how the world sees america

An American Sister & Israeli Bombs

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BEIRUT - The day Zeina's sister Dina returned to Lebanon from the U.S., bombs began raining down on Beirut.

By the time her sister fled Lebanon days later, Zeina found herself torn between loyalty to her Lebanese homeland, and her long-held vision of someday enjoying a peaceful, prosperous life in America.

Zeina, a twenty-three-year-old anthropology masters student at the American University of Beirut, remembers her mixed emotions during the July War of 2006, when Israel launched an aerial offensive in response to the seizing of two Israeli soldiers by the Islamist movement Hezbollah.

Zeina's sister Dina happened to arrive at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri airport on the first day of the war. Israeli planes bombed it the following morning. Dina, a dual U.S.-Lebanese citizen, is a forty-year-old gastroenterologist at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Ohio. She's lived in the U.S. for thirteen years, and has two American daughters, eight and eleven years old, who came with her on this trip.

"Dina comes with a tornado. Everybody runs around the house talking and smiling," says Zeina who eagerly awaits Dina's annual return. Dina sister always brings lots of presents -- shoes and clothes from Macy's. But with war breaking out, "I just looked at the presents -- they were really beautiful, but I didn't feel anything,” Zeina says. “I was just worried they'd bomb the house and I'd lose them."

Dina decided that war wouldn’t dampen her visit to Lebanon. She wanted to spend time at the family's home in the south, just north of the Litani River. She had spent much of her childhood there amidst the apple orchards, swimming in the river beneath the Jabal al Rafi'a Mountain. So Zeina, Dina, the kids, and the rest of the family drove south.

Airport_Beirut_Fire_2006.jpg
Beirut's Rafik Hariri airport on fire on July 13, 2006.

But the bombing down there only got worse. The mountain flamed in the distance, struck by multiple blasts. Supersonic Israeli jets zoomed overhead, unleashing thunderous claps that frightened the children and brought back horrible memories for Zeina, who had fled the town during a previous Israeli strike when she was just ten years old. The family tried to celebrate Dina's return, refusing to turn on the TV during the day and always smiling when the children were around, despite the explosions in the distance.

But Zeina watched the news when no one was around. She turned on al-Jazeera and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and saw flattened villages and exploded cars with children's limbs hanging out the windows. Then she switched to CNN and saw none of that. Instead, she saw Condoleezza Rice, "smiling and saying this was the beginning of a new Middle East." Zeina was sickened, irate that America was not demanding a ceasefire. "[Rice] was not ashamed to say that! Maybe she wasn't watching the news."

Turning from the TV, Zeina watched her young nieces, who don't speak Arabic, and didn’t understand what was going on. How would they remember this event when they grew up? Would they feel the tension from being Lebanese-American one day?

After two and a half days, the family decided they had to leave because the south was too unsafe. They distributed the breadwinners into two separate cars in case one got struck and headed to Faraya, a predominantly Christian community in the Northern mountains they thought would be safe.

But even there, Dina decided she could no longer put her young children at risk. She took her girls and drove to Syria, then returned home to the U.S. Zeina remained behind with their parents.

Off they went, to "this better, safer, more prosperous place. For me, this beautiful place, The States. And I stayed behind watching these terrible conditions." They saw “peace and prosperity,” while she saw ,"America as foreign policy…like a monster…[acting] as if people are worth nothing here…just to provide security for Israel."

But she adds, "I know it is not America, as Americans. It is the administration doing it. I can separate this easily." Still, Zeina says she feels that Americans should pay more attention to the foreign policies of their government. "They have a responsibility to pay attention to what their administration does abroad. Too many people’s lives are at stake.”

“This war made many people in Lebanon angry at America." she says. But Zeina doesn’t want the experience of the war and U.S. behavior during it to affect her decision on whether or not to spend time in America. “I still want to go to the U.S., get a good education, maybe a PhD, feel satisfied," she says. With three siblings already in the U.S., spending time in America feels almost inevitable.

“But is it wrong?" she wonders. "Because if I invest my money and work [in the U.S.] and my money goes to the administration, it might be used for this [for war]. Maybe it is not right.”

