Last week, I made my first trip to South Lebanon since the war began. Having travelled a fifth of the world, and been present during “wars” in Iraq, Palestine, and New York, I can honestly say that I have never seen such complete devastation in my entire life. The only thing that even comes close are the pictures I've seen from World War II. Much of South Lebanon simply lies in ruin.
This wasn't a war against Hezbollah, with some collateral damage on the side. This was a war against the basic structures necessary to sustain civilians in south Lebanon. This was a war against the basic structures of human life. But there are Lebanese who will not let that happen.
Call to civil resistance
During the war, a coalition of Lebanese educators, engineers, architects, merchants, health care workers, NGO workers, students, and others, came together under banner of Civil Resistance - the Arabic phrase for nonviolent direct action. Our founding statement of purpose began with the words, “We, the people of Lebanon, call upon the local and international community to join a campaign of civil resistance to Israel's war against our country and our people. We declare Lebanon an open country for civil resistance.”
During the war we organised a fifty-twocar convoy to take needed relief supplies from Beirut to the south, disregarding the Israeli ban on travelling in our own country. We were stopped by internal, Lebanese politics - something we are going to make sure does not happen again. Today, Lebanon is united in resistance to war.
Today, we are organising a nation-wide petition demanding that the Lebanese government expel Jeffery Feldman, the US Ambassador to Lebanon, as a threat to peace.
Today, we are organising to provide direct assistance to communities in need throughout south Lebanon.
In just the past, few days we've organised solidarity missions to Qantara and Selaa. In Selaa, short hours before the ceasefire took effect, Israel destroyed thirty-five homes, killing at least eight people, and shutting off running water to the entire community.
We organised a mission to Selaa, building connections with civic leaders in the village. With donated funds from across Lebanon, we purchased a suction pump and water storage tanks for the villagers. We distributed food, donated clothes, children's toys, and sanitary supplies. We located a doctor willing to come to the village to provide free medical examinations, and helped fill needed prescriptions. Since the phone lines are down in the village, we contacted the Lebanese Army on their behalf to request assistance in removing unexploded bombs from the area.
We are not alone
As time goes on, we will maintain and deepen our ties to Selaa, Qantara, and other villages we are able to help, shifting from providing direct relief to other work, such as restoring schools and organising cultural events. We will not give up.
We are not alone. Samidoun, another grassroots Lebanese coalition, is assisting three other villages in south Lebanon. As we do our work in the south, we hear of other such coalitions and campaigns.
Abid Na'im lost his sixty-five-year-old father in the bombing of Selaa. There was barely enough left of the remains to bury but, despite his grief, Abid summed up the spirit of Lebanon today when he told us, “It's impossible to beat the people. You can destroy the stones, you can destroy the homes - but you can't destroy the people.”