A Child of the Israeli Invasion: The Making of Issa
In 1982, Issa was five years-old. That year, Israel invaded Lebanon
killing over 19,000 Lebanese civilians and more than 9,000
Palestinians in Lebanon. It was then that Israel watered the seeds of
resistance in Lebanon--the seeds that led to Hezbollah's formation,
the seeds from which Issa would grow and from which 14 years later he
would die resisting another Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
I knew Issa for 12 years and I will always remember him smiling shyly
as he spoke of his new bride when he married two years ago, and how he
would eagerly share pictures of his new daughter Fatimah, with pride
radiating from every pore in his body. Issa was from southern Lebanon.
He lived most of his life under Israeli occupation. He witnessed every
day its reckless cruelty against his family, his people, his Lebanon.
Like most southern Lebanese, he lost family members and homes to
Since 1968 Israel has killed some 33,630 Lebanese civilians and
wounded 49,385 more.
While it was almost always the South that bore the brunt of Israel's
wrath, no Lebanese is untouched by this brutality. And no Lebanese is
unaware that the international community has stood by, callously
looking on as Israel kills with impunity.
Israel's abductions of both Lebanese and Palestinian civilians also
pass largely unnoticed, drawing no condemnation from world leaders.
Palestinian guerrillas abducted an Israeli soldier on June 25 in
response to Israel's abduction of two Palestinian civilians the
previous day. As the world rallied behind Israel, that detail was
hardly mentioned. There were no calls for their release, no
acknowledgement that Palestinians had a right to defend themselves.
Instead, as Israel unleashed it wrath on the civilians of Gaza,
President Bush stood behind Israel and announced that it had a right
to "defend" itself.
Today, with some 9,200 Palestinians wallowing in Israeli jails, most
without trial or charges against them, Israel continues its assault on
Palestinian cities and towns in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and
continues to abduct Palestinian civilians, including senior political
figures from the democratically-elected Hamas government and
Palestinian Legislative Council members. The silence from the world is
When on July 12, Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers
hoping to exchange them for the six Lebanese held in Israeli prisons,
Israel, again with America's support, inflicted massive damage on the
whole of Lebanon, destroying its fragile economy and killing upwards
of 1,400 innocent civilians and injuring some 4,000.
Though Israel's crimes are whitewashed as "self-defense", their scars
are burned into the memories of all Lebanese.
In 1982, Israel set up a militia that arrested, tortured and
imprisoned Shiites in southern Lebanon. Most were held in the
notorious Khiam Prison. When Israel was finally driven out of Lebanon
18 years later, Hezbollah opened Khiam to the public. It was a damning
monument to the savagery of the prison that was run under the
direction of Israel's Shin Bet security force.
Hezbollah gave guided tours, often led by former prisoners who knew
Khiam like the backs of their hands. They would stop outside each room
to describe, in painful detail, the torture and cruelty that took
place inside its walls. The solitary confinement rooms were
particularly unsettling. After the prison was opened, the stench of
human feces and urine was overwhelming--the human suffering palpable.
During this last war, Israel made sure to destroy the prison,
flattening the evidence. It lies in ruins today. Another shred of the
grim and damning evidence of Israel's cruelty in Lebanon gone. But the
scars of Khiam too are burned into the memories of the Lebanese.
When Israel invaded Lebanon this time, pounding the country and
promising to take it back 20 years, Issa took up arms to fight; his
will to live free or die trying far bigger than any label slapped onto
him by the invaders. He came home to his wife and daughter one day to
spend a few hours with them. He was killed the following day by an
Israeli missile dropped from an un-manned drone.
Issa was the birth child of Israel. For every one Issa that dies
unjustly and unnoticed by the international community, ten more are
born. There is another way--justice.
Rana El-Khatib is a Palestinian/Lebanese poet and writer living in Beirut.
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