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Tuesday, July 18, 2006Here in Lebanon, A cry for Lebanon- Letters from two sisters who are separated, one in Lebanon, One in Canada. Letters describing the situation in LebLetter One:
Here in Lebanon by Nathalie Malhame, in Beirut, Lebanon.Here in Lebanon, the atmosphere is grim and sad. The airport has been bombed several times, there is an air and sea blocade, the Syrian border has been bombed, we cannot leave the country easily- if at all. Bridges, oil stations, the airport, entire villages (Haret Hreik, Chtaura, Saida, Tyre, Dahiye, Kfarshima…) and most of our infrastructure has been targeted at and destroyed. Lebanon has indeed been taken ten years back in time. This summer was expected to be a ‘golden summer’ for Lebanon. Hotels were booked, tickets for festivals and concerts were sold out, and tourism was finally beginning to boom again in the country. Lebanon was finally beginning to show its true colors and break away from its war-torn image. All that, has been destroyed in just a matter of days- if not hours. But we can and will rebuild our infrastructure. We have done it before and we will do it again. Lebanese and their friends in all four corners of the world, from Brazil and North America to Cyprus and Nigeria can send money later and help rebuild the country. Saudi Arabia has already done so.But what about the innocent lives that have been lost? Starting with the eight Lebanese Canadians- my fellow citizens on both sides, I being both Lebanese and Canadian? Continuing with the 12 members of family trying to leave their village? To the other 180 (and still counting) lives that were carelessly taken? To the four Brazilian lives that were taken too? Their lives cannot be rebuilt ….their lives were taken without a second thought. So far, only innocent lives have been taken. No, their lives have not been sparred. Children’s lives have not been sparred. Friends fleeing through the Syrian borders had to see dead bodies being pushed away in a trolley. These images will stay with them for life.Hearing bombs and seeing our villages destroyed one after the other, we are afraid to sleep. We are afraid to have a quick shower, worrying that we have to rush down to the shelters at any instant-these shelters being no more than the garages of our buildings. How safe are they? You tell me.People like me, in areas that are still relatively safe, have been rushing to the supermarkets to buy food stocks. Gas is running short as gas stations are closing down. Back to electricity cuts, we are scared to take the elevator. Bread in some bakeries have started to be rationed. Food is still abundant for people who can afford it in supermarkets in these safe areas but it is no longer abundant in South Beirut or in the Southern villages that have been bombed. Hundreds of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. With bomb threats reigning in the air, we are scared to drive anywhere or go anywhere. Even in our very own homes, we do not feel safe. I personally have stopped going to work and am hibernating at home. Are my loved ones or friends going to die today? You tell me. Is my friend stuck in Saida safe? Those supposed flyers that fall out of the Israeli planes to warn Lebanese villagers to flee their villages fall at most, 60 minutes before these villages are wiped away. How much time does that give people to run away? What about the people who cannot read or the tourists or second or third generation returnees who cannot read Arabic? And how can they run away if their roads and bridges have been destroyed? You tell me.No…. Hizbollah should not have kidnapped those two Israeli soldiers. They did that without the Lebanese population’s or the Lebanese government’s knowledge. Indeed, those two soldiers should be sent back to Israel. But that does not give the Israeli army the right to go and destroy entire villages and take away innocent lives or the right to bombard our whole infrastructure. They did not even try to negotiate before starting to destroy our infrastructure. Yes, Hizbollah should be disarmed. An immediate cease fire must take place now and the international community must intervene to help do that so that the Lebanese government can take control again. Prime Minister Siniora is a good man, with his heart in the right place. We must give him the chance to take control. He cannot do so if there is no immediate cease-fire. This conflict has gone beyond the capture of the two soldiers. It has spilled over, way over into the danger zone. Do we really want to see the start of world war three? You tell me, is that what you want? Do we really want to ignore the value of human life? Day by day, more tears and blood are spilled….mainly in Lebanon right now but also on all sides. In Haifa, in Gaza, in Beirut…. In Palestine, Israel and Lebanon, let’s not forget in Iraq…. Is this really what you want? What for? What for? Please, just tell me what for.No. I stand up and calmly cry out with dignity and love for humanity: NO. NO MORE VIOLENCE. NO MORE VIOLENCE. PLEASE PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONS FROM LEBANON AND ISRAEL TO CANADA AND FRANCE TO THE REST OF THE WORLD, STAND UP AND SAY NO.Tell me you will not stand idly by, tell me that you will not close your eyes, tell me that you will not give up. Tell me that you will raise your voice of peace and help intervene now, fast and urgently before more human- HUMAN- lives are lost.
