After nearly a month of carpet bombing the country, by air, sea and land, the enormous sound of the Israeli war planes is now sinking into the background with noises of people trying to go about their daily lives.
This is in order to survive rather than to ignore the fact that we are under siege. The psychology of war is a norm for my and many other generations in Lebanon and in the Middle East. People watch or listen to the news twenty four seven, and everywhere, in their homes, in the shops, in the workplaces that are still open, in the cars etc. Everyone talks politics and the level of discussions is very high comparing to a month ago. The latest developments in this conflict have exposed the real interest of Israeli capitalism and of US imperialism as well as the rotten Arab regimes.
The effects of the brutal Israeli attacks and the policies of its reactionary regime are yet to be fully absorbed. The ruins already seen on our TV screens and in person if able to enter certain areas, are only a demonstration of what is to come if this carries on. Whole areas, like the one I fled, are now a huge mound of rubble of high buildings crumbling under the monstrous IDF air bombing.
Internationally banned bombs like phosphorous and gas ones have already been used with the effects being difficulty in breathing, numbness in legs and diarrhoea. New weapons are being tested here with some being called "Vacuum" and which instead of exploding, suck the air into the spot it falls on without making any sound. You can only feel the pressure and see enormous smoke and pollution in the air afterwards. Very tall buildings are falling on top of people and the death toll is still unknown with hundreds if not more being stuck under the rubble without the possibility of rescue.
On the news yesterday, a man from Sour in the South, was calling for help and shouting on the street saying that people had been dead in their cars for days and the dogs have started eating them. He was crying out for immediate help in fear of an outbreak of disease and epidemic. This is being made more possible by the Israeli government’s policies of bombing people fleeing out of, and aid trucks coming into, the different areas. This sort of blockade of regions has been a strategy from the beginning when the IDF targeted infrastructure and bridges all across the country, in the South, in Beirut, in the Mountains and in the North. Over half of the death and injured toll is children and over 70% of the one million refugees, in a small country with a population of almost four million, have no home to go back to.
A colleague of mine who lives in south Beirut (Al Dahiye), the most carpet bombed area of Lebanon and the base of Hezbollah in the capital, told me that they have been in the shelters since day one of the war and that they do not dare to move out. Life there is terrible for those who have no choice but to stay under the bombs and in the heat despite the fact that Hezbollah is providing them with food, water and electricity.
Hezbollah can be damaged militarily but their support has grown across the country on the basis of defending the land for all Lebanese people and for providing social services for the mainly Shia poor whom the government has largely abandoned in the past.
However, even militarily damaging Hezbollah by Israeli bombardment is proving very difficult and maybe even unlikely at this early stage as their fighters are very mobile in the South and in Beirut and have secret military bases underground – hence the majority of bombs are hitting innocent families. Recent scenes on our TV screens showed Israeli soldiers in their tank pulling out of Maroun Al Ras, the village on the Southern border with Israel which the IDF invaded first, in defeat and holding the flag of Hezbollah in order to come out safe. They did. This is a reflection of the difficulties faced by the IDF on the ground if they attempt a full scale land invasion.
The recent announcement about the US now providing Israel with the latest and most advanced weaponry was followed by news about those possibly being bombs that penetrate the ground by 30 meters before exploding!!!
Hezbollah’s organisation is not only seen as filling the gap created by the weak and divided government and its failed Lebanese army in resisting the military might of Israeli bombardment but is also seen as providing shelter and aid to the poor and affected. Of course there is an unhappiness about the fact that the Iranian and Syrian regimes provide their backing with their own interest in this region but there is no doubt that Hezbollah is a resistant force in the face of a superpower bombing us back to the stone age. The appearance of one of the Al-Qaeda leaders recently giving his support to "the people of Lebanon" disgusted many workers here who see no similarities between them and the more well respected Hezbollah. Al Qaeda is viewed as a reactionary organisation with terrorist methods and one that has no role to play here in Lebanon. People refer to what they have made out of the crisis in Iraq keeping in mind that Lebanon has over 40% of its population being non-Muslims.
