Qana victims mourned at commemoration of twin massacres against Dearborn's sister city
|Consul General of Lebanon to Detroit Houssam Diab speaks: “The only thing that will deter Israel is our perseverance in pointing out the truth about the war crimes committed and that are still being committed against our people,” Diab said. |
PHOTOS: Nafeh AbuNab/TAAN
DEARBORN — Remembering even a single innocent murder victim can be impossibly emotional for many, but family members do it to honor the memories of those lost.
And while doing the same for victims of even more troublesome events such as the 1996 and 2006 Qana massacres by Israel against the south Lebanese village can be perhaps even more difficult, the importance of doing so cannot be understated in order to prevent them from happening again, as Consul General of Lebanon to Detroit Houssam Diab said on Saturday at the annual Qana massacres commemoration.
“The only thing that will deter Israel is our perseverance in pointing out the truth about the war crimes committed and that are still being committed against our people,” Diab said.
“We owe it to our children and we owe it to (Qana victims, ages 7 and 9 in 1996) Hadi and Abdulmohsen to remind the world of the tyranny of occupation and Israeli aggression in order to prevent it from happening again, thus the importance of holding this memorial today.”
Local residents and interfaith leaders gathered for the event on Sunday, April 22 at the Islamic Center of America for speeches and prayers in remembrance of the Qana victims along with a breakfast. The event was sponsored by the Qana Al-Jallil Committee and the Congress of Arab American Organizations.
|Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News addressing the gathering at the Islamic Center of America on Sunday. |
Photo: Nafeh AbuNab
The two boys, innocent U.S. citizens, had been visiting their grandmother in the village, Dearborn's sister city, in 1996 when Israel had announced they were bombing the area. They took shelter in a clearly-marked UN compound along with many dozens of others but Israel bombed it, intentionally according to a UN investigation. A total of 106 civilians were killed while 116 were injured in the attacks.
The United States voted against a UN resolution to condemn Israel for the attacks as Diab pointed out despite two U.S. citizens, the Bitar children, having been killed.
“This gave Israel the feeling of impunity and this is why 10 years later, undeterred, Israel committed yet another massacre in the town of Qana, this time dropping a three-ton massive bomb from an aircraft causing a building to collapse on top of 67 of its residents,” Diab said.
The 2006 massacre claimed 56 lives including 32 children according to the Lebanese Red Cross, and Israel was condemned by the Human Rights Watch organization because of "the consistent failure to distinguish combatants from civilians" as a "war crime."
CAAO Spokesman and Publisher of The Arab American News, Osama Siblani noted the importance of remembering the massacres and also spoke about a larger problem of a lack of Arab American and American Muslim involvement at the polls and in other areas of civic life, which in turn hurts the communities' quest for equal rights and respect.
“This community cannot afford to stay on the sideline anymore on Election Day,” Siblani said.
“Last week President Barack Hussein Obama came here ignoring a city that has 45% Arabs, that has never happened, that a president in the last 15-20 years comes without scheduling some kind of meeting with Arab American or American Muslim leaders, ignoring the fact that we exist...We cannot allow this to happen, and the way we prevent it is by making sure that we vote.”
He urged the crowd of about 200 to vote and to bring family members out to vote as well, especially for Arab Americans like event emcee Sam Salamey, running for 19th District Judge in Dearborn, Judge David Turfe of Dearborn Heights,and Adel Harb, running for Wayne County Circuit Court, if they feel they are the best candidates, that is.
“If we don't vote, I don't want anyone to complain and say that we're being discriminated against in City Hall and in schools,” he said. “If you vote, then Obama will make sure to call the Islamic Center and make an appointment to see us next time.”
He also urged strong participation in Sunday's upcoming 'Rejecting Islamophobia' conference from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel from men and women, Muslims and Christians, in order to combat the bigotry of Pamela Gellar and others at another nearby conference. Siblani said a movement is being advanced to make Islam classified as a “violent political system” and not a religion so it can be marginalized or perhaps even banned at a future date if no one steps up to stop it.
He relayed a story going back to World War 2 when some Jewish doctors, lawyers, and other members of upper society used to smoke fine Cuban cigars with Nazi officers even as fellow Jews stamped with the Star of David were hauled away, thinking that they would not be persecuted like the rest of their fellow Jews. A time came when they were hauled away as well, and no one was left to defend them. He said it's not far-fetched to think the same could happen to Muslims if they don't begin standing up and forming coalitions with other minority groups and becoming active, and said that if those in advantageous positions don't speak out, they could meet the same fate some day as the Jewish doctors, lawyers and others in WW2.
He related the fight for equality and civil rights to the fight to raise awareness for Qana.
“We should never ever stand to the side while we see other people from our religion and other kinds of humanity being butchered and killed without saying anything because the time will come when it will be our turn,” he said while also thanking the resistance against Israeli aggression in the region.
“So in that spirit today we gather to remember Hadi Bitar and Abdulmohsen Bitar, two kids with no politics, no business, that were just butchered and killed by the Israelis...We stand in that spirit every April and we remember because if we do not we will be victimized over and over.”