July 7, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 113

'Fatma's Gate:' A New Park Where Families Can Watch Israelis and Stone Them

July 7, 2000
Syria, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 113

Since Israel’s withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, the area by the Lebanese side of "Fatma's Gate," the former major checkpoint between Israel and Lebanon, has become a park commemorating Hizbullah's victory over Israel, where visitors can observe Israelis beyond the border fence and throw stones at them. One such visitor was Columbia Professor and Palestinian intellectual Edward Sa'id, who visited the site with his family and threw stones at Israel. (Agence France Presse published a picture of Sa'id throwing stones.)[1] At the site Sa'id made a statement about the importance of and the lessons to be drawn from Israel's defeat in south Lebanon.

Following are articles describing the park by "Fatma's Gate" and Sa'id's visit.

"Fatma's Gate" Tour Guide

Al-Quds Al-Arabi reporter, Nada Abd Al-Samad, describes south Lebanon’s newest attraction: "…After the last [Israeli] soldier left Lebanon… a daily phenomenon at 'Fatma's Gate' began: women, men and children coming as close as they can to the Israeli posts [across the border fence] and stoning them. With the pride of the winner they curse and threaten whenever an [Israeli] soldier or settler appears near the gate."

"The media attendance [at the gate] has not changed, but the people are fewer now, especially in midweek… Foreign photographers constantly cruise around, looking for a picture [that will capture] a change in the routine, but such a change has yet to happen…"

"The place resembles archeological sites… Along the road to 'Fatma's Gate' there are carts [selling] water, soft drinks, beans and pita bread… a peddler invites [people to buy] cold water, his friend [sells] roasted grains. Beside the carts are benches, where the visitors can sit, eat, and drink without missing the view at this unique border point. The stands and the tents do not conceal the plastic Katyusha rocket Hizbullah erected near the border fence. Despite the daily routine, the tension occasionally rises when a gunshot surprises the passersby, as happened on Saturday, when we toured the gate."

"When an Israeli soldier approached the fence during his patrol, some youngsters started to stone him. The soldier quickly vanished behind the trees but the stoning continued. He later came out from his shelter and shot a couple of times. One man was hurt and the stone throwers ran away. The injured man was taken by motorcycle to a clinic. [But] the firing of rubber bullets did not frighten another group of youngsters who started to stone an Israeli military vehicle across the border. The Israeli soldiers ran for shelter."

"These sights reoccur daily or at least on weekends when attendance is higher."[2]

Prof. Sa'id at "Fatma's Gate"

The Lebanese daily Al-Safir writes: "At 'Fatma's Gate,' Sa'id made the following statement to journalists: 'Israel plundered the land, expelled the people, and continues to do so. The lands we see before us were all Palestinian. How can we solve this problem?'"

"'First, we have to stop the continuing Israeli campaign to take over the lands of 1967. We have to secure the right of return for our people. According to international law, it is the right of every refugee to return to the house from which he was expelled. This is what we saw last year in the war in Kosovo. It is the right of every Albanian to go back to his land. The NATO states launched a war against Yugoslavia in order to repatriate the Albanian refugees.'"

"'On the other hand, the Palestinian people have been out of their land and home for fifty years now…. Israel has no right to discriminate between a Jewish refugee and a Palestinian one. Every Jewish refugee has the right to… become a citizen of Israel, while the Palestinian is not given that same right.'"

"'The liberation [of South Lebanon] is a great achievement, nothing of this magnitude has happened in my lifetime - the life of struggle against Israel since its beginning in 1948…. I believe what is happening now is the realization of something symbolically important. For the first time an Arab group liberates land from Israeli forces not in the moral or… symbolic sense, but in the real and practical one.'"

"'The future is difficult. This area is included in the international peace stew, which must be carried out for the benefit of the only remaining superpower - America. The resistance movement must complete the liberation of this area in its entirety [by means of] wisdom, planning, and determination. The liberation should be not only from the Israelis, but from all the types of corruption and tyranny existing in the Arab homeland in which regimes that are used by the Americans for their interests… torment [their own people]. These regimes have nothing to do with the future, or with transforming the area into a better one... [America and its allies] have simple goals in this region. First… no change in the status quo, and second [securing] the oil resources at the lowest possible price. America is ready to do whatever it can to achieve these two aims which completely contradict the aspirations of both the Arab and the Jewish peoples… and of all the nations in this region. This is why we must [endorse] a perspective of the future that will… be based on the welfare of the people and not the regimes and their heads.'"

"'Second, we are in a clash of civilizations. Our viewpoint as Arabs is comprehensive. It applies to all people regardless of religion or race. This completely contradicts the prevailing views today including the Israeli perspective, which discriminates between Jews and non-Jews. This clash must be escalated not only with weapons, but also by the ideal, rational and scientific weapons.'"

"'We cannot begin all over again every time; it only damages us. We have to learn to train ourselves and accumulate the practical lessons we have drawn from the past and learned from our mistakes. This is the lesson we can learn… from the liberation of the south. This region was under the control of the Israeli military and its collaborators. It moved to the control of the [Lebanese] resistance movement, which is rational and serious, which defeated the Israeli army not by weapons alone, but also through thought and morale on the spiritual level. This is the only way to defeat American hegemony.'"

"'Clearly we will not be able to obtain nuclear weapons or planes or ships or huge armies. But we can win on the moral scene. These are the lessons that can be drawn from what happened at last with the Lebanese resistance movement. Their weaponry was in the real and practical field, but also in the realm of comprehensive world-view."

Responding to a question about the role of Islam in the victory in Lebanon, Sa'id stated: "'Values and morals unite all people and are not limited to one religion. In this region there are Christians, Muslims, Shi'ites, Sunnis, Syrians, Jews, Armenians all sharing the same aspirations - a good life, stability, and security. Every human being, American, Chinese, or African needs them. I believe that ultimately a common platform will be found that will unite all races and religions and I support any struggle towards that aim without excluding anyone. I cannot say that only he who belongs to this or that movement is allowed to fight. The field of struggle is open to anyone who is willing to engage in it.'"[3]

[1] Also see Al-Ayyam (PA), July 5, 2000.

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 19, 2000.

[3] Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 5, 2000 based on a report in the Lebanese paper Al-Safir.

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