Last Friday, the 4th of August, I took part in a protest against Israeli aggression in Lebanon. It was a muggy brown Lahore afternoon, the kind that always portends a monsoon thunderstorm. The air rippled with red, white and green as the protestors, about fifty of us college students, gathered with placards, banners and megaphones in front of the Main Boulevard McDonald’s to march our way to the Liberty Roundabout, finally voicing the frustration, the grief, and the unspeakable anger that has choked our minds and our hearts since the state of Israel began its brutal bombardment of Beirut on the 13th of July.
Since that day, I have not been able to so much as look at the front page of the newspaper or the headlines on television without feeling an unbearable suffocation that makes me wish I were ignorant and insensible and could go about my life as if none of it were happening. It’s the same as it was three years ago – 20th March 2003 – when the U.S. government began the invasion of Iraq assisted by its faithful British lackeys. I was 18 years old then, waving about a white Styrofoam dove at a women’s peace march days before the first bombs dropped on Baghdad. Then, the tears came spontaneously to my eyes, at every picture of every bullet-riddled Iraqi child, every woman with bloodshot eyes by the bloodied corpse of her civilian-clothed husband, every arbitrarily arrested bearded young man tortured in ways that would put Genghis Khan and Hitler to shame – all the pictures and stories that the people of America never saw and never heard, because before setting about to conquer the Middle East George W. Bush had quite effectively conquered the famed ‘free press’ of his own country, a formidable feat for a man of his intelligence. Dictatorship of the media, of course, is tell-tale of many things worse than a decrepit government and despotic leadership that masquerades rhetorical democracy. And although the ruination of Iraq is far from over, and I find myself just learning to swallow back the pain of those still recent wounds, the nightmares of Fallujah, of Sabra and Shatila, of Qana repeat themselves in Lebanon with escalating insanity while the world looks on with cold unblinking eyes. I feel gripped by a strange suffocating anger that mutes my tears, so that I sometimes fear myself becoming desensitized – a fulfillment of that frustrated wish I have made every morning since the 13th of July.
But I am not yet desensitized. I have learnt a lesson. Israel has taught us a lesson. Yes, Israel, that brave little Zionist state beleaguered by bothersome Arabs, that poor little “democracy battling for its very survival”, with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, recipient of over one-third of the United States’ foreign aid and $2.5 billion worth of bonafide American weapons every year – that Israel has now conclusively proven itself to be the most barbaric state ever to have usurped the land of the prophets. There is no doubt left, in the heart of any Muslim, in the heart of any human being with any degree of awareness and feeling and reason – for whatever little optimistic sentiments we had for Israel, whatever hopes of Sharon’s disengagement plan, of Ehud Olmert being less of a butcher than his predecessor, of a more leftist regime coming to power, of the possibility of a territorial settlement with the Palestinians and the growing willingness of Muslims around the world to recognize Israel if that were ever to happen – everything, everything went up in a sea of flames when Olmert decided to respond to Hezbollah’s capture of the two Israeli soldiers by decimating the roads, airports, homes and children of Beirut.
And if there was ever a stroke that pulled me towards the side of parties like Hezbollah, like Hamas, like Islamic Jihad – so-called ‘terrorist’ organizations that people across the First World censure, that the United Nations ardently wishes to disarm, that ‘moderate’ Muslim countries have reservations about, and that I too had reservations about – it is witnessing what Israel is wreaking in Lebanon today, which completely effaces anything I have lived to see in the Middle East and anything a group like Hezbollah is not only incapable of doing but antithetical to by its very ideology. While Hezbollah attacks, kills and captures soldiers – trained and armed soldiers with their American tanks, American Blackhawks, F-16s, howitzers and white phosphorous shells, men whose very profession prepares them for death – the Israeli Defense Force reiterates its indisputable reputation of superlative civilian-slaughterer by targeting suburban homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, relief trucks, ambulances, Red Cross centers, UN stations, Christian neighborhoods with no possible links to Shi’ite Hezbollah…One-third of the victims of Israeli violence in southern Lebanon have been children under the age of 12, according to UN Humanitarian Chief Jan Egeland; prominent British journalist and Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk reports, “Hezbollah is killing more Israeli soldiers than civilians and the Israelis are killing far more Lebanese civilians than they are guerrillas,” because, to quote Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at the Human Rights Watch, “For Israel, innocent civilians are fair game.”
But everything’s justified for Israel, that piteous little country battling for its very survival in a jungle of suicide-bombers and fanatical Islamic militants; everything’s justified for its grand paymaster the United States government, proud cowboy-slayer of 12-year old school-going terrorists; for the obsequious Tony Blairs and Condoleezza Rices of the world whose torturous deaths a thousand times over at the hands of a Mongol skull-collector or a Gestapo in a gas chamber cannot avenge for what they have helped beget in the Middle East.
I attempt to speak with objectivity – I am resolved not to let my emotions run away with me. I speak of facts, which I am fortunate enough to have access to sitting here in Pakistan, where our press, television coverage and even Internet is much freer than the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN or Fox can ever hope to be, at least under the current administration in Washington, with its desperate neoconservative need to invent enemies and the mythic “War on Terror” in the shape that it is.
And while the United Nations prevaricates with its perpetually ambiguous, ‘neutral’ remarks, while it utterly fails to achieve the peacekeeping purpose it was created for, while it fails to stop expansionary wars and the massacre of innocents – while the oily rich Arab countries sit complacently by in their plastic neighborhoods, while Muslims and humane human beings all over the world cry out in helpless protest – while the world watches, Lebanon is blasted a hundred years into the past by Israeli cluster bombs, and joins Palestine and Iraq in the New World Order’s systemic genocide of the Middle East.
But of course it’s all justified for Israel, for the progeny of the Holocaust, for the Zionists, who, half a century after the Third Reich, have mutated into the very supremacist racist murderers they once fled Europe from.