I left the office early last night, at midnight.
There was only one devastating picture yesterday, that of two people who were killed in air strikes on Akkar (the poorer area) in the north, late Wednesday night.
Both corpses were black, both were dismembered, both were “weird.” I don’t think it matters anymore to try to prove that Israel is using unconventional, forbidden weapons … that would only suggest that it should have used “allowed” weapons. Who cares, people are dying anyway. And whatever weapons are being used, the pollution they’re creating will kill the survivors from cancer later.
The rest of the pictures were less devastating, conventional: demolished houses, wiped out villages and towns, more refugees, some of them starving, lovely babes on board US marines ships and colored people from poor countries lining up in front of embassies hoping they will get them out of this hell.
The really devastating pictures will come later, much later, some day when all this will stop maybe we’ll be able to visit the ruins of whole villages. But even then it might be too late: how long does it take corpses buried under rubble to disintegrate and vanish ?
Anyway, so I left the office early and went home with my friend who’s staying with us because his house is in the southern suburb of Beirut. I was a bit worried because my brother in law, Khalil’s brother, was there too and I was wondering if I’d be able to manage space for everybody to sleep comfortably.
Raed, my brother-in-law and his eight-months pregnant wife had left Jebshit in the south yesterday morning. They reached Beirut by 5:00 pm.
They had crossed a bridge in Habbouche which had been targeted only once. It was destroyed, but cars were still able to find a way through. Half an hour after Raed had crossed the bridge, it was bombed again and completely demolished this time (sounds like an Indian movie, right?). Of course, Raed knew nothing about that - he trying to make out to Saida (Sidon), then up to Baakline in the Shouf then way down back to Beirut.
When I got home I asked if they had dinner. I was a bit ashamed because my fridge is empty. I hadn’t had time lately to buy groceries and I’m heavily relying on milk to feed Kinda, my daughter. “Dinner?” Raed asked, “we had nine shawarma sandwiches, Rana [his wife] and I. Today was the first time we eat in three days”.
He tells stories about Jebshit. Sad ones. No electricity, no water, no roads, no food, no newspapers. Some villages even ran out of batteries, so they can’t even listen to the news on the radio. Funny, isn’t it, that in Beirut we know more about what’s going on than the people concerned. Raed only knew they blew the Habbouche bridge when he listened to the news after he reached Beirut. I have to admit to all of you that I have very mixed, weird, sick feelings about all this. The first three or four days were very strange. I was in Beirut sitting in an air conditioned office, watching the devastation of the South and the southern suburb. It felt like when you watch news and pictures from Palestine and Iraq. You feel frustrated and concerned, but you know there’s not much you can do for them, for mere geographical reasons, at least that’s the excuse one uses to comfort oneself. But “this” was happening a few kilometers away and I’d still be sitting here watching.
The other weird feeling was related to the first one: I felt that I was paying my dues. The guilt feeling I’ve always had toward Palestine, and later towards Iraq, has diminished a little bit. I felt like hugging Palestine and Iraq and screaming to them “We’re with you, like you: left alone, suffering and part of your cause, a great one.”
Sometimes I just flip and cry. Cry because I’m so helpless and angry. And most of the time I turn on my “automatic engine on.” I wake up at six, come to the office, report hideous stories, feel nothing about them, do my job: double check, choose “fantastic” headlines, pick up the “best” pictures, try to be as professional as one can be. I do that for 12 to 14 hours. I then go home, pick up my daughter from my mother’s house, and go to bed at one. The Israelis love to start their raids at ten past one, sometimes at five past one. That’s when I’m in bed. Every night, when they start, I rush out to the balcony to see where the smoke comes from. I live on the twelfth floor. Every night , when I go out, I see the moon, my lovely moon, shyly hiding behind the clouds caused by the fires that are surrounding my Beirut.
This morning I stayed home till noon. I played with Kinda. My poor little baby. She doesn’t understand what’s going on. She keeps asking about her cousins. She looks at their pictures and keeps repeating their names; as if it was an exercise not to forget them. I tell her they’re in the mountains, and that we can’t go there. When they call us, she refuses to talk to them. She thinks they abandoned her.
The first time she heard the bombing, she rushed to my arms asking me if this was fireworks. I said, “no, this is boom boom, ha ha ha” and started laughing. So now, every time she hears the bombing she starts singing “boom boom ” and she laughs.
I left her at noon. She was sleepy, and wouldn’t go to bed. It took a few minutes to realize the reason: she wanted to fall asleep in my arms. Before July 12th, I would not move at her bed time. I’d put her on my lap, sing to her until she sleeps. For 10 days now, she’s been sleeping in the stroller at my mother’s house: only to guarantee that I will come pick her up when I finish working.
Two last notes: I feel ashamed talking about my daughter while other people’s kids were either killed or lack of food and shelter. But I feel so guilty towards her.
Second: to all the Israelis who have been sending their comments on what I write, I say this: I agree with you, we are savages, blood lovers, we don’t have feelings, and we actually enjoy looking at the pictures of victims. Actually, each time we see one, we party and dance. And in my writings, I’m only pretending to have feelings, and being pathetically sentimental only to bluff. Here, I’m admitting it. And to all my friends in the West: don’t believe anything I say, because I’m only viciously using you and trying to turn you into sympathizers of fundamental terrorism.
Hanady Salman is an editor at As-Safir newspaper