From Damascus

19 July 2006

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Leila Buck appearing as “Lamia” in Lameece Issaq’s comedic play, “A Date.” (Photo: nigelparry.net)


I have so many things to say and share I don’t know where to start.

I feel very helpless, especially when we see how this is becoming increasingly treated as a two-sided conflict. I don’t support Hezbollah’s actions at all and as I think I’ve said a hundred times, neither do 90 percent of the Lebanese. But it is unbelievably unfair to target, and I do mean target, and attack an entire nation for what one militia group inside it has done. Israel’s attacks are described as “retaliation”, “response”, “defense” and my favorite, “justified”. Yet Lebanon is supposed to just sit and be decimated and anything Hezbollah does is not a response but a terrorist act. I do not condone violence in any form. But I am tired of watching the two sides being painted as equal when the toll of death and destruction wreaked on Lebanon is in numbers and lasting impact so indisputably greater.

Every time you hear that Israel is “minimizing civilian casualties” with “surgical strikes”, know that the south of Lebanon and everyone in it, as well as those in the southern suburbs of Beirut, are decimated and continue to be bombed many times daily. Also know that Lebanon is the size of Rhode Island, or Connecticut - which one, I forget exactly - it’s small. So while bombing every bridge and road in and out of the country plus every port may seem to be better than targeting civilians, it is a slower and more insidious kind of targeting - a complete and knowing crippling of an entire nation’s ability to get help to those wounded or supplies to people who need them, not to mention travel to safety or sustain what was a vibrant and growing tourist industry on which the country depends. And people are dying.

I haven’t even seen the death toll today in Lebanon but I know it’s climbed above 200, with 400-some injuries. Today my cousin told me they bombed Achrafiyeh; for those who care, it’s a historically Christian neighborhood with beautiful old buildings that managed to survive the last war, now housing streets with lots of trendy restaurants that remind me of Williamsburg.

Yesterday on our way over the border from Lebanon to Syria we were moved to see a convoy of ambulances heading the other way, presumably coming from Syria - whose relations with Lebanon we all know to be tense at best - to help deal with the mounting toll of death created by Israel’s unending assault. Half an hour later we found out that Israel bombed those ambulances and the road other innocent people like us were fleeing on. Of course, many will say they feared they were carrying weapons. Honestly, I am tired of that excuse. Perhaps a small percentage of the time that is true. However, given our own government’s use of the mythical weapons to justify another senseless war, I think we should all question each time that same excuse is used to justify attacks on civilians. Whether there might have been weapons underneath a home or truck, all that I know are there are the bodies of innocent men, women and children.

Human life is human life. Losing one is a terrible thing, no matter who or where. But that does not make the means and reasons for taking that life equal. Israel has weaponry supplied and paid for by the most powerful nation in the world, namely the US. The Israelis who carry out the attacks on Lebanon are knowing citizens of the country doing the bombing, since every Israeli must serve in their country’s military, unless they are brave enough to join the many who refuse to do so. Hezbollah, on the other hand, does not represent Lebanon or the Lebanese, something Bush and the Israeli representatives are so fond of saying. Why then does Israel continue to target the Lebanese people, terrify them and decimate the hope of rebuilding they have worked so long and hard for? And why does the US say nothing of this except that Israel has a right to do so? Please, those of you seeing this as a “complicated” thing started by Hezbollah, just remember that in kindergarten we learned it doesn’t matter who started it - and if you must pick on someone, try someone your own size.

I know I am most likely preaching to the converted. But if you know anyone who is not converted, please send this on if you think it will help. The Lebanese will rebuild - they always do. But that does not make what has been done to them excusable, or defensible in any way. I do not support Hezbollah - they terrify me, always have, and always will. But with Israel’s actions and the US support for them, we are only building support for Hezbollah - because Nasrallah is one of the few people in the world, including the Arab world, willing to stand up to Israel’s bullying behavior and say enough is enough. I do not agree with his tactics, and I, like most Lebanese, think he is also a political man who cares no more for the Lebanese than Israel does. I just wish that someone with peace in their heart would stand up to Israel’s unending assault in Lebanon and Palestine.

I have not been this angry in a very long time. When I hear the voices of my family telling me and my husband - from a Jewish family - how glad they are we are safe and urging us to enjoy our vacation, while their beautiful country continues to be destroyed by the US and Israel, I wish I had that amount of love in my heart and I try to hold it there, for them. With their voices in my heart, I appeal to anyone reading this to question what they have been told about Israel’s great democracy, just as so many of us question our own government in the US and protest the injustices we see there. I am an American, and I understand that a people can be good no matter how horrific the actions of their government. And I know that in nations that claim to be democracies and hold themselves as superior as such, each of those wonderful citizens has an obligation to use the privilege of speaking out when atrocities are committed in their names. I hope that the many beautiful hearts in Israel and America will use that privilege and raise their voices louder than the bombs raining on Lebanon, louder than my family’s tears, so that we can all rebuild the many bridges that have been broken.

Leila Buck is a founding member of Mixed Company, a bi-cultural theater collective, and Nibras, with whom she performed Sajjil for the 2002 New York Fringe Festival 2003. Her one-woman show, ISite, has traveled across Europe, Asia and the U.S., most recently featuring in Lebanon’s Daily Star and The New York Times. Leila is a teaching artist dedicated to using drama to educate about the Arab world through performances and workshops across the US and around the world.

Related Links

  • Letters to EI: Differing perceptions of Hezbollah, Samia Halaby (24 July 2006)