Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The American Left and the Middle East: the case of MERIP, again (the tale of "crazed Shi`i thugs"). I don't have time to give a detailed critique of this piece in MERIP on-line service, but it certainly fits the picture of its editorial congruence with the Hariri Inc, since the Hummus Revolution, when MERIP asked none other than Nicholas Blanford (why not Michael Young, I don't know) (a hagiographic biographer of Rafiq Hariri, and whose book on Rafiq was serialized in Hariri media, and the book is given out by Hariri family members, I am told) to opine on the Hummus Revolution. It was then that MERIP expressed its admiration for the "tele-genic" demonstrators of March 14th, unlike the uncouth rif-rafs of March 8th Movement. The tradition continues. Here, the word "Lebanese" is used to signify Jumblat and Hariri: "Lebanese did not ask themselves, “Why is Israel bombing us?”" Who are those Lebanese that Quilty is talking about? Certainly he excluded the people of South Lebanon--at least, who--perhaps to the consternation of MERIP--did blame Israel for the...Israeli bombing. The ostensibly leftist reporter then adds: "Television images of apparently crazed Shi‘i thugs..." When are militia men crazed and when are they thugs and when are they uncrazed? I doubt that MERIP would accept even a description of Israeli soldiers as "crazed Jewish thugs"--can you imagine the uproar--and rightly so--if that was used? He then says: "the international community has backed Hizballah’s domestic rivals’ demand that the Resistance be disbanded." The sentence is inaccurate on both counts: 1) the word "international community is used to camouflage the role of the US--there is no such thing as the "international community" with all due respect to Micronesia; 2) it is not true that the opposition in Lebanon has been calling for disarming Hizbullah. I don't know what they say in secret, but publicly even Hariri and Jumblat speak about the need to address this issue through dialogue and the possibility of merging the weapons of Hizbullah within the Lebanese Army. And he the says: "this nascent militia (mostly composed, it seems, of underemployed young Sunnis from West Beirut." How cute to call a militia nascent. Is this like Jumblat and Hariri calling their militias "non-militias"? And secondly, most of the Hariri militia men in...Beirut are from the...north. And notice that the author passes over the Hariri militia's massacre of SSNP's members in Halba. I thought that he was going to call it "a misunderstanding", just as Hariri and Jumblat called their government decision to spark the mini-civil war as a "misunderstanding." And in the paragraph in which the author waxes poetic about representative government in...LEBANON of all places--the author seems to believe that all groups that did not oppose Syrian military presence in Lebanon should be excluded from the political process. I certainly would have agreed with that if the author remained consistent by placing Jumblat and Hariri in that camp--those were the staunchest clients of the Syrian regime after all, as was Amal and later Hizbullah. Notice that the author does not mention the role of Rafiq Hariri in the formulation (with Ghazi Kan`an) of the 2000 electoral law, and does not mention that Hariri and Jumblat were its most outspoken advocates. They merely agreed to it, he tells you. And to describe the Israeli role in Lebanon--a country occupied and bombed by Israel consistently since the creation of the state--as "an Israeli government that watches warily", is like describing an elephant as a cucumber. And then the author says: "Security Forces (ISF), also failed to behave in a manner that citizens of North American or Western European countries would expect." But what he is trying to say is this: o Western readers. Don't ever mistake the native for the civilized White Man. And then he provided this account: "When, in February 1984, President Amin Gemayel tried to deploy the army in West Beirut (to fill the vacuum left by Israeli withdrawal...." Excuse me?? What was that about? Israel had left West Beirut humiliatingly in 1982, and Gemayyel deployed that Army not to fill any vacuum but to try to crush a rebellion against his sectarian policies (ironically by sectarian Druze and Shi`ite militias at the time) and against the imposition of the May 17 Agreement between Phalange's Lebanon and Israel. And here is his description of the Lebanese Army's savage destruction of the Nahr Al-Barid: "From May to September 2007 the army had to contend with the crisis at Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp." A crisis where the entire residents of the camp were displaced and when at least 47 Palestinian civilians were killed. Here is his account of the death toll: "420 people killed, 168 of them soldiers." He only counts the Lebanese Army soldiers it seems. And the author seems to have been touched by the support provided to the Army's destruction fo the camp by the government and the opposition alike: he called it "national unity." This is like calling Nazism "patriotism." And then he says: "the country was principally united against the Palestinians (for having “allowed” Fatah al-Islam to settle in the camp." I don't care if you put the word "allowed" in quotation marks, the residents had no say when the fighters of Fath Al-Islam came to the camp under the watchful eyes of Hariri troops. And then your "leftist" author absolves the Bush administration from responsibility by saying this: "On the other hand, as Washington’s relationship with Israel has amply demonstrated, international clientelism leaves a fair degree of play between patron and client regimes." Oh, yeah. Sanyurh and Dahlan and Maliki exercise as much sovereignty in their decisions as Israel does. I am convinced, are you? He wants to assume that the Bush administration allows Dahlan puppets to act with freedom. This is like saying that Israel allowed Antoine Lahd to do what he wished, or that the Syrian regime allowed Birri or Hariri or Lahhud to do what they wished. And here he offers some words of criticisms (or praise) to Hariri media: "True, the Hariri-owned media (like most Lebanese media) is a neo-feudal institution whose principles of disinterested journalism have badly lapsed since 2005." What was that? So before 2005 those media were objective and only after 2005 their high professional standards "declined"? And is lapses a reference to deadly sectarian agitation and mobilization by Hairri media? The author concludes by a warning about Arab culture: "a complex of shame and desire for revenge." The only thing missing from the piece is a reference to shoes and how they are used for humiliation in Arab culture.