Friday, July 21, 2006

Friends on the Other Side

They're there. And there are many of them. Let's just remember that, and guide ourselves and each other away from blind hatred, towards unconditional peace.

Hi Fouad
here is the translation I made to the article
the counter shows that the article was read 7000 times. I hope that for at least few of the readers, it changed something.
tomorrow we have here in Tel-Aviv a demonstration against the war. Somehow I'm not optimistic, but I hope our plea will be heard.

Take care,

Khalas. We want to live

"Beirut is in flames, Beirut is Burning

Turn everything into ashes, once and for all

Throw into the fire your conscience and liberty

Tomorrow they might, God forbid, flourish again"

This protest and satirical poem that was written by Chanoch Levine in 1982, was published in its English translation by Rabih Nassar, a resident of Beirut, as a picture on his Flickr stream. Nassar describes himself as "addicted to politics and history", but usually he posts in his Flickr optimistic photos of people and landscapes. But this last week, his album looks far less optimistic. He is one of the online Lebanese activists that the current war made them change their daily routine and express their protest online.

I dove into the Lebanese blogosphere to meet our neighbors from across the borders and to learn about their thoughts about the war. It would be pretentiousness to say that by this journey I could have figured out and fully understood the atmosphere on the Lebanese street.

First, because bloggers by definition don't represent the whole population. Like in the US, where bloggers are far less conservative than the rest of the population, I assume that this is the case also in Lebanon. Second, because of the language barrier , I only focused on blogs that are written in English and not in Arabic. These blogs are probably more connected to the western culture and have a more global point of view.

That is why, I guess, I couldn't find even one blogger that fully supports the Hezbollah. Most of the English speaking bloggers are actually express disgust from Nasrallah and his friends. But this doesn't reduce the Lebanese patriotism and the high critic on the Israeli actions. The main message in the posts from the last week is of distress, and an attempt to arouse the world awareness of the Israeli killing the civilian population and hurting the chances of Lebanon to heal. Here are the voices of four online Lebanese activists.

Protest in Pictures.

Rabih Nassar decided to express his protest with pictures. Although he himself didn't went out to the street to take pictures of the happening in his hometown, in his Flickr photostream he publishes simple collage s that has a strong message.

In on of the collage there is the picture of Shimon Peres, getting interviewed by the CNN, and saying the Israel doesn't hurt civilians. Bellow there is the photo of a Lebanese child that was hit by the Israeli air force.

In another collage, Nassar brings together 3 pictures of Lebanese injured children and one picture of an Israeli's Air force plane. " All those kids are terrorists if you ask the IDF..." He writes below of the picture and explains that the blame is on Olmert, a little man who has been managing garbage collection and illegal settlements in Jerusalem that now tries to prove that he is more militaristic then the army itself.

After I wrote to him a mail, Nassar told me that although Lebanon is very segregated, Hezbollah has large support by many of the Lebanese. He himself is worried from the Islamization and the loss of the Lebanese's government sovereignty because of the Hezbollah, but understands the sympathy that the organizations gets, both because its success to expel Israel from south Lebanon, and because of the charity.

Diplomatic actions could have prevented the war, but "I'm afraid that there are too many interested sides that wanted something like this to happen in our good old bloody middle east".

Mustapha , a graphic designer, is a Lebanese blogger that currently lives in Africa and considered one of the leading political bloggers. In His blog, called Beirut Spring, he says that he is "Trying to understand post-Syrian Lebanese politics and society." On the tagline of the blog there is the picture of Rafik Hariri , the assassinated prime minister of Lebanon, and on the side of the blog, there is a banner saying "Arabs and Muslims Against Terrorism" .

Last Friday Mustapha published a post with the title "Cross-Border Buddies" in which you can feel the enthusiasm on the Lebanese side to make an online connection with Israelis, that is not weaker then the enthusiasm of Israelis to connect with Lebanese.

In this post, Mustapha published a letter from an Israeli guy to a Lebanese mutual friend. The Israeli guy and the Lebanese guy used to share a flat in London, but their ways where separated and now the war put them on the opposite sides of the conflict.

"I am writing to you because of what happened last night in Beirut", wrote the Israeli to his Lebanese friend, after Israel bombed the International airport. "I feel very sorry for that and I really hope none of your relatives or friends were close to the airport or are located in the area where the problems happened. I know it is very delicate to talk about this, but since we are friends and ex-flatmates, I can't but be concerned." Writes the Israeli. "I won't try to justify the attacks, but you probably know that Lebanon is not innocent from the problems in Israel. I just want to tell you this: Whatever happened in the world, wars, terrorists attacks, etc, I will never consider you as my enemy, because we are friends and nothing is stronger than friendship and love."

"[..] In the name of my nation and religion, I am sorry for the innocent who died last night and for the ones who will die in the next days, months, years and centuries. Hope you feel the same when innocent Israelis die. Never forget, that all together, WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD."

Despite publishing this emotional letter, Mustapha doesn't avoid strong criticism toward s Israel. In another post, that one could say it's cheap demagogy, he glues together two pictures into one very difficult to watch. One picture is of two girls from Kiriat Shmona, signing "to Nasrallah with Love" on Israeli missiles before they were launched. The second picture is of a body of a Lebanese toddler that was killed in an Israeli bombardment. Under the post with the cynical title "sealed with a kiss", Mustapha added the plea: "children of the World Unite".

Practical Information how to help to the Lebanese citizens

Maya, daughter of a Lebanese father and a French mother, describes herself as a "citizen of the world". Today she lives in Miami but here blog is about Lebanon and its quest to independence. In here blog she don't speak much about feeling. "I don't have the heart to write about the situation. I am depressed, worried sick about my family, and disgusted at what Hezbollah, Israel and the rest of the world, for that matter, is doing."

But Maya tries via here blog to influence, as much as she can, on the leaders of the world. She published on here blog information about demonstrations against Israel's actions in many places in the world, links to online petitions, and gives information how to help organizations like the red cross in Beirut and refugees organizations.

In addition, Maya wrote a letter in English and French directed to the leaders of the world, in which she demands from them to prevent Israel from hurting the civilian population and to encourage negotiations between Israel, the Hezbollah and the Lebanese government. Few Lebanese bloggers link to Maya's letter and send similar letter also.

Three days after publishing the letters, Maya publishes a response letter she got from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, currently the single office that bothered to answer the letter. "Don't look at Israel to stop acting in self-defense against Hezbollah, but call upon your own government to fulfill its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and disarm Hezbollah", they write to her from Israel.

Maya of course doesn't leave the Israeli response without her own comment. "The whole "self-defense" speech we've heard over and over. It's a bunch of BS. Most of the rest of their letter is correct, but still does not account for the disproportionate and uncalled for amount of violence and destruction that Israel is undertaking in Lebanon ".

Khalas, we just want to live.

Fouad, also from Beirut, responded a little suspiciously when I approach him to ask for his permission to use one of his drawings in the article. His fear was that his words will be twisted by an untrustable enemy.

On regular days, his blog called "Welcome to My Lebanese Dream" has nature photos, sketches, political caricatures, poems and thoughts. But this last week his blog stepped out of it regular dreamy mode. In a post in which the title screams KHALAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSS !!! and has a drawing that reminds of "the scream" by Munch, he writes directly to the Israelis:

"To all those who sympathize with us, thank you for your kind thoughts whoever you are. But let me make one thing clear. Yes it is our fault for not being strong enough or united enough to establish the rule of law and spread the lebanese army on all lebanese territory. But there is no love lost between the lebanese people and the israeli leadership.

We have been invaded, abused, bullied, and humiliated by israeli occupation forces for many years. Entire families were butchered by israeli artillery. And now this? do you seriously expect us to believe that leveling this country's frail infrastructure is going to bring you your soldier and bring hizbollah to its knees? we might be weak and divided, but we're not stupid.

We are being punished, that is all. Punished twice, by our own ineptitude, and by your ruthless retaliation. Hizbollah is screwing us over, but so are you. Now do I still want peace with you? yes. Peace not alliance. Peace not friendship. Not because I can't wait for us to hold hands, but because I can't wait for Lebanon to be out of harm's way. We've suffered enough, we've bled enough, we've built and rebuilt enough, and it's time for us to take a break and just live. For a change."


Blogger Zee said...

You need a "Mandela" type of person in Lebanon. Pragmatic, stubborn - but en-souled with the ultimate goal to do what it takes to make Lebanon a sovereign country, even by taking the unthinkable step to negotiate with the enemy to achieve that aim - as Manela did with DeKlerk ...
Where is he or she???
In the mean time let us put pressure on Israel and the world community to stop violence that will ultimately generate more violence.

11:42 PM  
Blogger rouba said...

good for you fouad
your words are powerful, remember that.

1:19 AM  
Blogger samiranghosh said...

I am touched by your article very, liked the way you put things because of the importance it carries in your life. Hope that things cool off fast, and innocents are saved.

2:36 AM  

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