... in israel

Christian(?) Hezbollah youth

02 Jan 2007 | 600 words | lebanon war travel european union development israel

We spend all day today in south Lebanon, which is not as badly destroyed as i had thought (sometimes it is a bit difficult to tell if a ruin is the result of the local culture of leaving lots of buildings unfinished or of an israeli air raid). Some of the villages seem more or less undamaged, while others look like it has been attempted to raze them from the ground for good. We spend some time in Bint Jebel, where the entire center of the the village is in ruins (the place saw intense house to house fighting during the war) and then went on to Khiam, to see (what is left of) the prison. I had been to the prison in khiam during my last trip so the destruction here was visually much more revealing as i had a pretty good memory of how the place looked one and a half years ago. Basically the entire prison is reduced to rubble (There is one cell block left). looks like this has been an convenient opportunity for the IDF to get rid of this rather dark episode of their history.

The only other visitors were a group of young fashionable men from beirut who were posing in the ruins with a hezbollah flag, which looked rather stupid given that about as likely to be hezbollah supporters as one is likely to find beer in Khiam. at some point it looked like they were actually trying to imitate a certain historical scene (which if memory does not deceive me was also fake), but i doubt they were aware of this:

For the rest the area is absolutely overcrowded with UN peacekeepers, who seem to have nothing better to do than drive water trucks through the narrow streets and go shopping. Not sure how this is supposed to help. Also the European Commission has embarked on repairing the street lights in the entire area, which they emphasize by putting up informative hoarding and putting stickers with the EU flag on every lamp post (pictures to follow, the upload speed here is horrible). This is of course against the background of schools, houses, roads and pretty much everything else needing repair. I wonder who sets the priorities at the EU and who seriously believes that stickers on lamp posts will give Europe a good name in this part of the world

Update: Pictures after the jump:

So apparently the European Commission has decided that the most urgent thing to do in South Lebanon is repairing the street lamps. i am not entirely sure if this prioritization does make much sense to the local population, they would probably be more happy with houses or schools being repaired or more resources dedicated to de-mining and disposal of unexploded cluster munitions. but then development/humanitarian aid is characterized by the fact that the donor sets the priorities and not those who are supposed to be in need of the help….

However in south lebanon the street-lamps come equipped with a poster of either Hassan Nasrallah (Hezbollah) Musa al-Sadr (Amal), the logo of either of the two organizations or the portrait of a resistance fighter fallen in combat. (‘martyr’ in the local lingo) not sure if the EU commission was aware of this fact before taking the decision to repair these very street lamps …

… and as the EU is very keen on showing all the god work they are doing, these very street-lamps now sport stickers of EU flags. gives you the impression that the EU is sponsoring the poles that hold the Hezbollah posters.

We can read, but we know as well how to build and destroy, and sometimes kill

20 Aug 2006 | 398 words | war israel lebanon

I guess the recent weeks have shown that the use of the word ‘sometimes’ in the above quote by Shimon Naveh, a retired Brigadier-General who directs the Operational Theory Research Institute of the IDF is somewhat misplaced: the IDF definitely knows more about killing and destruction than about reading and building.

While the article ‘the art of war‘ by Eyal Weizman from which the above quote is taken does portray the IDF as an extremely sophisticated and almost lovable bunch, reality has again shown that the IDF does not read enough (especially when it comes to history) and even more importantly still does not get that you cannot bring peace for your own people by humiliating and killing your neighbors. this becomes really obvious when looking into the earlier Israeli incursions into Lebanon. in ‘Pity the Nation‘, in the chapter dealing with the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Robert Fisk quite drastically describes how Israel’s current number one enemy – Hezbollah – is a product of the 1982 invasion that eventually drove Israel’s then number one enemy – the PLO – out of Lebanon:

None of us, i think, realized the critical importance of the events at Khalde [a place just south of the Airport where the IDF met its first serious resistance by PLO and Amal fighters during its advance on Beirut]. The Lebanese Shia were learning the principles of martyrdom and putting them into practice. Never before had we seen these men wear headbands like this; we thought it was just another militia affectation but it was not. It was the beginning of a legend which also contained a strong element of truth. The Shia were now the Lebanese resistance, nationalist no doubt but also inspired by their religion. The party of God – in arabic, the Hezbollah – were on the beaches of Khalde that night. (Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation, 1990 p.227)

