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palestine journal: 19 july

19 july 2006

hi everyone!!
listen, i know i only wrote to you yesterday....but this whole thing is happening so fast.....things could easily spiral out of control.

so many people are writing so much...... I hope folks in the US will take what i suggested yesterday and get Bush impeached so we can move ahead with dialogue and diplomacy, instead of more, expanding war.
and check these links:
 link to sabbah.biz
 http://www.electroniclebanon.net

here's an interview I did with the head of the UN Refugee Agency in Gaza:
 http://radio.indymedia.org/news/2006/07/10630.php

in a rather unnoticed development, israel has started denying entry for people known
to sympathize with the palestinian cause, and those of palestinian origin:
 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4859.shtml
 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/736360.html

and badly beat an american woman and her son at the allenby bridge border crossing
(the same one I wrote about crossing a couple weeks ago!):
 link to www.imemc.org

Yesterday, Israeli forces arrested the Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera television. Two
journalists have been shot and severely wounded covering the invasion of Gaza, and
today, the Israeli military censor's office issued an order for journalists based in
the area to self-censor their reports about the ongoing Israeli invasions and
Lebanese response.

These developments have led a lot of Palestinians to believe that their suffering
will once again be made invisible to the eyes of the world.

Fox News has tried really hard to be a cheerleader for Israel - even when Israeli
forces fire at their crews (leading one of the commentators to call them 'Bad guys
with guns'):
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar0jRu5fDZw

and, of course, keep checking:
 http://www.imemc.org for constant updates

Here are letters sent by two women in Lebanon:

Letter from Lebanon: LEBANON IS KIDNAPPED!

Dear Family and Friends,

Ha! I think I am becoming a reporter now! First, we are still safe, but hardly
anyone sleeps. The bombing has been continuous, day and night with no reprieve. We
are in the mountains and we are awakened by the sound of the explosions. And it's
not as if you can just fall back asleep after hearing a bomb land. You can imagine
what it is like if you are in Beirut. The situation is extremely serious.

I want to reiterate that we need your help in disseminating this information and
hopefully getting it to the press. The news you are receiving is skewed. This is a
well orchestrated war that Israel is carrying out. This is not a reaction to
Hizbullah's apprehending two of its soldiers. It becomes clearer by the day that
there is a master plan that Israel is executing.

Israel has literally kidnapped the entire country. One by one they are destroying
every single road that leads out of the country. Just this evening around 8:00 p.m.
We heard Israeli planes flying overhead only to hear a few minutes later on the
radio that they destroyed a mountain road that leads to the Bekaa valley. This road
is further up the mountain from where we live, in a primarily Christian village.

On the news earlier we heard that of the 93 Lebanese killed, only 3 were soldiers.
As of 8:30 p.m. More than 120 Lebanese are dead and over 500 wounded.

Yesterday they bombed a small port in Amchit, a Christian village about one hour
north of Beirut. Why? The Israelis got wind that a French ship carrying medical
supplies was arriving. Damaging the port they prevented these critical medical
supplies from reaching their destination.

Yesterday, my niece was attending a wedding-poor couple-could they really delay
their wedding after months of planning? The wedding was held not too far from
Jounieh, a major port about 25 minutes north of Beirut, a Christian town (and
definitely not a Hizbullah stronghold). Everyone was on the terrace celebrating when
Israel repeatedly attacked the Jounieh port. My niece said that everyone ran into
the church and prayed. The bride was crying. The groom was crying. My niece left the
wedding flying down the main highway while bombs whistled by. Nice memories for the
newlyweds.

This afternoon, the Israelis decimated a small Christian village, Ain Ebel in the
south of Lebanon. The mayor was pleading with the UN for a cessation of the Israeli
bombing so they could evacuate women and children, and eventually to get food and
medical supplies. Again, Ain Ebel is far from being a Hizbullah basis.

In the southern suburb of Beirut, Israelis knocked out all telecommunications-both
land and mobile.

They just struck the airport again, as I have been writing this. This must be the
sixth or seventh time, I lost count!

Over 1 million Lebanese, that's nearly one third of the entire population has been
displaced! Hotels, homes in the mountains are packed to the brim trying to
accommodate these people made refugees in their own country.

Are you still convinced that Israel is attacking only Hizbullah targets? Are you
still convinced that Israel has a right to defend itself-and if so, in this way?

