Thursday, March 31, 2005

UN Security Council will after all appoint a special commission to investigate the murder of Hariri. The Secretary General made it clear that if you have more than a billion dollar, and if you fly in a private jet, and if you meet regularly with Iyad Allawi (puppet prime minister/car bomber/embezzler-in-yemen/former Saddam henchman) in Iraq, and if you invite famous and rich dignatories to your fancy Paris apartment, the security council will hold a special meeting if you are murdered. He added that the UN Security Council will NOT investigate the murder of those nameless and faceless Palestinians (who do not fly in private jet) who are regularly killed by Israeli occupation forces; it will not investigate the death of more than 10,000 civilian Syrians who were killed by the Syrian regime in 1982 because they did not meet regularly with `Allawi; it will not investigate the murder of poor Syrian workers in Lebanon who are being murdered by the "heroes" of the Lebanese right-wing opposition because they did not wave the Lebanese flag (not to be confused with the newsly designed Hummus Flag--see below); it will not investigate the death of poor Jordanians who die in Jordanian mukhabarat torture chambers; and it will certainly not investigate the death of thousands of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces in Iraq. But if something happens to any of the oil princes of the Gulf, and their associates, the UN Security Council will be dispatched to the scene of the crime. Beware. International Justice now Prevails. I am suffocating. I better go out and get me a bowl of chili from Wendy's. Wait. What if they put human toes in it? Would they do that? And do they make you pay extra for human fingers, or do they come free with any large order?
What you will not read in the US press? What Bush will not brag about? First, did the Hassan Fattah team of the New York Times report about the peaceful demonstration in front of the US embassy in Lebanon? Or will that conflict with the Bush's and US media's insistince on the validation of the Bush's doctrine? There was rain in Saudi Arabia this year, and the Bush team took credit for that, attributing rain to US bombings in Iraq. Also, I read this exchange in As-Safir today: I shall translate verbatim. It is during a press conference by Rep. David Dreir of California who was visiting Lebanon with an equally ill-informed, have-no-clue, members of Congress:
"Lebanese Reporter: Why do you push for Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon while you do not pressure Israel for withdrawal from the area of Shib`a Farms?
Congressperson Dreir: The biggest concern that we heard from the ones that we met here, and through out monitoring is that there is Syrian influence prevailing in Lebanon and that produced many problems. And we had the opportunity during our visit to the gravesite of the martyr prime minister Rafiq Hariri to see the students there in the Martyrs' Square. And the message that they sent was clear and loud, and it is the demand for freedom of expression, and this is an essential matter after the Syrian influence was prevailing in Lebanon.
Lebanese Reporter: What about the continued occupation of the region of Shib`a Farms:
Congresspperson Dreir: Discussions continue on this matter. And what we focus on currently regarding Lebanon is the conducting of parliamentary elections according to its constitutional schedule...."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Did I miss anything? Did Bush "liberate" new countries in my absence? A DJ friend in DC tells me that rich Lebanese now chant the slogans of the right-wing opposition in trendy Washington, DC night clubs. When I took a cab from Dulles airport to Georgetown, I asked the ground dispatcher for a cab where I can sit in the front seat. (I have to drive the vehicle I am in, or I have to sit in the front--I should try to ask cab drivers to drive their cabs). He pointed me towards one, I took a look and almost fainted. It had so much dirt and food (beef stew, potato au gratin, buffalo wings, a cup of Wendy's chili (I did not check if it had human fingers in it, etc), and I said that it is ok, I will take another cab. He asked why? I said: I do not want to sit on food. He said: "why do you care about that since you are wearing blue jeans? I said: the fact that I am wearing blue jeans does not mean that I like to sit on food. He said: "but you are wearing blue jeans." I said: my jeans can be clean, you know. " He said: but you are wearing blue jeans. I asked for his opinion on Iraq. He said: but you are wearing blue jeans. (Are you wearing blue jeans)?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 to DC. I am speaking on the current state of Middle East studies at Georgetown University. Am also taping a segment for CBS Evening News on Friday, but I do not know when it will air. Will try to update.
" "A poll released Monday in Australia, long known for friendly relations with Americans, found that only 58 percent of the population had a positive view of the United States. That put the United States behind China (69 percent positive), and not even in the overall Top 10 countries, regions or groups that Australians respect."
Columbia University professors are speaking out, now. Too little, too late, as the cliche goes.
Get me a ticket on this airline, now. Angry Arab would like it very much: ""The major first-class innovation will be a cabin with a shower. "A full shower, with space for dressing," Sheik Ahmed said. Are any competitors planning to top that? "Not so far," he said."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Israeli occupation soldiers showing their toughness. Posted by Hello
How do countries look after they are "liberated" by Bush? Like this, of course: "IRAQ'S interior minister warned citizens yesterday not to protest, saying the gatherings were an invitation for a large-scale terrorist attack."
This brilliant headline is from the formerly good Christian Science Monitor: "Muslims split over gender role." (And Christian, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists are not split over gender role????)
"Minister: Iraq May Be Secure in 18 Months" (Angry Arab: Elvis May be Back in 18 days).
"The State Department, releasing an annual report on its efforts to promote human rights and democracy, declared yesterday that upholding human rights will be key to assessing relations with other countries. But the report sidestepped mention of U.S. prison abuse scandals in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had prompted a delay in the report last year."
News from "liberated" Iraq: "Female students in fear as Shias push for headscarves"
"In the Gulf, Dissidence Goes Digital"
Consequences of the Bush doctrine: "For Islamic militants in Europe, Iraq far outshines Afghanistan as an urban-terrorism training ground."
It seems that the Iraqi puppet police is also "liberating" Iraqis: "Iraqi Guards Open Fire on Other Guards Protesting."

