Friday, March 23, 2012

Lebanon Speech given at the Ottawa Global March to Jerusalem Fundraiser (March 23, 2012)

by Sarah

In the summer of 1982, Lebanon experienced it's first encounter with Israel. The conflict was provoked by the presence of Palestinian patriotic fighters in teh neighbouring land, who sought to liberate their country from the Israeli oppressive occupation.

If we were to speak about the criminal actions of the Israeli military force in Lebanon, it would be unjust to describe just a few experiences and proven facts. However, due to our limited time, I will try my best to give a brief idea of the oppression of the Iraeli occupation in Lebanon.

Israel first started by invading the southern Lebanese area, followed by progress towards the core of Beirut, hoping that its Lebanese allies would allow to sign a peace treaty to Israel's advantage.

One of the most atrocious war-crimes in Lebanon was the massacres that took place in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, as well as later on, the southern Lebanese village of Qana. I will give a brief description of these massacres that occurred, as well as a description of the Khiam concentration camps.

The massacre in Sabra and Shatila occurred during the Lebanese civil war, and took place on the 16th and 18th of September, 1982. The killing was done by Lebanese militia supported by Israel, whilst the peripheries of Sabra and Shatila were surrounded by Israeli forces. The Israeli military personnel, who was aware of the atrocities taking place, was directly responsible, according to the UN, along with the Lebanese militia, for the killings of 762 innocent unarmed Palestinian refugees.

A civilian in the Palestinian refugee camps, Siniya Qassem Bashir, explains her situation. "My husband and my son died in the massacre. The scariest and most heartbreaking tragedy was that of our neighbour Monira Omro; they killed her but only after they slaughtered her 4 month old baby in front of her eyes."

Another civilian, Ali Khalil Afana, 8 years old, explains his story. "It was 11:30 at night, when we heard an explosion nearby with the sound of a woman screaming. They then entered our house, looking through our stuff and our rooms. My mom tried to scream for help, as a result they shot her. My father stretched his hand looking for something to defend himself with, however, their bullet was faster. Frommy fear I did not have enough energy to scream. I do not know what happened after that because I found myself in the hospital, with the head and legs tightly wrapped in bandanges. My aunt came to visit me yesterday. When I asked her abut news from my three brothers, she did not reply. So I answered, "I know, they are all dead". And the tears flowed on his small cheeks.

On the 18th of April 1996, a small village in southern Lebanon was attacked by Israeli forces. They had dumped several artillery shells on the United Nations compound in Qana. The massacre resulted in the death of 106 Lebanese civilians, the injury of 116 Lebanese civilians, as well as about 4 UN workers. After the attack, Israel instantly expressed their regret for the loss of innocent lives claiming that the attack was aimed to target Hezbollah militia and not the UN compound. However, United Nations investigators have confirmed that the attack was deliberately targeted at the refugees in the compound, who had left their houses for protection.

On the 30th of July 2006, during the most recent Lebanese-Israeli war, Israeli airforces deployed another attack on the southern village of Qana, but this time making their intentions very clear. They had dropped the bombs on a three story building containing only Lebanese civilians. A sum of about 28 were killed including 16 children, and 13 civilian bodies were not found. At that time, Israel announced that it will be bombing the south of Lebanon and had recommended for the civilians to leave the south, however, it had also bombed the roads preventing civilians of being able to safely flee to safety, and killin gthose who were already on the road.

Furthermore, let us not forget what a lot of innocent lives had to experience in the concentration camps in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam. The Khiam prison was initially built in 1933 during the French occupation of Lebanon. It was then utilized by the Israeli forces as a concentration camp. The prisioners were not ony resistance fighters. Anyone suspected of political activity and of being against the Israeli occupation was thrown into Khiam prison. Some prisoners were detained simply for refusing to pay taxes or money to Israeli militias. Others were pat of families that refused that their children be part of the southern Lebanese Army also known as the SLA or Lahed (who were traitors helping Israel).

Amnesty International, in its 1992 report about Khiam and its illegal practices, listed the torture inflicted on the prisoners in the following manner:

"Electric shock, beatings with electrical wires, hanging from electrical pylons, hosing prisoners with hot and cold water, shackling in painful positions, sleep deprivation, starvation, confinemen in tiny cells, verbal abuse, threats, torture of family members..." and the list goes on.

Amnesty International mentions 1.5 metre by 2 metre cells shared by 3 to 6 prisoners: the 6 persons take turns to sleep on top of the others. Amnesty also cites the use of isolation cells of less than one square metre, so dark that the prisoner can't even see the food on his or her plate; somteims two prisoners are placed in one of these cells together to maximize the sense of claustrophobia and panic.

Some Khiam prisoners were anonymous. Their existence was only confirmed by former prisoners because no one knew of their detention. One of the anonymous prisoners told the story of a 14 year old girl who was secretly detained in Khiam prison: "She was only 14, a peasant's daughter from a large family...She hadn't done anytihng; maybe she talked with a boy? [the guards] went crazy, torturing her, electrocuting her; she did not understand anything and came back paralyzed. She didn't talk to anyone and didn't trust anybody."

Kamil Daher from Shebaa explains his experience in Khiam prison where he was detained from October 4, 1989 to December 12, 1991. "I bouth the books for school that year as school was about to begin. But on the same night, I was woken up by a loud voice. It was my father shouting, 'there is nobody in this room'. The Israelis did not allow me to change my night garment. They took me and I spent the first night in a room full of mice. I was taken in the morning to Khiam camp. I was ordered to stand there near a wall until late at night. I was then taken to a room and a person started questioning me.

I told him I was a a student. So he asked me, 'do you know what this is?' I tried to touch it since I was blindfolded. It turned out to be a scourge made by a collection of electric wires. He ordered me to kneel down and started whipping my back and my bare feet for three hours until I fell helplessly to the ground. After dragging me and tying me to a post, he started throwing cold and hot water on my naked body. I was then put in solitary confinement where I had no access to the sun for a week. During the second session of torture, the interrogators wrapped a metallic wire between my fingers, ordered me to kneel down and spilled water on my body. As I felt the electric current flowing to my blood, my whole body started shaking uncontrollably. They put the electric wires on my genitals and between my teeth.

Each day carried a new way of torture with it. The interrogator, whose weight was over 100 kilograms, had walked over my back. He once hit me with a rough stick on my head so hard that my sight was weakened. Whenever I asked to see a doctor, their answer was 'We have no doctors here'. I threatened them with doing a hunger strike to death. So, an Israeli doctor examined my eyes and siad there was no treatment for them. He added that he would give me a walking stick because I was going to lose my sight in a short period anyway. I tried to go back to school following my release, but was unable to read or see what was written on the board. I couldn't continue my education.

The Khiam prison is still present as historical proof in Lebanon to this day, but the prisoners have been freed since 2001. The prison was left exactly the way it was during the war of 2006, and now, the place is a ruin, except a small portion of the prison at the end of the camp with pictures of how the concentration camp had previously looked like.

These are just a few stories of civilians who were tortured and killed with no right, and a very brief description of the situation in Lebanon during hte past Israeli occupation. Let us not forget, until this day, there are still laws that Israel has broken with no justification to the United Nations, and Lebanon is still very negatively affected by the unjust actions of this neighbouring government. And most of all, let us not forget the current occupation of Palestine and the ongoing torture that Gaza is going through.

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