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(en) Israel-Lebanon, Roundtable on the Borderline

Date Sun, 10 Sep 2006 15:41:52 +0300


According to the Lebanese and Israeli governments (though more
applied in Lebanon), communication between Israeli and Lebanese
citizens is prohibited and in some cases punished with a court-martial.
For this, this is an illegal roundtable – part of it was a defying,
challenging and painful conversation that did not go smooth without
tears, rage, apologies, pain, guilt, affinity, discussion, smiles, and tight
embraces. This conversation is not representative of the mass majority
of both populations; it is rather an anarchist worm-eye view of the
latest Israeli war on Lebanon. Taking part are anarchists who had
direct contact with this war on both sides of the border, their meeting
was facilitated by networks of global solidarity within autonomous
spaces in Europe, and also through the growing global anti-capitalist
anti-authoritarian movement. A movement that is witnessing crises,
but also signs of life! Anarchists who took part are E. and A.,
holding Israeli passports; and H.. and I.. holding Lebanese
passports.


H.. “We have been at war with Israel for as long as I can
remember. We lived in an era of fear where each time something goes
wrong it’s either the Mossad’s fault or an international Zionist
conspiracy (though now it’s the turn of Syria). It is the same story
with every totalitarian regime, the never-ending need for an enemy, an
enemy that is different from us - with a different culture and different
looks. This enemy was always and still is the strongest tool in the
hand of such totalitarian regimes in order to install fear and paranoia to
shift people’s attention away from the real problem and the
meaningless of war. One of the best examples would be the US; at
first there was the “commies” and now there is Al Qaeda and
“terrorism”, and as a result, US citizens are willingly being
stripped of their liberties for “security” while supporting state
terrorism. The funniest thing about it is that we as Arabs endlessly
criticize U.S. generalizations and ridiculous stereotyping; but when it
comes to our “enemy”, we stereotype and let ourselves be
blinded by fear and hate.

Do I believe that working with Israeli anarchists is wrong? Hell no! As
an anarchist I believe in neither borders nor nations, but not only that;
I believe that everyone should know that the road to peace and justice
starts locally with people connecting with each other, and only if
people knew their rights and practiced their responsibilities through
direct democracy. Many Arab regimes have established contact with
Israel, Lebanese traitors collaborated with Zionists, and even members
of our government did that. So if our oppressors on both sides could
arrange among themselves ways to divide power; I do not see a reason
for us as militants who are not restricted by borders and nations not to
join hands to destroy both of them. I rather see that as a
responsibility.”

I.. “Back during the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 ,
Israel said it wanted to uproot the Palestinian resistance, and the result
was severe damage to everything from humans to the environment to
infrastructure to the economy. Today, I am 26 and I still do not know
what to say about the war. You cannot explain war especially if you
have lived it. It is these little moments of mixed feelings of rage, fear,
burning urge to fight back, helplessness, nausea, nasal congestion
from crying too hard, a driving anger to kick back and as hard as
possible. It is all this. This is war for me. The hardest about being
away this time was the moment I hang up the phone with my family
knowing that in this moment my life goes back to normal and their life
goes back to war. My cousin who lives in the southern suburb of
Beirut told me on the phone "We know what is coming next; we have
our suitcases packed and ready by the door. I am sleeping with my
clothes on (she laughed here)! Do not be worried, we have done this
before. It is just that sometimes its hard to remember what to do, I
mean after such a long time (laughed again)!”

I will never forget the feeling of helplessness that took over me when
she refuted my desire to go back by saying “what will you do to
help us here? You will be another burden, another person in the car,
another person to worry about! There we know you are safe! I told you
we have our suitcases ready and just waiting… anytime we will have
to move. Stop this nonsense.” This is war for me!

My mother refusing to leave her house in the south at 65 years old,
though she was alone with no car nor electricity nor phone, because as
she said “I’m too old to move around, there is no electricity
anywhere, at least here in my house I know where everything is - even
in the dark. I promise if things go really bad, I will leave, I promise.
For now they will not drive me out.” This is war for me, this
moment of empowerment that my mother felt in staying put despite
the danger. It is a rage that this is happening to you again. My family
left, and now they return to find property damage, but as they say in
the village, thank god it is just the house, good that no one got hurt!
This is war, this is the game with Israel, you always try to leave with
the least damage and be grateful for it; this is what outrages me the
most.”

