lebanon fighting

May 9, 2008 at 7:58 pm (lebanon, middle east)

from Rami Elamine:

Below is an article form Al Jazeera on the latest situation in Lebanon. However, a little context is important, particularly since the article doesn’t mention the involvement of the US. While the General Strike called by the Lebanese confederation of labor helped spark these clashes, it was the US backed government’s decision to go after Hizbullah, albeit not yet by military means, which added fuel to the fire and may have pushed the nearly 2 year political standoff between the government and the Hizbullah led opposition into a more confrontational phase. However, the economic conditions that led to the calling of the general strike in the first place are also an important factor in all this. Just as in the rest of the global South, food and fuel prices have skyrocketed in Lebanon and so the key demand of the strike was increasing of the minimum wage from $200/month to $600 so that people can afford basic necessities. In Lebanon, this class divide coincides with confessional/sectarian divisions in that the largest sect, the Shi’a, make up most of the country’s poor. So its no surprise that they were the biggest supporters of the strike.

What the US has to do with all this is that its war, and divide and conquer strategy in Iraq has created sectarian tensions between sunnis and shi’a and divisions within countries in western asia and africa that didn’t exist a few years ago (Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc), causing massive instability. Instead of drawing the right lesson from the fact that its proxies in all these countries are becoming smaller and less popular and, therefore, unable to win militarily, the US seems to be pushing them to do just that–take out or cripple those opposed to US hegemony in the region by any means necessary. Even though this backfired in GAza, they did it in Iraq with the attack on the Sadrists in Basra on March 25 (which has now killed more than a 1000 iraqis, 3/4 of whom are civilians, mostly in the Shi’a slum of Sadr City) and they’ve been trying to do it in Lebanon since Israel’s failed war and invasion in the summer of 2006.

What’s really frightening and what really needs to be exposed is how the US backed, neoliberal gov’t of Fuad Siniora has begun really whipping up sectarian tensions. It’s always been implicit in their attacks on the Shiite dominated opposition but it’s now been taken to a whole new level and partly explains why the street fighting so reminiscent of the 15 year civil war which claimed more than 150,000 lives has begun. In what are unprecedented remarks by any political leader let alone the religious head of one of the sects, the Sunni spiritual leader Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani said yesterday, “Sunni Muslims in Lebanon have had enough” and that “Sunni Muslims are fed up with such violations of their freedom and dignity.” He went on to call Hizbullah “armed gangs of outlaws that have carried out the ugliest attacks against the citizens and their safety” and accused them of “invading” Beirut and trying to “kidnap” the airport.

Sorry to go on so long but its important that people begin to get their heads around this before the US propaganda machine kicks in and frames the debate in a way that prevents people from doing something about this and justifies more wars and occupations in the Middle East.



Beirut racked by street battles
THURSDAY, MAY 08, 2008

Six people have been killed and 15 people wounded in Lebanon, according to security sources, as the country’s political crisis threatened to spiral out of control.

Fighting in Beirut intensified on Thursday, the second day of anti-government protests, after a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah secretary-general, in which he called a government crackdown on the Shia group “tantamount to a declaration of war”.

In several neighbourhoods across the capital automatic rifle fire could be heard as fighters in support of Hezbollah and the allied Amal group exchanged fire with pro-government fighters in the worst domestic fighting since the 1975-90 civil war.

Clashes were reported to have broken out in other parts of the country, with another seven people reported injured in the Beqaa valley.

The Lebanese army did not participate in the fighting.

But Robert Fisk, a journalist in Beirut, speaking to Al Jazeera, said that could change if the fighting escalated.

“If we have a situation where one group of people move into another group’s area – either Shia or Sunni –  then the army may have to take much harsher measures and that immediately raises the question of ‘what is the future of the Lebanese army’, because it’s made up of all the citizens of this country, not just one group or the other,” Fisk said.

Gun battles

“The fighting seems to be spreading,” reported James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut. “It’s something all the political parties said they wanted to avoid.”

Thursday’s fighting occurred on Corniche Mazraa, a major thoroughfare in Beirut that has become a demarcation line between mainly Sunni and Shia neighbourhoods, and the nearby Ras el-Nabeh area.

The violence later spread to Khandaq el-Ghamiq, adjacent to the centre of the city.

Television footage showed armed and masked men taking cover on street corners next to shuttered shops.

Shootings and explosions were also reported near the office of Aisha Bakkar, the Sunni spiritual leader allied with the government, and in Ein el-Tineh where the opposition-aligned parliament speaker has his official residence.

Hezbollah speech

Fighting broke out after Nasrallah, in a televised address, said the political crisis in Lebanon had “entered a new phase” because of what Hezbollah claims are government moves against the Shia group, including launching an investigation into Hezbollah‘s private telephone network.

Your Views

Is Lebanon edging towards civil war?

Send us your views

“This decision is a declaration of war against the resistance [Hezbollah],” said Nasrallah.

“This decision [by the government] is designed to push the resistance and the military into direct confrontation.”

