Tag Archives: lebanon

The Poetry of Hizbullah.

To say that my question “Is this book pro-Hezbullah?” wasn’t well received on Tuesday night at SOAS is an understatement.

I was at the book launch of The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication written by Lina Khatib, Dina Matar and Atef Alshaer.

After I had asked my question Dina Matar said “I knew you were going to ask that” and Lina Khatib waved the book at me and said “Why don’t you read it?”

The book explains how Hizbullah has been successful in staying relevant since its 1982 inception by adapting itself to changing situations and communicating these adaptations through various means such as poetry and social media.

Hizbullah are poets? Who knew.

One can imagine: “To kill a Jew, or not to kill a Jew. That is the question.”

So, according to the authors, Hizbullah’s 1980s narrative was one of “victimisation” to attract Lebanon’s marginalised Shia Muslims.

During the 1990s it was one of “resistance” against Israel and connection with “Palestine”.

From 2000 onwards it was focused on “defence” after Israel had left south Lebanon with Hizbullah disseminating the narrative that the Lebanese army is not strong enough to defend Lebanon from Israel.

Now Hizbullah is back to a “victimisation” theme after being implicated in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and others by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and also due to its fighting alongside Bashar Assad in Syria.

Dina Matar said that although Hasan Nasrallah has lost some credibility because of Syria he is still popular, and people in the Arab world listen out for his speeches.

She said there’s a sense that Nasrallah is “just like us, he’s approachable, he speaks the language of the people, he’s funny, he jokes and he’s humble in appearance”.

If this is true then it is a sad indictment on the Arab world that with Hasan Nasrallah complicit in the deaths of over 200,000 innocent Syrians he is still thought so highly of.

I wasn’t trying to be controversial when I asked whether this is a pro-Hizbullah book. I was concerned by this comment by Lina Khatib at the beginning of her presentation on the book to the large student audience:

“Books on Hizbullah seek to frame Hizbullah as a terrorist movement. This is primordial. We have evidence to the contrary. But this is the dominant discourse in America.”

Khatib lives in America. One might forgive Americans for thinking such a thing with the murder of 241 of their fellow citizens by Hizbullah in Beirut in 1983.

And what about the 200,000 dead in Syria and Hizbullah’s attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aeries in 1992 (29 dead) and on the AMIA builing in Buenos Aeries in 1994 (85 dead), the Burghas Airport bombing in Bulgaria in 2012 (6 dead) and Hasan Nasrallah, true to his word of going after Jews worldwide, is now targeting Jews in Peru.

This book is worth reading (if you can stomach the 30 page chapter on Hizbullah poetry) but only with a view to finding out how a modern day Nazi group, totally funded by Iran, portraying itself as a positive force continues to hold a beautiful country like Lebanon to ransom while bringing death and destruction both to Lebanon’s citizens and to Syria all with the final objective of destroying Israel and the Jewish people that live there.

Labour MPs describe inhuman Palestinian conditions in Lebanon then call for boycott of Israel.

Kaufman calls for boycott of Israel. Andy Slaughter on his left and Jeremy Corbyn (scratching).

Kaufman calls for boycott of Israel. Andy Slaughter on his left and Jeremy Corbyn (scratching).

There were more surreal ongoings at Parliament on Monday night when the Palestinian Return Centre held a seminar on the Palestinian refugees, which was attended by four Labour MPs.

I was banned from filming and photographing by the organisers eventhough there were two camera crews in the room, one from Lebanon, and about 10 other people in the audience filming or taking photos.

Then at the end of the event Jonathan Hoffman and I were met by four police officers. Jonathan was taken aside by an officer and told that during the meeting he had said that the MPs were supporting terrorism by allowing terrorist supporters into Parliament. We were then given a police escort out of Parliament.

Jonathan never said anything of the sort. He only spoke during the Q&A when called upon by Gerald Kaufman MP and then only to remind Jeremy Corbyn MP that Israel had frozen settlement building to allow negotiations to resume but that the Palestinians never took Israel up on the offer.

