June 19, 2013

More Old Stuff

Coming out of Mieh Mieh
Since my car is still in the garage, some more 'old stuff'.
Something I learned today. I knew that the V-sign (here shown by Lebanese soldiers returning from Mieh Mieh) is an old custom from the time when wars were still fought with cross bow. It is because when the enemy would catch archers during a war, they’d cut off their middle and index finger; without these two, you couldn’t draw your bow. So if you came back from war with those two fingers still intact, it meant you were victorious, hence the V-sign.
Today I learned that giving the middle finger originates from the same era. The longbow men showed the enemy on the battle field their middle finger in a gesture of defiance, saying “I still got mine.” (source)
From the days when we did not have mobile phones (1991)
That picture (soldiers flashing the V sign) comes out of my old stash. It’s from 1991, and was taken around Mieh Mieh (south Lebanon). In the early 1990’s right after the end of the civil war, the Lebanese army tried to curtail the armed activities of armed Palestinian groups outside the refugee camps. They had pretty much accomplished that, with the exception of Mieh Mieh. Mieh Mieh used to be a sleepy little christian village in the south, on the edge of Sidon. However, in 1948 a large number of Palestinian refugees were camped on the outskirts of the village. Next door was another camp, Ain el-Heloueh, which over the years grew into one of the largest  Palestinian camps in the country. And as the population grew, but not the camp, armed fractions, followed by family members, spilled over into the village and the original inhabitants fled. Now, some 3 years after the civil war had ended, it was time to clear out Mieh Mieh.
I am not sure what they are doing. I think one is getting ammo out of the back pack of the other, but I am rather ignorant when it comes to caliber and stuff.
It was the first time after the civil war that the army was moving into action against the Palestinians, and all eyes were on them. The Palestinians knew they had to go, but everyone knew that historically, little skirmishes like this could turn into major battles that could fire up a whole country.
I was with two French journalists and a camera crew and we were following the army, as it moved slowly into the village in the afternoon.
But the driver was not familiar with the terrain, we didn’t quite know how the battle field was laid out, no one could give us directions as everyone was hiding inside their houses, expecting a battle, we got lost, and ended ‘smack bang’ in the middle; army on the left, Palestinians on the right. It was on the outskirt of Mieh Mieh, and this part of the village had been abandoned by the armed Palestinians, which was Fatah at the time.
For some strange reasons – we as journalists had known for a week that the army was going to move in – they had done very little as far as preparations were concerned; they had left all their stuff behind. And so we stumbled –inside one of the little rooms, upon crates of weapons (AK 47’s and RPGs), uniforms and shoes. If you’re familiar with the Palestinian military, they often wear these canvas type of boots.
Army catching up and wondering why we are there
And we needed those. I got lucky, my size was right on top. But the French journalist I was with, couldn’t find his size. By now dusk was slowly setting in, there was no electricity, and the battle started. It started out light, with gun shots. Time to move out.
No, I want my size,” said the journalist. The sound man, Lebanese, decided to leave. “He is mad,” he said, as he disappeared.
The camera man, also Lebanese, didn’t think this was such a good place to be either, and he too made a run for it.
Now the army rolled in with their tanks, the squeaking of the wheels was right behind us, while from the other side, the Palestinians now replied with bigger material. It was clearly time to go.
Rambo got lost; no idea what he was doing there
Nom de dieu, they don’t have my size!?” yelled out the Frenchman as he kept searching. Now the tanks outside the little room were returning fire. Have you stood next to a tank that fires? I hadn’t. Well, it greatly amused the two Frenchmen, who had never seen a woman jump that high. And as the battle got underway, and there was no way out of that little room, this Frenchman stoically kept searching for his size.
By now he was unpacking the third crate, had taken off his own shoes to try on different pairs, and here I am sitting, thinking, “I guess this is normal.” I was relatively new to this, had little referential cadre as how to behave in battle.
Mais c’est pas vrai!” the Frenchman went on, “not my size? What is this? They’re all little midgets, these Palestinians? There must be someone with big feet!”
Lebanese soldiers now moved in between the houses, and they saw us.
What are you doing here?!” a lieutenant barked, as he looked at the crate with RPG's.
“We’re trying on shoes,” I replied.
He stood for a while in the doorway. “You’re crazy,” and he left.
The battle didn’t last long. It was over in a matter of hours.  We got our story, the Frenchman got his shoes, and we all got home safe.
It is what they call beginners luck.


Joseph said...

God bless the Lebanese Army.

Typical French, they will chase you down for the cost A Matchbox.

Fabulous said...

Great story, hope it still takes a while to repair yoour car just because it would be really interesting to hear more of that "old stuff", that story really made my day!

And great blog btw.!

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious! The story perfectly catches three cultural dispositions: the Lebanese will go along with it until the shooting starts, the French will not tolerate skimping on fashion, and the Dutch come along for the ride and just want everyone to be happy.

Anonymous said...

I could have told you about the middle finger and cross bows. My source is Barby, many years ago.