Letter From Young Lebanese American

Letter from a Young Lebanese-American Woman

Yasmina Kamal wrote this to an email acquaintance of mine and I am reprinting:

I now feel compelled from within to voice my own views of the recent bloody conflict. Since I have many close friends on either side of the issue, and since I grew up in a largely rural area with very little racial diversity, I understand many people may not have considered what is happening from a non-violent Lebanese-American perspective. I cannot, in good conscience, remain silent during this critical battle in my father’s homeland.

My Lebanese family, entirely unaffiliated with the terrorist group of Hezbollah, lives in the southern region of Beirut, Lebanon, in neighborhoods inhabited by the Shiite, which serve as potential hideouts and headquarters for Hezbollah leaders. Their area has been shelled steadily for five days now, and we here in America watch the live footage from Beirut with dread, waiting to see members of our family racing through the crumbling streets or being carried away on ambulance stretchers.

In my opinion (and the opinion of many around the globe), the US is at fault today for not using its its powers of leadership to intervene- we are the only country who has any real influence over Israel (we sent them some $2.22 billion in military aid last year); theLebanese prime minister Fuad Siniora was in tears (as I have been, for days), appealing to the US, Israel, and the members of the G8 summit to do something to restrain the Israeli army from targeting Lebanese civilians (207 dead; more than 20 of whom are children). And yet President Bush and his administration has tried to block the G8’s plan to call for a ceasefire. Of the eight countries in the G8 summit, he was the only one to oppose a peaceful resolution for both sides.

It should be known that being Lebanese does not mean that my family or I support the actions or the philosophy of the Hezbollah in any way; they are supported by Syria, using Lebanon only for its closer proximity to Israel. This terrorist group has an arm in both the military and the government, and the newborn Lebanese army (many of whom were Syrian and left the country last year when Syria withdrew from its borders) is no match for Hezbollah’s money, political power and military strength. What Israel expects the Lebanese government to do is the impossible: rid its southern border of Hezbollah’s influence.

With the knowledge that Hezbollah was actually born under Israeli occupancy of Lebanon to fight the Israeli Defense Forces, it is a hypocritical demand to expect the hopelessly weakened Lebanese government (now without many roads and bridges and military bases, bombed by Israel) to do in a couple of days what the Israeli government could not do in their 18-year occupation of Lebanon.

As a Lebanese-American, I oppose terrorism in all its forms. Along with most of the living and deceased civilians in Lebanon, I would like to see Hezbollah leave my father’s native country. However, an anti-terrorism agenda does not give any nation the right to disregard innocent human life. We Americans do not send missiles to upstate New York to rid its southernmost cities of dangerous gangs. If military might and all-out war in the face of terrorist threats worked to end terrorism, Israel would be a peaceful country by now. Soldiers stationed in Iraq would not face the threat of violent insurgents. Afghanistan would be rid of its Taliban. These strongarm military tactics are not the most effective ways to abolish terrorism, especially in countries with weak governments and divided religious populations. Such attacks on countries ravished by extreemist groups only foster wider and more fervent support for these groups, and desire for revenge against the invading nation.

US Ambassador John R. Bolton’s statement of “moral equivalence” in the Lebanon/Israel issue was a huge disappointment to me. I can’t describe my horror at reading his words: “There‚Äôs certainly no moral equivalence between an act of terrorism directed at civilian population… and the tragic loss of civilian life as a consequence of military action.”

That a fellow American, especially a US Ambassador with such influence and power, should be so ignorant of the Western world as to assume the responsibility of appointing moral values to slaughtered civilians, made me physically sick. If major politicians are making statements like that on live television, the American people must be in danger of developing dreadfully biased notions of this Middle Eastern crisis. In defense of my own community, I am challenging such influential and ignorant notions.

It has become painfully obvious that the precautions that Israel claims their army is taking to avoid attacks on civilian life are untrue. After all, Israel’s weaponry and militarytechnology is far more advanced than that of Hezbollah, and the Israeli army has the abilityto aim their missiles to exactly pinpoint their targets. It is completely possible to avoidcivilian life in the crossfire. Of the 227 people reported killed in Lebanon, 20 areLebanese army soldiers (unrelated to Hezbollah) and only two are Hezbollah guerrillas. Thiscrisis began with two military captures (not civilian abductions) by the Hezbollah army, inmilitary-based retaliation for the hundreds of illegally-jailed Arab civilians by Israel.

What has ensued is an all-out attack on Lebanese civilian infrastructure.

The battle between Israel and Lebanon is grossly unbalanced (227 Lebanese and 25 Israeli casualties, according to many sources), and I do not believe our major American media channels are doing an unprejudiced job of reporting it. After thousands of letters, speeches, emails, blogs and reactions of hurt and injustice over their blatant omission of Lebanese civilian death counts in their news updates, channels such as CNN have finally made a point of mentioning the numbers on both sides. But in center stage, Anderson Cooper is actually reporting from Israel, and that is where most of the reports and footage takeplace. Obviously the “American viewpoint” is on the side of Israel’s engagements. I understand the human instincts of revenge and self-righteousness, and I do not expect everyone to automatically take the side of Lebanon on my account. However it is vital that Americans, whose country has such a major influence in the outcome of this current crisis, become aware of the non-violent, anti-Hezbollah Lebanese perspective, which resonates even from within our own border.

I ask that the people in this country consider the innocent civilian lives that are being claimed by rash military reactions between old neighbors.

Every day we in my family jump when our phone rings, anticipating that terrifying news:

that our family is among the civilian death count. Let this violence cease.

Yasmina Kamal

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