Remembering Qana

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the first Qana massacre perpetrated by the israeli armed forces in South Lebanon. During the murderous war of 1996 launched by israel and termed operation Grapes of Wrath, which on a side note makes me unable to actually read the book because I get so angry when I see the title, israeli forces shelled a UN compound in the village of Qana on the 18th of April. The compound was being used as a makeshift refugee camp for South Lebanese citizens who had been displaced by the israeli attack on their homes. That shelling killed 106 civilians and injured 106.

I remember this massacre very well, as that was the first attack by israel on Lebanon I remember. I was in Lebanon during the 1982 invasion, but do not remember that as I was two years old. This one however, is a very clear memory. I remember visiting friends when the first images from Qana were shown on television. An image that is etched into my memory, and which I recall everyday, is that of the little girl’s lifeless body being held to the camera. The child was missing half her head. She had been torn apart by the hellfire rained on that refugee camp by “the most moral army in the world”.

That little girl became a symbol for me, and probably everyone else who saw that photo, of the savagery of israel and its army. This was one of many massacres perpetrated by the israeli army in Lebanon. In fact, Qana would witness another massacre 10 years later when a civilian building was bombed and destroyed during the 2006 war. However, that massacre holds a special place for me. It is the first that I remember as an almost adult. I remember everything about it. I remember all the gruesome photos and videos that were taken there. Children, women, men, killed in a place where they were supposed to be safe, a UN compound.

Of course, that wasn’t the last time a UN compound was targeted by israel. In fact, UN compounds seem to be some of their favourite targets, along with schools, mosques, civilian buildings, hospitals, ambulances, power plants, and bridges. They basically like targeting civilian infrastructure. That is always very high on their target list. But returning to that particular massacre. I remember how I felt that day. I remember the amalgamation of anger, sadness, feeling of helplessness that I felt. I also remember the sense of determination it gave me. My anti-zionism was reinforced that day. I would never shift from that ideological position after witnessing that callous mass murder.

I will never forget the images from Qana. Those responsible must be brought to justice and tried for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN and Amnesty international both conducted independent investigations of the massacre. They both found that the evidence contradicted israel’s story. However, thanks to the US’s continued support the criminals are still free. This shows why we all need to do what we can to keep up the pressure on israel. Our governments have failed to hold israel responsible for its many crimes. We as citizens of the world must join the Palestinian led non-violent call for BDS against the state of israel until it complies with international law and human rights.

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