In customary mainstream media fashion, AFP’s report described the site of today’s terrorist bombings in Dahyeh as one close to “neighbourhoods that are strongholds of Hezbollah”. So I guess that these orphans who are cared for by a SUNNI Islamic charity are part of this hub of Hizbullah militancy and hence legitimate targets of Takfiri retribution, whose suicide bombers chose to detonate one of the two bombs close to the orphanage.
So this is what alienation feels like. I walk down my once favourite area in Beirut, Hamra, and I don’t recognize it any more. I watch some of my compatriots live in their bubble of neo-liberal denial, chanting their “I love life” mantra, and I feel so estranged from them. I read and watch news about the latest advances we have made against al-Qaeda in Syria and Lebanon and I just don’t feel any safer or any less uncertain. And while I have always enjoyed hating my enemy, Israel, I don’t even enjoy hating this new enemy. I feel no sense of triumphalism even when we win battles. Every day feels like a blur; every small pleasure feels like an absurdity. Even grief and sadness feel unreal. People who once meant everything feel like they belong to another lifetime. Aspirations and life goals feel naive and infantile. And with every Dahyeh or Hermil terrorist bombing comes that sense of shame because you are still safe and their residents are not. This is not defeatism, this is the reality of the sporadic and unpredictable nature of terrorist warfare. No matter how many battles we win, we will never get Lebanon back. It will never be the same again.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support our national ski champ’s right to bare her boobs to the world, and am heartened by the outpouring of support she has received from across the political spectrum. But as I was reading the news today about the Lebanese Army’s latest security feats, I recalled how neither Israel’s nor al-Qaeda’s attacks on Lebanese civilans managed to bridge the political and sectarian divide, thanks to the March 14 camp’s insistence on blaming the victims for both types of aggression (if only Hizbullah hadn’t provoked the other side then all would be well). I find it beyond ironic that the sole cross-cutting cleavage in Lebanon is neither social class nor security concerns but literally, Jackie Chamoun’s cleavage. Indeed, we are a nation which can neither identify a common enemy nor rally behind a national resistance movement, but we can all unite behind Jackie’s boobs. All hail to boobies as the new symbol of national unity.
If Israel is a cancer implanted in our midst then the Saudi regime is surely our brain aneurysm. The terrorist bombings in Syria and Lebanon by Saudi-backed groups like Jabhet al-Nusra, have made it clear to us all that there will be no peace or stability in our region so long as this reactionary and decrepit ruling family remains; this pinnacle of moral debauchery; this orgy of violence, “immersed in the mud of enslavement, infanticide and other medieval practices” to borrow the words of Walid Muallem; this architect of filthy Wahhabi sectarianism masquerading as an “Islamic school of thought;” this subhuman cabal of evil incarnate which is too cowardly to fight its own battles but must subcontract them to takfiri nihilists.. .There can be no coexistence with this pathological condition otherwise known as a “regional powerhouse.” The Saudi regime must go.
If the “Hizbullah stronghold” concept wasn’t bad enough, after today’s Hermil bombing , we can now add “pro-Hizbullah region” (see Lebanon’s Daily Star today) and “Hizbullah town” (the BBC before they amended their headline) to refer to predominantly Shia areas in Lebanon targetted by suicide bombers. Aside from the usual blaming of the victims—the Shia must pay for their support for Hizbullah, the classist undertones of this ShiaVille discourse cannot be discounted. No matter how much national unity and cross-sectarian solidarity the Lebanese attempt to muster with their “we are all Dahyeh” slogans, the media’s classist and borderline racist coverage of attacks on the Dahyeh suburbs or the underdeveloped Shia periphery of Baalbek, only serve to ghettoize the Shia as the witting “thug-life” victims of Hizbullah’s turf wars. It also feeds into that whole Saatchi & Saatchi, neoliberal “I love life” crusade practiced by the “why does Hizbullah have to mess with dem Takfiris in Syria?” camp. This is no less than a revival of the language of internal colonialism when the Dahyeh was known as the “Shia slums of Beirut” and/or “the belt of misery”.
