[News] Kathy Kelly - Israel's "Proportionate Response"
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 21 12:38:11 EDT 2006
August 21 , 2006
Measured Amid the Wreckage
Israel's "Proportionate Response"
By KATHY KELLY
Upon arrival in Beirut in early August, 2006,
Michael Birmingham met Abu Mustafa. Michael is an
Irish citizen who has worked with Voices
campaigns for several years. Abu Mustafa is a kindly Lebanese cab driver.
Having fled his home in the Dahiya neighborhood
which was being heavily bombed, Abu Mustafa was
living in his car. Abu Mustafa joked that he
sometimes went back to his home in the already
evacuated area of the Dahiya, just to take a
shower or sometimes a proper nap. His family was
living with relatives in a safer area. Toward the
end of the war, Israeli bombs blasted buildings
quite near his home. He tore out of the suburb in
his cab and made that his home until we met him
again on August 15th. hundreds of people,
including parents walking hand in hand with
toddlers, process silently along streets lined by
wreckage. Even the small children looked extremely sad and grim.
Before the Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq in
2003, a contingent of peace activists living in
Baghdad hung huge banners at various locales
stating, To bomb this place would be a war crime.
On Dahiyas streets, we saw the sequel, banners
that said Made in the U.S.A. in Arabic and
English, detailing U.S. complicity in
manufacturing and shipping the weapons that
demolished homes, gas stations, shopping malls,
overpasses, clinics, the town square,
.block after block of ruin.
On the fourth floor of a five-story apartment
building, a father and his daughters scooped up
successive loads of broken glass and pitched them
onto the sidewalk below. They called out a
warning before each load came crashing down. You have to start somewhere.
On August 17 and 18, two men, both named Mohammed
and both in their twenties, took Michael, Ramzi
Kysia, Farah Mokhtarazedei, and me to towns and
villages south of the Litani River. In each of
the towns we visited, we saw appalling wreckage.
Nowhere could we see military targets.
In Sriefa, the town center was almost completely
destroyed. Residents told us that five or six
F-16s bombed the area on July 19th, destroying
ten houses, many of them three story buildings.
We stared at the rubble, spotting household
items, - a childs high chair, a weaving loom, a toy plastic television.
Neighbors had buried nine corpses in shallow
graves when it was too dangerous to be outside
for any length of time. On the outskirts of
Sriefa, as a handful of women and youngsters
watched, workers exhumed the bodies and placed
them in plastic body bags which were then wrapped
in green shrouds and laid in wooden coffins.
Workers sealed the lids and then wrapped the
coffins in flags. These slain men were
communists. The flags bore dual symbols for
Lebanon and the Lebanese communist party.
Later, we watched a long funeral procession pass,
carrying 25 of the 40 people killed in Sriefa.
Uniformed men, marching, led the procession.
Women followed, clutching one another in grief,
next boys bearing flags, and finally the
coffin-bearing vans, each with pictures of the
brothers, fathers, and sons that would be buried.
Abbas Najdi stopped to talk with us on a street
in Sriefa and then invited us to his home. During
the bombing, his wife and children left Sriefa,
but Abu Abbas, age 78, decided to stay. He wanted
to watch over his home and the familys sole
source of income, the tabac which was carefully
stored in a shed below the second story where
they lived. Fortunately, he had decided to sleep
on the ground floor during the first night of
bombing. The back part of his home, their
sleeping room, took a direct hit. Debris from a
collapsing building across the street blocked the
Najdi familys front door, trapping Abu Abbas
inside for two days. Neighbors eventually freed
him. Abu Abbass left leg was injured by flying
glass, but he felt very lucky to have survived at
all. Unluckily, his entire tabac crop was burnt,
the harvest of one years labor.
Before we left the Najdi family, one of the
daughters, Zainab Najdi, a University student,
stood to say goodbye and then laughed. "My pants
are falling down," she explained, still graceful
as she pulled them up. "I am 'daifah' --the
Arabic word for thin or weak. Her loose clothes
disguised how thin she is, but when we embraced,
I could nearly encircle her waist with my hands.
