed himself as a neutral arbiter in the delicate politics of the Middle East, the current president sees his role through the prism of the fight against terrorism. This President Bush, unlike his father, also has deep roots in the evangelical Christian community, a staunchly pro-Israeli component of his conservative Republican base.

The first President Bush came to the Oval Office with long diplomatic experience, strong ties to Arab leaders and a realpolitik view that held the United States should pursue its own strategic interests, not high-minded goals like democracy, even if it meant negotiating with undemocratic governments like Syria and Iran.

The current President Bush has practically cut off Syria and Iran, overlaying his fight against terrorism with the aim of creating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls “a new Middle East.” In allying himself so closely with Israel, he has departed not just from his father’s approach but also from those of all his recent predecessors, who saw themselves first and foremost as brokers in the region.

In a speech Monday in Miami, Mr. Bush offered what turned out to be an implicit criticism of his father’s approach.

“The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said. “For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States.”

Now, as Mr. Bush faces growing pressure from Arab leaders and European allies to end the current wave of violence, these differences between father and son have come into sharp relief.

“There is a danger in a policy in which there is no daylight whatsoever between the government of Israel and the government of the United States,” said Aaron David Miller, an Arab-Israeli negotiator for both Bush administrations, who has high praise for James A. Baker III, the first President Bush’s secretary of state. “Bush One and James Baker would never have allowed that to happen.”

Other advisers who served the elder Mr. Bush are critical as well, faulting the current administration for having “put diplomacy on the back burner in the hope that unattractive regimes would fall,” in the words of Mr. Haass.

Whether the disagreement extends to father and son is unclear. The president has been generally critical of the Middle East policies of his predecessors in both parties, but has never criticized his father explicitly. The first President Bush has made it a practice not to comment on the administration of his son, but his spokesman, Tom Frechette, said he supports the younger Mr. Bush “100 percent.”

Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser, who has been openly critical of the current president on Iraq, did not return calls seeking comment. He wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post on Sunday calling on the United States to “seize this opportunity” to reach a comprehensive settlement for resolving the conflict of more than half a century between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Baker also did not return calls.

The differences between father and son are partly to do with style.

“Bush the father was from a certain generation of political leaders and foreign policy establishment types,” said William Kristol, the neo-conservative thinker who worked for the first Bush administration and is now editor of The Weekly Standard. “He had many years of dealings with leading Arab governments; he was close to the Saudi royal family. The son is less so. He’s got much more affection for Israel, less affection for the House of Saud.”

That affection, Mr. Bush’s aides say, can be traced partly to his first and only trip to Israel, in 1998. It was a formative experience for Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas. He took a helicopter ride — his guide, as it happened, was Mr. Sharon, then the foreign minister — and, looking down, was struck by how tiny and vulnerable Israel seemed.

“He said that when he took that tour and he looked down, he thought, ‘We have driveways in Texas longer than that, “ said Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary. “And after the United States was attacked, he understood how it was for Israel to be attacked.”

Others say Mr. Bush cannot help looking at Israel through the prism of his Christian faith. “There is a religiously inspired connection to Israel in which he feels, as president, a responsibility for Israel’s survival,” said Martin S. Indyk, who was President Clinton’s ambassador to Israel and kept that post for several months under President Bush. He also suggested that Republican politics were at work, saying Mr. Bush came into office determined to “build his Christian base.”

But the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, dismissed that idea, telling reporters last week that Mr. Bush does not view the current conflict through a “theological lens.”

Mr. Bush has to some extent played the traditional peacemaker role in the region, especially in dealing with relations between Israel and the Palestinians. He called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state, set out a “road map” to achieving a lasting peace and was critical of some of Mr. Sharon’s policies.

But he has drawn a sharp distinction between the Palestinian people and Israel’s conflicts with what he regards as terrorist organizations. He came into office refusing to meet with Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and cut off Mr. Arafat entirely in early 2002, after the Israeli Navy captured a ship carrying weapons intended for the Palestinian Authority. That foreshadowed the way he is now dealing with Hezbollah.

His father’s pre-9/11 policies were more concerned with the traditional goals of peace, or at least stability, in the Middle East. Relations between the first President Bush and his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Shamir, hit a low point when Mr. Bush refused Israel $10 billion in loan guarantees to resettle Soviet Jews. And Mr. Baker, as secretary of state, was once so frustrated with Israeli officials that he scornfully recited his office phone number and told them to call when they were serious about peace in the Middle East.