It was Kaufman who raised the issue of terrorism. He said that every week The Jewish Chronicle sends him a complimentary issue and that this week he noticed the headline “Hamas gets a hearing in House of Commons”.

The JC article goes on to describe how Ismail Haniyeh was the guest speaker at PRC’s annual conference in 2009.

Jokingly, Kaufman asked if anyone in the room was from Hamas at which, to loud applause, a young woman raised an arm.

The meeting had started with Kaufman acknowledging the dreadful deprivations suffered by the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. He said that the refugee camps had no electricity or clean water and that sewage ran down the middle of the streets.

But, he said, despite these conditions he was moved that the main thing on the minds of the refugees was the “right of return”. He spoke of a Palestinian woman with an asthmatic baby and no medication who only wanted to discuss the “right of return”.

Mohammed Al Hamid, Chair of PRC Board of Trustees, said that the “seven million Palestinian refugees shared their indignities with another 44 million refugees worldwide”. He said refugees wanting to return home was a basic urge and that “we should defend this cause”.

Dr Arafat Shoukri, Director of the Council for European Palestinian Relations, said the Palestinians have no political or civil rights in Lebanon and that they are banned from working in 70 professions there.

He said that the right of return would not lead to the destruction of Israel because the Palestinians having the right is different from them actually exercising it. He thinks the Palestinians should be granted the right and it is up to them whether to exercise it.

He also said Lebanon thinks it is protecting the right of return by keeping the Palestinians in such oppressive conditions.

Dr. Tariq Tahboob, of the Association of Palestinian Doctors in Europe, said that the Palestinians are a very proud people with a 93% literacy rate. He said “Moses, the great prophet of Muslims, Christians and Jews said to Pharaoh ‘let my people go'”. Tahboob then repeated “let my people go”.

Tahboob also said Israel was created on Palestine in 1948 and he called for a two state solution with east Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital and for the right of return to be kept in place.

Andrew Love MP also acknowledged the lack of employment opportunities for Palestinians in Lebanon and how Lebanon imports labour from Syria and Egypt.

Love said that when the Palestinian refugees arrived in Lebanon only the Christian Palestinians were granted Lebanese citizenship by the Phalange government. Now, he said, if a Lebanese woman has a baby with a Palestinian man she will hide his name so the baby will become Lebanese.

Quite unbelievably, despite the obvious suffering of the Palestinians in Lebanon Gerald Kaufman MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP went on to call for a boycott of Israel.

Corbyn asked “Why are we trading normally with Israel?” He said that the Palestinians in exile were desperate to return home and that the conditions of the Palestinians in Gaza was morally wrong and a danger to the rest of the world.

Andy Slaughter MP, Labour’s shadow justice minister, said that the issue of the right of return had been sidelined as there have been so many injustices and abuses  and that the injustices since 1948 are not in the past but in the present.

During the Q&A I was allowed to ask the panelists whether they felt ashamed that, by contributing to this false hope of “returning” to Israel, they have helped to sentence the Palestinians to lives of hell in Lebanon. I didn’t get a constructive response.

And after that Jonathan and I had our appointment with the police.

(Here is an interesting update to the talk from Harry’s Place.)

Norman Finkelstein: “Israel could nuke Lebanon.”

Norman Finkelstein (New Jersey Jewish News Online)

Norman Finkelstein (New Jersey Jewish News Online)

Last friday I attended a round table discussion at CAABU (Council for Arab-British Understanding) with anti-Israel polemicist Norman Finkelstein.

Mr Finkelstein was coming to the end of his week’s speaking tour of British Universities.

Before he arrived CAABU’s education officer detailed CAABU’s recent trip to Gaza. They took two Lib Dem MPs, one Conservative MP and a Labour Lord and crossed into Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

There are two sets of schools in Gaza; those of a higher standard run by the UN and those run by “the government”. The government schools have their own syllabus which has a strong religious theme with no emphasis on human rights, unlike the UN run schools.

