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Archive for the ‘Conspiracy’ Category

The great awakening of Syrian sectarianism

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/06/2011

A syrian blogger's idealised vision of the Syrian revolt

As I listened to the news today from Syria, I had a strange feeling of having heard that story before. The people interviewed were giving their version of the events in Jisr al-Shughur… but the stories they told were exactly like the ones I heard about Dar’a a couple of weeks back:
– Massacres of Sunnis, especially sunni soldiers who were not willing to shoot at other sunnis.
– Alawite paramilitaries helped by Iranians and Hezbollah (“other Shiites”)
There were only two ways to explain the similarity between the two narratives: either the events they were describing were being repeated or a sectarian rhetoric had crystallized into a solid narrative that is circulating within some circles of Syrian society.

Four weeks ago, I spend an evening with a Syrian family from Dar’a discussing the situation in their hometown. It wasn’t really a discussion. I sat for almost two hour listening to them, and only asked a couple of general questions to encourage them to talk about their personal experience. As expected, they were very emotional about what was going on: They had after all fled their town because of governmental violence, and they seemed to know some protesters who were killed. It was actually quite hard to get any “hard” information from them. Sure they described some events, gave a couple of names (of people and locations) and even threw in a couple of figures. But most of what they said was based on hearsay and they constantly shifted between a “victimisation narrative” and a “heroic narrative”. In both cases, the arguments were selected and adapted in a way to suit the narrative’s objective.
What struck me at the time was the sectarian lens through which they perceived all the events that they described. Sectarian discourse had long been taboo in Syria, and one could only hear it in closed circles and in veiled language. Syrians usually mocked Lebanese for their sectarian discourse and sectarian system, and prided themselves for being “non-sectarian”. Now things seemed to have radically shifted. Syrians were resorting openly and unashamedly sectarian analysis and were using an extremely violent sectarian discourse.
Here I was talking to a sunni family that proudly mentioned during our conversation its communal belonging, and even mine (on one occasion when they spoke of the rights of the majority – ie Sunnis – and felt that they had too reassure me by telling me that they bore no ill feelings toward non-alawite minority groups).

Fact or Fantasy?
The current dynamic within Syria is certainly sectarian. The bloody Dar’a repression quickly transformed a mostly cross-sectarian economical revolt into a sectarian political/economical revolt. And this was extremely clear in Lattakié where alawites withdrew from the protestations and sunnis joined them in greater numbers… and syrian troops left Alawite villages and neighbourhoods while they took control of sunni villages and neighbourhoods. Needless to days Bachar Assad broke the “social contract”, following Qaddafi’s footsteps. In the Libyan case this social contract was tribal in nature (and violations started a couple of years ago), in Syria it was communal in nature. The break in the Libyan case was complete, and the country is today completely divided on tribal lines. In the Syrian case, the situation seems more complicated. Symbolically, the tacit social contract is between two communities: the alawite minority and the sunni majority. But as communities are not organized political bodies but a complex blend of institutions, networks and mental representations, the real “covenant” is between the elites within both communities… and this covenant has up to now survived what can be interpreted as sectarian violence: the victims of the repression are mostly sunnis (especially among the killed), and the alawite community is today mobilized behind the Baasist regime that is now widely perceived as being “alawite” and as supporting alawite interests. One has to speak of “perception” here because the “objective” reality is quite possibly very different from what is subjectively perceived, and in any case, it doesn’t really matter. Perceptions and discourse can over-ride reality and symbolic elements can have a larger impact than deeper structural realities.

