Friday, September 01, 2006

Forced To Take Sides

I remember when the war first broke out, I bumped coincidentally into a friend on msn chat whom I haven't seen or chatted with since several years ago. After the niceties, he quickly asked me, "Who are you with?" I was a bit puzzled. What did he mean by that question, like I would not be with Lebanon??! I said, "I'm with Lebanon!" He replied, "But Lebanon is divided and this is the reality."

After the conversation was over, it hit me that his question was about if I was with the March 8 or the March 14 coalition. But it was so interesting to see that these sides during the war faded somehow; we were faced with different sorts of divisions.

The truth of the matter is that no matter what, the Lebanese are always forced to take sides. First it was pro-Syrian versus anti-Syrian. Of course to be anti-Syrian was always hush-hush. We could express our frustration to our closest friends, at home (but even at home we would whisper as if the walls can record every word we utter).

A couple of years before the Syrian troops left Lebanon, my family moved to work in Syria. I learned then the amount of misconception the Lebanese have towards the Syrians in general. Raja and I back at AUB organized two cultural trips to Syria; I recall how appalled many Lebanese were at the idea of organizing such trips. Interestingly enough, most of those who joined us on the trips were Lebanese expatriates and foreign students and professors. We saw the beauty and potential Syria has, how the people there are like us, and how the regime there rarely taps into the potential of the country and its people.

I was taught only then to distinguish between a regime and the people. I like Syria and because I do, I thought the Lebanese-Syrian relations would be at a disadvantage if the Syrian regime kept its stronghold on Lebanon and didn't leave it to be an independent state.

...So we took sides then and we gravitated towards the March 14 forces. Unfortunately then, not all saw eye-to-eye on this issue and we were forced to take sides.

And then this war broke out. Despite the unity that many politicians tried to forge through, frankly it was a facade. Yes, we were all united against the Israeli war machine, against the deaths and destruction, but again we did not see eye-to-eye on the politics. Then, last month, for me at least, March 8 and March 14 seized to exist as a viable division. The divisions morphed into: with the Taif State versus not with the Taif State, patriotic versus un-patriotic (or to some zionist), with Hizbullah's arms versus with Hizbullah's disarmament, and again back to pro-Syrian versus anti-Syrian.

I don't want to take sides. Lebanon entered into a dark tunnel and I simply want it back! I click on the Al-Mustaqbal daily and I read just the headlines...nothing appealing, just talk, the editorial keeps on instilling in us fear of a Syrian comeback which to me is pathetic. I click on Annahar, the same, just skim through the headlines. I click on Al-Balad, just check out the caricature.....

Nothing to say, the Lebanese are confused as never before. Perhaps I look at the Prime Minister and I appreciate his stands. I understand the difficulty in trying to bring a divided country together. He extols the resistance and asks for Lebanon's sovereignty in one breath. It's a difficult, delicate task.

I always believed in action as opposed to politicking. I wish the government can call on those Lebanese who live abroad to return to Lebanon to re-build it, but I know it's wishful thinking; there are many standing issues still unresolved. And who is to resolve them? I don't know. Is it time? Or some other factor?

The question is: Am I needed back home? The appeal of Hizbullah is that it asks its supporters to be there for it, for a cause that drives them. The figher is an engineer, is a relief worker, is a construction worker, is a doctor, a nurse, a teacher....That's what's missing in any Lebanese state plan. The Lebanese state is only good in asking those with the money to return so they could invest here and there, but what about those with just skills? Do we have a place in your plans?

I'll end with a poem I wrote during the Grapes of Wrath war back in 1996 when I was only 15, a tribute to the resistance. However, right now I believe in a resistance of a different kind, that of preserving a liberal, democratic, enlightened Lebanon, a Lebanon for all Lebanese.

(Originally in Arabic, translated to English for the blog's purpose):

Al-Thawra
The revolution is our daughter
The fighter spirit
One hand in the face of the sun
I wish I was one of them
The passing away of life after fulfilling the self
How beautiful it is...to die like that
My revolution
A war against the deadly machine
Facing blood with a white heart
Why don't you do like me?
There is no goal without the land
A land I have sipped from its wine until I was drunk
Soil and blue possessing no boundaries
A well reflecting the face of history
Oh what a land!
It deserves this crazy revolution
The body disintegrates
But my soul will chose Lebanon as its end
Lebanonize (Talabnanoo)....
You will attain love, beauty and wisdom.

