Lebanese civil resistance organizes aid caravan

From the Lebanon Solidarity website:

U.S. Citizens, Internationals and Lebanese risk safety to bring humanitarian aid to devasted Southern Lebanon
On August 12, at 7 AM, Lebanese from throughout the country and international supporters who have come to Lebanon to express solidarity will gather in Martyr’s Square in Beirut to form a civilian convoy to the south of Lebanon. Hundreds of Lebanese and international civilians will express their solidarity with the inhabitants of the heavily destroyed south who have been bravely withstanding the assault of the Israeli military. This campaign is endorsed by more than 200 Lebanese and international organizations. This growing coalition of national and international non-governmental organizations hereby launches a campaign of civil resistance for the purpose of challenging the cruel and ruthless use of massive military force by Israel, the regional superpower, upon the people of Lebanon.

August 12 marks the start of this Campaign of Resistance, declaring Lebanon an Open Country for Civil Resistance. August 12 also marks the international day of protest against the Israeli aggression.

“In the face of Israel’s systematic killing of our people, the indiscriminate bombing of our towns, the scorching of our villages, and the attempted destruction of our civil infrastructure, we say No! In the face of the forced expulsion of a quarter of our population from their homes throughout Lebanon, and the complicity of governments and international bodies, we re-affirm the acts of civil resistance that began from the first day of the Israeli assault, and we stress and add the urgent need to act!,” said Rasha Salti, one of the organizers of this national event.

After August 12, the campaign will continue with a series of civil actions, leading to an August 19 civilian march to reclaim the South. “Working together, in solidarity, we will overcome the complacency, inaction, and complicity of the international community and we will deny Israel its goal of removing Lebanese from their land and destroying the fabric of our country,�? explained Samah Idriss, writer and co-organizer of this campaign.

“An international civilian presence in Lebanon is not only an act of solidarity with the Lebanese people in the face of unparalleled Israeli aggression, it is an act of moral courage to defy the will of those who would seek to alienate the West from the rest and create a new Middle East out of the rubble and blood of the region,” said Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and campaign co-organizer. “After having witnessed the wholesale destruction of villages by Israel’s air force and navy and having visited the victims (so-called displaced) of Israel’s policy of cleansing Lebanese civilians from their homes,” continued Arraf, “it is imperative to go south and reach those who have stayed behind to resist by steadfastly remaining on their land.”

Israel has been indsicrimately bombing civilian targets and the convoy recognizes that they place their life in peril by trying to bring aid to the thousands that are dying of hunger, thirst and lack of medical care in Southern Lebanon as a result of Israel’s relentless bombing campaign.

U.S. Press contact based in Lebanon:
Ali Tonak
961 70 150 247

Lebanon Contact:
Rasha Salti
+961 3 970855

See our last posts on the Lebanon crisis and civil resistance initiatives.

  1. Convoy stopped by Lebanese security
    August 12, 2006

    At 8:00 this morning in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square, commemorating the
    deaths of 33 Lebanese patriots in 1916, the doubts about a Lebanese
    civil resistance movement against Israel’s invasion of the south were
    swept away. Only twenty-four hours earlier, the organizers could
    assure only six cars, no gasoline and an uncertain number of
    volunteers. Should we cancel? Change the objective? Postpone? After
    yet another difficult meeting we decided to plunge ahead, with several
    contingency plans.

    This morning, however, we found ourselves with 52 vehicles, two to four
    volunteers per vehicle and a press corps swarming all around us. Each
    car sported a large Lebanese flag on its roof and was loaded with
    relief supplies for residents still in the town of Nabatiyya in south
    Lebanon after a million of their citizens had been put to flight by
    Israel’s policy of depopulating the region. After interviews and car
    assignments, the convoy headed through the pride of Beirut’s historic
    downtown business district – the section destroyed in Lebanon’s civil
    war but recently restored with care to its former glory.

    The line of vehicles made its way deliberately through the city,
    pausing occasionally to let stragglers catch up. “What is this?” asked
    bystanders. “Where are you going?”

    “To Nabatiyya.” replied the volunteers with pride. “We are a civil
    resistance campaign asserting our right to be in our lands.”

    The faces of the onlookers beamed in return as they shouted “God
    speed,” touched their hands to their heads, lips or hearts and passed
    their blessings our way with a gesture.

    South we went, first on the superhighway and then on the older coastal
    road where we encountered the first of many bridges blasted with
    impunity by Israeli military might during the last month.