The sectarian lens goes regional
As we have seen, there is an obvious sectarian dimension to the revolt/repression. But what is even more obvious is the sectarian lens has become prevalent in the political discourse and in political analysis: both sides interpret the political situation in Syria in exclusive sectarian terms. The Syrian regime insists on the sectarian dimension of the revolt and dubs it “salafism” (i.e. a version of sunni religious extremism). While opposition groups and their supporters insist on the sectarian dimension of the repression/regime (and calls it Alawite or Shiite). And both parties claim to be non-sectarian and accuse the other of playing sectarian politics. Actually, one of the main traits of the sectarian lens is that it refuses to acknowledge that it is sectarian in its nature (much more than the communal reality it is supposed to be “neutrally” observing).
The situation in Syria is actually quite similar to what happened in Lebanon when the sectarian lens became prevalent in political analysis and political discourse.
What is new today in Syria is that the lens has taken an important “regional” scope. The sectarian geopolitical approach (that can be considered as a prevalent bias in today’s geopolitical analysis) has fed the national sectarian narrative. The alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah which actually benefits the interests of the three parties is seen as being a sectarian one. It’s true that Iran and Hezbollah share a strong shiite religious identity… But extending it to the Alawites is stretching it a bit too far and giving too much credit to the Alawite’s discourse.
The claim that Iran and Hezbollah are participating in the repression has not been supported by any fact. It resembles the claim that Hezbollah participated in the iranian crackdown against the Green revolution.
Such accusations are made quite lightly and no serious investigation is done to verify the claim. If they were proven to be true, this would have serious implications to Syrian politics, but also Lebanese politics.

  • For Syrian politics. The big difference between Syria and Lebanon is that the Syrian political class has always objected to foreign meddling in its affairs (while the Lebanese political class actively welcomed it before 1943 and after 1958). If Hezbollahi and Iranian direct intervention were proven to be true, that would mean that the Baasist/Assad regime has changed the nature of the syrian political game.
  • For Lebanese politics. Hezbollah has already a first hand experience in political repression (May 6, 2008). But that was a very short one. Any implication in the Syrian repression would mean that it would be furthering its experience in scale and scope. And it would be the first Lebanese actor to have meddled in another state’s affairs.

Posted in Civil Society, Conspiracy, Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Intercommunal affairs, Semantics, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Back to Back: the Helen Thomas affair

Posted by worriedlebanese on 11/06/2010

You’ve undoubtedly heard what happened to Helen Thomas! She resigned after making a comment on Jews having to go back to Poland and Germany. In case you haven’t heard the story, here’s the video that started an avalanche of reactions in cyberspace with some extolling her as a martyr of the jewish lobby, and others congratulating themselves for debunking an antisemite (or even a nazi) and applauding her disgrace.

All this started in Washington DC, so why is it relevant to us, Lebanese? Well, Helen Thomas’s family hails from Lebanon… But that never brought Helen Thomas any attention in Lebanon. So how can one explain all the attention she got in our media? Let’s see what three editorialists have to say about it:

Michael Young, “Arabs shouldn’t weep for Helen Thomas“, Daily Star (june 10th): ” It’s never pleasant to see someone self-destruct”. The argument that “she was pushed out of her job because of criticism from the ‘Jewish lobby’” is “nonsense. The condemnation was universal, and rightly so”. The editorial focuses on Helen Thomas’ words: “They should go home” to “Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else”. He looks into their significance in an American, Jewish and Arab context.
Michael Young makes it clear that he is no fan of Helen Thomas, and he obviously has scores to settle with her for her adamant opposition to the neo-con worldview he shares with the previous American administration. His arguments are familiar to all pro-peace activists. But he never states the obvious, how hypersensitive the US is to anything that touches Jews/Israel. Had Helen Thomas said something similar about the chinese of Malaysia for instance, we probably wouldn’t have heard anything about it.

Badr al-Ibrahim, “Helen Thomas, the voice that cries in the wilderness of America” (in Arabic), al-Akhbar (june 10th): “When it comes to Israel, freedom of expression becomes a sin for which one is reprimanded”. The editorial focuses on “censorship”: “Free media is a slave to a corrupt political ideology, and it suffers in this case from the same ails than the media in the « Unfree world »: double standard, partiality, deviation from objectivity, and a rejection of intellectual diversity, as well as actively helping the government suppress opinions, criminalise them and force “expiation” on those who express them”.
Badr al-Ibrahim is far from convincing. Comparing the freedom of expression that is enjoyed in the US to the one that is prevalent in the Middle East is simply preposterous. Every society has “its issues” and can be hypersensitive when they are discussed. But that has nothing to do with state censorship, and is not always related to the existence of a lobby.

