Political diary

An article on Al-Akhbar on the Lebanese prisoners in Syrian jails puts the polemic back on the table. Syria claims that there are no “political” prisoners in Syrian jails, only people convicted on purely criminal grounds. The article argues that opening this file triggers a whole series of investigations that takes us back in the midst of the civil war where the political and the criminal may not be differentiated as easily. Funnily enough, the article quotes former assassinated PM Rafic Hariri in a moment of exasperation, saying that Lebanon exaggerated when it asked for 200 or more prisoners from Syria. This was following a first release of 54 Lebanese prisoners in 2000 that was quickly followed by calls to release “all the prisoners”.

Al-Akhbar has some historical background on the village of Ghajar that the Israelis are still occupying today. Ghajar has always been between Lebanon and Israel, literally on the border that is.

More on the LBC struggle today, this time Karim Pakradouni is a possible successor.

By the way Al-Akhbar had a series of articles on the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon and its potential rapprochement with the 14th or March camp running every day. Interviews but also historical backgrounds assessed the question. The latest is on the first meeting between both parties. The guy who’s been covering this topic is Fida’ Itani. As if Al-Akhbar knew that the meeting was going to take place a week ago and had the time to go through the ABC of the party!

Russia and Syria provided intelligence data to Hezbollah during the latest war in Lebanon according to Ze’ev Schiff who draws his claims from a Jane’s Intelligence Review article. Now all this is nice – although I did not really understand how Russia provided intelligence, the article is really vague about it, jumping unexplainably from the idea of Russian anti-tank missile provided to Hezbollah to intelligence cooperation – but the most interesting information that Schiff thought to state is this:

According to the Jane’s report, in its agreement of intelligence cooperation with Syria, Iran insisted that no Russian intelligence officers should be allowed access to the new listening posts, despite the long standing deal between Damascus and Moscow.

What does the long standing deal between Damascus and Moscow has to do with Iran not wanting Russian officers listening to posts? And what long standing deal is he talking about?

Why is Israel giving Rafah crossing to Fatah? Do they think that Fatah can do the dirty job for them – that is to get rid of Hamas? In any case, the internal war continues unabated with one important Hamas casualty today. Fateh’s brigade (Al Aqsa) threatens to kill Hamas leader Meshaal. Palestinians are following the Lebanese way of “solving” things while being diverted from the real occupation. So you don’t need Israel to kill Meshaal anymore!

In Iraq US is using yet another militia – apart from the already used private mercenaries imported through private military companies – this time fully Iraqi and Sunni in order to tame other Sunnis.

The grouping of the Damascus declaration – headed by… Abd el Halim Khaddam – will join the Kurdish rally on Thursday to protest against the retrieval of Syrian nationality to Kurds done in 1962. I mean these guys want to be part of Syria or want a Kurdish state? They work on both sides and see what happens. Maybe for now the Americans aren’t really helping after all, especially that a Kurdish state is out of the question for now.

There is a blog (Bibliban) people have to check on saving Lebanese libraries destroyed by the war. There was an article on it in Al-Akhbar.

Syrian president Bashar el Assad thinks that peace could be reached in 6 month if negotiations start today. Well that’s great, but is this out of despair or what? Anything to keep the throne.

Racism of anti-racism

France offered us yet another amazing example of the double-standards at work in matters of anti-racist actions.
On september 23 two mosques were tagged with racist comments.
The tags where pretty harsh including some swastikas and invitations to leave the country. It took about 3 days for the news to disappear, the highest ranking official to have made a strong public statement to condemn these actions is the local “prefet”. In Le Monde, you can get 2 basic articles and a video about this event.

Just a few days later, a small time french philosopher attracted at least twice as much media attention by making comments in Le Figaro (greatest propaganda newspaper in France) on Islamic religion, stating among other things that their prophet is a “war master” who inscribed violence into his religion as a constitutive element. Ironically the focus didn’t go on condemning his rhetoric but on the contrary (!!!) on condemning the indignation he caused in Muslim circles (including death threats) trying to shut him down. So much so that now, the professor is supposedly changing his residence every two days. This prompted the local mayor to say “he talks a lot for someone who is hiding”. But don’t let this fool you, on this subject, in Le Monde, you get two basic articles + an editorial + a point of view article all basically supporting this guy (prof. Redeker) + a statement this time from the prime minister himself condemning the death threats on his life in the name of “freedom of speech”.

Thinking with Rym

For some reason I could not figure out what this picture illustrated. A submarine I first thought. Then, many other things came to mind: a blown out mushroom, a volcano. This picture is in my opinion one of the most extraordinary image of this war’s aftermath.