Thank you for listening, from Lebanon with tears.
Beirut, Lebanon, 18th of July 2006Letter Two:
A cry for Lebanon by Caroline Malhame, in Montreal, Canada
For Nat with love,Gandhi once said that an eye for an eye would only end up making the whole world blind. I watch horrified as the thick black smoke of what people suspect to have been caused by napalm creeps over the golden beaches and villages in the southern tip of my country – the scapegoat of the Middle East. I scream in shock and disbelief as lethal rockets, autographed by pretty 14-year-old Israeli girls that should be at home playing with dolls, are sent thundering on the southern suburbs of our capital, I cry as Christian and Muslim parents weep all over Lebanon holding their dead children in their arms. I watch speechless as Beirut’s airport and all of Lebanon’s ports and roads are bombarded over and over again and as four million innocent Lebanese civilians, 50,000 of which also happen to be Canadian citizens, are cut off from the rest of the world and punished for a crime everyone knows they did not commit. If Gandhi found the Mosaic law harsh, I cannot help but wonder what he would have made of the Israeli policy “an eye for a whole country?” Would he or any other non-racist human being have ever had the audacity to call it a “measured response”?Granted, two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by a militia called Hezbollah. There is no one sorrier about that than the thousands of Lebanese refugees that have lost their homes and their livelihood and are taking shelters in schools and hospitals… No one has paid a greater price for this than the families of the 200 innocent civilians who have died over the last six days as they attempted to flee the country. There is no one that feels their pain more than the 400 people that are lying in hospital beds drenched in their own blood. There is no one more upset about this than the families of the innocent Canadian civilians who lost their lives under the Israeli attacks, and there is no one who is sadder about this than the Lebanese people like me, who do not feel Hezbollah represent them and are now glued to their telephones and television sets, constantly wondering if their family members are dead or alive.It has been less than a week since Israel began strangling Lebanon. The bombs that have been dropped over my homeland have been estimated to cost my country 5 billion desperately needed dollars in lost tourism-related income and more than 3 billion dollars in destroyed infrastructure: buildings, roads, bridges, milk factories and power plants that have take millions of dollars to build crumbled in a matter of minutes. A country that took fifteen years to get back on its feet was destroyed in a matter of days… But the war machine’s thirst for blood has not yet been quenched and the attempt to dismantle Hezbollah is completely backfiring... The only thing they have managed to do so far with their offensive is to weaken the Lebanese government and shatter the country, robbing it of any resources to resolve the problem.I am angry because everyone knows that a major part of the Lebanese population did not back Hezbollah and that Lebanon is being punished for crimes it did not commit. I am angry because Israel, Iran and Syria are simply involved in a show of muscle strength at the expense of Lebanese lives. I am angry because innocent Lebanese children are paying for this with their lives on a daily basis and no one is doing anything about it. I am horrified for all the victims who are paying the price and their families whether they be Lebanese, Palestinians or Israelis and am sorry for the unnecessary losses of human lives.It is early in the morning and I have just heard from an Orthodox Christian friend that his church was bombed in Rashaiya with illegal phosphorous bombs, as six faithful were gathered inside. I spent yet another sleepless night. I am concerned about my father, a Lebanese Canadian who moved back to his hometown two years ago because he dared to hope Lebanon had finally entered a new peaceful era.I am concerned about my little sister, who is hiding at home frightened, trying to drown out the sounds of the war planes that are dropping bombs on either side of her relatively safe neighbourhood and who cried and screamed in fear on the phone yesterday begging me to ask for a ceasefire… as if I could do a thing.I am concerned about my great aunt… an old Christian woman with a liver disease who courageously withstood the previous war in her Shiite neighbourhood, who is again stuck alone at home, terrified to get the medication she needs or leave for a safer area because stepping out into the streets would mean certain death.I am concerned about my aunt who has to take care of her handicapped brother and has just lost her job and only source of livelihood because of the war and has no food left at home or money to buy provisions.I am concerned about my friend who had to walk over her dead neighbours bodies to get into her car in an unsuccessful attempt leave the country.I am concerned about my uncle, a professor at Universite de Montreal, his wife and his two Canadian-born children and all of my Canadian friends, who had gone on a summer holiday and who are now stuck in Lebanon, wondering how many more Canadians have to die before our prime minister stops harping about the right for Israel to “defend” herself and starts concerning