Even during the 15 years of war, never ever were all roads, ports, and airports
simultaneously blocked. When I was in Saudi, we would fly to Cyprus
then take the boat to Jounieh to visit my husband's family. Now there is no way out.
Israel has kidnapped and trapped the entire country. There are more than 17, 000
French citizens, more than 10, 000 English, more than 25, 000 Americans and many
more other foreign nationals trapped because Israel has blown up all major roads,
bridges, airports and ports. Their actions are barbaric. The British Ambassador made
a public announcement on television telling his compatriots that the roads are not
safe enough to travel on for
an evacuation and urged them to just remain at home. How reassuring! You hear news
of evacuations, but we are all wondering how anyone can get out when roads, bridges
and ports have been damaged so severely.

Now, to end with a little story. A news item that I am sure did not make big news in
the American press:
On June 21, 2006, about three weeks ago, The Daily Star, the local English newspaper
published an article about Lebanon expecting complete support from the UN Security
Council about a complaint the Lebanese government was presenting to them. The
Lebanese were following proper international protocol. What was discovered? The
Mossad, the Israeli secret service (like the U.S.'s CIA), has a network in Lebanon
and has assassinated at least 3 Lebanese citizens which the Israelis believed to be
"terrorists."

I ask you:
What is worse? Hizbullah's kidnapping two Israeli soldiers or Israeli agents coming
onto Lebanese territory and assassinating its citizens? It's like having a North
Korean secret service cell in the U.S. Killing American citizens. Would the U.S. Sit
back and do nothing? It's an outrage. Yet, Israel destroys Lebanon with impunity and
no one pays attention to the infractions that Israel does. And what right does
Lebanon have to defend itself? If Lebanon, dared to do what Israel is doing to it
now, it would be
labeled "terrorist."

I once again plead with you to get this news out. Israel is destroying Lebanon while
the United States puts its head in the sand! These atrocities must stop!
10:10 p.m. The bombs are exploding. Another sleepless night ahead..
Rosie AKL.

From Zena el-Khalil:
I have started coughing, but I don't know why. I am not sick. I don't have a cold. I
think it's a reaction I'm having to stress. My body feels weak. My mouth is always
dry, no matter how much water I drink. And I'm afraid to drink too much water
because I don't want it to run out!

Last night was probably the most frightful night I have ever experienced in my whole
entire life. I was so tired and exhausted... have not slept in days. When there is
finally a quiet moment, the tension in my stomach and heart prevents me from falling
asleep.

Last night we counted at least 15 bombs falling into Dahiyeh (Beirut Suburbs).. and
these were just the ones we heard. At some point during the night, I said to myself
that if I didn't at least try to get some sleep that I was going to go crazy from
fatigue; and that that was what was going to kill me. Havenąt been able to eat
either, so am losing physical strength.

It's all psychological at this point. I know I have to be strong, and I will
be, but I can't deny what Iąm going through. And I think it's important that people
hear about the downside as well as the bravery. So many of us are already working
hard to fix things, we are running around Beirut trying to get food and water and
medicine to people, we are doing things online, etc, but it doesn't mean we are not
scared, sick or tired.

So, last night amidst the worst shelling we've had so far, I realized that I was not
afraid of the noise anymore; how quickly you get used to it. I realized what was
hurting the most was the "UNKNOWN". What is going to happen tomorrow? When will this
all end? How are we going to start re-building again? Are the refugees going to be
ok? How are the people in the south? And why punish a whole country? What is the
real plan behind all
of this? How much worse is it going to get?

My husband and I have been housing foreign "refugees" helping them to find their way
out of the country. Two managed to leave this morning, a German and Swiss. The other
two are British and American. The craziest thing is that out of all people, the
American embassy has been the LEAST helpful to its citizens here. The phone line to
the embassy has been practically out of service. My friend, Amanda, (whom I just met
a few days ago, by the way) had to hire a cab to take her to the embassy (which is a
ride out of Beirut) and all they could tell her was that they didnąt know what they
were going to do and to keep checking the website. Only thing she has gotten on the
website is that she now knows that there is going to be an evacuation (5 days
later), but when it happens, she is going to have to pay for it! Yes, they are
saying to their citizens that they are going to bill them for their ride out! Can
you believe that?!

Trying to evacuate people has put me under stress. The question is what am I to do
if I had the opportunity to leave? Would I leave? What do I do with my friends? My
family? My art studio? I have a British passport; I could be evacuated with my
husband. But what would happen to my best friend Maya? She has a very rare and bad
case of CANCER! I have been taking care of her since she was diagnosed a few months
ago and I know that my care for her is what has helped her do so well. Her type of
cancer is "untreatable", but ironically, the day the shelling started, her doctor
told us her tumors had shrunk! Unbelievable- a true miracle. I can't leave Maya!

