From Pop to Politics

Devastated Dahieh | Vintage Videocrat

In Vintage Videocrat on June 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Published on GNN – Tue, 12 Sep 2006 04:41:19

Location: Beirut, Lebanon.

A local man takes a break from sifting through the rubble in search of his family's possessions.

What a week. I’ve been meaning to post something about Dahieh, the Shiite southern suburb in Beirut that’s the hardest hit place in the capital, but I’ve been working long ass hours ‘shooting’ reactions and useless pressers by useless political figures, scripting, editing. I’m also developing an advanced stage of lung cancer thanks to all the second-hand smoke in the office as well as my own addiction.

Dahieh was targeted because of Hezbollah’s heavy presence there: It’s the base for Al Manar (Hezbolla’s TV channel) and the party’s nerve center. Someone showed me what used to be Hassan Nasrallah’s home; now a knotted mess of concrete and steel cables. It’s only about 10 minutes away from the flashy cosmopolitan atmosphere of downtown Beirut. The drive down in itself is a remarkable journey of urban transformation, the closer you get the more spread out and “third world” the setting gets. You see less Barbie doll look-alikes and more women with veils. And gigantic red green and white Hezbollah billboards jut out of the horizon, towering over highways and underpasses declaring ” Ja’a nasr Allah” – which literally means “Allah’s victory has arrived’.

The campaign is so slick it seems as though the Hezb may have hired and ad agency to do the work. It’s interesting to see that they are using the colors of the Lebanese flag and not that of the party (green and yellow). But Nasrallah’s cherub-like face appears in every corner of Beirut, in dark alleys and on building facades, be it in the form of posters, stickers on cars and buses or t-shirts. In Dahieh he’s almost a prophet. Every interview I did with the residents began with heavenly praises for the leader- no matter what my questions were. But I digress… Dahieh is what I want to write about.

First off I have to say that I’ve never stood on land destroyed by modern warfare before aside from Iraq in the 80s- but I was a child then and all I remember is the gargantuan palm trees and the train rides between Basrah and Baghdad. Oh yeah, and the sirens at night.

I’ve been to Dahieh three times this week and neither these pictures nor the news items you see on TV can convey the enormity of the aftermath of the war… I’m talking mountains of gray wreckage and dust and broken buildings with exposed interiors of charred bedrooms and kitchens as far as the eye can see, and from all angles. It’s overwhelming. Most of the residents have been displaced in their own country. People are still sifting through the rubble almost a month after the ceasefire looking for their valuables. One of my colleagues, a French producer, was saying how shooting footage there is frustrating as you could never really show the world precisely how insane and extensive it all is when you have to frame it in a box. It’s so true and I would add necessary brevity as a major fault. The TV news format is so limited and disposable. And we all know how numb we become to images repeated on the news over and over again.

I will never be able to get my head around the idea of a country sending monstrous aircrafts into the skies of another country in the middle of the night to annihilate and destroy as many places and people below as possible. Collateral damage? How does that happen? How on earth is it acceptable to mankind?

Reconstruction is already underway though, as tractors and bulldozers loudly make their way around Dahieh. The initiative began with Hezbollah and I spotted a couple of Iranian flags flapping from some of the vehicles. More proof of Hezbollah’s Persian immersion.

The war was so blatantly disproportionate. I remember the TV stories that were coming out of Haifa and other northern Israeli towns and the Katyusha’s were like goddamn firecrackers compared to what the Israelis were dropping on Lebanon. And the panic and urgency beamed from CNN et al. just seems absolutely ridiculous when weighed against what thousands of Lebanese have lived and died through.

I interviewed a feisty veiled granny who was hobbling around a mound of debris and twisted wires. She was looking for her belongings with younger members of the family. When I asked her how she was feeling she fiercely replied: “This is the third time they destroy my home! I swear to God although I’m an old woman I’m ready to strap bombs around my waist and explode in Israel!”

What's left of a low-rise residential building...


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