Archive for January, 2008

Media spin

30, January, 2008

Marc J. Sirois of the Daily Star takes on the western media in a particularly inspired editorial rant:

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbullah, is routinely described as “the black-turbaned cleric.” Absent the explanation that the color of his headgear indicates his status as a blood descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, the phrase betrays a purpose not unlike that of Hollywood Westerns of the mid-20th century, when villains were commonly dressed in black (and/or seated on black horses) to make sure everyone knew how to feel when John Wayne shot them to death. Does anyone ever describe Siniora as “bespectacled” or Lebanese Forces boss Samir Geagea as “balding?” Of course not, because the aim of such words is to describe, and the aim of “black-turbaned cleric” is manifestly to vilify, to undermine a man’s arguments by painting him as “the bad guy.” Similarly, Hizbullah and other organizations that refuse to go along with the status quo in the region are regularly qualified as “anti-Israeli” or “anti-Israel.” That’s not inaccurate, but it does not even pretend to try to convey the ideologies of such groups (or even to acknowledge that they might have ideologies apart from not liking Jews very much); and for comparison’s sake, how often has the Western media described US President George W. Bush as “anti-Iraqi,” “anti-Iranian,” “anti-Muslim,” or “anti-Palestinian?”‘

 

Quoted by CNN

29, January, 2008

Yesterday, ‘In the Middle of the East’ was quoted by CNN.com in their ‘Global Voices’ section, in a roundup of bloggers talking about the riots in Dahiyyeh last Sunday. See it here or here.

Fairouz

29, January, 2008

We have had a windy, stormy night followed by a cold and rainy day here in Beirut. The main subject of discussion in the street (or in the shops and bars, to be more precise – it is winter here) is, beside the riots, legendary singer and national symbol Fairouz (now 73 years old) performing in Damascus, the official Arab cultural capital for 2008. Whereas one position holds that she is an artist and shouldn’t be dragged into the murky and volatile politics of the day, look here for an example of the intense emotions this has engendered at the other end of the opinion scale.

On another subject, the Lebanese government is finally opening an investigation into the looting and destruction of Nahr el-Bared by the army last year.

Angry Arab about the riots

29, January, 2008
‘A word about the bloodshed in Lebanon. First, the opposition (Hizbullah, `Awn, Amal and the rest) has no credibility WHATSOEVER on issues of social justice. Hizbullah was silent during the long Hariri years, and did not speak in protest when Hariri was looting the country and deepening its poverty. When I would ask Hizbullah leaders on issues of social justice during those years, they would say that they are not focusing on that. Amal: has no credibility whatsoever: it was Amal that participated in the looting of the state during those years, and in imposing that tool of Nabih Birri at the helm of the labor unions. Ghassan Ghusn was imposed in order to abort a rising labor union in the 1990s–and told him that when I saw him at the office of the Minister of Labor back in 2006 when he said that they are planning to act. I reminded him that he has been asleep for years: the Syrian regime (and its tools) decided to help Hariri by undermining a promising, non-sectarian movement headed by Ilyas Abu Rizq. `Awn’s economic program, as analyzed by the late Joseph Samahah at the time, is to the right of Hariri. Secondly, Hizbullah and their allies are lying: they know who shot at the demonstrators and they are dancing around the issue and making insinuations. It was not Ja`ja` (or Ga`ga` in Egyptian accent) but the Lebanese Army who killed the demonstrators. Thirdly, the Lebanese Army, as was reported by Riyad Qubaysi of New TV at the time although the station later played it down, acted thuggishly and recklessly. And this behavior should be blamed on the Army and on the government AND the opposition in Lebanon: they all watched and cheered when the Army was destroying Nahr Al-Barid and recklessly and ruthlessly killing civilians. Fourthly, the Hariri government in Lebanon is taking the country into civil war: you have to give it them and to their sponsors in Saudi Arabia: they have succeeded in their campaigns of sectarian agitation and mobilization: read it daily in Hariri rag, Al-Mustaqbal. Fifthly, my sources in Lebanon tell me that Gen. Michel Sulayman is not trusted by opposition anymore because he was caught playing games, but if he is elected president he should know that he was not elected by the Lebanese people but by the Arab foreign ministers, US, and France. Sixthly, if the Lebanese Army is deployed, it will not fight as one, but will do what it has always done–fight along sectarian lines. This is what happened I think, as I watched the scenes on Sunday on New TV. Seventhly, let me tell the people in the opposition in Lebanon: issues of social justice are real and genuine issues: they are the stuff of daily and consistent advocacy and not for seasonal exploitation for pure political exploitation in order to get that silly “blocking one-third” in the cabinet. Let me also say that thus far only comrade Khalid Saghiyyah and Fida’ `Itani of Al-Akhbar (read this tough piece here) have been critical of Michel Sulayman. Finally, Habash is dead and I am not in the mood for those ugly sectarian squabbles in Lebanon.’