The CAABU party left behind “an expensive piece of medical equipment” which they are now trying to retrieve via the smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt. Basically, one of the politicians left his dentures behind.

Eventually Mr Finkelstein walked in with the air of Norman Bates and proffered his theory on where the Middle East could be going in the next 12 to 18 months.

It centred on Lebanon.

He thinks there is a United Nations plot brewing to wipe out Hezbollah as follows:

Israel had recently left the town of Ghajar in Lebanon only so it could claim that as it was now in full compliance with UN Resolution 1701 Hezbollah should be fully disarmed.

Michael Williams, the UN’s representative to Lebanon, has reiterated this call.

Israel will now try to escalate resolutions at the UN which call for Hezbollah to be disarmed.

Sanctions against Lebanon will be announced and once they start to bite the Lebanese people will call for Hezbollah to be disbanded.

Conveniently, the UN’s Special Tribunal on Lebanon is about to indict several members of Hezbollah over the killing of Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in 2005.

This will ratchet up sectarian tensions in Lebanon as Hariri was a Sunni Muslim while Hezbollah is Shia.

Finkelstein’s own sources tell him that Hezbollah was not involved in the killing of Hariri, but it could have been Sunni extremists.

Meanwhile, CBC has just played a documentary in Canada, approved by the Harper government, detailing evidence linking Hezbollah to the assassination (view here).

Inevitably Iran will want to support Hezbollah.

But Hezbollah will be portrayed as a demonic power and a threat to international security making it impossible for Iran to support Hezbollah.

It will be similar to before the 1991 Gulf War when Sadaam was made to look like Hitler.

But the Lebanese will want to avoid 2006 again and so will comply with demands to disarm Hezbollah.

But Israel won’t want Hezbollah to disarm. They will want to show they have militarily defeated Hezbollah.

Israel is reconciled to Hezbollah rockets hitting Tel Aviv. There could be several hundred casualties but Israel will then destroy everything in Lebanon. It could be Armageddon.

Nasrallah thinks that Israel cannot absorb significant civilians lossed but he is mistaken. After the bungled operations on the Mavi Marmara and in Dubai Israel needs to prove its military prowess to deter others.

Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Turkey are tightening the noose around Israel. It is like the build up to 1967.

But Israel will deliver a big blow to cut the Muslims and Arabs, who only understand the language of war, down to size.

In 1967 Israel was fighting radical Arab nationalism. Now it is Islamic fundamentalism.

Israel has already stated it will apply the Dahiya Doctrine. This is “the use of pulversing force against a civilian population” as happened in Dahiya in 2006 when Israel destroyed the poor Shia town.

The first application of this doctrine was in Gaza.

Israel will then gloat that “we beat Hezbollah” and it will be like the miracle of the 1967 war again.

The war will probably come one June as June seems to be Israel’s “favourite month for raining death on neighbouring Arab countries”.

But it won’t come for a while yet as the UN resolutions will take time. The “UN lends legitimacy to these outrages” as in the Balkans, Iraq 1990-91 and Iraq 2002.

Nasrallah is “smart, competent and incorruptible”, exactly the sort of person the West doesn’t like.

Mr Finkelstein said he can understand why the Lebanese will want to avoid their country becoming like Gaza. In Gaza there were 650,000 tons of rubble and you’d have to multiple that several times for Lebanon next time.

“Israel will want to smash Lebanon to show the Arab world not to mess with us. Therefore, it won’t work by disarming Hezbollah.”

The 2006 war was unavoidable as Israel had been planning it since 2001 and is again working to re-establish its deterence capacity. Their mentality is to be patient and to slowly build up the facts like they did when they came to Palestine at the turn of the nineteenth century and in 1967.

Israelis are “crazy” and they will “send in everything. If everything doesn’t look like it is working and it looks like Israel is losing it won’t accept a third defeat. They will threaten the ultimate”.

