Local protestors pity the nation of Lebanon

by Amy Kingsley

“Lebanon is Palestine,” said Anna A., who did not want to give her last name. “It’s all the same.”

She interjected that observation as Yasmeen Zamamiri explained why she, an American of Palestinian descent, came out to the corner of Eugene and Market Streets to show her support for Lebanon. The two nations are a dual front in the most recent Middle Eastern flare-up that has already cost hundreds of civilian lives.

Most of the nearly 40 protesters who gathered late on the afternoon of July 18 were Palestinian. They waved flags and held signs. Some of the handmade posters called for peace in the region while others equated Israel to Nazi Germany.

“The misconception about Muslims and Arabs is that we want the land all for ourselves,” Zamamiri said. “But all we want is peace.”

Israel’s incursion into Palestine began several weeks ago after one of the country’s soldiers was kidnapped and two were killed in a cross-border raid by Hamas. Less than a week before the Greensboro protest Hezbollah guerillas crossed the northern border, kidnapping two more soldiers. Both groups tried to trade the captured soldiers for prisoners.

Ali Deeb’s wife and three daughters traveled to Lebanon last month to visit family and are now stranded in that country after Israeli air strikes knocked out the main airport and roads. Deeb lived in Lebanon for 18 years before moving to the United States 30 years ago, and witnessed both the civil war and the Israeli-Lebanese war.

“To tell you the truth, I think it’s going to take a while until it’s over,” Deeb said.

On that point, Deeb is in agreement with Marilyn Chandler, the executive director of the Greensboro Jewish Federation. Chandler said between 50 and 100 Greensboro residents have family or friends in Israel right now. The federation has started a fund to move people from the northern part of Israel that has been targeted by Hezbollah missiles. Although both groups worry about family and friends caught in the crossfire, they remain at odds about the source of the conflict.

“We are deeply grieved that Hezbollah has started this conflict and forced Israel to defend itself,” Chandler said.

She said federation members supported Israel’s actions and that the conflict could not be resolved until Hezbollah was disarmed.

“Israel’s northern border has to feel safe,” she said. “There are major population centers up there. Imagine if here in America rockets were flying into the Southern states every day.”

Most of the protesters declined to expressly support the actions of Hezbollah and Hamas, but said the groups had been provoked by years of Israeli domination. Conditions in Palestine and southern Lebanon are miserable, Anna said.

“They don’t have any work,” she said. “No food and no water. I cannot understand that this is happening in this century.”

A few members of UNCG’s International Socialist Organization protested American support for Israel. The group distributed flyers implicating the United Sates, which they said contributes $3 billion yearly in foreign aid to Israel.

Badi Ali, president of Muslims for a Better North Carolina, protested as a concerned citizen.

“When we are talking about Palestine and Lebanon we are talking about vulnerable states,” he said. “For Israel to inflict their military muscle is madness.”

Deeb has been calling the US State Department to try to secure evacuation for his family as the death toll in Lebanon rises. The day after the protest, the New York Times reported that almost 70 Lebanese civilians perished during air strikes. The same day, the Times reported the death of two Israeli boys in a Hezbollah rocket attack.

While Chandler said the responsibility for ending the conflict resides with Hamas and Hezbollah in the Middle East, Deeb said there is a role for American and Israeli leaders.

“I think a new leader in Israel would help,” he said. “Yitzhak Rabin was the only one who came looking for peace and he was assassinated. Ever since then every prime minister has been worse. People say there are radicals in Palestine and Lebanon, but there are much more radicals in Israel.”

All of the protesters said they believe peace will someday return to the region.

“I think [the Palestinians] have to be able to go back and live there in peace along with the Jews,” Deeb said. “That land doesn’t belong to one group. It belongs to the Christians, Muslims and the Jews.”

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