A moving and in-depth account of life that changed for a little girl, growing up in what was the ?Paris of the Middle East,? to the stark horror and brutality of an Islamic take-over.
Admired for her courage and her out-spoken delivery, here is Brigitte Gabriel, unedited and inspiring:
Vin Ienco: Brigitte Gabriel, thank you so much for making time to answer some questions for us, can you tell us about your childhood in Lebanon, during the civil war?
Brigitte Gabriel: I was raised in the only Christian country in the Middle East, Lebanon. A lot of people think the Middle East has always been made up of Muslim countries. That is not true. Prior to the birth of Islam, Christian and Jewish societies existed throughout the Middle East.? In more recent times there have been two non-Muslim countries in the Middle East. One is a Jewish state called Israel which is under attack for its existence today and the other was a Christian country called Lebanon, now under a Muslim majority controlling influence.
When Lebanon got its independence from France in the 1940′s the majority of the population was Christian. We didn’t have any enemies. We were merchants, descendants of the Phoenicians, strong in commerce in which we prospered. Lebanon quickly became the Paris of the Middle East, the banking capital of the Middle East. We were the only westernized Arabic speaking country in the region.
I was an only child to older parents. My parents were married for twenty-two years before I came into their lives. They were unable to have any children. My mother was 55 years old and my father was 60 when I was born. I had the ideal childhood, the love, adoration and attention of two mature adults who looked at me as a miracle in their lives, and were thankful to God for blessing them with a child.
Even though I was raised in a Christian country, it was still an Arabic country trying to please its neighbors, the Arab Muslims. Even the Christian private school I went to was affected. When we studied the Bible, we only studied the New Testament. I never saw the Old Testament or heard anything about it, because it was considered the “enemy’s bible.” All I heard was Israel is Satan, Israel is the devil, Israelis are demons, and they are the source of the problem in the Middle East. The Jews are evil, they are unstoppable and they want to control the world. I heard nothing but hatred toward the Jews.
Vin: The majority of the world is unfamiliar with the atrocities committed during the brutal campaign against Christians in Lebanon; can you give us some insight to what was going on in the greater community to Christians at this time?
Brigitte: The Christians in Lebanon always had problems with the Muslims, but we never thought our neighbors would turn on us. That situation was aggravated by the influx of the Palestinians coming from Jordan after King Hussein kicked them out in Black September. That’s what tipped the scale in Lebanon. Not only had Muslims become the majority but they now also felt empowered by the presence of the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat wanting to attack the Christians, take over Lebanon and use it as a base from which to attack Israel.
When the Muslims and Palestinians declared jihad on the Christians in 1975 we didn’t even know what that word meant. We had taken them into our country, allowed them to study side by side with us, in our schools and universities. We gave them jobs, shared with them our way of life. We didn’t realize the depth of their hatred to us as “infidels.” They looked at us as the enemy, not as neighbors, friends, employers and colleagues.
A lot of Muslims poured in from other Muslim countries like Iran — the founder and supporter of Hezbollah, one of the leading terrorist organizations in the world today. They came from Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The Lebanese civil war was not between the Lebanese, it was a holy war declared on the Christians by the Muslims of the Middle East.
They started massacring the Christians, city after city. Horrific events the western media seldom reported. One of the most ghastly acts was the massacre in the Christian City of Damour where thousands of Christians were slaughtered like sheep. The Muslims would enter a bomb shelter; see a mother and a father hiding with a little baby.
They would tie one leg of the baby to the mother and one leg to the father and pull the parents apart, splitting the child in half. A close friend of mine was mentally disturbed because they made her slaughter her own son in a chair. They tied her to a chair, tied a knife to her hand and holding her hand forced her to cut her own son?s throat. They would urinate and defecate on the altars of churches using the pages of the Bible as toilet paper. They did so many things I don’t need to go into any more detail. You get the picture.
