Diaries: Live from Lebanon

A confined space

It’s difficult for me to live in Lebanon and not be conscious of space and time. The space around me when I’m in an enclosed space like a refugee camp or facing the openness of the Mediterranean Sea along the Corniche or examining the changed landscape of Beirut peppered among the high-rise skyscrapers and bullet-pocked buildings from the Civil War. Those scars on the buildings in Beirut are as ever present whether one is in the city or in a refugee camp, some places more ravaged than others. 

"They see us all as criminals"

Standing at the entrance to Nahr al-Bared Camp a week ago in the still, oppressive heat waiting with Fatme for her sister and her nieces to be evacuated, we watched as two large army trucks emerged from the camp. Though the backs of the trucks were covered with tarpaulin and soldiers forbade the assembled journalists from filming, as the trucks roared by we could see that each contained about thirty men and boys, handcuffed, some blindfolded, most with their heads bent down towards their laps. Caoimhe Butterly describes the experiences of Nahr al-Bared refugees who have been arrested, beaten and humiliated by Lebanese forces. 

Letter from a Palestinian Camp

In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed white American clergymen who were opposed to his civil resistance campaign that fought against racist, segregationist policies and practices in the US. Writing from his jail cell he responded particularly to people who would have preferred that African Americans be patient and wait for those rights to come to them rather than to resist: “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’” Dr. Marcy Newman reflects upon the relevance of King’s words to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. 

Three Flat Tires

The Nahr al-Bared Relief Campaign loaded up a truck from its center in Shatila refugee camp in Beirut yesterday to take a shipment of baby formula, medicine, and food aid to Nahr al-Bared refugees in Baddawi refugee camp near Tripoli. There were three of us: our driver from Shatila, a Lebanese, and me, an American. The extra people in the car were there, in part, to ensure that our driver would not be picked up by the army and detained at a checkpoint for driving while Palestinian (think driving while Black in an American context), which is increasingly becoming a problem. Dr. Marcy Newman writes from Lebanon. 

Where do I stand?

A dear friend of mine told me yesterday that I’m taking sides. That it seems as if I’m condemning only one form of violence. I thank him for that note — it forces me to clarify my position. So, here is my position on what is happening now in Lebanon. I wholeheartedly condemn the attacks against the Lebanese Army. I find it especially abhorrent that many of these soldiers were not killed in “battle” but where actually killed in their sleep, and killed in a most brutal manner. EI contributor Rania Masri writes. 

Interview: "There are more than 20 dead in our neighborhood"

Sari Chreih and Razan Al-Ghazzawi interview Saleh Bhar, a medical doctor from Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp: “During the first hours of the first day of the bombardment … my uncle died in his home when he was hit by one of the shells; he was with his two sons and one of his neighbors. … My uncle’s wife was injured. I have many relatives who lost their houses. My cousin Amin Bhar, a dentist, lost his house. My other cousin, also a doctor, lost his house too. My cousins told me that my uncle’s neighbor, Raed el Shans, who was with him when his house was shelled, also died with my uncle.” 

To be Palestinian in Lebanon is to be wished a thousand deaths

1 June 2007 — In the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, on 31 May, there was a single story that only reported the details of the deaths of Lebanese soldiers. The official number from the Lebanese army over last weekend was a resounding one civilian death. By denying Palestinian civilian deaths we effectively commit a double crime: The first is the indiscriminate death of the victim; the second is the denial of this original crime. I suppose the victim is meant to carry a camera and document her own death to truly confirm it in the public’s eyes. EI contributor Sami Hermez comments. 

Whose Truth?

1 June 2007 — Since early morning U.S. weapons have bombarded the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, though no one can get a clear idea about what exactly is happening there. On the news we watched bombs going off every few seconds all day long with huge clouds of black smoke smoldering in the sky. A journalist friend who was trying to photograph the scene called me and asked me to bring him more equipment from his home in Beirut. Since I needed to deliver medicine to Nahr al-Bared refugees in Bedawi refugee camp I drove his equipment up to Nahr al-Bared where he was trying to take pictures. 

"They won't let me be at peace, even in my dreams"

I don’t know where to begin. After spending two days in Chatila Refugee Camp, and a day in Beddawi, I find myself at a loss for words. How do I describe the conditions these Palestinian refugees are being subjected to when I never even conceived of the possibility of such unspeakable conditions. Again, I don’t know where to begin. But I will try my best. I will try because all of the refugees we interviewed in our first day at Beddawi beseeched us to let the world know how their situation has quickly deteriorated in a matter of days. 

Reporting from the front: Interviews with PLO spokesman in Lebanon and PFLP official (Part 1)

“We were supportive of the Lebanese army because an illegitimate group was imposed on Nahr al-Bared and on the Lebanese sphere. It attacked the Lebanese army, which led to the murder of 30 soldiers. This necessitated a stand next to the Lebanese army because the honor of the Palestinian people is intertwined with that of the Lebanese.” Jackson Allers and Rasha Moumneh interview Hajj Rif’at, Director of Media for Fatah and the spokesperson for the PLO in Lebanon in the first of a two-part series.