The empire leaves Beirut to burn


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I don't want to be caught violating any copyright laws, so I'm copy-pasting only a few lines from this article by Robert Fisk (it originally appeared in The Independent). Read the whole piece here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The empire leaves Beirut to burn


In the year 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus -- headquarters of the imperial East Mediterranean Roman fleet -- was struck by a massive earthquake. Then, the sea withdrew several miles and the survivors, ancestors of the present-day Lebanese, walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.

That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation to every family left alive.

Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered everyone in the city. In World War I, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine; the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain, and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of sticklike children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.

An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads ... "

How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and rise from the grave and die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace.

I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.


Fairouz, the most popular Lebanese singer, was to perform at this year's Baalbek festival, cancelled like all Lebanon's festivals. One of her most popular songs is dedicated to her native city:

To Beirut -- peace to Beirut with all my heart
And kisses -- to the sea and clouds,
To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.
From the soul of her people she makes wine,
From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.
So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?

(Robert Fisk, who writes for The Independent of Britain, has lived in Beirut for 30 years.)
« Last Edit: 07 Aug, 2006, 18:51:58 by wings »


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Σ' αυτόν το σύνδεσμο, άλλο ένα ενδιαφέρον άρθρο· και ευχαριστώ τη συμμοδερατόρισσα που μου το γνωστοποίησε.


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Από αυτόν τον τελευταίο σύνδεσμο, Νίκο, απομονώνω μια παράγραφο που τα λέει όλα:

So, while it certainly was not the most clever action that Hezbollah has perpetrated, taking two Israeli soldiers prisoner was not terrorism, although raining Katyusha rockets indiscriminately down on civilians certainly is a form of it.

But how is that different from Israeli planes and artillery killing civilians in Lebanon--or, for that matter, in Gaza? Israel claims that the civilian deaths are collateral damage of attacks on Hezbollah, but apart from the morality and legality, the math defies these excuses. Current Israeli deaths run roughly one civilian dead for two military dead. The far higher Lebanese casualties are running at around ten civilian dead (including three children) for every claimed Hezbollah victim. The continuing nature of those casualties suggests, as Kofi Annan told the Security Council last week, that there is a "pattern of breaches of international law." His view was backed up even forcefully by NGOs like Human Rights Watch.

« Last Edit: 14 Aug, 2006, 02:00:36 by wings »
Ο λόγος είναι μεγάλη ανάγκη της ψυχής. (Γιώργος Ιωάννου)


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