He confirmed this as meaning nuclear.

In the meantime, if anyone finds a set of dentures in Gaza please contact CAABU……

Welcome to Lebanon; now part of Iran.

Ahmadinejad and Sheikh Nasrallah (Head of Hizbollah)

Ahmadinejad and Sheikh Nasrallah (Head of Hizbollah)

Imagine your father was murdered and five years later the man that sent his killers pays you a visit.

You let him in because you fear the consequences if you don’t. Additionally, you see tens of thousands of this man’s supporters lining the roads and cheering his arrival.

This was the tragic fate of Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s Prime Minister, last week when President Ahmadinejad visited Lebanon.

As one former Lebanese Sunni MP put it: “This wasn’t a visit to Lebanon but a visit to Hizbollah”.

While there Ahmadinejad called Lebanon a “university of jihad” and said that both Iran and Lebanon have much in common, primarily their war with Israel.

I am sure that Iran and Lebanon have far more to their national identity than enmity torwards Israel, not that Ahmadinejad makes it appear so when he speaks.

But there is no war between Lebanon and Israel. The problem is purely Iran.

The Times reported that before Ahmadinejad’s visit a group of 250 politicians, activists, journalists, doctors and teachers in an open letter called on Ahmadinejad to stop meddling in Lebanese affairs and end the financial and military support for Hezbollah:

“Your talk of ‘changing the face of the region starting with Lebanon’ and wiping Israel off the map through the force of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon gives the impression that your visit is that of a high commander visiting his front line”.

It seems certain that the United Nations is about to hold Hizbollah and Syria responsible for the murder of Lebanon’s then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and issue indictments.

Both Hizbollah and Iran have previous including deadly bombings of the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish Community centre in Argentina in 1992 and 1994 respectively. Over 100 dead.

Then there were the 1983 deadly truck bombings that destroyed the American Embassy, the headquarters of the US marines and that of the french paratroopers all in Beirut. Nearly 400 dead.

It was Hizbollah that in 2006 that started the Second Lebanon war when it ambushed Israeli troops inside Israel killing seven and kidnapping two.

The remains of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were later returned in exchange for the freedom of child-killer Samir Kuntar.

Even now Hizbollah still controls the whole of southern Lebanon and has 40,000 rockets at its disposal. It has relatively easy access to Israel’s northern border.

The UN troops are no match for Hizbollah and would never fire on them anyway.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad continues to pour millions of pounds of reconstruction aid into southern Lebanon after that war, money that could be spent on the suffering Iranian economy. Building a nuclear bomb drains the economy even more.

Not that Ahmadinejad cares much for his own people judging by his treatment of many of them.

And it is still a mystery why thousands of Lebanese people would want to line the streets to cheer a deadly and proven misogynist, homophobe and anti-Semite who has helped tear his own country apart.

Car bombs are already exploding in Lebanon on the eve of the UN’s report into the murder of Hariri as the scent of civil war is in the air yet again .

And Syria has issued arrest warrants against those it accuses of complying with the UN investigation.

However much Ahmadinejad paints a picture of harmony between Iran and Lebanon, there is none. Syria and Iran are resuming their old ways and cannot leave Lebanon alone.

Controlling Lebanon is the route to war with Israel and so to distract the Iranian people from their own troubles and the world from Iran’s progression towards the bomb.

King Hussein of Jordan once had a similar problem. The PLO was fighting to take over Jordan but in 1970 he crushed the Palestinian resistance and expelled the PLO to Lebanon.

This time, backed by Iran, Hizbollah is in Lebanon to stay.

Meanwhile, another war between Iran and Israel, via Hizbollah, looms but at least four years on the world knows the true nature of Hizbollah’s main backer.

(the Elder of Ziyon has a funny story about the gun in the above photo – thanks to Silke)

Fisk/Hari

It was a good old Independent doubly-whammy to nicely finish off International Israel Apartheid Week.

