Israel inflicts different methods of terror on Lebanon daily: F-16s and F-15s stage mock raids and drones stalk our skies — all in violation of UN resolution 1701. Lebanese citizens are kidnapped near the border, Israeli landmines and cluster bombs continue to await their victims on Lebanese soil, not to mention the Israeli army’s continued occupation of parts of Lebanon.

Why aren’t Israeli F-16s over Beirut headline news?

Moe Ali Nayel *

UN soldier atop armored vehicle overlooks Lebanon-Israel border

Israel’s daily violations of Lebanese sovereignty are ignored in the Western press.

 (Karamallah Daher / Reuters)


Recently there has been a sound coming from the skies over Beirut triggering unpleasant recollections: the distant roar of Israeli fighter jets as one lies in bed at night.

This noise brings with it images and memories from the last war Israel waged on Lebanon, the 33-day war during the summer of 2006. Even as I write this from my office near the center of the city, the ominous rumbling of Israeli fighter jets, announcing their illegal incursions into Lebanese airspace, can be heard over the capital.

But this threatening behavior above Lebanon is non-existent, or so the Western media corporations would have us believe. While information-sharing web tools have broken the mainstream media’s monopoly over covering and analyzing world developments, there is still a long way to go. The Israeli politics of dispossession enjoy near unconditional support in the editorial rooms of New York, London and Paris, a bias still undetected by most of the Western audience they claim to serve.

On 25 April, these editors saw to it that one story dominated the front pages: reports of an alleged unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, that flew from Lebanon to historic Palestine, with accompanying reportage and commentary treating information given by Israeli government and military sources as the definitive truth of the incident.

The Israeli Air Force said it shot down a UAV several miles off the coast of the northern city of Haifa after it entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon. Israel’s deputy defense ministerDanny Danon accused Hizballah of sending the drone: “We’re talking about another attempt by Hizballah to send an unmanned drone into Israeli territory,” he told army radio (“Israel shoots down Lebanese drone,” DefenseNews, 25 April 2013).

Shortly after the Israeli announcement, Hizballah issued a statement denying this was the case (“Hezbollah denies responsibility for drone shot down by Israel,” Al-Akhbar English, 26 April 2013).

This is in contrast to October last year, when Israel said it had shot down a drone over theNegev (Naqab). In that case, Hizballah proudly claimed the drone as its own and celebrated this demonstration of its technological prowess (“Hezbollah admits launching drone over Israel,” BBC).

For its part, a spokesperson with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) announced after the Israeli statement on 25 April: “We learned from the media that the Israeli Air Force has shot down a drone and we’re investigating these reports.”

As part of its peacekeeping mandate, UNIFIL has radars along the coast to monitor Lebanon’s entire airspace, and a few hours later UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said the UN force could not confirm that a drone had flown from its area of operations in southern Lebanon (“Israel shoots down drone off Haifa, Hizbullah denies responsibility,” Naharnet, 25 April 2013).

Inconvenient facts

So Hizballah denied responsibility and the UNIFIL couldn’t confirm that a drone flew over south Lebanon into Israeli-controlled airspace, but far be it for these inconvenient facts to get in the way of a good story. This newest threat to Israel burned like wildfire across the pages of major Western media outlets like The Los Angeles TimesThe Washington Post, France 24, The Daily Telegraph and the BBC, which dutifully reported the worries over Israel’s security being breached.

Poor Israel: one of the strongest armies in the world, sitting on a nuclear arsenal.

These news reports demonstrate the systematic bias of Western corporate media when it comes to Israel. While the reports all spoke of Hizballah’s violation of Israel’s “borders” and sovereignty and the threat this posed to Israeli civilians, none mentioned the daily Israeli violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty and the threat this poses to Lebanese citizens. Without this, a reader might easily mistake the aggressor for the victim.

Then there was the one-sided sourcing of “facts” to back up the story and the rush to judgment. On 26 April — the day after the alleged drone was downed — the Israeli government itself began to shift its narrative to more ambiguous finger-pointing at Iran, rather than directly blaming Hizballah (“Israel points finger at Iran over drone from Lebanon,” The Daily Telegraph, 27 April 2013).

Meanwhile, a 8 May story in Lebanon’s daily As-Safir newspaper claims it was actually anIsraeli drone that had been intercepted by resistance fighters en route to Lebanon.