But Mr. Bush has enjoyed singularly warm relations, particularly after 9/11. “It is this event, 9/11, that caused the president to really associate himself with Israel, with this notion that now, for the first time, Americans can feel on their skin what Israelis have been feeling all along,” said Shai Feldman, an Israeli scholar at Brandeis University who has been in Tel Aviv since the hostilities began. “There is huge, huge appreciation here for the president.”

'Shredded by Cluster Bombs'

Shredded by Cluster Bombs

Bush and Blair: "Keep It Up!"


I dropped by the hospital in Marjayoun this week to find a young girl lying in a hospital bed, swathed in bandages, her beauty scarred for ever by some familiar wounds; the telltale dark-red holes in her skin made by cluster bombs, the weapon we used in Iraq to such lethal effect and which the Israelis are now using to punish the civilians of southern Lebanon.

And, of course, it occurred to me at once that if George Bush and Condoleezza Rice and our own sad and diminished Prime Minister had demanded a ceasefire when the Lebanese first pleaded for it, this young woman would not have to spend the rest of her life pitted with these vile scars.

And having seen the cadavers of so many more men and women, I have to say--from my eyrie only three miles from the Israeli border--that the compliant, gutless, shameful refusal of Bush, Rice and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara to bring this bloodbath to an end sentenced many hundreds of innocent Lebanese to death. As I write this near the village of Blat, which has its own little list of civilian dead, it's quite clear that many more innocent Lebanese are being prepared for the slaughter--and will indeed die in the coming days.

What was it Condoleezza Rice said? That "a hasty ceasefire would not be a good thing"? What was Blair's pathetic excuse at the G8 summit? That it was much better to have a ceasefire that would last than one which might break down? Yes, I entirely understand. Blair and his masters--we shall give Rice a generic title to avoid the obvious--regard ceasefires not as a humanitarian step to alleviate and prevent suffering but as a weapon, as a means to a political end.

Let the war last longer and the suffering grow greater--let compassion be postponed--and the Lebanese (and, most laughably, the Hizbollah) will eventually sink to their knees and accept the West's ridiculous demands. And one of those famous American "opportunities" for change--ie for humbling Iran--will have been created.

Hence, in the revolting words of Lord Blair's flunky yesterday, Blair will "increase the urgency" of diplomacy. Think about that for a moment. Diplomacy wasn't urgent at the beginning. Then I suppose it became fairly urgent and now this mendacious man is going to "increase" the urgency of diplomacy; after which, I suppose, it can become super-urgent or of "absolutely" paramount importance, the time decided--no doubt--by Israel's belief that it has won the war against Hizbollah or, more likely, because Israel realizes that it is an unwinnable war and wants us to take the casualties.

Yet from the border of Pakistan to the Mediterranean--with the sole exception of the much-hated Syria and Iran, which might be smothered in blood later--we have turned a 2,500-mile swath of the Muslim world into a hell-disaster of unparalleled suffering and hatred. Our British "peacekeepers" in Afghanistan are fighting for their lives -- and apparently bombing the innocent, Israeli-style -- against an Islamist enemy which grows by the week. In Iraq, our soldiers--and those of the United States--hide in their concrete crusader fortresses while the people they so generously liberated and introduced to the benefits of western-style democracy slash each other to death. And now the US and UK--following Israeli policy to the letter--are allowing Israel to destroy Lebanon and call it peace.

Blair and his ignorant Foreign Secretary have played along with Israel's savagery with blind trust in our own loss of memory. It is perfectly acceptable, it seems, after the Hizbollah staged its July 12 assault, to destroy the infrastructure of Lebanon and the lives of more than 400 of its innocents. But hold on a moment. When the IRA used to cross the Irish border to kill British soldiers--which it did--did Blair and his cronies blame the Irish Republic's government in Dublin? Did Blair order the RAF to bomb Dublin power stations and factories? Did he send British troops crashing over the border in tanks to fire at will into the hill villages of Louth, Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal? Did Blair then demand an international, NATO-led force to take over a buffer zone--on the Irish, not the Northern Ireland side, of the border?

