Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

Irresistible, don’t you think?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/11/2010

This picture of Saudi Military men in camouflage suits made it on the first page of Monday’s Al-Akhbar newspaper. Priceless, don’t you think?

The uniform does seem biodegradable. If it’s proven to be, I believe it should be adopted by Greenpeace asap.

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Posted in Personal, Security | 1 Comment »

Security first? The contours of a Lebanese policy for peace talks with Israel

Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/08/2009

661054_pw_diplomacyThe Lebanese have grown accustomed to governments unable or unwilling to deal with their southern neighbour. Some regret that these governments haven’t been able to defend the country militarily and diplomatically (from the IDF’s ferocious attacks), while others deplore that none has come up with a policy for peace talks with Israel.
Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a contributor to NOW Lebanon, has come up with an interesting analysis on the subject. He believes Lebanon should define a policy on Israel and embark in peace talks because “Lebanon will never defeat Israel militarily, [so] its ‘conflict’ with the Jewish state can only be resolved by diplomacy”. He concludes his article with the following statement:

Since the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, both governments have failed to produce a policy on Israel. The Mitchell team is determined to change all this, but they need the help of Lebanon’s leaders, who must not be shy about talking peace with Israel, just like their Syrian and Palestinian brethren. The rest will become details.

At face value, his conclusion is indisputable, but if you look into it, you discover there is an important dimension to Israeli-Lebanese relations that Hussain Abdul-Hussain completely leaves out: the “security” dimension.

This is quite common among Beirutis. But if you ask Israelis or Lebanese living in Southern Lebanon, it’s their primary concern. And this issue is certainly the murkiest. Here’s why:

  • Since the 1960s, the Lebanese government has failed to secure its border with Israel. So before embarking in Peace talks, the Lebanese government should see how it will be able to achieve that and start working on it.
  • Since the 1960s, Israel has been “retaliating” after each attack coming from Lebanon. This has brought a lot of destruction, death and distrust in Southern Lebanon. Shouldn’t Lebanon build a defensive strategy so as to dissuade, limit or restrain the “IDF”?
  • An armed grouped, Hezbollah, backed by the majority of the local population wants to keep the fight going. Their most popular argument within their constituency is similar to the one of the Israeli army: only military strength will ensure our security and disuade our enemy from attacking us. It’s a defensive argument (that is not weaker than that of the Israeli army). What could the Lebanese government answer to this argument be?
  • There are other armed groups that are held back by Hezbollah (mostly Palestinian, and Sunni islamists) who are willing to pursue the fight, and the Lebanese State doesn’t seem to have a hold on them.

Before asking the government to come up with a diplomatic strategy toward Israel, I think it is foremost important to ask them to come up with a coherent military and defensive strategy, one that takes into account and deals with Hezbollah and the Palestinians of Lebanon.

Posted in Geopolitics, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Peace, Security, Violence | 10 Comments »

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 »

Concealing Palestinians: A telling advert on the Separation Barrier

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/07/2009

Haaretz published a story on Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi  joining calls to scrap this television commercial which he finds offensive. He explained to Reuters that “the advertisement presents the barrier as though it were just a garden fence in Tel Aviv”, while it actually “separates families and prevents children from reaching schools and clinics”.

Don’t you find his stand rather irrelevant? It will certainly not bring about any kind of change. The advert will keep on running (which is inconsequential) and the wall will stay standing. And Ahmed Tibi will keep on making ineffective political moves meant to reassure his constituency on his political stands. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Civil Society, Communication, Discourse, Israel, Palestinians, Prejudice, Security, Violence | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Remembering Nahr el Bared

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/05/2009

bombThis most will probably strike my countrymen as being anti-patriotic. Under Lebanese law, such posting is considered illegal because it sullies the image of Lebanon and the Lebanese armies. Two accusations that are considered to “prejudice national security interests”.

Rubbish if you tell me.

Two years to day, violence erupted in Nahr el-Bared Camp between the Lebanese army and Fateh el-Islam. The battle raged for 15 weeks, scattering the camp’s residents (around 30 000) claiming the life of hundreds, levelling the camp’s center (the “old camp”).  most of the campIt took the army  more than three months to vanquish Fateh el-Islam. The battles had a devastating effect on the camp and its population. Its center (“the old camp”).

1192897162As expected, no investigation was carried to determine the responsibility in letting Fateh el-Islam arm itself within the camp (didn’t the army intelligence know about it? why didn’t it prevent it? why didn’t it inform the government? why didn’t the Ministry of Defence react?). And no investigation was done surrounding the actions of the army during the battle. Sure Fateh el-Islam was ruthless, but does that justify or excuse the exactions carried out by some soliders (summery execution, insults, humiliation, looting…). Certainly not. I ran across a very disturbing site on the internet. It’s accusations might be groundless, but then maybe not. I would have liked to have a thorough investigation with the rights given to the victims to press charges against the army or soldiers.

