Last week, I made my first trip to South Lebanon since the
war began. Having traveled 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.
In the South, Israeli warplanes occasionally break the sound
barrier, rattling people as they fly off on God knows what missions. Israeli
drones constantly fly overhead. The low, insistent hum of their engines serves
as a continual reminder that Lebanon is not yet safe.
Bombed out gas stations and the twisted, blackened remains
of what once were cars line the roads. The roads themselves are a wreck,
pockmarked with craters and covered by fallen bridges, in places completely
impassable. There are miles of roads lined with chalk-colored vegetation, so
covered are they from the dust of destroyed buildings that you can see no green
whatsoever. Almost every single city and village throughout South Lebanon has
significant war damage. Almost every single one. The dead are still being
pulled from the rubble.
In Qantara, a village of some 350 families, 25 homes are
destroyed, and another 50 seriously damaged. A man passes out pictures of his
15-year-old son in barely controlled panic. He hasn�t seen the boy for nearly a
In Sriefa, three entire blocks of homes are smashed to
ground. Other buildings and shops throughout the town are bombed and destroyed.
Women walk the streets, sobbing.
In Sultanya, dozens of homes are destroyed. The local
hospital lies bombed and gutted by fire. The house I stayed at in the village
has three unexploded cluster bombs in its garden.
Bint Jbeil, a city of over 80,000 people, is completely
shattered. Much of the city is simply rubble, but even what's left standing is
damaged. The entire back wall of the three-story primary school is just gone.
The city center is barely passable to cars, so cratered are the roads. I
literally did not see a single building in all of Bint Jbeil without serious
damage. Not one. Not a one.
In Siddiqine, block after block of residential neighborhoods
have been reduced to rubble. From over 300 multi-story homes and buildings,
nothing larger than a breadbasket remains. I met a man wandering through the
wreckage who gave a short, sardonic laugh when he found out I was an American.
�Here is the democracy,� he said, pointing at the ruins, �here is the freedom.�
Then his eyes teared up, as he told me that he couldn�t even figure out where
his house used to stand.
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.
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 non-violent 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
During the war we organized a 52-car convoy to take needed
relief supplies from Beirut to the South, disregarding the Israeli ban on
traveling 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 organizing a nation-wide petition demanding
that the Lebanese government expel Jeffery Feldman, the U.S. Ambassador to
Lebanon, as a threat to peace.
Today, we are organizing to provide direct assistance to
communities in need throughout South Lebanon.
In just the past, few days we�ve organized solidarity
missions to Qantara and Selaa. In Selaa, short hours before the ceasefire took
effect, Israel destroyed 35 homes, killing at least eight people, and shutting
off running water to the entire community.
We organized 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 exams,
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.
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 organizing 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, other such campaigns.
Abid Na�im lost his 65-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.�
Kysia is a Lebanese-American essayist and activist. He�s working with LebanonSolidarity.org to resist war and
renew shattered communities in Lebanon.