Of course not. But Israel has special privileges afforded to no other nation. It can do exactly what Blair would never have done--and still receive the British Government's approbation. It can trash the Geneva Conventions--because the Americans have done that in Iraq--and it can commit war crimes and murder UN soldiers like the four unarmed observers who refused to leave their post under fire.

The idea that Nasrallah is going to kneel before a Nato general and hand over his sword--that this disciplined, ruthless, frightening guerrilla army is going to surrender to Nato--is a folly beyond self-delusion.

But Blair and Bush want to send a combat force into southern Lebanon. Well, I shall be there, I suppose, to watch its swift destruction in an orgy of car and suicide bombings by the same organization that yesterday fired another new longer-than-ever range missile that landed near Afula in Israel.

The Lebanese government--democratically elected and hailed by a US administration which threw roses at its prime minister after the US state department claimed a "cedar revolution"--has just caught the Americans off guard, producing a peace package to which the Hizbollah has reluctantly agreed, starting with an immediate ceasefire. Can Washington ignore the decision of a democratic government? Of course it can. It is encouraging Israel to continue its destruction of the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza and the West Bank.

So stand by for an "increase" in the "urgency" of diplomacy--and for more women with their skin torn open by cluster bombs.

Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk's new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.

Calling Gaza & Lebanon

From the Los Angeles Times

Israeli Phone Call Means a Bomb Is on the Way

By Ashraf Khalil
Times Staff Writer

August 1, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- A man with an Israeli accent called Omar Mamluke on his cell phone just before midnight and asked for him by name.

"You have just a few minutes to get out of the house," the man said.

An Israeli missile was about to hit.

"I asked if he was joking, and he told me: `The Israeli Defense Forces don't joke,"' Mamluke recalled.

Mamluke, a police officer and former Palestinian steeplechase horse racing champion wasted no time; he'd heard what happened to others in Gaza who'd received such calls. He gathered up his two wives and 15 children, and they ran out of the house in their nightclothes, yelling for their neighbors to do the same.

The missile struck within half an hour, lifting Mamluke's house in the air, sending the foundation columns across the street. But no one was hurt, which the Israeli army says is the whole point of the phone calls.

The Israeli military, which launched campaigns in both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon after soldiers were captured in border incursions, says it does its best to warn civilians of impending military action.

Its warnings to civilians to leave southern Lebanon are at the center of controversy over the airstrike early Sunday in the Lebanese village of Qana that killed almost 60 people, many of them women and children.

Although many people have fled southern Lebanon, some say they are afraid to travel roads that have been bombed by Israeli planes. The sick or injured, the very young and the old sometimes can't travel, Lebanese say.

Israeli officials have suggested that, after several warnings, those who remain behind are responsible for their own fate.

"Those who stay have apparently decided to take the risk, or are being held by Hezbollah, which has accepted the risk on their behalf," said Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman, deputy head of the Israeli army's northern command headquarters, last week. "We have no intention of hitting innocent civilians and will do all possible to avoid harming them, but the fighting has a price."

In Gaza, where the Israeli military began issuing specific warnings in the last two weeks, the practice has not won over many hearts or minds. Few here accept the idea that Israel, even for public-relations reasons, really is trying to limit civilian deaths.

At best, residents decry it as a cynical attempt to portray Israel's military campaigns in a better light. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh calls it a form of psychological warfare.

"They just want to sow fear and confusion among the people," Haniyeh said.

Though Palestinians report that dozens of warnings have been received in the last two weeks, only a handful of buildings have actually been hit.

Israeli army officials are tight-lipped about the practice and won't discuss individual cases. The official daily updates of the army's attacks on suspected weapons factories and warehouses in the Gaza Strip invariably mention steps taken to warn residents and limit civilian casualties.

"It is a method that's being used to prevent the harming of innocent civilians," said one army spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Calls have also targeted official buildings such as the main Gaza City courthouse and the ambulance dispatch center at Khan Younis Hospital, said Iyad Nasr, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Neither has been hit.

"It's still collective punishment," Nasr said. "Dozens of families have been informed and have evacuated their homes."

The first known case of a pre-strike warning call came on July 23, targeting the Gaza City home of Mohammed al-Sheik Dib. In that case, neighbors generally acknowledged that al-Sheik Dib was a ranking member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, and that rockets probably were being stored in the house. Jihad gunmen surrounded the house immediately after the attack and barred all access.