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Tantor:

I'm not too impressed by Zeina's shifting of the blame for the Lebanon War to America. Besides the kidnapping of the two soldiers, which precipitated the war, Hezbollah had shot 500 rockets into Israel in the months immediately before the Israeli reaction. Yet, I hear no mention of that by any Arab Muslim anywhere, as if any aggression by Hezbollah is simply invisible.

Of course, any country is going to react to a barrage of rockets raining down on their civilians. I am very much struck by the moral obtuseness of Arab Muslims with respect to this provocation. It's as if they believe they have the right to attack anyone but any counter-attack is an act of aggression.

There was a demonstration here in DC right in front of the White House against the Lebanon War which was really a pro-Hezbollah rally by Muslims, mostly immigrants and first generation. I heard everyone blamed for this war except Hezbollah: Israel, America, Bush, transnational corporations, the dollar, General Electric, etc.

The experience leads me to dismiss anything said by Arab Muslims as reflexively biased. These are not a fair-minded people who can honestly balance both sides of an argument. They demagogue every position, which they have arrived at through irrational prejudice and religious bigotry.

It was telling that I saw two groups of Jews there, marching with the Muslims against Israel's war. I did not see one Muslim dissenting from the orthodox Hezbollah position. I was not favorably impressed by such rigid, lockstep conformity in thought.

SAM:

Israel is nothing but another South africa of the Middle East.The only solution for this chronic Dlemma is establishing one secular country on all the land of Historical Palestine for Jews,Moslems and Christians with equal rights and responsibilities and without any kind of descrimination

Vic van Meter:

Thanks Hussein for the links. I read Al-Jazeera's English version every so often to try to get their spoke on the wheel, but I can never find the crazy ones in English. Always in Yiddish or Arabic. I guess when you're talking about holy war, it's best not to do it in a language us monolingual Americans will understand.

Tom Miller:

I'm sure that U.S. popularity in Lebanon is very low but I'm not sure if it's deserved as presented here.

I agree that Israel over-reacted and that the Bush administration, trusting once again that traditional military might would destroy Hezbollah under estimated obviously the amount of money and weapons that had been smuggled into Lebanon via Syria from Iran for a long time. It all meant a very dirty and bigger war than estimated.

So, we have the spectacle today of Nasrallah as Shia hero of the people even though he triggered the conflict because (1) he stood his ground (2) he kept his weapons and (3) he has a lot of foreign Iranian money to rebuild once again the damaged Shia infrastructure. And don't forget those ever present assassinations by the Syrian secret police of anyone who questions their influence. Might and money seem to make right in Lebanon.

Personally, I'm sympathetic to the Lebanese people who unfortunately have to try to exist in this air of hatred and political hypocracy from all sides. I believe, however, that it's too simplistic to place the blame on the U.S. or it's media. Hezbollah, not Israel and the U.S. started this conflict and given the success that Nasrallah and Hezbollah are having in the post-war period surely somebody in the Mid-East is wondering just how much they wanted the war in the first place.

Hussein, AUB:

Omar: whatever 'suggestions' you get about which news outlets to watch are probably bogus. Each outlet inevitably has some sort of bias. Some Israeli online newspapers (and by some, I only mean Haaretz, to tell you the truth) have less pro-Zionist propaganda in them than Arab ones (Al Arabiya, LBC, etc).

What you need is to: a) Specify which region's news you want to follow. And then b) Know which websites to read to give you a comprehensive understanding.

Personally, I recommend 5 websites for the Middle East itself, if that's what you're interested in:

Al Jazeera English... This one is arguably moderate with slight pro-Arab bias. The reporting isn't false, it just focuses on some issues more than others.
english.aljazeera.net

Palestine-Info... This one is purely pro-Hamas. It IS pretty biased, but then again, these are the opposing viewpoints you never hear.
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/en

Haaretz... Doesn't represent a great deal of Israelis, but it IS moderately less biased. At least it's better than Fox news lol.
www.haaretz.com

YNet News... This also represents a fair amount of Israelis. It's an english version of Yediot Ahronoth. Very right wing, very hard-line if you ask me. You be the judge.
www.ynetnews.com

BBC- Middle East... Most objective of the bunch? Probably not. But it at least tries to come off that way. Still pretty interesting.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/default.stm

Enjoy, and hope these give you a better idea about what is really being said in this part of the world, and you should really read all of them to have some kind of idea about what's going on.