He warned that Hezbollah would act to stop any attempt by the government to dismantle the network.

Later, in his own televised address, Saad Hariri, leader of the Lebanese parliamentary majority and son of the assassinated former prime minister, put the blame back on Hezbollah, saying: “What fate are you dragging the Muslims to – are you dragging us back to civil war?”

He proposed a compromise solution spearheaded by the army – seen as neutral – to end the fighting and “save Lebanon from hell” and called for Hezbollah to lift its “siege” of the capital.

He also called for the immediate election of a consensus presidential candidate.

‘Calm and restraint’

In the US, the United Nations security council also called for “calm and restraint”, urging all sides to return to peaceful dialogue.

The council issued a non-binding policy statement, which lacks the force of a resolution, after a briefing by Terje Roed-Larsen, a UN special envoy to the Middle East, who warned that the situation in Lebanon was the worst since the civil war.

“At the top of the agenda at the Security Council today is the issue of armed militias in the streets of Beirut and elsewhere,” Roed-Larsen said, speaking to Al Jazeera after the briefing.

“What we are seeing today illustrates the necessities of integrating the Lebanese militias into the army. Unless this is done I fear that what we are seeing today will continue.”

The White House demanded Hezbollah stop “disruptive activities”.

Hezbollah needs to make a choice – be a terrorist organisation or be a political party, but quit trying to be both,” Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said.

“They need to start playing a constructive role and stop their disruptive activities now.”

‘Tension rising’

Unrest began on Wednesday during a general strike, called by the main labour union over price increases and wage demands, which quickly developed into a confrontation between supporters of the government and the opposition.

Protests continued on Thursday, with many roads blocked by barricades of burning tyres.

The Lebanese army command issued a call for calm, saying that if the violence continued, it would affect the unity of the military.

Rula Amin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut, reported that people were trying to flee the city.

“Some people are leaving the capital to remote villages, others are walking out of their homes with suitcases, heading for the airport by foot, hoping that any plane will take them,” she said.

“Tension is rising – today violence spread outside the capital … You can see more and more people on the street with guns.”

Saudi Arabia warned the opposition against an escalation of the situation.

“The kingdom urges the groups behind the escalation to reconsider their position, and to realise that leading Lebanon towards turmoil will not bring victory to any party except extremist external forces,” the state’s SPA news agency quoted an official as saying.

Fears that the political conflict in Lebanon could escalate into sectarian conflict were heightened when Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, Lebanon’s Sunni grand mufti, spoke against Hezbollah for the first time.

“Sunni Muslims in Lebanon have had enough,” Kabbani said in a televised address from his office.

The Sunni spiritual leader referred to Hezbollah as “armed gangs of outlaws that have carried out the ugliest attacks against the citizens and their safety”.

Permalink 1 Comment

give and take

September 9, 2006 at 12:16 am (lebanon, poetry, west bank)

last night she was alive
tonight she s dead
turn off the television set
close the windows

im feeling lost in the yellow swing
state of tomorrow
borrowed from yesterday
prayed to live forgiven hidden traps
of trees longheld behind this mirror
forest green forgotten begotten ill-gotten
color cream dont be the beautiful child
duitiful on your knees
stand up hands up
high 5 free

throw me a lighter pocket fire pockets
refolded along the tailored seam
tailored dreams
stitches corroded
by gunpowder
cracks louder
by laser red
painting the tree

yesterday i was alive
today i am free

today is a mocking bird
rocking words
i am screaming words
silent like a whisper
between adam and eve

spinning worlds my head is spinning

primitive news battles
bomb shells on carcasses
winning the feed

i feed you bitter leaves teagrass
and sunflower seeds
the mountain recedes
the horizon is coming
grey blue ships on the color

skin matter skin wrap bone
wrap muscle
wrap faster
wrap earth oil
stop the bleeding beautiful children
portrayed on tv as just another
incurable disease

so we pull bandage
frantic bombs screaming
laughing at the obscene

off stage off time
off life off rhythm
since the beginning
of steel lips injection

take earth take fire take
oil take
black take
gold take
this morning i was alive
this evening i am resurrecting

somebody was shot today
unless you knew her
life is still seemless
war can still be looked at objectively
mountains are still mountains
rivers are still rivers

but for me
rivers are splitting mountains
in unequal halves

i will never know her name but
her body her children iconic

charred rubble


silent and breaking

my back

Permalink Leave a Comment

writing in west bank

September 8, 2006 at 1:25 am (lebanon, palestine, poetry, Uncategorized, west bank)

these are some of my writings this summer in bethlehem. 