This aparment, where three poor Syrian workers lived, was set on fire in Ba`albak. Neither the Lebanese nor the Syrian government has addressed this issue. Posted by Hello
Rime Allaf said: "Undeniably, a number of individuals in the Syrian regime will always resist attempts to uproot their authority and business interests from Lebanon. But for every Syrian profiteer, there are dozens of Lebanese associates who have made this situation possible. A rushed Syrian exit will harm their stakes and they will try to prolong this mutually beneficial relationship, especially as long as Syria's closed economy makes abuses viable." Rime is absolutely right.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Panorama populaire, 1926. René Magritte. Posted by Hello
This is Zionism: "Israel Defense Forces soldiers have been preventing Arab citizens of Israel from entering the West Bank using Road 557."
"Sharon: Israel will retain the settlement blocs, despite objections from the U.S." (What objections?)
There is a new Angry Poll (below, on the left). Vote, NOW.
There is a story to this article. I wrote this article originally for As-Safir in Beirut. For the first time ever in my relationship with my friends at the newspaper, As-Safir decided not to run it, saying it was "too tough." I circulated the text among friends who (thanks to Mounzir, Kamal, and Fadi) submitted it to Al-Quds Al-`Arabi. It is titled: "The Folklore of Lebanese Patriotism: What the Fluttering Flags Could not Hide."
The Lebanese Communist Party: reverts to its Stalinist past. The Lebanese Communist Party is undergoing one of its regular, biweekly, crisis. Apparently, many Druze and Christian (and a handful of others) members from the Mount Lebanon region, have expressed their displeasure at the stance of the Party leadership (which is neither with the opposition and nor with the Lebanese/Syrian government). One regional leader, Munir Barakat, issued a statement criticizing the party. So what did the party do? Vote him out of the party, and order him to write--according to Leninist organizational principles--a "self-critical confession." Khalid Bakdash would have been very proud of his descendants.
The Racist Separation Barrier In the West Bank (Detailed Map) It requires the theft of more than 13% of West Bank land.
Ahmad Zaki dies. He was the first Egyptian movie star who looked...Egyptian. Before him, Egyptian movie stars had to have some European blood in them to be considered worthy of the large (or small) screen. Ahmad Zaki was cast in his first major role in the movie Al-Karnak (starring Su'ad Husni) in 1972. The screenplay writer and producer made him sign the contract. Zaki was ecstatic. A few weeks later, he was fired. The producer explained that the powerful Lebanese distributor/producer, Husayn As-Sabbah (a friend of my late father) said that he was too "black" and too "ugly" and that audiences would not believe that the beautiful Su'ad Husni would fall in love with him. He was devastated. Now Lebanese upper class members want the truth behind his death. Right-wing opposition leaders in Lebanon blame Syria for his death. US calls on Syrian troops to leave...Egypt. Syrian president admits that "mistakes were made" in Ahmad Zaki's chest. UN investigators are searching for a suspicious white pick-up truck that injected Nicotine in Zaki's lungs. Bush attributed Zaki's successful movie career to his war in Iraq. "Without the bombings and killings in Iraq, Zaki would not have lasted in the tough Egyptian movie industry," he said.
Oh, so how does "liberated" Iraq look like? According to Bush, he is still "making progress" notwithstanding that "For the first time, Sunni Muslim sheiks are publicly exhorting followers to strike with force against ethnic Kurds and Shi'ites, an escalation in rhetoric that could exacerbate the communal violence that already is shaking Iraq's ethnic communities."
The US government has condemned the recent bombings in Christian areas in Lebanon, and they should have. But not one word is said by the US government about the killing and abuse of poor Syrian workers in Lebanon, or about the abuse of poor Lebanese who were mistaken for poor Syrian workers. What do you call that? Human rights advocacy--American style, of course.
This is from the New York Times, but not by Hassan Fattah: "Most Lebanese will tell you that Iraq had nothing to do with the popular upheaval now gripping the country, and not just because they opposed the American invasion of their Arab neighbor."
(Chibli Mallat, quoted in the piece, is NOT a leader of the opposition. He is very close to the Khu'i Foundation and to Ahmad Chalabi, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq war. He calls himself a "friend" of Paul Wolfowitz. (Those token Arabs who met Wolfowitz once or twice call themselves his "friends.") Perhaps they took the term "friend" (as in "how are you my "friend"?"--commonly used in the US) literally. New York Times did not mention any of that. I look at public opinion surveys in Lebanon very regularly (and they are conducted and published regularly) and I can tell you that US media references to--or generalizations regarding--Lebanese public opinion have no connection to reality, unless one wants right-wing Maronites to represent all of the Lebanese people, and unless you want to consider Shi`ite Lebanese, and leftwing Lebanese to be...non-Lebanese.
Bill Cosby's Not Funny
"Your new book is a rhetorical screed against Bill Cosby, and the title alone is not exactly subtle: ''Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?''
When a comedian throws a pie in the face of a powerful person, it's funny. When he throws a pie in the face of a homeless mother with three kids, that's not very funny.
You're referring to Cosby's recent harangue about lower-income black people, whom he faults for neglecting their children, wasting money on expensive sneakers and glamorizing ghetto culture.
It's his Blame-the-Poor Tour. He should pick on someone in his own class. If he had come out swinging at Condi Rice or Colin Powell, they could defend themselves. But he's beating up on poor black people, the most vulnerable people in this nation. And why jump on them?"
Will Bush find those demonstrations cute? Will he also attribute those events to his election and to his bloody wars? Will he speak with a smiling face about the demonstrators? Will his State Department hail and cheer those demonstrations? Will his government declare those events as part of the "tide of democracy" sweeping the Middle East? NO. Why do you ask, jerk?
No. I did not ask for a...human finger in my chili.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Month of the Grape Harvest, 1959. René Magritte. Posted by Hello
If you live in the Middle East, and would like to get published in major US newspapers, start your article (any article, on anything) like this:"It's hard not to be intoxicated by the breeze of democracy wafting across the Middle East. An Arabian Spring, analysts call it, heralded by round-the-clock demonstrations in Lebanon, suffragists out on the streets in Kuwait, rare protests in Egypt, voting in Iraq and reform even here in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
"Allawi tells clerics to stay out of politics" (Angry Arab tells clerics AND Allawi to stay out of politics)
"Panel Ignored Evidence on Detainee"
"Fresh details emerge of Iraqis' abuse by American soldiers"
Ajami is very proud of the right-wing Lebanese opposition. Is that not nice? (thanks Fadi)
"The Undoing of America"
Gruesome Heritage in Morocco.
If fanatic cleric Muqtada As-Sadr has his way, he will construct a Taliban-like (dis)order in Iraq. Of that I am certain.

The Glass Key, 1959. René Magritte. Posted by Hello
"Hugo Chávez and Petro Populism"
I sent the UN fact-finding missiong report on Hariri's assassination to Anthony. He uploaded it in PDF form.
"Bolton vs. United Nations"
A friend from Sidon yesterday was telling me that poor Syrian workers are afraid to sleep in Sidon; they leave for the night to stay at the Palestinian refugee camp of `Ayn Al-Hilwah. She also was reminding me of how rude, bossy, and authoritarian Rafqiq Hariri was with people, and that it was this humiliation of people that explained the rejection of his candidates in the last municipal election in his own home town. The Hariri propaganda machine is now filling the airwaves with bogus stories of Hariri's modesty and down-to-earth personality.
The American Left and the Middle East (Part II): I came home last night to find a message in my inbox from some anti-war group in Vermont in which it included this: "We are looking for an anti-war Arab to be part of our panel discussion." I obviously was furious, and wrote them saying that I found their message insulting and offensive, and that it sounds like they are looking for a generic or token Arab. This would be an invitation that I would never accept, of course. I received later from them several messages of explanation and clarification. They did not change my mind.
"Newly released government documents say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. forces was more widespread than previously reported."
Justice is served: "Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths" (But the US government (and UN) promises to investigate the death of any billionaire, anywhere).
"Army and Navy investigators conclude that at least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan in what could be criminal homicides" (These are not billionaires. So UN Security Council will not hold a special meeting to investigate).

I wrote about this man before. A Lebanese man from South Lebanon who sells flowers on the streets of Beirut. He was mistaken for a Syrian worker and shot in the foot by heroes of the right-wing opposition. Posted by Hello
" "We're scared," says Shaher Qutb, a construction worker from the northern Syrian town of Raqa, who says 20 of his countrymen have moved into his room in Beirut's Basta-Tahta neighborhood for protection. "We are staying in groups now and carrying out night watches to prevent any possible attack.'' "

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hegel's Holiday, 1958. René Magritte. Posted by Hello
"Is Frantz Fanon Still Relevant?"
"IDF officer reports increase in violent acts by settlers against Palestinians"

Israeli occupation soldiers preventing protestors from protesting. Posted by Hello
Who is Guilty (or who is not) in Lebanon? If Lahhud does not resign, he will confirm my suspicions that his intelligence service and/or the Syrian intelligence service in Lebanon may be behind the bombing that killed Hariri. They are looking increasingly guilty, for sure. The fact that they do not ask for, nay welcome, an international investigation, does not put them in a good light. (I certainly disagree with Hasan Nasrallah's suggestion that an Arab investigation would suffice. An Arab investigation would only conclude that Hariri died from high blood pressure. And an international investigation can include countries other than US and France). When I read that Rustum Ghazali (head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon) told the head of the international fact-finding mission that his role in Lebanon only covers the "protection of Syrian troops in Lebanon" and not involvement in Lebanese affairs, my suspicions increased. The recent bombings in Christian areas point out a deadly path: they may become what Stalinist-turned millionaire, George Hawi, calls "sabotage of Lebanon as a political option." The gangs that are mere clients of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon (like Ba`th party organizations in Lebanon) may pursue that "option" to show that Lebanon would explode without Syrian troops, and, right-wing Christian-oriented groups may also pursue that "option" to invite or drag an international military intervention in Lebanon--and they have a long of history of doing just that.
Nicholas Blanford Replies (and Angry Arab Replies too). Nicholas Blanford has replied to my critique of his article from yesterday (see below). I shall reproduce his passage from the comments' section in full and then reply (my replies to his reply is in red and between parentheses).

