Sunday, November 27, 2005

Fear and Loathing in the Levant

One would think that Bashar Al Assad would have learned from his colossal blunders to date. One would think that Hizbullah would learn that they need to step into the political fray in a truly Lebanese way and stop showing support for a country that nearly destroyed Lebanon. One would think that the Israelis would learn that anything and everything they say regarding Lebanon and Hizbullah would be taken with about a pound of salt and a tonne of loathing. One would think that all this would occur to all of these players in the international scene; but alas dear readers, none of this has occurred.

In the weeks since the Mehlis report (both authorized and , unauthorized) has been released, Syrian Government rhetoric has reached an all time high. President Bashar Al Assad made a speech two weeks ago that he would have been better off not making. With the kind of pressure Syria is facing from both external and internal forces, you would think he would take a more conciliatory tone but no, in yet another blunder, his speech was full of fiery rhetoric about “forces looking to destroy Arab Nationalism”. That line which appears in every single Arab dictatorial speech needs to be gotten rid of. Assad’s speech was long on rhetoric and insults and short on real content. Not only did he not say anything to help Syria dig itself out of the whole it is in, he insulted the Lebanese Government and people by calling Prime Minister Fouad Al Siniora a slave and calling the Lebanese people slaves. Noticeably left out in his slave diatribe was Syrian toady and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. Assad of course neglected to mention all of the men who were puppets of Syria because apparently to the infinitely politically unintelligent Assad, the only good puppets are Syrian puppets. To add insult to injury, not one but two of Syria’s daily newspapers have been publishing articles that are nothing less than inflammatory. Al Thawra newspaper has printed an article that over 400 Mossad agents are currently operating in Lebanon in conjunction with European and U.S. spy agencies. One should ask how they come by this information. Did they see it in a crystal ball? Did they interview members of the Mossad who they say are stationed there? Or are they just engaging in the spoon fed governmental fear mongering that is a hallmark of Syrian dictatorship. Then there is the other state run newspaper Tishrin who is calling on the Lebanese to come out in protest against the government of Fouad Al Siniora. This is possibly the most laughable and hypocritical statement ever made by a state run newspaper that would never dare to go against the status quo and expose the corruption of it’s own government.

Ahhh, Hizbullah. Where to start? How to start? This is possibly the most delicate part
of our new found independence. As a country, we can never allow ourselves to forget the blood sacrifices that Hizbullah have made on behalf of Lebanon. We should never forget that the 25 mile zone in South Lebanon is now free because of them. As a country, we cannot discount the numerous charities they fund and the poor they help. Hizbullah is a truly important part of our history. It’s where they fit into the future of Lebanon that is causing a spot of trouble. I have written before about the importance of Hizbullah integrating into the politics of Lebanon as a true political party if for no other reason than to keep the rest of the political parties on the straight and narrow (if such a thing is possible in Lebanon).

In order for Hizbullah to stay both relevant and revered they must make themselves over into a political party. No one is telling them to forget how they came about or the sacrifices they have made. What we need them to do is provide a voice for those who have no voices. That has always been their traditional role. When no one dared to enter the 25 mile zone, they did. When no one was feeding the poor in their areas, they did. For a very long time, they provided services that the government wouldn’t or couldn’t provide. They are a vital part of Lebanon but they are not integrated fully into our political system. Flying in the face of anything that makes any sort of public relations sense, the Hizbullah parliamentary bloc walked out on a cabinet session in response to Assad’s speech. When will Hizbullah realize that they are becoming their own worst enemy by continuously supporting a country that almost destroyed us?

In a final bit of political stupidity, Israeli planes dropped leaflets denouncing Hizbullah in Lebanon this week. The drop occurred after skirmished between Hizbullah and Israel. The translated text of the leaflet reads:

"Oh citizens of Lebanon, Who is 'protecting Lebanon'? Who is lying to you? Who sends yours sons into a battle for which they are not prepared? Who wishes for the return of ruin and destruction? Hizbollah brings on the worst kind of damage. Who are the tools in the hands of the Syrians and Iranians? The state of Israel is awake, watching over the protection of its citizens and sovereignty.
The State of Israel"

While it is unclear which bureaucrat had the bright idea to drop these leaflets into Lebanon, it is very clear what the Lebanese reaction was to these leaflets. They were met with derision and loathing. People read them and then threw them away. In other words, they took them with a grain of salt and a tonne of loathing and looked at them as another tool that the Israelis are using to sow strife in a country already teetering on the brink. Why the Israelis would think that anyone with a quarter of a brain cell in Lebanon would take anything they say seriously is beyond me. The days of bringing in Israel to Lebanon in backroom deals is over and any politician in Lebanon who wants to save his/her own skin knows that.

The entire Middle East is a powder keg and the actions of the parties discussed in this article are sure to set off repercussions that could last a very long time. One would hope that fear and loathing being sown in the area will be over soon. With Iraq a mess, Gaza on the brink of being rebuilt and Iran on a nuclear rampage, the last thing the area needs is more instability. The question is will any of the parties discussed above take that to heart and attempt to rectify the messes they are creating with their irresponsible actions?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Murder and Shame in the Arab World

Another day, another few hundred unreported deaths in Iraq The top story on BBC East today Middle was the bomb that went off near a hospital in a town called Mahmudiya, This bomb killed 30 but this is only one of many. Iraq has had unprecedented carnage in the last few months perpetrated by both the butchers of the “Coalition” forces and by the butchers of Al Qaeda in Iraq. No place is sacrosanct, no event, no home, no where. A bomb was set off in a funeral procession, another near a school. Just because we don’t hear about it on CNN or Al Jazeera or whatever station du jour doesn’t mean it is not happening.

When it comes to the “Coalition” of the damned, we have no choice and worse yet no voice however, when it comes to the butchers of Al Qaeda in Iraq, we do have a choice and we most certainly do have a voice. It is absolutely shameful that we as Muslims have been largely quiet about the carnage being sown by these murderers. In fact, until the suicide bombings in Jordan, most Arab papers were muted in their criticism of Al Zarqawi and his band of merry murderers. Why is this acceptable? Why has most of the Arab world turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering of those in Iraq.

As a Muslim, I have never identified myself by sect. I have never ever differentiated between what is a Sunni Muslim and a Shiite Muslim. I was raised in a household where Muslims were Muslims and nothing else. As someone who was raised like that, I cannot fathom how we as a group who likes to identify itself by religion can keep quiet. How can we as a group ever talk about the beauty of Islam if we are allowing our fellow Muslims to be butchered.

In Iraq right now, most of the casualties fall under the banner of the Shiite portion of the population. Zarqawi has made no bones about the fact that he targets only Shiites and never if he can help it Sunnis and yet there is this ring of continued silence about him. Only when he attacked Jordan (where he had previously enjoyed a good 57% approval rating) did the Sunni Muslim community finally sit up and take notice.

That gentle readers is where our shame comes in. We have talked about the murders, we have talked them to death. The Arab League has resolutioned the issue to death but still they continue. Where is the moral outrage? Where are all the voices raised in protest? Why did it take a suicide bombing in pre-dominantly Sunni Jordan to provoke protests? Those of us who have been speaking out against Bin Laden, Zarqawi et al from the beginning have nothing to be ashamed of. Those of us who have tacitly agreed with their tactics or just shrugged them off with nary a protest have everything to be ashamed of. Ask yourself which group you belong to and if you belong to the latter, you need to rethink your allegiances.

--Photo from