Elizabeth Richard, 65, seems interested to operate in Lebanon, where she commenced her missions last week. And she, according to the video introducing her at the US embassy, is “interested to get introduced to Lebanon’s natural and cultural heritage (in the video’s background, there are scenes showing the cedars, the Bay Rock and women stuffing vine leaves, edited in a bad and unrefined manner.) The new American ambassador, who visited the “land of cedars” in 2007 under an American initiative to train Internal Security Forces and arm them, seems assertive in her first message to the Lebanese people: “As Lebanon works to save its security and build the strong government’s institutions (…) the American people will stay by your side.” It was a nice diplomatic speech that covers unplanned intentions of the new ambassador, especially regarding her concept of “saving security” and “the state’s strong institutions.” Richard was clearer in her attestation at the congress after she was nominated for the post months ago. Thereat, the specialized in law announced her actual agenda, classifying the “main” problems in Lebanon; all what the Lebanese are suffering from currently in economics, security and politics is because of one single thing: the resistance.
In economics, Richard uncovered a magic equation to deal with the crisis in Lebanon, saying: “our target is to dismantle Hezbollah’s international financial network and help the Lebanese institutions and the Lebanese people, which will contribute directly to activating the economic prosperity in Lebanon.” How would targeting the international funding for resistance lead to refreshing the country’s economy?! Richard didn’t explain this in her testimony; she was not asked to do so in her country, neither the Lebanese government, nor diplomats moved to hold accountable a diplomat who publicly announced that she is going to work from inside Lebanon to fight one of the Lebanese parties that is represented in the parliament and participating in the government! Nobody even dared to demand explanation of the ambassador’s words. Richard, as if she is holding everything in her hands, with the old American unashamed boldness, said she will work hard “not to let Hezbollah break through the Lebanese banking sector” because this is “the interest of Lebanon and the United States.” The new ambassador raised her wand in front of the Lebanese state before she arrived at the host country, yet none of the officials’ sovereignty was touched.
On the security level, Richard had her own philosophy as well. Of course, “Israel” was absent from her speech regarding the security threats Lebanon is subject to, yet ISIL and al-Nusra threats were present. However, the ambassador seems assured in threatening the two organizations that were brought by al-Qaeda. She is convinced that “partnership between the United States and the Lebanese Security Forces, through the generous Congress support, played a decisive role in saving Lebanon’s security facing such threats.” Therefore, there is no fear on the Lebanese people from ISIL and al-Nusra, so what is the first threat Lebanon is subject to according to Richard? The answer is: Hezbollah. “Hezbollah’s activities in Syria create serious security threats in Lebanon,” the ambassador said as she vowed to support the Lebanese army since it is “the only legitimate protector of Lebanon.”
The third “main problem” the Lebanese are suffering from, as Richard identified, is the political void and decrying Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, which she will also work on solving, this time in cooperation with “the voices calling for moderation and progress.” Against whom? Against “Hezbollah that is still interfering in Syria without the Lebanese consent,” Richard explains. The new ambassador’s swaggering made her talk on behalf of the Lebanese people, without the need to use numeric evidences, even if fabricated, to verify her announcement on the Lebanese people’s accepting or rejecting Hezbollah’s interference in Syria. The conclusion, as Richard informed the congressmen: Hezbollah went to Syria despite the will of most of the Lebanese, which decries Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.
Usually, western diplomats complain that they couldn’t understand the happenings in Lebanon, and complain about its complicated social structure, economic system and political scene. However, it seems that Elizabeth Richard doesn’t suffer from any of this. Her vision is clear, and so is her single goal: to target the Lebanese resistance through its party, people and money using every possible means.
In her latest post before being appointed to custodianship on the Lebanese people, Richard was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. In her testimony at the congress in July 2015, she boasted the State Department’s achievements; counting the projects she supervised, such as: the initiative to qualify and develop industrial cities, creating job opportunities, activating exportation in Egypt, Jordan and “Israel”, the General Motors agreement to provide Egypt with huge amounts of electric energy, qualifying the railways in Algeria, buying tons of Iraqi rice, encouraging investments in the Gulf countries, supporting the youth initiatives and medical cooperation with “Israel” and the Arab Emirates… Most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries were present, yet Lebanon was absent from the achievements of Richard and her department last year, and now she comes to the weakest country in the region, having in her pocket a single (non-developmental) political project, promises of armament… and a raised wand!
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has denounced sanctions on Lebanese banks and other financial institutions as a form of Israeli aggression.
Speaking at the Lebanese Emigrants Economic Conference in Beirut on Thursday, Berri said Israel is constantly trying to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure and economy.
Berri was apparently making reference to the US law, which calls for the closure of bank accounts of individuals and organizations suspected of links to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is credited with defending Lebanon against two wars launched by Israel – the US’s staunchest ally in the region – in 2000 and 2006.
Berri said Lebanon, through the assistance of its diaspora, will eventually emerge triumphant over a plot seeking to harm the country’s economy.
“We only have hope from the expatriates, and right now we no longer have hope but from you,” he said.
Berri further lashed out at Arab states for failing to commit to promised funds to Lebanon following Israel’s war on the country in the summer of 2006, saying only a third of the aid has been paid.
In February, Riyadh suspended USD 3 billion in military assistance to the Lebanese military and another USD 1 billion to the country’s internal security forces.
The kingdom also imposed sanctions on some Lebanese firms and individuals it accused of having links with Hezbollah.
Last month, Governor of Bank of Lebanon Riad Salameh stated that 100 bank accounts linked to Hezbollah members and legislators had been closed.
Hezbollah criticized the Central Bank of Lebanon for submitting to US pressures, saying the measures violated Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The US and its allies are working inside Lebanon to open a new front in the Syrian conflict. Lebanon has been sedated into a state of limbo by the lack of a government and the postponing of its parliamentary elections. Complicating matters, many institutional figures and military commanders have gone into retirement and the caretaker government is unable to replace them.
