Heartfelt condolences and solidarity to the people of Beirut

Vigil at the Lebanese consulate in Montreal, August 6, 2020.

A reflection, from a Facebook post, August 5, 2020

My heartfelt condolences and solidarity to the people of Beirut, the families and victims, the comrades from Beirut, the city which I came to love, having spent a memorable week there in summer of 2014. A huge disaster and tragedy on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am only glad that so far those whom I came to know are safe.

On a personal note, I owe a debt in addition to the Lebanese community in Halifax which dates back to the 1920s if not before and who schooled me in the tapestry of their rich history, culture and politics, beginning from the time in 1982 when we marched together to oppose the Israeli invasion. From that moment we shared weal and woe on many issues, as have the Canadian and Lebanese people. In October 2002 Father John of the Greek Orthodox Church freely provided facilities of his parish for the launch of our Dossier on Palestine, defying the united pressure of local Falange and Zionist elements, as he did on other occasions.

During those days in 2014 I visited entire neighbourhoods in South Beirut and the towns and villages of South Lebanon, shunned from the political map due to both chronic negligence and Israeli occupation, which had been completely rebuilt on a new basis of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. 

School mural in Nabatieh | Shaheen Sajan

To get there, I crossed modern bridges which had been rebuilt after Israel had ruthlessly destroyed each and every bridge in Lebanon in its barbarous war of invasion in 2006. In the Palestinian refuge camps in Beirut and Tripoli I was received with friendship and even honour to the conscience of the Canada that stands with the Palestinians. Despite serious problems, the camps are bustling neighbourhoods, home to third-generation refuge families denied the right to return – all of which teemed with life and the incorruptible spirit of struggle. I was graciously invited to stay for a month in Burj al-Barajne in Beirut, to become better acquainted with the conditions and life, but unfortunately had to move on.

In the South, I visited the amazing Museum of Resistance also known as the Mleeta Museum, for the town in which it is located. This iconic museum features a secret base that was chiseled out by hand, stone by stone, a bunker and a tunnel 200 metres long in the side of a mountain for use during the successful fight to liberate the region from Israeli occupation in 2000. Opened in 2010 on the 10th anniversary of this victory to memorialize this achievement, to preserve memory and be a teaching centre for the new generations, the base was completely unknown to the Israelis and their vaunted intelligence services until 2010, despite over 7,000 guerrilla fighters who passed through there and who were sworn to secrecy. As of 2017, the museum built by Hezbollah had over 1.6 million visitors. This remarkable engineering feat was based on the famous experience of the Vietnamese liberation struggle against American aggression during the 1960s. Its director, whose daughter lived in Windsor, was acquainted with our country and the hostile policy of our governments to his country. He asked me to convey to the fraternal Canadian people the sincere message that the Lebanese resistance is not an enemy of the people of Canada. 

This museum enshrines an important realization for the country and the world today as Lebanon is being demonized as “corrupt,” “chronically divided” and on its knees in the wake of the horrific blast which devastated Beirut and the general economic crisis. On the one hand, while conventional Arab armies failed to deter Israeli invasions, Lebanese and Palestinian volunteers succeeded in holding the mighty Israeli army at bay and have become the real defenders against attacks and occupation of the country by the big foreign powers and their proxy forces who demand to site at the table of  the government. Few deny that the 2006 war put an end for eternity to the largest strategic component in the arsenal of Israel backed by the United States: the power to intimidate and to sow the illusion of fearlessness on their own side.

As such, the museum offers testimony to the current nature of the internal domestic conflict, the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the war against Syria  The U.S. and other powers want to disarm the national resistance while denying the Lebanese Army the sovereignty and weapons to deter Israel. Israeli threats always include pledges to inflict harm and destruction on Lebanon and to take it “80 years back in time,” or even to the Stone Age.  In other words, they want to use this disaster to split the unity and drive of the people to deal with the crisis and return Lebanon to its former enslaved state of weakness.

Trump’s speculation that it may have been “an attack,” he attributed to a meeting with “generals,” but with no evidence. Why this rush to judgment? This only indicates the disinformation and foul play that lies on the agenda of the big powers in the coming period.

It is not acceptable that Canada which has troops and special forces stationed in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Israel is offering statements of regret and sympathy for the victims but not a single pound of humanitarian aid as of today (August 5). Given how it has militarized aid to the Caribbean in the name of hurricane or earthquake relief as in the case of Haiti, or arms to Saudi Arabia to attack the Yemeni people despite the endemic cholera, we need to be vigilant. It is not acceptable that Canada whose hostility to Lebanon is a matter of historical record is now making aid conditional on dictating “reforms” to Lebanon, which is a matter for Lebanon to decide. It has dollars to offer as a bribe, but not medical equipment nor medical teams.

Red flags are being issued against the humanitarian aid which Syria and Iran immediately sent to Beirut. Why is this even brought forward as an issue? Why at this stage are fingers being pointed this way and that? It may be that on the same day Lebanon became to a great extent dependent on Syria for food –a silos to store flour and grain in the port were destroyed, it now carries only a month’s supply of wheat  and it is the main Arab port on the Mediterranean Sea – the U.S. attacked silos in Syria, where it has also been burning crops as I have warned here before. This only shows the depth of a grave crisis and the nature of the political, economic and social problems to be solved by the people themselves.

These governments as is Hezbollah are very able to speak for themselves. But another lesson from my visit is that the Lebanese and Syrian people are one. War-torn Syria immediately opened its borders to provide shelter to the victims just as it did in 2006 when Syrians freely welcomed one million Lebanese refuges in their homes and as they did with the Armenians in the time of World War I. It dispatched medical teams and is receiving patients from Beirut’s hospitals.

They will rebuild as they have time and time again. Of this I am sure.

On what basis? On the basis of the old or the new? That is for the Lebanese people, and the Lebanese alone, to decide.

With a file from As`ad AbuKhalil, Consortiumnews

***

The Centre National Libano Canadien (CNLC) has launched a fundraising campaign to assist the people of Lebanon, especially the residents of Beirut who are hard pressed for relief after the explosion.[1]

The CNLC has already been working to support Lebanese regional hospitals and clinics with much needed essential medical equipment to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. They report that “thanks to many efforts and enormous generosity, we were able to put together a 40 square foot container of medical equipment including wheelchairs, hospital beds.”

The CNLC calls on Canadians today to stand with the Lebanese people in their time of need. With extra effort the medical centres can receive needed equipment and medical supplies, and people can be provided with housing, food, and more.

“All donations will go to cover the expenses of the shipping and administrative procedures required to deliver containers and to the distribution of food boxes to families in need through the Lebanese Red Cross and CNLC volunteers. We are now a few steps away from being able to send this urgent material to Lebanon. Any amount donated will go a long way and will allow us to complete this process.”

The request for assistance is two-fold:

– Financial: money donations can be made directly through this website

– Donations of medical material and equipment (beds, stretchers, wheelchairs), warm clothing, tents and non-perishable food that will be sent by container to Lebanon. There is currently no deadline for shipment. Contact CNLC for more details.

Note

1.”The Centre National Libano Canadien (CNLC) is a Lebanese-Canadian not-for-profit organization that provides services to the Middle Eastern and mainstream communities in the Greater Montreal Area, from education, employment help, health services, cultural activities & much more. Located in the greater Montreal area, we also have bridges directly to Lebanon that allow us to help people in both countries.”

 

 

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Filed under Canada, Palestine, West Asia (Middle East)

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