Monday, August 14, 2006

Messages, mixed and otherwise

Israeli jets announced Israel’s official acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 – calling for a cessation of hostilities – by bombing Beirut’s southern suburbs 20 times within two minutes.

The Israeli Cabinet’s decision had just appeared as breaking news on the TV broadcasts when the bombing started. Over the next few minutes – as the bombs continued to explode, and as the kids ran inside yelling, and as I flipped through all the channels trying to figure out where they were hitting – the breaking news continued with the specifications of who had voted how in the Israeli Cabinet.

“The Israeli (BOMB) Cabinet has announced its accep(BOMB)tance of Resolution (BOMB) 1701. The ceasefire (BA-BOMB) will take effect (BOMB) as of 0800 tomorr(BOMB-BOMB)ow morning local time (BOMB). The Israeli Minis(BOMB)ter of Defense abstained (BOMB BA-BOMB) from voting (BOMB).”

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The other night, R. tried to talk to an Israeli.

“I figured, the Israeli military is always calling our phone lines with recorded messages, writing comments on our blogs, dropping flyers onto our streets, saying they don’t have partners for peace and all that crap… So I decided to see what they’re like, you know, to talk to them personally.

“So I went onto some of the IRC internet chat rooms and tried to find an Israeli. But I couldn’t find any Israeli who would agree to chat with me, so then I entered a chat room called ‘Israel’.

“But I guess the program recognized my internet connection address as coming from Lebanon, because I didn’t even get a chance to write anything. They kicked me out, directly.”

“How did they kick you out? The program closed on you?”

“No, they kicked me out, and a box appeared on the screen saying ‘Shit-listed!’”

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There’s a new joke going around Beirut.

- What does it mean when Hizbullah leader Nasrallah makes the victory sign on TV?
- That there are still two buildings standing in southern Beirut.

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The other day the Israeli army dropped propaganda fliers over Beirut, again. The message, like always, was about Hizbullah. But it didn’t really matter.

The fliers, white pieces of paper, came drifting down slowly. It was one of the rare sunny days – most days the skies are full of the smoke from collapsed and burning buildings – and the papers sparkled in the sun as they fell. Thousands? Hundred of thousands? Without the context of daily bombings, atrocities and starving families, it was almost beautiful, like a surreal moment in an Asian art film.

The sky filled, and still they fell. And then the streets filled with children. Refugees staying in West Beirut, they ran around, skipping and laughing, grabbing at the falling papers and spinning around.

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So the big international aid agencies have all arrived by now, their fancy international crisis staff in tow. A friend, a doctor who’s helping coordinate medicine distribution between the government and the aid agencies, shows up to dinner in a foul mood.

“These stupid foreigners. They think we’re completely backwards. Don’t they know that we’re a developed country?

“They don’t know that you can just ask any Lebanese mother which medications her son needs, and she’ll know. They don’t know that you don’t need to go around offering immunizations because everyone’s already had their shots. They don’t know that they don’t need to bring truck drivers to deliver their medicines because we know how to drive here!

“Would someone please send them a message before they come next time telling them that Lebanon is not Djibouti?!”

August 13, 2006

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