Hezbollah’s intervention into the Syrian conflict has given a boost to the Syrian government against the anti-government forces trying to overrun Syria.
This has turned the attention of the US and its allies onto Lebanon as a new arena of battle. Rockets are also being launched by anti-government forces from Syria, and even from inside Lebanon, against Hezbollah’s political strongholds and against Shia Muslim villages. The goal is to ignite the flames of sedition between Shiites and Sunnis inside Lebanon.
Photo Below: Picture of the Hariris adorned with the Future Party’s flag and Al-Qaeda and anti-government Syrian flags by their followers on the way to Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)
Al-Qaeda in Lebanon
Al-Qaeda’s flag has been flying in Lebanon for years. Driving near the airport in Beirut or on the road to Sidon (Saida) you can see the Al-Qaeda flags flying in black. The same goes for Tripoli (Trablos) and some areas inside Beirut. Since the Syrian conflict you can see the Al-Qaeda flag flying next to the Syrian insurgent’s flag. The US and its allies have actually turned a blind eye to the support that the Future Party of Saad Hariri provides to Al-Qaeda. It is worth noting that the current head of the UN Secretariate’s Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who was once the US ambassador to Lebanon before he was promoted in the US Department of State, also turned a blind eye to the support for Al-Qaeda by the Hariri family’s Future Party and its March 14 Alliance.
The Hariri family has had a long alliance with the takfiris and Al-Qaeda supporters. They have been political allies with groups in Lebanon that openly revere Osama bin Laden as a great leader. It was the Hariri family and members of their Future Party that also imported the fighters that would become Fatah Al-Islam into Lebanon. The exploitation of takfiri militias inside Lebanon by the Hariri family was intended to crush Hezbollah after Israel failed to do in 2006. Regionally, the same strategy involved the Hariri family’s Saudi patrons and George W. Bush’s administration, which were preparing and arming these militias as tools/weapons against Syria and Iran. The Hariris were furious when Seymour Hersh exposed them and had him publicly rebuked.
Months later Fatah Al-Islam would get out of control. Seymour Hersh would be vindicated. The Hariri-led March 14 Alliance would dishonestly try to blame Syria and the Palestinians for creating and supporting the group that they themselves had created. The fighting in Lebanon between the Lebanese military and Fatah Al-Islam foreshadowed the armies that were amassed for regime change in Libya and Syria by the US and its allies.
Tripoli and Sidon as Extensions of the Syrian Conflict
Lebanon’s second largest city, Tripoli, has seen intense fighting between the Alawite community of Lebanon, which is represented by the Arab Democratic Party, and the Hariri family’s takfiri allies. Hariri’s allies in Tripoli are open supporters of Al-Qaeda and the anti-government forces in Syria; they have smuggled weapons across the Lebanese-Syrian and sent large numbers of fighters into Syria to topple the government in Damascus. The Future Party has been involved in coordinating this also.
Lebanon’s third largest city, Sidon, has also been the scene of fighting and tensions between Ahmed Al-Assir, a Hariri ally, and Hezbollah’s supporters and allies. Al-Assir’s men have even tried to kill one of Sidon’s main Sunni Muslim clerics, Maher Hammoud, because he has constantly been working for Muslim and Lebanese unity and saying that there is an attempt to ignite a Shia-Sunni conflict in Lebanon and the broader region. A contingent from the Lebanese military has had stay in Sidon to keep the peace in the city.
Al-Assir’s men attacked and killed members of the Lebanese military in a village on the outskirts of Sidon for no apparent reason on June 23, 2013. This has ignited a battle in Sidon. Thick smoke from the city can be seen from a far distance. It has been reported that members of the anti-government forces from Syria have also joined them. The Lebanese military has deployed heavy weapons to fight Al-Assir’s group and to restore peace to the Lebanese city.
Photo Below: Lebanese Armed Forces checkpoint in Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)
The Objective is to Force Hezbollah to Retreat in Syria by Targeting Lebanon
The Lebanese state is now being targeted. There have been an increasing number of attacks against the Lebanese military from the Syrian border since Hezbollah intervened in Syria. There were already attacks on Lebanon even before Hezbollah intervened in the Syrian conflict, but those were mostly intended to provoke Hezbollah.
Those targeting the Lebanese state are now taking advantage of the lack of a functioning government and the leaderless status of several national institutions to create a state of chaos in Lebanon. There have been attacks on both Shiite and Sunni villages in the Bekaa Valley and a cycle of violence has begun. It is clear that the objective is to turn Shiites and Sunnis against one another and the Lebanese military has understood this too. This is why Hezbollah has asked the Shiite clans in Bekaa to stay calm after they have been attacked. Protests have broken out in Lebanon too.
The violence in Sidon is part of a strategy. Al-Assir’s unprovoked attack against the Lebanese military is intended to mount pressure on the Lebanese state and exacerbate Shia-Sunni tensions.
Hezbollah refuses to get embroiled in a sectarian battle inside Lebanon. While the Amal Movement, the Shiite political party that is Hezbollah’s partner, has mobilized its militias and started manning the southern and eastern roads into Sidon, Hezbollah has kept calm. Amal’s media has also been reporting on the incident profusely and even in a sectarian fashion, but Hezbollah’s media have inversely been calm and said little.
Lebanon is being lit up with the aim of forcing Hezbollah to pullout from Syria by turning inwards to fight an internal battle. Essentially, Lebanon is now a second front in the Syrian conflict.
The US and Saudi Arabia have probably asked the Hariri family to prompt their Al-Qaeda affiliated clients to initiate violence in Lebanon and capitalize on the lack of a government and the weakened state of the Lebanese state.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is currently working out of Lebanon. He was in Sidon during the fighting and the deployment of the Lebanese military.