On the morning of the 18th, explosions awakened
us. I thought the cease fire had ended. Our hosts
reassured us that the Lebanese army was blowing
up explosives. In the garden outside the home
where we stayed, the local Hezbollah municipal
leader spotted three unexploded cluster bombs. We
had nearly driven over two cluster bombs lying on
the road the previous day. The sound of each
blast destroying hideous bombs was oddly
comforting. You have to start somewhere.
Many people we talk to in Lebanon understand that
the majority of Israelis urged their government
to fight this war once it began. Did the
proponents of war, in Israel, understand that
there is no sign of a military target in the
villages of southern Lebanon where homes,
schools, clinics, grocery stores and childrens
playgrounds have been destroyed?
On August 18th, Anthony Cordesman published a
working draft of a report called Preliminary
Lessons of Israeli-Hezbollah War. I read
excerpts of it in commentary written by Helena
Cobban. Cordesman, a seasoned military
strategist, writing about the Israeli Air Force
bombardment of Lebanon, remarks that the air
campaign continued to escalate against targets
that often were completely valid but that
sometimes involved high levels of collateral
damage and very uncertain tactical and military
effect. The end result was to give the impression
Israel was not providing a proportionate
response, an impression compounded by ineffective
(and often unintelligible) efforts to explain IAF actions to the media.
I honestly dont understand. Why is a target
completely valid if it involved high levels of
collateral damage, that is to say high levels of
civilians who are maimed and killed, of civilian
infrastructure ruined, of families rendered
homeless, penniless, jobless and hungry?
Cordesman states that there was uncertain
tactical and military effect. Before completing
the draft, I wish that Mr. Cordesman could stand
for just five minutes at one intersection in the
small city of Bint Jbail. He would see certain
usage of conventional military weapons used
against a civilian population. He would see
certain evidence of a war crime. Turn in one
direction and you see the remains of a school
building, some desks and chairs still aligned in
careful rows, visible because a whole side of the
building is demolished. In another direction, a
damaged stadium. Next to it, a field where 30
rockets killed a flock of sheep. One man managed
a chuckle, telling us that 2 million dollars was
spent to kill these sheep, that these must have
been the most costly sheep in all of Lebanon. On
the 27th and 28th of July, 100 bombs fell between
two mosques in Bint Jbail within 11 minutes. At
one point, the Israelis bombed for 11 hours
straight. Then there was a break and they bombed
for 21 hours until most of the town was completely destroyed.
Its estimated that about 60,000 people lived in Bint Jbail.
Of what military value, as a target, is a school,
an entire block of residences, a town square, a
favorite swimming hole? Why is it strategically
valuable to drop many hundreds of cluster bombs
that fall in gardens and along roadsides between small farming villages?
The residents of Bint Jbail and other southern
Lebanese cities as well as those who lived in the
Dahiya and in Baalbeck had jobs, homes, and basic
securities just a little over a month ago. Now,
billions of euros and other currencies, along
with ingenuity, resources, talents, will be
directed toward aid and recovery. Such aid might
have been helping relieve suffering elsewhere in
the world had this war not escalated.
Both legally and rationally, you cannot say
everyone living there is Hezbollah. You cant
just walk away from the appalling damage and say,
they were warned. Or can you? Can a state get
away with it, backed up by other world bodies?
If thats the case, then ordinary people bear a
grave responsibility to demand that leaders own
up to war crimes. Yes, finding a proportionate
response to war crimes when so much power is
concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer
people, many of them reckless and dangerous
leaders of the United States and Israel, is a
daunting task. But lets think of the people
finding courage to return and rebuild, lets
think of those trying to demine and clear out the
cluster bombs, lets think of the parents trying
to help children orient themselves to a vastly
insecure world. With them, we might acknowledge, you have to start somewhere.
Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of
<http://www.vcnv.org>Voices in the Wilderness.
Her book, Other Lands Have Dreams, is published
by CounterPunch/AK Press. She can be reached at:
<mailto:kathy at vcnv.org>kathy at vcnv.org
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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