Friday, February 22, 2008

Lebanon Update: Liberation Hero Eulogized; Letter From Hannah

A liberation hero to Lebanese masses

Thousands mourn Hezbollah military leader

By John Catalinotto
Published Feb 21, 2008 7:46 PM

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, on Feb. 14 to praise and mourn Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, who had been assassinated in Damascus, Syria, two days earlier.

In contrast to this massive sympathetic outpouring of Lebanese people, the corporate media and imperialist officials, especially in the U.S., have denounced Mughniyeh as a “master terrorist.” But this is how the oppressors have viewed every military leader of the oppressed, from the rebel slave Spartacus in ancient Rome to Nat Turner and beyond.

Mughniyeh was a leader of the military wing of Hezbollah, which has fought Israel’s occupation of Lebanon since 1982. Israel’s secret police, the Mossad, and the U.S. CIA had been hunting him since 1983, when he allegedly planned truck-bomb attacks on barracks housing U.S. Marines and French troops occupying Lebanon. The U.S. had reportedly put a price of from $5 million to $25 million on Mughniyeh’s head.

According to Hezbollah and other anti-imperialist organizations in the region, it was Mossad that carried out the assassination.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, general secretary of Hezbollah, eulogized Mughniyeh and praised his role in fighting for liberation, saying that tens of thousands would rise up to replace the martyr. He called the killing of Mughniyeh “a big mistake” that would be avenged and said the struggle may be extended beyond Israel-occupied territory and Lebanon.

Nasrallah said that in the war of 2006, Hezbollah exposed the weaknesses of the Israelis. At that time, the Lebanese resistance—a coalition that included other groups, like the Lebanese Communist Party, but with Hezbollah as the leading force—successfully defended Lebanon from an Israeli invasion.

Nasrallah pointed out in his funeral speech that the Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion, a founder of the state of Israel, had written that Israel would fall after its first defeat in a war. He added that the recently released Winograd report—about an inquiry by Israel into the 2006 war—admitted that this war was Israel’s first real defeat. These facts were the basis for Nasrallah’s statement that “The blood of Imad Mughniyeh will eliminate [Israel].”

Reactions from diverse groups condemn Israel, U.S.

In the Syrian capital, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine blamed the Israelis for the killing, which they vowed to avenge.

Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s television channel, said that Mughniyeh exhausted Israel for a quarter of a century and called his death a loss to Lebanon and Palestine.

Usamah Hamdan, representative of the Hamas movement in Lebanon, said, “The crime is a direct offshoot of the campaign being launched by the U.S. administration against the resistance forces in the region.”

Abu-Imad al-Rifa’i, representative of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Lebanon, said that “The blood of martyr Imad will breathe new life in, and unleash, the jihad and struggle of our people in Palestine.” He added that “The blood of the martyrs in the Islamic resistance in Lebanon flows together with the blood that is being spilled in Palestine.”

Dr. Hazim Abu-Shanab, a Fatah movement leader in Gaza, said: “All the assassinations committed by the Israeli occupation state against the Palestinians, Lebanese and all others are criminal acts that violate international law and can never be tolerated. All the resistance factions should aid one another.”

“The stamp of the criminal [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak is on this cowardly operation, for which, God willing, he will personally pay a heavy price,” said the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

Other media reported that Lebanese Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, who has been allied with Hezbollah, said, “The assassination of Muganiyeh is a clear aggression on Lebanon and Syria.”

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani condemned the U.S. and Israel for welcoming Mughniyeh’s assassination, saying the car bomb that killed him was an act of terrorism.

U.S., Israeli role

The Israeli state has assassinated many Palestinian and other Arab liberation leaders over the decades, sometimes openly taking credit for these terrorist acts. While this time the Israeli government denied it had killed the historic Hezbollah leader, both members of the Knesset (Parliament) and the Israeli media celebrated Mughniyeh’s death as a victory for the Israeli state. White House statements also celebrated the military leader’s death.

Veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery wrote on Feb. 16 of the orgy of self-congratulation in the Israeli media over Mughniyeh’s killing, despite the Israeli government’s official denial. He described Israel as being expert in high technology but even more expert in “liquidations.” He pointed out how earlier liquidations—such as that of Hezbollah General Secretary Abbas Mussawi in 1992 by U.S.-built helicopter gunships—roused the same orgy of self-satisfaction in Israel, but had only led to an increase of strength for Hezbollah.

White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe would say only that he was “not familiar with the circumstances of the death,” when asked if the U.S. had played any role in the assassination. (New York Times, Feb. 14) Al-Jazeera television said the U.S. had mounted several secret operations in recent years that had repeatedly tried to capture or kill Mughniyeh, but without success.

Mughniyeh was on the FBI’s list of “most wanted terrorists” and had been indicted in the U.S. for his alleged role in planning the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner. He was accused of an unbelievably large number of military actions, the most dramatic being the bombings of barracks of foreign troops occupying Lebanon in October 1983 that killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers.

