Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Those who thought that Lebanese demonstrations were exciting and hilarious should take a second look. Another explosion in predominantly Christian area in Mount Lebanon and three people died. This comes days after another one in Judaydah. AlJazeera had live footage from the scene and one resident was heard saying "this is directed against the security of Christian society." And when minutes later Hariri advisor Adib Farha came on, he was clearly disturbed by the blatantly sectarian expression. Farha (if I can judge from knowing his nephew) is very sincere about his secularism but he went too far in stressing the unity of the Lebanese. What unity? A friend (that is you, Rami) went to an event in Beirut the other day and he was struck by the sectarian fragmentation of the crowd. I happened to watch a very telling scene on New TV today, before I even heard about this bomb. (One resident in Kaslik said that it seems "we will be like Fallujah. Whoever started that in Fallujah is coming to Lebanon," he said. Lebanese love to talk about invisible hands to avoid responsibility. First Lebanese president after independence Bisharah Al-Khuri (he was a literary man and I recommend his 3 vols memoirs) famously said: "blame the...Italians"). New TV reported about a raucous when Hariri deputy Walid `Idu (who has the sophistication of Crown Prince `Abdullah and the charm of a skunk) was speaking at the Arab University of Beirut. He apparently said--or implied--what opposition leaders have been saying for weeks, implicitly or explicitly, that the other side is full of ignorant and uncivilized people. There are clear sectarian implications to those words especially as there is a history of anti-Shi`ite (and anti-Palestinian and anti-Syrian (against the people of Syria here) and anti-Kurd) bigotry in Lebanon. After `Idu said those words, a riot ensued. Students wanted to confront (and perhaps attack) `Idu. They had to call the army who had to shoot in the air to disperse the crowd. But the interviews with the crowd afterwards were very telling. A clear sectarian pattern could be discerned. Shi`ite students were clearly outraged, and I worry that anger (on both sides) is about to explode. The anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War (April 13, 1975) is coming soon. How ironic. And former Stalinist-turned-millionaire secretary general of the Lebanese Communist Party, George Hawi, said something that got my attention. He talked about "sabotage in Lebanon" as a "political option" by various sides. I am supposed to be in Lebanon in June and July. I am collecting data for my next book on Lebanese identities (in the making for years). I increasingly think that things will be much worse then.