It occurred to me today that it has been one year. One year since the Lebanese army unleashed its destructive forces on Nahr el Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon with a force they have never used against its neighbor to the south. A recent video shows more of the destruction in the camp, a camp that the Lebanese army has only allowed 8,000 of its original 31,000 inhabitants to return to.
So much has happened in Lebanon since then, including the recent violence that broke out in Beirut and in Trablus. A friend speaking on the radio revealed a horrifying report, not so much because of what he said, but because of the incessant RPGs and gunfire surrounding him. Another friend provided an analysis of the situation in an interview with Tadamon. Another dear friend described the situation in an interview in the Socialist Worker.
Of course, there were other anniversaries this last week, al nakba, which is hard for me to think about without being reminded that the people of Nahr el Bared have been displaced multiple times–in 1948 from Palestine, in 1976 from Tel Al-Za’atar refugee camp, and last summer from Nahr el Bared. I spent the last weekend at the Al Awda conference to commemorate this anniversary of al nakba. I saw a couple of interesting films like the Sons of Eilaboun, which was a moving oral testimony to the ethnic cleansing of the village of Eilaboun, and Driving to Zigzigland, which is a fictional film about a Palestinian coming to Los Angeles after 9/11 to make it as an actor. I also heard speakers such as Ilan Pappe, during which I learned that Israel’s foreign minister attempted to go to the United Nations to make the word “nakba” illegal. I also heard Michel Shehadeh speak, Saree Makdisi, Ghada Karmi all on various issues. There were a number of Palestinian refugees and Palestinians from historic 1948 Palestine linking their issues in important ways that drives home the need for a one state solution. But the speaker who impressed me the most, who had new things to say, was Salman Abu Sitta, who is the General Coordinator of the Right to Return Congress in London. He is organizing a Palestinian council that would be global thereby giving Palestinians, including the 7.2 million refugees around the world, a say in Palestinian affairs and what sort of direction a solution would have. This is especially important given how much the PA is a puppet of Israel and the U.S. There is no way such a government would be able to stay in power if Palestinians around the world had a say in their affairs. Another highlight was As’ad Abu Khalil of the infamous blog, Angry Arab. I had been dying to meet him because we have so many mutual friends. His talk was fabulous and he was the only one to speak about Nahr el Bared. As’ad argued that instead of finding new language we should return to the old language of al awda, of the popular liberation struggle rather than the new language, which he sees as electoral democracy–words that have meant the creation of normalization with Israel and puppets of the U.S. He also talked about the recent post-9/11 phenomenon of Arab Zionists in various Arab regimes and media, something he writes quite a bit about on his blog.
After the conference we had an afternoon march in Anaheim where Bishop Attalah and Sheikh Tamimi spoke. There were other speakers–Palestinians and those local folks showing solidarity from various groups–and amazing, energizing slogans chanted. Here are some photos from the event:
This wasn’t anything quite as large as the demonstrations I saw in Palestine, but it felt good to be around people who are fighting for a just solution, for the right of return, for Palestinians instead of arguing with Zionists or people who just don’t know any better who need to have a history lesson(s) before they can understand.