I am just about to remove a blog I started and never kept up. These two posts bear saving. I shall back date them, so they only really feature in the archives.
I was reflecting on some themes during the Lebaon war of 2006, in the first instance sitting in a hotel room in China, then having returned home.
To read on see the extension below.
I Must Add My Voice (31st July 2006)
During the past two and half weeks I have been distracted from work that should have held my full attention. I have been distracted by the pure senselessness of a war that is being waged disproportionately by Israel in Lebanon. Yesterday's massacre in Qana in southern Lebanon forces me to move beyond distraction to comment.
Qana is the possible location for Jesus turning water into wine. Yet the place where the Prince of Peace may have celebrated life has twice in ten years become a place of senseless and indicriminate death.
A Massacre or a Few Deaths? (16 August 2006)
Oh my goodness!! I wrote the comment above on 31st July with no knowledge of the storm that was already beginning to brew in what some call the blogosphere. Obviously I have to own to inhabiting that world, albeit I hope the outer reaches.
I have now become aware of the extent of the claims and counterclaims that all too easily serve to mask the human suffering that lies behind it all. I make no claim to any extensive survey of the literature. Storms in the blogosphere are not my interest. There is a summary of 2006 Qana airstrike conspiracy theories on Wikipedia.
I was writing from China where I was busy, had a slow internet connection, and also unable to access some of the sites I would otherwise read. (That is another story which I will leave, for now at least.) I read the reports in the British press of what I will for now call the Qana episode of 30th July, but little of the already extensive comment. Knowing Robert Fisk of the Independent had been central to the reporting of the 1996 massacre I looked for his comment. Fisk is outspoken, often cynical, has strong opinions but is I believe reliable. He also writes with incredible feeling -- which is no bad thing in war which can so easily be reduced to figures and the opinions of politicians -- and understanding of the Arab world he clearly loves and has made his home. I make no apology for referencing him. We have to be willing to hear the stories, and the reality of the pain that war brings. And we need ot hear from both sides of the conflict.
For now I write merely to update the facts in the previous post. That is important. Peacemaking involves seeking the truth, though it also needs to acknowledge that what one side holds to be truth to one side may be propaganda to another. In other words a part of the process is to hear what all parties regard to be "true", and then seek to pursue truth that is verifiable and can be affiremd by all parties. There is a lot more to say there, but for now I will leave it at that.
The facts, as verified by The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Humans Rights Watch seem to be that 28 bodies have been found, and some 13 people are unaccounted for. (see Israel/Lebanon: Qana Death Toll at 28 .
A summary of the process that led to that number is decribed in the article on the 2006 Qana airstrike in Wikipedia. They report:
According to Human Rights Watch on 2 August, the initial estimate of 54 persons killed was based on a register of 63 persons who had sought shelter in the basement, and the rescue teams first having located only nine survivors. However, it was later established that 22 had escaped the basement and that 28 bodies had been recovered, of whom 16 were children. There were still 13 people missing, and locals feared they were buried in the rubble.
Human Rights Watch also added that its own researchers, who visited Qana on July 31, the day after the attack, did not find any destroyed military equipment in or near the house. "Similarly, none of the dozens of international journalists, rescue workers and international observers who visited Qana on July 30 and 31 reported seeing any evidence of Hezbollah military presence in or around the home. Rescue workers recovered no bodies of apparent Hezbollah fighters from inside or near the building."
One can obviously question the sources here, but who is one ever to believe. Personally I would tend towards believing those who are at the scene, rather than armchair commentators analysing reports, whether photographs and text. (eg seeking to establish the activity and possible motives of a civil defense worker captured in a lot of photographs from Qana who has been labelled "Mr Green Helmet") (Please also note: I often quote from Wikipedia. I have found that its open source / open edit process tends towards a balance and credibility that while not always immediately apparent emerges over time as articles are edited, re-edited and the process is moderated.)
Much more can be said. I intend to comment in the next few days on two main themes:
Hearing from all sides in a conflict.
Some initial comments on Peacemaking
My aim here on this blog is not to especially be an authority on this war, but rather to seek to apply some of the lessons I and my friends and colleagues have learned in reconciliation and peacemaking. This is not my region of personal focus, though I know many for whom it is home and who care desperately. This site is not intended to focus on the Middle East, though obviously wars there are not going to go away soon, and thus it will tend to focus a lot of attention there. I was stirred to action by the Qana episode, for reasons I made clear in that post; however I have long been planning to write on this theme.
For now let me pose a question that I raised in the title. I have intentionally here spoken of the Qana episode. Massacre generally means "a general slaughter of human beings or animals" (OED) but often carries with it a sense of being indiscriminate and is usually intentional. eg Wiktionary
The intentional killing of a considerable number of human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty, or contrary to the usages of civilized people Wiktionary
It is therefore a word that carries a lot of emotional impact. It implies a motive- and that need to be verified. For now then I will not use the word. Its a bit like a word that has become very familiar, and which was used with regularity of Hizbollah - "terrorist". More on that another time.