Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lebanon and Palestine Deserve Peace

I wanted to share the speech I wrote for our local rally on Thursday for peace in Lebanon and Palestine. I was also interviewed briefly on a local television station that night (they edited out my criticism of Israel), and on Saturday I read my speech again on our community radio station's "Persian Hour":

A few weeks ago, I was planning to visit the land of my childhood after 26 years. I was fretting about what it was going to be like seeing a Lebanon that was rebuilt when all I could remember were war-torn buildings. Now I only wish I could see something besides rubble, bullet-ridden buildings, and the presence of death.

I learned the word “war” when I was six years old. For me it meant checkpoints where my parents’ car was stopped by men in camouflage uniforms and big guns. Every few miles there was a new checkpoint, with men in slightly different outfits and different colored hats- red,… blue,… black,…green.

I also remember driving past Palestinian refugee camps on my way to school everyday. My mother told me that the Palestinians had been forced out of their homes and were being forced to live in the camps. I didn’t understand why any country would do such a thing to another country.

I have other memories too.

Israeli war planes flying low over our villages breaking the sound barrier and scaring us in the process with a loud boom.

Days in the bomb shelter and mother reprimanding me when I escaped during a break in the shelling. I wanted to rescue my cats that we left in our home. She told me that they knew how to hide better than humans do.

Yeah right, can anyone hide from war?

Perhaps if you are in countries like the United States where you can just change the channel.

But Lebanese and Palestinian children knew what the word “war” meant much younger than I did and did not necessarily have the opportunity to leave for the U.S. when they were 13.

This is how Lebanese and Palestinians my age grew up. Knowing war as a daily occurrence.

And then finally it ended, in Lebanon at least. Not Palestine.

Finally Israel left Lebanon. And then just last year, Syria pulled out of Lebanon as well. Lebanon had democratic elections despite the assassination of their beloved former prime minister. Lebanon was all of a sudden hailed as the example of democracy in the Arab world.

If Lebanon is such a positive example of democracy, why is the international community sitting back and letting it be destroyed?

Democracy was not hailed as a great success when the wrong people, Hamas, were elected in Palestine. I have read sources that say that this may have been the perfect excuse for Israel to begin its massive demolition of Gaza and to hold back on further peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

There is absolutely no reason why people should be dying or be forced to leave their homes. This is not the first time that Israeli soldiers have been captured by Hizbullah. The difference is that Israel negotiated in the past. This time they said “no.” Israel responded by destroying the newly rebuilt infrastructure of a country where Hizbullah supporters are the minority.

Two political entities, Hizbullah and Israel, are playing a fatal game of ping pong on Lebanese soil. Civilians on either side of two Israeli borders are dying because of whims while the international community, including the Arab World, stays silent.

Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora has been pleading for a cease fire. “The country is a disaster zone,” he says.

Why can’t the Lebanese people be allowed to live in peace?

The United States is only asking to exercise restraint. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed resolutions condemning Iran and Syria for providing Hizbullah with money and military technology while supporting Israel’s decimation of Lebanon.

An earlier resolution to the United Nations demanded that Israel immediately stop attacking Lebanon and Gaza. It was vetoed by the United States.

The other Arab nations are also silent as Lebanon disintegrates before our eyes.

No one seems in a big hurry to end the attacks except the Lebanese who are fleeing their homes, living in bomb shelters, or watching their loved ones being killed. Gaza residents do not have the option of fleeing.

The international community is spending more time chartering cruise ships to evacuate their citizens than working towards peace.

The Lebanese people do not deserve this. Nether do the Palestinian people. They have already lived through war. These attacks could be stopped today if the United States and the Arab World wanted.

An immediate cease-fire is possible.

Can’t Lebanon and Palestine live in peace?

Please make phone calls, write letters, send humanitarian aid, SCREAM- this should not be happening.

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