Take care

Omar:

If I cannot trust the news I see here in america where should I look? I want to know the truth about what is happening outside my country but everyone seems to have a different version. Can anyone cite a reliable source?

zeina:

emiline , i agree with you, actually i was being cynical when i said that , bec i was specifically thinking of the 1 (or 6) billions dollars from american citizens' taxes that are spent in the iraq war each year, did u know that that is the amount of money that the US needs for the reformation of the health care system. ( i was really thinking abt the homeless and the poor in America as well as in the middle east.
pappy ,it is a good thing for people to think about where their effort and money goes, it is good to be dedicated to ur country but it is not good to be manipulated or fooled ,true in america as in anywhere else.
others:
there is a dominant negative discourse about islam and muslims on the media,if you are really interested to know and talk abt issues of the world , u shopuld consider doing some research it s sad really that a lot of u have these stereotypical image of muslims
( but some of you are just purely racist , i must say ).
one other thing , if u have never been to lebanon , ur really not competent enough to comment on what was happening here bec u havent seen anything on tv, i assure you .
take care .



Anonymous:

emiline , i agree with you, actually i was being cynical when i said that , bec i was specifically thinking of the 1 (or 6) billions dollars from american citizens' taxes that are spent in the iraq war each year, did u know that that is the amount of money that the US needs for the reformation of the health care system. ( i was really thinking abt the homeless and the poor in America as well as in the middle east.
pappy ,it is a good thing for people to think about where their effort and money goes, it is good to be dedicated to ur country but it is not good to be manipulated or fooled ,true in america as in anywhere else.
others:
there is a dominant negative discourse about islam and muslims on the media,if you are really interested to know and talk abt issues of the world , u shopuld consider doing some research it s sad really that a lot of u have these stereotypical image of muslims
( but some of you are just purely racist , i must say ).
one other thing , if u have never been to lebanon , ur really not competent enough to comment on what was happening here bec u havent seen anything on tv, i assure you .
take care .



Joseph:

Cevans, you are obviously young. There is time for you to learn. But maybe not as much time as you think, nor as much as you might need.

Alex, why do you say our foreign policies serve us well? Is that a gut feeling, or were you going by some arguable premise? What were you doing September 11, 2001?

Hondo, were you aware that in Ferbruary, 2006, a while prior to the events you mention, Israeli soldiers crossed into Lebanon and murdered a shepherd, and that Israel violates the airspace of Lebanon daily? Are acts of war provocations only when non-Westerners commit them?

Anonymous, why don't you post your name and address here? I'd be happy to roll down into DC and slap down your punk ass.

Hondo:

Amv : Actually, Hizzbollah crosed into Israel accross the Leabanese line; killed three Israeli soliders and abucted two.

howard:

I do not see why we are giving so much money to the israelis every year. they have promised to curb their building in the west bank: they have flaunted it. religion, religion, religion. what a waste of time for some pie in the sky. get over it and learn to respect each other.

JP:

Perhaps if Nasrallah had not decided to foolishly wage war on Israel he and his movement would not have earned such a brilliant "victory"? While he spent the war hiding under Assad's bed his people bore the brunt of the attacks. How free are you to protest the occupation and colonization of Lebanon by Syria in Beirut? Not very, especially if you are a Lebanese politician. The Lebanese student highlighted in this article should consider studying in Tehran or Islamabad if her tender sensibilities are so troubled by pursuing studies in the US.

Alex:

Joseph writes:On the flip side, however, some of our foreign policies are just flatly evil.

-- well , yes but every country on the face of the earth has good and "evil" ones. In general , our foreign policies serve us well, this idea that we are more hated and less "popular" is really
a fools game. We do what we need to do.