For more details about what happened, check out Hicham Hamza, The Helen Thomas Affair (in French), Oumma (June 9th) for whom Helen Thomas “resigned herself to leaving office because of the uproar caused by her radical critique of the State of Israel. Back on the underside of a timely political-mediatic diversion”. In his view, the affair is “a degression designed to divert the attention of the American public from the real issues of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis”, and he presents all the info he gathered in this perspective.
Sure, some people have pushed that issue as a divergence mechanism. But this doesn’t explain everything. Helen Thomas did say what she said, and it wasn’t even accurate (most Israeli Jews do not come from Poland and Germany, a larger number comes from the Middle East and North Africa). And this would have hit the cyberspace sooner or later making the same splash.

Posted in Blogosphere, Communication, Conspiracy, Culture, Discourse, Israel, Journalism, Lebanon | 9 Comments »

Would a flotilla by any other name…

Posted by worriedlebanese on 03/06/2010

Like many of you in cyberspace, I’ve been reading extensively about the “Gaz Freedom Flotilla affair/raid/attack/massacre”.

Trying to represent "evil" and missing the point while at it

At first, I received an avalanche of such emails. Frankly, I was irritated by the tone of these emails. They all focused on “Israel’s barbaric acts” and “its monstrosity”.  This kind of commentary is shallow (how important is labelling), easy (it’s done by people who are hostile to Israel and/or its policies to start with) and useless (it’s intended for audiences that are hostile to Israel and/or its policies), and usually boders on Tourette Syndrom. Not only it preaches to the converted, but its language confirms the pro-Israel public in its own prejudice and paranoia. It mostly forgets that the whole issue is about GAZA, and not Israel. Take a look at Carlos Latuff’s cartoon and try do imagine how a supporter of Israel would understand it.

Then I started reading blog entries about the whole affair. Trying to look beyond the praise, the condemnation, the victimisation and the accusations, I started processing some information:

  • What are the facts? If you think identifying the relevant data or “hard facts” is an easy matter, well think again. Check out the articles written, pick out anyone of them, randomly. Ignore all the commentary (accusations, justification, condemnation) and set aside the hard facts. You’re not left with much. Here’s a little quiz: how many boats did the flotilla consist of? How many injured were there (on both sides)? What do you know about the deceased?
    • What do we actually know about what actually happened? Nothing much. It’s more about “they did it again” or “they were looking for trouble and they got it”.
    • What are we being told about it? One could excuse the cyberworld for sticking to the emotions and emotional responses. But what excuse does the Media have for doing such a lousy job. I just watched the news report on the BBC, two days after the events, and all I got was two conflicting versions, one made by Israeli officials, and another made by activists from the Flotilla. Both versions were either unspecific or blatantly inaccurate, with more smear than info.
  • What are the contentious issues? There’s a bunch of them: the Israeli blockade on Gaza (is it legal, ethical, effective, productive?); the Gaza freedom flotilla’s attempt to break the blockade (is it effective? is it lawful? is it suicidal?); the Israeli army’s enforcement of the blockade and its capture of the boats (is it brutal? proportionate? hysterical? lethal? normal?)…
  • What are the frameworks within which the data is being processed and propagated?

When whitewashing borders on paranoïa

Next came the “pro-Israel” blogs and outlets. I wasn’t surprised by their reactions either. I’ve heard their arguments before, and actually expected to hear them. One could sum them up in three sentences : “we are the victims”, “they are the agressors”, “they made us do it”. The cartoon pictures here illustrates this perception perfectly. The argument presents itself in the following manner: it starts with an abstract apologetical formula that is not linked to an act but to an outcome (which is odd for an apology). Then there’s a quick recasting of the events in which are presented an elastic yet always humane “we” (that alternatively or hypothetically refers to the IDF, the government, Israelis or Jews) and an accusative barbaric “them” (in which those directly concerned are presented as a small sample of a much larger and threatening group). Any act attributed to “we” becomes a mechanical reaction to an act attributed to “them”. This transforms this “act” (and any act is by definition voluntary) into something of a “coerced” or “involuntary” reaction (think knee jerk reflex) which absolves the person who committed it from any responsibility.