E. “This was the second time that I was in a war in which I
actually had some chance of getting hit - the first time was the first
war on Iraq in 1991. I was 11 years old then and there was this big
public scare. Everybody would wear masks and huddle in sealed
rooms for fear of a chemical warhead attack – which fortunately
did not occur. This time it was less scary because it was just usual
ordnance, though it should have been scarier, since this time more
rockets fell. Strangely enough, I sort of blocked that, and didn't feel
very afraid. My brother would ask me whether I thought it would be
better if he stayed in the hallway near the elevator in our apartment
building, and I would tell him "yeah, you go there" so that he would
leave me alone. However a lot of other people I know got pretty
scared, and some even left town for a while. Unfortunately for them
the war dragged on for almost a month and most had to come back
without the rocket threat being over.

It was also the first 'actual' war Israel initiated that I experienced,
since the conflict with the Palestinians isn't much of a war, it's more
of a continuing colonial policing operation with some occasional
military campaigns. It was very weird for me to see how the
government can simply, like, 'push a few buttons' and people actually
just go and fight for it, invade for it, and support it. That was kind of
depressing.”



Why is this war being waged? And what did it mean for you?

I.. “why!!! does it matter? Nothing from this equation will ever
make sense! what matters is how! How can Israel after all that it is
doing in Palestine, continue to go as far as it did in Lebanon and do it
without even a slap on the hand?”

A. “Million reasons, the military always wants to wage wars and
especially now that they were planning to make a cut in the defence
budget, this was an opportunity to prove the need for a strong military
rule over our lives. Olmert and Peretz come from civilian
backgrounds, unlike the mass majority of the political strata in Israel,
they did not have a military history. They were always criticised about
it, and they wanted to prove they are strong. Basically, having taken
part in wars is an important key to political jobs in Israel. I also think
they were trying to get Syria involved and have an excuse for a US
attack on it. They also thought they can terminate Hezbullah and
Hassan Nasrallah , as if terminating Hezbullah will kill the chance for
another party rise against Israel. To be honest, it is hard for me to see
why they did it. It is so ridiculous that it is hard to imagine that anyone
could even think of doing that. I feel that this war is about who has the
biggest dick. I am being shot at and people are killing in my name and
with my money all for this patriarchal honour shit. This war made me
sick, and as a woman even sicker.”

E. “Actually, I can't say for sure. On one hand, you could say
this war got Israel some limited political achievements. Such as an
obligation, at least on the official level, of the Lebanese army to go into
the south of Lebanon and make it appear as though it was the only
armed force there... but otherwise, the war was quite a disaster:
Hezbullah was quite effective in many of its forms of attack - in hitting
infantry, tanks, and even in some cases special forces and a helicopter.
It was shown that Israel could make Hezbullah stop firing rockets -
the Israeli leadership made a lot of ridiculous claims when the war
started, such as "Hasan Nasrallah will never forget the name Amir
Peretz" and I think Olmert said something about wiping Hezbullah off
the face of the earth, although maybe it was not as absolute sounding
as that. And now there's quite a fallout in Israel on the political level.
There's a lot of recrimination amongst the higher-ups, many people
are calling for the resignation of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz. Many
people see them and this government as a failure.

An important question here is why the U.S. did not restrain Israel - it
didn't prevent it from starting the war, nor did it make any effort to
curb Israeli military actions or to bring the war to a speedy conclusion
- they basically cheered Israel on. Should all this be seen, then, as
some preliminary proxy war between the U.S. and Iran? I can't say. I
have more questions than answers on this matter.”



What about Hezbullah , how do you see them?

E. “Well, for a fundamentalist Islamist, pro-Statist and not
anti-Capitalist organization, you could say Hezbullah is kind of neat.

No, seriously, I definitely agree with the policy of actively resisting the
Israeli military presence in Lebanon, including the use of guerrilla
warfare. The fact that a lot of the military and probably also financial
and logistic support is coming from the Iranian regime doesn’t sit
all that well with me; but had I been a deeply religious Shiite I
wouldn't have had any trouble taking Iranian aid. I object to most of
Hezbullah’s policies - reinforcement of traditional social relations
and especially the family, support for the continued existence of the
state of Lebanon (albeit not necessarily in its current form) and states
in general, but to be honest I don't really know that much about
Hezbullah’s position on internal social issues, so maybe they're
better (or worse) than I think.”

