Negus Media InternationalNMICopyright © Mark Rogers Photography
photos

Interview 

Conference Facilitator

Back to Interview Archive


Negus Media International
FURTHER INFORMATION:

Kirsty Cockburn
kirsty@negusmedia.com.au
Sydney Office:
Ph: (61) 2 9818 3537
Fax: (61) 2 9818 3854
Mobile: 0427 122396

Regional Office:
989 Promised Land Road
via Bellingen NSW 2454

DR AMAAL-GHORAYEB - Wednesday, 19 July, 2006

GEORGE NEGUS: Doctor, thanks very much for taking our call because we realise things aren't too pleasant where you are at the moment. Is this, in fact, the first time you've been afraid to go out, because we had hoped to interview you in the studio?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB, LEBANESE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's right, and just now, as I speak to you, they've struck a core Christian area in Beirut it seems now - in East Beirut.

GEORGE NEGUS: When you say "struck", bombed?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Just now, just now.

GEORGE NEGUS: Bombed?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Yes. The shelling has now become very indiscriminate - it's no longer focused on the south or the southern suburbs, as I just told you now, for example, in the district of Ashurafiyah, which is a centre of East Beirut - a Christian area.

GEORGE NEGUS: So that's hardly likely to be a Hezbollah stronghold.

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Exactly.

GEORGE NEGUS: So how do you react to the Israeli suggestion that they are actually targeting Hezbollah-associated areas?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: I think this is pure propaganda, it's basically all lies. This is nothing more than psychological warfare - it's pressure on the Lebanese public.

GEORGE NEGUS: Doctor, you know these people. Are Hezbollah likely to back off? Are Hezbollah likely to stop their rocket raids into Israel?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: No, they're not. They are not going to unilaterally end the shelling until Israel does. And from the very beginning Hezbollah has said that they don't want an all-out war, that they just want their prisoners, a prisoner exchange to take place, and they only actually started shelling Israel when Israel started bombarding Lebanon in response to the abduction of the soldiers.

GEORGE NEGUS: So what hope is there for any sort of cessation of this violence while both sides are blaming each other for the situation?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: I think what really has to happen here is that Israel has to agree to a cease-fire - an unconditional one - not with conditions as it's recently stipulated. Oh, my God! Sorry, I'm watching the scenes. Where is this?

GEORGE NEGUS: What are you seeing?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: I'm looking at the destruction in East Beirut now on Aljazeera. I cannot fathom what this area is.

GEORGE NEGUS: What sort of destruction is it?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: It's on a street that they've shelled - I think maybe some trucks. Were they trucks? They were trucks. You see they're firing missiles at any truck they see under the pretext that they have rockets, but there is no I mean, this is very, very unusual because Hezbollah can't possibly have dispersed its rockets all over trucks all over Lebanon. Oh, my God, the Aljazeera correspondent was hit! Oh, my God!

GEORGE NEGUS: Sorry, what was that? An Aljazeera correspondent? DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Yes, yes, he was talking live now. His crew seems to be in danger. This is...oh, God! Yes, no, there is no area safe now. People are in their homes, Beirut is a ghost town, all Lebanon is a ghost country.

GEORGE NEGUS: So what are you going to do - just stay put in your home?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Yes, of course. There is a mass evacuation of foreigners from Lebanon and I think that once the Americans, who're, I think, the last to leave, once they leave, I think the bombardment will only increase. It's already started to increase as of last night.

GEORGE NEGUS: So what does this mean in practical terms? If you're going to be holed up there in your apartment, are you able to go out and get food, etc?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: We can go to very nearby places, but we have to be very quick, of course. Our bomb shelters are fully equipped now and everything. A lot of people are sleeping in them, even here in East Beirut, because they can't stand the noise, so basically we really are living under siege.

GEORGE NEGUS: It seems a bit strange to be asking you theoretical questions when you are faced with such practical difficulties, but what about Lebanese people themselves? Are they divided about Hamas, about Hezbollah? Are some people blaming Hezbollah for the situation you find yourself in?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Of course. There are many Lebanese, especially non-Shi'ite Lebanese, who blame Hezbollah for having provoked Israel, especially since Israel is renowned for its very aggressive and disproportionate responses, but, on the other hand, I think that if Israel continues with this onslaught, these same people are already starting to basically forget who started - or who provoked whom - and are now really beginning to feel very strong resentment towards Israel and towards the US for allowing Israel to continue with this offensive. It may very well backfire on Israel.

GEORGE NEGUS: Yeah, it could have the reverse effect from what Israel would like to have happen, which is isolating Hezbollah?

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Exactly, exactly, and the thing is many of these people, even if they blame Hezbollah, are now saying, "Well, even if they started it, let them finish the job, let them do a good job, let them deter Israeli aggression, why don't they start shelling Tel Aviv?"

GEORGE NEGUS: So, in fact, activity by Hezbollah against the Israelis could increase as a result of this, rather than decreasing.

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: Definitely.

GEORGE NEGUS: Doctor, I'll let you go. Thank you very much for talking to us under such difficult circumstances. I hope next time we talk it's a little simpler and easier.

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: OK, thank you.

GEORGE NEGUS: Thank you very much.

DR AMAAL SAAD-GHORAYEB: You're welcome. Bye bye.