Copyright © Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research, 2013
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Moscow and his negotiations with President Putin, for the fourth time this year, has created the impression of failure. Russia and Israel have been developing active cooperation recently in the field of culture, trade and customs and education.
However, Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow does look like a failure from the point of view of foreign policy. In an official statement for the press, President Putin spoke about the “open” and “constructive” nature of the talks with the Israeli PM. In the diplomatic world, though, when negotiations are held in a friendly and even neutral fashion, they usually say that the talks were held “in a friendly atmosphere.” This is something that we have not heard from the Kremlin this time. In other words, there is no understanding between Russian and Israeli leaders.
The main purpose of Netanyahu’s visit to Russia was clearly focused on foreign policy issues, such as the regulation of the crisis in Syria and a possible solution to the Palestinian conflict. Israel sees clearly that the civil war in Syria is ending. Netanyahu’s visit coincided with a remarkable speech that Bashar al-Assad delivered at the opening session of the newly elected parliament. It is obvious that the question of the end of the war and national reconciliation in Syria is a matter of time. What happens afterwards?
The conflict in Syria has created an alliance between Russia, Iran, Syria, and units of Lebanese resistance. As for the latter, it is not only Hezbollah fighters, but also a large number of volunteers from Lebanese secular parties that struggle against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Netanyahu seems to be concerned about the prospect for the new, reunited Syria to appear near Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister is also concerned about the strong influence of Iran in the post-war Syria.
What does President Putin say to all this? Putin delivers a long speech, in which he talks about culture, economy, trade and economic relations, tourism and everything else. As for the Syrian problem, Putin said only two phrases: “We have paid great attention to international issues, and of course, we talked about the complicated situation in the Middle East region, including in Syria.” That’s all.
One shall assume that there is no understanding between Russia and Israel. Russia has ignored Netanyahu’s requirements, for example, to restrict supplies of weapons to Lebanon that Hezbollah fighters could get their hands on. Russia views Hezbollah as one of the most important political parties in Lebanon. Hezbollah is a member of the ruling coalition. Russia follows its principle to supply arms only to legitimate governments. Hezbollah is an important element of the legitimate government of Lebanon. Moscow sees Hezbollah as an essential element of structure of the Middle East.
In addition, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s position for a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and stressed that Russia was ready to act as a mediator. This came as another slap in the face of Israel, because it is the Palestinians who demand the Palestinian issue should be solved by the international community, while Israel insists on bilateral negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
As many as 3,000 more bank accounts, allegedly tied to the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, reportedly await freeze in the coming days under pressure from the United States.
Those to be affected include “employees, partners, customers affiliated with the party,” Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Friday, citing a source within Lebanon’s Central Bank.
On December 18, 2015, US President Barack Obama signed into law the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act.
The legislation says Washington will target those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah or any individual, business or institution linked to the group.
As per the law, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has been tasked with releasing names of the entities it considers to be associated with the group.
Governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank Riad Salameh has so far ordered 100 accounts frozen in line with the Treasury’s instructions as any failure to abide by the law will result in US sanctions.
“If anyone is suspicious, there can be no leniency, even if the customers have millions of dollars, because the negative repercussions in not abiding by the [US] law will be catastrophic on the bank,” the source said.
Interviewed by the CNBC, Salameh recently said, “Our priority is to keep Lebanon on the international financial map, so we have taken a resolution that we will implement that US law in Lebanon, and we have put in place a structure to do this, to satisfy the objectives of that law.”
On Thursday, Hezbollah reacted to the remarks, saying Salameh’s position “shows that the monetary policy has lost its sovereignty.”
Hezbollah is credited with defending Lebanon against two wars launched by Israel, the US’s strongest ally in the region, in 2000 and 2006.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia, another staunch ally of the US, has also been targeting the resistance movement.
Earlier in the year, Riyadh imposed sanctions on four Lebanese firms and three individuals it accused of having links to Hezbollah, among its other measures against the movement.
Analysts say Hezbollah has come under such pressure due to its involvement in anti-terrorism military operations in neighboring Syria.
The resistance movement has been successfully helping the Syrian army fight Saudi-backed Takfiri militants in order to prevent the Syria conflict from spilling over to Lebanon.
25 May 2016 not only marks the 16th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from 22 years of Israeli occupation and oppression by the Lebanese Resistance, but also the liberation of Lebanese political prisoners from the infamous Khiam prison. On 23 May 2000, 144 Lebanese prisoners were liberated from Khiam, 2 days before the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces.
3,000 Lebanese stormed Khiam, the site of infamous torture of Lebanese resisters, breaking the locks with axes and crowbars. “Set up by the Israelis in 1985 on a hill in the village of Khiam in the South Lebanon Governorate, the Khiam prison was considered to be one of the most ruthless detention and interrogation centers in the Middle East. While the Israelis governed the prison, which included 67 cells and more than 20 solitary confinement cells, they used the South Lebanon Army (SLA), an Israeli proxy militia made up of Lebanese nationals, to execute their orders,” wrote Rana Harbi in Al-Akhbar.
Over 5,000 Lebanese, including 500 women, were imprisoned in Khiam prison over the years. Lebanese who participated in all forms of resistance to the occupation and its proxy forces were tortured brutally inside the notorious prison. The prison after its liberation became a museum and symbol of the torture of the occupiers and the victory of the Lebanese people and their resistance, of their freedom obtained through struggle and years of resistance.
In 2006, when Israel attacked Lebanon, it bombed the Khiam site, leaving a pile of rubble at the site of the prison, as if attempting to destroy the memory of its torture, brutality – and its defeat – preserved by the Lebanese people. However, the memory and commitment to resistance of the former prisoners – many of whom continue to struggle and play leading roles in Lebanese movements and parties, including Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party – and of the people, cannot be erased by the bombing of the prison site, just as they could not be erased by torture, solitary confinement, and years of imprisonment.
