Laying Out
The Qana Calculation
Horrific Bombing
Sows Death And Rage
Rana El-Khatib

Everywhere in Beirut I look, it seems, people are crammed into suddenly overcrowded homes. Streets, schools and parks are overrun. Families with relatives or friends from areas that have been ravaged by Israeli bombs have opened up their homes. Medicine, food and other daily necessities are in increasingly short supply. The city is bursting at the seams, the tension thicker than the humid, stultifying Beirut air.
More than 500 people have been killed, and the number grows daily. In a country of just 4 million, a fifth of the population--some 800,000 humans--have been uprooted from their homes. We sympathized last year when Hurricane Katrina displaced an estimated 1.1 million Americans. Imagine the impact if one-fifth of the U.S. population--some 60 million people--had streamed into other American cities.
Lebanon's streets are filled with forlorn, bewildered faces. People wonder what will happen to their villages and homes, and when death will stop raining from the sky. Hundreds of families will have neither home nor land to return to when the war ends.
And the horrific attack on the people of Qana--where Jesus is said to have turned water into wine--is the last straw. On Sunday, an Israeli bomb killed more than 50 Lebanese, most of them women and children. As we watch those small, innocent bodies pulled from the rubble, we seethe with anger. One desperate woman lashed out at the television crew filming the carnage. "We are terrorists?" she said. "They are the terrorists!" she cried, pointing to the skies from where Israel is pounding our cities.
Even today, despite Israel's pledge of a 48-hour cease-fire, bombs are dropping from the skies. We had no power Tuesday morning. Cars are running out of fuel.
And the damage to the fragile environment here is unimaginable. Most days, our proud capital city, Beirut, is engulfed in a haze--a mixture of dust from the rubble and massive infrastructure damage, fires that burn endlessly and from the bombs themselves. Three weeks ago Beirut's streets were thronged with visitors from all ends of the Earth. Today, the tourists have fled, and everywhere I turn, it seems, people are coughing or complaining of headaches. Every living creature is affected.
Despite Israel's claims that arms used in Lebanon do not breach international norms, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has accused Israel of dropping white phosphorus explosives on cities in the south. The Environmental Protection Agency has listed white phosphorus as a hazardous air pollutant. The Geneva Conventions ban white phosphorus against civilians. However, in southern Lebanon, many victims have been treated for severe burns.
Anti-personnel cluster bombs have also been used against us. Cluster bombs are designed to inflict maximum damage on human beings by spraying smaller bomblets over a wide area. These can explode long after they are fired. These lethal gifts will litter our land for years to come, endangering farmers, children, animals--any living thing that, one day, fortune steers the wrong way. There is nothing selective or smart about such terrible weapons.
Lebanon's shoreline is now covered in thick black oil. An estimated 10,000 tons of heavy fuel oil have spilled into the Mediterranean Sea along our coast. The marine ecosystem is slowly suffocating under the sludge that is creeping down the coastline.
Young forests have gone up in flames. The damage to the agriculturally fertile areas of the Bekaa Valley and the South is immeasurable. Three of Lebanon's primary fuel reservoirs were hit by Israeli rockets, creating massive plumes of thick, noxious smoke that stood still for days under their own weight and mass. The cloud cover and stench are almost unbearable.
Everything those of us in Lebanon's environmental movement have striven so hard to achieve has unraveled in just two weeks. We are helpless to prevent this mutilation of our physical environment.
Nothing is unaffected by this war. Innocent people are dead, wounded and made refugees in their own country.
Our land has suffered irreparable harm. And still the airplanes invade our skies, their bombs pummeling us without relief.
How is bombing a country senseless--devastating industries and homes and people and the environment--going to bring us closer to peace? What will quell the rage that is building on the Arab streets? And what of the water Jesus turned to wine in Qana--that has now turned into blood?
Rana El-Khatib is a Palestinian-Lebanese poet and writer living in Beirut.
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