It is often said that Western governments and media consider Arab lives less valuable than those of their own citizens. Civilians in the Arab world killed by foreign aggression are seen as collateral damage. Their murderers are excused, and their deaths turn into a number, flashing briefly on a TV screen.
But that should never be the case. As an Arab American community that is growing more sophisticated, we should make it our duty to remember the victims in our homelands and ensure that their deaths are seen as an unjust loss of human life.
The Qana massacres of 1996 and 2006 are the epitome of forgotten terrorism committed against Arabs. They are scars on the conscious of modern history.
On April 18, 1996, the Israeli air force bombed a clearly marked United Nations compound in Qana that sheltered defenseless Lebanese refugees. Another Israeli airstrike in 2006 targeted a building there during the “July War.”
The 1996 massacre resulted in the death of 106 civilians, and the 2006 strike killed 28, including 16 children. Both were acts of terror. While there is no legally binding definition of terrorism, it is generally described as the use of violence against civilians as a means to achieve political goals.
In Qana, Israel deliberately used violence against civilians for its own geopolitical calculations.
Amnesty International’s investigation of the 1996 Qana Massacre revealed that the Israeli army “intentionally attacked the UN compound, although the motives for doing so remain unclear.” A UN investigation concluded that the shelling of the southern Lebanese town was “unlikely… a technical or procedural error.” And Human Rights Watch described the massacre as a “violation of a key principle of international humanitarian law.”
The victims of Qana are victims of terrorism. Qana’s victims are no different than those who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. And while the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks was killed by the U.S. Navy Seals, and the United States has invaded two countries in response to the tragedy, the murderers of Qana’s children have gotten nothing but praise from our government.
Shimon Peres, who was the prime minister of Israel during the shelling of Qana in 1996, won a Nobel Peace Prize two years before the terrorist attack on the Lebanese town. On his 90th birthday last year, world leaders, celebrities and politicians, including our own governor Rick Snyder, attended his party. Instead of spending the rest of his life in a jail cell at The Hague, Peres tours the world and speaks at universities.
For the victims, justice has not been served.
We must remember our fallen people in Qana and remind the world of their murders. As Arab American Michiganders, we have been directly affected by the 1996 Qana Massacre. Hadi and Abdulmohsen Bitar of Dearborn, 9 and 10 years of age respectively, were visiting their grandmother in south Lebanon before the Israeli offensive started. They took refuge in the UN building, which proved too weak to protect them.
They died young. But we have a moral responsibility to keep their memory alive. We must demand justice for them.