The Lebanon war at 5– ‘We refuse to perish’

on 9 Comments

I am the product of a southern melody; a composite sketch drawn on sheets of both destruction and resurrection, of rage and recovery.

The bloody fragments of Sabra and Shatila played out a bold symphony throughout my life, with the bitter tale of Qana singing of “…women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies– because they had been slaughtered more than 24-hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army equipment and empty bottles of whiskey. A child lay on the roadway like a discarded doll, her white dress stained with mud and dust. She could have been no more than three years old.”

In Qana “…a girl held a corpse in her arms, the body of a grey-haired man whose eyes were staring at her, and she rocked the corpse back and forth in her arms, keening and weeping and crying the same words over and over: “My father, my father.”

When my mother spoke of the charred bodies and of the pools of blood being supped up beneath the ground of a village I consumed her words as nothing more than haunting lullabies.

And then the composition I had heard a thousand times shattered and began to drown out my reality during that humid July in 2006. I still remember as though it were yesterday watching the fatigue in my mother’s eyes, the worry in her voice as I listened to the phone-calls she would make – her screaming and her tears. What do you mean they’re bombing Lebanon, Mama? Why? As I look back now I can only plead insanity in the face of my timid child-like questions – naïvete is simply not enough.

My parents would pace in our living room, shouting through the dense haze of a bad phone connection – dialing calling-card codes incessantly, cursing through tears when they happened to miss a number. A dead phone-line was our flat-line. I still vividly recall the panic attacks I would have every time I happened across a phonecard in a store, even months after the July 2006 war on Lebanon.

As Israel applied its war-paint and donned its armor we were left with Karbala; the skies rained blood, so much that there was not a stone which was not lifted but underneath it was found blood, so that next morning we found our wells and water jugs filled with it.

We are accused of terrorism

If we refuse to perish

Under Israeli tyranny.

We are accused of terrorism

If we refuse to be wiped out.

If we choose to stone the fragile security council

Which was sacked by the King of Caesuras

We are accused of terrorism

If we refuse to negotiate with the wolf

And reach out for a whore.

And yet we refuse to perish, or wipe the face of Qana from our memory. You cannot purge the martyr from his dominion – this goddess of destruction will never claim victory over our remembrance. Until the killing becomes an outrage. Until the villages are rebuilt and the corpses buried with dignity. Until the chatter of Arab monarchs is replaced with the cries of Arab foot-soldiers – We refuse to perish. We refuse to perish.

9 Responses

  1. Charon
    July 12, 2011, 11:56 am

    In 2006 I was still unaware of the other side of the story. Like many gullible Americans, I fell for the “Israel is our best bud and faces terror daily” propaganda and lies. In 2006, MSM in the USA did not even remotely report what was happening on the ground. It was an Israeli assault against “terrorists”. Only after the UN observers were killed did the tone begin to change and even then it was still inaccurate and one-sided.

    Then I saw satellite pictures of civilian neighborhoods before and after, I saw the photos of bridges deliberately destroyed. I read Israeli leadership confessing their preference of a Maronite Lebanon and their poor justification of why civilians were killed (they went out of their way to avoid civilian casualties? how can they get away with such an obvious lie! look at the pictures!).

    The weapons they used were inhumane for such close proximity to civilians. It was obvious, they were deliberately punishing Lebanon due to the actions of a few. Even still, the Israel version of the war’s beginning is a lie. Israel, as always, started the conflict. Hezbollah fought back. It was Israel’s “HOW DARE THEY? WE DIDN’T TAKE UP ARMS AGAINST THE NAZIS!” attitude that decided to punish an entire country, kill over 1,300 people, and displace over 1 millions others. Mostly civilians, many who were children.

  2. Taxi
    July 12, 2011, 12:00 pm

    This piece is soulfully observed and beautifully written, full of haunting detailed sorrows. I note here that there’s a very high standard of poetics and human expression coming out of the pens of occupied/liberated people lately. Bravo – you’re winning the culture war!

    I was actually 25 kilometers from Qana in 1986 – a visitor trapped at a friend’s house in a village in south Lebanon. The whole terrain was under a sudden israeli blitz for some 12 days. On the forth day of the blitz, this almighty storm made the sky so godawful dark and SO LOW over our heads you could almost touch it, and for the next four days it remained merciless and hanging, pushing down loud and thick on us, terrifying and suffocatingly us, confusing us – we couldn’t tell what was thunder and what was F15’s raining firebombs over our heads – that’s how much thunder and lightning there was in the low skies! The israeli blitz began with Qana before the storm had hit and everyone in Lebanon was seeing uncensored images of Qana’s headless 2 month old baby broadcast all over the TV stations. Me, having arrived from a long residency in ‘politically correct’ England only 6 days before the blitz, I was white-knuckle shocked to be exposed to a massacre being so graphically detailed on public television. And even though myself and my friend’s family would sit in the boarded-up kitchen unsafe and in harm’s way all day and all night, all we could talk about was the suffering and the sorrows of Qana, once an ancient and blessed village on a beautiful little hillock, now a Levantian Guernica, a giant graveyard a mere 25 kilometers from where we huddled.

    Needless to say, every single insidious piece of zionist propaganda released in the west stopped working on me ever since then.

    Mondo folks, them euro zionist really don’t belong in the middle east. I’ve seen with my own eyes how they hate and disrespect EVERYTHING about the middle east: the natives, the ecology, the culture and the immense history of the region. How could they? They’re not connected to it on these quintessential levels. Most zionists in the middle east hail from a different continent.

    They’re like a jagged lump of rock trying to force itself into a marble circle. It’s never gonna happen in a million years. No one can forget the image of a headless baby. Or the name and face of her willful murderer.

  3. Jan
    July 12, 2011, 1:40 pm

    You shall not perish. You will survive the terrible agony that Israel loves to unleash on those who will not bow to Israeli tyranny, a tyranny that is supported and paid for by the United States.

    One day, hopefully a day that is not too far off, you will live without the fear of Israeli terror. Enshallah.

  4. annie
    July 12, 2011, 4:47 pm

    this is a powerful powerful piece of writing, oh wow. i’m with taxi on this.very high standard of poetics and human expression , mindblowingly so. it fuels me, seeps into my pores and mixes with my blood and pumps my heart.

    the 06 lebanon war was the first of israel’s wars i was ever aware of as it was going on. i was gripped every moment of it. i was already awake to israel’s violence before that, but not much… just a year or so. just long enough to be fully awake during the july war of o6. i wanted to scream about it to everyone i knew. it was coinciding with ‘operation forward together’, the operation that finally thrust iraq into it’s worst hell slapping barriers and walls all over baghdad. i would go to the grocery store and wonder how people could blithely shop as if the world wasn’t crumbling. as if we weren’t facilitating all that death. horrors. but not as horrible as being there.

    • Pamela Olson
      July 12, 2011, 7:57 pm

      The 2006 assault on Lebanon was the lowest point of my life. I literally couldn’t believe it was happening. I was in denial for days during which the thought of food made me nauseous and I couldn’t eat. I wished I could just take a drug and be unconscious until it was over. I couldn’t stand it. Day after day, assault after assault, all of it meaningless, just pure viciousness against an entire beautiful country full of innocent people. And everybody in Washington just smiling and nodding, like it’s a perfectly fine and natural thing to happen.

      Something broke in me that summer. I’ve never been the same.

      I can’t begin to imagine how much worse it was to be there.

      • Taxi
        July 12, 2011, 9:46 pm

        Pamy I got your beautiful book ‘Fast Times In Palestine’ in the post just today!

        Thank you. I’ll be making time to read it on the beach in a couple of weeks when I’ll be on summer vacation.

        p.s. As bad as Lebanon got it in ’06, don’t forget darling: THEY WON!!!

      • annie
        July 13, 2011, 12:02 am

        Something broke in me that summer.

        it was the straw that broke the camels back. the floodgates opened and lots of people, shuddered and appalled, woke up … lost the fear or reservations about speaking out. it fueled me, gave me courage.

        then israel doubled down w/the masscre of gaza. shame. i don’t know how israel’s supporters can even hold their head up anymore. shame.

  5. Kris
    July 12, 2011, 8:01 pm

    Justice may come slowly, but it will come. This is a beautiful piece of writing, thank you.

  6. Tobias
    July 12, 2011, 10:27 pm

    What a brilliant piece – so painful to read. Thank you.

    What is sticking is the fierce haunting pride of your closing; ‘We refuse to perish. We refuse to perish’.

    Your writing is such eloquent refusal.

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