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The fear is growing in Beirut
Hanady Salman writing from Beirut, Live from Lebanon, 20 July 2006
The fear is growing in Beirut. Beirut is sad, scared, wounded and ... left alone. By yesterday morning, the UN said 150,000 people (foreigners and Lebanese holders of 2nd nationalities) had already left Lebanon. Evacuations are supposed to be completed by Friday. Today has been an exceptionally calm day: the US marines are evacuating US citizens. By tomorrow, the country will be left to its own people and Israeli shelling. In Beirut, by Saturday, there will only be those who have nowhere else to go and the very few who deliberately decided to stay. There were also be those who managed to flee the south and the southern suburb of the capital. What will happen to us on Saturday?
A friend called a few minutes ago, scared and begging me to go hide with her in Baabdat in the mountains. She said her friend who works with the UN and lives in Washington called her to tell her to stay out of Beirut, because she heard that by Saturday, it will be hell, nothing will stop them. The city will be theirs : my city , my dearest city , my only home , is open to their warplanes and shells. Our kids, as of Saturday, will be the targets of Israeli fire. So it's said. What I fear the most is that by Saturday, July the 22nd, Beirut will be cut off from the rest of the country, and the world. Every morning, I rush to the office to make sure the internet is still working. Every day I ask myself: why didn't they stop it?
As of Saturday, I fear every city or region will be cut off from the rest of the country. Maybe they won't bomb us. Maybe they will just leave us in our cities and villages to starve and rot to death. Maybe they will do both.
Worse than not knowing what will happen is knowing that whatever the Israelis decide to do, nobody wants or can stop them.
The Politics of Proportionality
For many Americans, the recent assault on Gaza and Lebanon makes perfect sense. Two attacks on Israeli soldiers by groups in Gaza and Lebanon, and the subsequent capture of three Israeli prisoners, were "unspeakable provocations." But a sordid feeling overcomes all those who have been closely watching the events unfold in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon. The Israeli government, reinforced by American steadfastness and the international community's capitulation, set the rules for the one-sided catastrophe. Israel can freely pound Gaza, batter south Lebanon, and hammer Beirut, but if Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah or any other Palestinian or Lebanese actor lifts a finger to defend themselves or their country against Israeli military aggression, it is tantamount to crimes against humanity.
The "reaction" against Hezbollah and Hamas has involved an intense bombing campaign -- targeting civilian infrastructure and the innocent population. In the past six days, more than 230 Lebanese have perished at the hands of Israeli forces, nearly all of whom were civilians. The scene in Gaza is equally bleak. Since the start of the month, the Israeli Occupation Forces killed nearly 100 Palestinians. The damage in Lebanon is already estimated to be in the billions--a staggering sum for a nation with a 2005 Gross Domestic Product of 20 billion dollars. The economic blockade imposed on the Occupied Territories has driven up the rates of poverty, malnutrition, and unemployment.
Israel used the capturing of the three Israeli prisoners as a pretext to wage a larger war on the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories and Lebanon. Still bitter about Hezbollah forcefully driving the Israeli military out of south Lebanon in 2000 and emboldened by Hamas' election sweep in January, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reaffirmed that Israelis "will not be held hostage to terror." But Israelis, as Olmert maintains, "will fight with all the strength we are capable of," which includes the use of terrorism against civilian populations. At no point is it appropriate for a United Nation's member state, a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, and a self-proclaimed "moral democracy" to act in this manner.