Rien d'especial.. relax, kick back & feel at ease *^_^*
Elegant buildings lie in ruins.
The heady scent of gardenias gives way to the acrid stench of bombed-out oil installations. And everywhere terrified people are scrambling to get out of a city that seems tragically doomed to chaos and destruction. As Beirut 'the Paris of the East' is defiled yet again, Robert Fisk
, aresident for 30 years, asks: how much more punishment can Lebanon take?
Some cities seem forever doomed.From Robert Fisk's article
In the year 551
, the magnificent, wealthy city of "Berytus
" - Old Beirut - was struck by a massive earthquake
. In its aftermath, the sea withdrew several miles and the survivors out on the sands to loot the long sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to swamp the city and kill them all so savagely
, then the old Beirut was damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation to every family left alive.When the Crusaders
arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century
, they slaughtered every man, woman and child
in the city.
In the First World War
, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine
; the Turkish army had commandered all the grain and the Allied powers blockaded the coast
. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of stick-like children standing in an abandoned orphanage.How does this happen to Beirut?
years, we've watched this place die and then rise from the grave and then die again
, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace, its people massacring each other.Two Israeli invasions
and years of Israeli bombardments
that cost the lives of 20,000
of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet...
they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore
.most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our "precious foreigners" while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hizbollah.
I walked through the deserted city centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last
, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city- once a Dresden of ruins - was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri
, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on 14 February
At the empty Etoile restaurant - best snails and cappuccino in Beirut, where Hariri
once dined Jacques Chirac.Hariri
loved this place and, taking Chirac
for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah Robert, come over here
" he roared and then turned to Chirac
like a cat that was about to eat a canary "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut
In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well known and prominent Hizbollah
figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes. "We will go on if we have to for days or weeks or months or..."
And he counts these awful statistics offon the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis - much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions.
Did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pin-point accuracy - a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue - what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?
Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field near Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pyjamas, her eyes - beneath long, soft hair - closed, turned away from the camera. She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.
I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. "Israelis Threaten to Storm Beirut", says one headline. "Israelis Retaliate". "Lebanon At War". "Beirut Under Siege". "Massacre at Sabra and Chatila".
Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver Abed, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.
how easily we forget these earlier slaughters
I am back on the sea coast when my mobile phone rings. It is an Israeli woman calling me from the United States, the author of a fine novel about the Palestinians. "Robert, please take care" she says. "I am so, so sorry about what is being done to the Lebanese. It is unforgivable.I pray for the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and the Israelis." I thank her for her thoughtfulness and the graceful, generous way she condemned this slaughter.
Fairouz, the most popular of Lebanese singers, was to have performed at this year's Baalbek festival, cancelled now like all Lebanon's festivals of music, dance, theatre and painting. One of her most popular songs is dedicated to her native city:
To Beirut - peace with all my heart to Beirut - And kisses - to the sea and clouds,To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.From the soul of her people she makes wine,From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?
Published: 19 July 2006