The liberation of Khiam prison was not merely symbolic; it was central to the liberation of South Lebanon, just as the liberation of Palestinian prisoners is central to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. The Lebanese people and Resistance continue to struggle against Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms; and the Palestinian people and their Resistance continue to struggle for the liberation of Palestine – its land, its people and its prisoners after over 68 years of occupation. The victory in South Lebanon and the liberation of Khiam remains an anniversary of liberation and a promise for future victories over torture, oppression and occupation.
The following testimonies of former prisoners held in Khiam prison were collected and published in Al-Akhbar by Rana Harbi in 2014:
Degol Abou Tass
In 1976, at the age of 16, I was arrested in a village in occupied Palestine for the first time. I told the Israelis that I trespassed by mistake. They knew I was lying but released me anyway. My parents packed my bags and forced me to leave the country. I found out later that I was the first Lebanese citizen to get arrested by the Israeli forces.
I came back to Rmeish [a village on the borders in South Lebanon] in the 1980s after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The civil war was still raging in Beirut but in the south different resistance movements, such as the Lebanese Communist Party, the Amal Movement, Syrian Social Nationalist Party and many other factions, united against the Israelis. A few months after my arrival, the SLA knocked on my parents door. I had to leave the country, again.
I was miserable. I couldn’t stay away for long. In the early 1990s I came back to Rmeish. All the armed groups were long gone. Hezbollah dominated the resistance scene. I tried to reconnect with old militia leaders but in vain.
One day, an old childhood friend pulled into my driveway. “Are you willing to fight with us?” he asked. I looked uncertain. “Us … Hezbollah,” he added. I climbed into his car and we drove away. In 1998, one of my neighbors ratted me out.
“A Christian with Hezbollah? Now that’s something,” the Israeli officer interrogating me said. “How much are they paying you? We will pay double, no triple. What is your price? We can work something out,” he continued. I remained silent. “Okay then Jesus, welcome to Khiam prison.”
In Khiam prison we died a hundred times every day. Torture included electric shocks, being tied naked to a whipping pole for hours under the burning sun in the summer and snow in the winter, and getting whipped and beaten continuously with metal rods, wires and nightsticks.
We were caged and treated like animals. Believe me, it wasn’t so much about the pain, but the humiliation.
On the morning of May 23, 2000, the guards were talking and walking outside, as usual. Suddenly, complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. We heard the daily UN airplane fly by so we knew it was 9:30 am. “Where did they go?” one prisoner asked. We had no idea.
“They are moving us to occupied Palestine,” yelled a prisoner in a cell right next to ours. I put my feet on the shoulders of two of my cellmates so that I can reach the small window right under the ceiling. “All of us?” I asked. “They will execute half and take half … this is what we heard,” replied another prisoner. Before I could even reply I heard a noise coming from a distance. I couldn’t see anything. The voices grew louder and louder.
“Looks like our parents are clashing with the SLA guards as usual,” one prisoner said. “I bet my mother is still trying to bring me food,” another exclaimed. And then we heard gunshots. People were screaming. More gunshots.
“They are shooting our parents!” said one frightened detainee. “No, the mass execution began. They will execute half of us remember!” replied another. Panic attacks. Anxiety. Fear.
I put my ear against the door. I heard ululations. I heard prayers. I heard women. I heard children. Suddenly, the door opening through which food was usually served broke wide open. “You are liberated, you are liberated!” I fell on my knees. I thought I was hallucinating. I put my fist out. Two men grabbed my fist. “Allah akbar, Allah akbar (God is the greatest) … you are liberated!” My cellmates were all kneeling on the floor in disbelief. The locks were getting smashed from the outside. I cried aloud and the door broke wide open. I don’t really remember what happened next.
I was the first prisoner to get caught on camera. My parents watched the liberation of Khiam on TV because Rmeish was still under occupation at the time. They didn’t recognize me though. My hair and beard were too long and well, I was screaming “Allah akbar!”
Fourteen years later, I’m living with my wife and children in Rmeish, and every morning I drink my coffee while looking over occupied Palestine.
In November 1990 I was picking up photos from a store in Marjeyoun, a city in south Lebanon, when I got arrested. I was 19 at the time.
They put a tight black cover over my head and made me strip naked. Suspended from my bound wrists from a metal pole, hot and cold water was thrown on me consecutively … hot cold hot cold until I was completely soaked. Then they attached electrodes to my chest and other particularly sensitive areas of my body and electrocuted me, repeatedly.
In the 70 day interrogation period, I was tortured three times per day. I used to lose consciousness and wake up to find myself stumbling blindly in a pitch-black, 1m by 80cm by 80cm solitary confinement room.
We were tied to window grills naked for days in painful positions, freezing water thrown at us in the cold winter nights. We were whipped, beaten, kicked in the head and the jaw, burned, electrocuted, had ear-shattering whistling in our ears, and deprived of food and sleep … it was hard, very hard.
I endured the pain. With time, I became numb. I survived it all without saying a word. I was winning, I thought.
One morning, they dragged me into the interrogation room. “You didn’t tell me your sister was this beautiful,” one of the SLA officers said. My whole world came crashing down. “Wait until you see his mother,” said another. Handcuffed, I threw myself on him from across the table. It costed me 14 hours in the “chicken cage,” a 90-cubic-centimeter enclosure used for extra-severe punishment.
The SLA used to bring in the wives, sisters and daughters of the prisoners and treat them in a vulgar manner like taking off their head scarves, groping them and threatening to rape them. For me, the mere thought was intolerable. “Your sister will pay you a visit tomorrow. You miss her don’t you?”
