What Happened in Nahr Al Bared?

October 24th, 2007

What happened in Nahr Al Bared?
by Michael Birmingham

The systematic burning and destruction of a Palestinian camp in Lebanon – the media is banned and the world is silent?

Nahr Al Bared is a Palestinian refugee camp in the north of Lebanon which has been home to about 40,000 Palestinian people, most of whom are the children and grandchildren of those who left Palestine in 1948. Some like Abu Mohammad were born in Palestine. He was ten years old, and next year it will be sixty years since the formation of the State of Israel was achieved through the ethnic cleansing of Abu Mohammad and so many others from their home in Palestine. He told me this as the two of us sat alone in the pitch dark while rats ran around beside our chairs at his house. As I left he went in to sleep alone amongst ashes and rodents, with no neighbours around him, trying to believe that he still has something left to protect.

Between May and September of this year, a ferocious battle took place between the Lebanese Army and a small armed group known as Fatah Al Islam. From the first the day, the Lebanese Army surrounded the camp and fired in artillery, maintaining this course for months. Most of the residents of the camp were forced to leave with the clothes on their backs within the first three days. As the number of young Lebanese soldiers killed and horribly maimed rose through the battle, Lebanon became awash with patriotism and grief, any questioning of the army taboo.

Something terrible has been done to the residents of Nahr al Bared, and the Lebanese people are being spared the details. Over the past two weeks, since the camp was partly reopened to a few of its residents, many of us who have been there have been stunned by a powerful reality. Beyond the massive destruction of the homes from three months of bombing, room after room, house after house have been burned. Burned from the inside. Amongst the ashes on the ground, are the insides of what appear to have been car tyres. The walls have soot dripping down from what seems clearly to have been something flammable sprayed on them. Rooms, houses, shops, garages – all blackened ruins, yet having had no damage from bombing or battle. They were burned deliberately by people entering and torching them.

How many we do not know, it is too large for a few people to comprehensively assess. But finding an un-bombed house or a business that has not been torched is very hard indeed.

Why did this happen? Why have the people whose entire life’s work is to be found in ashes on the floor of these burned out homes, not been given any information about this – not a word? Each day new people return to find that this is what has happened to their homes.

It is not just the burning of houses. Cars that residents were ordered to leave behind in the first days of the battle have been smashed up. Mopeds and TVs and all that ordinary people value, also broken up. Fridge after fridge with bullets through them. All of this clearly done from inside the houses, not from any outside battle.

People returning to their homes sit outside alone on the ground. Stunned. When you ask them to bring you into their houses, they tell you, person after person, of how their valuables were stolen. Even where the valuables were well hidden, everything was ransacked and valuables found. Explosives were used to get through locked doors or to open safes. Items that people have had stolen include everything from clothes to cars. That which has not been burned, which was not smashed, which was of value seems to have vanished. Where?

This camp was strictly out of bounds to the Palestinian people. They could not have done this. Who did this and why must surely be investigated before more vital evidence has disappeared. A small amount of this may be attributable to Fatal al-Islam fighters. But there is clear evidence that some elements of the army acted improperly.

On the inside walls of many, many houses, are written slogans. Everything from proud soldiers noting army units, to profoundly racist, offensive slogans against Palestinian people. Many families have found some of their belongings in nearby houses. Faeces are on some mattresses and floors.

Every day that goes by more families return to the camp. Within hours, they have swept up and cleared away ashes and debris, so that they can try to imagine where to begin again. Mattresses with faeces are being burned. Journalists are still prohibited from the camp. Cameras are illegal there. Human rights groups have not entered. Every day that goes by, more evidence is lost.

For those of us who lived in nearby Baddawi refugee camp during the battle, this follows from months of people from Nahr al Bared telling stories of torture and abuse at checkpoints, and in the Lebanese Ministry of Defence at Yarsi. It also follows on peaceful demonstrators from Nahr al Bared who bravely tried to tell the world what was happening being shot dead near Baddawi. The world ignored completely even their deaths.

Amnesty International, the largest human rights organisation in the world was concluding a report on the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon during the past week. It’s delegation left Lebanon without seeing Nahr Al Bared – before it left holding a Beirut press conference which was abruptly ended at the first mention of Nahr Al Bared.