According to unnamed sources close to Hizballah and Western diplomatic circles cited by the paper, when the Israeli Air Force noticed that its UAV was out of its control, it shot it down over the Mediterranean. This suggestion seems at least plausible when stacked next to the UNIFIL report and Hizballah’s denial.

But taking this into account or following up on it would have required understanding Arabic, which few foreign journalists do.

Daily terror

Israel inflicts different methods of terror on Lebanon daily: F-16s and F-15s stage mock raids and drones stalk our skies — all in violation of UN resolution 1701. Lebanese citizens are kidnapped near the border, Israeli landmines and cluster bombs continue to await their victims on Lebanese soil, not to mention the Israeli army’s continued occupation of parts of Lebanon.

While the UN occasionally condemns these acts of Israeli aggression, the fact that they continue unabated reminds us in Lebanon that accountability and international law end at our southern border. So too does objective journalism, it seems, given that in the past month Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace have heavily intensified, but none of this has made it into the Western press.

As a journalist, I’ve tried to pitch stories to mainstream media outlets on the constant Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty and have been lucky enough, from time to time, for an editor to bother to reply, if only to say that the story is irrelevant.

The adage goes that real journalism is publishing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations. By publishing Israel’s claims as fact, and ignoring the reality on the ground in Lebanon and Palestine, mainstream journalists show how well practiced they are in the art of PR.

*Moe Ali Nayel is a freelance journalist based in Beirut, Lebanon

Written FOR


Those bastards, the Lebanese, changed the rules. Scandalous. Word is, they have a brigade commander who’s determined to protect his country’s sovereignty. Scandalous.

Only we’re allowed

After Tuesday’s border clash, Israel will continue to ignore UNIFIL and the Lebanese army.

By Gideon Levy

Those bastards, the Lebanese, changed the rules. Scandalous. Word is, they have a brigade commander who’s determined to protect his country’s sovereignty. Scandalous.

The explanation here was that he’s “indoctrinating his troops” – only we’re allowed to do that, of course – and that this was “the spirit of the commander” and that he’s “close to Hezbollah.” The nerve.

And now that we’ve recited ad nauseum the explanations of Israel Defense Forces propaganda for what happened Tuesday at the northern border, the facts should also be looked at.

On Tuesday morning, Israel requested “coordination” with UNIFIL to carry out another “exposing” operation on the border fence. UNIFIL asked the IDF to postpone the operation, because its commander is abroad. The IDF didn’t care. UNIFIL won’t stop us.

At noon the tree-cutters set out. The Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers shouted at them to stop. In Lebanon they say their soldiers also fired warning shots in the air. If they did, it didn’t stop the IDF.

The tree branches were cut and blood was shed on both sides of the border. Shed in vain.

True, Israel maintains that the area across the fence is its territory, and UNIFIL officially confirmed that yesterday. But a fence is a fence: In Gaza it’s enough to get near the fence for us to shoot to kill. In the West Bank the fence’s route bears no resemblance to the Green Line, and still Palestinians are forbidden from crossing it.

In Lebanon we made different rules: the fence is just a fence, we’re allowed to cross it and do whatever we like on the other side, sometimes in sovereign Lebanese territory. We can routinely fly in Lebanese airspace and sometimes invade as well.

This area was under Israeli occupation for 18 years, without us ever acknowledging it. It was an occupation no less brutal than the one in the territories, but whitewashed well. “The security zone,” we called it. So now, as well, we can do what we like.

But suddenly there was a change. How did our analysts put it? Recently there’s been “abnormal firing” at Israeli aircraft. After all, order must be maintained: We’re allowed to fly in Lebanese airspace, they are not permitted to shoot.

But Tuesday’s incident, which was blown out of proportion here as if it were cause for a war that only the famed Israeli “restraint” prevented, should be seen in its wider context. For months now the drums of war have been beating here again. Rat-a-tat, danger, Scuds from Syria, war in the north.

No one asks why and wherefore, it’s just that summer’s here, and with it our usual threats of war. But a UN report published this week held Israel fully responsible for creating this dangerous tension.

In this overheated atmosphere the IDF should have been careful when lighting its matches. UNIFIL requests a delay of an operation? The area is explosive? The work should have been postponed. Maybe the Lebanese Army is more determined now to protect its country’s sovereignty – that is not only its right, but its duty – and a Lebanese commander who sees the IDF operating across the fence might give an order to shoot, even unjustifiably.