Other, less personal forms of warnings have also been used.

Thousands of fliers have been dropped onto Gaza towns. One flier was signed by the "Leadership of the Israeli Defense Forces" and asked: "Will the residents of Gaza pay the high price for the behavior of those who arrogantly boast about solving the Palestinian issue?"

Last week, many Khan Younis residents answered the phone and heard a recorded warning message in Arabic. The Israeli army also has broken in on the frequency of the Hamas radio station to broadcast warnings.

In all cases the message was similar: Don't harbor militant fighters or store weapons for them. Those who do will place themselves in harm's way.

"It's intense psychological pressure," said Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad. "They're trying to force the civilians to drive the resistance away from the civilian population centers."
No Cease-Fire Soon, Israeli Leader Says
Wider Ground War Approved; Airstrikes Resume

By Jonathan Finer and Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 1, 2006; A01

JERUSALEM, Aug. 1 -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Monday that there "will be no cease-fire in the coming days," and his top security officials unanimously approved a widening of Israel's military operations on the ground in southern Lebanon after a four-hour meeting that ended early Tuesday morning, government officials said.

The decision followed Israel's agreement Sunday to suspend air attacks on south Lebanon for 48 hours. About 12 hours after the suspension took effect, Israeli planes launched strikes in support of ground operations near Taibe. Israeli officials said they reserved the right to continue attacks to prevent an immediate threat. [Israel launched airstrikes against southern Lebanese border villages early Tuesday, hitting Bayyada and Mansoureh, the Reuters news agency reported, citing Lebanese security sources.] Hezbollah launched only four rockets into northern Israel on Monday, police and military officials said, a day after firing more than 150.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to Washington Monday evening after vowing to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution this week aimed at ending the fighting. State Department officials traveling with her said the resolution would include a cease-fire and the "nearly simultaneous" deployment of international troops to a buffer zone in southern Lebanon.

Since an Israeli airstrike Sunday killed more than 50 civilians, most of them children, in the Lebanese village of Qana, Arab and European pressure for an immediate cease-fire has increased, diplomats at the Security Council said.

President Bush on Monday called the Qana deaths "awful" and promised to work for a durable cease-fire plan that would extend Lebanese control over Hezbollah's stronghold in the south, deploy an international force along the Israel-Lebanon border and pressure Iran and Syria to stop backing Hezbollah.

In a Monday evening speech to Israeli mayors in Tel Aviv, Olmert apologized for the Qana attack but said the three-week-long offensive, which began after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 cross-border raid, would end only "when the threat over our heads is removed, when our kidnapped soldiers return to their homes and when we can live in security."

"Many days of fighting still await us," he said.

Israel says it is investigating the Qana incident. But Lebanon's acting foreign minister, Tarek Mitri, urged the U.N. Security Council to demand an immediate cease-fire and launch an investigation into the Israeli strike.

Fighting continued in Lebanese towns north of the Israeli village of Metulla and in Maroun al-Ras, where Israeli soldiers began their ground incursion more than two weeks ago. Three Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded near the Lebanese town of Taibe on Monday when a Hezbollah missile struck an armored vehicle and an Israeli tank that arrived to help was also fired upon.

"On the ground, it's not a cease-fire at all, just a limitation of planes shooting toward buildings and villages," said Maj. Svika Golan, a spokesman for the Israeli army's Northern Command. "If you see a terrorist moving around a village, you cannot shoot him from the air. But the ground forces carry on working."

Air attacks from both sides were down sharply Monday. Citing an Israeli military source, Israel Radio and other local media outlets reported that as much as two-thirds of Hezbollah's Iranian-provided supply of longer-range missiles had been destroyed.

"We are only attacking in cases when we need to protect our forces or civilians," an Israeli military spokesman said. "We are firing on open areas to prevent armed cells approaching our forces."

An Israeli airstrike on a vehicle traveling near a Lebanese military base at Qasmiyeh, north of Tyre, killed a Lebanese soldier and wounded three others.

"The attack was based on information that a senior member of Hezbollah was in the vehicle," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. But the target "was not in the vehicle at the moment of the attack. The IDF expresses deep regret for the incident."