A. “I support Hezbullah in the way I support the people who are
oppressed, but if the current division of power changes I am not going
to be able to support them because they are a hierarchical patriarchal
power who want to maintain the oppressed and oppressor dichotomy.
They want to be the oppressors; because of this I am against them as
much as I am against Israel being run with the same dichotomy. But
they are very different from Israel, because here it is clear who are the
oppressed, and I am always with the oppressed. Israel is different,
Israel is not worse than any other capitalist state, the difference is that
it is my problem. As someone from an Ashkenazi Israeli background,
it is my fucking responsibility”

I.. “Despite my strong ideological and structural disagreements
with Hezbullah; it is impossible to condemn the capturing (not
kidnapping as mainstream media reports) of the two or put any blame
on them concerning the Israeli-waged war. Hezbullah is a religious
fundamentalist patriarchal party that I am against like any other. We
might meet on using armed struggle against the Israeli war machine,
but still we have serious disagreements on numerous levels
that¨were manifested during my activism in Lebanon in various
political confrontations with them. Even at a personal level, as a
person who comes from a Muslim Shiite family, we have had our
rounds of conflicts. I can criticize Hezbullah endlessly, and also some
of the strategies they used during this war, but I cannot condemn the
capturing of the two soldiers, nor their armed struggle against the
Israeli military force as much as I will not support any calls for their
unconditional disarmament. The capturing was declared as a
maneuver to exchange the Lebanese prisoners still held in Israeli
prisons since as far back as 1975. What was Israel’s
“reaction”? More than 1000 civilian casualties, more than
4000 injured, around a million displaced, estimates of 15000 tons of
heavy fuel oil spilled in the Mediterranean , and damage to the
infrastructure exceeding 2.8 billion euros… and the meter is still
rolling. The amount of damage is unbelievable and the reaction is
ridiculously outrageous. And on top of that, because of this war,
Hezbullah, unfortunately, were given more public sympathy than they
ever had - and funnily enough, it was well deserved to a certain extent.




Can you give us some first-hand overview of the anti-war movement
that took place in your respective countries? And what can you say
about the responses to the war?

E. “What anti-war movement!? It was just the non-Zionist left
like it usually is – along with the Palestinian parties, the various
progressive NGOs, the miniature Marxist groups, and assorted
anarchists, pacifists, LGTBQ activists… etc. (some of the above
categories overlap of course). Maybe after the 3rd week some people
started to become disillusioned with the war, but there wasn't really
any spontaneous mass anti-war activity.”

A. “I want to start with the hardships; the major hardship in
these actions was that the amount of hate skyrocketed in the face of
not-so radical slogans. We were a very small and mixed group of
people, though we were trying to make a committee as wide as
possible and have as wide support as possible against the war. We
were trying to find the minimal consensus and find the minimum base
lines that we could all agree on; so we decided to use an
“anti-war” message, Stop the Bombing, Stop the War, Release
All Prisoners, Cease fire now with no preliminary demands; very bland
message not the most radical thing to say like anti-Zionism. It was a
very simple message to stop the war and that Israel is responsible. For
example this basic message was a legitimate political opinion at the
end of the previous war on Lebanon not a majority opinion but part of
a legitimate mainstream political discourse. Suddenly it became the
most treacherous thing to say, the most offensive thing you can say to
an Israeli. The majority of the people who stopped to react to our
actions where wishing we would die. People were coming ready with
eggs to throw at us. One of the demonstrators who parked her car near
the demo was followed home by some right wing people who beat her
mother with sticks when she opened the door. Some received phone
calls threatening to throw a grenade at the demonstration reminding
us of a previous incident in 1983 where they actually killed an anti-war
demonstrator in that way. This was the amount of hate shown against
a mere anti-war statement; they saw it as a real threat. The
mainstream was narrowed, the people understood the Stop the War
slogan as kill all Jews. The reactions were ridiculous. For them
everything in this war, that they think Israel got caught in, was
justified. If there is a doubt that some civilian area is linked to
Hezbullah, this is enough to bomb it. Everyone acted with the
mentality of Nikolai Yezhov, head of the NKVD (Soviet secret police)
during Stalinism, who said in response to the news about the terrors of
the Stalin regime that “better that ten innocent people should
suffer than one spy get away, when you chop wood, chips fly.” For
Israel, everything was and still is, when you chop wood, chips fly.