Now one wonders if the IDF really had these consequences in mind when it crushed the PLO in 1982. The same PLO could not stop the IDF from reaching West Beirut in 7 days. Hezbollah managed to prevent the IDF from reaching the Litani river for more than 4 weeks… at the same time one has to also credit the IDF for ‘only’ killing about a thousand Lebanese in its latest incursion. in 1982 they managed to kill 10.000 in those 7 days.

History repeating

30 Jul 2006 | 498 words | war israel lebanon drone wars stupidity

It is incredible how extremely stupid IDF commanders can be (I guess it makes no sense of complaining about their lack of sensibility as that is a trait of character that seems to disqualify anyone from becoming a military commander). Looks like today they managed to stage a repeat of the April 18, 1996 Qana Massacre in which IDF artillery shelling killed 106 lebanese civilians sheltering in an UN compound.

This morning – 10 years, 3 month and 12 days later – the Israeli air force targeted a 4-story apartment complex in the same city killing another 50-or-so civilians seeking shelter from the continuing Israeli air and artillery attacks on South Lebanon:

The facts will come trickling in, preceded by the excuses: the Israeli military will insist the civilians were warned, will insist Hizbullah fired from the village first; Hizbullah will deny firing from houses, will argue the Israeli drones, above the village all day, had recorded the civilians' presence; the remaining, bereaved family members will say, again, how they had nowhere to go, no way to leave, and that the roads out have been unremittingly bombed for the past week.

But none of it will matter. Not to those who make callous, calculated decisions from their comfortable, removed safety, nor to those who sell and deliver the weapons. The innocents suffer, and only the impotent care.

The families will grieve. The children will grow up without their mothers. The memorial at Qana, already displaying the coffins of 106 civilian deaths, will swell by at least 55 more, at least 20 of them children’s sized. And the atrocities, tacitly and repeatedly permitted, will continue. [Sonya Knox on the Siege of Lebanon Blog]

It is hard to understand how the IDF hopes to ‘break support for Hezbollah‘ by these kinds of operations. when we were touring South Lebanon last june the Qana massacre was repeatedly mentioned in order to underline why Hezbollah’s resistance strategy is justified and why Hezbollah enjoys the almost complete support of the Shi’a population in the South: they are the ones who fight against those who have repeatedly taken the liberty to invade Lebanon, commit or support massacres and generally turn the life of ordinary people in South Lebanon into hell.

Of course there is no way that by committing more massacres among innocent civilians and making life more miserable for ordinary Lebanese and Palestinian people Israel will ever gain support or trust from its neighbors or even get rid of the Hezbollah. but at the same time it appears that there is no way that IDF commanders will ever learn this lesson…

After reading the morning news i got up and went running. Choose Da Arabian MC’sMeen Erhabe‘ (‘Who is the Real Terrorist?’) as background track…

update: There is a interesting piece on how Hezbullah operates militarily in Lebanon up on salon.com. It questions the standard israeli justification for killing civilians, who according to the IDF are used by Hezbollah as human shields.

Coffin counter

24 Jul 2006 | 67 words | war israel lebanon dead people

So it looks like counting dead people becomes one of the main threads woven through this blog. i have mentioned my own and other people’s efforts before and now I came across this simple yet powerful visualization of the proportionality of deaths resulting from the conflict between Israel en Hezbullah. The page is maintained by Moiz Syed using the numbers taken from BBC’s coverage on the conflict.

Blogging from Beirut

23 Jul 2006 | 156 words | lebanon media war israel

Looks like the current situation in Lebanon has lead to an explosion in the number of blogs from Lebanon in the last couple of days, which of course means that there is more interesting stuff out there than anyone can read without becoming a social outcast…

My absolute favorite is this blog with black and white drawings by Mazen Kerbaj. If you have not seen his drawings yet go check them out! Also worth a read are this bilingual (arabic/english) blog by people of the grass roots group sanayeh who are blogging about the relief work they are doing in central Beirut and the siege of lebanon group blog that collects various first person accounts from all over Lebanon.

