Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for September, 2008

Arrogance vs Resentment : street politics in Beirut

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/09/2008

“We don’t go to that pub anymore… Because of what they did in May… They set up a roadblock, you know… They mugged and humiliated people”. 

The resentment in Beirut for Hezbollah and its allies’ takeover of Beirut in May 2008 is palpable. Hezbollah is seen as the main political foe. But people hold grudges against two other parties who they believe are the main perpetrators of the “invasion”: the Syrian Social National Party and Amal  (even though they believe Hezbollah bares the political responsibility). 

Many see the month of Ramadan as a truce. But the tension is still high, and the “authentic beirutis” do not hide their vindictiveness.

On the other side of the divide, Amal and the Syrian Social National Party behave as if they didn’t take part of the bloody fray. There seems to be a national and international consensus to restrict the responsibility on Hezbollah, and Hezbollah readily accepts it, and even boasts about it.

Interestingly enough, Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech last week which was received differently by the two sides. His allies found it conciliatory, while his foes saw it as arrogant. Actually, I believe it was actually a bit of both. The general tone was conciliatory, but his justification of the May “events” was felt by his foes as “blaming the victim”. One thing is for sure, Hezbollah and its leader have never been so arrogant. Even though this trait is shared by many politicians and parties in Lebanon, in this case, it comes from a party that knows it’s the strongest in the political arena and that’s what its arrogance is putting forward.

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Posted in Hezbollah, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Violence | 4 Comments »

Reviving an institutional heresy: the dialogue table

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/09/2008

Check out this week’s press and you’ll notice that it’s been prattling on two issues:

– the broadening of the “Dialogue table”: Hezbollah had proposed a week ago to broaden the dialogue table by integrating sides that are not represented by the “14” Lebanese politicians. 

– the efficiency of the “Dialogue table”: the general focus was on the lack of implementation of the past decisions the dialogue table arrived to. 

Some journalist were even glad that the new President had (re)convened it and  was presiding over it. They saw that as a sign of change because the former President had been completely excluded from it (at the time, no one saw any problem in that, even Emile Lahoud). 

Oddly enough, the two questions that the press was obsessing about were not only legitimate, but they had a very obvious answer, why not broaden the dialogue table to the Parliament? If people were worried about the implementation, why not involve the government in it? In other words, if one wants the political dialogue to be inclusive and efficient, why not restrict it to the state institutions instead of bypassing them?!

Posted in Journalism, Lebanon, Political behaviour | 1 Comment »

A month in a virtual-peace-community – part 2

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/09/2008

What I didn’t say yesterday about this virtual-peace-community is that it is managed and owned by an young Israeli, a member of Peace Now.

This fact could explain some of the problems the virtual-peace-community faces. Peace Now is a left leaning zionist organisation. It enjoys a large international support in intellectual circles because of its pro-peace stands, but in Israel, it is criticized by all sides:  On the right because of its attitude against the settlements in the West Bank, on the left because it’s seen as inefficient and too zionist. 

I personally have been quite sympathetic to some of this NGOs work, but critical of its two shortcomings:  

– Its support of the 2006 July War

– Its lack of interest in non-jewish membership (which is odd for a Peace movement that is in a multinational country and in a multi-religious region). 

Nevertheless, one can only be admirative of the courage Peace Now and the creator of the virtual-peace-community have for extending a peaceful hand to their enemy when they are criticised by their own and generally ignored and rejected by those to whom they extend your hand. This is what Peace Now has faced, and this is what the cyber-community is suffering from. If they can’t find a way to solve these two problems, there’s very little chance that they will be able to succeed in their venture.

Posted in Blogosphere, Discourse, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinian territories | Leave a Comment »

A month in a virtual-peace-community – part 1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/09/2008

Dear blogosphere,

It wasn’t really work that kept me off this blog, but my growing involvement elsewhere in cyberspace. Over a year ago, I joined a virtual-community committed to peace in the Middle East. For months I was a regular, but this summer, things slipped out of control. I spend over two hours a day reading and responding to postings and comments. It was eating up almost of my spare time, to what avail? This is what I asked myself yesterday when I decided to wean myself off it. 

It was time to check the balance sheet. What was I getting out of this virtual-peace-community? Was it of benefit for me to stay on?

Well, it was interesting to see that the “Peacemakers” on the site are deeply divided among different lines:

– the first line is linguistic: the site is mostly in English, so those who master the language are likely to dominate the discussions (i.e. English native speakers and people with a high academic background). The site tried to encourage postings in Hebrew and Arabic, but it didn’t work,

– the second line is ideological: on one side you have the pro-zionist (adamant defenders of Israel) and on the other the anti-zionists (they’re mostly anti-zionist Israeli or diaspora jews). Each group has his cyber-soldiers who shoot at anyone that doesn’t belong to their camp.

– the third line is on the level of arguments and experience in “peacemaking”: some arguments are journalistic, others are academic, some were highly ideological, others were technical… Some were informed, others not at all… The same subjects were treated ad nauseam… the same arguments repeated incessantly… Copy/Pasting from other cites used extensively by some in their postings and comments… 

What a challenge it was to make such a diverse audience interact with each other peacefully! Anger is palpable in most discussions and cyber-soldiers are very efficient in hijacking discussions (though their number is limited: never more than 10 out of 1000 member).

Posted in Blogosphere, Discourse, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinian territories | Leave a Comment »