The police were real bastards but it also depends on where the action
was. In Tel Aviv for example they were beating people. But in Haifa,
where it has always been the case that the police there are less violent
than those in Tel Aviv, they did not beat us, but rather they
encouraged the right wing demonstrators to beat us. In Haifa they
were excessive in detaining people and trying to put them under house
arrest just for holding an anti-war vigil. Later they started to protect us
more and not let the right wing attack us much; on the other hand
they escalated the violence in Tel Aviv where for example during the
demo at Dan Halutz’s (Israel´s chief of staff) house they were
beating the demonstrators and violently chasing them. There were
several fainting cases and people who needed to go to a hospital.

The Israeli media had it all the same, this was a justified war and
Israel was caught up in it. They wanted it to appear as a war against
Israel and that Israel was forced to react. That was the common
discourse, no discussion on whether the war was right or wrong just
technicalities: such as if they go into Lebanon as far as Litany or where
they were later, or if they let infantry troops in or not. It was o.k. to be
critical about how the frontline fighting was handled but not talking
about an end to this madness. When we did get some coverage it was
very little, for example we had a demonstration almost everyday, and
the media would tell us that they cannot cover today’s demo
because they covered yesterday’s demo. We got more interviews
from foreign media, and even Arabic media which was something we
really wanted. We were mentioned several times on LBCI (Lebanese
satellite TV channel). I even heard that Hezbullah’s Radio, El
Nour, mentioned that they condemn the brutal treatment of the
demonstrators in Tel Aviv.

In Haifa, on what the Haifa people call the first day of war, when a
Katyusha hit the train station and killed 8 people, on the 16th of July
four days after the war started for the Lebanese, a group of women
who decided to start a women anti-war group went to the train station
to protest and send a message through the mainstream media that was
present. They were told by channel ten that they cannot report this
action because there is no such thing as an anti-war movement. They
had the nerve to deny us even when we were there. In Tel Aviv there
were 4000-5000 people in one demo , and in Haifa maybe 300, not to
mention other places, but still they acted as if we did not exist.

What was inspiring was that the weekly demos at the Apartheid Wall
continued, organised by Palestinians along side with the ISM ,
Anarchists Against the Wall and others; and so did the repression
even though Israel managed to shift the world’s attention from
what was happening in Gaza and the West Bank to Lebanon. Just
recently, on the 11th of August, they shot an Israeli lawyer and activist
Lymor Goldstein in Bil’in with rubber-coated bullets at close
range, sending him into coma. We cannot forget what is happening in
Gaza and also that the wall is continuing its path! During the recent
war on Lebanon they killed around 23 people in Gaza in one day but
no one was talking about it. The people of Gaza are being starved and
denied urgent medical care. It is completely crazy - Gaza is a huge
concentration camp where they are slowly killing people.”

H.. “I remember having a great laugh listening to my dad
asking himself where are the Arabs while we are being bombed?
Wondering where is the whole world and how can they accept this?
Well they accept this and do not react the same way we did not react
to the war on Iraq or the way we don’t give a flying fuck about
people starving to death in Africa. Most of the Lebanese anti-war
movement was based on nationalist and/or economical/political
interests. As for the small amount of leftist activists or pseudo-parties
they were too weak to make a real statement or take a proactive
position without taking into consideration the reaction of the blinded
population.

The Lebanese anti-war movement’s work focused on the relief
efforts that in majority did not differ from the mainstream political
mentality. The mainstream political parties did their usual routine by
sending their members to show face in refugees’ centres
bargaining on more public support for their party. These same parties
that forced their presence and flags on independent relief centres
started their work a week after the war started. They began spending
big amounts of money on their publicity while asking people to donate
before they even started doing work on the ground. For example the
World Food program donated 10 tons of food to one of the relief
centres who had paid employees delivering the food with more than 20
camerapersons filming the food distribution on refugees.

Many mainstream organisations said they cannot reach south of
Lebanon and thus cannot deliver aid. We proved this wrong with our
actions. 7 activists from RASH managed to get to the south and
deliver food on their feet. The parties did not want to risk their lives. At
first everyone took us as a joke especially when we refused to take
donations unless it came from individuals or radical organisations and
still managed to deliver around a ton of food to people in the south
who were under siege. I have to note all respect to the
Samidoun(stemming from the Sanayeh relief centre) that managed to
create a grassroots coalition for people whose intention is to help
out.”



