With all the massacres and war crimes that the Israelis have been committing in Gaza over the past weeks, and continue to commit despite their self-styled ‘unilateral ceasefire, and all this being compounded by a sorely disappointing Obama who seems to be unwilling to apply more than a few cosmetic changes to US foreign policy, I have been neglecting the homefront for a while. So here goes.
The Palestinian (ex-)residents of the Nahr al-Bared camp, destroyed by the Lebanese army last year, have written an open letter to Saniura to protest against turning their former home into little more than the extension of a military base for the army that destroyed it. The letter was published in al-Akhbar and as-Safir and an English translation is provided by Electronic Lebanon. There have also been a report of hundreds of PFLP-GC fighters (a Palestinian faction controlled by Syria) being moved to Naameh (south of Beirut) and the Beddawi camp in Tripoli. The same Lebanese army has recently severely beaten up and publicly humiliated two gay men on Sassine square, in the centre of christian Ashrafiyyeh, Beirut.
The ‘national dialogue’ on defence policy has been postponed until after the parliamentary elections scheduled for june this year, and even the national budget couldn’t be agreed on, after the opposition threatened to veto it because they say not enough money is allocated for the reconstruction of the south destroyed by Israel in 2006. Meanwhile, although most of the roads in this country remain potholed and rubbish-strewn, and power cuts of up to 21 hours a day prevail anywhere but in the centre of Beirut, there does seem to be money for a preposterously bad-taste, ludicrously wasteful and environmentally destructive project that wants to copy Dubai in constructing a massive cedar tree-shaped peninsula in front of the coast at Dammour – exclusively reserved for the rich and infamous, of course. As if Lebanon is some tiny gulf state without a thousands-year old heritage that needs silly glamour shit like this to attract tourists… All Lebanon needs is a decent infrastructure and political stability, but that’s the last thing on the minds (read: is not in the interest) of the warlords and feudal landowners who ‘govern’ this country… Meanwhile, a reconciliation meeting of sorts has taken place with M14 druze leader Jumblatt getting together with Hizbullah parliamentary bloc leader Raad for the first time since the fighting in may last year. Lebanon also officially has an ambassador in Syria now, for the first time since the two countries were created (or separated) by the French in 1943/1946. He is called Michel Khoury.
A riot has occurred in the Tripoli prison, where inmates held two wardens hostage for a night. And for the first time in months, some fighting was reported between M14 and M8 supporters, leaving 8 people wounded – a lot more of this has been predicted in the run-up to the elections, but thus far hardly any has materialised. Saida has been made political poster-free now too, in addition to (most of) Beirut, which is supposed to lessen tensions, as a lot of this fighting starts over people tearing down the other party’s posters – or putting up their own in areas ‘controlled’ by the other party.
In other news, Israel is once again claiming (through its TV Channel 2) to have prevented a massive Hizbullah attack on ‘Israeli interests’ abroad, this time in Europe. They come out with a story like this every two months or so and of course there is no way to check its truthfulness, especially as they are always careful to keep details (if any) vague and unconfirmable. This time they claim to have received help from the intelligence services of an ‘undisclosed European country‘.
Ynet carries an interesting article on the Fillka Israel blog, a much-quoted but notoriously unreliable source of ‘secrecy and intelligence news’, written by someone claiming to be one Elie Bni Symon, a non-existing professor of political science at Hebrew University. Ynet claim it is in reality a black propaganda operation run a Lebanese called Khodor Awarkeh for a Syrian/SSNP intelligence network.
The new shia resistance group that was announced recently seems to be non-existent too, and this according to Nowlebanon, who would be delighted at finding an ‘answer’ to Hizbullah: ‘Resistance watchers – analysts, authors and journalists – contacted by NOW said they’d never heard of Husseini and found it strange it took a television interview to bring a 3,000-strong actively-training force to come to light. Wouldn’t someone have noticed them earlier, was the resounding refrain. In fact, it was quite a challenge finding people who knew much about Husseini. “I doubt his wife supports him,” one religious leader said, after making yet another phone call on the ancient Panasonic fax machine at his side to a colleague in search of information on Husseini. In fact, interview after interview ended with the same conclusion: This is mostly talk.’
And finally, an item which bears no direct relation to the Middle East, but is highly revealing of the attitude of the British army (or maybe of human beings in general): ‘A former official with the British Ministry of Defense said military pilots in the country have been shooting at UFOs since the 1980s. Nick Pope, former head of the Ministry of Defense’s UFO project, said UFOs have been fired upon but none have been brought down or captured by the Royal Air Force, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday. “There was a faction in the MoD who said ‘We want to shoot down a UFO and that will resolve the issue one way or another,’” Pope said. “We know of cases where the order has been given to shoot down — with little effect to the UFO.” Pope said pilots only fired upon UFOs in cases where the objects appeared threatening. “In the case of UFOs, whether the object is causing a threat is very much a pilot’s judgment call. The public won’t know unless it comes down in a heavily populated area,” he said.’ Welcome to planet earth!