► What happens when the bombs go off?

What happens when the bombs go off?
Kate Connelly

Malika is a first year student at Queen Mary. She was born in Lebanon and has lived in Britain for half of her life. When she returned this summer to visit her grandmother, who was ill, the Israeli army attacked the country. Malika was staying in the village of Sultanie, one of the closest to Israel. This is her personal account of what the conflict was like.

Interview by Kate Connelly

What was it like back in Lebanon?

It was so beautiful; the first week was just the best. The next week we were sitting having breakfast in the garden and we heard on the radio Israeli ‘planes were coming to Lebanon and we started laughing because it didn’t make sense. Then we heard the planes coming over to take pictures of the houses.
On the second day we started to hear the distant bombs. Our village is one of the closest to Israel. My uncle lived in the valley nearer so my grandma told him to come and live with us and he’s got a massive family! It was really great that my uncle’s children were there because they were so funny and charismatic and they kept the normality.
It was on Friday night that it began to get really bad. Israel attacks people at night. I’d just been studying First World War literature at A Level – all the feelings of the soldier under attack and the bombs – I think studying literature helped because I knew what I was feeling. The bombs shut the doors in the house, it rattles and shakes the whole house. One bomb really shook it and we all thought: that’s it. The children were shaking. We could laugh about it afterwards - the children were accusing each other: “You were scared!”
Friday was the longest night of my life. I really thought I was going to die. I was scared about the house collapsing on us and afraid of not dying straight away. The worst thing was about the children. Nada is my little cousin and she’s so sweet and funny. When one of the bombs fell I just went over to her – I didn’t want her to die – it’s just natural instinct: we put other people before ourselves. Everyone in the village had gone to Beiruit, there was maybe just one other family left. We were scared to go because we heard people were being bombed on the way. The people you love so much are scared.

Were you surprised that Israel did this?

Even in 2000 when Israel withdrew it was expected. But now the bombs are “clever”, now the houses just go down with people in them and there’s no trace. I think that’s what most affected me, how people can be just annihilated. That’s like First World War poetry too, how you can just loose a brother without a boot or anything left behind. They were soldiers, we are just civilians. What I noticed was the love you see in people. For the first time they don’t care who is better than who. People stood by the bridges, which had been blown up, to help get things across. That’s what brotherhood is. You remember the most important things – like children. Sometimes in normal life things distract you from that.

What do you think was the cause of the conflict?

I think Israel has been planning to attack for a long time. This war showed the true faces of everyone. This time it showed Israel as a tyrant and a murderer. They were taking pictures of our house. The rooms we thought were the safest got bombed. They saw us playing, you know. They’re cowards. They are in the wrong. Israel is a tyrant politically but even though we lost so much, Israel lost and this was the first time Israel retreated.
There was resistance but that was amazing because they’ve got to know there’s resistance. People in Israel said we don’t want to lose our men. We’ve got to see it from their side – they don’t want to lose people too. It’s changed people in Lebanon. They talk about other people’s children as though they’re their own and you didn’t hear that before.
You were evacuated on one of the ships sent from the British Embassy. What was that like?
The soldiers on the ships were so, so good. Anything we needed, they’d get it for us.
Tony Blair had a role in all of this because he offered the airports for the US bombs. This nation deserves much better. He stains the flag of England. He’s killing the people they’re trying to save.
What did you think of the reaction of the British public?
That really touched me when we saw the protests. On the ships I said to myself: they’ve done this to save me so I need to give something back. I went to give blood. This blood belongs here. The soldiers – they held our children and that’s not their ‘job’.

Do you think this is an important issue for students?

Yes. Young people are the voice of the nation. They carry the spirit. It does make a difference. It reminds you about humanity: that we’re all one big family.

Are you optimistic about the future of the Middle East?

Yes. Politically in Lebanon it showed the face of everything. The government of Lebanon didn’t do anything. Like an overgrown tree it’s going to be chopped down. The governments, they all work together.