Finally there is a blog that collects headline items from the Lebanese newtv television channel providing minute by minute updates of the situation. And of course wikipedia seems to do an impressive job at covering the events.

I am sick of it...

Actually i am sick of a number of things at the moment. Has a lot today with what the media reporting, but this evening i am particularly sick of how the media are reporting. Around 2000h yesterday evening the germen news-portal spiegel online had a breaking news alert on top of their frontpage:

Why is that important? Even the most stupid intern doing a sunday afternoon shift in the news room while it is summer outside must have noticed that up until now more than 150 people have been killed in Lebanon by the Israelis and at least 20 have been killed in Israel by Hezbollha. So what is the point of pointing out that 8 Canadians have been killed? I mean dead people are dead people and it does not really matter which passport they had (o.k sometimes it does matter, but that is another story and i cant find the link right now) even if the idiots who are running most media outlets and wire services seem to think otherwise.

Are we supposed to pay more attention to the death of Canadians just because they are mostly white, better educated and issue pointless statements for restraint through the same international organizations (G8/NATO/OECD/…) as ‘we’ are?

Or is it because canadians are so healthy and live in such a safe place that their live expectancy is slightly higher than that of the average Lebanese person and as a result their unexpected death weights more than that of a non-western person?

Now don’t expect an answer from spiegel online, as their breaking news alert linked to an absolute non-story. i do not even know why i still have this crap news-site as my start up page in my browser. Guess i have to change that.

This whole episode also reminds me of how pissed i was with all the western media last week for the amount of attention they paid to the Bombay train bombings. given that these attacks where almost exactly one year after the 7/7 London bombings and killed almost 4 times as many people the media attention was extremely sparse. No interactive flash graphics or interviews with distressed emergency responders when it comes to non-westerners being the victims of terrorist attacks (but then interactive flash graphics and interviews with distressed emergency responders are highly annoying things so maybe one should plead for less media attention to terrorist attacks in the west).

Update [23.jul]: Here is a little bit of background on the dead Canadians by Jim Quilty writing for the Canadian website straight.com.

Welcome to Israel!

02 Jun 2005 | 400 words | lebanon israel border mobile networks politics

Today we went to the South of Lebanon, the part that is officially referred to as the liberated zone. This is the area that was controlled by Israel – through the south Lebanese army – until they were forced out by continuing casualties inflicted upon them by the armed wing of the Hezbollah in 2000. after visiting Beaufort castle, a former crusader castle overlooking most of south Lebanon, the Golan and parts of Israel, that was used by the IDF during the occupation as a military base and a former torture center run by the SLA for the IDF we went to the border between Lebanon and Israel just outside the northernmost Israeli settlement. The border itself is quite unimpressive and the IDF seems to keep itself out of sight deliberately in order to not provoke the Hezbollah loyalists on the other side. what is most notable is the obvious abundance of water on the Israeli side that supports extensive farming in stark contrast to the dryness of the land on the Lebanese side of the fence. While being at the border i started to receive welcome SMS messages form Israeli network operators. First four messages from orange Israel

Orange welcomes you to israel. you can now dial 1233 to listen to your voicemail and 1200 for your home customer service. powered by starhome.

and later a whole array of messages from Cellcom Israel.

welcome to cellcom. To listen to your voicemail just dial 1233 , and for your customer care 1200, as you do in the Netherlands! Enjoy your stay in Israel.

It is not unusual to receive such messages well beyond national borders but in the European context this does not really mean anything as borders in the frequency spectrum obviously do not adhere to the lines drawn on maps. but when you are standing in front of a border fence that is obviously designed to keep you out being surrounded by posters glorifying the acts of martyrdom committed against the Israeli occupation forces it is rather bizarre to be welcomed and asked to feel at home by an operator from the other side of the fence. even more disturbing is the fact that Cellcom kept sending me welcome messages long after we had turned north again. The last message arrived at my phone more than 24 hours later while eating lunch in restaurant du Chef in Beirut….

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: