Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not your war, not your victory

We've barely made it to day four of the ceasefire, and already the usual suspects (Syrian President Al-Assad, Jumblatt & co) are trying to stir the shit pot. And many Lebanese are falling for it-- the old sectarian trap, and the blame-Syria-for-your-bad-hair-day game.

A few Lebanese billionaire politicians announced that they would repair the infrastructure in and around their hometowns/ political bases. Hariri Jr. and his aunt Bahia will pay for bridges in Saida (Rafiq Hariri's birthplace), Najib Miqati will fund a few in the north, and the Hjejj family will cover the repairs to the Litani river bridges. Who needs a central government?

Yesterday evening, I witnessed a friendly tiff between the owner of the Internet cafe and a client. We were discussing the arrest of a Lebanese Army general who was caught on camera serving tea to the Israeli troops that occupied his barracks in Marjayoun. The client interrupted our conversation and flew into a fury, blaming the Syrians for the weather, his daughter's promiscuity, the flat tire his car suffered, the acute avocado shortage, and so on and so forth. The owner kept trying to divert the conversation back to the original topic. To no avail.

In that same Internet cafe, there are three employees, all roughly the same age-- in their early 20s, all business and finance students at American institutions, all boys looking to have a good time. Two are Shia, one Druze. Throughout the war, they worked double shifts together to cover for the employees who had evacuated or fled to Syria. They were exposed to the same airstrikes, played the same video wargames, day in, day out. Now that the war's over, the Druze boy is the subject of endless snipes about his leader, his people. I always contribute, "You Druze, you lose", which is lost on all of them, and then call the two Shia "terrorists" for good measure. This lightens the loaded atmosphere considerably; they in turn accuse me of being a spy, to which I add "and a prostitute/Jehova's witness."

Amin, the owner of Cafe Younes, told me that 4 of the employees from one of his coffeeshop branches returned to work today. They are all in their 20s-- two Shia, two Christians. Before the war, they would hang out off the job, go to nightclubs together. They are friends. During the war, one of the Shia girls who lives in Dahieyeh fled to the Bekaa valley, which was also heavily bombed by the Israelis. The Christians spent their time up in the mountains in Broumana, a Christian area and summer resort.

They met yesterday for the first time since the beginning of the war. The Shia girl was exhausted and traumatized by the continuous bombing; the Christian mocked her for it. She asked him, "What were you doing the whole time up in Broumana? Partying? Hanging out at the pool club?" He retorted, "What else am I supposed to do? This wasn't our war. We didn't ask for it." "Well its not your victory, either," she snapped.

Someone go tell that to Bashar al-Assad, Saad Hariri and a few other party crashers.

On another note, I crossed paths with Sudanese man today who was wearing a T-shirt that read (in German): I am a homosexual, retarded, asylum-seeking foreigner in Germany". I stopped him to be sure I had read correctly. "Do you know what your T-shirt says?" I asked. "No," he responded. I translated it for him, and then added that I think it was meant ironically. He shrugged, and continued on his way.

I forgot to ask him if he retrieved that shirt from a humanitarian relief package. Do they monitor the slogans on T-shirts donated to charity? Apparently not.


Anonymous said...

OMG.. that tshirt. It's so sad, but I'm cracking up over it. Soooo wrong.


a said...

No picture? Pretty Pleeese. Hope you did lose your camera again?

a said...

/s did "not"..

euroarabe said...

always great posts!
well done.
you druze you loose! hilarious!

Robert in Beirut said...

I have enjoyed your blog. What you describe is familiar, but your perspective is refreshingly different. I started mine in Beirut, and now it has followed me to Washington. With the airport open again, I hope to be posting from Beirut again soon.

kwtia said...

Thanks for always guaranteeing that laughs come with sharp insights..keep it up, you're one of my regular stops every morning.

Diaspora said...

Hey Robert, we all hope things get back to normal in Lebanon ASAP.
however i believe your blogspot URL is
since we all like to see blogs of Lebanon.

only works with FireFox guys.

zack said...

How about posting a picture of Nasrallah that we can reprint. We need one for our cultural center in Rhinebeck, NY.

Leon said...

As an addition to your wonderful blog, readers maybe interested in the exceptionally good article in the current London Review of Books: Charles Glass on Hizbullah

I love Munich said...

OMG ... where on earth did he take THAT from??? I sure hope relief organisations do show a BIT more taste ... how awful!

AngryQueerPunk said...

Probably a neo-nazi arsehole who thought it would be funny to mock an "Ausländer".

Lest not forget, this is a county which invented systematic race hate (Germany)

Anonymous said...

Myth of Isreal wanting only to have peace !

"In fact, this was no simple “clash” during an intelligence-gathering mission, as early reports in the Israeli media made clear before the official story was established. Israeli special forces launched the covert operation to capture a Hizbullah leader, Sheikh Mohammed Yazbak, way beyond the Litani River, the northern extent of Israel’s supposed “buffer zone”. The hit squad were disguised not only as Arabs -- a regular ploy by units called “mistarvim” -- but as Lebanese SOLDIERS driving in LEBANESE army vehicles. When their cover was blown, Hizbullah opened fire, killing one Israeli and wounding two more in a fierce gun battle.

(It is worth noting that, according to the later official version, Israel’s elite forces were exposed only as they completed their intelligence work and were returning home. Why would Israel be using special forces, apparently in a non-belligerent fashion, in a dangerous ground operation when shipments of weapons crossing from Syria can easily be spotted by Israel’s spy drones and its warplanes?)

It is difficult to see how this operation could be characterised as “defensive” except in the Orwellian language employed by Israel’s army -- which, after all, is misleadingly known as the Israel Defence Forces. UN Resolution 1701, the legal basis of the ceasefire, calls on Israel to halt “ALL OFFENSIVE military operations”. How much more offensive could the operation be?

But, more significantly, what is Israel’s intention towards the United Nation’s ceasefire when it chooses to VIOLATE it not only by assaulting Hizbullah positions in an area outside the “buffer zone” it has invaded but also then IMPLICATED the Lebanese ARMY in the attack? Is there not a DANGER that Hizbullah fighters may now fire on Lebanese troops fearing that they ARE undercover ISRAELI soldiers? Does Israel’s deceit not further weaken the standing of the Lebanese army, which under Resolution 1701 is supposed to be policing south Lebanon on Israel’s behalf? Could reluctance on the part of Lebanon’s army to engage Hizbullah as a result not potentially provide an excuse for Israel to renew hostilities? And what would have been said had Israel launched the same operation disguised as UN peacekeepers, the international force arriving to augment the Lebanese soldiers already in the area? These questions need urgent answers but, as usual, they were not raised by diplomats or the media.

On the diplomatic front, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, REJECTED out of hand a peace initiative from the ARAB League that it hopes to bring before the Security Council next month. The Arab League proposal follows a similar attempt at a comprehensive peace plan by the Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, in 2002 that was also instantly brushed aside by Israel. On this occasion, Gillerman claimed there was no point in a new peace process; Israel, he said, wanted to concentrate on disarming Hizbullah under UN Resolution 1701. Presumably that means more provocative “raids”, like the one on Saturday, in violation of the ceasefire.

BuenaPrensa said...

I have started a new blog about the conflict in middle east and the role of the mass-media.
I would like you to visit it, it is mainly in spanish, but it has many videos in English and a few articles in English.
Hope to see you around, good luck with your blog!
Buena Prensa, Buen Mundo!
Good press, good world!

Anonymous said...

I want one of those shirts!!!

And angryqueerpunk, Germany didn't invent systematic race hate; my country was slaughtering natives and enslaving blacks practically since Euros stepped off the boat. I think the Nazis even borrowed some of their methods from American Indian removal campaigns. >_<