    Passing through the coastal villages, we had not gotten far before we
    came upon a Lebanese military checkpoint. They stopped us and refused
    to let us pass, saying that it was not safe. We disputed their
    assessment, pointing out that we were the only vehicles being stopped
    and that there was plenty of traffic in both directions. With some
    difficulty, we located a higher official of the Ministry of Interior in
    order to appeal the order, but he refused to change it. We considered
    several other alternatives, including removing the markings on the
    cars, getting past the checkpoint and reforming, or doing a sitdown
    strike in the road. However, our goal was not confrontation with the
    Lebanese authorities and Lebanese unity was one of the important
    principles of our action.

    In the end, therefore, we gathered at the Ramlet al-Baida (“White
    Sands”) beach and decided to try to make another opportunity for
    ourselves as soon as possible on a different day. We then moved the
    meeting to our staging center for a self-evaluation session. At that
    meeting we agreed that although it was a big disappointment not to
    achieve our intended objective, our success in proving the interest and
    viability of a Lebanese civil resistance movement should not be lost
    because of external circumstances that no one had foreseen. The group
    will therefore be holding strategy sessions in the coming days to plan
    the next move.

    Don’t count on this group to disappear. Lebanese civil resistance took
    an important step today.

    Paul Larudee
    ISM volunteer in Lebanon

  2. Another update from the convoy
    Lebanon: An Open Country for Civil Resistance
    Regarding the August 12th Planned Convoy to the South

    August 13, 2006

    Press Contacts:

    Rasha Salti: 03 970855
    Wadih Al Asmar: 70 950780

    Contact for internationals: Huwaida Arraf: 70 974452

    Beirut, August 13- Marking the passing of a month on Israel’s war unleashed on Lebanon, we, members of civil society that had mobilized from the first days to aid and support the victims of this aggression, launched this Campaign of Civil Resistance. In addition to marking the one-month anniversary of this latest Israeli war against Lebanon, and the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, (passed August 12, 1949), on August 12, communities around the world protested against the Israeli aggression on Lebanon.

    Here, in Lebanon, the first convoy of civilians was to depart on August 12 to the south, whose final destination, pending questions of security on the ground, was to reach Nabatiyeh. The mission of the convoy, as the mission of the campaign, is to mark a stand in solidarity and unity of all the people of Lebanon, to break the siege on the south, and to defy Israel’s policy of forced expulsions, terror and organized massacres of civilians.

    We convened on Martyrs’ Square at 7:00 am on August 12th morning. More than 200 people were gathered, supported by more than 50 participants from 19 countries. Fifty cars, carrying more than 250 rations of food and medicines, with more than 15 representatives from the local and international media, proceeded on the path to the south.

    The convoy could not reach its destination because it was forcibly stopped at a passageway, located between the site where the bridge and a gas station were shelled recently, in the coastal village of Na’meh by the Lebanese Internal Security, on orders from the Ministry of Interior.

    Despite citing concern for our security, the checkpoint at Na’meh remained open for everyone else, including other convoys.

    As members of civil society, while our government’s concern for our safety is appreciated, we disagree with our government’s missive. As members of the civil society organizing for civil resistance against the Israeli aggression on Lebanon, we specifically chose not to protest against the Lebanese government’s decision; our struggle is first and foremost against the Israeli war on our people and our country, and we stand for unity among all Lebanese, embodying plural political perspectives.

    Nevertheless, we would like to clarify several points. (1) The Lebanese security forces did have notification of our intention to go to the south. Our convoy was widely publicized in the local and international press, and days before conversations were held with members of the Lebanese security forces. (2) We were organizing, and continue to be organizing, acts of civilian resistance, and not acts of civilian suicide. We were aware of the risks of our action, and we were continuing to study the situation on the ground even during the trip. Our allegiance was not to a particular geographical destination, but to the solidarity with our people and the rejection of Israeli dictates. Furthermore, it is ultimately not a question of risk, but one of choice; Israel has the choice to target and bomb known civilian convoys or not. (3) August 12 marks the launching of this campaign of civil resistance. We will continue to resist aggression until a semblance of justice is achieved, and we will continue to build for practical solidarity after the aggression ceases. (4) Our convoy was successful in gathering a significant number of committed, serious people to express solidarity with Lebanese and with Lebanon.

    We are invigorated by the serious, grassroots amount of support that we have inspired. We will build on this support and work towards committed, long-term solidarity with our people in the south and throughout our beloved country.