Samia A. Halaby

The cradle of revolution

Cradled in the beautiful southern mountains of Lebanon, a revolutionary impulse born of desparation created by Israeli terror and American oppression has turned into feverish nationalism. Here in Beirut yesterday, 10 December 2006, over a million people, perhaps two million, gathered in a historic first for Lebanon and possibly a historic percentage of any nation any one time any where. It was a crowd in motion, literally. I watched the rivers of people weaving through the masses and the islands of those who stood still. Their shifting patterns, a natural motion, is a rare experience. 

Historic Days in Beirut and a White Rose

December 3: Today is the third day of the great events in Beirut. A congregation of people, a coming together of individuals from all over Lebanon from all religious groupings, all seeking to change the majority ruling government of the country. All this is happening under the leadership of Hezbollah, which is being cool, keeping its alliances strong and its supporters disciplined. On the first day there were approximately two million people. If you were part of it you would not have been able to tell how many people were there. In the front of the event, very near the speakers’ stand where I stood with friends, I could see and hear but only a fragment of the crowd. 

From Hamra to Dahye

Tonight I caught a tiny glimpse of the anger that the masses might express here in Lebanon. Tonight’s confluence of national forces in the main squares of downtown Beirut were complemented by spontaneous action in the neighborhoods. Gift in hand, a great dinner invitation from a host and hostess who live in Dahye, and looking foreward to a wonderful home cooked meal, I found myself in a taxi with a driver patiently, and kindly doing his utmost to maneuver the side streets of various neighborhoods to avoid a huge demonstration on one of the main highways between Dahye and downtown. Suddenly he pulled a political photo from under a pile of papers on the dash board and placed it on top, face-up, as we passed small cliques of men and teenagers, some holding wooden sticks as weapons. 

Online Exhibition: Memorial of the 50th Anniversary of the Kafr Qasem Massacre

Fifty years ago, on October 29, 1956, 49 Palestinian residents of Kafr Qasem were murdered by Israeli border police who at that time were officially attached to the military. Countless more were wounded and left bleeding and unattended. Their families were unable to offer aid because of a 24-hour curfew lasting for some two days and three nights. Violation of the curfew was punishable by death. In the following two days (while the families were thus imprisoned in their homes) the Israelis unceremoniously buried the victims without permission or the presence of witnesses. 

Signs of life in Bint Jbeil

On Thursday September 21, 2006, I returned to Bint Jbeil, guiding members of the Netherlands delegation from D4. We walked again through the streets and I searched for our friend from the scarves store. It was 3:30 and I remember her saying that she goes home at 3:00. I was sad to miss her. But I was glad to see more signs of life in the town on the main road and in parts of the old town. We walked through the old town and I searched more carefully with my eyes for the remains of family life in the neighborhood. I remembered the destruction in Jenin and I could see that here the destruction was more complete, more thorough. It was as though the neighborhood was put in its entirety into a monstrous machine which ground it to dust. We stepped in many inches of fine beige dust, dust as fine as talcum powder. 

Photostory: Bint Jbeil to Beirut

This was our second visit to Bint Jbeil and we saw more and more life coming back to the town. The rubble here is of old hand-hewn stones fallen from a very old house. We saw many children’s books all through the neighborhood. Inside the windows of the homes still standing was extensive damage. I had asked why the garage doors of the stores were bent in various ballooned shapes. The answer was that the bombs created pressure that blew out all windows and doors and bent the metal garage doors of the store fronts into various ballooning shapes. 

"The power that made dust out of life"

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. 

Flowers in Bint Jbeil

In Bint Jbeil we saw almost total destruction and this destruction encompassed all parts of life. Yet in the middle of this damage there were a few amazing jewels of life bubbling open. In the south of Lebanon the landscape is covered with the dust of missiles and destruction. The trees, the weeds, and the cultivated plants are coated with a sickening yellow dust that immediately impresses a sensation of poison and death. Inside the villages, the dust and garbage spread through all parts of the town regardless of the damaged areas. Areas of massive destruction looked like strange cliffs and fields of broken cement chunks interspersed with bits of brightly colored cloth or plastic. 

A war against art and culture

This past month, Lebanese artist Youssef Ghazzawi’s studio was destroyed by Israeli military bombardment for the third time in his life. The first time was in 1977 when his home in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam was severely bombed. And the second time was in 1983 during the Israeli occupation of Beirut; the apartment building he was living and working in collapsed due to continuous shelling. Under each barrage, his entire studio and most of its contents were destroyed. He had salvaged a few things from the previous two demolitions and was saving them. In the most recent destruction of Youssef’s studio his entire life’s output was lost. 

Differing perceptions of Hezbollah

Leila Buck’s first article on Electronic Intifada was subtitled “I have so many things to say and share I don’t know where to start.” I feel the same way. Leila feels helpless facing US/Israeli propaganda about brutal war crimes against Arabs. I feel the same way. In her good anger she goes to an extreme to support her argument. One cannot say 90 percent of Lebanese do not support Hezbollah. That is wrong. The rich, much of the middle class indeed do not support Hezbollah. They are not even a majority.