"Dear As’ad – I thought I would respond to some of the points you raised in your posting on my MERIP article.
#Regarding my “obsession” with Hizbullah’s weapons in south Lebanon, as opposed to Israeli weapons in south Lebanon, if you have been reading The Daily Star for the past eight years you would have seen plenty of articles by me on the weapons used by both sides both pre and post the May 2000 withdrawal. My ever tolerant editors can assure you that my “obsession” with weapons in south Lebanon does not end with Hizbullah. (I have not been reading the Daily Star regularly, and have not seen your articles there in a while, I must confess, but have been judging what I have read by you in Christian Science Monitor among other places, as I can remember. It could be, of course, that Western press may only highlight what you write on that, but not what you wrote on Israel. I will keep an open mind on that, and would welcome what you may forward to me on the matter).
#I never wrote that Hariri was loved by all and never said he was necessarily deserving of that high regard. Hizbullah always bore a grudge for the September 1993 shooting incident to which you refer. Of course, the demonstrations were not about Hariri only and I never said they were. But his death did catalyze the demonstrations and were used by many Lebanese to express their opposition to the status quo in Lebanon as well as shock at his murder. (Yes, you did. You spoke about the "high regard in which Hariri was held". These were your words and not mine, and you linked that with popular demonstrations as if the supporters of the kooky General `Awn are genuinely grieved over Hariri's death, after they have dismissed him for years as Syria's puppet. And one should be careful in reading popular demonstrations, and allow for the possibility--at least--of popular insincerity and for exploitation of events for political and--always in Lebanon--sectarian ends. You here explain that his death was used but you did not say so in the original article that I reply to).
#As for the popularity of President Lahoud’s presidential extension, I am not sure which poll you are referring to which said that the majority of Lebanese wanted him to remain in office. However, the poll in Ash-Shiraa weekly published on Sept. 3 last year (the day after parliament amended the constitution to extend Lahoud’s mandate) which sampled 1,000 Lebanese from all political, religious and social factions showed that 65 percent of the population opposed amending the constitution and 74 percent wanted to have a new president elected. 38 percent said that Lahoud’s achievements were average, 29 percent said they were less than required, 21 percent said they believed he had achieved nothing and only 10 percent said he had made some important achievements. (Ash-Shira` is not known for any reliable polls, and for any polls with random sampling from what I remember from their polls. It is simply not a credible magazine on anything, except on what dinner party Hasan Sabra (the editor) was invited to. I think that they once found out (in an exclusive Ash-Shira` study) that AshShira` is the mostly widely read magazine in the world after the Economist, if I remember correctly. AsSafir, An-Nahar, and Al-Mustaqbal are the ones that publish and commission credible polls. I did not see the one you mention. I did NOT say that Lebanese were in favor of the extension of Lahhud's term, but that as a PERSON or as a candidate--according to the polls I read--he was in polls even published in the right-wing sectarian An-Nahar (very close to the right-wing Christian sectarian opposition) ahead, indeed far ahead, of other names (Nasib Lahhud, Butrus Harb, in that order, etc). That was my point. And also: Lahhud is not equally unpopular in Lebanon. If Toni Morrison (or was it Maya Angelou) once said that Clinton may be the first black president in the US, then Lahhud maybe the first Shi`ite president of Lebanon. I mean that he may not have a Christian constituency--he does not, but may have some solid support among Shi`ites for example. He is really liked among Hizbullah supporters for example for support and services rendered).
#Not all members of the political elite are “puppets” as some of them are in the opposition. Roughly one-third of parliament before Hariri’s assassination was composed of opposition MPs and it has since increased. And if some have switched sides, like Jumblatt, well that’s politics. (Ya Nicholas: even among the 1/3rd of the parliament members who voted against Lahhud this time around, many were puppets at one point or another, and many said words and poems in favor of the Syrian regime--read what they said about the Syrian regime after Basil Al-Asad's death or after Hafidh Al-Asad's death. I wish somebody collects those words in a book for the historical memory of Lebanese people lest they forget about the opportunism and inconsistencies of their leaders. Butrus Harb used to write the fawning pro-Syrian speeches for Ilyas Hrawi as you may remember in the 1990s. We may be talking about degrees of puppetry. You cannot simply say that the switching of sides is "just politics." And you have to concede that some people switched sides not so much due to a principled opposition to Syrian domination in Lebanon but due to personal and turf wars and petty differences with Lahhud. Typical political stuff. Hariri's dispute with Syria was indirect, not direct. It was about his desire to impose his will (as he did during Hrawi's time) on all aspects of Lebanese public policy, and about his desire to bring his own person (Ghattas Khuri) and Syria's desire to keep its own person, as president. This is not to say that Lahhud's opposition to Hariri was always principled or clean. There are no clean hands in Lebanon, but some hands are dirtier than others. And this explains my distance from all Lebanese groups and parties particularly if one is--I am--a firm and absolute secularist and (radical) feminist).
#Why do you think that the transition from Pax Syriana means moving to Pax Americana/Franca? When I wrote of a transition to an “independent political order”, that’s what I meant. It’s up to the Lebanese to debate and decide with whom to ally in the future. That, as I think I explained quite clearly, lies at the heart of Hizbullah’s concern about the change to the status quo. (Why do I think that Lebanon is not moving toward "an independent political order"? Perhaps because I read the papers? Perhaps because I am not fooled that Bush has suddenly--just like that--became enamored with Lebanese "independence" and "sovereignty"? Because I do not believe that Bush wants to "liberate" Palestine and Lebanon? Because I do not believe that France suddenly felt bad about the plight of the Lebanese people? Or is because I have noticed that Satterfield is now a more frequent guest of Lebanon unless you are convinced that he is merely sampling Lebanese dishes of mazza? Or perhaps because US and French records in Lebanon do not make me feel optimistic? Or perhaps because UNSC 1559 is certainly a violation of Lebanese sovereignty, as much as Syria has violated Lebanon's sovereignty? Or perhaps because I notice that the Christian coalition leadership of the opposition (plus Walid Jumblat) are people with actual records--long bloody records in some cases--and political movements are defined by the orientations of the leaderships, and this leadership does not promise "an independent political order" and is not even capable of one, assuming it wants one, which it does not, I strongly believe. Maybe I am too cynical, but I do not think that Amin Gemayyel, Patriarch Sfayr, `Awn, and the Lebanese Forces will ever be able or WILLING to establish an "independent political order." To speak about the "Lebanese" as if the people will make foreign policy alliances is merely poetic.)
#I am not implying that the Shiites are killing Syrian laborers. We have seen manifestations of violence against Syrian workers in all areas of the country, although mainly in the Sunni cities of Sidon and Tripoli. There have been some anti-Syrian acts in Shiites areas, notably the killing of two Syrians in Ghobeiri (Shiite suburb of Beirut) last weekend. Shiite farmers have long resented having to compete with cheaper agricultural imports from Syria. You don’t need a poll to prove that, just talk to the farmers or read the newspaper reports of farmers hurling Syrian tomatoes on the highways. (Yes, there has been resentment against Syrian workers in Lebanon especially when racist and right-wing An-Nahar, among other voices, has been leading a campaign of agitation against them for years, and grossly inflating figures of their size in Lebanon. But it is also true that Syria has been dumping produce in Lebanon, and that affected prices in Mount Lebanon and South Lebanon. I have heard such complaints from AbuKhalil family members in the Tyre region last time I was there last summer. But as I said: the abuse and murder of Syrian workers have occurred in Sunni areas AND Christian areas mostly, if not exclusively. I have not heard of the Ghbayri incident. And as I said: everybody in Lebanon is capable of prejudice; the prejudice of ones with power and wealth can sting more, I would not have minded your reference to South Lebanese or Shi`ite resentment of Syrian workers had you mentioned the racism and abuse of Syrian workers in details).
#I fail to see the relevance of your comment about Hizbullah’s influence in south Lebanon relating to the lack of Syrian troops in south Lebanon. I referred to “Syrian political cover” granting Hizbullah autonomy in the south to pursue its anti-Israel agenda, nothing about Syrian soldiers. I think you misunderstood one of the main points in the article. Hizbullah risks losing its military capabilities if Syria withdraws its “political cover”. Hizbullah does not want to lose its military wing. The shared Hizbullah/Amal electoral lists prior to the municipal elections last year were accepted by Hizbullah as the price of doing business with the Syrians. If Hizbullah and Amal run on rival lists in this year’s parliamentary elections, I suspect that Hizbullah will inflict an even greater defeat on Amal than they I last year. (No: I understood your point here. But I am saying that weapons will continue to flow and the Lebanese Army as you know has also helped Hizbullah. But Hizbullah's political room for action (politically if not militarily) may expand. And you know that Hizbullah (especially at leadership levels) does not have fond memories of Syrian takeover of Beirut in 1987 and the killing of Hizbullah people at the Fathallh barracks. Syria is also responsible for the political order in Lebanon that benefited Amal more than Hizbullah. Hizbullah may now become more ambitious if it finds a context where every sect and every party is rushing to find a turf or zone.)
#Everyone meddles to a greater or lesser degree in Lebanese affairs. But I don’t think it would be too outrageous of me to say that Syrian meddling has outdone US, French, Israeli etc meddling in recent years (i.e. post 1990). (Everybody "meddles". That is my point. But what kind of statement is that? That remind me of Kissinger's phrase "constructive ambiguity" or of the Balfour Declaration's reference to "existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine". Everybody meddles seems to cancel out meddling, or single out--in your article--one meddling over others. And it is not true that everybody meddles. China and Russia do not meddle in Lebanese affairs, and Egypt has not meddled in years. The ones that meddle are primarily: Syria, US, France, and Israel. But your generalization should not minimize Syrian meddling as it should not of US meddling. Also, there are times and charts of meddling. When one goes up, the other goes down, etc. US and French meddling as of late is very very high. Israel (with American support and cover) ran Lebanon in 1983 under Amin Gemayyel.)
#I didn’t write about the Israeli occupation because I was not asked to write about the Israeli occupation. If you want to read what I have written about the Israeli occupation, the Daily Star archives will give you more than enough of my past articles about Hizbullah and the Israelis in south Lebanon to cure the most persistent case of insomnia. (You were not asked to write about Israel but about Lebanon, but yet you wrote of Syria, as you should have, but not about Israel. But how could Israel not figure when Bush, yes Bush, has asked Israel to reduce its statements on Lebanon because it may spoil the US/French scheme for the country. Certainly Syria has its own scheme, but so does Israel and so does US/France. The impact of Israel's past (and presence) is quite substantial on Lebanese political discourse and life, as you know living there).
Best wishes,
Nicholas Blanford

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Empire of Lights, 1954. René Magritte. Posted by Hello
"Over dinner in Brussels last month, President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac hashed out a strategy to force a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon that included keeping pressure on Damascus and accepting a political role for the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah."

A Palestinian...resisting. Posted by Hello
"There were 7,258 multinationals in 1969. By 2000, there were 63,000, with 80% of the world’s industrial output."
The book burners of Egypt (and regime puppets) have spoken: the Official Ifta' (religious edict-issuing authority) Department in Egypt has ruled that women cannot preside over Muslims in prayers. Angry Arab has officially ruled that the opinions of those clerics are to be discarded, NOW.
What the New York Times (and Saudi-owned Arab media) will not report: As-Safir reports that explosives were placed in Rufayd (in Rashayya Al-Wadi in Lebanon) in an area where Syrian workers live and work. No injuries were reported.
Foreign Military Presence is Not Good: The Arab people pay attention to Arab summit meetings to the same degree that they pay attention to meetings of Potato Affairs Committee meetings in the region. I was reading the final summit statement. It referred to "foreign military presence" in Iraq. Don't you love that phrase? Orwell or Chomsky would have fun analyzing it. Every one of words of the phrase requires special attention. "Foreign" is intended to dilute the US occupation force in order to pay tribute to the 12 Moldovian soldiers still active in Iraq. "Presence" is my favorite word here. Presence. As in "Hitler suddenly found himself "present" in Poland." Syria is now "present" in Eastern Lebanon. Israel has been "present" in Palestine for more than 50 years. Oh, US is also "present" in Afghanistan. Let us hope that Israel does not extend its "presence" beyond Shib`a farms, Kfar Shuba hills, and the seven villages in South Lebanon.
This is Zionism: Bank of Israel: Arab poverty rate triple Jewish rate:
46.2% of Arab households lived in poverty in 2003, compared with 14.6% of Jewish households.
Who Started Terrorism in the Arab-Israeli Conflict?
Bombs in Cafes: first used by Zionists in Palestine on March 17th, 1937 in Jaffa.
Bombs on Buses: first used by Zionists in Palestine Aug. 20th-Sep. 26, 1937.
Bombs in Market Places: first used by Zionists on July 6th, 1938 in Haifa.
Bombing of Hotels: first used by Zionists on July 22nd, 1946 in Jerusalem.
Bombing of Foreign Embassies: first used by Zionists on October 1st, 1946 in Rome (against the British).
Mining of Ambulances: First used by Zionists on October 31st, 1946 in Petah Tikvah.
Letter Bombs: first used by Zionists in June 1947 against British targets in UK.
(for documentation, cosult The Arab Women's Information Committee and The Institute for Palestine Studies, Who Are the Terrorists? Aspects of Zionist and Israeli Terrorism, (Beirut: Insitute for Palestine Studies, 1972).
The Saudi King of Jordan Denies saying what he said, AGAIN: Dear (and undear) readers of this site remember me pointing out to them that the Saudi King of Jordan (`Abdullah) never says anything in English, without having to deny it in Arabic. I mean NEVER, EVER. Yesterday, he was quoted in English, so today his press spokesperson denied IN ARABIC what he said in English. He will then deny in English the denial of the denial in Arabic. Stop. I am suffocating.
Secretary-General of the Arab League, `Amru Musa, threatened to resign yesterday. Angry Arab: I will send you a blender if you resign.
Libyan dictator, Mu`ammar Qadhdhafi, said in his speech today that both Palestinians and Israelis are stupid. Angry Arab: more stupid than you, Qadhdhafi? Is that chemically or physiologically possible?
From the poem Poetry and Revolution by Iraqi poet `Abdul-Wahab Al-Bayyati (my translation):
" "The most untruthful of poetry is the most sweet"
So they said
They were not truthful
Because they are lazy and one-eyed
They were the shoes for the
invading sultans
without hearts
Ye, poetry break these idols
Conquer the conditions
And let us frequent the seas
and follow the star of the people
I am going to toll the bells
to step on the flames"
The Heroes of the Right-Wing Lebanese Opposition: From As-Safir (today): "Unknown people shot yesterday the citizen Tawfiq `Atallah Nasir in the area of `Ayn Al-Muraysah and injured him in his foot, and then they fled to un unknown area after mistaking him for a Syrian worker because [sic] he sold flowers regularly at the Corniche. The assailants stopped Nasir who came to work daily from Burj Al-Barajnah and worked in Hamrah, Rawshah, and `Ayn Al-Muraysah to make his living selling flowers. They asked about the region where he came from, and did not like the matter, and shot him in his feet, and left him bleeding before a passerby moved him to one of the hospitals for treatment."
(thanks Fadi and `Amir)
The American Left and the Middle East (Middle East Report and Nation magazine). In my 21 years in the US, I came to realize this: you can never really trust the American Left when it comes to the Middle East. They are not good, even when they are, or even when they think they are. Their progressive outlook on the Middle East can only go this far, not very far at all, if you ask me. It always stops: it hits a wall of one (or more) of the following: ignorance, bigotry, Zionist sympathies, and Western self-righteousness. I say this because I have been very unhappy with the recent Nation magazine issue on academic freedoms. I did not like the piece byScott Sherman. As I told one of the editors privately, I very much disliked his references to my dear friend Joseph Massad. He referred to Joseph as "dogmatic." What does that mean? Who is not "dogmatic" about the Arab-Israeli conflict? Is Sharon "dogmatic"? Does the Nation magazine refer to Sharon as "dogmatic"? Is the Nation magazine's support for Israel (albeit in " '67" borders) "dogmatic"? Is the Nation Magazine's insistence on running ads by the fanatical Flame organization "dogmatic"? And then the writer claims that supporters of Joseph has been angered by or displeased with him? No names given. They also make things up and claim that Edward Said was concerned about Joseph's radicalism. I think that the late Edward Said was more concerned about Nation's moderation than about Joseph's radicalism, if you ask me. Worse, the entire article leaves the reader with the impression that this Arab "wog" (Joseph) has gone too far, and he needs to moderate his views. And then I receive today a new piece by Middle East Report on Lebanon, written by Nicholas Blanford (who in articles I have read by him in the past seems to be obsessed with Hizbullah's weapons in South Lebanon but not with Israel's). (The piece is not on the site yet, so I am referring to the text sent to the email list). Having been suffocated by the hagiographic references to Hariri (the corrupt and oppressive former prime minister of Lebanon whose first order--ok, one of his first orders--as prime minister was to shoot at demonstrators in Beirut for daring to protest the Oslo accords) in the Saudi-financed Arab media and the US media, was it too much to expect that MERIP would escape the conventional praise of Hariri? And the article refers to "the high regard in which Hariri was held" and that it produced the demonstrations. Some of this kind of analysis MAY be true but only if you factor out whole segments of the Lebanese population. Hariri was largely despised by Shi`ites in Lebanon (for many reasons including his neglect of Southern Lebanese--outside of Sidon--and Southern Beirut regions in his "reconstruction plans" paid for NOT by his own money but by the wealth of future Lebanese generations burdened by Hariri's miracle formula for Lebanon) and other secular and non-secular Lebanese. It is also highly simplistic to assume that the massive demonstrations were about Hariri himself or his memory, the propaganda expenditure of the Hariri family apparatus notwithstanding. When right-wing militias' (like Lebanese Forces and Guardians of the Cedar and the heirs of Bashir Gemayyel) representatives and successors show up for demonstrations it had nothing to do with Hariri and everything to do with their own sectarian agenda. Hariri becomes what early Muslims called "the shirt of `Uthman", a reference to the exploitation of `Uthman (the 3rd rightly-guided caliph)'s murder by later Muslims. Those same right-wing forces dismissed Hariri as a "Syrian puppet" in his lifetime and as a Saudi agent bent on Islamizing Lebanon. None of that is mentioned in the article. It is also not mentioned in the article that Hariri's money is being used to fund a movement that is also supported by the US and France. And even the Sunnis, their turnout has to do with sectarian concerns and agendas and with their anger at Syrian marginalization and exclusion of organized Sunni political power. Blanford talks about the amendment to the Lebanese constitution to extend Lahhud's term as "unpopular". In whose eyes? The upper class Lebanese that Mr. Blanford seems to be in contact with? I do not think that Blanford reads Arabic otherwise he must have noticed the widely published public opinion surveys at the time in which Lahhud was by far the single most popular choice for president among the Lebanese. I am no fan of Lahhud and opposed his election and extension of term (called it "crowning" in an article in As-Safir at the time) but facts are stubborn. But then again, maybe MERIP or Mr. Blanford subscribes to the Lebanese opposition's notion that Lebanese Shi`ites (not to mention others) are not "civilized" enough or advanced enough or westernized enough to be factored in Western analysis. Is that what Blanford means with his reference to "telegenic anti-Syrian protests"? Those largely Shi`ite pro-Syrian protests must have been very untelegenic with the bearded men and veiled women (at least to Mr. Blanford) although some Christians and secularists also went to those protests. But damn. Why can't they be "telegenic" like those upper class Lebanese? If only they dragged their Sri Lankan maids with them, maybe Blanford would have found them to be telegenic? Or maybe had they posted signs in English, that would have improved their lousy image in the Western press. They would have been noticed after all. So demonstrators of the world, please be "telegenic" next time you demonstrate, lest you are ignored by the Western media. We should revise the Communist Manifesto and say "Workers of the World, Be Telegenic". Blanford also says that Lahhud is considered "a puppet" of Syria by "most Lebanese" (no polls mentioned--you do not need them if you are a Westerner among Easterners, always remember that). But would it not be fair to say that ALL members of the Lebanese political elite are considered "puppets" of the Syrian regime because they are, including Hariri and Jumblat, until a few weeks ago, that is? And the political sympathies of Blanford (or MERIP?) are clear in the reference to Lebanon's "transition from Pax Syriana to an independent political order." Is that what is at stake really? Is this how Lebanese look at it? Yes, that is exactly how the right-wing opposition (and its "left-wing" supporters in US) looks at it but not the rest of Lebanese. They in fact do not like Pax Syriana but fear more Pax Americana/Franca in Lebanon. Unless Mr. Blanford is implying what the Lebanese opposition is saying: that whoever disagrees with them is opposed to Lebanon's independence, as if this country was or will ever be independent. Blanford talks about opposition demonstrators emphasizing "national unity" and waving "the Lebanese flag" but he fails to mention that this happened by high command from the Maronite Patriarch (the leader of the Christian opposition coalition) and Walid Jumblat (the Druze warlord) after Sunni complaints at the various factional flags and portraits of Maronite and Druze figures in the first days of demonstrations. Sunni supporters of opposition were embarrassed vis-a-vis their own constituencies when they were seen supporting the sectarian agendas of traditional rivals. And then Blanford gets to the subject of "Shi`ites", and says: "The impoverished Shiites regard the estimated one million Syrian laborers living in Lebanon as direct competition for jobs." Notice when you speak about the natives you do not need to ask them, or cite public opinion surveys (widely available and published in the press in Lebanon) about their mood. You simply need a Western observer (preferably on a horse like Lawrence of Arabia or Lawrence of Hummus) who can offer generalizations about the "Arab street" or "Arab Block" or "Arab Corner." What does that sentence mean, and how do we know it is true, and if it is true how come we do not see any manifestation of that resentment thus far? Most importantly, is Mr. Blanford implying that the Shi`ites were the ones abusing and killing poor Syrian workers in Lebanon? In fact, none of the Syrian workers (abused or killed) were abused or killed in predominantly Shi`ite areas of Lebanon (and I am not saying that Shi`ites or anybody for that matter are immune from prejudice). And then Blanford says: "Hizballah, however, faces an acute dilemma because the withdrawal of Syrian political cover will mean an end to its autonomy in south Lebanon, where it has enjoyed wide latitude to pursue its anti-Israel agenda." What? I do not want to shock or surprise Mr. Blanford but there are no Syrian troops in...SOUTH LEBANON. Hizbullah's influence in South Lebanon has NOTHING to do with Syrian troops. If anything, the converse is true. Hizbullah in South Lebanon will be stronger without Syrian troops. Hizbullah was forced by Syrian Intelligence Services in Lebanon to run with Amal candidates in parliamentary elections to the disadvantage of Hizbullah who could have easily swept South Lebanon and Ba`albak, as they did in the last municipal elections. I also noticed that when Blanford mentioned the massive pro-Syrian (although it had its own domestic agenda even though it flaunted its support for Syria for pure political and sectarian considerations) demonstration, he had to bring in a reference to "busloads of Syrians ferried across the border." All accounts would confirm that those Syrians constituted a very small percentage of the overall demonstration. But then again: Mr. Blanford seems to stick to the talking points of the right-wing opposition. I also noticed that Mr. Blanford notices Syrian "meddling in Lebanese affairs" but does not notice US, French, and Israeli "meddling in Lebanese affairs." There is barely a reference in the article to Israeli occupation of Lebanon and its devastating impact on Lebanese politics and most importantly on the political culture of Lebanon (and not only among Shi`ites) whereby most Lebanese are fiercely opposed to any peace treaty with Israel. Even the 1949 armistice agreement is not popular because it never protected Lebanon from Israeli bombings over the decades. What is next? Will MERIP ask Donald Trump to write an article about Socialism in the Middle East?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

God's Salon, 1948. René Magritte. Posted by Hello
"Counting the Iraqi Dead"
"..the Iraqi government is using strict new residency rules to detain and expel non-Iraqi Arabs"
Whenever Arab crowds chant "With Spirit, With Blood, We Sacrifice Ourselves for You(...X or Y)" I squirm. I hate that submissive chant, and wish it can be banned, and I do not care who it is addressed to. Nobody deserves such chant; not even Tiramissu.
"On World Water Day, one billion people still lack a clean supply"
A study by Palestinian Central Statistical Bureau reveals that 3861 Palestinian women lost a son or daughter in the four years of the Intifadah. 66 women were forced to give birth at Israeli checkpoints, resulting in 38 deaths.
Honorable Exit? This is the, or a, serious problem in Lebanon. I just read the memorandum submitted by the Lebanese right-wing opposition to the obsolete Arab summit in Algeria. It said that the Lebanese are in agreement over the need for an "honorable" withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. That is pure talk, and it is too late already. Earlier, in the wake of Hariri's death, some people talked about an honorable withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. In reality, Syria was humiliatingly kicked out of Lebanon, and the Syrian government and the bigoted opposition bear responsibility for that. I feel that this non-honorable withdrawal will have its own repercussions on the internal security condition in Lebanon. It is easy to start a momentum in Lebanon. But it is difficult to control or stop the momentum.
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.

Walid Jumblat (the leader of the "democratic" opposition in Lebanon and a former distinguished war criminal and sectarian feudal warlord) is touring Arab capitals asking Arab dictators for their theories of democratic transformation. Here he asks Husni Mubarak. Posted by Hello

"Palestine won the prize for the saddest photo in the BBC "sadness and joy" photography contest. The photo captured by the Palestinian TV producer Abdul-Rahman Al-Humran, shows three young girls weeping in sorrow for their brother, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the city of Rafah in Gaza, won the first place in the competition." (thanks Enrique) Posted by Hello
From the poem Diary of A Young Old Man by Egyptian poet Amal Dunqul (my translation):
"I know that the world in my heart..
has died!
But when the radio stops...and
the rooms are closed:
I dig in my heart, and
take out this waxy body and
lay it over the bed of pain
I open his mouth, and
make him drink the wine of desire
Maybe a ray will throb in the cold
and solid extremities
But...his skin disintegreates in my palm
Nothing remains of him...except:
a skull and bones!"
I believe that Lebanese are serious about freedom for their country when they free their...Sri Lankan maids who are held in semi-slave conditions.
For those who care, the transcript of my last appearance (last Saturday) on Al-Jazeera dealing with Arab popular pressures, and prospects of change.
Media Globalization: AlArabiyya is becoming just like an American "news" network. No wonder US officials are pleased with it. AlArabiyya aired a rather long report on the clothes and fashion style of Condoleeza Rice. If they stick to such "standards" of journalism, the US government will shower them with praise.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Empire of Lights (unfinished), 1967. René Magritte. Posted by Hello
My interview on Lebanon and Syria in Al-Watan Al-`Arabi.
"VIDEO footage of the treatment of prisoners by the US military at Guantanamo Bay would reveal many cases of substantial abuse as "explosive as anything from Abu Ghraib" "
You have to be very stupid to think that Arabs are that stupid.

Israeli occupation forces destroyed their house in Jerusalem. Posted by Hello
So who is behind the Iraqi insurgency this week? This week it is...Turkey. Stay tuned for next week's culprit. It may be international communism. (For those with weak memory, previous culprits included: Syria, Iranian government, the Revolutionary Guards, the Ba`th Organization in Damascus, `Izzat Ad-Duri, Saddam Husayn, Saddam Husayn's briefcase, Saddam's two son, former head of Saddam's Mukhabarat, Saddam's mukhabarat's organization, Abu Mus`ab Az-Zarqawi, Libya, Hizbullah, Tony Danza, and Ansar Al-Islam).
I hate this headline, but read the story: " "Congo's Desperate 'One-Dollar U.N. Girls'
Shunned Teens, Many Raped by Militiamen, Sell Sex to Peacekeepers"

A Palestinian: shot by Israeli occupation forces. Posted by Hello
"Security council faces radical change after 60 years of domination by wartime victors" (New States will be added: West Virginia, New Mexico, California, Wyoming, Florida, and Vermont. Move seen as pleasing to World opinion).
"Website rouses informants' fear, investigators' ire" (thanks Julie)
The Right-wing Al-Arabiyya Host, Elie Naquzi Explains it All. This right-wing Al-Arabiyya host finally has a chance to explain himself in an objective source (his own network's website). He finally explains why he is seen and perceived as a puppet or tool or press aide to Iyad `Allawi (the Iraqi puppet prime minister/car bomber/former Saddam's henchman/embezzler-in-Yemen): you see, he says that simply put, all other Arab journalists are jealous of him. That is all. As to why he is also seen walking respectfully behind `Allawi in some footage, well, it was a "director's error." (Thanks Muhammad).
The US Government Does Not know that There are Shi`ites in Lebanon (and that they are the single largest group in the country). After Bush's invitation to the Maronite Patriarch, in order to speak to "all the Lebanese" according to Bush who must have been told that the Maronite sect speaks for "all Lebanese," a US Democratic congressional delegation was in Lebanon yesterday, headed by none other than the House Minority Leader (Nancy Pelosi--a "lucky" recepient of pro-Israeli PACs money). Like Bush, she has been a great supporter of Lebanon's "sovereignty" and "independence" for FOUR long...weeks. Yet, the delegation met with the Christian-Druze opposition coalition, and then with the Hariri family, and that was it. Somebody must have later alerted them that there are Shi`ites in Lebanon because they later said that they would have a rushed, last-minute meeting with a former Shi`ite minister, Yasin Jabir, whose influence among Shi`ites is comparable to Ralph Nader's influence in the Republican Party. Now you get to see the details of the brilliance of US Middle East policy. But when you know that the top Middle East "expert" at the White House is Elliott Abrams you understand. Have a cold beverage, NOW.
Dishonest Journalism of the Middle East (in the New York Times). Arab neo-conservatives are having a field the US. After Hasan Fattah, now Michael Young (the right-wing Lebanese writer who is always interviewed by Fattah). Arab neo-conservatives, you must have noticed, always interview one another: Ajami interviews `Ali Salim, Fattah interviews Michael Young, and Michael Young interviews Samir Qasir, etc. Here Michael Young has a piece on Walid Jumblat in New York Times Magazine. It could easily be a press release written by Jumblat's own personal sectarian party (which uses the name of "progressive" and "socialist" although the "chairman" lives in palaces and was closely aligned with the cruel capitalism model of Rafiq Hariri). Every single person interviewed in this article is a friend AND fan of Jumblat. The standards of NYT in Middle East are even lower than the standards of NYT in US. You will never see a piece on Tom DeLay, for example, with interviews only with his admirers. That would be considered unacceptable. But not for the neo-conservatives of the Middle East who are given a platform in NYT or New Republic. One part got my attention here: "(He toes the Arab line on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but he also insists that bridges must be built toward Israeli liberals. ''Not all Jews are Sharonists,'' he recently told an interviewer.)" But Young does not tell the reader that Jumblat had a history of anti-Jewish expressions, refusing to distinguish between Jews as Jews and Zionists. He used to mock those Arabs who opposed anti-Semitism. But you will notice that supporters of Israel do not care about somebody's bigotry or fascism provided that one toes the US/Israeli line. Notice how the Nazi past of Anwar Sadat was forgiven and forgotten once he signed the Camp David accords. Also, Young makes it sound that Jumblat had to align with the Syrian government because he had to (under duress). Not true. Jumblat was a Syrian puppet even when the Syrian troops were not in Beirut (between 1982 and 1987). And notice how he explains away Jumblat brief criticism of Syria in 2000 just before the elections (presumably to get Christian votes) only to change course later, without any explanation, and Young does not even bother to point the contradiction. He just goes along with Jumblat. Furthermore, notice that Young only mentions Jumblat's militia war crimes in the Mountain War (and the right-wing Lebanese forces started that war) without mentioning Jumblat's militia war crimes in West Beirut between 1984 and 1987 and the notorious War of the Flag. Lastly, notice that Jumblat apologizes to Paul Wolfowitz toward the end. Jumblat's US visa (which was revoked) will soon be restored. You read it here first.
I try to post mostly English language links. But this Arabic article by the best Arab columnist (Joseph Samahah) is a very important and incisive piece. He also is the most independent.
Europe: "The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights said in its annual study that 1,565 threats and acts of violence against mainly Jewish and Muslim victims were registered in 2004, compared with 833 the previous year."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Blank Page, 1967. René Magritte. Posted by Hello

From a demonstration in Cairo. Posted by Hello

A car owned by a Syrian in Lebanon fire bombed. Posted by Hello
What do Lebanese want? Social Science Students from Lebanese University conducted a survey in the Greater Beirut region. Some results: Are you with the opposition or with the [Lebanese] government? 37% with the Opposition, 39 % Government. Are you in favor of UNSC 1559? 26% yes, 68 % no. Are you in favor of disarming the Hizbullah? 18 % Yes, 72 % no.
King of Jordan Speaks: "JENNINGS: Any number of international organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, international organizations that favor democracy, say that one of the impediments to political development in Jordan is in fact the crown itself, namely you.
ABDULLAH:Well, by decentralization, by being able to create three or four political parties as opposed to 30, I think that we can strengthen the institutions, so that the crown can take a step back and people can take a step forward.
JENNINGS: But if people want 30 political parties, why shouldn't they have them?
ABDULLAH: Well, you can have 30, you can have 50, but political parties, if we're trying to -- I mean, seriously move the process along, 30 parties or more that do not have political party platforms, where they stand on the economy, where they stand on social services, health, education, I don't think that's the mature way of growing them. We're trying to, and this is the problem, the Crown can't step in and say to political parties, 'Shouldn't you come up with a political party program?' But we're hoping, with democratic maturity, that that happens, and, we haven't -- (Overlap)
JENNINGS: Excuse me for interrupting. Who decides democratic maturity? Who is --.
ABDULLAH: The people.
JENNINGS: -- as of now, you decide democratic maturity?
ABDULLAH: Well in this particular position, we formed the government, that the parliament is elected by the people. But to encourage that, I mean, I have been in discussions with parliamentarians that would it be stronger for you to create where you stand on issues of education, social services, et cetera, et cetera, so that you can create a political party so that in the future, the people actually pick you for where you stand, and not because you happen to be a cousin or a tribal member?
JENNINGS: Would you be happy to be the head of a constitutional monarchy, as well ...
ABDULLAH: Well, eventually ... (Overlap)
JENNINGS: ... than an absolute monarchy?
ABDULLAH: ... eventually that's what we're trying to do, and by creating, decentralization, by trying to get these three regions, with their own elected parliaments, that will be the end game.
JENNINGS: So the end game could be a constitutional monarchy, not an absolute monarchy?
ABDULLAH: Absolutely. Because that -- I mean, we have to modernize, I think monarchy plays a vital role in countries such as Jordan. I think there's a lot of positive aspects, but monarchies have to modernize, and a way of modernizing is to do these political reform issues that will give people a much larger say in the way their countries go.
JENNINGS: Can I put it to you quite bluntly, sir: Do you condone the torture of prisoners in the Jordanian penal system?
ABDULLAH: Not at all, and there has been some cases reported where there has been abuse between prisoners and between police prison guards. And I have a new police chief at the moment that is looking into that..."

(Note that the last answer mentions "the police chief" as if he has jurisdiction over mukhabarat in Jordan.)
An obscurantist voice from the Middle Ages: the Saudi Mufti speaks on women's issues. "In Saudi Arabia, Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said "Those who defended this issue are violating God's law. Enemies of Islam are using women's issues to corrupt the community."
NYT Book Section: "To the Editor:
The callous logic of establishment pundits can be quite amazing to read. In his review of David Harris's book ''The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shah — 1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam'' (Feb. 27), Kenneth M. Pollack asserts, ''In truth, in Iran as elsewhere in the Middle East today, America's sins were principally those of omission, not commission.'' In the very next sentence, Pollack notes, almost as an aside, ''Of course, the Eisenhower administration had toppled the popular government of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 — an event that has reached mythic proportions in Iranian minds.'' Pollack writes dismissively, as if Iranians should have quickly forgotten and forgiven this American-assisted coup that installed the brutal quarter-century dictatorship of the shah. If an outside country helped overthrow a popular American president and helped set up an authoritarian regime in his place, is there any doubt this would be considered by most Americans, for at least a few generations, an unforgettable and particularly atrocious moment in our history? With such rationalized callousness about ''sins of commission,'' I guess it should not be too surprising that Pollack was such a strong supporter of going to war in Iraq — a war in which the civilian death toll and the devastating effects of America's use of depleted-uranium weapons still remain largely unreported or trivialized by our mainstream commentators.
ELIOT KATZ Astoria, Queens"
From the recent issue of the best magazine there is, the Economist: "Lebanon and its media Battle of the airwaves: Mar 17th 2005 BEIRUT AND CAIRO From The Economist print editionWhy the anti-Syrian opposition is winning the war for hearts and minds. LAST week, half a million people gathered in Beirut to show support for Syria. This week, perhaps a million others shouted for the Syrians to go. Street democracy may be working, for now. Syria has abruptly stopped bluffing, pulled a good part of its army out of Lebanon, and promised to remove the rest fast. It has also scuttled chunks of the intelligence edifice that cast a long, dark shadow over its smaller neighbour. The Syrian-infiltrated Lebanese state is now desperately casting about for ways to survive the opposition wave. But headcounts in the street are not the only thing to weigh against lingering Syrian control. If the Lebanese are, by the rough tally of crowd sizes, two-to-one in favour of change, the media greatly amplify this advantage. “We have no newspapers and only two TV stations,” moans Emile Lahoud, an MP and son of Lebanon's pro-Syrian president. By contrast, Lebanon's half-dozen other channels tilt strongly or slightly to the opposition. It is not for want of trying that the pro-Syrians' voice is weak. It was at Syria's behest that licensing rules, introduced in the 1990s, reduced the number of private television and radio channels from scores to a handful. More recently, bogus lawsuits pushed by Syria's friends closed one surviving television station and nearly ruined another. This tilted the balance of air time more towards Syria—and frightened potential critics. Even so, the country's educated elite—the kind of people who work for and talk to the media—came to despise the corruption and police-state tactics that Syrian meddling has encouraged. And, to Syrian chagrin, the biggest press patron of all was Rafik Hariri, the billionaire politician whose assassination sparked the recent protests. He sponsored his own television channel and newspaper, and may have spent some $100m over the years, in gifts and share purchases, to keep dozens of favoured voices from falling silent. Some accused him of buying off critics. Whatever the case, his investment is now paying off with a vengeance. Local coverage of his funeral, of protest rallies and of opposition politicians has been relentlessly dramatic. The media-savvy opposition, advised by Beirut's top advertising firms, has been quick to grab the limelight with catchy banners, slogans and gimmicks. “They have prettier girls,” concedes a Shia village headman. For his part, Syria's president, Bashar Assad, moans that if cameras only “zoomed out”, the scale of anti-Syrian feeling would shrink to its true size. He might do well to reflect instead on his country's own state television monopoly. For hours after Mr Hariri's murder, Syrian television blithely ran cartoons, followed by a programme on the glories of Syria's archaeological ruins."