Without ignoring or belittling Saudi sponsorship of the Takfiri groups who are slaying Lebanese and Syrian civilians, let us not forget the culpability of Israel and the US in these crimes, including today’s Dahyeh bombing. Not only do we now know that the Obama adminstration has been reaching out to “engage” the Islamic Front in Syria, which contains Al-Qaeda affiliates like Ahrar Al Sham (a senior figure for the group, Abu Khaled al Suri, admitted as much recently), but even more significantly, Obama made this very telling statement to the New Yorker, which effectively distinguishes between a good and a bad al-Qaeda and normalizes the former as a just another benign [to the US at least] sectarian force, involved in petty power-struggles, the implication being, that the US can manipulate these good Takfiris to serve its strategic interests: “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian…And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into…But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for celebrating the death of Sharon, but so long as we remain mindful of mainstream media’s attempt to draw a false distinction between good and bad (using the euphemism “controversial” as an epithet to Sharon for example) Zionist leaders. Yes Sharon was responsible for heinous crimes against humanity, but as a “soldier-politican” and a war criminal, he embodied the very ethos of that military-state project we call Israel whose very existence is an act of aggression in itself. Nor should we forget the countless massacres and invasions into Palestinian and Lebanese territories which Labour “doves” like Barak can take credit for. Every Zionist official and every Zionist occupier is an Ariel Sharon, who in turn, was nothing but a personification of the evils of the Zionist regime, aka “Israel”.
This article “Reassessing the Syrian Spillover” is a MUST READ. In this incisive piece, the brilliant Belén Fernández deconstructs the concept of a “spillover” in Lebanon : “Hezbollah’s intervention, however, is repeatedly cast as the fundamental starting point in the timeline of Lebanese current events, after which all other occurrences become reactive in nature.This anti-cerebral, anti-historical approach to journalistic analysis leaves much to be desired….Far predating the alleged Syrian war importation process, incidentally, were indicators that the Al Qaeda “curse” should perhaps be attributed to non-Hezbollah entities.In 2007, for example, Seymour Hersh wrote for The New Yorker about efforts by the then-government of Fouad Siniora and billionaire future prime minister Saad Hariri, respectively, to fuel Sunni extremism in Lebanon as a counterbalance to Hezbollah…Any accurate narrative of violent “spillover” into Lebanon should thus account for imperialist ventures “to remake the Muslim world,” as Rosen puts it—a project facilitated by “regional tensions between Sunnis and Shiites stoked by the Bush administration.”
Fuck any journalist or observer who calls today’s bombing in Dahyeh a “spillover” effect of Syria’s war on Lebanon, as though the violence is a spontaneous and local reaction to Hizbullah’s role in Syria which would never have occurred otherwise.. This misnomer is a gross distortion of reality given that Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria was triggered by the presence of takfiri and Syrian rebels in Lebanon, and attacks on Lebanese Shi’a in Syria and on Lebanese territory. It also ignores the targetting of Sunni areas and officials, like Mohammad Chatah last week. This is nothing less than a Saudi-Zionist plot which aims at replicating the Iraqi and Syrian template by sowing sectarian strife in Lebanon, and at eliminating/wearing out the Resistance by opening multiple battle fronts and overextending its security and military forces.
There is a time for analysis and commentary, a time for triumphalism, and a time for just feeling one’s feelings and being human. I saw this photo the other day by the Lebanese photographer, Mimo Khair, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this little girl, Reem, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who lost both her parents in the war. On her hand is written “I love you”….. Nor can I remove the image from my mind, of a Syrian refugee I walked past the other day in Hamra, Beirut. She was a young mother squatting on the pavement, surrounded by her toddlers, almost oblivious to them as she was to her own existence. There are of course hundreds of thousands like her living in squalor all over Lebanon, but this woman broke my heart in particular because she was too downtrodden to beg, too despondent to acknowledge the money she was handed out, too dehumanized to care. The Syrian refugees don’t need our liberal humanitarianism, nor our lefty class solidarity, nor our bourgeois “tolerance” for their presence in our midst. They just need their country back.
I want to say something deep and insightful that ties all these events together, but after my son went to bed in tears because he is afraid of the next terrorist bombing, and my daughter wonders out loud which area of Lebanon will be next, and under which circumstances would we be forced to flee to England, I can only come up with this quasi-academic synthesis that borrows some concepts from the Realist school of International Relations: Fuck you and your American-backed revolutions. Fuck your collaborator opposition movements. Fuck your freedom. Fuck your priorities. Fuck your takfiri-Zionist tolerance. Fuck your abandonment of Palestine. Fuck your destruction of Syria and now Lebanon. You servile, opportunistic, unprincipled, colonized Arabs have destroyed the region and my homeland. Fuck you motherfuckers. I hope that was Realist [with a capital R] enough for you.
Foreign Policy magazine has published a thought provoking and brilliant analysis of the Saudization of anti-Shi’ism which details how sectarian discourse has shifted to doctrinal sectarianism, which is far more divisive and exclusionary than its older, ethnic/national variant. What I find particularly terrifying about this shift is that it has the effect of depoliticizing [while militarizing] identity-driven conflicts and essentializing them so that they become seemingly irreconcilable. Nasrallah referred to this shift in his last speech when he said ” At first, they didn’t refer to it as “Shia” [threat]. Today I want to call things by their name; they didn’t say Shia, they used to say the Iranians or the Majoos or the Persians, were attacking the eastern gate of the Arab umma…. They made a new enemy and then realized that their language which used the words Persian and Majoos etc. didn’t serve their project. So they gave their invented enemy another name: the Shia expansion.”