Who better than the IDF knows the pattern of shooting at any real or imagined violation? Just ask the soldiers at the separation fence or guarding Gaza. But Israel arrogantly dismissed UNIFIL’s request for a delay.

It’s the same arrogance behind the demand that the U.S. and France stop arming the Lebanese military. Only our military is allowed to build up arms. After years in which Israel demanded that the Lebanese Army take responsibility for what is happening in southern Lebanon, it is now doing so and we’ve changed our tune. Why? Because it stopped behaving like Israel’s subcontractor and is starting to act like the army of a sovereign state.

And that’s forbidden, of course. After the guns fall silent, the cry goes up again here to strike another “heavy blow” against Lebanon to “deter” it – maybe some more of the destruction that was inflicted on Beirut’s Dahiya neighborhood.

Three Lebanese killed, including a journalist, are not enough of a response to the killing of our battalion commander. We want more. Lebanon must learn a lesson, and we will teach it.

And what about us? We don’t have any lessons to learn. We’ll continue to ignore UNIFIL, ignore the Lebanese Army and its new brigade commander, who has the nerve to think that his job is to protect his country’s sovereignty.



UN asked Israel to delay Lebanon border tree-cutting

By Jared Malsin

New York – The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, Alain Le Roy, said Wednesday that the UN had asked Israel to delay a controversial tree-cutting operation that led to Tuesday’s deadly skirmish along the Lebanese border.

Israel delayed the tree-chopping for several hours, he said, but the UN had wanted more time in order to avoid a confrontation.

Le Roy’s comments shed more light on the events that led up to the cross-border shelling that left three Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist, and an Israeli officer dead.

The confrontation began after Israeli soldiers used a crane to chop down a tree on the northern side of an Israeli built “technical fence” along the border. UNIFIL, the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, announced earlier on Wednesday that the Israeli soldiers were operating south of the UN-demarcated “Blue Line” border, inside Israeli territory.

Speaking at a news conference at UN headquarters in New York, Le Roy said UNIFIL received word from Israel around 6:30 AM local time on Tuesday about the planned tree-trimming. “We said in the morning that its important to buy time to ensure that both parties agree,” Le Roy said.

“They postponed by some hours, I expected more hours, but they postponed by some hours, yes,” he said. The skirmish occurred around 11:40 AM local time and lasted about a half hour, Le Roy said.

Le Roy also confirmed that UNIFIL relayed Israel’s announcement regarding the tree-chopping to the Lebanese side, who objected to this activity, because Lebanon “has reservations” about the route of the Blue Line in the area in question.

Responding to a journalist’s question about “who fired the first shot,” Le Roy said he would not make a definitive pronouncement on that issue, but he reiterated that Lebanese officials claimed they fired first, but only with a warning shot. Israel says its forces came under fire from a Lebanese sniper.

Israeli are already pointing to UNIFIL’s earlier statement as a validation of their version of events. ”Our routine activity yesterday was conducted entirely south of the frontier – on the Israeli side – and the Lebanese Army opened fire without any provocation or justification whatsoever,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as quoted by BBC.

The Blue Line was demarcated by the UN in 2000 following Israel’s withdrawal of its military forces from Lebanon, ending nearly 20 years of occupation.

Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, writing for the UK’s Independent newspaper, said that the dispute partly rested on the fact that “ no one is exactly sure where the Israeli-Lebanese border is.”



Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

It seems that every time an Israeli leader returns from a visit to the United States, new war games begin shortly afterward. Am I the only one to see a connection?

Less than a month ago Netanyahu had talks with President Obama…. what was reported in the press and what was discussed ‘behind closed doors’ are not necessarily the same thing…

BUT… just a few weeks later a helicopter crashed in the hills of Romania killing six Israeli air force personnel. WTH were Israeli air force personnel doing in Romania in the first place? WAR GAMES! Preparation training for a possible new strike against Lebanon? Who knows….

BUT yesterday, it became perfectly clear that this might have been the case….

Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border Tuesday in the most serious clashes since a fierce war four years ago, and Lebanon said at least three of its soldiers and a journalist were killed in shelling.