Permalink Leave a Comment

karama maisha

September 8, 2006 at 1:23 am (lebanon, palestine, poetry, Uncategorized, west bank)

i think sometime later in my life i will look on these few quiet weeks as a precious bridge between the present and the past. not only because of geopolitics, but also because i am alone. my partner is in the states. and so the apartment rings quiet.

hukum theti is the arabic phrase for self-governing community. it is the closest phrase i have come to in arabic for communal anarchy.

karama is the arabic word for dignity. another delicious find.

right now my focus is studying arabic. i want to swim inside the sounds.

what gives us value as human beings? what gives us worth? sometimes i believe in the lie that our value comes from how many people know us, listen to us, how many people we effect. and yet how do we measure this kind of value? how can i know who i effect or to what extent?
i dont know what gives us ultimate value or if such thing is possible. (i am beginning to suspect not) but i want to stop believing in the lie that my value lies in someone else’s estimation. i struggle with this everyday.

i am wondering what gives us value because i am wondering how can i know if i am valuable in this world? i know that what i do is common. that is why i do it–to a certain extent. and yet it is the common and ordinary which feels least valued in this world.

it is the struggle against the common against the people which is the self-defining theme of western history.

and i, an insider/outsider to the west, am highly suspect western self-centerings and self-definitions.

but learning arabic reminds me that i belong here too. a nomadic belonging. ghaish means to live. the name ghaisha means life in arabic. swahili is 40 percent arabic. maisha means life in arabic. my parents gave me the name maisha to connect me with people i met 26 years i was born. i had my 26th birthday in the eastern congo. it is a nomadic belonging. but a belonging i can believe in.

Permalink 1 Comment

drop in bucket

September 8, 2006 at 1:21 am (Blogroll, dance, lebanon, palestine, poetry, west bank)

a few nights ago we went to a great party in the old city of bethlehem. it was one of those rare moments when i dont remember talking politics or reading politics or watching news. we danced to hiphop and salsa and arabic pop, spoke in french english and arabic drank cocktails and laughed until we were exhausted and climbed our way back home.
people write me asking me if i am okay. yes. better than okay. all i can say is dont believe the media the news the hype. i know most of you know this already but it still leaves you in a quandry…what should you believe in? what is left when so much of the world is a mirage?
i wrote this morning: believe drop in bucket
worth something
dry overpopulated lands
swing in sky
more in harmony
with light reflecting cherry cigarette it wont matter on time
cuz off time cut space
blues never sounded
but sweet
to hard lives in red hatchback
dusty road
miraged oblivion believe drop in bucket
worth something dancing salsa in palestine
bombs fall on edges centers
exist cuz cartographers
got knives 50 thousand people die everyday
no one holds gun to they heads
they just die
fall into dirty water
retrovirus retroviolation
franken-tree plantation
they get automatic ticket to heaven dancing salsa important in revolution
in wild trees and wild hair sweet tears
yes dialoguing bodies
goddess give rite of the soul drop in bucket worth something star pistols over stone village in south
palestine earth still give birth
1000 me-activists dont understand
with 1000 manifestos fuming in hand
1000 me-poets refusing comprehend
that rhythm of water matters
drop in bucket
wave in ocean
motion of hips
when music hits
when feet hit dry land believe in yes in bliss
even if we all dead
dont believe ruling fewdrop in bucket
cool cats in muslim
territory holding hands
most of you have question limitless
unless you are among
walking dead
to you i am so distant
like noon on another planet
just blowing the astro sand

Permalink Leave a Comment


September 8, 2006 at 1:06 am (lebanon, palestine, poetry, Uncategorized, west bank)

so this is the eloquent goodbye
this is the lost hallelujah
this is the forgotten lullabye
this is another reason to grow wings and fly

the fire next time
stars crying
fireworks sparks haling on head
bombs glass & abandoned caecasses of homes
pop music from lebanon
another name on map
gaza summer rain operations
surgically cutting into borders
of rivers lakes ehtnicities
creating new mines
illegal weapons
chemical spray
another lesson on geography
we spin inside bubbles
bubble pops–
water drenches fire
next time you and i
quiet fists in front of hearts
on front lines

im writing poems
no one will read
listening to songs
i will never learn to sing
cool overcast chicago
the war is over here
ghost losers
arrongan winners

air tastes from grilled limbs
to chemical seals

factories closed
nothing is made
people have forgotten
blood once rand down
bark of trees

never forget gaza
never forget lebanon
never forget palestine
never destroy names

there will always be palestinians
be dance be song be forgiveness
there will always be lovers, always
be brothers, always be the symbol of a gun
of an anthem
of a martyr
there will always be palestinians
those who struggle in laughter
place stronger than imagination
place wider than freedom
a window
a lamp
habibi and me

hard pressed glowing poppy
caught in pages of holy fairouz
old words straining through speakers
of rose-coloured radio
in caution-sign yellow taxi
as we curve over mountains
windows down
red moon rising
fingering wind and smoke
olive trees young caught in henna curls

this is the goodbye
that folds itself in a note
passed from thigh to thigh
in english class
winks from grey hijab
mobile phone buttons vibrating
softly another text message
after class
you and i
leave the way lovers should

questions that first brought
me to you
blue black words
that we have survived

this is the lost hallelujah
this si the forgotten lullabye
this another reason to grow wings
and fly away

Permalink Leave a Comment