Paul NY:

Funny, I never hear about what happens to those Lebanese who protest Hezbollah or the Syrians - Oh, that's right - they get assasinated!!

cevans:

Joseph: Wow.
Where to start? To the extent you are correct that "we regard everyone in the world as a potential American" -- that's can mean we are accepting and open-hearted, as Iraqi suggests above, or it can mean we expect everyone to do things our way, because we say so. And the "regardless of your purple skin and your three heads" thing (I know, you were kidding. Still.) is just embarrassing, a thin scrim over an essentially racist concept that "other people are different" -- just the opposite of the best part of your first point, and not what you meant, I'm sure. Please think your metaphors through, it's worth doing.
But "... Britain, which is now among the more backward of European nations" ??! WTH? In what alternate reality? Not this one.
I agree, "some of our foreign policies are just flatly evil." But you couldn't be more wrong that "it will a protracted campaign of violence against us on our home territory to get us to appreciate the wrongs we do to others outside of our borders." Didn't work so great after 9/11.
Darkness doesn't drive out darkness; only light can do that. News -- mainstream, accessible news -- of what happens in other places, will always bring us to accountability for our -- and they are ours -- collective actions.

Joseph:

My travels around the world have brought me a new appreciation of my own people, and I think the defining characteristic of an American (and the quality that, if we are lucky and not too foolish, may one day redeem us) is that we regard everyone in the world as a potential American. Whereas in every other country I have ever visited, most people regard you as an alien and expect you to stay that way, with Americans it is the opposite: we think, regardless of your purple skin and your three heads, that you belong in America, running a restaurant or an import business and mowing the lawn next door on the weekends. That's how we think, and probably among the non-psychotic soldiers in Iraq, they will start gaining an appreciation and affection for the Iraqi people, which may become our one lasting legacy from this war: that we start thinking of Arabs as human beings.

On the flip side, however, some of our foreign policies are just flatly evil. I tend to think that, in the aftermath of World War II, the British talked some of our more stupid politicians into taking on the formerly British mantle of interfering in everything around the world -- look how well that worked for Britain, which is now among the more backward of European nations. And most Americans, just out of sheer inertia, don't pay attention to the fact that our foreign policies often run directly counter to our stated national values. Possibly the Bush Administration has run so completely off course that we are beginning to recognize the problem, but I wouldn't count on it. I think it will take a protracted campaign of violence against us on our home territory to get us to appreciate the wrongs we do to others outside of our borders. I think that is what it will take, and I think that eventually that is what we will get.

Emeline:

"Because if I invest my money and work [in the U.S.] and my money goes to the administration, it might be used for this [for war]. Maybe it is not right.”

With all due respect,open your eyes my dear; the problem is surrounding any country.

For instance, France is the prominent partner of Europe, and Europe is supplying Libya (Mouammar Kadhafi) with financial assistance and food now. Are you really sure that the majority of French people enjoy indirectly investing their money there?

pappy:

“But is it wrong?" she wonders. "Because if I invest my money and work [in the U.S.] and my money goes to the administration, it might be used for this [for war]. Maybe it is not right.”
No maybe about it! This is the problem with folks who want to benifit from the greatness of America, and yet not become Americans. Pick a country, any country, and dedicate yourself to its improvement. Or just enjoy earning your PhD in America and suffer the guilt that goes along with it.

Jeha Mismar:

The real trouble with Americans is that they like a single point of contact. However, when your leaders wants to phone Lebanon, which single phone number can he call? We have emerged from 15 years of war, followed by a 15 year american sponsored occupation, you can hardly expect us to be speaking with a single voice right away. This is not to say that American should be talking to those gathered around March 8 should be talked to; after all, their "March 8" actually commemorates the rise of the house of Assad to Syria's throne. But Americans as a whole should be smarter in the choice of their leaders. They should choose leaders who know how to read, or at least how to listen to those who can. Only then can they be worthy of their country's current place in the world. Only then can their government understand the world's complexities, let alone the complexities of a society like ours which is struggling to emerge from a long coma. The summer war was just an example of how clueless the US government is... A government, by the people, for the people.

http://jehasnail.blogspot.com/

Iraqi :

I have been in the US since summer of 2006. During this period, I have realized that Americans will never be given the real stories of what is happening because of their administration.