Finally, I started constructing my own story (compatible with my worldview, you’d argue), trying to verify some info, and comparing it with other affairs to try to make sens of it all. If one wants to strip the whole affair to its bare elements, the story is quite simple, and let’s not start arguing about chronology.

  1. Who: The flotilla brought together an international group of militants who want to break the blockade on Gaza as a first step towards getting it lifted.
  2. What: The blockade is imposed by Israel (with the complicity of many other international actors, including Egypt), and its alleged objective is “defensive” (to prevent the rearmament of Hamas). The result is punitive: collective punishment that transforms Gaza into a large prison and creates an informal economy completely dominated by Hamas and that is dependent on tunnels through which many things are smuggled including material that is used for weapon construction.
  3. How: The strategy is to force Israel into changing its policy towards Gaza, more specifically, to get it to lift the blockade. The key word here is obviously “force”. And it’s a tricky word and a complicated objective. Basically, you have a group of people who want to change a military strategy through non-military means… The Media is a central component of this strategy because it’s about “image”, symbolic steps and building pressure within and outside Israel to get its security complex to modify its strategy.
  4. Where’s the problem? Israel can no longer count on domestic pressure because its Jewish population is today totally unconcerned by Palestinians and insensible to their plight. Its only concern is to remain unconcerned, untroubled by them. As for international pressure, it is not strong enough to influence the Israeli government. So the Flotilla’s strategy didn’t have a chance to succeed. All it could do was encourage more flottilas to head toward Gaza and hope that this would lead to a snowball effect… and in the meantime keep the blockade on the global agenda (the international community has a very short memory span). It also could hope to get as much humanitarian aid through as it can. But that’s about it.
  5. What next? With its customary brutality and the death toll it leaves behind (that is obvious to all who simply look at the figures), the IDF might have changed things. The “Mavi Marmara” deaths have already started a new dynamic, just like the Cana massacres did in 1996 and in 2006 or the Sabra and Chatilla massacre in 1982. Sure, the story will be revisited over and over again, whitewashed as much as possible. But in the meantime it would have created an insufferable image for Israel that would force it to revise its strategy or at least refrain from doing the same mistake (while at the same time denying it was a mistake) in an immediate future. And in this immediate future the Rachel Corrie will be arriving, and probably other flotillas.

Posted in Antisemitism, Blogosphere, Communication, Conspiracy, Discourse, Israel, Palestinian territories, Prejudice, Semantics | 2 Comments »

A Syrian approach to Judaism… a clear case of incoherence?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 11/01/2010

I dug up quite an interesting book in Damascus, unexpectedly. I was looking for a specific book on Palestinians and discovered this unusual book on judaism! Two sides of the same coin? Maybe.

The book is relatively new, it was published in 2008. Its author, Shamseddine Al-Ajlani, follows quite an interesting approach. Instead of focusing on one subject or following one hypothesis (like books usually do), he juxtaposes many chapters, each tackling a different topic relating to Syrian Jews. This 450 page book has an encyclopedic scope and brings together a great variety of documents: pictures of Syrian Jews since the 1920s, pictures of synagogues, and even pictures of Syrian Jews living in Holon (Israel). It tackles the participation of Jews in Syrian national politics and even blood libels in the 19th century.

If you read the chapter on the two 19th century cases of blood libel, you would find the author conspirationalist and antisemitic. He seems to believe that the charges were true and that those who were arrested were actually guilty and that they owe their release to the power Jews had over Western Europe. The author’s view isn’t surprising, it is the most dominant view in Syria today. But it is rather bewildering to find in a book that contains a very positive chapter on Jewish participation in Syrian national politics, and another chapter on the ties that remain between Israeli Jews of Syrian origin and what the author considers to be their homeland (Syria).

So when your “anti-semitism” siren blows, don’t jump to conclusions. There’s nothing systematic in what is expressed. You will find other elements that will spark a totally different signal. The Middle East is not Europe. Intercommunal relations are viewed as being complex just as they are experiences. You will find acceptance and rejection coming from the same source. That’s probably why a synthesis becomes impossible. It will reduce all contradictions to one idea, one that would contradict the daily experience of each person, just as it would contradict the national experience.

