But although it was predicted, expected, and even played-out like a miserable repeat episode in the southern village of Qana – the site of an earlier massacre by the Israeli Air Force in 1996 – it is still awful, it is still wrong, it is still evil, and it is still avoidable.
The facts will come trickling in, preceded by the excuses: the Israeli military will insist the civilians were warned, will insist Hizbullah fired from the village first; Hizbullah will deny firing from houses, will argue the Israeli drones, above the village all day, had recorded the civilians’ presence; the remaining, bereaved family members will say, again, how they had nowhere to go, no way to leave, and that the roads out have been unremittingly bombed for the past week.
But none of it will matter. Not to those who make callous, calculated decisions from their comfortable, removed safety, nor to those who sell and deliver the weapons. The innocents suffer, and only the impotent care.
The families will grieve. The children will grow up without their mothers. The memorial at Qana, already displaying the coffins of 106 civilian deaths, will swell by at least 55 more, at least 20 of them children’s sized. And the atrocities, tacitly and repeatedly permitted, will continue.
We need to find a way to make this stop. Not just in this war, nor just for this region. If justice cannot be served, cannot be used as an effective deterrent, then a new answer is needed. If we, the outraged, cannot offer anything better than official, inarticulate platitudes, then we are also to blame as the cycle of violence swells again. We must be more than pained voyeurs.
For today, an immediate ceasefire is needed. Let the dead be buried, let the families grieve, let food, water and medicines be delivered to the isolated villages in the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon. For tomorrow, we must do something more.
July 30, 2006