Robert Fisk

Last Friday (12 March) Johann Hari had a piece Palestinians should now declare their independence.

On Saturday (13 March) Fisk recommended books to help you understand the Middle East.

Fisk recommends and quotes from George Antonius’s The Arab Awakening:

“The cure for the eviction of Jews from Germany is not to be sought in the eviction of the Arabs from their homeland …”

Fisk sees this as “the first truly eloquent warning of what was to come”.

He didn’t recommend Benny Morris’ The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem but he mentioned it in passing:

“Benny Morris was the most prominent Israeli researcher to prove that it was indeed Israel’s intention to evict the Palestinians from their homes in their tens of thousands in 1948 – the fact that Morris has since gone completely batty by claiming the Israelis didn’t ethnically cleanse enough of them does not detract from his seminal work.”

But Morris did not prove any such intention!

Morris, for starters, quotes Ze’ev Jabotinsky, leader of a right-wing Zionist movement, who said in 1931: “We don’t want to evict even one Arab from the left or right banks of the Jordan. We want them to prosper economically and culturally.”

If anything it was the 1937 Peel Commission, which was under the auspices of the British government, that first recommended transfer of the Arab population out of areas earmarked for the Jewish population on partition.

Morris’ view is that there was no specific Zionist policy of transfer although there had been unofficial “transfer thinking” that preceded the war. But it was only once the Arabs rejected the 1947 UN partition resolution, civil war between the Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs and then the full-scale Arab invasion of Israel ensued that “Jewish hearts hardened towards the Palestinian Arabs who were seen as mortal enemies, and should they be coopted into a Jewish state, a potential Fifth Column”.

To be fair to Fisk has lived in the heart of Beirut for 30 years and so he is highly biased out of necessity.

Johann Hari does not live in the heart of Beirut and so has no such excuse for his bias (or is it just ignorance?).

Johann Hari

Hari suggests the Palestinians should declare their own state forthwith to concentrate the minds of the West and he narrates his own version of the Arab/Israeli wars including, like Fisk, that of 1948:

“Until 1948, the Palestinians were living in their own homes, on their own land – until they were suddenly driven out in a war to make way for a new state for people fleeing a monstrous European genocide.”

Again there is no mention of the total Arab rejection of UN partition resolution 181, the consequent civil war started by the Palestinian Arabs against the Jews and the Arab invasion after Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948.

For Hari one side is evil while the other side is totally innocent. He continues this theme throughout the piece.

He quotes Golda Meirs’ “there are no Palestinians”. Well to Meir there were no Palestinians 40 years ago just like there were no Palestinians as such to the Jews that came to Palestine 100 years ago because they did not view the Arabs living there as a nation. But that doesn’t mean to say there is no Palestinian nation now. There is and one deserving of a country.

But it is a common anti-Israel tactic to take an ancient quote of an Israeli or Jewish leader and put it in today’s context to make the speaker look evil.

Hari also writes of “some heroic Israelis who argue back”, so painting the rest of Israel’s citizens as weak, ignorant and cowardly.

But Hari thinks he has found the answer to why there are so few “heroic Israelis”:

“It may be that surviving the most horrific atrocities doesn’t make you compassionate, but more often makes you hard, and paranoid. It may make you see the ghost of your murderer even in your victims: Adolf Hitler in a Gazan child.”

For Hari Jews are still so obsessed by the gas chambers that every one of us, apart from his “heroes”, has turned into our own self-contained irrational killing machine.

Not for Hari do Israelis fight back against thousands of deadly Kassam rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza towards Israel’s southern towns or against Katyushas hitting nothern Israel from Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon.

And Hari thinks that Hamas, “the ugly fundamentalist group”, tacitly accepts a two-state solution but how ignorant can one be.

Accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, as Hamas does, is not the same as accepting the existence of Israel.

But Hari has fallen for Hamas’ rhetoric hook, line and sinker.

