Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Flag Fest I

Pierre Gemayel-- "Sheikh Pierre" to his followers and "the Prince of Youth" to Prime Minister Saniora-- is dead. He was gunned down yesterday at point-blank range in Jdeideh to the north of Beirut, in broad daylight. An unknown assassin fired a dozen shots through the driver's window with a silencer-equipped gun.

Jumblatt, Saad Hariri, Michael Bolton and Nayla Maowad blamed Syria. The UN Security Council unilaterally condemned the assassination; and Hezbollah said the assassins were trying to sow chaos and civil war. Everyone left work for home in a panic when the news broke. Christian teenagers burnt tires and set trashcans on fire in the Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh and in Gemayel's hometown, Bikfaya. This all happened while I was down south in Aita Shaab.

I returned to Beirut this evening and drove straight into a horde of approximately 150 teenagers congregated outside the Phalangist headquarters in Saifi. They had arranged white paper bags in the form of a the Phalangist party's symbol-- a cedar tree that looks it was drawn by a four-year old. Not entirely appropriate for an organization with fascist origins.

The leader of the Phalangists' student organizations for all the Lebanese private universities -- a chubby young man in his early twenties-- said they were there for a "sit in". They did not want a big turnout tonight because that would discourage people from attending the funeral rally scheduled for tomorrow, he claimed. Speeches by the deceased Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel and civil war tunes blasted from massive speakers perched on top of a pick-up truck. Youngsters waving the Lebanese flag, the Druze PSP party flag and photos of Rafiq Hariri circled the sit-in honking their car horns.

So who do you suspect killed Pierre Gemayel, I asked. "Hezbollah, of course," he responded matter-of-factly. "We will not resort to peaceful means anymore. We are ready for everything. We have nothing to lose. Our lives are not more precious than our leader's and he is dead. We will fight tomorrow." And then: "There will be a suprise." Sound familiar? The chubby student leader also informed me that he is still unemployed although he graduated a year-and-a-half ago, as if to lend weight to his claim that he has nothing to lose.

I spoke to another student leader of the Phalangists, who purportedly represents the party at all universities, public and private. He reiterated that they are "ready for anything", but took a more moderate line, insisting that they would consult with their allies before resorting to violence.

Just now a dozen cars operated by people barely old enough to hold a driver's license passed through Hamra and Qoreitem. They waved portraits of Hariri, Lebanese Forces flags, PSP flags and the likes, and tried their best to make a lot of noise. I have never seen the (Christian) Lebanese Forces flag flown in (Muslim) west Beirut so I guess that's a sign of how healthy and cross-sectarian the March 14th movement is. I felt sorry for these kids hanging out of the sides of their convertibles. Despite the fact that this assassination benefits the government, because it puts a hold on the opposition's plans to stage massive demonstrations this week and also invites international attention and hysteria over the death of another "pro-Syrian" oh-so-enlightened and inspirational figure, March 14th suffers from the political equivalent of penis envy. They might buy themselves a week or so, but no more. They can burn trash and beat up helpless Syrian cab drivers, but I doubt they can break the Aoun-Hezbollah alliance with one fell swoop.

There will surely be incidents of vandalism and possibly violence tomorrow, but I don't believe an all-out civil war will errupt. Pierre Gemayel was an uninspiring politician and -- by all accounts-- a slovenish lazy young man. Even if the hardened look of the teenagers present at the Phalangist rally tonight frightened me, it takes two to tango and they are no match for the opposition in terms of strength, size and organization.


bech said...

If i'm not mistaken Amin Gemayel did not blame Syria. But I may be late in terms of updated "public declarations"

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Debbie Livni, Israel’s flamboyant foreign minister, just gave an interview to reporters in Jerusalem: interestingly, she said Israel supports the “moderate” coalition government of Lebanon led by Prime Minister Fuad Saniura [recall: that’s the sinister assortment of "Christian" Neo-Nazis and pro-Saudi Islamist technocrats].

This is what she had to say:
"The news from Lebanon is another example of the kind of region, the kind of
neighborhood we are living in," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said. "This
is between moderates and extremists."

Notice the use of the “tough neighborhood” metaphor used by Donald Rumsfeld back in March 2003 to justify the inaction of US troops standing idly while looters pillaged museums at will and burned Catholic churches and Sunni mosques across Baghdad.

This expression is actually a staple of American rightwing discourse: the south side of Chicago and the suburbs of Detroit are “tough neighborhoods” infested by Niggers and Ayrabz living lazily off welfare subsidies while honest (read: White) blue collars are working overtime!

