FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Happened in Nahr Al Bared?

by MICHAEL BIRMINGHAM

Nahr Al Bared is a Palestinian refugee camp in the north of Lebanon which has been home to about 40,000 Palestinian people, most of whom are the children and grandchildren of those who left Palestine in 1948. Some like Abu Mohammad were born in Palestine. He was ten years old, and next year it will be sixty years since the formation of the State of Israel was achieved through the ethnic cleansing of Abu Mohammad and so many others from their home in Palestine. He told me this as the two of us sat alone in the pitch dark while rats ran around beside our chairs at his house. As I left he went in to sleep alone amongst ashes and rodents, with no neighbours around him, trying to believe that he still has something left to protect.

Between May and September of this year, a ferocious battle took place between the Lebanese Army and a small armed group known as Fatah Al Islam. From the first the day, the Lebanese Army surrounded the camp and fired in artillery, maintaining this course for months. Most of the residents of the camp were forced to leave with the clothes on their backs within the first three days. As the number of young Lebanese soldiers killed and horribly maimed rose through the battle, Lebanon became awash with patriotism and grief, any questioning of the army taboo.

Something terrible has been done to the residents of Nahr al Bared, and the Lebanese people are being spared the details. Over the past two weeks, since the camp was partly reopened to a few of its residents, many of us who have been there have been stunned by a powerful reality. Beyond the massive destruction of the homes from three months of bombing, room after room, house after house have been burned. Burned from the inside. Amongst the ashes on the ground, are the insides of what appear to have been car tyres. The walls have soot dripping down from what seems clearly to have been something flammable sprayed on them. Rooms, houses, shops, garages –all blackened ruins, yet having had no damage from bombing or battle. They were burned deliberately by people entering and torching them.

How many we do not know, it is too large for a few people to comprehensively assess. But finding an un-bombed house or a business that has not been torched is very hard indeed.

Why did this happen? Why have the people whose entire life’s work is to be found in ashes on the floor of these burned out homes, not been given any information about this–not a word? Each day new people return to find that this is what has happened to their homes.

It is not just the burning of houses. Cars that residents were ordered to leave behind in the first days of the battle have been smashed up. Mopeds and TVs and all that ordinary people value, also broken up. Fridge after fridge with bullets through them. All of this clearly done from inside the houses, not from any outside battle.

People returning to their homes sit outside alone on the ground. Stunned. When you ask them to bring you into their houses, they tell you, person after person, of how their valuables were stolen. Even where the valuables were well hidden, everything was ransacked and valuables found. Explosives were used to get through locked doors or to open safes. Items that people have had stolen include everything from clothes to cars. That which has not been burned, which was not smashed, which was of value seems to have vanished. Where?

This camp was strictly out of bounds to the Palestinian people. They could not have done this. Who did this and why must surely be investigated before more vital evidence has disappeared. A small amount of this may be attributable to Fatal al-Islam fighters. But there is clear evidence that some elements of the army acted improperly.

On the inside walls of many, many houses, are written slogans. Everything from proud soldiers noting army units, to profoundly racist, offensive slogans against Palestinian people. Many families have found some of their belongings in nearby houses. Faeces are on some mattresses and floors.

Every day that goes by more families return to the camp. Within hours, they have swept up and cleared away ashes and debris, so that they can try to imagine where to begin again. Mattresses with faeces are being burned. Journalists are still prohibited from the camp. Cameras are illegal there. Human rights groups have not entered. Every day that goes by, more evidence is lost.

For those of us who lived in nearby Baddawi refugee camp during the battle, this follows from months of people from Nahr al Bared telling stories of torture and abuse at checkpoints, and in the Lebanese Ministry of Defence at Yarsi. It also follows on peaceful demonstrators from Nahr al Bared who bravely tried to tell the world what was happening being shot dead near Baddawi. The world ignored completely even their deaths.

Amnesty International, the largest human rights organisation in the world was concluding a report on the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon during the past week. It’s delegation left Lebanon without seeing Nahr Al Bared –before it left holding a Beirut press conference which was abruptly ended at the first mention of Nahr Al Bared.

The United States Government played a key role in this battle, strongly supporting politically and with munitions the Lebanese government’s decision to seek a military solution. The Lebanese offered to Fatah Al Islam simply to surrender or die. The European Union and many Arab countries also clearly supported this approach. The moral and legal imperative to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and not to target civilian communities was not a concern. The Palestinians of Lebanon, the subject of so many crocodile tears from around the world during infamous massacres in the past, once again are without support at the moment when it might actually matter.

What happened in Nahr al Bared? Why does the world not seem to care?

MICHAEL BIRMINGHAM is an Irish peace activist who has been mostly based in Lebanon since July 2006. He has formerly worked on human rights and social justice in Ireland and Iraq.

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail