I was up until 6 am, and just as I was heading to bed, I began hearing the sounds of Israeli jets. I waited for the strike, a boom, but heard nothing. So I went to bed, and woke up this morning to the news of strikes on Beirut International Airport, an air and sea blockade of Lebanon, definitely not an act of war against the people of Lebanon, definitely not prohibited by international law. International law? What’s that? Oh yeah, that anti-Semitic piece of document, surely a conspiracy against the State of Israel. Surely. But what are these Conventions? Let’s see, shall we?
An indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population or civilian objects and resulting in excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. (Protocol I, Art. 85, Sec. 3)
Relief consignments, equipment and personnel must be able to pass rapidly and freely if the assistance is meant for the civilian population of the opposing side. This includes medicines, religious items, food and clothing. (Convention IV, Art. 23; Protocol I, Art. 70, Sec. 2)
Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited. (Protocol I, Art. 54, Sec. 1)
Combatants must distinguish between civilian and military objects and attack only military targets.
Civilians must not be punished for offenses that they personally did not commit. Collective penalties, intimidation and penalties against civilian populations are prohibited. (Convention IV, Art. 33)
Legitimate military targets are those which make an effective contribution to military action and whose destruction, capture or neutralization offers a definite military advantage. (Protocol I, Art. 52. Sec. 2)
If there is any doubt as to whether a place of worship, house, school or other civilian object is used for military purposes, then it will be presumed not to be a legitimate military target. (Protocol I, Art. 52, Sec. 3)
Grave breaches of the Conventions and Protocols are war crimes.
Needless to say, the destruction of the runways is strictly prohibited under these Conventions. Israel has claimed that the reason the airport was targeted was that it was being used to transfer rockets. Transfer of rockets by air? Well, if this isn’t news! Previously Syria was held responsible for ground shipments. Any sane observer would be aware that the Lebanese-Syrian border has not been closed. But that argument is now down the drain. There is, after all, a better one, no? I cannot even begin to express how amazed I am that Israel has sunk to new lows. Its actions in Gaza and now in Lebanon in response to the kidnappings of its soldiers can only be explained as follows: Israel sees a grave danger in the shift of strategy from the targeting of civilians to the targeting of military personnel. The latter would fully legitimize the resistance movements, take away much of the sympathy that Israel enjoyed, and significantly alter the face of Israeli (domestic) politics. How else can one explain the sharp difference in its reaction between the terrorist attacks (against civilians) and the kidnapping of soldiers? The reaction to the second has been hundreds of times more brutal and violent. Why can’t the Israeli public see this? Their government is reacting for the kidnapping of soldiers by bombing cities and leveling entire towns, blockading an entire country, starving an entire people, massacring entire families, murdering babies. Even if their conscience allows for such a thing, why can’t they see the Israeli government’s manipulation of its people – “let our people suffer occasionally, otherwise our actions will be doubted, criticized, rejected”. Lest there be a growth in Israeli sympathy to the plight of the Palestinians, lest the Israelis finally see what their government and army are doing. I cannot believe this. How blind can the Israeli public be? How can they be so angry about something like this, and advocate the bombing of residential neighbourhoods, in response to the killing of soldiers? I repeat what I said last night: If the killing of soldiers warrants such reaction, then what about the families of the 40 civilians deliberately targeted? What about their calls for revenge? Or is it that only Israelis feel the pain and loss?
This new, very ugly, very dirty face of Israel will engulf the region in flames. I have been glued in front of my computer and the TV, watching scenes of raids. I must stop watching. It is quite depressing. Children massacred, entire residential buildings leveled. I captured some shots from TV with my digital camera, a man carrying a dead 10-month-old baby in a blanket, headless bodies, a dead little girl being show to the cameras, Qana all over again. Someone said today that Israel’s objective was to hit HezbAllah, and to hit it hard, but if that is Israel’s objective, then it is doing a poor if not miserable job at it. I have been talking to many people across the political spectrum here in Lebanon, and while they do not support HezbAllah’s initial actions, most who were never outspoken critics of Israel have adopted a language of immense hostility and bitterness. It seems Israel has not learned that collective punishment will never push people away from either Hamas or HezbAllah. If it is any indication, it was collective punishment that gave rise to and increased support for Hamas and HezbAllah to begin with. Are we to assume that Israel is that stupid? What are we supposed to conclude from Israel’s continuation in this path? One thing: that the “peace” it claims to want, it wants only through missilies, the disposession of “the other”, the locking up of hostages (civilians, including children) and POW for 30 years, while demanding an immediate release of Israeli POW. Israel is pushing the entire Middle East (including many who advocate signing a peace treaty with Israel) into the arms of its enemies (though if you come to think of it, it seems Israel views the entire Middle East – including its civilian population – as its enemy). And it is doing so on purpose.
My mother is supposed to be returning to Lebanon next month. I do not expect that things will be any better by then than they are at the moment. Now there is talk of bombing densely-populated suburbs of Beirut, rockets on Haifa, revenge, revenge, revenge. I think this region has gone irreparably crazy. Time to pack our bags and leave. Except that, but oh! There are no runways, and no ships. Ah, too bad, we are stuck here. Well, at least we’ll get to see the fireworks.
More updates to come, stay tuned. Hopefully the internet wouldn’t go down (it seems to be having serious issues today, I wonder what it is). Land lines in many areas are already dead. I am not on dial-up, but who knows what can happen in this country any time. I can hear children laughing outside, playing. That is what they are supposed to be doing. Not lying dead under the rubble of buildings. Or in bomb shelters, waiting anxiously. The two do not compare of course, but I always try to see both sides of the conflict. I wish more people did that. I wish more people realized that children on the other side of the border did not have to suffer so that their children would not sit in bomb shelters. There are voices from different corners, I am not going to mention religion, race, ethnicity (conscience has got nothing to do with it), human voices, humane voices, but I wonder, is that enough?
Update: Line-ups for fuel can already be seen in many areas, in addition to shortage of vegetables. A real crisis is on the horizon. Mini-Gaza.