The United States Government played a key role in this battle, strongly supporting politically and with munitions the Lebanese government’s decision to seek a military solution. The Lebanese offered to Fatah Al Islam simply to surrender or die. The European Union and many Arab countries also clearly supported this approach. The moral and legal imperative to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and not to target civilian communities was not a concern. The Palestinians of Lebanon, the subject of so many crocodile tears from around the world during infamous massacres in the past, once again are without support at the moment when it might actually matter.

What happened in Nahr al Bared? Why does the world not seem to care?

Michael Birmingham is an Irish peace activist who has been mostly based in Lebanon since July 2006. He has formerly worked on human rights and social justice in Ireland and Iraq.

Dave Cline Friend of Peace RIP

September 21st, 2007

Friend of Peace, RIP

“We are not the first group to call for impeachment. We have decided to add our voice to the call. All the reasons given for the invasion have shown themselves to be half-truths or misleading. The conflict continues to drag on taking the lives of our soldiers and innocent Iraqis. It is clear that George Bush does not intend to change course in an effort to right this great wrong. He has had enough time in his second term to begin a shift and he has not. It is time to remove him from office.” David Cline, then President of the VFP, March ‘05

I met Dave Cline on August 4th, 2005, just two days before myself and about 40 members of the Veterans for Peace (and about 2 dozen others ranging from Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Vets Against the War, Vietnam Vets Against the War, and my group, Gold Star Families for Peace and Texas peace activists) made our historic walk down Prairie Chapel Road on August 6th. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Letter to Progressive Opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

September 21st, 2007

Open Letter to Progressive Opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejadfrom the Columbia Coalition Against the War


As Columbia only very recently announced, Iranian President Mahmoud

Ahmadinejad will be speaking in Roone Arledge auditorium this Monday.

A number of students and student organizations have already announced

plans for a protest rally the same day. We are not among them. We do

not endorse Ahmadinejad or his views, many of which are inexcusable.

However, as opponents of a US military strike against Iran, we have

serious concerns with the content of some of the hostility that has

been expressed to his presence, and specifically with the planned


Read the rest of this entry »

Victory in Texas for Kenneth Foster

September 12th, 2007

From Socialist Worker

ALAN MAASS reports on the successful struggle to save Kenneth Foster.

IN AN inspiring victory for the anti-death penalty struggle, Kenneth Foster Jr. won clemency August 30, hours before he was scheduled to be executed in Texas’ death chamber.

For more than 10 years, politicians, prosecutors and judges at every level failed Kenneth. They all agreed that he should be put to death, even though everyone acknowledges he never killed anyone.

The only reason Kenneth is alive today is because he and his supporters refused to stop fighting. They exposed the injustices surrounding his case and forced the political and media establishment to pay attention. As Kenneth’s lawyer Keith Hampton put it, “Extra-legal means work.” Read the rest of this entry »

Kenneth Foster to die Thursday

August 29th, 2007


by Ben Davis

August 28, 2008

Barring a miracle – and miracles are in short order on Texas’ death row – Kenneth Foster is likely to die Thursday. The battle around his case has been a heroic one. Kenneth’s horrifying story of being condemned to death on a misapplication of an already draconian legal monstrosity – Texas’ “Law of Parties,” which enshrines guilt by association – as well as his own clear-eyed and articulate work telling his story and speaking out for others, have won him a host of supporters.

Foremost, of course, there is his family, including his heartbreakingly articulate daughter Nydesha – who has never touched her father, and now may never do so. There is the Coalition to Save Kenneth Foster, a group of activists who have rallied to his defense. There is also the New York hip-hop collective the Welfare Poets, and Kenneth’s wife, the Dutch hip-hop artist Jav’lin, who dedicated the moving song Walk With Me on the Poets’ Cruel and Unusual Punishment CD to her husband’s struggle to live. Mumia Abu-Jamal, from his own death row confinement, wrote in solidarity, while Amnesty International called the case “a new low for Texas” – and that is low indeed. Read the rest of this entry »

We Should Not be Causing This

August 25th, 2007

We Shouldn’t Be Causing This
by Kathy Kelly
Amman, Jordan
August 22, 2007

Here in Amman, Jordan, a British teenager, Sonia, age 12, recently spent four days interviewing and befriending Iraqi youngsters close to her in age. She wanted to learn, firsthand, about the experiences of Iraqi youngsters who have fled war and violence in their home country.

