Monday, January 5, 2009

Discussion with an old friend

I met someone I hadn’t seen in a long time, and who was active in the Left during the early Lebanese wars. He “retired” in the mid 80’s. We discussed the situation in Gaza and here’s what he told me:

"Whatever the outcome of the Israeli war on Gaza, things have changed forever. Like the July 2006 war on Lebanon, this one will make us stronger. Every day, every hour, every minute liberates us further. We are stronger are freer because we know we are right. How can we not be right when we are a handful of poor, marginalized and excluded people fighting Israel with its all its might and its modern technologies? How can we be wrong when we are fought by the imperialists, by the very same regimes that are oppressing the peoples of the world; by those who have built their fortunes on squeezing nations out of their wealth? How can we be wrong when the ruling classes of the Arab World are against us? We are right both objectively and subjectively: we are right because our cause is just and we are right because those who want to eliminate us are tyrants, thieves and tormentors.

Before 2000, we were scared of the Israelis. There is no shame in admitting that: the Israelis had won all the wars against the Arabs and they had one of the most powerful armies in the world. They had F16s, Apache helicopters and big guns. They even had nuclear bombs. And they had all the rich and powerful countries behind them.

South Lebanon was occupied, and the rulers of Lebanon, the rich and powerful, did not care. The Resistance in South Lebanon was working quietly, organizing itself. It inflicted severe blows to the occupiers, but somehow this was not covered enough: there was no Al Jazirah, no satellite TV channels. There was no internet. Satellite TV and internet communications has changes us. It has made us witness what was being done to us. It has woken us up to injustice. It has give a voice to the oppressed, a voice as strong if not stronger than that of the oppressor. Before this, they used to show us what they wanted. Today, we see everything.

Around the early 90’s the Resistance in South Lebanon started to take videos of its operations. People were able to see the achievements and identify with the Resistants. This was a major turning point. The Resistance fighters became heroes. We needed heroes.

In 2000, Israel withdrew humiliatingly from South Lebanon. This was the first Arab victory in a long time. The Resistance was magnanimous, and did not seek revenge on the collaborators. The Lebanese state gave mild sentences to the collaborators who had tortured the Resistants, killed them and raped their wives and daughters and sisters under their very eyes. The Resistance accepted this because it was victorious. If anyone had any doubts about its triumph, this is the proof: only the victorious can show magnanimity.

In 2006, Israel launched one of its most vicious and murderous attacks on Lebanon. It destroyed a significant part of the infrastructure. It pulverized homes and crushed their inhabitants. It killed thousands, mostly civilian children, women and men. The cameras of the whole world were able to see our children as they were extracted from the rubbles. The Resistance stood its ground and inflicted heavy casualties on the Israeli army. Few Israeli civilians were killed. The Resistance became the champion of the oppressed of the World. It gave people pride. It broke the fear barrier. No, it didn’t break it, it transferred it: now it was the turn of the Israelis to be scared.

The liberation from fear was an important turning point in the lives of the Arabs. We are not scared any more. They may kill us and kill our children and we will not be scared anymore. Only angrier.

We also liberated ourselves from shame. We used to walk with our heads down and hide behind our powerlessness to avoid taking action. We were subdued. We blamed ourselves. We did not have faith. We despised ourselves and all the Arabs. We wanted to be something else, someone else. Now, we want to be ourselves. They can kill us, they can kill our children, and they can destroy all the buildings and all the schools. They cannot kill our spirit anymore.

And we also liberated ourselves from the West. It used to matter so much to us: we were always seeking the West’s approval. If their media said that we should make peace on Israeli terms, we parroted them and believed it. We wanted the West’s endorsement, as if this endorsement made us a little bit like them. We were always ready to change our course, to change our beliefs in order to appear like them, in order to please the writers on CNN and BBC and Time and Newsweek. We wanted them to think of us as “civilized”. And when they did not see the injustice in what the Israelis did, we did not see it either. They called us backwards and we called ourselves backwards.

Now we don’t care anymore. We know we are right. We know they are ignorant, superficial and self-centered. We know they change their opinions everyday. We know they would always find something wrong with us, unless we become subservient, submissive and docile.

Now we are strong. Their blows cannot hurt us. Do you see all these little children torn to pieces by Israeli bombs? They are not dead: each one of them has given life to a hundred, a thousand, a million partisan who will continue the struggle.”

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