“I’m a Hezbollah fighter,” I confessed.
Up to 12 prisoners were crammed in a tiny room. We were buried alive. The cells were like coffins. Light and air hardly penetrated through the small, barred windows located near the ceiling. We could barely breathe. We used to relieve ourselves in a black bucket placed in the corner. The heavy odor of human sweat and wastes was intolerable. We showered every three or four weeks. Once a month, we were allowed into the “sun or light room” for 20 minutes only.
One night in 1991 I woke up to the deafening screams of a detainee being tortured in the yard. The louder he screamed, the harder he got whipped. His cries were unbearable, beyond anything I had ever heard before. “You are killing him, you animals,” one of my fellow cellmates shouted.
We started banging on the door of the cell, kicking it with our feet, yelling and asking them to stop. Other prisoners in other cells joined us, but the lashes kept falling and the cries continued. And then … silence. Youssef Ali Saad, father of eight, died under torture on that cold January night. One month later, Asaad Nemr Bazzi died because of medical neglect.
Do you know what the worst part was? Fellow Lebanese citizens did this to us. I almost died on the hands of a man named Hussein Faaour, my neighbor in Khiam. Abu Berhan, another torturer I remember was from Aitaroun. The SLA members were all Lebanese, mostly from the south. Family members, neighbors, childhood friends, classmates, teachers … Lebanese who decided to sell their land and people for cash.
Lebanese who are now living among us like nothing happened, as if they did nothing! It breaks my heart that our former tormentors have escaped punishment so easily.
Fourteen years later, I’m still waiting for justice.
In 1988, I was in Beirut purchasing medicine for my pharmacy in al-Taybeh (a village in South Lebanon) when the SLA forces, aware of my role in transferring arms to Hezbollah fighters, first came looking for me. They stormed into our house again a week later but my mother told them I was in Bint Jbeil. It was the truth but they didn’t believe her.
I remember opening the front gate that afternoon and seeing my mother waiting, weeping and trembling on the doorstep. “They took away your sister and your sister-in-law along with Hadi (her five-month-old baby.) My daughter, my grandson!” she cried. I put on my clothes and waited for the SLA on the front porch. My sister was 20-years-old at the time and I was 26. My mother begged me to run away, but I didn’t.
My mother collapsed on the ground next to the SLA vehicle. I sat in the backseat and they took me away.
Blindfolded I was shoved into the interrogation room. Boiling water was thrown on my face, and my fingers and ears were electrocuted. I didn’t say a word. This went on for a month.
“I heard Hadi is sick,” one of the Israeli officers told me one morning. He wasn’t lying. My sister in law got infected and breastfeeding her child was not an option anymore. Psychologically, I suffered greatly. I wished they would just beat me up instead. I struggled, but I remained silent. Two months later Hadi and his mother, along with my sister, got released. They were of no use to the Israelis anymore.
Women detainees, like men, were severely tortured. You see, gender equality is not always a good thing [she laughs]. Let me tell you how the torture stopped.
After spending 15 days in solitary confinement, I found out upon my return to the cell I shared with six other women that one of my fellow prisoners had an extremely disgusting skin rash. I examined her and as a pharmacist I knew that her rash was contagious. As planned, I got infected. Soon, my skin started changing and I looked like an acid attack victim.
Clearly disgusted by my deteriorating skin, the SLA guard dragged me by my hair into yet another torture session. The torturer, a woman, was waiting for me. With my hair still trapped between the guards fingers, he forced me down to my knees. Before the torturer’s fist reached my jaw, I told her that my skin condition was contagious. The guard instantly let go of my hair and they both took a step back. I tried to keep a straight face but I couldn’t hide my smile. Nobody laid a hand on me after that day.
Fourteen years later, I made peace with the past. My three years in Khiam were tough, but now I feel blessed. I really do.
A Lebanese charity network run by a Shiite Muslim cleric said it had been unfairly caught up in new U.S. financial sanctions against Hezbollah, accusing Lebanese banks of applying the restrictions too widely.
The U.S. act passed in December threatens to punish any organization providing significant finance to Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, deemed a terrorist organization by Washington.
The Mabarrat foundation told Reuters that some Lebanese banks, scared of risking international isolation, had frozen some of its accounts, even though it had no political affiliation.
The foundation was established by the late Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a top authority in Shiite Islam who was an early mentor to Hezbollah but later distanced himself from its ties to Iran. He died in 2010.
Sayyed Ali Fadlallah, his son, declined to say which bank or banks had frozen the accounts.
“The foundation’s name was not mentioned in this law … what is happening now are precautionary measures taken by some institutions that are dealing with this matter far removed from the accuracy required to ensure no one is done an injustice,” Fadlallah told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
The foundation generates funding through individual donations and a network of businesses including hotels, restaurants and petrol stations.
“We felt from our meeting with some of the banks that they are afraid and wanted to take precautions that were greater than necessary,” said Fadlallah, whose charities include schools, hospitals and orphanages.
The U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act has ignited an unprecedented dispute between Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful group, and the central bank.
The Shiite militia is Lebanon’s most powerful political and military group, has provided crucial support to the Syrian army, along with Iranian forces and the Russian air force. The group is estimated to have lost around 1,200 fighters in Syria’s five-year-old conflict. It has dealt serious blows to the Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State group.
The organization has said the law will lead to “a wide rift” between Lebanese citizens and the banks, suggesting many Shiites would stop dealing with banks for fear of being sanctioned.
The central bank has said the U.S. law must be applied to avoid the international isolation of Lebanon’s banking sector.
Central bank governor Riad Salameh said in a May 17 statement that banks that intended to close accounts of individuals or organizations considered to be in breach of the U.S. law must provide justification for that decision, and wait for a response from a central bank committee.