April 19, 1996
Tripoli, Lebanon

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

15 comments:

Hani G. said...

Doha....very beautiful poem (trying to translate it back into Arabic)

Your analysis is that of almost all the Lebanese (of March 14) I know as well as myself, in that in 1996, the resistance enjoyed the luxury of all Lebanon's support. Today the picture is very different.

Papa Ray said...

Either you stand for something or you stand for nothing.

Pick a side, just be sure it's the side that represents what you can live with the rest of your life.

Papa Ray

Chas said...

Doha,
Beautiful post.
It is not your money or your hands that Lebanon needs most.
It is your heart.

Peace,
Chas

Sherri said...

Doha,

When I started reading the posts on this blog, it was out of a need to know more about what was happening in Lebanon. After seeing the pictures of the war on TV, I felt empathy for those who were suffering. As I learned more, I felt I had to take a position on Hezbullah too.

And it is not as simple as it first appears at all. We have to determine what is the truth, to make the right decision.

Who is Hassan Nasrallah? Is he a terrorist just like Osama Bin Ladin who goes around and kills innocent civilians and his number one goal is to destroy Israel or is he a freedom fighter, who risks his life to defend his country and seeks as his primary goal an end to the injustices resulting from the recurring acts of aggression and occupation Israel has subjected Lebanon to for many years.

Does Hezbullah act for the entire country of Lebanon or for their political group or other countries?

I finally found the full texts of Nasrallah's recent speeches. Consistently, he states Hezbullah is willing to work with the government, and consistently he calls for unity among all Lebanese parties. He does not believe Hezbullah should disarm until the army is in the south and established to be strong enough to defend the country.

One thing I learned is that there was at least one written document, an agreement between Hezbullah and the Lebanese government, called a Memorandum Of Understanding, that gave Hezbullah certain rights with respect to trying to obtain the release of prisoners, and defend the borders.

Following is part of a speech fom August 12 made after the cease fire resolution was agreed to:

First: Regarding some of the aspects of this resolution, we believe that it is unfair and unjust when it tries to blame the resistance that executed a limited military operation, not to forget the lies which we heard yesterday in the UNSC, pertaining to the US Secretary Of State and the Israeli ambassador. The fact was that two Israeli soldiers have been captured, period. The Israelis began targeting the residential buildings, cities and bombed the southern suburb. In other words, they began the war and attacked the civilians after which we began shelling the settlemnets in north Occupied Palestine. The words that are being reiterated by the Americans and Israelis, and unfortunately by some UN officils, presenting the case that Hizbullah captured two soldiers and launched thousands of rockets into the north were untrue and nothing but lies, deception, and true fabrication. In fact it is utterly unfair and unjust and an act of victimization when the resistance is blamed for a military operation of limited actions, results and repercussions whereas at the same time the UN Resolution spares Israel from being mentioned, blamed or condemned for its hostilities, perpetrations, horrific massacres, the killing of more than 1000 civilians in Lebanon, the killing of women and children in Qana, Sheyah, Qaa in Britail, Akkar and Sreefa, coupled with countless massacres and crimes across the Lebanese towns, and the destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure. Anyhow, this is one of the aspects which I mentioned for ethical, human and political reasons. There are other items toward which we have reservations. But we will not discuss them until a serious ceasefire has been reached. This is because we want to discover or actually display the intentions of the Israeli enemy through this tactic which was used by the US and Israel which divided the issues to two stages, first the cessation of hostilities, and later ceasefire. Moreover, there are other items in this resolution which we regard as Lebanese internal matters that must be discussed within the government, within the framework of the national dialogue committee. We, the Lebanese, the political forces in Lebanon, are concerned in discussing and concluding these issues. We will present our ideas and views through the government, through our participation in the government or through our general participation in the national political cadres that discuss issues of this kind. Our ministers will express this fundamental attitude and these reservations in the cabinet sessions that will be summoned today to take a certain official stance for the Lebanese government. We surely appreciate all the efforts that have been asserted on the political and official fields and resulted in an outcome that pushed away that that could have been worse. In other words, there are other worse issues, other several bad issues that could have been included in the UN Resolution. The political and diplomatic efforts helped and were succesful by benefiting from the steadfastness. At this point, I repeat and reconfirm that we can benefit from the legendary steadfastness of the resistance and Lebanese nation that succeeded in driving away that that could have been worse. Today, the Lebanese government can definitely act with a national responsibility and can behave in the way that renders it patriotically responsible. We will not be an obstacle ahead of any decision.
The Lebanese government decision is appropriate, but our ministers will record our reservations on the resolution and some of the itemsand prefatory articles of this resolution, which we regard unfair and unjust.

