The author is a poet and former public information officer at the United Nations. Born in Palestine, he is an American citizen and lives in New York. He wrote this piece at my request.
By Yousef Hamdan
The pictures of dozens of children pulled out from under the rubble in Qana, Lebanon streamed out of TV screens and caused maddening outrage in millions of homes throughout the Middle East. Qana was not just another town. The massacre of its people in 1996 is still imprinted in the collective memory.
In the morning, demonstrators stormed the UN building in Beirut and Gaza. In many cites in the Arab world, men women and children took to the streets denouncing George Bush and his friends in the Arab World. On Sunday morning, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council and urged it to condemn the attack on Qana.
After a day of consultations, the council failed to condemn the massacre. US Ambassador John Bolton blocked it from doing so. Only a few days earlier the Israeli delegate proclaimed Mr. Bolton a member of his delegation to the UN!
Just before the air strike on Qana on July 27th, 2006, Israeli Justice Minister, Haim Ramon, a close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told Israeli Army Radio: "All those now in South Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah." Ramon also said "villages should be flattened by the Israeli air force before ground troops move in."
Anyone who thought Qana may have been another “accident” should think again. If this was not a war crime, what is? Yet the Bush administration insists it must go without rebuke.
When you hear people in the Middle East calling talk shows on TV and screaming in outrage against their inept leaders and the US president, you sense a volcano about to erupt. They know the US is the only Member State blocking the UN from calling for a ceasefire; a ceasefire on the civilians in Lebanon, its basic infrastructure and every means of civilized existence. They heard Chief of Staff Halutz saying Lebanon’s clock will be turned back 20 years.
Yet the US thinks a ceasefire is not a good thing - yet. Instead, the US rushed laser-guided bombs to Israel. In their haste, they forgot to tell Tony Blair they would be using British airports for the delivery of the bombs.
Earlier this month the US cast yet another veto, killing a draft resolution calling on Israel to stop its onslaught on the Gaza strip. Civilians are killed every day in the besieged strip, without electricity, food or medicine. But while that receives wide coverage in the Middle East, the US media pays little attention. A UN delegate from the region said Monday that the children who witnessed Qana ten years ago are those who are now launching rockets on Israeli towns.
Bold headlines throughout the Middle East announced that the US Congress almost unanimously backs Israel’s onslaught on Lebanon. Israeli press is filled with commentary indicating this war is a US war by proxy. One Israeli news commentator revealed that a Republican fundraiser, close to the Bush administration telephoned Israeli officials and urged them to “deliver the goods” and achieve a clear victory.
Now that the “beacon of democracy” called Iraq has not delivered the “goods," a “war president” must have another war with a possible successful outcome. After all this is an election year. Not by accident, Mr. Bush, Monday in Florida, called the war in Lebanon part of the War on Terror. Was the milk factory in Beirut, destroyed by air strikes, a terrorist target?
In the meantime, one third of Israel’s citizens continue to suffer in shelters and a third of those are refugees. As guns will go silent, the vast segments of Israeli society living in poverty will expand and get poorer. On the other hand, the American-Israeli military industrial complex will get a windfall out of this war. We - the American taxpayers - will pay the bill.
Why do they hate us?
A friend in the region called me a few days ago and asked how I could continue to live in the US? I tried to explain that America is not this Bush, nor is it this Congress. Most Americans are waiting to wake up from this nightmare.