Mustafa Amin Badreddine was born in Ghobeiry, Lebanon on April 6, 1961.
In 1982, martyr Badreddine formed jihadi groups and trained them to confront the Zionist entity. He is considered one of the most prominent mujahidin who encountered the Israeli invasion in Beirut and Khaldeh where he was injured during the clashes.
In 1992, the martyr became the commander of Hezbollah’s central military unit and started forming military formations and devising plans. Badreddine also prepared many heroic operations against the Israeli occupation, including clashes, martyrdom bombings and post incursions as well, which forced the Israeli army to withdraw cowardly in 2000.
Martyr Badreddine played a prominent role in confronting the major Israeli aggression on Lebanon in 1993, obliging the Zionist Prime Minster Isaac Rabin at that time to acknowledge the fact that the Zionist entity was defeated by Hezbollah.
After the major Zionist aggression on Lebanon in 1996, the martyr succeeded in driving the world to acknowledge the Resistance’s legitimacy and its right to defend its country.
In 1997, Mustafa Badreddine had a central role in planning and supervising the Ansariya operation which killed scores of elite Zionist troops.
Martyr Badreddine was further able to dismantle scores of Israeli spy cells in Lebanon.
With the inception of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the martyr was one of the first commanders who confronted the takfiri plot across Syria.
Martyr Mustafa Badreddine continued his jihadi work till embracing the honor of martyrdom in Damascus on May 13, 2016.
Lebanon cannot stand on its feet anymore. It is overwhelmed, frightened and broke.
It stands at the frontline, facing Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) in the east and north, hostile Israel in the south and the deep blue sea in the west. One and a half million (mostly Syrian) refugees are dispersed all over its tiny territory. Its economy is collapsing and the infrastructure crumbling. ISIS is right on the border with Syria, literally next door, or even with one foot inside Lebanon, periodically invading, and setting up countless “dormant cells” in all the Lebanese cities and all over the countryside. Hezbollah is fighting ISIS, but the West and Saudi Arabia apparently consider Hezbollah, not ISIS, to be the major menace to their geopolitical interests. The Lebanese army is relatively well trained but badly armed, and as the entire country, it is notoriously cash-strapped.
These days, on the streets of Beirut, one can often hear: “Just a little bit more; one more push, and the entire country will collapse, go up in smoke.”
Is this what the West and its regional allies really want?
One top foreign dignitary after another is now visiting Lebanon: the UN chief Ban Ki-moon, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. All the foreign visitors are predictably and abstractly expressing “deep concern” about the proximity of ISIS, and about the fate of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees now living in Lebanon. “The war in neighboring Syria is having a deep impact on tiny Lebanon”, they all admit.
Who triggered this war is never addressed.
And not much gets resolved. Only very few concrete promises are being made. And what is promised is not being delivered.
One of my sources who attended a closed-door meeting of Ban Ki-moon, Jim Yong Kim and the heads of the UN agencies in Beirut, commented: “almost nothing new, concrete or inspiring was discussed there.”
The so-called international community is showing very little desire to rescue Lebanon from its deep and ongoing crises. In fact, several countries and organizations are constantly at Lebanon’s throat, accusing it of “human rights violations” and of having weak and ineffective government. What seems to irritate them the most, though, is that Hezbollah (an organization that is placed by many Western countries and their allies in the Arab world on the “terrorist list”) is at least to some extent allowed to participate in running the country.
But Hezbollah appears to be the only military force capable of effectively fighting against ISIS – in the northeast of the country, on the border with Syria, and elsewhere. It is also the only organization providing a reliable social net to those hundreds of thousands of poor Lebanese citizens. In this nation deeply divided along sectarian lines, it extends its hand to the ‘others’, forging coalitions with both Muslim and Christian parties and movements.
Why so much fuss over Hezbollah?
It is because it is predominantly Shia, and Shia Muslims are being antagonized and targeted by almost all the West’s allies in the Arab world. Targeted and sometimes even directly liquidated.
Hezbollah is seen as the right hand of Iran, and Iran is Shia and it stands against Western imperialism determinately, alongside Russia, China and much of Latin America – countries that are demonized and provoked by the ‘Empire’ and its client states.
Hezbollah is closely allied with both Iran and Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. It combats Israel whenever Israel invades Lebanon, and it wins most of the battles that it is forced to fight. It is openly hostile towards the expansionist policies of the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia; its leaders are extremely outspoken.
“So what?” many people in the region would say, including those living in Lebanon.
Angie Tibbs is the owner and senior editor of Dissident Voice who has been closely watching events in the Middle East in recent years. She believes a brief comparison between events of 2005 and today is essential for understanding complexity of the situation:
“In a country where, since the end of civil wars in 1990, outward civility masks a still seething underbelly wherein old wounds, old wrongs, real and imagined, have not been forgotten or forgiven, the military and political success of Hezbollah has been the most stabilizing influence. Back in 2005, following the bomb explosion that killed former Premier Rafiq al Hariri and 20 others, the US and Israel proclaimed loudly that “Syria did it” without producing a shred of evidence. The Syrian army, in Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government, was ordered out by the US, and UN Resolution 1559 stated in part that all Lebanese militias must be disarmed. The plan was clear. With Syrian forces gone, and an unarmed Hezbollah, we had two moves which would leave Lebanon’s southern border completely vulnerable, and then – well, what would prevent Israel from barging in and taking over?”
Ms Tibbs is also convinced the so-called international community is leaving Lebanon defenseless on purpose:
“A similar devious scenario is unfolding today. Hezbollah is busy fighting ISIS in Syria; the Lebanese army, though well trained, is poorly armed. Arms deals are being cancelled, the UN and IMF, and, in fact, the world community of nations are not providing any assistance, and little Lebanon is gasping under the weight of a million plus Syrian refugees. It’s a perfect opportunity for ISIS, the proxy army of Israel and the West, to move in and Lebanon’s sovereignty be damned.”