Over the next stage, there are great responsibilities added to the burden of the Lebanese government, Lebanese state in general. These are tied to the security, building, humanitarian, and political aspects. After stressing during the war period, we again with this issue reconfirm at present that we still need the national solidarity and consensus for the next stage and the stage that will follow the end of the war. I must stress on the significance of the solidarity and national unity in order to challenge the future entitlements , which are imminent and of high significance, seriousness and criticality-if the Israeli enemy feels that in th eend it did not achieve its declared or undeclared aims of this war and did not leave and will not leave Lebanon in peace, we must be prepared to face certain gravities. We can only face them through our solidarity, awareness, alertness, as well as national unity, which were expressed over different forms over the last few weeks. We must preserve this unity for the next stage. At present, surely I will not be engaged in evaluating the war and its aftermath or that which is being discussed at present or will be discussed through the several informative and political arguments. This is because I believe we are still at war. Our priority at present resides in the cessation of the agression as well as in the ceasefire which is being expressed as the Israeli hostility. There is also the restoration of our land, the achieving of stability and security in our country...

Shmulik said...

Sherri

I am just stunned!! i have always thought he was a pan-islamic terroist/militant based in Lebanon and concerned only with islam and shi'ites but now I see he is a true lebanese patriot and moderate at that! I think we should make a further research on the speeches of this great man. Let me give you some further quotes taken between 2000 and 2006 and we will compare:
1) "There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel."
2)"I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognize the presence of a state that is called "Israel." I consider its presence both unjust and unlawful. That is why if Lebanon concludes a peace agreement with Israel and brings that accord to the Parliament our deputies will reject it; Hezbollah refuses any conciliation with Israel in principle."
3)"if they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide"
It seems to me a month of combat has turned a dangerous pan-islamic fanatic into a nice and moderate lebanese politician. Maybe another month would convert him to judaism and another would make him a right-wing zionist :). As I se it there are two options:
1) He is desperately buying time before he can be re-armed.
2) He is a "chocolate" terroist- high and mighty when Israel doesn't respond but quite reasonable when his military machine crumbles around him.
Either way it seems that from an israeli POV a military response was exactly what was needed to achive our most important goal: a secure northern border. This does not mean I don't feel great sorrow for innocent lebanese (and israeli) who have died in this horrible month, outrage at the fate of our abducted soldiers and a pressing need to study the political and military desicions of this campaign. BTW I am afraid that as long as hizbollah remains an independant militant group we will have such a tragedy again a few years down the line.

chuck said...

sherri,

well,
indeed this is the work of a politician.
such a compassionate, carring person this nassralla guy is...

Sherri said...

chuck and shmulik,

There were several reasons I included a portion of a recent speech of Hezbullah's leader.
Primarily to point out again, he is not just a "terrorist."

Nasarallah is not Osama Bin Ladin. He is Lebanese. He is a Shiite Muslim. He is Arab. He is acting for a group which is part of the Lebanese government and the Shiites are the majority group within Lebanon (making up between 40% and 45% of the population). Hezbullah acted as a military force in southern Lebanon with the knowledge of the government. There was even at least one legal document spelling out the arrangements Hezbullah and the government had with each other addressing Hezbullah's role in southern Lebanon, which I have heard called a Memorandum Of Understanding.(I will look up the speech I found that discusses this). I do not know if this has been made public or not.

Could you provide me with a citation to those alleged quotes of Nasarallah? I'm just interested in the context they were made and when. Thanks.

doha,

Every single time I find myself really starting to choose a side to take, I realize I am making a mistake. The problem in the present conflict is neither Hezbullah nor Israel are right. This is because neither of them really desire and want peace. They both choose war over peace, repeatedly, and I see no reason the future will be any different.

The answer to conflicts between countries is dialogue and diplomacy and negotiation and compromise. For all people who truly seek peace, we do not have to follow others into wars that are not of our choosing and provide them with our support.