himself with the 50,000 Canadian citizens whose lives are in danger and that have been desperately trying to get out of the country but have yet to receive help from their embassy…How dark must the smoke be before people look our way?How many people must die before people start caring?How loud must the screams be before people start hearing?I dream of a Middle East where Muslim, Jew and Christian listen to their Torahs, Bibles and Korans and get over the fear of loving their neighbour and find another pastime than killing each other. I dream of a Middle East where Palestinians are treated as human beings with rights. I dream of a Middle East with Israelis who are no longer frightened and know that the word Arab is not a synonym for terrorist. I dream of a Middle East where Lebanese feel their children are safe and Syrians no longer have to worry about an enemy. I dream of a united Lebanon where Druze, Shia, Sunni, Orthodox Christians, Greek Catholics and Maronite all retain hope and work together to once again rebuild their country. I dream of world leaders brave enough to care for the world more than they care for the amount of cash they can stash in their pockets; of a freedom that is not brought about by force and a democracy that is not brought about by war…I dream of the day the value of a human life will surpass the price of oil and the day the race for arms will be outweighed by the drive for piece.What I dream most of right now is for Canadians and Lebanese and all concerned citizens of the world to find their voice and speak out so to push the international community to open their eyes and take action and obtain a ceasefire before it is too late.By Caroline Malhame, Montreal, CanadaJuly 19th, 2006Letter three:Where are we headed? What are we to expect?Choosing the Path of Peace, Justice and LoveWhere are we headed? What are we to expect? None of us know. Some of us speculate, maybe it will end in 2 weeks, maybe at the end of the month, but we don’t and can’t know for certain. We’ve been told that schools will probably open in December rather than in September. If we only knew what to expect, somehow it would make things easier. But we’re held captive to a cruel uncertainty, waiting, waiting…. waiting….Most of us expect that the next two weeks will not be easy, the nightmare will not end but will instead continue. The Israeli politicians are adamant to continue bulldozing their way through Lebanon, adamant not to let the Qana murder bring about a cease-fire.They claim to need another 10 to 14 days… to do what exactly? To kill more innocent cilivians? To rob more innocent children, women and men of their lives? To bombard more roads and bridges? To do to more damage to Lebanon’s economy and environment? Of the 820 people or so that have died and of the 3000 or so people that have been injured so far, most were civilians, poor civilians who could not afford to leave their villages. An Israeli spokesperson on T.V claimed that 400 Hizbollah supporters were killed, but that’s not true. Civilians have been killed, in all maybe 25 Hizbollah fighters have been killed only. Are they trying to reassure their people? Are they trying to save face? Are they trying not to discourage their soldiers? These poor young men, if not boys, that are sent off to fight with a biased version of story, if you can call it a story… I see it as more of a nightmare… a horrible, surreal, never-ending nightmare, than a story.Sad, that so many young soldiers whether Lebanese or Israeli, sons to some, lovers to others, will die stupidly, for stupidity. Where are our world leaders that believe in love, humanity and peace? Where have the men of wisdom and great courage gone to? Killed? Assasinated? Gibran Tueni….Bachir Gemayel… so many killed. Even Rabin, a peaceful Jew who believed in peace, was killed. We must give voice to people who believe in peace, peace for all instead of to people who are greedy for land, oil and power. Siniora may lead us forward, but what about this Olmert? He seems to be want to stretch his muscle, not his heart. A new leader, he has yet to prove himself.As I’m writing, from the safety of my father’s mountain house, I hear planes… though the Israeli politicians claimed to have agreed to a 48 hour cease-fire, their aviation can still be heard hoavering above our houses, preventing us from enjoying the calm of nature’s stars. Ah, ‘big sigh’, nature, how I feel so nostalgic. I long to swim in the immensity of Ayia Napa’s seas like I did as a child, feeling free and happy; unaware of the cruelty of human kind. Lucky I was to have been whisked away at the age of three from my war-torn home-country and shielded from the horrors of the long drawn out wars of 1982 ….1990. Many children were not as lucky as me. Ah, ‘big sigh’, how I long to stretch my arms and smell the freshness of Montreal’s Park Mont-Royal like I did as a university student, feeling adventurous, creative and peaceful. How I long, wish and pray that this grim, horrible, inhumane reality were just a bad dream that I could wake up from. But no matter how many times I shut my eyes tight, hoping real hard, I find myself opening them to the same harsh reality. This is real Nat. This is real.BUT WHY? It’s UNFAIR! I want to love life not hate it! I want to love my fellow human beings not hate them!!! It’s so hard to keep on being positive and happy when you see such atrocities, such inhumane atrocities taking