Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I got another e-mail from Beirut

I got another e-mail from Beirut. Since the author gives permission to forward it to all interested parties I am posting it here. I have removed the contact information contained in the letter. Other than that I am reproducing it without any alterations.

Dear Friends and Family,

Dima and I were really overwhelmed by all the support and kindness we are literally receiving (by email and phone) from around the world! It does help a bit to take the edge off all the horrible images we are confronted with here daily.

(Just as a point of clarification, my wife Dima is doing OK, I only pointed out the visit to AUH last Monday to illustrate that one only ventures down to Beirut on important business. Please also feel free to forward this mail to anyone you think might be interested.)

Life in the War

It has been a week since I last wrote and things have really gone from very bad to horrible. Not only have almost all bridges in the country been destroyed, but many mobile phone relay stations, TV broadcasting antennas (including the Roman Catholic church's own station), hospitals, refineries, bakeries, dairies, and other food processing plants. Refugee convoys have been targeted from land, sea and air and it has been difficult to transport fuel oil, natural gas canisters and gasoline. For the first time in ten days, the garbage truck came through to pick up the trash. At 1,000 meters we don't smell the burning city, but we do smell the stench of burning trash.

Bhumdoun, and the neighbouring mountain resort town of Aley, are now full of refugees from the south of Lebanon, the southern suburbs of Beirut and the Bekaa valley. Fortunately they haven't destroyed the highway up to Bhumdoun because the there are no bridges between us and Beirut. Lebanon's own "Europabrücke", the "Golden Gate Bridge" of the Middle East, was blown up on the very first day of the war, it's c. 7 kilometres up the hill from us; Dima and I were out for a walk and saw it happen. This was a very sad moment for this proud nation.

Dima and I have run into a lot of our former and current NDU and LAU students (Notre Dame Uni, Lebanese American Uni) up here, exclusively Shi'ias and Sunnis from the South and Dahia (the southern suburbs of Beirut). All of the Dabbous clan who were staying with us the first week have either moved on to Europe and North America, via Syria or Cyprus, or have returned to the wartime "normality" of life in Beirut. We are momentarily down to the regulars, i.e. those who live up in the family mountain house every summer. A lot of déjà vu here!

Our only really close call was the trip back up to Bhumdoun last Monday. We had just gone grocery shopping to stock up for the week and had loaded the car with food, beverages, (not to mention supplies for the cats, Sascha, Heidi and Elvis ;-) and 60 litres of gasoline (in the car's trunk for the mountain house emergency generator), when a huge burning object feel c. 500 metres beside the mall's parking lot. There was some speculation that it was a downed IDF fighter jet, but that proved not to be true.

Taking a Stand

I have received many mails expressing sympathy for us personally, but supporting the necessity of destroying Hizbollah once and for all. Some have even written that the Lebanese people deserve this collective punishment because they refused to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for the complete disarmament of all militias, i.e. the 1948 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Hizbollah.

From where I stand, i.e. married to a Ras Beiruti, Sunni-Muslim wife (NB: greater Ras Beirut is the Manhattan of Lebanon), and teaching political science and cultural studies at a Maronite (Lebanese Catholic) university for the last 6 years, the majority of the population views themselves as a third party in a war between two extremist forces, i.e. Islamism vs. Zionism.

As an Austrian-American Mennonite (Taufer or Anabaptist branch for the 16th century Reformation), I have always disagreed vehemently, both with my Hizbollah students and colleagues and with the "just war" and militarist Christians at my uni and amongst my friends. I see this war as a perfect illustration of the necessity and justification of my pacifist stance. This is indeed a war between two forces which, in their present form, are incapable of living in peace with the rest of the region. Tragically, it is only Hizbollah which is being called to task. Israel, which is responsible for at least 90% of the death and destruction during the last two weeks, enjoys the open support of the US, UK and Australian governments and the tacit support of Germany and many other EU member states.

Most of the international community agrees that Hizbollah must be disarmed. However, Israel, which has again displayed its total disrespect for the international norms governing military conflicts, human rights, respect for the Red Cross and especially for the protection of non-combatants, must be judged by the same yard stick.

The radical change that both the US, EU, UN etc, on the one hand, and the democratically elected Lebanese government, on the other, have called for, must include the total disarming of Hizbollah and the Palestinians, as well as an international tribunal to judge and punish the perpetrators of war crimes and human rights violations on both sides, i.e. also the Israelis!

What is to be Done?

Anybody reading this from outside the region can do two things.

1) Israel must be aware that the world is watching. NGOs and civil society in general should prepare to put pressure on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the relevant human rights bodies to try both Hizbollah and the State of Israel for the crimes they have committed over the last few weeks.

2) Lebanon will be receiving huge amounts of international aid to rebuild the country. Following the 16 year Lebanese Civil War, between 1/3 and 50% of the aid received from abroad for reconstruction went into the coffers of corrupt war lords, corporate bosses and religious fanatics. Thus, foreign funding helped lay the foundation in the 1990s for the crisis we now have.

The EU, UN, US, KSA and other international donors should set up a monitoring body, to control and sanction every step taken by the Lebanese government during the reconstruction phase. This body should be a combination of the ERP (Marshall Plan) authorities, in place in Europe after World War II, and the European Union's accession monitors, which are now forcing Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria to clean up their respective acts.

Step one will help introduce respect for international rule of law, both in Lebanon and Israel. Step two will force rule of law onto the Lebanese political system and help foster good corporate governance.

The Coming Days

Dima and I are down in Beirut because she, as director of the Women's Studies Institute at LAU (IWSAW), has to take care of business, even during the war. We will be heading back up to Bhumdoun – InShallah – this afternoon and hope to be able to start teaching again ASAP.

Thank you very much for your best wishes, support, prayers, and thoughts.

[I have deleted his phone number here]

Best, Eugene

1 comment:

Rosita Welcker said...

Dear Friends of Beirut:
I am in agreement with your folk and I hope we all the free world can understand your suffered innocent people died every day we have to go to INTERNATIONAL COURT OF CRIME for the Human Rigths crime, from UK, USA AND ISRAEL, because we all need justice for your own folk . Regards
Rosita Welcker