Friday, July 01, 2005

American Left and the Middle East, PART III: Samir Qasir and the Nation Magazine: I have noticed that the Nation magazine has not noticed that Palestinians are being killed regularly by Israeli gunfire, but they mostly don't speak French and don't amuse and entertain Adam Shatz and other cosmopolitan Western journalists. They don't get tributes from the Nation magazine. They just don't deserve it. They are trouble-makers. The Nation and other ostensibly leftist US publications could not wait for Oslo to urge the Palestinians to fully surrender, and accept a part of the 23% of Palestine. I know Adam Shatz and I am writing those words from Beirut after somebody sent to me his latest article on Samir Qasir. He wonders why American leftists have not taken notice of his passing. I will tell you: he has not been a leftist in 10 years--or even more, but he spoke French and English and reminded Shatz of an Italian actor. He also was "glamorous" unlike the Palestinian victims that Shatz has not been noticing, and who have not been covered. Does Shatz wonder why the American left does not notice them either? Palestinian victims must not remind Shatz of Italian actors and may even scare him with their unItalian beards, and unItalian clothes. How rough they are. I have written before about Qasir, and denounced his murder, and while I have not agreed with him on anything in 10 years, I did mention that I doff my hat to his courage against Syrian domination in Lebanon. But that is it. His courage against Syria, was not matched with any courage against Hariri globalization or An-Nahar's right-wing agenda. No, Mr Shatz: not everybody awaited Qasir's article. There is more than one side in Lebanon, Adam. Yes, more than one side, and even if one of the many sides may not appear elegent to Western eyes. Many wondered why Qasir would not write one article critical of Arafat: he was one of the most unabashed voices speaking for Arafat in Lebanon, and some even suggested that his enmity with Syria matched Arafat's. Qasir did not speak against the racist tone and content of An-Nahar's coverage of Syrian AND Palestinian affairs, which continues. Only when the rapist or the murderer--or the accused--happens to be Syrian, An-Nahar makes sure to point that out. Shatz chooses to ignore that there are different opinions in Lebanon: and not everybody in Lebanon who disagreed with Qasir is an agent of Syria. Please, take note. He captured the mood of SOME Lebanese: but then again. These are the Lebanese that most journalists talk to. I was just talking about this the other day to a Western journalist here, pointing out how biased the sample that Western journalists--those who are stationed here and those who come for brief Hassan Fattah's style trips of coverage--deal with. Very very few, venture into the southern suburbs of Beirut, for example, or to South Lebanon: I know, I know that Adam did go there, and I had even helped him to set up some of his interviews. Yes, Qasir was courageous in condemning anti-Semitism, but there are now many Arabs who do so. But I want Arabs and non-Arabs to condemns anti-Semitism and Israeli crimes. Israeli crimes in fact far supersede the harm of Arab anti-Semitic outbursts, as reprehensible as they are. But Western journalists only want Arab condemnation of anti-Semitism, and Arab condemnation of Israel and Zionism always appear jarring to there ears. Qasir's views on the Palestinians were very close to those of Abu Mazen: he never criticized Arafat but came to appreciate the stance of Abu Mazen. Western journalists and the Nation magazine like that. They love it when Arabs just give up, and allow Israel to continue its domination and wars. To be sure: they remind you of how wonderful they are for allowing the Palestinians to have a state in 23% of Palestine. How nice of them; how considerate and compassionate of you, Western journalists. Do you want me to send you candy for those wonderful positions? Let me know. Shatz liked Qasir for being "glamorous." This is like the MERIP article on Lebanon by Nicholas Blanford that mentioned the "telegenic" crowds of one side of the demonstrators in Lebanon. But how can Shatz judge Qasir's articles in Arabic in An-Nahar when I know that he knows that I know that he does not know Arabic? Did he ask for regular summaries, or did he just ask Qasir for accounts of his articles on a daily basis? Did he ever ask Qasir about his close relation with Rafiq Hariri? Rafiq Hariri, for potato's sake. Is Hariri now also an object of admiration by the Nation. I would not be surprised. Not anymore. Did he ask his ostensibly leftist friend to explain the connection between the Hariri political Inc and any ostensible leftist? And lest Shatz make the Lebanese to be superior and the Syrians inferior, Syrian domination of Lebanon took place through a joint Lebanese-Syrian apparatus. Lebanese and Syrians were responsible for it. But Shatz here really internalizes the message of the right-wing opposition when he talks about a "special" Lebanon; a Lebanon different from the rest of the Arab world. This is a message that you can hear in any cafe in East Beirut and elsewhere: by those Lebanese (of different sects) who think that the Lebanese people are certainly genetically superior to other Lebanese. Is that what Shatz is talking about? And not all Syrian dissidents agreed with Qasir: let me tell you that. Many of them did not understand why the chic Lebanese columnists for An-Nahar, including Qasir, never EVER criticize Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia for potato's sake. How can anybody be for enlightenment and "modernity"--how much I hate that term perhaps because I have read Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment--without being totally and absolutely against the Saudi dictatorship. But there are chic causes that Western journalists like. How much does the Nation magazine remind me of the New York Times these days. I bet they win awards more often now. I know and feel that radical Arabs like my dear friend Joseph and I make Nation magazine journalists very uncomfortable. I have felt it over the years. They just can't deal with them, because they don't treat them as their inspiration and role models. They also want "glamorous" characters. Shatz liked Qasir's belief in Lebanon as a "model of modernity". What a wonderful phrase. I wish I have time to write a paragraph on that. Model of modernity? Like the Jordanian dictatorship? I bet a model of modernity would open its doors fully wide to World Bank and IMF. These are topics that Qasir never worried about. Why should he? The definition of "freedom" and "sovereignty" espoused by the right-wing opposition that is adored by the NYT and Washington Post and the Nation magazine does not include opposition to the violation of sovereignty by World Bank, Israel, and US. Qasir and An-Nahar NEVER bothered with such trivial matters. Why should the Nation? They just don't like the non-telegenic Shi`ite crowds--let me be blunt here. In fact, during the showdown between the two massive demonstrations, the "chic" side (the one that is admired by Shatz) it was common to refer to the other side as "dirty" and "smelly" and "poor." I never supported any of the demonstrators of either side, but am fully aware of the class/sect dimensions in play. Yes, Qasir was planning on criticizing Gen. `Awn: they wanted one voice, and it was supposed to come from the billionaire's headquarters. And the Nation magazine understood that. I strongly urge the creation of an organization called Billionaires for the Nation magazine. Maybe Hariri would establish an endowment for Nation too. And then Shatz talked about the Democratic Left Movement. What a joke. I bet that Shatz here does not have a clue of what he is talking about. I was just talking yesterday to a journalist who attended the founding meeting of this small and marginal group--I call it the Hariri Right, or the New Right in Lebanon. Nobody in the left here in Lebanon considers it to be on the left. I always wondered what is "left" about the Democratic Left Movement that Shatz so admired. They never employ class analysis in their evaluation of the Lebanese events. They have become mere tools for the Hariri Political Inc. In fact, their deputy, Ilyas Atallah, who led the Syrian offensive on Tripoli in 1984--for those who remember--only won his seat in parliament by shifting his candidacy from Mount Lebanon to Tripoli. Hariri wanted to reward the movement with a seat, for services rendered. So this Lebanese journalist that I was talking to yesterday, told me that Qasir would not allow the small number of members to "elect" the executive committee of the movement at that meeting. He said: "why elect them, when we can appoint them." And appoint them, they did. Long live Leninist Democratic Centralism. And let us remember that many of the members and founders cut their teeth in the fully Stalinist Lebanese Communist Party of the 1970s and 1980s. It is amazing how the Qasir described in the last section of Shatz' article remind me of Fouad Ajami in 1978 when he came out with the Arab Predicament. In fact, Qasir's last book was a replica of the message. But Shatz and others love it when attention of criticisms is shifted away from Israel. Direct your attention elsewhere, and let the Nation magazine attack the militancy of my dear friend Joseph Massad, and let them write series of articles about the "anguish" of Israeli occupation soldiers.