place. I do not have the right to complain. My home has not been destroyed yet, I have not lost a child in an inconceivable way, an innnocent child that had nothing to do with dirty war and politics. I was not forced to flee my village, on foot as the roads and bridges were destroyed. I do not need to be rushed to a hospital urgently, before it’s too late …. and…But will I? If this doesn’t end today, now and urgently, could I lose my father? Could I lose my partner? Will I have to abandon my cats? Fluffy and Barbara? No! I refuse to even think about it! I cannot think about it! I will go crazy if I do. I prefer not to. Denial is better. It’s not my destiny to die now.But was it their destiny to die, these 820 Lebanese people? Was it the destiny of the 3000 Lebanese who are injured? Will some stay handicapped for life? Some old people from the South can no longer remember their own names, the trauma they experienced being too great. Is it not possible to have peace in the area? Must this volcano keep erupting? Can it not become extinct and be replaced by love and commradeship? Must Lebanese, Israelis and Palestians, keep on being at odds, at dangerous, lethal, inhuman odds, with each other? Are we really so different that we could not get along? Do we really not want to live peacefully with each other? Must I really worry about how I will one day raise my children in this crazy world?On BBC’s Have Your Say, some American person had written that Israelis have bomb shelters while Lebanese do not as the Israelis are the ones aggressed while the Lebanese have never been aggressed. This ignorant comment fueled my anger, because it showed just how unaware some people are of reality. Can you blame them when the media they watch is so biased, so one-sided? How can they know any different? First of all, the US sends billions of dollars to Israel, so it’s normal they can afford such shelters, while Lebanon has so much debt and receives very little aid. While the US sent about 50 billion dollars to Israel just for fuel for its planes and while it regularly sends it money, it sent very little money for aid to Lebanon in comparision, maybe 20 thousand or million dollars and does not usually send it money. Second of all, since 1982, the year I was born, Lebanon has been subject, on and off to Israeli aggression, so it is very incorrect to say that Lebanese people have never suffered at the hands of Israeli politics. Third of all, Lebanese people are not the type to hold grudges, they’ve suffered so much, they know that it’s a waste of time to hold on to hate. Instead, they prefer to forgive and forget and look forwards to a brighter, better future so they did not spend their time building strong shelters. After 17 years or more of war, they wanted to breath a bit. But… their breath is being poisoned, their oxygen is being taken away…..both literally and metaphorically. It has been reported that harmful, illegal toxins and chemicals have been released. Our we some scientific experiement? Are the lives of Lebanese really worth so little? Play fair if you want to play at all. Lebanese can still forgive, but this time they will not forget.They will give voice to their victims, and to all victims, be they Lebanese, Israeli or other. Lebanese seek not to hate, but to love, both life and life’s people. Lebanese seek to provide their children with hope, with a happy childhood, free from war and terror, but it seems like their neighbours, on all sides will not let them. So many are those that are seemingly jealous of Lebanon and its beauty. So many are those that seem to want to strangle it of all life, of all inspiration.If this were not the case, if Hizbollah was all Israel was after, why would it spill oil all over Lebanon’s shores? Why would it cause such an environmental disaster? Why would it keep taking the lives of so many children? Why would it need so much time to allow humanitarian aid corridors into Lebanon? Why would it not engage in urgent negociations instead of try to take Lebanon so far back in time? If Israel is not interested in occupying parts of Lebanon again, why is it demanding that so many kilometres of the south be abandoned? Why are they threatening to move in closer to the Litani river? Why should the potential blue line not be spread out evenly, and by evenly, I mean evenly, between Israeli and Lebanese land? Isn’t that only fair considering that both countries right now feel the need to protect their people?In a few short words what is happening right now in the region is an INSULT to humanity. We’re in 2006, yet still so many lives are being cruely taken by fellow human beings, not by aliens or by some foreign creatures from outer-space.It’s so hard to hang on to hope, it’s so easy to give in to hate and despair but I refuse to and will continue to refuse to for as long as I breath. I have known a happy childhood, I have known a happy life. I’ve lived among people of all walks of life, peacefully be they Jew, Christian, Moslem, Druze or non-religious. And peace, love and justice is the path I choose to continue to walk on.All your tanks and your bombs will not stop me for there is a God above who is watching and no matter how it appears, good always wins in the end. You will never destroy Lebanon’s heart, it will always revive and rise up like a phoenix from its flames. Nathalie MalhameAugust, 1st, 2006Beirut, Lebanon
posted by Nathalie Malhame at 11:18 AM