In a conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Olmert said that Israel "was interested" in having "an effective multinational force come to Lebanon," according to a written account of the exchange provided by Olmert's office Monday night. It said he added that it would be possible to implement a cease-fire "immediately upon the deployment of the force."

A scheduled meeting at the United Nations of countries that might contribute troops was postponed.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told his military Monday to boost its readiness to cope with "regional challenges," according to Reuters. Syria and Iran are Hezbollah's chief benefactors.

Also Monday, Israeli drones and other planes fired at three pickup trucks near a Lebanese border crossing into Syria, wounding four civilians and a customs officer, according to the Associated Press. An Israeli military spokesman said the trucks were loaded with weapons, but Lebanese officials said one vehicle was carrying relief supplies, the Associated Press reported.

Hezbollah said its rockets struck an Israeli warship off the coast of Tyre on Monday, but Israeli officials said no such attack occurred.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli artillery killed a Palestinian teenager in what the Israeli army called an attack against militants firing rockets into Israeli towns, according to the Associated Press. Palestinian radicals vowed to take revenge for the Qana attack and threatened suicide bombings.

Lebanon's Health Ministry said 519 people have been confirmed killed since the fighting began. Israeli officials said 33 Israeli soldiers have died and 18 Israeli civilians have been killed by Hezbollah rockets fired into northern Israel.

Taking advantage of the abatement in bombing, Lebanese fled north Monday, and U.N. and other relief organizations accelerated the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the south Lebanon hills, where an estimated 750,000 people have been displaced by Israeli bombing over the last three weeks.

Relief officials emphasized, however, that Israel's limited bombing suspension was not enough to guarantee delivery of supplies to all the needy in Lebanon. "In these circumstances, the United Nations is continuing relief operations, but the conditions do not yet exist for a major increase in deliveries," the U.N. Beirut office said.

Each convoy heading for south Lebanon must still negotiate with Israeli military authorities for permission, U.N. officials said. This has been the situation since hostilities erupted July 12.

Amer Daoudi of the World Food Program said that two convoys got to Tyre on Monday and would move out Tuesday morning to villages in south Lebanon, with one bound for Qana. Another four convoys are scheduled to move toward the south Tuesday, he said."We welcome this, but it's just a drop in the bucket," he added. "Security remains the biggest impediment we have." Another concern for relief officials is Lebanon's dwindling fuel supplies, since the country's electricity generating plants all operate on diesel. The government has said that only a few more days' supply remains. Once that runs out, electricity would quickly stop, making normal health care impossible and the movement of relief supplies difficult.

"If we run out of fuel, everything will come to a standstill," Daoudi said.

Mona Hammam, the U.N. relief coordinator for Lebanon, said negotiations are underway with Israeli military authorities to allow oil tankers to bring in new supplies. If Israel does not quickly grant that permission, she said, "it will be a catastrophe of major proportions."

The damage to Lebanon's civilian infrastructure has stopped the country's economy in its tracks, Hammam said, and raised the prospect of another long, expensive rebuilding effort for a nation still recovering from the ruinous 1975-90 civil war. She also said Israel's bombing campaign so far has killed about 750 Lebanese and wounded 3,200, almost all of them civilians.

On Monday, rescue workers searching bombed-out cars and sifting through the rubble of destroyed buildings in southern Lebanon found at least 49 bodies of civilians, Reuters reported.

Cody reported from Beirut. Correspondents Robin Wright in Shannon, Ireland, and Colum Lynch at the United Nations and special correspondent Ian Deitch contributed to this report.
For Israel, the shooting goes on but so does the weeping

The dovish minority understand that their state's survival depends on finding peace across the Middle East

Ian Black
Tuesday August 1, 2006
The Guardian

Ehud Olmert spent a few hours last Monday at an airbase in southern Israel, and was photographed easing his angular frame into the cockpit of an F16 fighter. Olmert is not a martial figure like so many previous Israeli prime ministers; Ariel Sharon would have cut more of a dash. But there was no doubting the sincerity of his praise for the pilots flying sorties against Hizbullah and other targets in Lebanon - and his certainty of the justice of Israel's cause. Yet fast-forward to those terrible images of dead children being pulled out of the ruins of Qana on Sunday and there, in the dust, lay the brutally simple answer to those who insisted it was wrong, from the start of this Middle Eastern disaster, to demand an immediate ceasefire.
Olmert needed time to achieve his goal: weaken Hizbullah, shift it away from Israel's border and stop rockets falling on Haifa. George Bush and Tony Blair indulged him because this would be useful in their proxy war with Iran and Syria, cynically happy to encourage Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to fight the Jewish state to the last Lebanese. But re-establishing Israel's deterrence does not come cheap: F16s, laser-guided bombs and all the hi-tech wizardry dollars can buy couldn't stop the slaughter of innocents whose deaths will now only fan the flames of hatred. Rarely have the limits of force been so glaringly obvious.

