08/12/2006 12:54 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Beirut's New Geography, Hezbollah's Advice to Palestinian Israelis

Well, now I'm dead tired. How much worse can things get? I spoke to my friend Moe again today, whom I hope will start sending in some reports from Beirut in the near future to this space as it would be good to have an on the ground perspective again. His neighborhood, which is in a neighborhood that has generally not been hit by the IDF, was hit yesterday when they took out an old, unused Radio Lebanon antenna that the government never bothered to take down. Moe explained that in the last week or so the geography of Beirut has changed drastically. It's not just what the Israelis have destroyed, it's what they could destroy and probably will destroy in the near future, that is forcing everyone to find new routes to get to places inside Beirut (getting out of Beirut is almost impossible now since Israel destroyed most of the bridges in and out of the city). So now he has to drive around with his neck crained upwards so he can see if the next block in any direction has any buildings with radio or tv or even mobile antennas on them. If they do, he tries to figure out another route to his destination because you never know when the next strike will come. Just one small vignette from life in Beirut during wartime, but Moe doesn't complain because at least he has a home, and even a city, left to navigate. For the residents of the south, this is often not the case.

Of course, for the residents of northern Israel, even if relatively few buildings have been destroyed, they too are living in constant fear of attack, especially in Palestinian-majority towns, in which the government never bothered to build shelters (let's not even get started on the implications of this fact. Needless to say, they don't reflect the official discourse of full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel). But one recent development points to a similar lack of concern for Palestinians by their supposed champion: Hezbollah. As many of you might have read, Nasrallah in the last few days offered this plea to his Palestinian brethren:

"I have a special message to the Arabs of Haifa, to your martyrs and to your wounded. I call you to leave this city. I hope you do this. ... Please leave so we don't shed your blood, which is our blood."

How nice of him! If there ever was needed more evidence of what a humanitarian he is, and why the Western Left should continue its well-conceived drift towards supporting Hezbollah as the world's great hope against imperialisms big and small (see my article, "Has the Left Gone Mad," for a more detailed critique of this phenomenon), it is surely his demonstration of concern for his Palestinian sisters and brothers, who share his blood.

But wait, what happens if like so many of the Lebanese bombed into dust by Israel after receiving warnings to run (shades of 1948, anyone?), Palestinians can't leave? Is it then legal to shed their blood according to his interpretation (or perhaps Ayatollah Fadlallah's, the unofficial spiritual leader of Hezbollah) of Shar'ia? Maybe because they'll become martyrs it's no big deal, at least to him. The pictures of the Palestinian funerals, however, would suggest that Palestinians are following a different school of Islamic law on this one, and not just because their Sunnis and he's a Shi'i. Either way, I'd suggest Nasrallah read Yossi Sarid's critique of Israeli bombings of Lebanese civilian areas before his next rocket attack, which can be found here

As readers of previous posts know, I am currently trying to resurrect the "peace ship" that the Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan ran off the coast of Israel and Lebanon for twenty years from 1973 till 1993, only to scuttle the boat when the Oslo accords were signed because he'd run out of money, and according to some reports, felt his work was done). Our goal is to break the blockade of Lebanon by sailing into Beirut Harbor, bringing in relief supplies, medicines, and the like, as well as a "non-violent peace force" to go in and try to stop the fighting somehow. And then we'd go to Haifa to bring supplies to Jewish and Palestinian victims, and then break the siege of Gaza--if you're going to dream, why dream small? Some of the Israeli DJs from the original ship have already signed on and many friends in Beirut and around the world are ready to join us, but of course we have no ship. And Greenpeace already committed the Rainbow Warrior to other shores after its next delivery to Beirut this weekend. So if anyone has a Greek uncle in the shipping business (really) please let me know. Of course the Lebanese are ready to meet the boat, and they can't understand why no one else is willing to challenge the blockade (although in a similar vein, several dozen Lebanese civil society activists joined by international activists from the International Solidarity Movement and Code Pink, are bringing a relief supplies caravan down to southern Lebanon from Beirut this weekend, basically daring the Israelis to blow them up since Israel has announced it will shoot any vehicles it sees on the road).

Why I mention this is that while I and friends around the globe are sitting up at 3am trying to figure out creative ways to solve the current war, it seems that almost two dozens young Muslim Britons have been equally creative in the last few months (or years). Only their minds were set to the task of figuring out how to smuggle liquids onto planes that could then be mixed together in such a way as to blow up the plane. How brilliant! Except that this plan was thought of a decade ago or more so it's not that original. And perhaps even more important, it would not seem to be the best way to end suffering and oppression. Instead, it's allowed George Bush and friends to deploy their latest catch-phrase for the war on terror, "Islamic fascism," hoping that this, along with the latest threat, will scare Americans enough into acquiescing in another trillion or so being spent in Iraq and elsewhere (but not, of course, where it's needed, like our ports and other still insecure points of entry to the US) to bolster the profits of his corporate sponsors in the defense and oil industries. That Americans don't remember what fascism is, and have no idea what "Islamic" is, will probably relegate this new description to the same dust bin as his last one (which I don't even remember, but I think he used it in a recent state of the union speech after the Axis of Evil was no longer proving as efficacious as it had been previously).

Just think of how many of the world's problems, including terrorism and the poverty, inequality and other factors that help produce it, could be solved if the young men in Britain (as my wife points out, why is it always, or at least mostly, men who do these kinds of things like terrorism and war?) and the older ones at the Pentagon could put their obvious creativity towards good use instead of evil? And it would be nice if more religious leaders on all sides would urge them to do so, instead of finding justifications for the opposite. That's a nice dream to get some sleep on...