In the fight against armed islamists, taking a moral stand is not only a moral necessity for those who are waging the battle, but it is a condition for its ultimate success.

Posted in Justice, Lebanon, Palestinians, Security, Values, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Gaza… Closed zone

Posted by worriedlebanese on 05/03/2009

Well, there’s a first time for everything. Up to now, I had never inserted a youtube video in this blog. I didn’t see the point of it. But how can you resist Yoni Goodman’s short film “Closed Zone”. I discovered it on Haaretz’s website. For anyone reading this blog, and interested in the Middle East, you should check out this Israeli paper as often as possible. I believe it is by far the best daily in the Middle East. Sure it has its biases, it is after all an israeli rather judeo-centric and left leaning newspaper. But you’ll probably find in its pages the best reporting and analysis on the conflict.

As for the film, it’s really worth the click, and it only runs a minute and a half. Yoni Goodman created it for the Israeli NGO Gisha devoted to the freedom of movement.  He is no other than the animator of “Waltz with Bashir”.

I would have preferred a slightly more condensed version of the clip, without the final frames in which the bird is caged. They are rather redundant and the message is quite clear without them.

Posted in Egypt, Israel, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Gaza, a prequel to Lebanon War 3 ?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 06/01/2009

MIDEAST-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-GAZA-CONFLICTEvery day, news leaked into my spirit on what was happening in Gaza. I had shut myself off from it, tried to ignore it. But the death toll kept reminding me that there was a new war in the Middle East, actually not a new war but a new battle (in an ongoing war)  in my neighbourhood. 

I couldn’t stand to hear the press commenting on it. It was all dabble or worse… propaganda. Almost no coverage from Gaza. Only some images (probably stolen) from a Palestinian and Islamist TV, but no western journalists, no live testimonies from westerners living there. The only people interviewed were european looking IDF personnel, mostly women. 

As I walked on the streets of Amsterdam, I noticed through a window a TV reporting on the war. Each war in the Middle East is a rehearsal to another war. It’s a training ground for another war. That’s at least how the Israeli military sees it, and that’s how their foes now understand it. In each war, new strategies are tested and “lessons” learnt from previous wars applied. 

Israel knows that the Middle East is no friendly place to live in, so it has grown accustomed to seeing itself “victim” of an everlasting and ongoing war with its neighbours. A war taking various forms (one of them being a truce or a peace treaty), with nothing to build on except ones military “defensive” capacities, nothing to do other than “prepare” for the next war.

One thing is sure. Israel isn’t the only one “learning” from the present “war lessons”. While the whole world watches the battle raging , the military operations expanding and the casualties mounting; While Palestinians in Gaza (and Hamas) try to survive… Hezbollah is equally “learning” from the “Second Gaza War” the new strategies developed by its enemy, for they will surely be applied soon in Lebanon.

And as I sit comfortably in front of my computer in a public library, Gaza II seems to be just another prequel to the next war.

Posted in Israel, Journalism, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Security, Violence | 1 Comment »

Three good reasons to revive this blog

Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/01/2008

rafahthroughahole.jpgI haven’t written an entry for over a month now. Not only was I overburdened with work and other trivial yet stressful stuff, but I felt I had nothing new to add to what I had already posted. The deadlock was so strong in Lebanon and the rest off the Middle East, the dynamics so constrained and contrived… It was simply stifling.But two days ago, when I saw a cracked wall, a picture of people crossing from Gaza into Egypt, I felt something was changing, that something could change. You can’t wall in people indefinitely. Why should I accept my thoughts to be paralysed by the political actors and regional dynamics? It’s important to think outside the box, and it’s our responsibility to insure our ideas are not framed and boxed in by others.I discussed politics with a friend that same day, and I realised that the Lebanese were never as free as they are today, and yet they’ve never used their freedom so parsimoniously. It’s time to move before it’s too late. Egypt is sealing the Gaza border, walling the Palestinians in again to the fate that was decided for them by others. And when the Lebanese parliament elects a new president (agreed upon by the regional and international powers), he will certainly start cracking down on liberties in the name of security. Minutes after waking up today, I read about the explosion that rocked Beirut’s eastern suburb this morning. It drove me to my blog. I felt I had to start writing again, for it’s the only to develop one’s thoughts, to go beyond emotional reactions and vague ideas and impressions. And who knows, someone could stumble on my thought crumbs and put them to some use, by developing them, sharing them. 

Posted in Lebanon, Middle East, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Good reason for confusion 1: The army and I

Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/09/2007

lib018068.jpgDuring the past 3 months, an undeclared war shook Nothern Lebanon: killing, damaging and endangering lifes in their thousands, displacing people in their tens of thousands, reopening old wounds and creating new ones. Why call the Nahr el Bared battle an undeclared? Didn’t the Lebanese military publish daily reports on it, weren’t they constant and neatly packaged for the evening news and the international media?!
Well, I believe the war was undeclared for a very simple reason: it was never taken seriously by the Lebanese political class. Ministers kept on with their lives and quarrels as if nothing was happening; exchanging accusations and leaving the whole “affair” to the military. It was as if the battle was raging abroad, in a far off land that was taken over by newcomers and gradually recovered by the army. Something like the Falklands!

Accordingly, the Lebanese army was given complete control over the handling of the crisis: fixing the goals, the means… and managing the media campaign!
One has to recognise that the military succeeded in managing the media campain, which was not a terribly demanding task, knowing the state the Lebanese media is in: no conficting reports, no dissenting voices, clear cut information: “we’re the good people, they’re the bad people”. “We will prevail”. “We are winning every day”. “The army is pure”. “The army is defending the nation”.
You couldn’t voice a comment or a faint criticism without being accused of treason by anyone in hearing distance.

Posted in Lebanon, Palestinians, Political behaviour, Prejudice, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

How can Lebanon contain Syria?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 30/06/2007

syria-w1.gifSometimes geography can be quite unforgiving and quite a hassle. Since Syria’s independence, its successive governments have shown that they could “contain” Lebanon by closing their borders. A couple of years later (by the late 1950s) the Syrian governments discovered that they could play an active role in Lebanon by arming some of its groups: first Rachid Karame and Kamal Jumblatt’s thugs; then some groups within the PLO, starting in the late 1960s; then Mussa Sadr’s militia in the 1970s, and finally Sunni and Shiite islamists in the mid 1980s… and most of the time without having to spend a dime.
What have the successive Lebanese governments done to prevent those actions up to now? Nothing other than protesting, most of the time discretly and now very loudly, accusing the Syrian President (which is more than likely) of being behind the past political assassinations, bombings and attacks.
“We fight with our words”, said a Lebanese politician a couple of months ago… “our voice is our only weapon”, said another. Sadly enough, for once, these politicians are speaking their minds. The very corrupt and murderous political class we have is now conviced that words are weapons, and that they can actually do everything with words.
It is true that words in politics can have important consequences, but they certainly do not replace deeds and political actions.
Will the deployment of UN troups prevent Syria from intervening in Lebanon? Certainly not. Not more than the UNIFIL has prevented the launching of rockets from Lebanon to Israel. So what can? Maybe the quintuple D.
Diplomacy: The Lebanese government has joined an international axis so as to “counter” Syria. This has left little room for diplomacy. What has the Lebanese government done to try to seperate the Iranians from the Syrians? What has it done to try to convince the Turks to stick with the Lebanese, or the Jordanians, or the Iraqis?
Democracy (concensual democracy): Lebanese democracy is based on intercommunal understanding, and equality between all groups, it’s by showing that element that it can discredit other regimes that do not follow these principles. How come there is no Alawite in government?
Deliberation (public deliberation): Lebanon should strengthen public liberties and free speech, and encourage the Lebanese media to adress the Syrian population and public. Up to now, the Lebanes politicians have been attacking the Syrian government in general terms and the Syrian population has been reading this as xénophobia towards them (with some help from the Syrian government). What steps has the government taken to prevent or even to reverse that?
Discretion: If the Lebanese sees the Syrian government as a threat, does it necessarily have to voice it. Wouldn’t it be better to try to use counter-intelligence or to develop a strategy to try to pressure the Syrian government without offending the Syrian people.

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Security, Syria, Violence | Leave a Comment »

The clumsiness of a hoisted flag

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/06/2007

mas10616.jpg
Some newspapers reported yesterday that the Lebanese army hoisted a Lebanese flag over a building in Nahr el Bared camp. Even though I support the army in this battle (though I still hold it accountable for any violation of war obligations), I found the picture very shocking. I was wondering how the Palestinians of Lebanon are reacting to it. Hailing a flag is a sign of conquest. And the conquered land is no other than what these Palestinians perceive as “their” territory (a surrogate territory where roads and neighbourhoods are baptised by the name of the towns and villages the refugees left in 1948). Now even though the camps are Lebanese, they have been “settled” by Palestinians in 1948 and granted an extra-territorial status by the army and government in 1969. Even though this status was repealed in 1986, the extraterriotarility is still respected by the Lebanese government. Furthermore, in the Lebanese-Palestinian psyche, the camps hold the remains of Palestine. So by hoisting the Lebanese flag over the camp, the Lebanese soldiers are presenting themselves as conquerers, and this will be compared by the Palestinians to another conquest, that of 1948.
I think the Lebanese army and police should maitain order in the camps, as they should everywhere else in Lebanon, but this shouldn’t be done as an act of conquest but as the spreading of the rule of law.