The violence apparently erupted over a move by Israeli soldiers to trim some hedges along the border, a sign of the level of tensions at the frontier where Israel fought a war in 2006 with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

‘Trimming hedges at the border’??? What a lame excuse!

The GOC Northern Command stressed that “this was a pre-planned event, aggression by the Lebanese army who shot at soldiers inside Israeli territory without any provocation. We view this as a very severe incident.”

‘Pre-planned event’??? The Lebanese army knew about Israel’s ‘gardening plans’ of the day??? Does Israel think we are all stupid?

Do these soldiers look like they were trimming hedges?

Exchange of fire on the border between Israel and Lebanon - August 3, 2010
Notice the hedge trimming equipment in the photo

Exchange of fire on the border between Israel and Lebanon - August 3, 2010
All under the watchful eyes of UN personnel

Exchange of fire on the border between Israel and Lebanon - August 3, 2010
The above photos and the  parenthesis are taken from a report that can be seen HERE

All of the above apparently goes unnoticed by the US and most of the European Union…. could this have been part of the discussions ‘behind closed doors’ in Washington?

Talk about ‘conspiracy theories’….. here’s a new one for you to think about.

AlJazeera added this later in the day…. 
UN: Israel did not cross border

It can be read at Uruknet


sabra and shatila

The smell of misery and the feeling of hope

By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

I have not been to Beirut since I was five years old (but I do remember some things of it) and I was a bit nervous since much has happened in the decades since.  Lebanon and Palestine together with Jordan and Syria have always been connected; only after the British and French decided to divide us and give part of the land to European Jews to replace the natives that we became separated and disconnected (and sometimes querreling).   I was invited as a representative of the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem for a conference on water rights in the Jordan River basin [1].  Our Lebanese hosts treated us like family: extremely gracious and hospitable.  I was also anxious to visit the refugee camps in Lebanon and meet with activists (Lebanese and Palestinian) who I knew via the internet.  I had written extensively on refugees and even reviewed a book on the massacre of Sabra and Shatila [2]. (I was told that camps in the north and in the south need a special army permission to enter.).  I met with some refugees from Mar Elias and other camps in Lebanon and on Monday visited the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts [3] which serves Lebanese and Palestinian youth from marginalized communities.  An old friend (Raja Mattar) from Jafa who runs Palestine Student Aid arranged for a young Palestinian to take me to on an early morning trip to Sabra and Shatila.  We met in front of the grandiose Crown Plaza hotel in the opulent AlHamra Street and the cab takes us to the edge of the camp and as we try to enter, the traffic snarls (the roads are really not designed for two way traffic).  So we leave the cab stuck in the traffic and walk.  I need to walk.  We pass by a marketplace were the marginalized do their shopping (Lebanese and Palestinian).  The market has everything from vegetables to used (and rather dirty looking) cloths and shoes to pieces of pipes, to books.  Each of these things is laid out separately with their owners trying to sell their products to people who are just as poor as they are.  Most of these stalls are not stalls at all but rather a sheet of plastic or even newspapers on which they had spread the “goods” they are trying to peddle. From what I observed, some of them would happily sell you all the contents of their area for less than $20. I have of course been to marketplaces in poor areas but this was a bit different. The appearance is of a busy market place where things are bought and sold for very inexpensive prices (usually less than a dollar which here equals 1500 Lebanese liras). But as we move through the “market place”. But it is not a noisy place; the vendors were not calling out like they do in Bethlehem. There was little of the sounds of buying and selling of haggling of jokes.  It was a subdued affair that puzzled me. Perhaps more merchants than customers I thought.  Maybe it was not the peak time of shopping. It is as if it was a museum where visitors move around and look in silence at paintings occasionally asking in hushed subdued voices about something that intrigues them. As we get closer to the camp, the smell really becomes stronger.  It is hard to describe it, a mixture of sewage and decaying trash, a pungent odor that perhaps is the opposite of fresh air, a staleness that and suffocating harshness that makes me wonder if I am hallucinating. But then we make a turn into the camp and nothing prepared me for this.  I have been to over 30 refugee camps in Jordan and the West Bank and I did expect the refugee camps in Lebanon to be worse.  I have read a lot and even seen pictures and some videos but still I was shocked by what I saw, what I smelled, what I heard and what I felt.  The words I write cannot do justice to this.  As I was videotaping and I was hoping to move my camera up to videotape the jumble of hundreds of crisscrossed wires overhead (home made infrastructure to bring electricity and phone service to those who could make the right connections (figuratively and literally), I hear a women’s voice addressing me. “Shoo bitsawwer” (what are you photographing)?  The first thing that occurs to me is that she will complain about my photographing (that happens in conservative societies) and I mumble something about coming from Bethlehem and touring the camp and she starts to tell me about the clinic doctor.  I am a bit confused.  She says there is one doctor and hundreds of patients.  And that she could not get the doctor in the UNRWA clinic to see her daughter.  It was then that I noticed the girl shyly hiding behind her mother. I make stupid useless words since I really don’t know what to say as her daughter tells her to move on.   I go back to videotaping the wires and the political posters and the people.  Children are everywhere and they like my camera.  I note no toys around, no bicycles, no balls, no squeaky ducks or stuffed animals. A couple of the kids have found things that they considered toys: a stick, a rubber band, a segment of a plastic pipe.  Some have even connected these things to make things with no use. I videotape some of them and rewind and show them their smiley faces.  I smile and speak to them feeling like I do with my own family. But my mind is tortured.  I fight back the tears as I pan my camera from their smiley faces to the open sewers that are running right next to them. This is their playgrounds I think.  Most of them have never been outside of this camp.  This is all they know. A man tells the kids to leave us alone.