The full article penned by Fanar Haddad, is here . Excerpts below:
"The overthrow of Saddam Hussein changed all that. Since 2003, ajam, a term that was ubiquitous in what was regarded as anti-Shiite sentiment in Iraq and beyond, has all but disappeared from public usage. In its place has emerged a style of anti-Shiism that was largely the preserve of clerical circles of the Saudi Arabian variant. This is a discourse of exclusion primarily based on religious otherness that is embodied by the word rafidha. This new form of sectarian animosity frames the Shiites as suspect not because of the allegedly ambiguous national loyalties of some nor because of the so-called “ethnic impurity” of others but because of the beliefs that define the sect as a whole.
There is a qualitative difference between stigmatizing the Shiites as ajam and stigmatizing them asrafidha. Its potential repercussions on stability and social cohesion explain why authoritarian regimes in Iraq and elsewhere employed the former and repressed the latter. Multi-sectarian states like Iraq need a convincing veneer of inclusivity to survive. Iraq can afford to treat its miniscule Baha’i community the way Saudi Arabia treats its religious minorities, but its internal stability is hardly served by the explicit, unabashed, and ideological exclusion of culturally or demographically competitive sections of the population such as the Sunnis or Shiites. In dealing with Shiite opposition, ajam was a far more useful tool than rafidha for successive Iraqi regimes, as it allowed for selective exclusion: the state line throughout the 20th century was that some Shiites may beajam but that does not detract from “our brothers” the “noble Arab Shiite tribes.” This starkly contrasts with exclusion on the basis of doctrine which would place all Shiites beyond redemption until they renounce their beliefs and their adherence to Shiism.”
When one compares the statements made by Hizbullah officials and its allies in government on today’s terrorist attack in Dahyeh, with those made by their political rivals in the March 14 camp, my fears of sectarian civil war are assuaged (even if my fear of terrorist bombings has increased). Despite widespread outrage among Dahyeh’s Shia residents, not a single official has blamed Assir or Jabhit al-Nusra or any other Sunni takfiri group for the bombing— a bombing, which could easily have been a massacre had the two explosions been spaced apart as originally planned. Officials have either pointed fingers at Israel or have refused to speculate on the identity of the culprits before the investigation into the bombing reaches its conclusion. Contrast this with March 14’s knee jerk reaction to every single bombing in Lebanon since 2005, where fingers were immediately pointed at the Assad government or Hizbullah. Such accusations were not only made in the absence of any hard evidence, but oftentimes, in the absence of any logical rationale or reasonable motive for their alleged involvement. And herein lies the reason for this difference between the two camps: while the resistance camp sees sectarian tensions as an obstacle to its regional liberationist project, the Saudi-Qatari-imperialist backed M14 movement without a cause, has no other project but sectarian agitation.
It isn’t merely the [overwhelmingly Muslim], Arab people who reject Islamic extremism; The Egyptian army’s “coup” against the MB is but the latest manifestation of a political trend that began in Syria in 2011, and was also recently witnessed in Lebanon: Arab armies taking on the role of the guarantors of national unity and internal stability by refusing to allow their nations to succumb to the divisive and sectarian agendas of Amerikan Islam, be it in extremist takfiri or “moderate” MB form. The fact that Obama expressed his “deep concern” over the Egyptian army’s decision , only reinforces this reality and confirms the moral rightness of this trend . Nasrallah repeatedly warned of the US’ aversion to strong Arab armies who are capable of thwarting its sinister schemes in the region. And no matter how distasteful wars and coups are to the bleeding- heart -liberal- brigade, let us face it: there can be no genuine participatory democracy when US/petrodollar- backed sectarian agitators, disguised as democrats are presented as the only alternative.
If there is any consolation to raising one’s kids in a country which is perpetually on the brink of civil war, is constantly subject to Israeli invasion and aggression, suffers from periodic terrorist attacks, FSA rocket fire and continuous power cuts, it’s the ability to urge your dentist’s assistant to not to laugh at you because you wish to reschedule your daughter’s appointment tomorrow as “Seyyid Hassan will be giving a speech at the same time as the appointment” and have her reply from the posh Beirut clinic: “are you kidding me? Why would i find that funny? I fully understand you”. Long live the culture of resistance.