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

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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.

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