Interestingly, Debbie Livni happens to be the daughter of Eitan Livni, a Polish-born member of the Irgun terrorist group, and one of the cofounders of the rightwing Likud party.

You may recall that Irgun was an openly Fascist Jewish organization, armed and funded by the Duce Benito Mussolini during World War II...

2nd Generation Fascists of the world unite!

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine a more appropriate sacrifical lamb than Pierre Gemayel? I bet Hizbollah retaliates by wacking Nabi Berri.

Oberon Brown said...

Despite the fact that this assassination benefits the government, because it puts a hold on the opposition's plans to stage massive demonstrations...
And I thought you were a smart person Emily...
March 14 are killing their own guys to delay a rally? to blame it on the syrians (as if they've never done it so far)? to draw worldwide attention?? this is completely ridiculous...

Guthman Bey said...

Have to agree with Oberon on that one.
And even with His Worthiness FatFat himself. I am about as anti-March-14 as they come, but the idea that in this tiny country elements of one faction are supposed to kill their own in order to gain some chimerical advantage is typical Lebanese conspiracy delirium. Hate them or not, but with Assad/Shawkat the style is overt and "in your fucking face". Is this worse than encouraging the Israelis to incinerate scores of civilians? I really don't think so. La guerre c'est la guerre chers amis.

bech said...

Nobody said it's the 14 of march who did it. plus the 14 of March is a group of very different people.

You should probably think of the murky world of security services working for different interests.

The important thing is to see that this clearly harms Syria in all aspect. Unless you want to go with the JUmblatt hypothesis that Bashar's strategy is to kill everyone until we back off from the tribunal. OOpss the tribunal is underway! bad strategy Bashar!

You should read the Israeli press more often. not one media outlet has not voiced skepticism towards the idea that Syria could be behind it. At best it could Syrian groups against syria who wants to force the international tribunal legitimacy.

Give me one valid political reason why Hizbullah or Syria (two very strong political agent today) would kill this guy and provoke a bigger alienation among the Christian population, and drive out more of the Christian population from their new found allies (Aoun's movement).

think think for god's sake think! You are making us loose time writing endless comments and posts because of your ignorance.

Anonymous said...

hi bech,

you unfortunately are assuming that the syrian overlords are logical and reasonable with more than a brain cell to share inbetween them. More than two years ago,the americans had given all indications that they were waiting to pounce on syria when bashar gave them the excuse by forcing the extension of lahoud's presidency. He opened the world's eye on himself and his regime when he could have chosen any one of his honchos to put in place of Lahoud, instead he chose to forgo all sense of reason to teach the Lebanse a lesson and decided to give the americans an excuse to start hanging him out to dry. Come on, syrian logic?
Politically bashar is an imbecile. He's made huge mistakes before, i think you are giving him too much credit for resonable behaviour. I don't really think we'll ever know who did it, but the current syrian regime's idiotic behavioral history should also be taken into account when looking for suspects.

PS there is no need to insult EDB and call her ignorant just because she came to a different conclusions form yours. Unless you have inside information that we don't know about your writings are also pure speculation.

bech said...

1- A minimum of reason is needed to act on the political sphere

2- Using Lahoud was quite instrumental and a very logical decision. no teaching no nothing. Nobody could replace Lahoud at the time in the prevailing security dilemma in place. but this is a whole different chapter and no time to explain

3- Syria has just signed a deal with Iraq, is close to negotiate with Israel, has its best ally in Lebanon being the strongest party on the ground (Hizbullah and Tayyar), and all of sudden just because it likes killing people, it wacks an insignificant politician that will only produce anger among christians and push syrian bashers to legitimize the tribunal. mm that's not just stupid that's just complete alienation and dellusion when the alternative explanations are so straightforward.

4- Instead of thinking of Syria as the possible perpetrator, think of why everytime there is something happening you think it's Syria. And this of the fact that people who did it most probably think that you'll think the same!

5- I never insulted EDB, I was referring to other comments made. On the contrary I like what she writes. Unless all the above commentators are EDB in disguise! In this case, I don't know what to say, I'm just confused...

EDB said...

Oberon, you are welcome to disagree with me. But I did not say March 14th pulled the trigger, did I?

What I said was that the government benefits from this assassination. Undeniably they are in a better position now than they were 3 days ago with the opposition poised to take to the street. This has strengthened their calls for an international tribunal, allowed them to rally their supporters to take to the streets and effectively put the opposition's plans on ice. Pierre Gemayel's leadership is no loss. See Bech's post on the shifting nature of assassination. If the Syrians did it then they are trying to screw over their allies in Lebanon. That's another point entirely...

