FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israelis Bomb Fleeing Villagers

They are in the schools, in empty hospitals, in halls and mosques and in the streets. The Shia Muslim refugees of southern Lebanon, driven from their homes by the Israelis, are arriving in Sidon by the thousand, cared for by Sunni Muslims and then sent north to join the 600,000 displaced Lebanese in Beirut. More than 34,000 have passed through here in the past four days alone, a tide of misery and anger. It will take years to heal their wounds, and billions of dollars to repair their damaged property.

And who can blame them for their flight? For the second time in eight days, the Israelis committed a war crime yesterday. They ordered the villagers of Taire, near the border, to leave their homes and then – as their convoy of cars and minibuses obediently trailed northwards – the Israeli air force fired a missile into the rear minibus, killing three refugees and seriously wounding 13 other civilians. The rocket that killed them is believed to have been a Hellfire missile made by Lockheed Martin in Florida.

Nine days ago, the Israeli army ordered the inhabitants of a neighboring village, Marwaheen, to leave their homes and then fired rockets into one of their evacuation trucks, blasting the women and children inside to their deaths. And this is the same Israeli air force which was praised last week by one of Israel’s greatest defenders – Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz – because it “takes extraordinary steps to minimize civilian casualties”.

Nor have the Israelis spared Sidon. A heap of rubble and pancaked walls is all that is left of the Fatima Zahra mosque, a Hizbollah institution in the centre of the city, its minaret crumbled and its dome now sitting on the concrete, a black flag still flying from its top. When Israeli warplanes came early yesterday morning, the 75-year-old caretaker had no time to run from the building; he died of his wounds hours later. His overturned white plastic chair still lies by the gate. The mosque is unlikely to have been used for military purposes; a school belonging to the Hariris, Sidon’s all-powerful Sunni family, stands next door; they would never have allowed weapons into the building.

Not that Hizbollah – which killed two more Israeli civilians with their rockets in Haifa yesterday – have respected Sidon, whose population is 95 per cent Sunni. They tried to fire Iranian-made missiles at Israel from the seafront Corniche and from beside the city slaughterhouse last week. On both occasions, residents physically prevented them from opening fire.

The multimillion-dollar Hariri Foundation – created by the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated last year – has helped 24,000 Shia refugees out of the south and on to Beirut but its generosity has not always been happily received. One group of refugees sheltering in a technical school in Meheniyeh punched and taunted Hariri workers. Elsewhere, the foundation’s staff have been cursed by fleeing families. “They are telling us that we are working for the Americans and that this is why we are taking them out,” said Ghena Hariri – Rafik’s niece and a Georgetown graduate. “It is something that drains our energy. We are working 24 hours a day and at the end of the day they curse us. But I feel so sorry for them. Now they are being told by the Israelis to leave their villages on foot and they have to walk dozens of kilometres in this heat.”

It’s not difficult to see how this war can damage the delicate sectarian framework that exists in Lebanon. One group of Shia families – housed in a school in the Druze mountains of the Chouf – tried to put Hizbollah’s yellow banners on the roof and members of Walid Jumblatt’s Druze Popular Socialist Party had to tear them down. Their act may have saved the refugees’ lives.

Yet many of the Shia in this beautiful Crusader port have learnt how kind their Sunni neighbors can be. “We are here – where else can we go?” Nazek Kadnah asked as she sat in the corner of a mosque which Rafik Hariri built and dedicated to his father, Haj Baha’udin Hariri. “But they look after us here as their brothers and sisters and now we are safe.”

These sentiments provoke some dark questions. Why, for example, can’t these poor people be shown the same compassion from Tony Blair as he supposedly felt for the Muslims of Kosovo when they were being driven from their homes by the Serbs? These thousands are as terrified and homeless as the Kosovo Albanians who fled to Macedonia in 1998 and for whom Mr Blair claimed he was waging a moral war. But for the Shia Muslims sleeping homeless in Sidon there is to be no such moral posturing – and no ceasefire suggestions from Mr Blair, who has aligned himself with the Israelis and the Americans.

And what exactly is the purpose of driving more than half a million people from their homes? Many of these poor people sit clutching their front-door keys, just as the Palestinians of Galilee did when they arrived in Lebanon 58 years ago to spend the rest of their lives as refugees. Yes, the Shia Muslims of Lebanon probably will go home. But to what? A war between the Hizbollah and a Western intervention force? Or further bombardment by the Israelis?

The Sidon refugees now have 36 schools in which they can shelter – but they are the lucky ones. Across southern Lebanon, the innocent continued to die. One was an eight-year-old boy who was killed in an Israeli air raid on a village close to Tyre. Eight more civilians were wounded when an Israeli missile hit a vehicle outside the Najem hospital in Tyre. And during the morning, one of Lebanon’s journalists, Layal Nejib, a photographer for the magazine Al-Jaras whose pictures were also transmitted by Agence France Press, was killed in her taxi by an Israeli air strike near Qana, the same village in which 106 civilians were massacred in a UN base by Israeli artillery shells in 1996. She was only 23.

In her marble-walled home above Sidon, Bahia Hariri – Ghena’s mother, the sister of the murdered former prime minister and a local member of parliament – sat grim-faced, scarcely controlling her fury. “We are in this terrible situation but we haven’t any window to resolve this situation,” she said. “Rafik Hariri is no longer with us. The international community is not with us. Who is with us? God. And the old Lebanese. And the Arab world, we hope, will help us. The only resistance we can show is to be a united Lebanon. But we have only a small margin in which to dream.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omaorosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail