Sunday, October 22, 2006

Israel Says the P Word: Does Geneva Listen?

After agonising denial and media spinning, Israeli Officials admits to using phosphorous bombs in the infamous July war. Confessing in the ABC of legal logic is self-incriminating. So in the mind of any sensible human being following the disgusting attacks, Israel is guilty as confessed. Consequently, Israel should be punished as by international law.

Unfortunately Geneva and its conventions will not take action. No sanctions will be called. No premptive, punitive, or proactive measures will be even contemplated. The international community will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear and will allow Israel to place itself above all international law. And no finger will be raised. This will go on as long as the BBC still calls them 'controversial' instead of illegal phosphoric bombs, and as long as Israel is allowed to justify their use in 'open ground' on its pages.

All this is not new, it is just additional evidence to throw in the face of any pro-Israeli self-rightous blinded paranoids who claim that the Israeli army is a 'moral' one, and that Israel is a 'civilised country'. Until Geneva wakes up from the coma, the international community shouldn't wonder why phosphorically affected generations are still saying: Bring it On!

BBC Top Story: Israel admits phosphorous bombing
Israel fought Hezbollah in Lebanon in July and AugustIsrael has for the first time admitted it used controversial phosphorous bombs during fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July and August.....

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lebanon businesses try to bounce back

'In normal times, business on Beirut's busy seafront would be brisk. But, in the aftermath of the recent conflict, the Beirut Cafe on the Corniche is struggling to get back on its feet.'

Read Alex Klaushofer's story on BBC

Monday, October 16, 2006

the thin line between commenting & spin-doctoring: Joseph Samaha and Al-Akhbar

Joseph Samaha is a gifted columnist. His arguments are well-put and are always analytical of the current affairs. His latest argument, however, is somehow flawed. In today’s column in Al-Akhbar, he sounded like a typical ‘regime propagandist’ - not different from writers in neighbouring Damascus or in Cairo or those in party-owned media. He constructed a one-sided argument in defence of former army general Michel Aoun.

Samaha was commenting on Aoun’s undelivered but broadcasted speech in yesterday’s Free Patriotic Movement rally that was cancelled due to weather conditions. He rightly described the speech as ‘typical of the middle class Christians’. The speech, as analysed by Samaha, raised issues of interest to the ‘middle class’ such as the values of ‘democracy, sovereignty, human rights, gender equality, citizenship, human and just society, solidarity with unprivileged groups, rule of law, good governance, …. economic development, fighting monopoly, privatisation, and taxation’; values that the columnist described as typical of ‘modern’ and ‘modernising’ classes.

Then Samaha starts mixing-up.

When posing the obvious rhetoric question of ‘where is the originality of the issues that Aoun has raised?’, Samaha gives his rubber stamp without a blink of eye that Aoun is genuine about what he says while others are not. Although Aoun has merely touched on how he envisages the ways to achieve these raised issues.

The obvious example was in the area of economic development, where Aoun was simplistic and general when said that:

‘The main criterion for establishing economic justice is equality and balance between obligations and opportunities among all of our people. We can achieve this by re-writing our tax laws, by austerity in public spending, and by revisiting the meaning of balanced development throughout all areas of the country.’
‘This economy’s main priority should be the support of institutions which promote social solidarity, especially those which deal with health, retirement, and the protection of the Lebanese peoples’ assets from any kind of threat or abuse’.

Then Samaha continues and justifies the ‘sectarianism’ of Aoun and his movement as not ‘bad as the word implies’. His sectarianism, according to the secular Samaha, is justified as a reaction of the foul-play of others.

In 968 words, Samaha made several mistakes. His major failing was in his moral judgement on three main issues:

  1. The neo-liberal economic model of Aoun is a sign of modernity but that of 14 March coalition is harmful.
  2. The democracy of a former army general is definitely good but that of others including those in a coalition of political movements is flawed
  3. The sectarianism of Michel Aoun is benign but that of Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblat and Samir Jaejae is carcinogenic.

While commentators should not be apolitical; there is a thin line between sound arguments and spin-doctoring. Samaha is moving towards the latter.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Logic Lost?

Just after the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah was brokered last August, some of the ‘celebrators’ of the ‘divine victory’ (never mind if they are staunch secular or hardcore leftists) presented a new thesis. “Lebanon of ‘post July 2006’ has become a way different from Lebanon of ‘pre July 2006’; and politics has to change in accordance with the new victory”, they claimed.

Their argument stresses that the discourse and narrative have to change to reflect this victory (never mind its ‘divine’ and ‘holy’ nature). But most importantly, a change in power has to occur. The pre 'July 2006' power-sharing mechanism where 14th of March coalition controls the majority in cabinet was rendered out-of-date with the new geopolitical developments – (never mind if the first to mention this was Bashar Assad of Syria). And a new cabinet has to be formed to include the victors (Hezbollah) and its allies (Michel Aoun, Suleiman Franjieh, Wiam Wahab etc.. to name a few).

But it seems that these ‘celebrators’ have either lost their ‘calendars’, lost their ‘binoculars’, lost their ‘logic’ …or lost them all.

They lost their ‘calendars’ forgetting that Lebanon of ‘post 14 February 2005’ is different from Lebanon of ‘pre 14 February 2005’. They forgot that what followed after killing Rafik Hariri including the UN resolutions, the Syrian withdrawal, the mass uprising, and the mobilisation of the Sunni community were not incidents to undermine or ridicule but events that have changed Lebanon’s politics.

They lost their ‘binoculars’ for not seeing beyond Lebanon’s coasts. Since the ceasefire last August, navies from European states have been monitoring the Lebanese seashore. Not only they cannot see the size of warships that are sailing few kilometres from the Lebanese shoreline but they fail to notice the international decision behind these ships; and that destabilisation of Lebanon would not be accepted.

Indeed, these ‘celebrators’ have lost some ‘logic’ or got a unique one. Their ‘logic’ does not see that developments in Lebanon are related to those in the region; their ‘logic’ believes that ‘Syrian’ interference was over the moment Syrian soldiers left Lebanon; their ‘logic’ still believes that ‘shouting’ and ‘ridiculing’ others brings popularity; their 'logic' thinks that it is easy to go back to pre 14 February 2005 situation...

A clash of logics is not necessarily bad; but it becomes risky when logics are asserted by force. And this is the logic of violence in civil wars.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Inside Hezbollah, Big Miscalculations

"They don't attempt adventures. They're not adventurous types," Goksel said. In every operation, they would project "what it means for Shiites, what it means for the party, what it means for Lebanon, what it means for Syria."

He paused. "One wonders if that process collapsed somehow," he said...

Read Anthony Shadid's article in the Washingtonpost

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Bouquet of Generals

General Michel Aoun (above right), is a man of ambitions; at 75 he is still full of energy to nominate himself for Lebanon’s presidency. A retired army aommander, he seeks to win the presidency from the current incumbent, General Emile Lahoud (above left)- also a retired army commander.

The tale of these two generals has always been melodramatic. Lahoud took over the Army command from Aoun in 1990 after Aoun was forced into exile in France for 15 years. When Lahoud became president in 1998, Aoun was a fierce critic of him as a pro-Syrian and corrupt president. But upon his return from exile in spring 2005 and in the wake of Hariri Assassination and Syrian withdrawal, Aoun shifted into protecting and defending Lahoud against critics from the anti-Syrian control group of 14 March Alliance who were demanding his resignation.

It appeared that the two generals have struck some kind of a formula: if Lahoud has to go, then Aoun is to replace him. The General has left, long live the General formula. But expectedly the 14 March Alliance rejected this proposal fearing that Aoun is a continuity to the authoritarian rule of Lahoud; two generals of the same coin.

Ironically, the choice beyond the two generals looks to be ……a general; not retired though. Slowly but surely, the current Army commander General Michel Suleiman is raising his profile as a strong contender in the Presidential race. So far, he has played it right. He did not clamp down the anti-Syria demonstrators during the Beirut Spring 2005 but ensured that Lahoud is protected if demonstrators move to the presidential palace. He sends troops to South Lebanon as a result of the 1701 UN resolution but makes it clear that his army is not disarming Hezbollah; and that the Army along with Hezbollah will be protecting the ‘land and the people’. In so far, he has succeeded in playing a win-win formula.

Today, General Suleiman scored more points. Amid the political bickering and while General Aoun has not stopped giving populist but content-less speeches and while General Lahoud has been waging a ‘Idi Amin – style’ war on the French President, General Suleiman chose the right moment and the right place. In a victory celebration and with news that Israel finalised its withdrawal from South Lebanon, he raised the Lebanese flag on the last point of the Israeli-Lebanese borders.

A third General is rising. More sensible than other generals? yes indeed. But more democratic? time will tell.

Army commander, Michel Suleiman (Middle) at the borders at Laboune today celebrating Israeli withdrawl

Sunday, October 01, 2006

'the Marwahin 23'

..."The problem," she [woman at Marwahin cemetry] said, "is that these poor people belonged to a country called Lebanon and our lives are worth nothing to anyone else. If this had happened in Israel - if all these children were Israeli and the Hizbollah had killed them all with a helicopter - the US president would travel to the cemetery each year for a memorial service and there would be war crimes trials and the world would denounce this crime. But no president is going to come to Marwahin. There will be no trials." ....

Read Robert Fisk's full article: Marwahin 15 July 2006: The anatomy of a massacre in The Independent