Americans just don?t realize the viciousness of the militant Islamic fundamentalist. I think the biggest disservice for the American people was the denial by the networks to air the beheading video of Daniel Pearl. I think we as a society need to see what type of enemy we are fighting. People have been so sheltered in this country most have not paid attention to what was going on in the last 20 some years. Unfortunately, too many were more interested in watching a documentary about Madonna than paying attention to world events.
The majority of the Lebanese army was Muslims. Christians went to universities, not to the military. The Muslims began taking over military bases across Lebanon.? They combined their forces with the Palestinians and formed what they called the Arab Lebanese Army and started attacking the Christians. I lived 50 yards below the last military base left in the hands of the Christians. While attempting to bombard the military base their shells missed the target, landing directly on my home bringing it down and burying me under the rubble. I was 10 years old.
I woke up from a dream life into a nightmare. My eyes were blinded by the bright light of the explosions.? But the light faded quickly as a hot liquid started pouring into my eyes, burning and shutting them closed like glue. I was wounded by shrapnel, which cut the artery in my arm that was twisted on top of my face. Blood was pouring over my face and into my mouth. By the time I was rescued by my parents and taken to a hospital the next morning at 8:00 AM I was on my last breath. I was put on a bench in the emergency room and operated on without anesthesia. As the nurses held me down the doctors cut my flesh with scissors and sawed into my bone to get out the embedded shrapnel. As I faded in and out of consciousness, between my screams I prayed to God to stop my torture. I ended up in the hospital for two and half months.
While there, I would ask my parents why this happened to us. They would say because we were Christians and the radical Muslims want to kill us. So I knew ever since I was 10 that I was wanted dead simply because I was born a Christian.
When I returned home my new home was no longer the one that I knew. We ended up living in a bomb shelter underground without electricity, water and very little food. Little did I know that this would become my life for the next seven years. Our bomb shelter was an eight by 10 feet cinderblock room buried underground, that my father used as a storage room for our restaurant.
We borrowed life one day at a time. After sleeping in cardboard boxes for a month that had been stored in the bomb shelter, thinking this will be over soon, we realized this situation was getting worse and worse. We finally furnished the bomb shelter with two old mattresses from our garage. My mom and I slept on one and my dad on the other. To get food my mother and I would go out and find different types of grass and dandelions to eat around the shelter in between the bombing. My mother would soak chickpeas, rice, lentils and beans overnight so we could eat something during the day.
My father couldn?t get out because in the bombing of our house, he lost his hearing and he wouldn?t hear the sniper?s bullets nor the bombs coming. He had to stay put while my mother and I went out. To get water we would crawl in a ditch under snipers’ bullets to a nearby spring. Every time we?d leave we would say our last good-byes because we didn?t know if we would come back alive.? My mother would use her stocking on top of the bottle to filter all the worms and the debris so we could drink it. Then we would crawl back with bullets flying over our heads. Sometimes it would take us hours just to crawl 100 feet back into the bomb shelter.
One day when I was 13 one of our soldiers warned us that they were no longer able to fight and that we were going to be attacked viciously that night. He wished us a merciful death as he left. Knowing we were going to be slaughtered that night I put on my Easter dress because I wanted to look pretty when I was dead, knowing that there would be nobody to prepare me for burial. I stood in my dress in front of the mirror crying as my mother combed my long hair and tied a white ribbon in it.? I told her: ?please, I don’t want to die, I?m only 13.?
Vin: Your mother was seriously injured and you received medical treatment at an Israeli hospital, tell us about that experience?
Brigitte: By 1982 Israel was fed up with Syria?s repeated attacks on its northern border. They invaded Lebanon, declaring war on the terrorist infrastructure, going all the way into Beirut. During the first two days of the invasion the Muslims shelled us repeatedly as they were retreating. In their last artillery barrage, they scored a direct hit on the front of our bomb shelter. My mother was seriously wounded and would die without immediate medical attention. My father was too old and weak to take her to the hospital, so the responsibility fell on my shoulders. We had to take her to Israel for treatment. For her it was a lifesaving experience. For me it was a life changing experience. It was my first lesson in the difference between the militant Muslims and the western world, particularly the Jews.
Before we left my father gave me $60 dollars in case I needed some money since we were going to Israel for treatment. We took her first to the Lebanese hospital in town which was vacant and bombed out. There was an Israeli doctor on duty for first aid situations. He gave my mother first aid and we put her in an Israeli ambulance and drove her under the bombs to the border. It was about a ten-minute drive, the driver was a friend of the family. When we got to the border we changed ambulances. The Lebanese driver asked me if I had any money for the ambulance fee. Like an innocent teenager who never handled money I took it out of my pocket and handed it to him and asked him how much did he want. He said: give me 30 dollars, which was half the money I had. I thanked him for driving us with tears dripping down my face and got in the Israeli ambulance and we drove off.
The drive to the hospital inside Israel was an hour long. The driver was a middle-aged soldier. He treated me like his own daughter with such respect and compassion. He listened to the radio and explained to me how the war was going in Lebanon. I felt alone and afraid. My mother was fading in and out of consciousness and moaning from pain. We got to the hospital and I walked around the ambulance to pay him the fee. I took the money out of my pocket thinking, I?m sure this is not going to be enough for this man. If the 10 minute drive cost me 30 dollars I?m sure this is going to be much more. I extended my hand with the money asking him how much I owed him. He looked at me surprised and said: ?you don?t owe me anything. The ambulance ride is a free service from us to you. Keep your money, I wish everything goes well with you. I wish your mother health and a speedy recovery.?
I thanked him from the bottom of my heart and thought to myself: what an honest man!!! What an ethical man! He could have taken my money and partied all night and I would have not known the difference. Yet he didn?t. And all of a sudden I felt this anger towards the Lebanese driver who was supposedly a friend of the family. I realized that he actually stole my money. I didn?t have to pay a fee for the ambulance, he basically robbed me. I felt violated. I thanked the Israeli driver from the bottom of my heart for his honesty and help.
We went into the emergency room and I was shocked at such a scene. There were many wounded people lying all over the place. Israeli soldiers, Lebanese Muslims, Christians and even Palestinians brought in from Lebanon! I was stunned at such a scene. I thought to myself why the heck are the Israelis helping the Muslims and the Palestinians? I am a Christian, I am their friend, but why are they helping the Palestinian and the Muslims? Little did I know about the principles and values of the Israeli people? The doctors treated everyone according to their injury. The doctor treated my mother before he treated the Israeli soldier lying next to her because her injury was more severe. They did not see religion, they didn?t see political affiliation, they did not see nationality, they saw people in need and they helped.
They took my mother to the 4th floor of the hospital and put her in a room with two other Lebanese ladies, one Muslim and one Druze. We were in the room for 5 minutes and we heard this loud commotion outside our balcony. People were walking through our room to go out and look. I went out to see what was going on. Two Israeli helicopters had just landed to deliver wounded Israeli soldiers. I stood at that balcony feeling sick to my stomach. I felt ashamed, humiliated, embarrassed, broken hearted. After all these people are wounded because of the war with my country. I didn?t even look at any one around me; I kept my eyes down. I was surrounded by mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children of wounded soldiers. I felt out of place, I felt uncertain. I didn?t want to make eye contact with anyone because I didn?t know how they would react to me.
While I was standing there, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder.? I looked up to see a nurse standing next to me. She asked me: ?You are new here aren?t you?? I said yes they just brought my mother to this room. She put her arm around me and looked into my face and said don?t worry we?ll take good care of her, everything will be fine.
I broke out crying.? I was amazed by the compassion and love being shown to people who might well be an enemy. I experienced the values of the Israelis who were able to love their enemy in their most trying moments. That nurse didn?t even know if I was a Christian, a Muslim or a Palestinian. I spent 22 days at that hospital.? Those days changed my life and the way I believe information, the way I listen to the radio or to television. I realized I was sold a fabricated lie by my government about the Jews and Israel that was so far from reality.? I was now sure that if I was a Jew standing in an Arab hospital I would be lynched amid shouts of joy of Allahu Akbar.
When Israelis heard there were Lebanese wounded in the hospitals they came bearing presents, they brought chocolates, they asked people what they wanted and what they needed. They said our home is your home, if you need anything let us know. They came extending a peaceful hand. I became friends with Israeli mothers staying at the hospital with their wounded sons. One in particular, Rina, her only child was wounded in his eyes. One day I was visiting with her and the Israeli army band came to play national songs to lift the spirits of the wounded soldiers. As they surrounded his bed playing a song about Jerusalem Rina and I started crying. I felt out of place and started walking out of the room, and this mother holds my hand and pulls me back in without even looking at me. She holds me crying and says: ?it is not your fault?. We just stood there crying holding each other?s hands.
I thought: “What a contrast between her, a mother looking at her injured 19 year old only child, and still able to love me, the Arab, and between a Muslim mother who sends her son to blow himself up to kill a few Jews or Christians.”
The Muslim woman who was in the room with my mother stayed in the hospital for about 12 days. And even after 10 days the doctors would come and change her bandages and check on her in their morning tour. As they would be leaving the room she would have this evil look on her face and say: “I hate you all. I wish you were all dead.” For the first time in my life I saw evil. I realized that this Muslim couldn?t love the Jews even after they saved her life. And when you are unable to be grateful to the people that saved your life there is no hope.
I had to go back to Lebanon because I had to take care of my parents but I vowed that one day I would return to Israel. That one day I would live among those people. These are the types of people I want to be like. These are the types of values I want to adopt. I knew they had something even I did not. They were able to love the Palestinians and forgive them much more than I was able to, and I was a Christian who was supposed to love like Jesus taught.
Vin: What made you start American Congress for Truth and what are the goals and vision, now that it is known as Act! for America Education ?
Brigitte: I founded ACT American Congress for Truth after 9/11 to educate millions of uninformed Americans about the threat of radical Islam to world peace and our national security. I realized that with my life experience as an eye witness and a survivor of terror, and also as a journalist who covered the rise of Islam in the Middle East, that I had a lot to share and enlighten Westerners about what we were dealing with.
I started traveling nationwide and speaking to groups as small as 8 people and as large as 8,000. With every presentation I gave one question kept coming up: “Now that I am educated, what can I do?” I learned quickly that while education is very important, education by itself is not sufficient. Education must be coupled with action. That’s why I launched ACT! for America in 2007 as our lobbying political activism arm to mobilize and empower hundreds of thousands of people who want to become active in making a difference for our country. Today ACT! for America is the largest national security grassroots movement in the US with almost a quarter of a million members and 750 chapters nationwide, with a full time lobbyist on Capital Hill. Our philosophy is this: If our elected officials are not willing to see the light we are going to make them feel the heat!
In order to unify the name for branding purposes we changed the American Congress for Truth name to ACT! for America education. So now we have both an educational foundation providing information and research projects relating to national security and radical Islam, such as our textbook analysis project under ACT for America Education, and also have the lobbying arm ACT for America. Both are non profit. Donations to ACT for America Education are tax deductible while donations to ACT! for America are not because we engage in lobbying.
Vin: Do you think Americans are getting the message?
Brigitte: Yes Americans are waking up and getting the message. They are forced to pay attention to it by the hands of our enemies. So even though Americans were falling into apathy, thinking that now that we killed Osama Bin Laden our war with radical Islamists is over, our enemy woke us up by attacking our embassies in Egypt and Libya and killing our ambassador and three other Americans. By their actions, the Islamists forced the American media and the American public to discuss foreign policy and national security issues and why we must always hold our elected officials accountable for protecting Americans here and overseas.
Vin: Your first book Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America, made the New York Time Hardcover Best Seller List in 2006 and at one point was ?standard issue? for the Navy Seals and recommended reading at the FBI. A key point in the latter part of the book is the need to find new energy sources, stop funding our own Jihad against us. Have you seen any inroads to this in the last six years?
Brigitte: Unfortunately, in some critical areas things are going backwards. With the election of President Obama a lot of things changed in how we define the threat of radical Islam. President Obama purged any reference to radical Islam, Islamic terrorism, Islamic jihadism, jihad or any such words out of our national security lexicon. As I am writing you this interview they are purging these words out of our counterterrorism training manuals at the FBI.
Vin: In your next book, They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It, you say that ?Fundamentalist Islam is a religion rooted in 7th century teachings that are fundamentally opposed to democracy and equality .? In your view is this why there is no real science or achievement coming out of the Islamic states?
Brigitte: Science is about finding answers to questions based on facts. It is about exploring, questioning, coming up with different explanations and answers as to why things exist or operate a certain way. In fundamentalist Islam there is no questioning anything. If Allah said it, it’s the unquestionable truth whether we understand it or not. And when you add to this mentality the belief that you shouldn’t educate your female population because they are here to procreate and serve the men, you eliminate 50% of your human resources (the female population). This is why the Islamic world trails so far behind the developed world, a fact reported in a UN study done several years ago. Even in oil rich Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, while you see the result of their wealth displayed in big buildings and the best architecture that money can buy, you see virtually no scientific, medical or any other advancement.
Vin: Enlighten the readers of this interview to what you think America will look like by say, the year 2040, if things aren?t changed?
Brigitte: If things do not change, America in 2040 will look like Europe today. We are already seeing here a rise of radicalism in Islamic communities. We have arrested in the last four years over 75 homegrown terrorists, all Muslims either born into the Islamic faith or have converted to Islam, trying to kill Americans or perpetrate terrorist attacks against America. We are seeing a rise of radicalism in mosques and Islamic institutions.? We are seeing a rise of intimidation of freedom of speech and the creeping of Sharia law into our communities. One report has documented over 50 cases where Sharia law was applied in American courts in nearly two dozen states.
Vin: What can people do now to push back, being that mosques in the USA have seen a growth rate of 74 percent in the last decade, with approximately 2100 mosques already built?
Brigitte: The issue is not the building of mosques but what is being increasingly taught and proclaimed in them.? Radical imams imported from Middle Eastern countries are preaching hatred and violence in American mosques and distributing materials in Arabic inciting jihad and violence. Most mosques in America today are funded by Saudi Arabia and are provided books and materials supplied by the Wahabbis. In both my books “Because They Hate” and also in “They Must Be Stopped” I discuss the studies that have been done about mosques in America. Three different research studies have been done since 2001 and they all show that a majority of mosques in America are preaching radicalism, hate and even the overthrow of our democracy.
This is why ACT! for America is needed and is giving a voice to Americans who are frustrated with the situation and want to do something about it. Through our chapters, members in any community can come together and work on solutions.? I urge people to go to www.actforamerica.org and sign up to receive our emails and action alerts so they can be notified when there is a bill coming up for a vote so they can call their elected officials in a timely manner to bring about change. We want people to become a voice affecting their community and our nation.
They can also join one of our local chapters by going to our website and looking at our chapter network and identifying a chapter in their community that they can join.
Those who want to be even more active can lead a chapter. By going to our website and signing up to lead a chapter they will be contacted by our headquarters and and trained on how to launch a chapter.
Our motto at ACT for America is this: When everyone does a little together we can accomplish a lot.
Vin: Brigitte Gabriel, thank you so much for your time.
Brigitte Gabriel: And I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be with you and share with your readers how we, average citizens, can make a difference for our country.