Hezbollah have majority support in Lebanon and as shown by some recent studies, they have over 80% support in this war. However, this can change quickly considering that over one million mainly Shiites but also Christians from the South are now refugees, facing huge hardship in refuges like schools and centres in Beirut and in the north. The receptive and welcoming mood of workers towards refuges reflects a consciousness for unity among the poor being bombed and many families are donating to the resistance. The geographical sanctions and the overcrowded ‘safer’ areas are now resulting in lack of food and water, lack of electricity and the price of petrol going up massively. With wages going unpaid and future loss of jobs, with living costs and prices going up, it is becoming clear to every worker that it is the working class that suffers the most and that it is the class issues coming to the fore that can unite workers across the country in the fight for better lives.
The domestic situation here was explosive before the war started. The government is split into three factions with two major blocks: the block led by Hariri (the man of America, Saudi Arabia and the IMF) and the one led by mass populist Aoun which includes Hezbollah. Aoun has been calling demonstrations against corruption and to end poverty with a massive number of workers following his lead. Workers’ struggles were on the up until they were cut across by the Israeli bombing attacks. Different sections of organised workers were determined to go on strike at different periods this summer against the rising living costs and its partial cause being privatisation of the small public sector. Class consciousness was more developed and people recognised their common interest but there was no lead given to co-ordinate the different sectors of workers.
With the multiple religious make-ups of Lebanon’s population, its history of civil wars and the current risk of an internal conflict breaking out, the capitalist as well as workers’ leaders are calling for "patriotic unity in the face of the Zionist slaughter of our people". This was echoed by trade union leaders recently at a rally attended only by the leaders and televised on the news. This does not only pose the question ‘who is paying the price’ but also ‘who is gaining from this war?’
The Hariri faction in the Lebanese government is increasingly seen as responsible for the continuing bombardment as they rub shoulders with some Arab leaders and the US officials. International politics are now the dominant element here since Rice’s visit to Lebanon which did US imperialism no favours among the people of this region but exposed the real interest of US imperialism and the real reason behind its backing of Israel.
There is enormous hatred for US imperialism and huge anger at the failure of the Arab regimes to act to stop this barbarous bombing. What was really welcomed by the masses here in Lebanon was the footage of the demonstrations held internationally last Saturday against the bombing of Lebanon. People I spoke to felt the power of the masses and realised that those regimes that supported the Israeli war policy do not represent their people. This was particularly obvious in the Arab world. However, the coverage of course focused on the Muslim blocks on the demo and contingents of some liberals holding peace flags.
Feeling the pressure, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have both offered "help to the people of Lebanon". In reality the Jordan government sent an airplane with doctors and facilities for the injured and the Saudi regime has put down a deposit of one billion dollars. This has important benefits for Saudi aims to penetrate the Lebanese economy and profit from its war devastation. It is obvious that the effects of war will be followed by big corporations’ greed and exploitation in their search for profit. Big parts of Lebanese land are now owned by Saudi capitalists invited in by Hariri and projects like hotels are going up.
The Lebanese government is corrupt and hated. It is a regime that is weak and unstable. No doubt, huge economic and social problems will flare up as a result of this war. These can only be solved by a wider movement of the working class and poor with a socialist lead to overthrow capitalism; a direction no one, on a mass basis, is giving a lead towards. The ‘left’ here, despite its political varieties holds the responsibility for not leading determined workers into further struggle when given the opportunity.
Hezbollah do not have a record of discriminating according to religion. They say proudly, and act accordingly, that they are here to defend the land of the Lebanese, to return the hostages still held in Israel and the Sheba’a Farms from Israeli occupation and that they would never turn the weapon towards any Lebanese community. What they can be criticised for however is the lack of class politics and their orientation towards establishing Islamic capitalism which will never even start to solve the problems of the masses. No one here provides the ideas of real socialism and all the trade union leaders act as a block to the workers of Lebanon when ready to go further and possibly take power.
The struggle for socialism is now more urgent than ever in this region and the Israeli workers have a crucial role to play in overthrowing the monstrous Israeli regime. The CWI has the analysis and the perspective which can convince millions of workers who are looking for a way out of this barbarism. We need to carry on the fight for an alternative economic and social system, a socialist system – the only way to guarantee decent living standards and security for all workers across the Middle East – this alternative system is one organised by the majority for the majority unlike the barbarism we have today. Workers across the world unite in the fight for socialism!