Hari finishes off urging the Palestinians:

“They should declare independence. Then it is up to us – the watching billions – to pressure our governments to make it real, rather than a howl in the dark.”

Hari doesn’t understand that Palestinian society is in no state to declare independence. While building consruction is swiftly taking place in West Bank towns the hatred that persists between Hamas and Fatah will mean that civil war, bloodshed and revenge killings would not be far away.

Hari hasn’t thought the consequence of his logic through but, then again, for Israel’s haters the demonisation of Israel and Israelis far outweighs any concern they really have for the Palestinian people.

White Phosphorous

Howzat, Israel?

I was thinking how many ways there might be to try to delegitimise Israel. Loads I thought. In fact there are as many ways to delegitimise Israel as there are to get out in cricket:

1) Israel is in breach of UN Resolutions (LBW)
2) Israel is in breach of international law (caught)
3) Israel doesn’t want peace (run out)
4) Israel ethnically cleansed the Palestinians (bowled!)
5) Israel isn’t a democracy (timed out)
6) Israel is an apartheid state (interfering with play)
7) The Jews have no right to a state being just a religious group (hit wicket)
8) The Jews were never expelled by the Romans, so they can’t return to the Middle East (stumped)
9) The once oppressed Jews are now the oppressors (handled ball)
10) Israel acts like the Nazis did (hit ball twice)
11) Israel is guilty of war crimes (obstructing the fielder).

It is number 11 I find intriguing. When all else fails there is always the old accusation of war crimes. When a country has to go to war, then the most easily made accusation is that a country has not just killed, but has actually intentionally targeted innocent women and children.

Breaching UN resolutions is bad, ethnic cleansing is terrible, apartheid is vile but killing innocent woman and children on purpose is just despicable. And Israel stands accused of them all. Has another country ever been accused of such evil?

The latest accusation was that Israel used white phosphorous illegally during Operation Cast Lead. It is illegal to use white phosporous in a built up place like Gaza for obvious reasons. It is highly dangerous and will burn a victim’s skin right through. Not even water will stop it burning.

It should not have been used and two senior Israeli army officers were reprimanded. But it seems the orders to use white phosphorous did not come down from high. The officers took the decision themselves.

Israel has always come clean when it was in the wrong. For example, Ariel Sharon was sacked on the recommendation of the Kahane Commission after the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon in 1982.

White phosphorous is legal in all other circumstances of war. America has been allegedly using it in Afghanstan. The smoke from the phosphorous acts as a smokescreen shielding soldiers and that is why America has used it and why Israel used it in Gaza. Israeli soldiers were able to carry out successful operations against Hamas because of it.

But it seems that from now on all of Israel’s wars will be carried out against terrorists in built up areas. That is how Hamas has chosen to fight. The days of the 1967 and 1973 wars being fought in the skies or in the vast open desert are over. So what is Israel to do? If it uses white phosphorous it will be accused of committing a war crime, if it doesn’t then Israeli soldiers will be gunned down more easily.

It is a terrible Catch 22 but there has never been an intent to target innocent civilians, unlike Hamas suicide bombers. There is a big difference.

A country will undoubtedly make mistakes in war and Israel has made many in the heat of a battle (Israel even lost four of its own soldiers to friendly fire during Cast Lead). It has also had to go to war on many occasions to defend its citizens. Eventually on the balance of probabilities the international community will catch some Israeli soldiers out, as it has finally done (albeit on Israel’s admission).

Every war is by definition a war crime as civilians will always tragically be killed but Israel is the only country persistently accused of war crimes and consistently hounded for them. Sanctions against Israel are constantly called for, the latest being by Liberal Democrat Lord Phillips, and its politicians and soldiers are put under threat of arrest by an international warrant like no other country’s politicians.

Some countries are accused of starting illegal wars and war crimes (America and Britain), others are accused of both of those and much more (Israel).

There is only one time when Israel will not accused of everything under the sun, and that is if it ever loses a war. Then, for once, the international community might not be so outraged.