OPINION Once again, Lebanese civilians are getting blasted, killed, and bombed by high-tech American weapons because Israel is angry and lashing out. I remember this well; even some of the targets are the same. I spent part of my childhood in Beirut. I remember my mother yelling at me to get off the balcony where I was busy trying to see if it was an American F-4 Phantom Israeli Air Force jet or a French-made Dassault Mirage screaming by our apartment building at rooftop level on its way to bomb the Beirut airport yet again.
My mother wasn't happy with my plane-spotting endeavors. But Beirut at the time was frequently called the Jewel of the Middle East, and I was lucky enough to go to the American elementary school. I remember Pigeon Rock, the cedars, the beaches — and the Israeli raids. In fact, such raids led to my family being evacuated from Lebanon on more than one occasion.
Whenever the Palestine Liberation Organization conducted a military engagement, US-supplied F-4 Phantoms would bomb the Beirut airport. It became almost a regular Sunday outing for Beirut residents. How many Middle East Airlines jets did Israel bomb today? If the Syrians lobbed shells or anybody else in the region displeased Israel, US-supplied F-4 Phantoms would bomb the Beirut airport. If there was a border incursion, US-supplied F-4 Phantoms would bomb the Beirut airport. Do you see a sadly familiar pattern?
The Lebanese are once again civilians paying for the actions of others. Lebanon is and always has been Israel's whipping boy. It has become a pawn between Israel, Hezbollah, and possibly Iran. An entire nation is collateral damage. Two-year-old children dying with perforated eyes. Kids blown up when they go swimming in a canal. Are they any less innocent than the children killed in Hamas suicide bombings?
Believe it or not, your elected representatives care what you think, if you let them know in no uncertain terms. The United States supplies billions of dollars of no-strings-attached money to Israel. That money directly and indirectly supports Israel Defense Forces that have, in the last few days alone, killed more than 200 Lebanese citizens. Write your elected officials a personal letter. They pay attention to those. Demand that the United States stop funding Israel's war — its terrorism with a bigger budget — on Lebanon.
The terror attacks on Israel are hideous, as is the region's poisonous anti-Semitism. But so are Israel's bombing raids that are destroying a recently revived Lebanon. Israel will not help its case with tit-for-tat attacks on civilians or the wholesale destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure. The Germans’ bombing attacks on Britain in World War II didn’t break the people's spirit and make them turn on Churchill; the opposite happened. One would think Israel might learn this lesson and act accordingly at the negotiating table.
War begets war, not peace. Write, don't e-mail, don't call — write a personal letter to your congressperson, your senator, your elected officials, demanding that the United States cut its military aid to Israel by half. That at least would get the Israelis’ attention off the bombs they’re dropping on the Lebanese and might even force Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to start negotiating for real. It would level the playing field just a bit. SFBG
Tim Kingston is a freelance writer who lives in the East Bay.