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.
Shame on this crappy culture that calls itself Lebanese. Watching these ignorant, racist students and kids (doubtless, mimicking their racist parents) trash the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, complaining about how they have flooded schools and apartment buildings, and how they are potential thieves and threats to society. Not once did we hear any Syrian complain or make racist remarks when tens of thousands of Lebanese took refuge in Syrian private homes (not merely government run-camps) during the July War. Shame on their short memory span— less than a century ago my great grandfather, like others of his generation, did not identify himself as “Lebanese” but as from “Bilad al-Sham” (Greater Syria). How absurd.
An op-ed today in al-Akhbar referred to Israel as “the enemy” in Arabic. Although use of this term to describe Israel was once very common in Arab popular parlance and in local media, its use in this context has significantly decreased since the Syrian uprising. Once a term reserved almost exclusively to Israel, the concept of the enemy from without has been fast replaced by the enemy from within in both pro-government and opposition circles. While government supporters can hardly be faulted for depicting the Zionist-normalizing, NATO-loving FSA as an “enemy” force, especially given its proxy status and military links with Syria’s strategic enemies, as well as its intent to destroy Syria as a state, it is both morally inexcusable and intellectually indefensible for Syrians and Arabs who profess enmity towards Israel, to use this term to describe the Assad government or Hizbullah or Iran, all of whom have paid a high price for confronting the Israeli enemy both politically and militarily.
The danger of such labeling can hardly be overstated in this case; the link between power and language has been well documented by the likes of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. As these thinkers have noted, language creates not only knowledge, but reality itself. The resulting discourse, which becomes internalized by its subjects shapes their assumptions, values and cultural habits. In short, it changes and re-fashions their political identity and beliefs.
To be more accurate, this discursive onslaught began in 2005 when the Lebanese became divided over whether Syria or Israel was their real enemy, with some March 14 politicians referring to the Zionist entity as “our neighbor”. But irrespective of this semantic divide and March 14’s collaboration with Israel during the July war as Wikileaks documents later revealed, not once did Hizbullah refer to the opposing camp as “the enemy”,” and settled on terms like “ our opponents/rivals” and “the other camp”. Compare this to the Syrian opposition camp today, whose leading “intellectuals” and activists in the Arab world have no qualms about speaking of the “Shia enemy” or the “Iranian enemy”, or cheering on the FSA who issue empty threats to attack Hizbullah and assassinate Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah.
By redefining the concept of the “enemy”, both the Syrian uprising and to a lesser extent, its US- engineered counterpart in Lebanon, have succeeded in reversing decades of Arab political socialization, whereby those who prioritize resistance to Israel and the US are mocked and dismissed as old-school anti-imperialists, or more disparagingly by Third Wayers like Bassam Haddad, as “Fumigating Anti-Imperialists”.
The Arab Spring may not be a revolution in the economic or political sense of the term, but it has achieved a semantic revolution which, if left unchecked by counter-hegemonic forces, will lead to the full intellectual and political colonization of the Arab mind and the Arab identity.
So “the [Egyptian] people want the downfall of the regime”. Indeed, it is ironic that the people are demanding the overthrow of a DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED government, but hardly surprising when we consider that it represents the latest breed of “democratic regime” the US has been promoting in the region to reverse its losses incurred by the “Arab Spring”. But the first indications of this new trend in government were in fact visible in 2005 when the first State Dept. colour coded “revolution” occurred in the region, aka “the Cedar revolution.” In 2007 I wrote about the March 14 ruling bloc in Lebanon and Mahmoud Abbas’ government in the West Bank: “Such governments appear to be the latest breed of democracy that Washington is cultivating: the democratic regime. This is democratic, insofar as the political systems of which it is part is a democracy; but it is a regime, in that it represents a new form of government which is challenged by the people, its constitutionality is widely disputed, and it derives its legitimacy from external powers. In short, this is the closest the US can get to an authoritarian regime without admitting the reality.”
This description is particularly applicable to Mursi’s regime today, which, like its predecessor is perceived as illegitimate, dictatorial and increasingly, repressive. And like other democratic regimes, it too is the only type of outcome one can expect from US-engineered “procedural” or “low intensity” democracy which possesses only the structures and institutions of liberal democracy (itself an oxymoron of sorts and a defective form of democracy) minus the substance. As a basic principle of any real democracy, national self-determination is the prerequisite for any substantive democracy to take hold in our region.