And no, Bech, I am not the author of the previous comments. I missed the whole "ignorant" thing. Where did that come from? I agree with all the points you made here and on your blog. Very well put.

We don't know who killed Pierre Gemayel; I am almost certain we will never know. We do know that the recent rhetoric in the media is flaming sectarian tensions, in particular March 14th's fearmongering prior to this assassination. While the opposition paints the government as illegitimate, beholden to US interests, corrupt and incompetent, March 14th paint the opposition as the devil, who would sell this country into Syrian/Iranian servitude at any cost. That much we know and it needs to stop. Now. Everything else is speculation.

bech said...

fyewwww...(deep sigh of relief) for a moment I thought i mistakenly called you ignorant without my very own acknowledgement... I thought it really ironic as I happen to totally agree with you in your post and in your comment!

Anonymous said...

hi bech,

Did you consider that it was elements around bashar that did it for purely self preservation reasons? His brother and brother in law, or our previous intellegence ruler, for instance, may have done this despite Syrian political progress abroad and in lebanon. Its all guesswork right now, once the tribunal brings charges we will find out eh?

As for the march 14 killing themselves for the cause I find this slightly unrealistic accusation. We all know there are elements with unsavoury history in the March 14's but I seriously doubt they would do this to their own don't you?

I agree with you it pulled the rug from under the opposition, but if this stuff is going on on a personal level for the syrian individuals, I don't think they care about opposition or any other position.

There are also the usual supects , the Israelis,who despite being capaple of all evil, I doubt did this to (of all M14 christian politicians they could have chosen) a Gemayel!

The CIA? In broad daylight? There would have been way more sofisticated ways for them na?

It just smells of mafioso style, moukhabraty kind of assassination.

The question is will we ever know?

bech said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bech said...

habibi anonymous,

I never said or pointed fingers at the 14th of March although they are not angels (let me just remind you that one of them slaughtered with his own hands for several years, i.e. samir geagea, and the second one ordered massive killings i.e. warlord jumblatt).

I never discounted the Syrian hypothesis either, and as you said we will never know. anyway, this type of assassination (as any political assassination) is not done in a way that you can know who did it but to create a political effect.

Now what you're saying is not really logical i.e. someone in the syrian ruling regime, a relative or something, etc. Unless it is someone who wants to hurt the Syrian regime (and who's syrian). You have plenty of those, like Khaddam and cie.

You can imagine all sorts of converging interests here from the US to Syria via Israel and Lebanon but one thing is sure.

The big losers, and i repeat the big losers from this assassination and everybody should be very very attentive of that because the country is in shamble because of that; the big losers are Hizbullah, Aoun's movement Tayyar, and Syria.

Now you couldn't care less about syria and it's fine i can't also ask you to be a humanist, but keep this in mind. Someone want to f**k up the possibility of a union in this country, and by using Hizbullah or Syria as a scapegoat, you're going right straight in the trap.

But history will tell (and it already have spoken so many time).

Dancing Dave said...

So fascists ultimately allied with the Bush neo-cons are on the upsurge in Lebanon. Nothing could be more dangerous for your future.

If you don't stop these people now, you can be sure that Lebanon will become another Iraq.

Have no patience for stupid young "Lebanese" who really don't know enough history to claim any identity at all--both the the Bush and Gemayel families supported Hitler in
WWII, and their behavior since shows
that they have not changed.

Anonymous said...

"Now what you're saying is not really logical i.e. someone in the syrian ruling regime, a relative or something, etc. Unless it is someone who wants to hurt the Syrian regime (and who's syrian). You have plenty of those, like Khaddam and cie."

Hi again bech, this I think is a rather naive statement. Any of those I listed could be scrambling to cover their asses from the tribunal, I seriously doubt they care what happens to bashar if they're going to spend the rest of their lives in some European jail. You accuse me of being single minded in rushing to accuse the syrian regime , yet you show the same obstinancy about even agknowledging (sorry,I'm sure that's spelt wrong) that Rustum et al are nasty enough people to care more about themselves (and their millions) than about bashar's status or their own country. Not everybody is as patriotic as you think.

As for my humanist side, let me tell you that I do care about what happens to Syria and the Syrians, since I think they are the closest nation to us in terms of the People. Damascus runs only second to Beirut as one of my favorite places to be. However I pity the Syrians their ruling regime, and I don't want them to come back and rule us. As a Lebanese I think that I'm justified to want to elect my politicians without Syrian interference.