At that time, the Reagan administration and the Mitterrand government in France had sent the youth of their countries to be cannon fodder in an imperialist occupation of Lebanon. The explosions at the barracks drove them out. It should be no surprise then, that Mughniyeh, assuming he was responsible, became a hero and martyr for the Lebanese while being called a “terrorist” by the imperialist oppressors.

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February 13, 2008

Letter From Hannah Mermelstein

I left Lebanon more than a week ago and am only now starting to find
words. I have never before been in a place that has seen so much war.

Occupation, yes. Injustice, yes. Death and destruction and
uncertainty, perhaps. But something felt different about Lebanon. I
have not wrapped my mind around it enough to feel confident that what I write will accurately represent my own thoughts, let alone the
actual situation. But I do want to tell you about Nahr el Bared.

You may have heard of Nahr el Bared, one of the Palestinian refugee
camps in the north of Lebanon, when the Lebanese army almost
completely destroyed it this past summer. All of the residents were
forced to leave, made refugees for at least the second time, and most people are still forbidden by the army from returning.

I visited the area with a friend who has spent a lot of time there. We stopped first at Bedawi refugee camp, where many of Nahr el Bared's residents are living inside the UN schools (because of this, the schools have been closed since the beginning of the school year).

I have never seen such obvious displacement. People have reconstructed a sort of life in this school, with different families in different rooms, or often many families in one room with a tarp separating them. All their belongings are there, with makeshift closets and bureaus for clothes and small ovens to cook food.

The schoolyard is full of clotheslines and small stores sell snacks at the base of the school. Life almost seems normal, the setting completely absurd. I could blink and imagine the people back in their camp, or even in their villages that they have not seen since 1948.

I think about my association with the word "refugee." It should, by
definition and by international law, be temporary. And yet my
experience with refugees has been with Palestinian people in West Bank refugee camps, relatively developed communities where people have been living for 60 years and which are not entirely dissimilar to the towns around them, with the exception of the narrow streets and fewer services.

I realize that "Palestinian refugee" to me has been a stationary, permanent identity. This does not reflect justice or people's desires, but it does reflect a certain current reality. Not so in Lebanon, and most of all in the displaced communities of Nahr el Bared residents.

When we arrived in Nahr el Bared itself, it was like a ghost town. A
deliberately created ghost town, virtually empty of people and full of
shelled and collapsed homes. We stood on a roof near the entrance.

To the left was a beautiful snow-covered mountain, to the right the
Mediterranean Sea, and in the center thousands of empty, destroyed
homes. The teenage boys who had invited us to the roof are among the few families who have been allowed back into the camp. "Even Israel doesn't destroy like this, does it?" they asked, as they watched their new pigeons fly in circles around the house. I thought of Rafah
(Gaza), the only place I have been that resembles the destruction of
Nahr el Bared. But even the destruction of Rafah was not of this

We walked around the camp, which I dare to call beautiful in many
ways. A river runs through the middle, and the camp is on the sea.
There is more green than I have ever seen in a refugee camp. My
friend described to me how Nahr el Bared is one of the more
traditional camps, that many communities find themselves resisting
with weapons or giving up altogether, but here the resistance has been in the preservation of culture and traditions, like wedding rituals at the river.

Again, I could blink and imagine the camp as the vibrant community
that it was until May. And I could feel a taste of pre-1948
Palestinian life that I have only occasionally felt while walking
through the lands of destroyed villages with Nakba survivors

A small block of temporary UN housing holds a few hundred people. We walked through the area, gathering a small entourage of children as we went. "Where are you from?" a little girl asked one of us. "Chicago," responded one of the members of our group. "I'm from Saffourieh," said the girl. I turned around and asked her, "From

I wanted to make sure I had heard right. This young girl has
given the name of a destroyed village inside present-day Israel that
not only has she never been to, but I have. While some of
Saffourieh's residents apparently fled to Lebanon, others fled only a
few miles away and currently live in Nazareth. I have visited the
land with some of these people.

At the only public clinic in the camp, we met a man who told us he was the last doctor to leave the camp and the first to return. The clinic is open 24 hours a day, and the staff work as volunteers. They barely have money for medicine.

We began to talk with the doctors, and it turns out one of them is
originally from Saffourieh as well. Which is to say that his parents
were displaced from Saffourieh in 1948. He has never been. We told him that we had been there, and he began to ask questions: "What does it look like?" "What do the Israelis call it now?" "Do people live there?" We told him what we know. "If only I could go…" he said. When we left, he said he hopes to see us again, next time in his village of Saffourieh.

We walked out of the clinic, trudged through the mud away from the
destruction and towards the checkpoint at the entrance of the camp.
Refugees are refugees, I thought, people displaced from their
communities by force. Whether they have carried this identity for a
few months or several decades, whether they have been displaced once or twice or many times over, their right to return is sacred.

Whether to Nahr el Bared or to Palestine, the choice to return should be theirs. Because, unfortunately, I can blink and imagine their
settings transformed as many times as I want, but it is no more
effective than clicking my heels together and wishing them home.

For more on Nahr el Bared, including photos, visit

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