This is probably going to antagonize many of my Lebanese progressive comrades, but what’s the deal with this new “Neither March 14 nor March 8” campaign which denounces both camps for sectarianism? I have nothing against a third political force in principle, but when this campaign comes at the heels of March 14’s sectarian discourse, incitement and violence, why are we blaming March 8, i.e. Hizbullah, which is exercising admirable restraint in not responding to the Hariri militia’s attempts to drag it into a sectarian war? Why do we always need to revert to this Third Way nonsense at such strategically critical times? It is March 14 which needs to be called out for its warmongering, period.
You know you are witnessing a glorious revolution that seeks freedom, dignity and independence when you realize that you can no longer carry your ID any more which identifies you as “Muslim Shi’ite,” given that March 14 gunmen are stopping drivers along the southern coastal road, checking their IDs for sectarian affiliation and shooting at cars that don’t stop. You know you are witnessing a popular uprising which claims it seeks to restore the state’s monopoly on the use of force [which Hizbullah has supposedly undermined] by arming sectarian thugs who reject the authority of the state. You know you are witnessing a justice-seeking movement when your children debate with their friends if it’s safe enough to go to school tomorrow while your concerned students send you emails asking if you are going to be giving class tomorrow because of the deteriorating security situation.
If that isn’t a democratic revolution, then I don’t know what is.
And to express their outrage at the assassination of Wissam Hassan, March 14’s mobs show their respect for the institution he headed by attacking ISF troops who are trying to protect the government building. Such is the moral and ideological bankruptcy of March 14’s sectarian agitation masquerading as a cause.
Hizbullah releases video footage of Operation “Truthful Promise” , when the resistance captured IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in July 2006, whom it later traded in 2008 for Samir Kuntar and others, as well as the bodies of over 200 Lebanese and Palestinian martyrs) were released in exchange for the two dead IDF soldiers. Apparently, the former resistance commander, Imad Mughnieh who was assassinated by Israel in 2008, oversaw the operation and was physically present at the time of its execution. Al-Mayadeen will soon broadcast the remainder of the video in full! Perhaps we will know then if they were captured dead or alive.
While it is hard to morally justify Hafez al-Assad’s intervention in Lebanon in 1976 on the side of right-wing Christian militias, it is important to understand his reasons for soing so at the time were not to serve Israeli interests.
The explanation is found in this classified Pentagon document Donald Rumsfeld recently released and published in Akhbar Arabic here:
"He is, in sum, a prudent and careful, but tough, practitioner of statecraft.
Several military factors have operated to reinforce his natural tendencies and cause him to opt for a course or action which seems antipathetic to the image of revolutionary Ba’athist Syria…
Given the hostility of his eastern neighbor, Asad is loath to see emerge on his western flank a radical leftist- and Palestinian dominated Lebanon, almost certainly unamenable to his direction. Furthermore, a radical Lebanon could drag Asad into a war with Israel at a time, place, and in circumstances not of his own choosing.
Moreover, a radicalized Lebanon would be a military liability as a confrontation state with Israel. Lebanon may never be able to field a credible military force against Israel and certainly could not do so for Lebanese-Israeli border, a mission for which they are clearly inadequate, or to present Israel with a virtually undefended corridor through which the IDF could outflank his forces on the Golan Heights.
Syria’s disinclination to have a radical Lebanon on its flank is a continuation of its traditionally rigid control of Palestinians in Syria. While it is extremely wary of the more radical “rejectionist” fedayeen groups, Syria clearly does not trust even the “establishment” PLO, which is—an undisciplined and shifting alliance often, as now, in disarray and impossible to regulate.”
Inshallah Palestinians will soon return to a liberated homeland and will no longer have to put up with Arabs’ disgusting racism any more.
"That was the case after the army launched its campaign against them in the Saida region after the exile of General Michel Aoun – those in charge at the time thought that would appease the dejected Christians. It was also the case in the insane campaign against Nahr al-Bared a few years ago, an abominable military assault launched under the banner of going after terrorists and criminals."