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Monday, April 18, 2005

Qana Massacre

"A man was lying in two pieces. There was a woman who was pregnant and I could see the arm and leg of her unborn baby poking out of her stomach. There was a man who had shrapnel in his head. He was not dead but you could see a piece of metal in his neck, like he'd had his throat cut. He told his daughter to come to help him and lift him up. And I heard her say: 'Wait a minute, I'm trying to put my brother together -- he's in two pieces.' There was another brother holding a child in his arms. The child had no head..." - Fawzieh Saad, survivor of the 18th April 1996 Qana massacre

(Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, p. 669)

When Peres had launched this latest war -- 'Grapes of Wrath' was its malign name -- we were treated to the usual nonsense about a war on 'terror', a war against 'international terror', about Israel 'not sitting idly by'. Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists; the same brainwashing that had so affected the Israeli soldiers who invaded Lebanon 14 years earlier. The Israelis firing the shells into Qana were probably schoolboys in 1982. But they still believed the same fantasies. On the very first day of the bombardment, the Israelis fired a missile at the 'Hezbollah terrorist headquarters' in Beirut. But they missed the Hezbollah's offices and the rocket beheaded a little girl in a neighbouring apartment. Then they fired at a car carrying a 'terrorist' to Beirut. But there was no 'terrorist'. Their missile killed the driver -- a young woman -- as she stopped to buy a sandwich at a shop opposite the Jiye power station.

Then just five days before the Qana massacre, another Israeli Apache helicopter pilot fired a missile into an ambulance south of Tyre. It was carrying 'terrorists', the Israelis announced. But it was not. The vehicle was packed with families fleeing their shelled village, obeying the instructions to leave which they had heard over the Israeli-run militia radio station. Two women and four young children were killed in the ambulance. I would later identify and meet every survivor. None was a member of Hezbollah. [...] But the Israelis went on claiming that 'terrorists' were in the car. They never apologised.

(Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, p. 672)

The Hezbollah had by [the evening of April 16] fired exactly 120 Katyusha rockets over the border. Israelis along the border spent nights in shelters. By contrast, Israel was firing 3,000 shells a day into Lebanon while its air force were launching 200 missile raids every 24 hours and 400,000 Lebanese civilians were straming up the roads to Beirut, often under fire from two Israeli gunboats that cruised the shoreline, firing at vehicles on the coastal highway -- because, of course, the 'terrorists' were using the roads.

(Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, p. 673)

I spoke to hundreds of UN troops about the story of the mysterious videotape. Did it exist? And if so, why had it not surfaced? Why hadn't the UN publicised it? Then I learned that the film existed, but that it had been given to General van Kappen and that the soldier had been instructed never to give it to anyone. I heard, too, that the UN's final report on the massacre would be kept secret under what was described as American pressure on the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali.

(Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, p. 681)

Then two days [after the mass funeral of the massacre victims at Qana], I was sitting at home in Beirut when my mobile phone rang. A voice gave me a map reference and added: '1300 hours.' I ran to the front room where I kept my files on southern Lebanon, tearing open the large-scale map of the region. The reference was to a crossroads near Qana. I have never driven so fast to southern Lebanon. And at 1300 hours, I saw in the rear-view mirror a UN jeep, pulling up behind me.

A soldier in battledress and blue beret walked up to me, shook hands and said: "I copied the tape before the UN took it. The plane is there. I have made a personal decision. I have two young children, the same age as the ones I carried dead in my arms at Qana. This is for them." And from his battledress blouse he pulled a video-cassette and threw it on the passenger seat of my car. It was, I think in retrospect, the most dramatic individual personal act I have ever seen a soldier take. The mighty powers may try to cover up, but the little people can still sometimes win.

I drove at speed back to Beirut and slammed the cassette into my recorder. Zooming into the smoke over Qana, the amateur cameraman caught the explosion of shells above the camp. From the distance the film was taken, it was still possible to make out the individual shellbursts. Norwegian troops can be seen close to the camera. Then one of them looks into the sky and the camera pans up. There is a buzzing sound and into focus comes the 'drone', trailing smoke from its engines, flying low over the base. As it moves, the sound of explosions can still be heard and a UN radio in the background can be heard. On it, Commandant Smyth is passing on the message that "Fijibatt headquarters is under fire". The camera zooms again and there is the conference room, burning like a torch. So it was all true.

I made stills of the crucial pictures. The UN had no idea I had the film. Nor had the Israelis. But if The Independent printed all the details -- with photos from the tape -- then the UN would be forced to publish its report. There could be no denying these images. [...] At the same time, and at no profit, we arranged to distribute copies of the tape to every television station which requested it -- British, American, French, Arab, and Israeli, all of whom showed the sequence of the 'drone' over Qana during the shelling. The UN, mainly on the basis of the film -- of which they had, of course, all along had a copy -- concluded that the slaughter was unlikely to have been caused by an error, a gentle way of saying it was deliberate. The Israelis, confronted with the film by van Kappen, then changed their story. "In their eagerness to cooperate with the United Nations," they said, they had given wrong information to the major-general. There was indeed a 'drone' over Qana, they said, but it was not photographing the camp. It was on 'another mission'. The Israelis did not say what this 'other mission' was. They also said that the pilotless aircraft with its live-time television cameras only arrived after the shelling had ended -- a claim the videotape clearly shows to be untrue.

What followed was predictable. The UN was accused by some Israeli lobby groups in the United States of 'anti-Semitism'. American reporters at the press conference held to publish the UN report asked hostile, almost insulting questions of UN officials, often implying racist motives behind the report's conclusions. A New York daily told its readers that the UN had been insensitive to ask the Dutch general to write the report because Holland had allowed its Jewish population to be sent to Auschwitz in the Second World War. Once more, the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis were being employed to protect Israel's misdeeds.

(Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon, p. 682-683)

This is what I love Robert Fisk for. When he's not getting all involved in politics and instead doing his job as a journalist, he is amazing. I decided to share these excerpts (for educational purposes only - buy his book if you want to read the entire thing) because I thought that no matter what *I* wrote, it wouldn't be the same. He effectively demolishes the myth of "Jewish purity of arms". As for the officer who handed the video to him, whoever he is, wherever he is now, he is my hero. Thank you.

Edit: Here is "Israel's" response to the UN report on Qana.

You brought back memories of the day when here in Syria, I saw grownups crying like kids behind TV screens.

May we never ever forget.
I was only 13 then, and didn't understand much. But it felt like we were back to the days of the war, at least that's what it reminded me of. Of course, the Qana massacre wasn't the only attack that "Israel" carried out against Lebanon in those years. I remember very well how we jumped out of our beds when they bombed the power stations in Jamhour, destroying the power grids in their entirety and further disabling Lebanese economy. Of course, no one in the international arena said anything or condemned the attacks. It was supposedly in "retaliation". But frankly, I've never heard of any Lebanese (that includes Hezballah) bombing any "Israeli" power stations...

Anyway, a couple of years later, Hezballah visited our school (England-based Evengelical school) in Achrafieh and gave a presentation about the massacre. At the time I did not know much about Hezballah. They distributed yellow ribbons.

I didn't know much about Qana even after that (I just wasn't into politics as a teenager), until very recently, when I read Fisk's book "Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon". He has an entire chapter dedicated to the massacre. It's the best book I've ever read (or will read in a loooong time).

So I've never visited Qana, never seen the memorial in person (only pictures of it), but I am planning on doing it in a month's time.

Sometimes I feel guilty about my lack of interest in the events during and after the war. I don't know. I mean, I know it makes no sense that I'm blaming myself for not realising what was going on around me (it all felt very blurry and weird) as I was a kid then. But it's still something that I feel I missed out on. I wish I could remember more of what happened in those days, what the TVs reported, what people said, but no, it's all a big blank. I guess I just didn't care about war in Lebanon at that point. I don't know.
Robert Fisk is always blamed by one side that he is playing politics.

If he points out a mistake by a band "A" he will be blamed by "A" as politicizing the incident, the victims of "A" will likely like his reporting.

The same applies when he points out the mistakes of "B", he will be blamed by "B" as politicizing the incident.

In war there are no good guys, there is no "good" side.

And that is going to annoy someone. I would love to see where you think he is involved in politics, I have yet to see this, but if you were to point it out an incident, I am sure the other side would just point out what is right about it.
If he points out a mistake by a band "A" he will be blamed by "A" as politicizing the incident, the victims of "A" will likely like his reporting.

I disagree. Well, the other side might choose to play the blame game, but that doesn't mean that he's guilty of politicising and that everything is supposed to be taken in relative terms. I for one think that Fisk did a great job with his book on the Lebanese war. In it he blames all sides to a certain extent for the heinous crimes they committed and the hypocritical positions they adopted. In fact, he is quite critical of Hezballah in that book, and indeed of the Palestinians too. And I'm pro-Hezballah and pro-Palestinian. I'm not accusing Fisk of being biased in that book. I am accusing him of being biased in certain circumstances, and it seems to me all these have been taking place after the Lebanon war ended. I think that reporters lose that sense of objectivity when they are reporting more on political developments rather than for example military offensives, crimes against humanity, etc. I think this is the case with Fisk too. I mean it's a matter of preference. I prefered the "old" Fisk to the "new" one.
The Innocent Lebanese Civilians were killed at Qana by using MK-84 Laser Guided Bombs (LGB) with BSU-37/B (Bomb Stabilization Units). These Bombs are Precision-Guided Munition (PGM) and were manufactured by the U.S. Company Raytheon for the U.S. Navy and Air Force.
The MK-84 LGB, which weights 2000 lbs (907 kg) and has 948 lbs (430 kg) explosive power, features accuracy, reliability and cost-effectiveness previously unobtainable in conventional weapons.

Qana Massacre #2:

Qana Massacre #1:

The Difference between Lebanese and "israel" Children

Made by USA, "Israel" & Co.
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