Massacre at Qana

In the spring of 1996, the Israeli army bombed the Lebanese village of Qana, southeast of Tyre, killing more than 150 civilians and injuring 4 UN soldiers. Now, only ten years later, the brutalized people of Qana have had to pay again for crimes they didn’t commit: On Sunday, the IDF bombed a three-story building in Qana in which refugees had taken shelter, killing sixty people, among them 37 young children.

Some pictures have been posted on Flickr, and I urge you to take a look. Please do not close your eyes to this massacre.

Predictably, Prime Minister Olmert expressed “deep sorrow” for the deaths, but said his government would continue with the bombing. There are accusations that the civilians were put there because Hizbollah was using them as ‘human shields’ and that, therefore, the fault lies with Hizbollah, not Israel. Furthermore, the Israeli government has sought to deflect blame by saying that the village had been leafleted and that civilians had been warned to flee.

Setting aside Olmert’s crocodile tears, what exactly does he hope to accomplish by killing innocent Lebanese civilians? Does he seriously expect that the terrorized families of the dead will suddenly say, “You are right, we are wrong, and we will disavow Hizbollah and force it to disarm”?? The exact opposite will happen (in fact, has started to happen.) Olmert would do well to remember that Hizbollah did not spring into being out of thin air. It was created after the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Children who were six years old in 1982 are now 30, and it’s a safe bet that some of them are part of Hizbollah.

I do not know what will come out of the third invasion of 2006, but I do know it will not be a pacifist movement. It will only be more terror, and more war.

As for the claim that Hizbollah was using civilians as human shields, I would urge you all to read this article by Mitch Prothero in Salon that debunks the theory. He writes: “Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators — as so many Palestinian militants have been.” In addition, if you look at this map of Israeli bombing, you will see that the entire country has been hit. Most cities and villages, not to mention roads connecting them, have been bombed.

Lastly, the idea that if you leaflet people then you are absolved of responsibility is as callous as it is immoral. How were people supposed to leave when the roads linking their village to others were bombed? (This argument reminded me of those who blamed the victims of Hurricane Katrina for not leaving.)

The justification for the bombing was that Israel was responding to shelling from that site. This account has been disputed by eyewitnesses, and if you look at the Flickr pictures, you can see that all the victims were found barefoot, in their pyjamas. They were killed while they slept. How could they have slept if there had been shelling from their end just prior to the Israeli bombing?

Despite appearances, I do not believe that this is a war between Jews and Muslims. The events unfolding at the moment really aren’t about whether you believe that it was Ismael or Isaac who was sacrificed on the altar by Abraham; it isn’t about whether you believe you should fast for one day of atonement or for thirty days of reflection; it isn’t about whether you should pray at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa or at the Western Wall. It’s about much more prosaic things, like land and water, like guns and money. And yet, the identities color everything. The privilege of criticizing is doled out by those who see identity politics everywhere. If you’re Muslim and you decry the Israeli bombing, then it means you’re supporting Hizbollah. If you’re Jewish and you decry the Israeli bombing, then it means you’re not patriotic, and you don’t understand that the Muslims will always hate you, blah, blah, blah. I am sick of it all.

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