People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 03, 2006
SOLIDARITY DELEGATION TO LEBANON
Israel Helps Arab Unity, Gets Its Own House Divided
AS part of an International Peace and Solidarity Mission, we left Delhi for Lebanon on August 11 morning. This was a hurriedly organised mission for solidarity with the Lebanese people who were under seize through the land, water and sky routes due to the Israeli aggression with intended occupation. The Beirut airport was not operating and all roads leading to Beirut were under constant bombardment by Israeli warplanes. On the one hand, missiles were raining from Israeli warships and bombers; on the other, Lebanese resistance fighters were also firing rockets to resist the aggression. It was therefore not easy to decide about how, when and from where to reach Lebanon. However, we decided to reach there despite all odds and threats. Thus we responded to the call from various organisations and social movements, including the Lebanese Communist Party, for peace delegations to come to the country to express solidarity with the Lebanese people, witness what was happening in Lebanon, mobilise support for immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and report to our own people back home about the situation.
Besides me, other mission members were Walden Bello and Herbert Docena (both from Focus on the Global South), Kjeld Jakobsen (CUT Brazil and Hemispheric Social Alliance), Gérard Durand (Confédération Paysanne, France, La Via Campesina), Kari Kobberoed Brustad (Norsk Bonde - Og Smabrukarlag, Norway, La Via Campesina), Mujiv Hataman (member of parliament), Anak Mindanao (Philippines), Seema Mustafa (resident editor, The Asian Age), Feroze Mithiborwala (Forum against War and Terror, Mumbai), Kamal Chenoy (All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, India), Vijaya Chauhan (Rashtra Seva Dal, India) and Germán Guillot, an interpreter for French, Spanish, English and Arabic languages.
THINGS THAT STOOD CLEAR
After the delegation reached Damascus, we held a discussion on how to reach Beirut through a circuitous route, as the easiest and shortest route via Masna had been destroyed. Next morning, on reaching the border in a small hired mini bus, we found that even the road and bridge across the border had been damaged by an Israeli air attack in the wee hours and we saw villagers fleeing to Syria for safety.
It was devastation all along and yet we saw the common people’s continued defiance of Israeli aggression. Whenever a road, culvert or bridge was destroyed, there immediately appeared a small sign showing an alternative route through local village roads, orchards or jungles. Traffic thus, even though very little, moved on. We saw the signs of destruction of physical infrastructure, important bridges, gas stations, police stations, shops, buildings, and also of fishermen’s hamlets at Al-Haisa, Al-Qyalyaat and many other places. Important bridges on the beautiful 4-lane coastal roads near famous tourist resorts like Edds Sands and Casino De Luban were also destroyed. They were targeted in a planned way to inflict permanent damages. As we were nearing Tripoli, an important coastal city of Lebanon en route Beirut, we saw long queues of vehicles in front of the fuel filling stations that were still having some supply. This scene of scarcity of benzene made me realise why our Lebanese driver, Toufeeq, had got the fuel tank filled up before crossing the border.
On the 12th evening, we met representatives of various political parties and forces who were active in the national resistance movement. Among them, those who spoke at length about the prevailing situation were Dr Ali Fayyad (director, Consultative Centre for Studies and Documentation, Beirut University), Galib Abul Zenab, Mufed Kutesh (Polit Bureau member, Lebanese Communist Party), Waris Nohra and Hassan Halden (National Council members, Lebanese Communist Party), Alfred Farhad (International Democratic Lawyer Association), Dr Issam Naaman (former minister of telecommunication and executive member of the Third Force), and Jibran Bachir (Free Patriotic Movement).
Our fruitful and informative discussion with these people gave us a brief political history of the region as well as the positions held by different political parties and also by those not supporting the national resistance movement. A few things were very clear. First, even though the Israelis used the issue of kidnapping of two soldiers as a pretext for an all-round attack on Lebanon, this was pre-planned and meticulously designed. Secondly, Israel could not achieve its target even after more than 30 days of aggression and shelling of bombs and missiles. Thirdly, even after so much of devastation and destruction, the Lebanese spirit of resistance was not shattered. Fourthly, Hezbollah was not a terrorist outfit as is presented by the western media. It is a socio-political movement that is well entrenched in Lebanese society and runs multifarious activities covering all aspects of political, social and economic fields. Fifthly, the US-Israel design to isolate Hezbollah through this attack had boomeranged, leading to a tremendous increase in Hezbollah’s support even during the attack. Sixthly, the unity of the Lebanon society, comprising several ethnic groups and sub-groups, could not be shattered as the US-Israel coalition was expecting; rather the Lebanese people stood more united behind the national resistance movement. This assessment was confirmed during our separate discussions with leaders of the Lebanese Communist Party and those of the Hezbollah on the 13th and 14th.
On the 13th we visited the site worst hit by Israeli attacks in the South Beirut suburb. When we stopped at the Shahid Haidi Nasrullah, which is named after the martyr son of Hezbollah secretary general Sayed Hasan Nasrullah, we found scores of buildings collapsed and turned into rubbles in this Hezbollah stronghold. It looked like a demonstration of the ‘collective punishment’ meted out to the civilians, many of whom were not even remotely connected with the Hezbollah, by the Israeli brute force having no respect for international laws or human rights, not even humanitarian considerations. While we were still assessing the scale of damage, never witnessed before, we were told by our facilitator to immediately leave the place as the Israeli air force could attack and fire missiles any moment. This proved true when we, before we reached our hotel, heard the sound of a series of bombs and missiles shaking the buildings. We were later informed that the remaining buildings in the area, which we had left only an hour earlier, were destroyed by the latest spell of attack. We were gripped with worry about the people we had seen at the site, busy searching important documents in the midst of rubbles. In fact, they had gone there after a month, after hearing about the so-called ceasefire the Lebanese government had okayed. One could hardly believe Israel would escalate its barbarities when the proposed ceasefire was to come into effect within a few hours. People in Beirut were heard saying this was only to be expected as Israel wanted to test the destructive capacity of its remaining stocks of bombs, shells and missiles.
We also visited hospitals and refugee camps in Beirut to meet, console and discuss with the victims. The delegation was surprised to see the spirit and courage of these victims, particularly of the children and women in refugee camps. We found them shouting slogans in favour of resistance, expressing solidarity with the Hezbollah and condemning the US-Israeli aggression. One of the slogans was: “O Nasrullah, my dear, let us bomb Tel Aviv.” Another was “O Allah, O Nasrullah, the whole suburb is with you.” More than that, no one was crying or complaining. Of course, they were expressing their anger more against the US than Israel.
On August 13 evening, talking to representatives of the NGOs involved in the relief work, extending medical care and counselling to the victims’ families and children, we learnt of the extent of damage to the environment and ecology due to this attack, particularly of the oil spilled into the sea after the Jiyyah power plant’s storage tank was destroyed by the Israeli jet attack. We also heard of another spell of bomb and missile attacks on the South Beirut suburbs and on the road leading to Beirut airport. In fact, the 24 hours preceding the proposed ceasefire witnessed a great escalation of attacks from both sides. Hezbollah fighters were jubilant on having destroyed 34 Israeli tanks and one helicopter. Israel also wanted to save its face back home where people were divided and many were not happy over the course of events during the preceding one month.
Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, we held a press conference at the Press Club of Lebanon, Beirut, on the 14th morning, followed by a discussion with the president, Emile Lahoud. We found him sympathetic to the cause of national resistance led by Hezbollah and told us that conventional kind of army was not able to counter the Israeli attack. As Israel was getting everything from the US and its allies, Lebanon could not have from its own budget a credible defence force with sufficient striking power, even if it were to allocate its total budget for defence. Guerrilla warfare was thus the only alternative to resist aggression and occupation. We also had meetings with members of the external affairs committee of the Lebanese parliament. However, its chairman, then in south Lebanon, could not reach Beirut due to the south-bound heavy traffic flow with displaced persons returning home for whatever remained in place of their houses. The meeting was chaired by Anwar M El Khalil who represented Marjayoun. We were told in details about the massacre at Marjayoun, and how Christians and Muslims were engaged in resistance together and how the Israel ground forces had attacked a convoy of evacuees even after the UN and then Israeli clearance.
After a series of discussion with almost all sections of the society, we could make out how the western media was running a deliberate disinformation campaign; even our own media were affected because of their over-dependence on imperialist media. There was no such thing as a “human shield” being put up by resistance forces, as we had heard, while the mounting Israeli attack was targeting everything human. We saw the kids’ computer centre in South Beirut; it was attacked when it was full of playful children, most of whom were killed. The Qana massacre-II survivors living the in UN compound, volunteers engaged in relief work, the convoy carrying medical relief and humanitarian aid, ambulances, hospitals, schools, police stations, gas stations, power stations, oil installations, all were subjected to attack.
When we met the leadership of the Lebanese Communist Party at its office in Beirut on the 14th evening, its general secretary Khaled Hadaden told us in detail how the resistance movement had struck deep roots in the Lebanese society, and what it had learnt from the experiences of the resistance movement in the 1980s led by communists and Palestinians. Those who painted Hezbollah as a terrorist outfit committed the mistake of believing the false imperialist propaganda. Hezbollah has deep roots in the Lebanese society, particularly in South Lebanon and Bekka valley. Even those not supporting the Hezbollah led resistance movement were compelled to enter into an electoral alliance with it in the last year’s parliamentary polls.
The general secretary also told us that there were 12 communists among the 100 plus fighters who were killed during the resistance. Before giving its final approval to the UN resolution, the Lebanon government sought the Hezbollah’s opinion and the cabinet approved the proposal only after Sayed Hasan Nasrullah addressed the people through television that, despite having reservation, they would help in implementing the ceasefire if the Lebanon government accepted it. He also stressing on the need of Lebanese unity cutting across ethnic and religious lines, adding that the Hezbollah’s fight was for the Lebanese people. He told that if some in the Lebanon government were not supporting the resistance movement, it was because they did not see the plight of the poor peasants of South Lebanon and they are not concerned about the people of Lebanon. They are more concerned about their economic interest linked with the West. Yet he was confident that such people would join the movement once they took a look on the country’s interest. That was why he was not going to join issue with them at the moment, as it would harm the unity of the Lebanese people and help the enemies.
SOME OF THE FIRST’S
The fate of the resistance movement in Lebanon will definitely have an impact on the Middle East. It was for the first time that Israel faced resistance that protracted the war for more than a month, first time Israel faced rockets in such a huge number, first time the Israeli civilians had to be evacuated and sheltered in bunkers, listening warnings from across the borders. It was for the first time that Israel had such a high scale of military casualties, first time Israel was unable to occupy a single inch of Arab land even after so much of fight, first time Israel has helped the Arabs unite but got its own house divided.
All this will have a long-term impact not only on Lebanon and Palestine but also influence the future course of events in West Asia. The sense of victory prevailing in the Arab streets, which they have got for the first time in half a century, will take them further if channelised in a positive manner. The success of the Lebanese national resistance movement is a reply to the US-Israel coalition, and also a response to the Al-Qaeda brand terrorism. This is what compelled the West to sit back and rethink their whole strategy in West Asia.