Posted in Lebanon, Political behaviour, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Security in the foreground… reframing an issue in Lebanon (1)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/06/2007

Since 2005, and in the midst of car explosions, political assassinations and terrorist attacks, security wasn’t seen as a seperate concern, an issue in itself. It was linked to another political issue: the ongoing fight against the Syrian regime (or for “Justice” as some people put it) and its remanants in Lebanon (what the pro-government forces called the “shared syro-lebanese security apparatus”).

The explosions and attacks were either seen as messages meant to convince the Lebanese that their sole protector was Syria, or as a punitive measure towards the political class for its pro-independence drive. The only way the pro-government politicians responded was by attacking the Syrian regime even more and accusing it of being responsible for all the terrorist acts that had taken place in Lebanon since February 2005. No serious inquiry followed these attacks. Neither the Minister of the interior nor the Minister of Justice made it a top priority concern. No regular accounts were given to the citizens about any progress in this issue. The finger was pointed at Syria, and the politicians thought that this was enough, and that everything will go back in order after the establishment of an Special International Court to prosecute Hariri’s muderers. So security was equated with the tribunal.
But now that the UN has decided to establish such a tribunal, and is in the process of doing so, it is quite clear that the establishment of the tribunal is no solution to the security threat. But then what is?

Posted in Justice, Lebanon, Middle East, Political behaviour, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Reconciling armed intervention and peacemaking

Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/06/2007

During a relaxed summer brunch in Vincennes, a heated arguments started between a Lebanese-Palestinian friend and myself over the combats that were raging in the Nahr el Bared camp next to Tripoli.
She was suprised to see that I was supporting the Lebanese army. And I told her that I felt the same about her condemnation of the Lebanese Army. In fact, I’m sure that we were both rather uncomfortable with our stands. Neither of us is really supportive of military interventions of any kind. But in the current situation, is there any other choice than the military one?
The question is tricky and it hides many others. What is the current situation? What are the problems that should be solved? How can they be solved? Are there other ways than the military intervention to solve them? Is the military intervention solving them? Is any side initiating another solution or advancing another means to solve them? What are the objectives of the military intervention?
These are questions that hardly anyone is asking these days. They are all subsumed by a global one “Are you with or against the military intervention?”.

Posted in Lebanon, Peace, Security, Violence | 1 Comment »

Demographic threats

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/03/2007

In the Middle East, the concept of “demographic threats” or “demographic timebomb” is a basic component in political discussions in two countries only: Lebanon and Israel. One can remark incidently that these are the only democracies in the Middle East, but of a particular type. The democratic factor explains the fact that these issues are in the public debate. The particularities of these democracies could explain why demography is perceived as a threat. They are both communally based democracies: Israel based on one dominant group seen as the “raison d’être” and one of the defining component of the State (hence the qualification of “ethnocracy”), while Lebanon is based on a power sharing forumla (hence the qualification of consensus democracy or “concensocracy”). Demographic change can in effect threaten this main feature of each country (the jewish character of Israel and the power sharing forumla in Lebanon).
In Israel, demography has become a security issue. Oddly enough, in Lebanon, hasn’t been analyzed in these terms withstanding the fact that demographic change has been used by several actors to define or redefine the main characteristics of the State.

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Lebanon, Security, Violence | 8 Comments »

Fear and loathing in the Metn

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/02/2007

Mini Bus attackTwo bombs seem to have exploded in two mini-buses transporting people from the mountaineous regions of the Metn to the coast early this morning. The news agencies don’t seem to agree on the number of casualties, but the lebanese politicians seem to agree that they shouldn’t miss this opportunity to mobilise “their troops” and make it serve their agenda.
The pro-government forces (I have decided not to call them by any other name) called on the population to participate massively in tomorrow’s rally to reject that at (hinting that otherwise they would be condoning the acts or reacting in the way the perpetrators of this criminal act want them to). The FPM has as usual posed itself as the victim of these acts and its leader said that it was part of a conspiracy aimed to push the Christians to arm themselves in the name of self-defence. Michel Aoun was not the only person to speak of a conspiracy, the current minister of the Interior (who withdrew his resignation 10 months after having given it) spoke of a conspiracy too… But he was obviously hinting to Syria.
Why speak of a conspiracy? Why not just qualify the crime and go ahead with the inquiry. Why not speak of the measures that the police will be taking to prevent such crimes from occuring again? Minister Sabeh has already proven his incompetence on several occasions and has finally decided not to take any political responsibility for the failures of his ministry to fight such crimes.
For the first time in over a year, the civilian population was directly targeted in a anonymous attack. And the political class is reacting to it in the same way it reacted to the political assassinations that shook the country in 2005 and 2006. No one is trying to comfort the population, all they care about is the amount of political gain they can get from it (and one has to admit that the pro-government forces are working much harder on this than the opposition).

Posted in Lebanon, Political behaviour, Prejudice, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »