Just to clear up some misunderstandings: I wrote the post about the media treatment of the Rangoon protests before the reports on the deaths came out, and in any case I did not mean to detract from either the brutality of the Rangoon dictatorship or the courage of the Burmese to stand up for their rights in the face of this dictatorship. I wrote in a fit of rage which was directed at the way the media (in this specific case, BBC World and Euronews) went full out at being moralistic in a case where no European and US interests are involved, as opposed to the hypocrisy and deference for power they show in the other cases I mentioned. By the way, as one reader to Angry Arab’s blog (As’ad linked to my article) mentioned, Israel is one of the main suppliers of arms to the Burmese regime, together with Singapore. As another pointed out, ‘Myanmar’ is the name the regime has given to Burma, and it is linked to one particular ethnicity, whereas the opposition uses the name ‘Burma’ as it is a neutral term denoting the area.
Archive for September, 2007
It is very amusing (well, sad really) to see the media getting all worked up about the military junta in Birma/Myanmar (admittedly, one of the most despicable dictatorships in the world at the moment) using ‘tear gas and batons’, would you believe it, to suppress peaceful street protests. Yes? So? Belgium, Germany, the US, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and every other ‘Western democratic’ country uses ‘tear gas and batons’ – and a lot worse, remember Genua 2001 – at every occasion where people choose to exercise their ‘democratic right’ of protesting peacefully in the streets, whether it’s a G8-top or a WTO-meeting, an anti-racist demo or a Eurotop. You’ll never hear our ‘impartial and independent’ Western media calling that ‘repression’ or ‘excessive force’. You’ll never catch them discussing the undemocratic aspects of a government using either its internal security forces or its army against its own population. But if it’s Birma, virtually the only dictatorial regime in the world not supported by the US and ‘the West’, official commentators are ‘worried’ and ‘scandalized’ by methods of repression that are standard fare in any ‘democratic’ country… In the same news edition, by the way, it was also mentioned in passing that Israel launched an airstrike on Gaza killing ‘at least seven’ – there was not even a mention of the earlier IDF tank fire killing 3 in Beit Hanoun. But these are negligible ‘incidents’ no doubt, that in any case obviously do not merit the ‘moral indignation’ reserved for the tear gas and batons of the Myanmar junta… Yeah right.
(continued in Media Watch 2)
‘Salibi’s vision, then, is a hopeful and optimistic one, envisaging a further harmonizing of the identities of the various population groups in the country to ultimately merge into a single, multifaceted but shared, Lebanese identity. In the long run, this is probably what is bound to happen – at least it is what should be brought about if the country as such is to survive. In the short term, at least on the surface, it may seem like a utopian dream as remote as the ‘Africa Unite’ of rastafarianism. Nevertheless, under the surface it seems that tectonic changes are already taking place, evidenced most clearly, in my own opinion, in the often glossed over lack of violent clashes among the Lebanese after the recent assassinations, even notwithstanding the failure of the traditional (and very much tribally organized) political leaders to solve either the political stalemate in general or the presidential question in particular as a first step in that direction.’
As’ad Abu-Khalil wrote another scathing opinion piece in Al-Akhbar, this time directed to the ‘Arab liberals’ who carry out the project of the new Middle East for the Bush administration. This is the English translation (copyright Bart Peeters 2007).
Nostalgia for colonialism
By As’ad Abu-Khalil
It is the season again. The Arab liberals are marching in step with their guides slavishly copying the conservatives in the west. You can predict the future course of the Arab liberals by following the past and present direction of rightwing discourse in the west. The Arab liberals are groping around looking for clues by copying and following this discourse, but the products of the west always arrive in our countries corrupted: you will find them implemented here more harshly, more brutally, and in a more degrading way. Here, ‘liberalism’ becomes ‘right wing’, ‘right wing’ becomes ‘fascism’, and ‘leftism’ is turned into a despised form of liberalism associated with the Hariri family. Only the Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces preserve the western product as it is. They adopted western fascism and preserved it intact.
The case of Daniel Sharon has taken another surprising turn, with his father, Moshe Sharon, telling AP that his son had converted to islam in 1994, adding that Daniel was “childish” and it’s possible that he could get mixed up “with the wrong people and didn’t know what he was getting into.” Nevertheless, he said his son, whom he had thought to be in Cyprus not Lebanon, “has only good intentions.” The Israeli authorities, unsurprisingly, deny Sharon was working for them. German authorities are starting to look into the case also.
On another note, Lebanese friends have been calling off appointments for today and tomorrow as they are uneasy about going out the next two days, citing concerns about possible new car bombs targeting M14-politicians today or tomorrow, i.e. before the election. In a cold calculation, it only takes one more M14-MP to be killed for them to lose their majority in parliament (after Ghanem’s assassination, they’re down to 65 out of 128)… In fact, although parliament is expected to convene on Tuesday 25th as planned, the actual vote will likely be postponed to an unspecified date in October, as there is still no consensus on a candidate acceptable to both sides, meaning most opposition MP’s will not show up so as to make sure the required 2/3 quorum is not attained and hence no president can constitutionally be elected.
Al-Akhbar on its front page today leads with a report on the arrest of ‘an Israeli travelling on a German passport’ (or ‘a dual citizen of Israel and Germany’, as Haaretz would have it) called Daniel Sharon, who is being questioned by military intelligence in connection with a murder in Dahiyyeh, and also faces espionage charges. The man, who has visited Lebanon 11 times over the past 2 years, reportedly has a friend in an unspecified security agency (there’s a wide choice of these in Lebanon) who helped him out within the country, and he also paid a hotel clerk not to mention his full name on documents (not surprisingly, as Sharon is not exactly a popular name in these parts). “He is denying charges of espionage and insists that he is gay and he likes to have sexual relations with Lebanese men and that is why his visits to Lebanon were frequent.” Israelis are officially forbidden entry in Lebanon, whether they hold dual nationality or not. Suspecting fellow human beings whether Lebanese or foreigners of espionage, by the way, seems tp be a national pastime in this country, where conspiracies real and imagined flourish without any need for theories to sustain them. On the other hand, facts to sustain them are plentiful and often just begging for a ‘conspiracy theory’ to make sense of them. (more…)
One of the most overlooked results of the US/UK war on the Iraqi people (and how many people know that this is already the fifth (5th!) time the UK invades the ‘agressive’ country of Iraq in the mere 90 years of its existence?) is the wholescale destruction and looting of the ancient heritage of the first civilisation in world history which left written records behind. Firstly the invading troops are occupying five different archeological sites with military bases ‘in order to protect them’ - in actual reality willfully destroying them by the heavy traffic of their military vehicles and by building directly on top of them. Doesn’t this remind you of Vietnam- ‘in order to save the village (from communism) we had to destroy it’, as the US put it back then. Secondly, the economics of civil war amid a crippled economy dictate that the various parties and factions exploit every money-making opportunity offered by the territory they control. This means that, in league with corrupt art and antiquity dealers in New York, London, Zurich and Tel Aviv, Iraqis are digging out and exporting every sellable artefact they can find. Gone are the days when Saddam Hussein prohibited the export of national treasures to protect the Mesopotamian patrimony from being exported to the west – or at least that was left of it after the English had robbed it at will during their first and second occupations of the country – go see the British Museum for the proudly displayed evidence of those crimes. (more…)
Andy’s Beirut Blog is a now defunct but interesting blog by an American student at AUB who happened to be around in Beirut when the intifadat al-istiqlal (later renamed the Cedar Revolution by the Bush administration) of 2005 was in full swing – he describes in a lively style the events he witnessed and took part in. It gives you a good idea of the exciting and excited atmosphere of the demonstrations and political pressure which succeeded in ending the 30-odd year Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Start here with the February archive (and start reading from the bottom upwards, obviously), which opens the day after the Hariri assassination which sparked it all off, and follow it through chronologically up to June, when it ends.
A few days ago, me and a journalist friend drove up to Bcharre in an effort to check rumours about the Lebanese Forces and the Kata’ib rearming and organizing training camps again – we didn’t actually get anywhere (none of the people we wanted to speak to was ‘home’ or ‘available for comment’), but we were at one point directed to the house of the directeur de la municipalité de Bcharre – who sure enough wasn’t home either. But when we rang, an African girl opened the door – she can’t have been older than 14 – who was the maid of the family, serving us coffee and drinks and emptying our ashtrays at the orders of the lady of the house – actually no more than a modest middle class villa, certainly not a mansion or a castle, though it had a stunning view over the Qadisha gorge, and the family was obviously à l’aise. We were offered an ample supply of sweets, fruit and drinks. She – la grande dame – entertained us, en français of course, for over an hour. It was much like being in an episode of ‘Keeping up appearances’. Hyacinth complained – while being served by her maid in a beautiful and well-stocked house overlooking one of the most gorgeous landcapes I’ve ever seen – about how poor and miserable they were here in Bcharre, how the government didn’t do anything for the maronites, all the money was going ‘to the south of the country’ and they were completely left out. She said the people here were emigrating because there was no work. It didn’t seem to occur to her that employing an (adult) local woman as a house maid, rather than an imported African child, might make a small contribution. She probably considered it an act of charity or development aid or something – we didn’t ask. (more…)
Naharnet (admittedly not always the most reliable source of information – see a previous post) reports that Antoine Ghanem had been staying in ‘a safe haven’ in Abu Dhabi and only returned to Lebanon two days ago. Naharnet quotes ‘a friend of the victim speaking on condition of anonimity’ to whom he is supposed to have confided that ‘I face the threat of assassination. They want to kill me to open the door for by-elections to choose a candidate from Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement’. Ghanem’s constituency, still according to Naharnet, includes ‘Hizbullah’s stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut’. Which, if it is the case, begs the question of how he managed to get elected there in the first place… (more…)