Indignant, several Lebanese leaders snapped back. The Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil refused to meet with Ban Ki-moon during his two-day visit of Beirut and the Bekaa Valley.
One of Lebanon’s major newspapers, the Daily Star, reported on March 26, 2016:
“Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Saturday accused the international community of approaching the Syrian refugee crisis with a double standard; hours after UN chief Ban Ki-moon departed Beirut following a two-day visit. ‘They create war, and then call on others to host refugees in line with human rights treaties,’ he said in a televised news conference from his residence in Batroun.”
Lebanon is collapsing. Even its once lavish capital Beirut is experiencing constant blackouts, water shortages and garbage-collection dramas. Economically the country is in a sharp decline.
Dr. Salim Chahine, Professor of Finance, at the American University of Beirut, is usually at least moderately upbeat about the country. Recent developments have worn down his optimism.
“Although the Coincident Indicator issued by the Lebanese Central Bank, BDL, has recently suggested a slight enhancement in economic activity, several officials are sending clear warnings about further deterioration in the situation. The regional geopolitical tensions, the civil conflict in Syria, as well as their implications internally have impacted tourism, trade, and the real estate sectors. According to HSBC, deposits from Lebanon’s largest expatriate population – that usually provide the necessary liquidity for government borrowing – may grow at a slower rate in the near future given the worsening conditions in the Gulf. As the country enters into its sixth year of economic slump, HSBC remains skeptical about a short-term recovery. The public deficit is currently rising by around 20 percent per year, and the GDP growth rate is close to zero.”
Yayoi Segi, an educationalist and the Senior Program Specialist for UNESCO’s Arab Regional Office based in Beirut, works intensively in both Syria and Lebanon. The education sector is, according to her, struggling:
“The public education sector is very small in terms of its coverage in the country, reaching only about 35 percent of the school age population. The state allocation to education is less than 10 percent while the world average or benchmark is 18-20 percent. The situation is further compounded by the current ongoing crisis in the region whereby Lebanon has had to accommodate a large influx of refugees. The public provision of education has expanded and continues to expand. However, it is impacting on quality and contributes to an increasing number of vulnerable Lebanese students dropping out of school, while it can only reach 50 percent of Syrian refugee children.”
Nadine Georges Gholam (not her real name), working for one of the UN agencies, says that lately she feels phlegmatic, even hopeless:
“What has been happening to Lebanon particularly these past five years is really depressing. I used to actively take part in protests to voice my anger and frustration. But now I don’t know if they make any difference or change anything at all. There is no functioning government in sight. Three hundred thousand tons of unprocessed trash accumulated in just eight months. There is sectarian infighting. Regional conflicts… What else? Lebanon can’t withstand such pressure, anymore. All is going down the drain, collapsing…”
“But worse is yet to come. Recently, Saudi Arabia cancelled a $4 billion aid package for Lebanon. It was supposed to finance a massive purchase of modern weapons from France, something urgently needed and totally overdue. That is, if both the West and the KSA are serious about fighting ISIS.”
“The KSA “punished” Lebanon for having representatives of Hezbollah in the government, for refusing to support the West’s allies in the Arab League (who define Hezbollah as a terrorist group), and for still holding a Saudi prince in custody, after he attempted to smuggle two tons of narcotics from Rafic Hariri International Airport outside Beirut.”
These are of course the most dangerous times for this tiny but proud nation. Syrian forces, with great help of Russia, are liberating one Syrian city after another from ISIS and other terrorist groups supported by Turkey, KSA, Qatar and other of the West’s allies.
ISIS may try to move into Iraq, to join its cohorts there, but the Iraqi government is trying to get its act together, and is now ready to fight. It is also talking to Moscow, while studying the great success Russia is having in Syria.
For ISIS or al-Nusra, to move to weaken and almost bankrupt Lebanon would be the most logical step. And the West, Saudi Arabia and others are clearly aware of it.
In fact, ISIS is already there; it has infiltrated virtually all the cities and towns of Lebanon, as well the countryside. Whenever it feels like it, it carries out attacks against the Shia, military and other targets. Both ISIS and al-Nusra do. And the dream of ISIS is blatant: a caliphate with access to the sea, one that would cover at least the northern part of Lebanon.
If the West and its allies do nothing to prevent these plans, it is because they simply don’t want to.
Tiny Lebanon is finding itself in the middle of a whirlwind of a political and military storm that is consuming virtually the entire Middle East and the Gulf.
In recent decades, Lebanon has suffered immensely. This time, if the West and its allies do not change their minds, it may soon cease to exist altogether. It is becoming obvious that in order to survive, it would have to forge much closer ties with the Syrian government, as well as with Iran, Russia and China.
Would it dare to do it? There is no united front inside Lebanon’s leadership. Pro-Western and pro-Saudi fractions would oppose an alliance with those countries that are defying Western interests.
But time is running out. Just recently, the Syrian city of Palmyra was liberated from ISIS. Paradoxically, the great Lebanese historic cities of Baalbek and Byblos may fall soon.
Naftali Bennet, Israel’s minister of education was the first public official to come out in support of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who executed Abdel Fatah Alsharif as he lay wounded in Hebron. Bennet was critical of the government of which he is a member for not standing up for the soldier. I was listening to the interview with Bennet on Israeli television where he made the argument that the government and the press judged the soldier harshly and prematurely. Then he said something I never thought I’d hear.