We can raise our voices and say we want peace, not wars. We can feel empathy for the suffering of innocent civilians, wherever they may reside and condemn those who caused their suffering. We can support peace organizations and peace movements, like the Lebanon Solidarity Organization that was formed. We can reach out to those within our countries who are hurting and try to help them in anyway we can, even if they are from differnet groups than us. We can speak out against the evils of war, needless suffering, lost lives, lost dreams, devastation, destruction, endless pain, hate, hopelessness, an inability to feel joy or love.

The right choice is peace. And there are always choices. We can let our leaders know we want peace and that we demand peace. And we can speak out to anyone and everyone about our views. And we can pray continuosly for peace and not accept anything less than that.

palo-girl said...

Hello
I just wanted to say that... my heart is with the people of Lebanon. I feel so small and useless in the face of the giant problems happening in the world. I wish I could do more, more than just raising money and doing charity events. I hope that everything gets better in Lebanon, and not worse. I've heard a lot said about what's going on in Lebanon. Nothing quenched my thirst but this: (Sky News' interview with Galloway)
http://news.sky.com/skynews/video/videoplayer/0,,31200-galloway_060806,00.html

Dimitry said...

sherri,

For the life of me, I could not imagine what you would say differently if you did support HA - I mean, you routinely explain they aren't terrorists, that their violent actions were justified (while, of course, Israeli weren't), that Iran supplying arms to HA is a-okay while US supplying arms to Israel is wrong... And all that when you don't support HA? My god, what would it look like if you did?


Ah, also, just for the record: 40-45% aren't a majority; there wasn't a census in Lebanon for over half a century and in fact currently Lebanese population is ~40% Shiites, ~40% Sunnis, ~40% Chrisitans plus I don't know how many Druze and other sects; and Shiite babies aren't born with HA flags (i.e., not all Shiites support HA by definition). Just some statements you can completely ignore at your leisure.

chuck said...

sherri,

this is for u :

nasralla 11\25\2002:
"We view America as an enemy of the [Islamic] nation yet we have not engaged it directly in a military act (as of yet)". "The nation has resumed the use of suicide attacks, without the act of suicide the struggle is meaningless. The American government and the experts in America and Israel as well as the military generals were unable to eliminate the concept of suicide (attacks) and the weapon of suicide attacks. Since the Sharm-El-Sheikh [summit] they speak of dismembering the organizations (of terror) and attacking the organizational infrastructure yet were unsuccessful [in achieving their goal]. Due to that we must act in order to spread the concept of death for the realization of Allah's way as well as the act of suicide among the [Islamic] nation in order to protect our land".


In an interview with the Washington Post, 20feb 2000, prior to the Israeli withdrawl in may, Nasrallah said:
"I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognize the presence of a state that is called 'Israel.' I consider its presence both unjust and unlawful. That is why if Lebanon concludes a peace agreement with Israel and brings that accord to the Parliament our deputies will reject it; Hezbollah refuses any conciliation with Israel in principle."

"In the event of a Lebanon-Israel peace treaty, would the resistance enter the former "security zone" in the south of Lebanon?

If, by resistance, you mean Hezbollah and all its cultural and social institutions, these institutions will, of course, be present there. All the displaced inhabitants of this region have ties to Hezbollah. These people will return to their homes, to their fields and to their villages. Hezbollah and the mujaheddin are the original inhabitants of that region, and they will, for sure, go back to that region whenever it is freed from Israeli occupation. However, let it be understood, that once that region is freed, Hezbollah will not exercise any security measures there. That is indisputable, because the region will be under the sovereignty of the Lebanese government. . . . Hezbollah is a resistance movement that aims at liberating the occupied territories and is not a substitute for the government."

Sherri said...

chuck,

None of your quotations actually support allegations you made about Hezbullah. What this proves to me, coupled with the fact that news medias do not release actual drafts of speeches into the mainstream news media, is that the news media in the US and I guess Isarel too is intentionally distorting and misstating the content of Nasarallah's speeches. I have had my suspicions about this, but was only just recently able to obtain the full speeches.

Concerning your first quote, this is taken out of context. This speech is in response to Bush's declarations of war against terror and placing Hezbullah on the US terrorist list. Nasarallah is responding to what he views as a declaration of war against Hezbullah. Note, he is speaking only of defensive actions.

