Mayssoun Sukarieh

Solidarity in Shatila

Coming into Shatila, I heard loudspeakers calling for donations for the displaced from the Nahr al-Bared camp. “Help us help the families hosting their relatives from Nahr al-Bared; any donations would be appreciated,” the person on the loudspeaker called out. I went to the site appointed for donations collection, and met a woman asking if clothes were among the needed items. “These are old clothes, like the ones we wear, I swear, I am not differentiating between my family and them. I wish I had money but this is all what I could find at home,” she said. 

I love life ... with dignity

Yet another set of slogans written also in red and white letters are being trumpeted on billboards around Lebanon. The slogans, written in French, English and Arabic, are installed side by side to the previous set of slogans: “We want to live,” and “I love life.” These new billboards are signed by the Lebanese opposition under a rainbow that includes the colors of all Lebanese parties, for the opposition as well as pro-government. “The campaign is a response to those who are accusing us that we do not want to live and that we do not love life,” say representatives of Hezbollah and Aoun Parties on a NTV television broadcast. 

We love life whenever we can

Unconsciously, I started to recite this poem, written by Mahmoud Darwish in the eighties, as I first came across the “I love life” and “J’aime la vie” slogans written in red and white letters and carried on billboards around Lebanon. Even before I knew the story of the slogans, the poem came to mind, because the slogans felt cut: We love life whenever we can! But there is so much anger from occupation, imperialism, and injustice around us. The omitted part from the slogan gives a fantasy of a choice of being able to live a life we want in the current state of the world. 

War still keenly felt in Lebanon

Current events are like hot air balloons, says Arundhati Roy; they rise up into view and disappear out of sight again. This seems to be the situation now in Lebanon. Many friends and colleagues abroad are emailing to ask what’s going on, since Lebanon is no longer in the news. Our hot air balloons have already disappeared. We are not in the news anymore, but this does not mean that war is no longer raging in Lebanon. The only difference between now and the summer, when we were in the news, is that quick death caused by immediate shelling has been replaced by slow, sporadic death caused by cluster bombs and soil and air contamination, and the brute power of Israel’s armed forces has been replaced by the soft power of UN political control. 

An uncertain Ramadan in Beirut

“I told my wife, you just buy clothes for our son. I do not need any new clothes for myself and if you postpone getting a new outfit for yourself too, it will be good. Who knows what will happen in the next few months. Whatever we have saved, we spent during this summer, and now we need to save so we can eat during the next war.” This is what the taxi driver tells me in response to my remarks that Beirut does not feel as it did during previous Ramadan seasons. He was trying to explain to me why there is no movement in the city, why the city is dead despite the holiday season. 

Waiting to return to where "the air is different"

The situation of Laura and Ibrahim is just one of many created by the latest Israeli policy to cleanse Palestine of Palestinians. As their lawyers told them, “The Israeli government wants the least number of Palestinians in the Palestinian territories.” In mid-August, they left Ramallah for Amman, thinking it would be for just a few days, in order to renew their three-month visas to stay legally in Israeli-occupied Ramallah. Their daughter was visiting them in Palestine from the US, and she stayed behind, waiting for them to come back so she could spend the last two weeks of her summer vacation with them. But when they arrived at Tel Aviv Airport, they were detained for a night. 

What the camera fails to see

No matter how hard the photographers tried to capture with the camera what the eye sees, the picture cannot fully communicate the scene. It does not take with it the smell, the thoughts, the feelings one experiences while walking among the rubble left by the Israeli war machine. On the TV stations, one can see the toys of children shattered everywhere, broken furniture, torn out clothes. But on the TV stations or on the pages of newspapers, these are just items, objects one sees and one’s eyes get used to them, just like how the bodies of the deceased become objectified while on screen. 

Photostory: From Al-Amiriyyah, Baghdad to Amiriyyah, south Beirut

“To the residents of the Amiriyyah building Please visit the Afaq Center, Sayyid Hadi bridge. Please bring along any paper that proves your rent or ownership of a unit in the building. Thank you for your cooperation.” Thus read a sign on the rubble of a leveled building in south Beirut. The building was hit by a bunker buster on 13 of July 2006, the second day of the war, when the Israeli Air Force hit the Nour Radio Station that used to operate from the Amiriyyah building. Amiriyyah is a name that takes us to the first Gulf War, specifically to 13 February 1991, when the United States Air Force committed a massacre in the air raid shelter of Al-Amiriyyah in North Baghdad. 

"They are here again!"

“They are here again!” It took just this one sentence for a gathering of people making burghol in a village to the north of Baalback to scatter in all directions, running to check the news on the TV stations. The “they” being referred were the Israelis, who according the first report at ten last night, were raiding an area to the north of Baalback. The villagers left the wheat and the fire and started to follow the news. At almost ten thirty, Al-Jazeera assured them that the five air raids were “mock raids”. The villagers gathered again around the big boiling pot of wheat but anxiety was still in the air with uncertainty. 

The last day of attack, the first day of the unknown

It is 7:45 in the morning, Ras Beirut. Two explosions wake us up. We run to the TV set. “Is it on Dahiyeh? No, they sound like the flyers’ explosions.” Nothing on the news. Then another, louder explosion and paper rain starts to fall on us. All the neighborhood are out on their verandas looking at them as they drop from the sky. “What is in there?” A father shouts at his son to go get one. Two workers pick one up, they start to read out loud: “To the Lebanese: We would like to inform you that we are going back to hit Hizbullah, Syria and Iran! Signed, Israeli Defence Force.”