Posted in Conspiracy, Culture, Discourse, Diversity, Identity, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Religion, Syria | 5 Comments »

How they helped defeat Farouk Hosny (the story)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/09/2009

The nine original candidates. Housny is the second guy from the left (with dyed hair)

The 9 original candidates. Housny is second from left

Before delving into the analysis, let’s set the record straight. I won’t be looking into the dirty politics behind these elections. I do have some crusty insider information on some dirty play, but it’s closer to gossip than meaningful information, and strictly off topic. What we’ll be looking into is the public debate that surrounded these elections. I believe it had an incidence on the final outcome: Irina Bokova’s election to the post of Director General of UNESCO. But there is no way to prove this fact.

Interestingly enough, the reasons behind Farouk Hosny’s defeat are not of much interest. They will leave no trace in the public conscience. On the other hand, the fierce debate surrounding this election will undoubtedly mark those who feel envolved in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Let’s start with a quick look at the five rounds that brought Farouk Hosni to his defeat. If you’re interested in more details, check out this blog.

  • Results of the 5 rounds

    Candidate Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5
    Farouk Hosny 22 23 25 29 27
    Irina Bokova 8 8 13 29 31
    Benita Ferrero-Waldner 7 9 11 0 0
    Ivonne Baki 7 8 9 0 0
    Ina Marciulionyte 3 4 0 0 0
    Alexander Yakovenko 7 3 0 0 0
    Noureini Tidjani-Serpos 2 2 0 0 0
    Sospeter Muhongo 1 1 0 0 0
    Mohammed Bedjaoui 0 0 0 0 0
    Blank 1 0 0 0 0
    Total 58 58 58 58 58

As the figures clearly show, Farouk Hosni was the leading contestant up to the fifth round. His candidacy was supported by the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organization for the Islamic Conference. It was backed by France and unopposed (though grudgingly) by Israel. So what happened? If you’re interested in geopolitics, check out what Stephen Suleyman Schwartz had to say about it. I’d rather look into one campaign that picked up speed and was given more media attention than any other story in these elections: that of Bernard-Henri Lévy (alias BHL, alias BHV) relayed on the net through Save Unesco!, a blog started by “French students in political science” that was deleted earlier today (but here is the cached copy). Much can be said about Bernard-Henri Levy and the anonymous group of French students, but I will focus on the issues that they raised, and they are identical. Instead of supporting one specific candidate, they attacked the Egyptian candidate on three main issues

  • Antisemitism. This accusation springs from a misquoted statement on burning Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries (a statement Farouk Hosny later apologised for in his “message to the world“). BHL reinterpreted this statement as a vow “to burn with his own hands any book in Hebrew that could have possibly infiltrated the stacks of the Alexandria Library”.
  • An alleged involvement in the Achille Lauro Hijacking affair.  
  • Responsibility as Minister of Culture (for over two decades) in the crackdown of liberties and freedom of expression in Egypt.

So, is Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace price laureate, right when he says “UNESCO has escaped a scandal, a moral disaster. Mr. Hosni did not deserve the job he does not deserve this honor  tomorrow”. Can we agree with BHL when he says “We have won. Liberty has won. Tolerance has won. And thanks to all of you, respect has won. I’d like to thank you, net surfers, for engaging in this battle for democracy and peace. Thanks to all who refused the unacceptable and who allowed for this beautiful victory”. That’s what we’ll be looking into tomorrow.

Posted in Antisemitism, Blogosphere, Civil Society, Communication, Conspiracy, Culture, Democracy, Egypt, Geopolitics, Israel, Political behaviour, Semantics, Values | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Violence spills over: Shooting at Tel Aviv gay center

Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/08/2009

Candles in memory of dead spell out "love"

Candles in memory of dead spell out "love"

How fast is Israel heading for trouble? How much can one extrapolate from one crime news heading, a simple human interest story? Could it be an indicator or is it just an isolated case?

One thing is certain, Israeli editorialists and politicians are not taking it so lightly (c.f. Yediot Ahronot article). For them, it’s not just about Nir Katz (24) and Liz Trubeshi (17) who were killed on saturday. It’s about a shooting attack on a gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv. It’s about a hate crime. It’s about an automatic weapon (such as an M-16 rifle) that was used by an Israeli to kill other Israelis because of differences in lifestyle and values.