February, 2000 statement says Nasarallah would direct Parliament representatives to sign no peace treaties with Israel. But apparently he changed his mind, because in your next quote he says if a treaty was entered into, Hezbullah would no longer need to act as a Resistance group in south Lebanon.

Concerning your last point, please reread what you included. It actually supports the need for the Resistance until a treaty is signed between Israel and Lebanon and indicates Hezbullah has no military purpose after that point.

What Nasarallah is saying is that they (Hezbullah) would not need to be in the south as a Resistance group in the event a peace treaty was signed between Lebanon and Israel. This actually indicates that in the presence of a treaty, Hezbullah has no further issues with Israel. But this has not happened. No peace agreement was entered into, thus there was still a need for the Resistance. Again, there are still unresolved issues between Israel and Lebanon, that include Sheeba Farms occupation, violations of Lebanon's air space, turning over land mine maps, prisoner swaps.

Your quotes actually demonstrate the threat Hezbullah poses has been overstated by your government and the US government.

Sherri said...

dimitry,

My point is I do not have to support a particular side in a conflict or feel pressured to do so. You do not have to support wars of your country you do not believe are just. You do not have to defend all of their actions.

Many of my comments are aimed at trying to get to the truth. Our news medias brainwash us in so many ways and just flat out lie to us. I want to know the truth and we all deserve the truth.



What I thought I said about Shiite Muslims was that they were the largest group in Lebanon, making up 40% to 45% of the population. This is the information I have read, although I have read that there has not been a recent census. Your figures don't add up, 40% Shiite, 40% Christian, 40% Sunnis. That totals 120%. I think the percentages for Christians and Sunnis are less. If Shiites are 40% or more, they are the largest group. I know there are two parties, Hezbullah and Amal, but what I have read is they typically vote together as a block.

Of course, we do not know how the recent conflict may have affected the population and group distributions. Many left Lebanon. They may not all return to live in Lebanon.

chuck said...

sherri,

i'v had enough of u.
u will turn every word anyone rights in oposition to u'r comments, into a poor statment to support u'r side, which obviously encourages hisballa and others who whish for Israel's destruction.

and i took a course of "handeling responsible media consumation", about how the media is manipulative and controls the way we think, and how to recieve the information that the media sends u, which is a requiered course for almost all of those who study for first degree in Israel.
so don't bullshit me about media braiwash. the way i see it u'r the one that is brainwashed into believein all that oposes Israel is considered a "legitimate ressistance".

dimitry,
this is the estimated demography of lebanon, i'm sure raja and doha and most of the lebanese here might have a beter idea about these figures then us, but this is what i found:

It is estimated that about 40% are Christians, 30% are Shia Muslims, 25% are Sunni Muslims and 5% are Druze[12] There used to be a small minority of Jews, mostly living in central Beirut. Also, a small community (less than 1%) of Kurds (also known as Mhallamis or Mardins) live in Lebanon.

Dimitry said...

sherri

My point is I do not have to support a particular side in a conflict or feel pressured to do so. You do not have to support wars of your country you do not believe are just. You do not have to defend all of their actions.

Obviously you don't have to. It's just that you do. Clearly.


And, um, guys? I know math. Trust me, I do. The 40%, 40%, 40% commented reffered to the fact that every group claims to be 40% of the population, and that not counting the Druzes and other minorities. Estimations vary with the ones doing them. Since there's no actual census, throwing the 40% figure is rediculus.



Sherri, the KKK are while and concider themselves defends of interests of white people. Does that mean that in order to prevent them from lynching whoever they want, one has to exterminate the entire white population of the US? This is essenitally what you're saying about HA in Lebanon. Sure, they get support, major one, but this is a party with ideology. Being Shi'ite doesn't mean one would support their ideology. That's all.


Do you know that in publications HA Israel is always refered to as Occupied Palestine? That they fired rockets at the Zionists in Occupied Haifa and Occupied Karmiel and Occupied Tiberias etc.? So when they say "Hezbollah is a resistance movement that aims at liberating the occupied territories" they aren't talking about Shab'a farms.

Lirun said...

i just hope that soon enough they will be so marginal that they will simply stop talking..

wishing us all peace

lirun
telaviv
www.emspeace.blogspot.com