So furious is any debate about Israel that many will be certain that Sunday's bombing was deliberate. If Israel knew Hizbullah was launching rockets from Qana - and aerial photographs have clearly shown mobile launchers parked between village houses in the Tyre area - surely it must have also known there were terrified civilians cowering in basements? It insists it did not. Few will give it the benefit of the doubt, or believe it did not also intend to kill four UN peacekeepers - though it badly wants a new international force along the border. On Qana, incidentally, no one claims the target was a command post - the US excuse for the bombing of the Amiriya shelter in Baghdad in 1991. Israel's "deep regrets" will be dismissed in the face of global outrage. Its credit has run out.

The good news is that the dead Lebanese families may finally galvanise efforts to bring about a ceasefire - though how durable it will be is anyone's guess. Qana will also increase the tiny number of Israelis who oppose this war, but it is unlikely to become a mass movement. The contrast with the "war of choice" in Lebanon in 1982 could hardly be greater. Back then Israelis demonstrated in their hundreds of thousands when Sharon, then defence minister, turned a limited incursion into a full-scale invasion. His goal was to destroy the PLO, but he occupied Beirut while his Christian allies massacred Palestinians and created a Lebanese resistance that morphed into today's Hizbullah. But Israel withdrew from Lebanon six years ago: the UN says so. Hizbullah's July 12 raid was across an undisputed international border, not an act of resistance to foreign occupation.

Hizbullah has become enormously popular in the Arab and Muslim worlds, alarming the pro-western regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that fear militant Shia Islam, Iran and their own peoples. It is also enjoying a certain radical chic in the west. Rooted in Lebanon's poor Shia community, the "Party of God" has won hearts and minds with its social services, schools and hospitals, as has Hamas in Palestine. On top of that, like Hamas, it fights Israel. Last month Hamas seized the initiative in Gaza, under siege for months, by kidnapping an Israeli soldier, though the price has been Israel's killing of over 100 Palestinians. Maybe Hizbullah struck out of solidarity with the Palestinians, or was simply reminded that kidnapping worked. But its admirers might reflect on the significance of the fact that one of its rockets is called "Khaybar" - the name of the battle where Muhammad defeated the Jews in seventh-century Arabia.

Israelis who have spent decades fighting for an independent Palestinian state alongside their own are confused and in despair. Israeli doves hate Hizbullah but oppose Olmert's disproportionate response, which looks weak because he is relying only on force. Sharon might have been more pragmatic: swapping prisoners, alive, dead or in bits, is nothing new. And Israel, after all, regularly abducts Palestinians. But when it does so it is called "arresting wanted men".

Some of the agonising now being heard in Israel flows from a flattering self-image that few Palestinians or foreigners would recognise. One successful Hebrew TV drama has a storyline about a pilot who has a nervous breakdown after killing civilians in Gaza while pursuing Hamas suicide bombers. The concept of "shooting and weeping" has been around since Golda Meir expressed her fury at the Arabs who forced nice Jewish boys to fight and kill. Shmuel Gordon, a former combat pilot, argued yesterday that Israel's national interest required avoiding unnecessary bloodshed. "We have to think about the day after," he wrote. "We have to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror."

In the background are real worries about Israel's power to see off its enemies, an erosion of the old certainty that it can fight its way to security. And there is unease, not to be underestimated, about the very legitimacy of the Jewish state. If there are answers to these concerns they can only be in redoubled efforts, with whatever help others can give, to find a just settlement with the Palestinians. "Let's say we manage to kill every single Hizbullah fighter," argues the Israeli historian Tom Segev. "Say America attacks Iran and takes out its nuclear reactor. Say we hit Iran. When we've done all that we'll still have to deal with Gaza and the Palestinians."

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.”

August 7, 2006 issue of New York Magazine
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