“The power that made dust out of life”

Destruction in Dahiyeh, south Beirut (Mayssoun Sukarieh)

September 18: The Mountain of Radam and Jihad al-Bina’

On September 15, 2006, as we were returning from our trip to the south we saw the insignia of an organization of Hizballah called Jihad al-Bina’. The western press deliberately misinterprets jihad, the name ascribed to Muslim service to the community. It is much like the insistence on saying that Allah is the god of the Muslims, refusing to translate this particular word as God, the same god along with the same accompanying religious discourse that forms the core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Jihad as service to the community can be military or social. Jihad al-Bina’ is the service of building for the community, and its practice right now here in Lebanon in the southern districts of the country and of Beirut is amazing. The energy and enthusiasm with which work is going on to rebuild the damage created by Israeli-delivered US-made weapons is amazing. The effort is historic - rapid, vigorous, optimistic. The jihad of evacuation of disaster areas is equally amazing. Dahiyeh and its surroundings were evacuated in approximately 36 hours. Now, after the war, the people have received enough money to rent a home for a year and buy new furniture.

Jihad al Bina’ also is clearing the rubble and moving it at an amazingly rapid pace to form a mountain of rubble, Jabal al Radam. Trucks loaded with rubble arrive at the rate of one each minute - 1350 per day as the taxi driver tells. As we climbed the mountain, we saw embedded in the rubble the torn bits of family life. Shoes, clothes, curtains, shards of furniture, bits of rugs, closet doors, children’s books, school books, shards of kitchen utensils, all torn to shreds, all smashed, all dusty, all mixed in an ugly salad of dust, shattered cement, broken glass, and bent steel. But the dust formed the largest percentage of the mix. I try to imagine the power that made dust out of life.

Meanwhile, to cover the horrors of the crime in Lebanon, the western press has been redefining the dictionary. Terrorism is the defense of one’s own community and the preservation of its life and culture. Democracy is the racism, apartheid, and murderousness of Zionism, the destruction of nations, the assassination of leaders, and the theft of resources. Self-defense is the hostile killing of civilians on neighboring lands, and the bombardment and destruction of that neighbor’s land. Freedom is the kidnapping of others, and their torture and imprisonment. Piety is Jewish and Christian blindness to Islam. Fascism is the moral practice of Muslims in the Arab world.

Many are confused here and everywhere. Hizballah keeps its head and its commitment, thus its influence with those who have no influence grows.

Two wars

We visited the hospital at Bint Jbeil and were given an immediate opportunity to talk with the director of the hospital who told us about the injuries and deaths of villagers and showed us where the hospital was hit. The Israelis hit the hospital in three locations, damaging the central electric exchange of the buildings, the generator, and the operating theatre.

In Bint Jbeil we passed a school building whose entire curtain wall had fallen revealing rooms with children’s school chairs and tables. Near Khiyam we saw a primary school damaged beyond use. In Khiyam, we saw a museum bombed to uselessness. Everywhere we saw homes, whole neighborhoods, and even whole towns bombed to shreds.

In Sur (Tyre) our delegation met with a doctor at the largest hospital and we received detailed information about civilian injuries, deaths, and the fact that injuries continue on a daily basis due to cluster bombs. He also explained to us that there were two wars: one was of fighting between defenders of the south and the attacking Israelis, and one was a large scale attack on the civilians of Lebanon who were represented and defended by Hizballah.

We have been told by the environmental expert and AUB (American University of Beirut) professor, Rania Masri, that one million and one hundred thousand cluster bombs are spread throughout the southern landscape and that they represent a manifold expense and danger that will not be solved for at least ten years. This cost will be, first that of homes and infrastructure, then that of the economy, and lastly that of agriculture. Agriculture will be the last to be fixed as it will take that long to diffuse the cluster bombs that explode unpredictably. This will create extreme economic pain for the farmers of the south and impoverish the area further.

We could easily see that the Israeli attack on Lebanon of July 2006 was a criminal attack on civilians and civilian infrastructure. And we heard from the people that this was something even a donkey could figure out - western media notwithstanding. So why do those who read the western press insist on being so mystified? It’s a matter of interest and serving interest. So who is it who support Hizbalah and who attacks it? Those who benefit or lose by it, of course. At the bottom of the matter it is our pocket that pays to fill our stomach. The one thing that I do wonder about is why no one has built a huge stomach for us all to worship! Or maybe I am a blind donkey! Maybe the dome of the senate in DC is just that.

But, hey, even people of Dahiyeh have a joke - Dahye, the worst hit civilian neighborhood of southern Beirut. There in Dahye they say that their apartments have gotten hugely more valuable now after the virtual rain of US missiles and bombs because, finally, in spite of all the crowding of poverty, they have an ocean view.

September 17: 1948 Palestine viewed from south Lebanon

As we approached the southern border and were only yards away from the many Israeli posts where invisible soldiers could and did spy on us, a member of the delegation and southern Lebanese referred to it as Israel. I immediately reminded them that the land was Palestine, occupied and learning the lessons of the Hizballah’s success. But what I saw was neither Palestine nor southern Lebanon as I looked over the fence from the several points that we visited. What became clear was that Israel was not the enemy of Palestine and now the enemy of Lebanon, crawling always with its movable borders and it racist destruction. What disappeared was the specificity of nations and what appeared was the digestive system of imperialist greed on the march - the greed of desperation in the background of a disintegrating capitalist economy.

I looked at the Dutchmen in the delegation and told them that if Israel bordered the Netherlands, they would be experiencing this attack and the demonization of the western press. Israel is the face of imperialist attack, and Judaism a pawn being manipulated against Islam. People here talk about the many different sects that will render Lebanon an arena of civil war. Yet they overlook the basic sectarian division that is Zionist Judaism on the one side and Hizballah Islam on the other. The religious nature of Zionism escapes them, is made invisible by media brainwashing. Yet the religious aspects of Hizballah blinds them to its heroic accomplishments.

Hizballah works against sectarian division within Lebanon, a factionalism promoted both on the diplomatic and military fronts. On the political front the US does its utmost to make arrangements with sects leaving out others. On the military front, the Israeli selective targeting of US made weapons is obvious even to a donkey. Hizballah country was hit while non-Hizballah areas were left unharmed even while the infrastructure was attacked in all places.

Samia Halaby is a Palestinian artist based in the US.

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