Americans need to wake up. They have created a lot of enemies by the time they don't really deserve that. They are loving people whose friendliness is above description. Yet, the administration is spoiling all of this with its policies against Arabs.

Regards.

AMviennaVA:

Aaron: Actually Hizballah crossed the Lebanese-Syrian border, as recognized by the UN. They never crossed the Israeli border. Israel simply happens to occupy foreigh territory. What complicates the matter is that Lebanon and Syria actually consider that particular area occupied by Israel to be Lebanese territory.

So, either Hizballah did not cross an international border or they crossed into Syria. Why are there Israeli troops there? Is it a good-will mission, perhaps?

Aaron:

Hezbollah started the war.

[by crossing the border to attack Israeli soldiers (abducting two in the process) in order to take bargaining chips to exchange for Samir Kuntar.]


How do you feel about them? How did they affect your vacation? Will you be contributing less to them this Christmas season? or more?

Rizgar:

Dear Bakshi,
I am born in Turkish part of Kurdistan and use to live in Florida. In last one year I have been working in Federal Region of Kurdistan, Iraq in city of Hawler (Iraq). If you are in the region, I will be happy to see you.

Seattle_Lebanese:

First off, both parties in that war made many low blows. Both parties broke rules of war. HA contrary to public opinion and first hand observations a DIDNT use civilian shields or villages to fire their rockets from and instead used the area around the villages, such as ridges and hills to fire from. As much as I still am skeptical about Hezbollah actions in regards to their human shield tactics, official reports (I can link them) say Hezbollah is clean of this allegation.

However, unlike Israel, Hezbollah didn't notify any targeted city unless it had a substantial Arab population that it would be subjected to rocket fire. Hassan Nasrallah allowed one announcement to a city near the Lebanese border that their city would be targeted but in the broadcast, he appeals to the Arabs to flee to city, leaving out any reference to any other any non-arab or non-jewish civilians.


Several reports also came back that HA (Hezbollah for short) also targeted cities and parts of cities that had no military or military value. Despite the fact the 50 year old Russian Katusha rocket is not a very precise weapon, it was determined in these reports that HA didnt have any military target in mind and was simply looking for collateral damage.


Both parties acted very poorly in the war. Israel bombed the crap out of everything and overplayed its air power and acted very arrogantly in its manner of conduct in the war. HA didnt choose its targets wisely either and both in my opinion, had been waiting for reason to start a fight.

Had Israel invaded quickly, using the old blitzkrieg's and encircled all areas that HA operatives are known to work in, then this war would of been less bloody in regards to non combatant deaths and HA wouldnt of been able to react in time and effectively as well. The defense would of been highly unorganized and would bring back memories of the post 2000 Israeli withdraw where HA was still armed with MG and RPG in rag tag groups. HA still has yet to be free of the accusation of not hiding as civilians when in transport. There is a report coming soon as to how HA could of moved 4000 HA soldiers to an area of operation at a pace that could set a record in troops transport.

Also HA claims it never used its weapons aginst Lebanese. This claim is false. In villages that had non HA sympathetic peoples (many of them being Christian in this case) HA regarded the population as pro Zionist and shot and wounded anyone it felt was trying to escape. While no official reports had been posted in regards to this accusation, I will not believe the latter until the watch dog group


(references) http://hrw.org/reports/2007/iopt0807...#_Toc173055034 (

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Rizgar, Where is that? It is of interest. Often times these things change over a life, and expand to encompass more and more. I know Zeina has wonderful thoughts to share on the issue of identity and look forward to maybe hearing from her too. But back to you!

Rizgar:

Dear Bakshi,
I think it is matter of choice and very individualistic. I am a Kurdish American and never had dout where I am standing. But this may not be interesting for you.

VICTORIA:

for 3 days before the ceasefire israel littered thousands of cluster bomblets over the border of lebanon-
http://wakeupfromyourslumber.blogspot.com/2006/10/israel-litters-lebanon-cluster-bombs.html

U.N. experts say up to one million cluster bombs dropped by Israeli aircraft during the July-August war against Hezbollah remain unexploded in south Lebanon, where they continue to threaten civilians.