Day of mourning declared…

28, January, 2008

The final balance of yesterday’s riots is 7 dead (protesters) and 40 wounded. Siniora declared a day of mourning with schools and universities closed today. It is still not clear who killed the protesters. Shots were fired from the crowd into the troops, the army fired back, but there are also reports of snipers shooting from rooftops in the nearby (predominantly christian) Ain al-Rummaneh neighbourhood into the (predominantly shia) protesters. The snipers are rumoured by local people and witnesses to be Lebanese Forces members shooting at both protesters and the army in an effort to provoke an escalation (which would make ample sense given the bloody and ruthless history and the current political position of the Samir Geagea’s gang). This would also have been the reason why some of the protesters went into Ain al-Rummaneh and threw a handgrenade which wounded some people there. Basically the cause of the protests was extended power cuts, with (largely pro-opposition) Dahiyyeh residents complaining they get more of them than the christian and sunni (largely pro-governement) neighbourhoods – hardly an unthinkable proposition in this country, where successive governments have consistently and systematically neglected the shia parts of the country. That is the reason why Hezbollah was able to create a ‘state within a state’ in the first place. If you’re gonna be the government of only half the country, you’re leaving an insitutional and structural void which is bound to be filled by another party. (more…)

There’s a riot going on…

27, January, 2008

Welcome back to Beirut… On day one after my return, I called a friend to meet for a drink and she tells me she can’t leave her house cause the army is fighting a group of Hezbollah/Amal protesters right outside her door. In Dahiyeh protests against the power cuts are getting out of hand: after the police arrested some of the protesters, they got shot at and a serious firefight started, which has resulted in the death of one man, an Amal official, up to now. Apparently he was killed by sniper fire while trying to negotiate with the army. At least three people have been wounded. The fighting is still going on. Local TV is showing images of burning cars and army charges on the barricades. My friend just tells me a fuel truck exploded in Chiah too. The protests are apparently spreading to the Gallerie Semaan area now, as well as around the al Hayat hospital where some of the wounded are being treated. (more…)

Eretz stuff

24, January, 2008

Remember how Israel is forever accusing Hezbollah and Hamas of ‘hiding among civilians’ to explain the extraordinary rate of ‘collateral damage’ caused by IDF airstrikes? An investigation by an Israeli human rights organization shows they themselves have been doing just that, although mostly among Arab Israeli communities of course. In other Israeli news, it seems that the young generation of Israeli druze have finally realized they are Palestinians and not Israelis after all. Meanwhile the IDF keeps harrassing and detaining Lebanese shepherds who follow their flock across the blue line, as well as flying their warplanes over Lebanon and causing sonic booms at low altitude to terrorize the Lebanese. At one of the planned presidential election dates they even appeared above the Lebanese parliament building in Beirut. Occasionally they get fired at by the Lebanese army, but Lebanon’s European and American ‘friends and allies’ always make sure the LAF doesn’t get hold of the kind of anti-aircraft gear that would actually enable them to hit those Israeli planes… (more…)

Return to Beirut

17, January, 2008

It’s been a while, I know… A few weeks stay in Yemen, 6 weeks of research (and visa hassles) in Saudi Arabia, a quick new year’s eve return to my beloved (albeit now cold and wet) Beirut, and finally a few weeks holiday in an even colder and wetter Belgium. In exactly ten days from now I will go back to Beirut and this time to stay. I’ll be sharing a flat with my friend Adam, a freelance photographer, and wondering when a new Lebanese president will finally be settled on and whether it’s gonna make any difference. Just like Belgium (which meanwhile has a ‘caretaker’ government), Lebanon doesn’t seem to fare particularly worse without a government than with one. The fact that Jeffrey Feltman, US ambassador to Lebanon, is leaving might have a bigger effect on the country. Unsurprisingly, he’s moving to Washington to join David Welch’s club of foreign meddlers (of the non-Iran/Syria variety) in the Middle East. So his departure might not change a lot either after all… (more…)


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