A woman at a window on the second floor beats an old rug to get rid of the dust. My “guide” Waseem warns me about puddles or obstacles in the narrow alleys (there must a better word to describe a meter wide dirt opening between dense dwellings in impoverished areas, maybe masarib in Arabic?).  Waseem is from Nahr El Bared, a camp that was essentially completely destroyed by shelling as the Lebanese army fought a group of extremists.  The camp is still not reconstructed so his family lives at the edge of camp in temporary dwellings.  Anyway, we go back to taking in the sounds, smell, feel, and sight of this camp.  Too many emotions run over me and not one of them uplifting.  We pass by the UNRWA clinic and I see lots of Palestinian mothers going in with their children.  Right next to it, there are some workers using a jackhammer to dig the street.  The kids jumping around and over the open hole in the ground (yes with sewage) almost seemed like they were mocking the work.  My first analytic thought comes to mind: this is not a place to try to fix anything at the margins, it should all be changed, and these people need to go back to their villages from where they were ethnically cleansed.  But then I feel strangely guilty for thinking something I have thought of a million times before and have worked hard on.  The guilt is maybe due to the fact that here and now, I actually can do very, very little.    The hopeless tangle of wires, pipes, shaky dwellings seemed not to be of help to thousands living here.  But now it seemed that the infrastructure has its own life and that the people are not its friend but its foe and I am now trapped with them although for a short time. I remember a horror movie I saw as a kid and simply think that before my father died, I should have asked him if at age 5 when we visited Beirut, did we visit the refugee camp and if not why not.  Time is an enemy and we have other commitments.  We make our way to go to the edge of the camp where there is a memorial for the 1982 massacre.  The memorial is in a fenced yard) behind another street that was remade into an open marketplace.  It seems slightly busier than the other marketplace.  In front of the entrance they are selling watches, cloths, and shoes but inside the only inhabitants are a group of chickens (strangely of a fancy breed).  The memorial is neglected, empty and quite except for the muffled sounds from the street.  There are banners that seem to be old and fading. Here the camp smell I described earlier is replaced by another smell, the smell of death mixed with chicken feathers.  Or maybe I am hallucinating since it is actually relatively clean place.  Maybe I am now totally crazy.  Waseem seems even more subdued here.  He finally points to another banner and simply says, “this is to commemorate other Israeli massacres.” I take short clips of video and I remember merely walking out and not looking back.  Waseem tells me not to video on the street outside the camp because of presence of military people and the Kuwaiti embassy (that is heavily fortified).  But I had not intended to do that anyway. We walk in silence.  Later in the taxi, away from it all, I start to ask him about himself: he just graduated an electrical engineer. No jobs for people like him from the camps.  Nothing to do. He refuses to let me pay for the cab either way.  I go back to my hotel room and only then I cry.  I cry for these refugees abandoned by an uncaring world, I cry for all the other things I heard and felt on this trip, and I cry for our injured humanity.  In visiting the American University of Beirut (where so many Palestinians studied including my uncle who died young at age 27 after finishing his PhD), there is a McDonalds hamburger joint right in front of the University.  A day later in Jordan being driven by my friend Zuhair to his house, we pass by Jordan University and I see another Macdonald also in front of the University.  I complain about this globalization (especially of Zionist-run Starbucks and other franchises that aid ethnic cleansing and hurts our causes). Zuhair reminds me that there are so many people who collaborate in the rape of Palestine and so many people who just stand there and watch.  There are really few activists like the ones I met in Beirut.  But we reminisce that good people (Jordanian, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Internationals) make a difference in society every day.  It has always been like that.  The institute that invited us (Ibrahim Abd-ElAl Institute) represent the memory of such a person and the attendees represent such people): individuals who do not put personal interest ahead of people interests, individuals who care and who act on this caring.  Those are the people who give us hope for a better future where we all work together against apathy and against the evil that keeps us apart.