Israel still refuses to hand over maps of the locations fo the mines.

VICTORIA:

for 3 days after the ceasefire israel littered thousands of cluster bomblets over the border of lebanon-
http://wakeupfromyourslumber.blogspot.com/2006/10/israel-litters-lebanon-cluster-bombs.html

Amar C. Bakshi:

I would just ask any readers if they have dual experiences of America like Zeina. One that comes to mind is from an earlier piece I wrote about an Iranian American scientist who developed technology used for the B-2 Bomber, that he fears might one day strike Iran, while his young son wouldn't know or care when the strike begins. Just curious what you think about the issue of migration to America, and retaining connection to place of birth or parents land.

Here's the Iranian scientist post:
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/america/2007/09/scientist_fears_iranus_war.html

and this is one about Indian Americans:
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/america/2007/07/indian_american_fourth_of_july.html

Figured it might raise some issues for discussion.

Sam2:

It's really Hezbollah who is targeting Lebanese civilians, forcing them to be human shields. If Hezbollah weren't such chicken-hearted cowards, they would stand up and fight, army against army, instead of hiding in ambulances, schools and other people's apartment buildings. But, of course, if they stood up and fought like civilized people, they'd get totally pulverised by the IDF.

World Guardian Sucks:

Always nice to hear from terrorist sympathizers like World Guardian!

WORLD GUARDIAN:

Does Alex want every Arab civilian to become his enemy?

Bombing and/or otherwise inflicting damage thru collective punishment on non-guilty civilians will turn Israel into a
Nazi-like state. I doubt that this what a "Chosen People" want to resemble.

Alex:

World, yes I'd basically destroy anything/anyone connected with someone who is committed to my destruction. Something wrong with that ? I guess Hez
is yr equivalent of the boy scouts.

WORLD GUARDIAN:

Israel has deliberately chosen criminal "simpleton" logic.

In 2006 it deliberately targeted civilian Lebanese. It destroyed an entire quarter of high-rise residential building in Beirut, and sowed some 4.000.000 splinter bombs in Southern Lebanon -- made in the U.S., of course. These still maim and kill civvies.

CNN reporting differs from Al-Jazeera's, because The Bush "administration" delayed the ceasefire until it was convinced that Israel could not win this war. [John Bolton confirmed that in an interview to the BBC].

Now Israel extends its attacks on civilians to the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Already in 2005 Israeli jets over flew Gaza to cause Sonic Booms. That caused severe PTSD symptoms especially to young children, and many Palestinian women lost their unborn babies [so cherished by Bush and the Moral Majority...].

Now, Israel's "Labor" MoD, general Ehud Barak, extended Israel’s collective punishment measures - cutting electricity and fuel supply to Gaza. [Earlier Israel has destroyed Gaza's power plant and sewage treating facility earlier, and bombed Gaza's civilian airport cutting air and sea connections to the strip which houses over a million Palestinian refugees which were ethnically cleansed from Israel in its "Independence War", in 1948].

These draconic collective punishment measures have received tacit support by Cheney and Bush… and free bombs and Caterpillar bulldozers to erase Gaza homes too.

Alex:

Sam writes :"Let's not fool ourselves anymore.Israel has been the source of all problems and turmoil in the Middle East "

--So , following yr "simpleton" logic I say ..Let's not fool ourselves anymore.Palestinians have been the source of all problems and turmoil in the Middle East "

SAM:

Let's not fool ourselves anymore.Israel has been the source of all problems and turmoil in the Middle East since its illegal creation on the ruins of Palestine in 1948 until today.Our unlimited support to Israel has led into the formation of terrorist groups who are ready to sacrifice their own bodies in a holy war against Israel and the coutries that support its apartheid regime.The only way to win the war against terrorism is to stop out unlimiterd support to the zionist state,to assist Palestinian refugees return to their stolen land and belongings in the zionist state under UN resolution 194 and find a fair and adequate solution to the long standing Palestinian dilemma.

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