Friday, September 08, 2006


i have received emails questioning where i am coming from as well as criticism that my work is just an anti-Israeli rap, and not really concerned with peace and justice. i wanted to address these issues, i also want to thank those who have written me with these concerns. i fret over how my written words are perceived, i feel that my photos tell a heart story, my words may not.

i came to Lebanon to be with the people who are suffering at the hands of my government. The people of South Lebanon have been portrayed as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers who deserve what they get. They have been called cowards, inherently evil, full of hatred for Jews and freedom, fascists, akin to Hitler. The purpose of my coming here was to recognize the people for who they are. i have sat with those who are portrayed as “terrorists”. i have mourned with them. i have listened openly to their stories, their concerns, their problems, their loves and their hatreds. i have rediscovered what i have known all along. They are no different than i am.

When i stood in Nader’s house and he pointed to where his sister died, pointed to where his wife died, pointed to where he dug his daughter from the rubble, i did not ask him if he was Hizbullah, he very well may have been. That made no difference to me. The same was true when i was in Israel in 2002, sitting with the father of a soldier who had been killed in an earlier Lebanon war, and we cried at the young life snuffed out by war. He was not an enemy, he was not the "other", he was not separate from me and my grief----in fact it was the GRIEF, shared by all sentient beings, that we were experiencing, and the shared connection was holy. In both these moments of a shared heart, I knew who we were, completely.

My condemnation of US and Israeli policy, is not a condemnation of people, or of religion, or race, but of structures that are doomed to failure and increased human suffering. In writing, i am trying to share the perspective of those without power being dominated by those with power. It does not absolve the powerless from their responsibility in these matters, nor is it an attempt to assign blame. But i do hope to shift my readers attention to a different perspective, a perspective that is not of privilege, a perspective that can not afford complacency, and a perspective that moves beyond generalizations to intimacy.

The destruction here is hard to imagine and hard to convey---over 1300 civilian deaths, somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000 homes totally destroyed. 130,000 homes damaged. Cluster bombs litter the streets and fields, killing people everyday, poor peoples livelihoods are completely destroyed. Roads, bridges, hospitals, mosques, factories, stores, gas stations, an oil depot, fishing boats, ports, and airports are demolished. Hizbullah has signs and posters claiming a "divine victory" everywhere, and citizens that have never supported Hizbullah are now singing Hizbullah fighting songs. As for Israelis, people are outraged that the military effort did not crush the “enemy” and this alone may be enough provocation to fight again. So it seems likely this insanity will be repeated, probably on a larger scale. This is what i rail against. What has happened here is disgraceful. i, in my ignorance, cannot imagine what it takes for a human being to drop tons of bombs on a densely occupied city. i, in my ignorance, can not imagine what it takes to drop the majority of cluster bombs in the final 72 hours of a war my government is negotiating a cease fire for. i, in my ignorance, cannot fathom how this is victory. i walk around this place dumbfounded. i spend time in the Beirut suburbs where people are scratching through the debris for the most meager remembrances of their lives; a photograph, a piece of jewelry, anything to remind them of home. Hizbullah flags blow in the breeze and Hizbullah souvenir shops have sprung up amid the wreckage- anyone for a Hassan Nasrallah key chain? i return to downtown Beirut where Ferraris and BMWs race by, people heading to the nightclub, or off to have a cappuccino by the sea, the suburbs might as well be on Mars. Decades of war is exhausting, i am told. People need to continue their lives.

And what of me? i wander around here....doing what? At times i feel perverse, an intruder on these peoples lives, asking for a photograph, sitting for a cup of tea, asking questions, "How do you manage?"...."What is it like?"...Most often i just listen as deeply as i can, as another human being talks of death and loss, and in the end i may hold his hand for a moment, look deeply into his eyes, then turn and walk away. Usually i say nothing, i cannot even begin to convey my feelings.

And it is all too obvious why anger and hatred manifest. People have always hated, but this is not the province of the “enemy”, i hold it myself. It is the result of my delusion of separateness. i recognize that this hatred is not blind, but a flowering of many causes and conditions. As i watch my anger and hatred arise, i can learn from my misperceptions, especially my attachment to self-righteousness, and my lack of compassion. i can see where i still cling to thoughts of us and other. Perhaps this is why i have been criticized, and i am grateful to be reminded of these shortcomings.

Paraphrasing Dr King, violence is not ended by violence. Only love can do this. So where is the love? And how do we shift from the extremist point of view that the bigger the attack, the better the peace that will result....(if only we had more troops on the ground in Iraq, if only Israel had those bunker busters prior to the attack on Lebanon, we need mini-nukes to deal with Iran)...Can true Peace ever come from the barrel of a gun? Must we demand this love from others before we open to it ourselves? Do we even know what the hell this love is?

If it is true that we reap what we sow, we have sown death and destruction for far too long. Looking ahead for seven generations, our children will reap the flowers of these seeds for years to come, and it breaks my heart.

i hope my blog gives a sense of where i am at, and what this all means to me. i am confused, deluded, angry, heart broken, and at times, as destroyed as the twisted buildings lying in the dust. It is the people i have met here who remind me of love, consideration, care, steadfastness and beauty. So where is my enemy? I can’t find him anywhere.