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Living through Hezbollah's bombardment
by Amin George Forji
2006-09-16 09:42:38
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Linda Miller, a teacher of English in the Department of Foreign Languages at the University of Haifa, was living in Northern Israel when it underwent bombardments by Hezbollah rockets. She describes the period of the bombardments as terrible and stressful for the whole of Israel.

In order to understand what it was like, I interviewed Ms. Miller this month via an exchange of emails. The interview below is compiled from her replies of Aug 20 and Aug 21.

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By Amin George ForjiMs. Miller, I understand you are an Israeli, resident in Haifa. Am I right?

Yes, I am Linda Miller, a resident of Northern Israel. I work in Haifa, at the University of Haifa, but I live in a small settlement north of Haifa, near Naharia. My daughter, son-in-law and their baby live in Haifa.

I teach academic reading skills to students from all sectors of Israeli society -- Jewish students, Israeli Arabs, Russian immigrants, Ethiopian immigrants, religious and secular.

I live in an area in which there are towns and villages that reflect the demographic make-up of the Israeli population -- Arab villages, Muslim and Christian, Druze villages, Jewish neighborhoods and kibbutzim. We all live and study in peace and cooperation.

Your city was most hit by Hezbollah rockets during the recently ended conflict between the group and your country. Were you living in the city at the time of the conflict?

Haifa was not the most hit city -- Naharia and Kiryat Shmona were bombarded with rockets much more intensively. But Haifa was hit by several of the larger rockets, causing deaths and destruction of homes, public buildings, etc.

Haifa is known as a city of co-existence and unfortunately some Arab citizens were also killed. I spent the war mostly on my settlement, which was also exposed to constant rocket attacks throughout the war. My teaching work was cancelled so I spent my time at home or in the shelters, listening fearfully as the rockets fell around us.

Israel is not new to wars. But this was probably the most difficult for her in many decades, and those living in Haifa can best testify. What is it like living in a war zone, with dangerous enemy rockets constantly directed at you? Did you fear for your life, family and friends, or you were just confident that your military would guarantee basic security?

It was a terrible, stressful time for us all. Can you imagine what it is like to know that over 10,000 lethal rockets are trained on you from a short distance away and that an extremist group, not under the control of any government, are now firing them at you, with the sole aim of killing as many citizens as possible and destroying everything they can?? Of course we were frightened and feared for our lives! Do you live in Finland? Imagine Helsinki being under rocket fire from Estonia or Russia!!

Which in your opinion is right: Israel was exercising a legitimate right of self-defence, or Hezbollah was exercising a legitimate right of resistance?

How can you ask such a question? A resistance movement? Resistance to what? Israel has no desire or interest in attacking Lebanon! The idea that Hezbollah are doing all this for the sake of Lebanon is farcical. The only foreign power that threatens Lebanese sovereignty is Syria. Let them resist Syria! Israel's action was one of pure self-defence.

Many in Israel and her allies qualify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. But in Lebanon, where it is in fact part of the government, and across the Arab world, the organization is widely considered to be a Resistance Movement or Freedom Fighters. Do you find yourself caught in the midst?

No, absolutely not! The Hezbollah is an illegitimate militia. It is a terrorist organization that has been armed to the teeth and trained as though it were a proper army, yet without the political controls of a state army. What are the Hezbollah fighting FOR?? Nothing. Their raison d'être is solely to destroy Israel.

After the cease-fire, both Israel and Hezbollah were quick to claim victory, with backing from allied countries. On a personal note, don't you believe -- as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah put it -- that Israel failed to achieve any single military success, because they failed to recover the two captured soldiers that in fact sparked the war? Is it not abnormal for the Israeli military, considered to be one of the most powerful in the world, to be unable to beat a tiny organization such as Hezbollah after more than a month of intensive fighting, even after deploying probably the best she could afford?

The war ended in a state of deadlock. There was no decisive military victory for either side. However, Israel has achieved its aim of pushing Hezbollah back from its northern border and the deployment of the Lebanese army and a tougher international force in southern Lebanon. The even greater achievement is that the problem of Hezbollah and its backers, Syria and Iran, is now on the world table. Everyone knows that they must act to restrain these fanatical countries and their proxies, otherwise this same terror will be on their doorsteps next time.

During the conflict, the Israeli army committed a lot of fatal blunders such as massacring defenceless children and women, indiscriminate bombardment of innocent civilian homes, property and means of livelihood, etc., thus creating serious animosity amongst many the world over who initially subscribed to her right of self-defence. Will you, as a result, at this point say that your military, without any fear of contradiction, acted below expectation and in fact ultra vires?

What has happened to your journalistic objectivity? The Israeli army was fighting the Hezbollah, but the Hezbollah operate from within civilian areas, homes and villages. The IDF warned people to leave their homes, as it is very important to us not to hurt innocent citizens. The bombing was never indiscriminate, it was always aimed at Hezbollah targets. It was the Hezbollah who were firing indiscriminately. All the 4,000 rockets fired at Israel were indiscriminate, aimed at killing innocent men, women and children.

Broadly speaking, what do you think should have been done or is to be done? Do you fear for a repeat of the scenario in the near future?

I do not think there will be renewed fighting in the near future. But unless the resolutions that brought about the ceasefire are fulfilled, and Hezbollah is disarmed, then who knows what can happen in the future.

Final Remarks

This war was not about territory, or about withdrawal or about a Palestinian state. This war was about the continued existence of OUR state. Hezbollah and Hamas openly say that their aim is the destruction of the State of Israel. Let them know that this will never happen and we will do everything we have to make sure it never happens. My personal wish? To sit down with a Lebanese family and talk about our children and our lives, in the same way as we do with the Israeli Arabs who live in the village next door to me. None of this fighting has to happen and none of it will ever bring benefit to anyone.

Also published online by OhmyNews International

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