It’s about a bubble exploding, but unlike Eytan Fox’s הבועה, the needle that burst it is not directly tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… but might very well be indirectly link to it. For how long can Israeli society nurture  its militaristic culture and breed distrust between some of its sectors, before that starts spreading?

Judging from the reaction of editorialists and politicians, the fear is there, but also the discomfort. How should this attack be called? A terror attack? Can it be called a terror attack although its perpetrator seems to be jewish? This is the kind of hesitation one sees in interviews and opinion papers. It’s not a simple case of semantics, its about classification, operating a distinction between “jewish violence and “palestinian violence”: when violence is so instrumental in separating and defining two groups, what happens when it erupts within one of the groups? what does it say about the opposition between the two groups…

Posted in Conspiracy, Culture, Identity, Israel, Palestinians, Prejudice, Religion, Secularism, Security, Semantics, Values, Violence | Leave a Comment »

The third Ibrahim Kanaan affair

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/06/2009

Ibrahim KanaanAs a Lebanese citizen, and a Metn voter, I’m particularly interested in knowing a bit more about three affairs that involved my constituency’s MP this year  :

    • The arson attack on his house (Ibrahim Kannan’s family home was set ablaze. His foes accused him of staging the fire)
    • The shooting in Mansourieh (He claims that his convoy was shot at & shot back, while his foes claim that he wasn’t attacked and simply shot at another car).
    • The accusation of corruption (or to be more accurate failing to honour promises of bribery). Ibrahim Kanaan considers this accusation to be fabricated.

I tried to search the internet for more information, but all I found was accusations and counter-accusations. “Proofs” being broadcasted on television and then on youtube… After two hours of searching, I can safely say that I found no court judgement (even though they are all criminal acts), no police report… nothing. What I found were FPM partisans refuting accusations in anyway possible, and FPM foes claiming the opposite. None were really convincing and nowhere was an independent report to be found. Conviction follows ones political preferences…

Posted in Conspiracy, Journalism, Justice, Lebanon, Politics, Prejudice | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Out of court… on-air “settlements”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/06/2009

al-fassadI received two emails with the same content: an extract of a TV show in which MP Ibrahim Kanaan (Free Patriotic Movement, Metn) answers accusation of corruption and vote buying by screaming at the show’s anchorwoman, Ghada Eid.

When I first watched the show, I was appalled by Ibrahim Kanaan’s reaction. The first few words he uses are quite revealing about the way he perceived this episode of al-Fasad. He called it “a political assassination”. And after saying that, he started yelling, scolding the anchorwoman, denigrating her work, insinuating things, accusing her of corruption and threatening her with a lawsuit for libel (something NTV is rather used to). She on the other hand insinuates that Ibrahim Kanaan’s party is corrupt and doesn’t hold its promises, she starts yelling as well, saying that her voice will always be higher than the others” and threatens him with a lawsuit for insults.

Now here is the interesting part of the story, Ibrahim Kanaan isn’t accused of actually bribing people, but of promising to bribe people and not honouring his promise. How can you prove that? And how can you prove that wrong?

This being said, Ibrahim Kanaan’s on-air reaction is shocking, and I wanted to know more about this incident, so I tried to search the internet for more info. What I found were two OTV news extracts. Now OTV is operated by the Free Patriotic Movement. One can hardly expect it to be neutral on that matter. So here is how the anchor answered the accusation: he showed two men apologising for their brother, Nabil Fala’s conduct (that of falsely accusing Ibrahim Kanaan of failing to honour his promise of bribery). The anchorman also showed an interview of Kanaan in which the latter didn’t apologise for his language and tone on Ghada Eid’s show, and instead talked about the accusers criminal records… These criminal records were later shown on air! A TV show answers another TV show’s circus with another circus (that of denigration and publication of criminal records… doesn’t that infringe Nabil Fala’s rights?).

So it’s not only about Lebanese politics being at their worst, but Lebanese journalism too.


OTV followed this news broadcast with another one on June 17th. Here, the television questions and answers another witness’ allegations by showing that part of another TV’s investigation was actually fabricated.