A versatile and talented child, Sonia loves to play the trumpet and perform classical Indian dances, the latter being somewhat unusual for a Muslim girl. When she was eight years old, shortly before the U.S. and the U.K. attacked Iraq, she wrote a poem urging respect for the rights of Iraqi children whose lives and hopes would be destroyed by war. The poem reached many people, intensifying efforts of peace activists to stop the war before it started. Sonia continued her efforts on behalf of Iraqi children, even founding an organization called “Children Against War.” (www.j-n-v.org/Action/Appeal_Children_Against_War_delegation_July_2007.htm – 36k)

In the spring of 2007, she asked her mother if she could raise money through music and dance performances, to pay for a trip to Amman, so that she could film Iraqi children speaking for themselves. After talking it over with other peace activists, her mother agreed to accompany Sonia, and so, last week, they arrived here for a four day trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Get to Work by Kathy Kelly

August 12th, 2007

By Kathy Kelly
Amman, Jordan
August 12, 2007

“GET A JOB!” These three words are very familiar to activists bearing signs calling for an end to war, whether standing on street corners, walking along highways, holding vigils, or nonviolently occupying the offices of elected representatives. Listen to the activists, and you’ll often hear, “We’re doing our job. We’re trying.”

I’m convinced that our work must always have one foot placed in nonviolent resistance to the forces that design and wage wars, with the other foot standing among people who bear the physical and mental affliction caused by these forces. Today, I’m thinking especially about two young women who found themselves in nightmare circumstances because, in their view, they simply wanted to have a job. Read the rest of this entry »

She Stands at Every Door by Kathy Kelly

August 6th, 2007

She Stands At Every Door
By Kathy Kelly
Amman, Jordan
August 6, 2007

At a small, informal school in the basement of a church in Amman, many strings of colorful paper cranes bedeck walls and windows. The school serves children whose families have fled Iraq. Older children who come to the school understand the significance of the crane birds. Claudia Lefko, of Northampton, MA, who helped initiate the school, told them Sadako’s story. The Japanese child survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but suffered from radiation sickness. In a Japanese hospital, she wanted to fold 1,000 origami crane birds, believing that by doing so she could be granted a special wish: hers was that no other child would ever suffer as she did. Sadako died before completing the task she’d set for herself, but Japanese children then folded many thousands more cranes, and the story has been told for decades in innumerable places, making the delicate paper cranes a symbol for peace throughout the world. Read the rest of this entry »

The Slide by Cindy Sheehan

July 22nd, 2007

The Slide
Cindy Sheehan

Day 11 of our Journey for Humanity and Accountability
found our caravan group at the Charlottesville, VA
home of David Swanson who is director of
AfterDowningStreet.org. I got to know David after my
group Gold Star Families for Peace became one of the
first organizations to sign on to ADS when the memos
were exposed on May 1, 2005. That collaboration led to
what I thought was going to be the downfall of BushCo:
the fact that on July 23, 2001, there was a secret
meeting at 10 Downing Street that pretty much said
that the invasion of Iraq was a foregone conclusion
and the intelligence was going to have to be “fixed”
around the policy of pre-emptive invasion. Read the rest of this entry »

Torture is a War Crime by Cindy Sheehan

July 16th, 2007

Torture is a War Crime
Journey for Humanity and Accountability
Day 5
Cindy Sheehan

Today our Journey took us to Ft. Benning, Ga, where
the cancer of the School of Americas (WINSEC) is
housed. I have written on torture before and I believe
that BushCo’s policy of imprisoning people without
their basic due process and torturing them is one of
the grossest breeches of international and American
law and one of the overriding reasons that they should
be impeached.

The School of Torture has graduated many egregious
violators of human rights like Panamanian drug lord,
U.S. CIA employee, and Bush family friend (until he
became an enemy), Manuel Noriega. If there is one
issue that should unite Americans it should be against
torture. Incredibly, we still have neighbors in our
communities who believe that torture is correct,
humane and valuable. However to say torture is “wrong”
is like saying the sky is blue. Torture is inherently
wrong. Torture is pure evil. Torture is an
abomination. Torture is disordered and demented.
Torture is sick, sick, sick! Read the rest of this entry »