“Maybe the soldier did make a mistake; you know I also made a mistake. During Grapes of Wrath, Operation Grapes of Wrath I was apparently mistaken and a very difficult thing happened.” A very difficult thing happened. Interesting choice of words and interesting timing: It is exactly twenty-years since the massacre in Qana village in Southern Lebanon, a massacre for which Bennet was responsible. He then went on to explain that, “in my case, I received the full backing of the commanding general and the army chief of staff.” In fact he was backed by the entire chain of command going all the way up to the Prime Minister (and Nobel laureate), Shimon Peres.
Bennet was talking about the shelling by Israeli forces of the UN compound in the southern Lebanese village of Qana. It took place on April 18, 1996 when hundreds of local Lebanese were seeking shelter at the compound. Of the 800 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge in the compound, a reported 106 were killed and 116 were injured. The attack occurred amid fighting between the Israeli army and Hezbollah during operation “Grapes of Wrath.” There was evidence that an Israeli drone was spying on the compound before the shelling, making the argument that this may have been an error, unlikely at best. Clearly all levels of the IDF command knew that the compound was there and that it served as shelter for refugees escaping the fighting. The building was clearly marked as a UN compound and was even marked on the Israeli maps. Bennet who was commander of an Israeli army reconnaissance unit called for massive artillery shelling of the site.
The BBC described the massacre as: “one of the deadliest single events of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict.” Robert Fisk who reported from the site wrote, “Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this.”
Fisk’s descriptions of what he saw are not for the weak at heart but must be read and remembered. Over and over we hear the phrase “never again,” yet Israel commits one heinous massacre after another and gets away with it, usually absolved by the US. In this case the main culprit is known, he admits his responsibility and yet not only did he go unpunished, he is unrepentant and is now in charge of the Israeli ministry of education. How ironic. Again Fisk’s description, “The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disemboweled. There were well over a hundred of them […] The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world’s protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.” And Fisk continues, “Now the Israelis are stained again by the bloodbath at Qana, the scruffy little Lebanese hill town where the Lebanese believe Jesus turned water into wine.”
Naftali Bennet was quoted as saying that he had killed many Arabs in his time and feels no remorse, and in his view “a soldier in the battlefield can not commit murder.” In a speech in the Knesset Bennet said he killed many terrorists during his military service and he wishes he had killed more. Bennet never saw an Arab he did not consider to be a terrorist, and therefore fair game. “Arabs are murdering Jews every day,” he said as he defended the execution in Hebron. An important piece of information that is completely ignored is that another soldier shot Abdel Fatah first, even though he was unarmed and his hands were raised, and only later did Elor Azaria execute him. Bennet called the scene as a “battle ground” and the shooting perfectly legitimate because according to him “Viscous Palestinian terrorists are coming out every day to kill Jews.”
The result of Bennet’s call for the shelling in Qana, according to Fisk, was “The blood of all the refugees ran quite literally in streams from the shell-smashed UN compound […] in which the Shiite Muslims from the hill villages of southern Lebanon – who had heeded Israel’s order to leave their homes – had pathetically sought shelter.” Once the news of the shelling had got out, relatives started arriving from other parts of Lebanon to look for loved ones. Their grief and anger were forceful, “we had suddenly become not UN troops and journalists but Westerners, Israel’s allies” Fisk writes, and he continues, “one bearded man with fierce eyes stared at us, his face dark with fury: […] “I would like to be made into a bomb and blow myself up amid the Israelis” the man cried.
The story of the Qana massacre was brought up during the Israeli elections of 2015, because Bennet was the head of one of the parties running. Claims were made that the “incident” was evidence that he had “poor judgment.” Today, twenty years and countless massacres later a man who knowingly brought about the gruesome killing of countless innocents is in charge of educating Israeli children and is defending the execution of a young Palestinian. And yet, the one man that everyone is calling a terrorist is one who committed no act violence at all: the young Abdel Fatah Alsharif, may he rest in peace.
Taking the measure on Tuesday, Nilesat alleged that Al-Manar had “violated the contract by broadcasting shows that provoke sectarian strife and sedition.”
The company is also to stop its operations in Lebanon as of Wednesday when its contract expires.
Saudi-based satellite provider Arabsat had stopped broadcasting Al-Manar in December 2015, a month after it took Al Mayadeen TV, another Lebanon-based channel, off air.
Late last week, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV shut its offices in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and dismissed the local staff over “security reasons.”
Saudi Arabia has been adopting a raft of measures against Lebanon in reaction to the latter country’s refusal to side with Riyadh against Iran.
It has been targeting Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, which has been fighting Saudi-backed extremism inside both Lebanon and Syria.
Earlier in the year, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil refused to back a motion crafted by Saudi Arabia against the Islamic Republic, prompting Riyadh to retract a $4-billion aid pledge to Lebanon and demand an apology, which Lebanon refused to give.
The motion had sought to condemn Tehran over January attacks on vacant Saudi diplomatic premises. The attacks occurred during otherwise peaceful protests against Saudi Arabia’s execution earlier of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Saudi Arabia has also ordered its citizens not to travel to Lebanon and imposed sanctions on four Lebanese firms and three individuals it accuses of having links to Hezbollah.
There are also reports that Saudi Arabia may expel the Lebanese nationals working on its territory.
Some local media reports in Lebanon have, meanwhile, said the Saudis may be applying pressure to secure the release of a member of the royal family held in Lebanon since last October on drug charges.
Abdul-Mohsen al-Waleed Al Saud was detained in Beirut after authorities seized two tons of amphetamine Captagon pills before they were loaded onto his private plane.
Al-Akhbar newspaper revealed that France has been involved in spying on the internet cable that transmits the cyber services from the French city of Marseille to Lebanon, passing through Egypt.
The Lebanese daily explained that the French intelligence services monitor all the telecommunications operated in Lebanon, knowing that Orange company that is very close to the Zionist entity also supervises the entire process.
Accordingly, the experts urged the Lebanese to take extreme cyber security measures to secure their telecommunication activities.