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Letters from Beirut: Grasping on to normalcy

As much as we may have seen here in Beirut, it is still nothing compared to the south. Sour/Tyre is devastated the death and destruction is hard to stomach. It is my favorite place in the south - the oldest inhabited city in the world, with incredible ruins, art, beaches and most of all the most relaxed and welcoming of people. The sea turtle reserve where I work is down there. It’s a secret I have been keeping from a lot of people because it is my safe haven and I did not want it to get crowded with people I may be trying to get a breather from. The women there are OK as of now. 

Photostory: Chicago protests Israel's attacks on Lebanon and the Palestinians

Hundreds of demonstrators - estimated by some of the organizers at 2,300 - poured into Chicago’s Pioneer Court to protest Israel’s onslaught against Lebanon and Gaza Saturday July 22. Carrying Lebanese, Palestinian, and American flags, the demonstrators marched to the Israeli consulate to make their objections be known. They were also there to tell Palestinian and Lebanese civilians under siege that while the world has not sufficiently come to their aid, “We have not abandoned you,” as one of the speakers at the rally emphasized. 

As death toll in Lebanon mounts, UN's top relief chief heads to region

As the death toll in Lebanon surpassed 350, including large numbers of children, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator headed to the country as part of his bid to facilitate ‘humanitarian corridors’ to allow relief aid to reach besieged residents, while UN agencies worked to shore up their own aid efforts. Jan Egeland is expected to meet with senior members of the Lebanese Government and with the newly-established High Relief Council, as well as with the UN country team and other United Nations representatives, including the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today. 

Israel's Catastrophe

Israel’s claims that it has attacked Lebanon and Gaza to free captured soldiers or prevent resistance rocket fire are designed to obscure what truly lies at the heart of this ongoing conflict: Israel’s violent takeover of Palestine. In this contribution to Ireland’s Sunday Business Post, EI co-founder Ali Abunimah argues that lacking in political and moral legitimacy, Israel exists only due to the constant exercising of brute force and American-supplied weapons technology. Israeli Jews can only gain such legitimacy, and therefore peace, by abandoning claims to special privileges enshrined in law as white South Africans abandoned apartheid. 

London erupts in mass protest against Israeli crimes

Around 10,000 people of conscience marched through central London today in fierce opposition to Israel’s mass slaughter of the Lebanese and Palestinian people and the British government’s complicity. Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Stop the War Coalition, and many other Muslim and Lebanese groups, the demonstrators embarked from Whitehall through the centre of the West End, past the United States Embassy and on to Hyde Park where they assembled for a rally. The demonstration culminated in a huge rally in Hyde Park where representatives from diverse groups including Jews for Justice for the Palestinians expressed their solidarity with Lebanon and Palestine. 

Another Act in the Mizrahi-Palestinian Tragedy

Although little known outside Israel, Mizrahim — the descendants of Palestine’s indigenous Jewish community as well as Jews brought to Israel from the Arab World and non-European countries— form the majority population among Israeli Jews. Long discriminated against by Israel’s European Jewish Ashkenazi elite, Mizrahim have paid a high price for European Zionism’s war against the Palestinians. In this contribution to EI, two important Mizrahi voices, Reuven Abarjel, a founder of the Israeli Black Panther movement representing Mizrahim, and Smadar Lavie, call on Mizrahim to stand against their co-optation into Zionist militarism. 

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator calls for humanitarian corridors to address worsening crisis

At a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, United Nations top humanitarian official outlined his efforts to organize humanitarian assistance for the affected population in Lebanon, including requests for humanitarian access and a planned flash appeal for funding. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, who is also United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, told correspondents that with the humanitarian situation in Lebanon deteriorating “by the day and by the hour”, over half a million people, including internally displaced persons and refugees, urgently needed assistance now. 

The failure of Israeli unilateralism

In less than four weeks, the civil infrastructure of two emerging Middle Eastern democracies has been laid to waste, and over 400 Palestinians and Lebanese, mostly civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces. The urgency of finding a just solution to the Israeli- Palestinian dispute has never been more compelling. But if calm is to be restored, the international community must convince Israel that security comes not through warfare but through peace. While Israel enjoys the security rewards of peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, it has been strangely reluctant to pursue the same with Lebanon or the PLO. Instead, at the heart of Israeli policymaking today lies a deluded faith in the benefits of unilateral action over diplomatic engagement. 

Asylum seekers stuck in Beirut

Roughly 22,000 refugees and asylum seekers are stranded in Lebanon - mainly from Iraq, Sudan and Somalia - and UN refugee agency UNHCR is increasingly concerned for their safety. “There has been a demonstration outside our office in Beirut by some of these frightened people, including stranded migrant workers, asking us to put them on a boat to Cyprus to safety,” said Ekber Menemencioglu, UNHCR’s director for the region. “We are helping with their immediate needs by directing and taking them to shelters, where they can get a roof over their heads and food packages,” he added. 

Young and old tell their tales of woe

“My name is Mehdi, and I’m six years old. We left our home near the airport when the Israelis started bombing us. Bayyeh (dad) took us to school here in Beirut, and left our fan and air-conditioning back home. I don’t like the school here; it’s summer and we’re not supposed to sleep in the classroom. Here, mosquitoes bite us all night and the toilets smell. It’s very hot, and I can’t sleep. My sister and I share the same mattress; it’s low and she kicks me all night. I asked Bayyeh to take me home, so we can have air-conditioning again. But he said that the war should stop first. Do you know when the bombs will stop?”