What about art work in my studio? What about all my brushes and paints and glitter
and books! All my books! Again- the crazy things that cross your mind.

What about our photo albums? All our family pictures? The memories...

What about the doodles I drew on my balcony a few summers ago when I was suffering
from a bad break up?

What about all the love letters I have saved? Letters that document my youth that I
wanted to some day give to my daughter.

What about my other best friend? My dog, Tampopo? My beautiful Jack Russel Terrier
who has never let me down. Who has always been a source of purity and compassion...
Who has eyes of an angle... Dogs are not allowed to evacuate. My American friend
Christine is going to have to leave her dog with me; a black pug named Baousi (means
Kiss in Arabic). She is heartbroken! She almost didn't want to evacuate. She went to
so many embassies to try and register with them and see if they would take her dog.
Don't worry Christine, I will take great care of Baousi.

My sister has been volunteering to help the refugees who are being sheltered in
public schools. Right now they are calling on Lebanese citizens to help out with
money, medicine, food, water, blankets and mattresses. She has been going to people
and asking for money and then going out to buy medicines for refugees- her own
initiative! My mom has joined in too. A friend has put together a website for
accepting donations:
 http://atrissi.com/helplebanon/

Biggest cynical statement of the day:
Israel has told people to evacuate from the south because they are going to
annihilate the south of Lebanon. However, the people can not leave because all the
roads have been destroyed/blocked. And yesterday when people did try and leave, the
Israelis opened fire on them! A massacre is happening!

Update on the attacks, as of yesterday:
• Israelis have been bombing the south of Lebanon with phosphorus and other chemical
bombs.
• Israelis have bombed all ports along the coastline of Lebanon.
• Israelis have bombed all our local army radars and some outposts
• Israelis have bombed/attacked the fire fighting brigade and the Search and Rescue
Brigade in the South. Innocent civilian lives were lost. It was a
massacre- the buildings were also housing refugees.
• Israelis have continued to bomb the suburb of Beirut, Dahiyeh & Haret Hreik
• Israelis have now killed over 100 civilians and there are several hundreds wounded
and they continue to bomb the south
• Israelis have started hitting roads that lead to the mountains. They hit a main
one leading to the Shouf. -Israelis have hit a gas plant in the mountains
... I can't keep up with what they have hit.

*** Israel has begun to target Lebanese army outposts. They have killed Lebanese
soldiers. They are no longer just targeting Hizbullah. They mean to kill all of
Lebanon.

The reality:
Israel is trying to bring Lebanon to its knees. Israel is trying to destroy Lebanon
and the Lebanese spirit. Israel is trying to turn Lebanese against each other.
Israel is trying to turn us into animals scrounging for food, water and shelter.
Israel and the United States of America are trying to drag Syria and Iran into this
too. They are using Lebanon as bait. Lebanon is stuck in the middle. The Americans
and Israelis are trying to launch a regional war!!

Please help in any way you can. Please pass on the message, this email- reprint if
you wish. Please tell people what is going on. Please put pressure on your
respective governments to step in and do something.

Lebanon is a peaceful country. We are the only country in the region in which people
of all religions co-exist peacefully.

It is unbelievable how biased the news is. They are not reporting the real Damage
being caused. They donąt report that the Israelis are killing innocent civilians. It
seems from this end that all they are focusing on is G8!

Are the Israeli & US government really just trying to wipe us all out?? Well, you
can tell them that I'm not leaving. And there are many of us who are not leaving. We
love Lebanon. We love what we have spent our lives building.

Tell them about people like me.. who build culture and tolerance. Who work for peace
and understanding. Who work to educate. Who work to promote love and compassion.
There are thousands like me here. What about us?

Tell them about people like me, that despite all of this, I have still not learnt to
hate. They can take everything from me, but not my dignity. Not my morals and
beliefs. They will never never break my spirit.

Tell the Israeli citizens what their government is doing to us. Tell them that
violence begets violence. Remind them that Lebanon is their neighbor and that
co-existence is possible. How are we going to ever reach an understanding through
violence? We were so close... We were so close...

Please stop this brutality!
Still with love,
Zena el-Khalil

By the way, did I mention Maya's tumors are getting smaller? Did I mention there was
a wedding across the street yesterday?