On the Lebanese side, there was a communiqué issued recently by
the so-called “Libertarian Communist Alternative” from
Lebanon that was circulated on certain anarchist/anti-authoritarian
websites/lists and created a stir, what do you think about that?

H.. “I find it shameful. It describes the current government
that recently took power as pre-revolutionary, which is crap. This
government is based on the common interest of - strangely enough -
extremely different parties on the ideological level; parties that feed on
anti-Syrian racism. I’m not discussing the retrieval of the Syrian
troops, but about the forms of violence that faced Syrian civilians in
Lebanon who anyway were already being exploited and discriminated
against. The Libertarian Communist Alternative never showed up to
any actions, we never saw them anyway on the field, and they refused
to meet with us. I can write pages criticising them, but I will not waste
my time, they are insignificant, it is not the brand of your organisation
that makes you an anarchist.”

I.. “Have to say I never heard of them as a group, for example
the name of the group was new to me. I heard about one guy in Beirut
who is part of this so-called group but I do not know if it is for sure,
nor who the rest are… that is if there is a rest. As for the
communiqué, it does not represent me nor the politics I define as
libertarian or anarchist. On the local front, it sees hope in the 14th of
March alliance which is a capitalist alliance between the ruling class in
Lebanon which is corrupt, capitalist, and feeding on people’s
misery and actively contributing to it. Many from this alliance can be
easily linked to parties and political currents responsible for crimes
against humanity, not just during the Lebanese civil war, but also
against the Palestinian population in Lebanon. Such an alliance,
so-called “movement”, can never be something to look
forward to nor see any hope in but rather fight against. This
communiqué reminds me of the Iraqi opposition outside of Iraq that
was supporting that US war, those were the same ones that opposed
the Ba’ath regime from their air-conditioned homes in Europe and
North America, and now installed their ruling class in Iraq
collaborating with every state and multinational to plunder and
terrorise the Iraqi people just like Saddam did.”



Though that this war is clearly not over, it seems that the whole world
shifted attention away from what just happened, and is now focused
on the positioning of the UN “international peace force” in the
south of Lebanon as the saviours of the day, how do you see that?

A. “It all seems ridiculous to me, what are they going to do? It is
some kind of a media thing, Bush and all these leaders want to show
that they are doing something, but obviously the agenda is for war not
for peace. Obviously what we are dealing with here is the foreplay for
the next U.S. war in the Middle East. The U.N. forces will not stop
anything, they were there when Israel was occupying Lebanon for 18
years and their headquarters have been bombed by Israel several
times.”

I.. “Ridiculous, the least to say! What for? Even if they are
meant to do something, why in the south of Lebanon? Israel is the
aggressor, why not position themselves in the north of
Israel/Palestine. To protect who and from who? Israel bombed a UN
base in 1996 in Qana , Lebanon , massacring over a 100 refugees, that
took refuge in that base believing that the highly visible UN post
would be spared the Israeli attacks; and what happened, an apology
and some political charade. They did it again in this recent attack
killing four UN personnel by bombing a UN base in the south of
Lebanon. The "international peace troops" are like the UN, a
hypocritical lie and another way to waste money and efforts. The UN
is a hierarchal body, used to domesticate the world and one that
supports state-terrorism and the plundering of impoverished people.
It´s worthless and needs to be held accountable. I would not expect
any good from them nor their troops.”

E. “They are foreign Imperialistic invaders who should leave
immediately; I will not have any reason to complain if somebody puts
bullets through their heads. Really, if those asshole European states
had any concern for the lives and the safety of people in this region
they could have sent some anti-aircraft batteries and stationed them in
Lebanon to prevent any attack on Lebanese villages and towns.”

H.. “After all, what is the United Nations other than a tool in
the hands of the powerful to make the weakened weaker. I refuse any
sort of cooperation with this structure. It’s like stopping to smoke
on your death bed.”

The questions stopped here, but they did not end. This was the
beginning - the beginning has been happening for a while now and
this is the first written discussion between us. It is reflections, rage and
solidarity; it is nothing but the beginning for a deeper discussion,
wider reflections and louder rage. Many is still left to be answered and
discussed. The war had just begun… again!

Homepage: http://qursana.blogspot.com
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