Posted in Conspiracy, Discourse, Journalism, Justice, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Politics, Violence | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

On foreign influences

Posted by worriedlebanese on 10/09/2007

Politicians have been exchanging many insults and accusations lately, accusing each others of training militarily, working for partition, and serving foreign interests.
The last argument is quite interesting because it is usually conflated with othes such as being pawns to foreign powers or working for foreign powers.
While all arguments share the idea that foreign powers have interests in Lebanon, they differ in the means and the strength of their influence.
The question that polical actors and analysts seldom ask is in which way do foreign actors excert influence in Lebanon.
– What is lawfull and what isn’t, why is nothing done about it?
– What is the degree of autonomy of local actors?
– What is the type of relationship between the two?
– Do both have the same interests?
– Do they have the same aims?
– Are there different ways for them to fulfill their interests or reach their aims?
– Who sets the agenda, and why?

By confronting the current crisis with these questions we can probably find a couple of interesting answers.
I will try to do this tomorrow.

Posted in Conspiracy, Discourse, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Arab cartoons: antisemitic, anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli? Does it matter!?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/06/2007

untitled2_w.jpguntitled3_wa.jpguntitled4_wa.jpgYediot Aharanot showed 4 cartoons that were published in the Arab media, commenting on the Hamas/Fateh struggle in Gaza and the West Bank. The article’s subtitle states “Inter-Palestinian fighting in Gaza has unleashed barrage of virulently anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic cartoons in Arab and Muslim media, Anti-Defamation League says”.
After reading this I remembered an argument I had with Ali A., a Syrian anti-baath journalist residing in Lebanon who argued that there was no anti-semitism in the Arab world, only hostility to Israel (he distinguishes between Antisemitism and anti-judaïsm). He sees Antisemitism as a totally European phenomenon.
Well, it’s true that as an ideology and a construct, antisemitism was born and raised in Europe, but since the 1940s, the Arabs have had time to import it and develop it. As these cartoons and many other cartoons cleary show, even the iconography of anti-semitism was borrowed. It is true that the Arab blend is of a particular kind. There are different levels to it. There is a hostility to the West seen as antagonistic towards Islam and the Arabs. Here Israel is seen as a mere imperialistic tool in the hand of the West. The fact that many Israelis are of European origin and that they have created a settler’s community much in the same way as the European colonisers in the Americas, Oceania and parts of Africa, reinforces that idea. Those who adopt this approach usually call themselves “anti-zionist”. And they spend much time trying to distinguish anti-zionism and anti-semitism.
While in the realms of ideas the distinction is quite easy to draw (in the same way they distinguish between Arab and Muslim), in practice, especially in the iconography, it becomes almost impossible. How can one distinguish a Jew from an Israeli in a drawing? especially when the Israeli is charactrised by jewish religious traits. How can one keep on distinguishing anti-jewish sentiment and anti-semitism when the arab cartoonist and commentators are massively borrowing from the european antisemitic tradition?!
In the end of the day, if u call it antisemiticism, anti-judaism or anti-zionism, doesn’t all that have the same effect on Jews worlwide? What is more important in the condemnation of hate speach, the intentions of the perpetrators or the effect it has on its victims?

Posted in Antisemitism, Conspiracy, Identity, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Semantics | 14 Comments »

Accusations of espionnage and their political use

Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/02/2007

mhmd-attar.jpgAs regular as clockwork, every couple of year Egypt offers the world a highly mediatised court case featuring three basic ingredients: scandal, sex and the West (or something similar, ie Israel). In 2004, the Azzam Azzam case finally came to an end when the Egyptian authorities released the Druze Israeli citizen in a “swap” operation with the Israeli government (against six Egyptian students). It all started in 1996 when Azzam was inprisoned and later tried for spying of being an Egyptian spy later tried for industrial espionage: using women’s underwear soaked in invisible ink to pass information to Israel’s. Even his lawyer risked disciplinary action for defending an Israeli spy.

