Remembering Qana, five years on

On August 2, 2011, in Articles, by admin

Remembering Qana, five years on


by Helena Cobban


On this day five years ago, at 1:30 am Lebanon time, Israel’s U.S.-supplied warplanes attacked houses in the south Lebanese village of Qana, killing more than 60 civilians, 37 of them children. Go watch this soberly reported video clip from Britain’s Channel 4 to get a measure of the horror.

The Qana Massacre of 2006 was the single deadliest episode in the gruesome 33-day assault that the government of Israel unleashed against Lebanon– with the full support of the U.S. government– in July 2006.

Washington’s role throughout the war was twofold. At the military level it provided many services including speedy replacement of the huge amounts of ordnance with which Israel pummeled Lebanon’s people and their national infrastructure. At the political level, Washington’s main role was to stave off all the calls for a ceasefire that mounted internationally as the long-planned assault proceeded throughout July and the first half of August.

Over the weeks that the war lasted it became increasingly clear to Israel’s military leaders that (1) they could not force a Lebanese surrender purely through the use of standoff weapons, as their super-arrogant chief of staff Dan Halutz had imagined; (2) that they would therefore have to use ground forces, as well, to try to achieve their objective; but (3) their ground forces were unable to prevail against the very well-planned defenses that Hizbullah maintained throughout South Lebanon… The war– which had been designed to “restore the credibility of Israel’s military deterrent” in the eyes of potential opponents from throughout the region– was instead having quite the opposite effect! So by the second week of August, Ehud Olmert’s government in Israel was becoming increasingly eager for a ceasefire. A ceasefire agreement was finally agreed among the parties, via the U.N. Security Council, on August 11 and it went into effect on August 14.

Throughout the entire 33 days of the war, Washington put not one iota of pressure on Israel to stop the carnage. Indeed, some days before the July 30 Qana Massacre, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the importance of the already heavy Lebanese civilian casualties by describing these losses as only “the birth pangs of the New Middle East.”

This woman– who has never herself experienced “birth pangs”– helped bring to the families of Qana and so many other places in Lebanon a stream of dead babies and toddlers, caked in the dust, grime, and blood of the sarcophaguses that had been their families’ homes.

For the people of Qana, the massacre of 2006 was an eery replay of the massacre they suffered ten years earlier, during the assault that Israel launched against Lebanon in April 1996. On that occasion, Israeli artillery demolished a clearly marked U.N.-run refuge in which hundreds of old people from the local area had sought shelter from the fighting, killing 106 of them.

On both occasions, Israeli leaders did all they could to deflect responsibility for these acts. They challenged the veracity of the very well-documented news accounts (and U.N. reports) of the incidents. And they claimed that because they had “instructed” local residents to leave the area prior to the attacks, the residents “had only themselves to blame” by staying their home villages: an amazingly arrogant and quite illegal argument for an attacking foreign army to make! In addition, very early in the fighting, the Israeli air force had demolished all the key highway bridges linking south Lebanon to the rest of the country. How were families with old people, disabled people, and young children supposed to “leave” their home village when “instructed” to do so by a foreign army?

I still have a deep well of sadness about what the Israeli military did– with the full backing of my own government– in Lebanon in 2006. Longtime JWN [Just World News] readers will know that on August 11, 2006, a cousin of my ex-husband was killed when the Israeli air force attacked a civilian convoy that was leaving Marjayoun for safer areas further north. The route and timing of that convoy had been clearly pre-arranged in coordination with the Israeli military. But still, the Israelis attacked, killing Colette Rashed and six others of the fleeing Marjayoun civilians. Read more details about that attack here.

… And please, don’t forget to check out (and buy) War Diary: Lebanon 2006, Rami Zurayk’s amazing account of what it was like to be in Beirut and South Lebanon during the whole of that war, which my company is publishing as an ebook ($4.00; several formats) and a short paperback ($7.00). The Israeli assault against Lebanon in 2006 was a turning point for the whole region in several ways. It gave Arabs and Muslims everywhere the idea that there were indeed ways for well-organized national groups to stand up to and defy military organizations that enjoyed apparently unchallengeable superiority on the battlefield. It revealed (yet again) the degree to which U.S. policy had been made into a handmaiden of Israel’s. And it showed the importance of forging strong bonds of unity between secular anti-imperial forces and more Islamist anti-imperial forces if the power of a a hostile and aggressive imperial alliance is ever to be successfully broken.

Rami Zurayk’s book is a wonderful document: humane, impassioned, tender, intimate, and wise. Advance orders for it will be fulfilled on or before August 10. Yes, I think it is important to sell this book and get the story it tells much more widely disseminated within the Anglosphere. But I also want JWN readers to stay keenly alive to the tragedies and costs of war, everywhere. In 2006– and still, today.



‘Remembering Qana, five years on’ originally posted on Just World News here:

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