Here is a short (less than 5 minutes) and poorly edited video (I am an amateur) I put on youtube on my short trip (I wish I could stayed longer but had to go back to teaching)





  1. Article in Arabic about the conference




Image “Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff


Gaza was not the only victim of Israeli terror……



Click HERE to order the new book Poets for Palestine, edited by Remi Kanazi


Movie Review

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Ari Folman and David Polonsky/Sony Pictures Classics

Israeli soldiers in “Waltz With Bashir,” an animated documentary by Ari Folman on the 1982 Lebanon war.

Inside a Veteran’s Nightmare

“Waltz With Bashir” is a memoir, a history lesson, a combat picture, a piece of investigative journalism and an altogether amazing film.

Directed by Ari Folman, an Israeli filmmaker whose struggle to make sense of his experience as a soldier in the Lebanon war of 1982 shapes its story, “Waltz” is by no means the world’s only animated documentary, a phrase that sounds at first like a cinematic oxymoron. Movies like Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” and Brett Morgen’s “Chicago 10” have used animation to make reality seem more vivid and more strange, producing odd and fascinating experiments.

But Mr. Folman has gone further, creating something that is not only unique but also exemplary, a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power.

That it is also a cartoon is not incidental to this achievement. Art Spiegelman, in “Maus,” turned an unlikely medium — the talking-animal comic book — into a profound and original vehicle for contemplation of the Holocaust. Similarly Mr. Folman, crucially assisted by his art director, David Polonsky, and director of animation, Yoni Goodman, has adapted techniques often (if unfairly) dismissed as trivial into an intense and revealing meditation on a historical catastrophe and its aftermath. “Waltz With Bashir” will certainly enrich and complicate your understanding of its specific subject — the Lebanon War and, in particular, the massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Phalangist fighters at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps — but it may also change the way you think about how movies can confront history.

Why did Mr. Folman, who has worked on more conventional documentaries in the past, decide to use animation in this one? The answer to the question is another question: How else could he have recorded dreams, hallucinations and distorted memories, his own and those of other veterans? The core of “Waltz With Bashir” is a series of conversations between the director, depicted with graying hair and a thoughtful demeanor, and other middle-aged Israeli men who were in Lebanon in the summer of 1982, when the Israeli Defense Forces pushed up through the southern part of the country toward Beirut. Most of them were in the western part of that city from the 16th to the 18th of September, when Christian militiamen slaughtered as many as 3,000 civilians, ostensibly to avenge the death of Bashir Gemayel, Lebanon’s newly elected president, who had been assassinated a few days before.

More than 20 years later Mr. Folman confronts his interlocutors amid the trappings of their relatively calm daily lives. (All the interview subjects speak in their own voices except for two, whose dialogue has been dubbed.) One lives in the Netherlands, where he owns a chain of falafel restaurants. Another appears in a martial arts studio. Others reminisce in their apartments or in bars, and as each tells his story, the scene dissolves and we see a younger version of the same man — usually leaner, perhaps cleaner-shaven or not as bald but still recognizable — in the nightmarish landscape of war. The freedom afforded by animation — a realm where the prosaic standards of verisimilitude and the inconvenient laws of physics can be flouted at will — allows Mr. Folman to blend grimly literal images with surreal flights of fantasy, humor and horror.