Today, Mohammed al-Attar’s trial resumed. He was arrested at the airport on New Years day, charged of being a Mossad agent. A Canadian newspaper published a transcript of his confession (probably exerted through torture) in which he admits having recruited gay or impoverished Arabs in Canada (where he works as a waiter) for Mossad.
Here again, we find the same ingredients: sex and espionnage… and all for the account of Israel.
This says a lot about Egypt’s attitude towards Israel almost 27 years after Camp David (in which it signed peace with Israel). In three years time, Egypt would be at “peace with Israel” for longer than it had been at war, but just like war, peace can be strickingly cold.
In fact, it is so hard for the government to morally defend this political choice that it doesn’t even try to do so. On the contrary, every couple of years it organises a judicial and media circus in which it shows how morally reprehensible Israel is: using Arabs to spy on Egypt. But the Arabs it uses are not ordinary Arabs. The authorities deem it important for the public not to identify with them. They are presented as belonging to a minority (religious or sexual) and are portrayed as being perverts (writing on women’s underwear or being homosexual).
Actually, not only Egypt is not doing anything to promote peace culture and normalise relations with Israel, but it is encouraging a vicious anti-Israeli attitude in the media and in its society. On another hand, it hasn’t made much to support or help the Palestinians. What example or model is that for Peace?

Posted in Conspiracy, Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Politics | Leave a Comment »

On the Protocols of the… mullahs of Qom

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/02/2007

theprotocols.jpgIf you’re into conspiracy theories and your Bible is the “Protocols of the elders of Zion”, you probably know that there’s a sequel to this book, a sort of New Testament: The protocols of the mullahs of Qom. You thought that the Jews were the only ones out there to rule the world. You are wrong, they’re challenged by a much darker forcer, that of the Shiites.
Ask the Syrian born historian Mahmoud Al-Sayyed Al-Dugheim, and he’ll tell you all about it. If you are unable to reach him, check out the interview he gave on al-Jazeera TV a month ago (January 20th). You won’t believe your ears.
Not only everything he says is preposterous, but its so infused with hate that you wonder how no one has reacted to his talk.
Memri TV has provided us with the following translated transcirpts (you can see much more on their site www.memritv.org).
“We consider the Zionist plan to be dangerous to the Arab nation, but even more dangerous is the Safavid, Sassanian, Iranian plan to restore the Empire of Cyrus, which would range from Greece to Egypt, and the Arabian Peninsula, in addition to other regions” […]
“While the Zionist plan targets Jerusalem, which is holy to us, the Safavid plan targets Mecca and Al-Madina. If you go back to their books, which they do not mention in the media, yet these books exist and are accepted by them – they claim that their Hidden Imam will come to Mecca and Al-Madina, destroy the Al-Haram Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet, and will dig in the graves of Abu Bakr and Omar, and burn them both, and then he will command the wind to blow them away. He will also dig in the grave of Aisha, the Mother of the Believers, and will execute her. All this is part of their plan”. […]
“All these actions are part of the 50-year plan of the Protocols of the Mullahs of Qom. This plan has been published and is well known. It aims to infiltrate the Sunni Muslim countries, to annihilate them, and to sow civil strife between the ruler and his subjects, all within fifty years”.
And you’ll also learn that the an “extended conference of the world’s Shiites was held in the holy city of Qom. It was attended by the leaders of all Shiite parties and religious authorities. The conference decided that a global organization must be established to annihilate the people who are left, to examine and analyze the current regional situation, to build a military force, to infiltrate governmental institutions through the women’s organizations everywhere, and then to infiltrate intelligence agencies, and to finish off the Sunni leaders, even by assassination.”
What can I say, beware of women organisations!

Posted in Conspiracy, Intercommunal affairs, Violence | 2 Comments »

The Raml el-Aali affair

Posted by worriedlebanese on 09/10/2006

Real drama, a very telling Lebanese story. Here are the main ingredients:

  • illegal constructions
  • Hezbollah dominated area
  • rule of law
  • police intervention
  • shootings
  • underaged victims

Will we ever know the real story behind it? Probably not. And this has nothing to do with conspiracy theories but the simple lack of professionalism of Journalists and Police investigators, lack of interest of the public in the truth behind the event (everyone is comfortably seated in his prejudices).

Posted in Civil Society, Conspiracy, Hezbollah, Journalism, Justice, Lebanon, Violence | Leave a Comment »