Each day and night of the week I have been here, I have heard and felt the impact of Israel’s advanced weaponry as it crashes into buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure of Beirut. But it is not only concrete and steel that is hit; it is also Lebanese men, women and children, such as the dozens who were killed in the Cheyyah neighborhood a few days ago.
This week, Lebanese, Palestinian and international activists here in Beirut have been meeting and planning a response to Israel’s aggression against Lebanon. Not that we have military technology, or a huge force field to repel the missiles, at our disposal. What we who are unarmed, who believe in strategic nonviolence as a strategy to overcome brute military force, have at our disposal is determination, moral ground to stand on, and a fundamental belief that our human and political rights must be claimed and asserted. This is particularly so in the face of an aggressive force that destroys life and limb and shows no mercy for human rights, human dignity and the ability of people to live on their land.
In order to act, we have come together to bring a civilian convoy of relief aid to villages in the southern part of Lebanon. Some of the villages there have been virtually erased from the map, as Israeli planes and artillery bombard people’s homes, fields and crops. There are still civilians hiding from the daily pounding and remaining in their villages. They stay because they are old, or infirm, or poor, or because they refuse to leave their land. And Israel has prevented aid from reaching these people - international agencies that coordinate their aid relief with Israel have been told they will not be safe if they try to move. The whole area south of the Litani River has been declared a no-driving zone.
Our convoy, and other actions to follow, will challenge Israel’s dictates to the Lebanese people as to what they can and cannot do on their own land. This challenge will be made by those who have nothing with them but food and medicine and by people who will say to the advancing and bombing Israeli army, “Leave our country and stop killing our children.”
The choice is up to Israel. Will it bomb this convoy like it bombed convoys of civilians fleeing their homes in the south just a couple of weeks ago? Will it bomb the hundreds of civilians like it did those who were hiding in a building in Qana? Will it attack this aid effort the way that it has hit international and Lebanese aid agencies? Will it aim its fire at international citizens here to help as it did when it killed foreign UNIFIL observers despite knowing full well who they were?
This will be just the first of many such challenges to Israel. The choice of action is Israel’s, but the world must watch. Because Israel cannot say it did not know, and the world cannot pretend this is not happening in Lebanon.
Adam Shapiro is a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and is currently in Beirut, Lebanon.