At one point a soldier, passed out on the deck of a transport boat, dreams of a giant naked woman who climbs out of the water and cradles him in her arms. At other times rough, cynical pop songs (with lyrics like “Good Morning Lebanon” and “Today I Bombed Beirut”) play out over montages of chaos and destruction. Mr. Folman is haunted by a weird recollection of naked soldiers walking onto the beach in Beirut as the city’s bombed-out skyline is illuminated by flares.

These are highly personal images, culled from admittedly unreliable memories, but it is precisely their subjectivity that makes them so vivid and authentic. “Waltz With Bashir” is not, and could not be, the definitive account of the Lebanon war or the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Instead it’s a collage and an inquiry. “Can’t a film be therapeutic?” one of Mr. Folman’s friends asks him early in the movie, and in a way everything that follows is an attempt to answer that question and interrogate its premise. It depends on what is meant by therapy, and on who is undergoing it.

The complicity of the Israeli command in the atrocities at Sabra and Shatila was established by an Israeli government report by the Kahan Commission in 1983, which found the military indirectly responsible for the actions of the Phalangists.

What no commission of inquiry can precisely define is the responsibility of the ordinary soldiers who were nearby, witnessing the slaughter and allowing it to continue. And this ethical question becomes more and more urgent as Mr. Folman’s patient probing brings him closer to the awful facts his mind had suppressed for so long.

Since it was shown in Cannes last year, “Waltz With Bashir” has attracted a lot of attention and a measure of controversy, some of it surrounding the very last moments of the film, in which the animation stops and the audience is confronted with graphic, horrifying images of real dead bodies. This ending shows just how far Mr. Folman is prepared to go, not in the service of shock for its own sake, but rather in his pursuit of clarity and truth.

The Israelis who were witnesses and (mostly inadvertent) accomplices to the killing, and who came home from the war to lives of relative normalcy and tranquillity, have the time and the means to reflect, to explore, to engage in therapy. The victims are beyond any of that, and the blunt literalness of this film’s denouement is a reminder of that unbridgeable gap between the living and the dead. It is also Mr. Folman’s way of acknowledging that imagination has its limits, and that even the most ambitious and serious work of art will come up short against the brutal facts of life.

“Waltz With Bashir” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has graphic violence, sex and brief nudity.


Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Ari Folman; animation by Bridgit Folman; art director and illustrator, David Polonsky; director of animation, Yoni Goodman; edited by Nili Feller; music by Max Richter; produced by Mr. Folman, Yael Nahlieli, Ms. Folman, Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul; released by Sony Pictures Classics. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes.



Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

War kills. People die in wars. Soldiers get captured in wars.

All of the above are facts… no one can dispute them. In the last war in Lebanon, Israel came out the loser as far as the government was concerned. Over one thousand Lebanese people lost their lives in that war, a majority of which were innocent civilians. Forty four Israeli civilians were killed. The Olmert administration was scolded for not handling the war properly…. WTH is that supposed to mean? See section 12 of this linked report… in reality, the report is totally unfair towards Israel as it does not mention the role played by the Bush administration. It is they that supplied the ammunition and WMD’s that are still being found in Lebanon today in the form of cluster bombs.

The war began on 12 July, when Israel launched waves of air strikes on Lebanon after Hezbollah killed three soldiers and captured two more on the northern border. (A further five troops were killed by a land mine when their tank crossed into Lebanon in hot pursuit.) Hezbollah had long been warning that it would seize soldiers if it had the chance, in an effort to push Israel into a prisoner exchange. Israel has been holding a handful of Lebanese prisoners since it withdrew from its two-decade occupation of south Lebanon in 2000.
Today, two years later, that prisoner exchange took place. Today, two Israeli soldiers that have been dead for two years were killed again by the zionist machine, again making Israel appear to be the victim. The world joins in the mourning process giving legitimacy to Israel’s ‘pity game’.

The Western press reports on the five Lebanese prisoners that were exchanged for the two dead Israel soldiers.

The Israeli government apparently has no feelings whatsoever for the families of the dead soldiers. I cannot believe that they did not know they were both killed in the first days of the war two years ago. They are more concerned about their image as the eternal victim, again demonstrating the racism integral with zionism that two dead Jews are worth more than five live Arabs.

Israel has a 60 year history of war crimes. It’s time for the world to see this as fact and to stop pitying them. Pity should go to the victims, not the aggressor.

Also see THIS report from What Really Happened.