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Seine at the Pont d'Iena, Snowy Weather, 1875. Paul Gauguin. Posted by Hello
"Shoot first, pay later culture pervades Iraq"
Baghdad Burning, as a play. (Not because she praised me).
This chronology of Lebanese history in the Washington Post could easily be signed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. (By the way, for those who care, my new and expanded edition of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon should come out late this year, or next year). If you want to read about Lebanon, I recommend these authors (in Arabic, English, and French): Michael Hudson, Augustus Richard Norton, George Corm, Pierre Rondot, Dominique Chevalier, Roger Owen, Albert Hourani, Halim Barakat, Wajih Kawtharani, Mas`ud Dahir, Kamal Salibi (after 1970), Walid Khalidi, Rashid Khalidi, Usamah Maqdisi, Ghassan Salamah, Fadl Shruru, Sami Dhibyan, Malcolm Kerr, Salim Nasr (before 1990), Helena Cobban, Nizar Hamzeh, Robert Fisk (before he met Hariri), among others.
US media love those stories. An American non-specialist thrust into a news story, and who is willing to confirm US foreign policy assumptions. She has lived in Lebanon for 18 months only, and teaches at (an elite) international school (most likely my own high school where only rich spoiled brats attended), and yet she does not mind taking her students to represent the whole of Lebanon. This is like saying that the cast of "Friends" represents the diverity of New York City. She quotes one student's name as "Awtel." What language is that name? Certainly not Arabic.
"Bush administration concealed intelligence that Pakistan had bought uranium material from North Korea and then sold it to Libya."
"A Killing Epidemic in the Streets of Iraq: Murders related to kidnapping, carjacking and arguments outnumber car-bomb deaths"
"US frees Iraqi kidnappers so they can spy on insurgents: Americans undermining local police attempts to crack down on wave of abductions"
The New York Times on Lebanon: Notice that when it comes to Lebanon's coverage, the New York Times only talks to one side. (thanks Fadi) (And yet: every one of the opposition people quoted in the article served for YEARS as a puppet of the Syrian regime and its intelligence apparatus in Lebanon).
The chief book burner of Al-Azhar Islamic University (who doubles as a puppet for Husni Mubarak), Shaykh of Al-Azhar, states that his "clerics were against the idea of a woman holding the top job" of government. Angry Arab is against the idea of the Shaykh of Al-Azhar holding any job.
The Jordanian King has an idea: In the Beirut summit of 2002, Arab governments officially endorsed the formula of "full peace for full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Arab lands (the Thomas Friedman plan). Now, the Jordanian government has a new plan: Full peace and normalization with Israeli in return for....nothing. Even the pro-American Arab governments could not go with that one.
Al-Arabiyya versus Al-Jazeera: Saudi Arabia versus Qatar. As soon as the news of the car bomb in Qatar was made public, AlArabiyya went into over-drive. They employed visuals and graphics that I have never seen them use before. They had a large red banner, that would expand and shrink to get your attention, under the title of "Urgent: Security Situation in Qatar." The anchorwoman was clearly overjoyed, and it looked like Saudi Arabia was more than eager to report on the development. Al-Arabiyya, you get the feeling, wanted to celebrate. It almost invited bellydancers to accompany the coverage of the Qatar bombing. In fairness, Al-Jazeera also stresses news developments and security situation in Saudi Arabia, but Al-Arabiyya went overboard. And this is a legitimate criticism of Al-Jazeera: here is this newsstation that extensively covers news developments around the world, and yet the coverage of the host country of Al-Jazeera was very, very muted, and very restrained. We did not see AlJazeera correspondents roaming the streets, as we see them in other capitals. The coverage merly quoted from official Qatari sources. That is a weakness. So there was a Muslim woman in New York who led some 100 Muslim worshippers. US media, loved the event. As I do not understand the appeal of religion, I will leave the matter to religious people. But this is not new in Islamic history. The Kharijites (those early rebellious dissidents in Islam)--in some branches--allowed women to be Imams, and Kharijite women were addressing Muslim crowds even at the time of Hajjaj in Iraq. (One should not, however, romanticize the Kharijites as they were fanatics, and some like Azarqites, justified--like Al-Qa`idah--the murder of women and children once they were declared "infidels." They also were very quick to engage in takfir (declaring the infidelity of others, even other Muslims). Some Kharijite women fought in battle, and their enemies sometimes were so terrified of the female fighters of the Kharijites that they would leave them naked after killing them, hoping that this practice would shame future female fighters, and deter them. It did not. Enough history. But: Al-Arabiyya yesterday aired a report by one of its female correspondents in Washington, DC. She was quite sympathetic, I felt, to this small movement, led by a former Wall Stree Journal writer, it seems. Today, the report was not repeated (as they often repeat reports) and a male correspondent aired a totally new report in which men who are hostile to that event were interviewed, and Nihad Awad, a propagandist for CAIR (a Washington-DC based Muslim advocacy organization), warned of same-sex marriage in Islam, just like that. I just did not understand his twisted logic: as to why a female leader of prayer would lead to same sex marriage in Islam, and as if there is anything wrong with same sex marriage. No wonder I never get along with those Muslim advocacy organizations in DC. Immediately afterwards, the anchorwoman interviewed Iraqi-born, Dubai-based Muslim fundamentalist demagogue, Ahmad Al-Kubaysi, who lashed out against reformists in Islam, and the anchorwoman joined in warning of "innovations" (a key Wahhabi flag-word). I taped the show on Al-Jazeera (Hiwar Maftuh) and the session on "democratic" movements in the Arab world turned into a discussion of Lebanese events. I could feel the tensions of Lebanon in the air, especially as this program (Open Dialogue) brings in a studio audience. I felt that the supporters of the right-wing opposition in the audience did not know what to make of me. They could not understand this person who was very opposed to the right-wing sectarian opposition, but who also was fiercely critical of the Syrian and Lebanese regime. They usually prefer their opponent to be a Ba`thist mouthpiece. Signs from Lebanon are not encouraging at all. You read the statements and speeches, and you feel the storm coming. I was 15 years old when the war erupted in Lebanon, and I have never had as many (bad) memories restored.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Arbre solitaire et arbres conjugaux, 1940. Max Ernst. Posted by Hello
According to US government, there are "good" human rights violators, and then there are "bad" human rights violators.
In an article in the Times of London today, it said: "...But Mr Hariri had his revenge. Using his close ties to President Bush and President Chirac of France, he secretly helped to bring Resolution 1559, calling for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, before the UN Security Council. “1559 was his baby. He was very proud of it,” a UN official said, though Mr Hariri’s aides played down his involvement."

An Israeli occupation soldier prevents a Palestinian from praying in Jerusalem. Posted by Hello

Stones versus bullets: Palestinians versus Israelis Posted by Hello
Al-Arabiyya TV never gives up on Saudi clients in Iraq. After the abysmal showing of Allawi, Al-Yawir, and Pachachi in the recent puppet elections (because they were held under foreign occupation), the network is still promoting those people. In an interview with the polygamous puppet president of Iraq, Al-Yawir, the correspondent asked Al-Yawir why he or Pachachi have not been nominated to any position in the "national assembly." I will tell her why. Because Pachachi received 1 seat and Al-Yawir received 4 seats in the 275 seat assembly. Does that answer your question? This is like asking why did the Electoral College not select Ralph Nader.
This report says "Al Hurra makes slow gains in Arab world." A Washington DC correspondent for one of the three networks tells me that the Nielson report merely asked whether "you have seen any of Al-Hurra in the last week." Apparently, the Nielson researchers did not know that Arabs have remote control devices, and know how to use them. Arabs also know how to channel surf. So if, while you have been channel surfing, you came across Al-Hurra, you qualified as a viewer in this study.
"Thousands of Syrian Workers Leave Lebanon: Rising Hostility Drives Thousands of Syrian Workers Out of Lebanon"
I would say that this is a very bad sign in the era of "liberation": "A wave of violent crime in Kandahar has evoked a growing local nostalgia for the Taliban era."
Jean-Paul Sartre
"Annan Wants Syria Out by Spring". Annan wants US Out of Iraq by 2345. This deadline is final, he added.
Reality TV comes to Lebanese sects: LBC-TV (the Fox News and Fox Entertainment channel of Lebanon) is planning a reality show where people of different sects are brought together in front of the camera. They will live together for the viewing pleasures of the Lebanese audience. Hopefully, they will not fight in front of the camera.
"Car bomb wounds six in Beirut." Have you noticed a pattern? Whenever Bush "liberates" a Middle East country, car bombs follow! End "liberation" now.
"Pablo Picasso's writing - done in the raw, unpunctuated style of the Surrealists - receives its first major translation into English in a new volume of poetry."
As a reward for Israel and to serve "peace", the Jordanian monarchy proposes that Arabs donate another country (other than Palestine) for Zionist takeover. Israel is studying the offer, but prefers 3 Arab countries instead. Bush hails Jordan and Israel.
"Abu Arz was in New York when the withdrawal from Jezzine began. He urged Walid Phares, founder and president of the World Lebanese Organization based in Florida, with whom he was then in contact, to call [Antoine] Lahad to try and persuade him not to pull out. These efforts by Phares failed to dissuade Lahad who celebrated the move which Etienne Sakr and Walid Phares bemoaned." From The Conscience of Lebanon: A Political Biography of Etienne Sakr (Abu-Arz), (London: Frank Cass, 2003), pp. 109-110.
"Pakistan is poised on the precipice of a tribal war in the vast desert province of Baluchistan after the army unleashed helicopter gunships and heavy weapons on local protesters. The Independent has learnt that during two days of violence, more than 60 tribespeople in the region, including women and children, have been killed."
" 'One huge US jail': Afghanistan is the hub of a global network of detention centres, the frontline in America's 'war on terror', where arrest can be random and allegations of torture commonplace."
I apologize to my hosts in Fresno. I will not be able to speak at the anti-war rally tomorrow due to my Al-Jazeera appearance.
Fanatical fundamentalist sites (the ones that are close to Al-Qa`idah line) celebrate the death of innocent Iraqi Shi`ites due to the car bombs planted by the kooky likes of Zarqawi. I cannot understand why Sunni Muslim clerics (like the demagogue Yusuf Al-Qardawi) do not take a stand against such practices.
"Don't deposit Wolfowitz with us, plead World Bank workers"
What do you do with "extra babies"? Well, you toss them across the border, of course. George W. Bush initiated a new American policy according to which the US government now officially supports the preservation of the Jewish majority in Israel to maintain Israel as a Jewish state. But nobody in the US media bothered to ask the President about the consequences of the higher birth rate among the (much poorer) Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. What will the US do when the Palestinians in Israel, due to natural growth, become the majority. Will the US call for their extermination or expulsion across the border, or will the US mercifully support an Israeli policy of restricting birth rates of Palestinians? I thought about that when I heard the Maronite Patriarch talking on LBC-TV yesterday. As you know, the Maronite Patriarch is treated by Bush as a representative of all of the deeply divided Lebanese people. This Patriarch said that Palestinians in Lebanon should not be allowed to settle in Lebanon (not because he cares about their right to return) but because it disturbs the delicate "balance" of Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. Of course, there is no such balance as the Muslims have constituted a majority of the population for...decades. There is a myth of a "balance" in Lebanon to justify the 50-50 ratio in the allocation of parliamentary seats according to sectarian affiliation. So according to this patriarch, what should Lebanon do with the "extra" babies of the Muslim side who have a high birth rate? Would somebody ask him for me? Also, he added that the US is known to be generous with countries that need aid. That explains why Israel (which is far poorer than Zambia and Angola) receives more aid than any country in the world.