Rym (who was first to discover that the village of Ghajar was staying in Israeli hands) send it to me with a little text:

I added a photo of the oil containers hit by israel in Jiyeh that caused one of the biggest environmental disasters….and you can’t imagine the smell….
everything around the flattened tanks was coated with oil..and dead…..the grass, the trees, the animals, and the soil…
standing close to death….we are reminded of life..and how much time is wasted on unworthy things..

Money for the needy

As if it was not enough already, America Sends Additional Aid to Israel:

The U.S. Congress has agreed to send an additional $500 million in aid to Israel on top of its annual aid of $2.36 billion in order to contribute to common defense projects conducted with Israel.

But what’s really outrageous is the following:

The Bush administration had originally demanded to send an addition $268 million aid to Israel, but Congress decided to double this amount.

So basically, these dudes were voting whether to send money to Israel (something they have been doing every couple of months since the 1960s), and they decided “hell while we’re at it, let’s send them the double amount!”.
And what’s really re-assuring is the humanitarian dimensions of this aid. I mean poor Israelis will finally find shelter, food, and a more dignified life:

$20 million will be used to fund a defense project designed to intercept short-range missiles.
$35 million will be designated to develop advanced targeting technologies for the U.S. and Israeli Air Force.
Israel and the United States are also working on some projects to protect armored vehicles from missile attacks.

And just to remind you that the rich guys at the other side… well…

The United States froze the financial aid it was sending to Palestine after the Hamas government took power after the general elections. Palestinian civilians have been experiencing difficult days due to the suspension of international aid.

What the hell! Why continue giving money to people who don’t need any help? Everybody knows that the Palestinians usually sit on piles of gold. Plus, they are just a bunch of terrorist now that they have caught the democratic drive.

Controlling information: the LBC case

Al-Akhbar ran a front page story Saturday on the struggle between Lebanese Forces (LF) chief Samir Geagea and LBC’s nbr 1 Pierre el Daher to control the TV station. It seems that since Geagea went to jail in 1994 (after Walid Jumblatt accused him of blowing up the Saydet el Najat church mind you), LBC went to Suleiman Franjieh and other Christian influential people. At the time, Pierre el Daher who already had problems of cohabitation with Geagea’s team within the station asked if he could transfer the channel to Franjieh (in an apparent move to rescue the channel) and the latter said yes. After the transfer took place, the channel continued to be partly financed by business elites close to the LF through Sitrida (the flamboyant wife of Samir) in order to keep a partial hand on things.

So much so that today, Geagea is increasingly in conflict with Daher (now that the former is out of prison) and is trying to interfere in the broadcasting of several sensitive political programs (like neutralizing Marcel Ghanem, although I don’t know why because as far as I can tell, the latter talks like a Zionist). Geagea has already a plethora of influential journalists sympathizers at LBC (like the half-martyr May Chidiac) who easily downgrade the actions of say Hezbollah, and can sometimes be found to be apologists of Israeli actions in the country. The Hariri backed tv station Al Mustaqbal is not better, although it is much more interesting in the fact that its strategy of downgrading is really different. Instead of criticizing the party of god it just ignores it. It does not mention it. I remember that during the war, and in its immediate aftermath, a battle was mentioned on Al Mustaqbal, a victory too, but the only party involved in this apart from the Israelis was “the Lebanese”. No resistance group, no party whatsoever. It looked really funny, especially when it had those weird Rafic Hariri intermissions of nationalistic statements coming from outre-tombe monopolizing the lead of the battle.

A part from the fact that our TV stations are pure propaganda feed. Each channel has political backers behind it. Mustaqbal has Hariri, NBC has speaker of parliament Nabih Berri, Ntv has Lahoudist (if not Lahoud himself) and of course Hezbollah’s Al Manar being obviously very open about its affiliations. Well, to make a long story short, the battle to control the information outlets in the little country is clearly not over. Here also Lebanon serves as a very good example of a microcosm of the world at large. In order to control, you need guns but you also need the reins of information channels (covert and overt). The latter asset enables you to control the means of discourse, in which conceptual framework your understanding of social reality takes place.

One note though: it is interesting to see that the other shareholders of LBC were from Christian upper class circles including from someone who had his whole family killed by Geagea (Suleiman Franjieh). I mean this is crazy. The world is that small in Lebanon that the son of the guy you killed takes over the company you founded. That does not happen everywhere to say the least. While we pointed out how Lebanon looks like any other place in the world, in this case, it is Lebanese particularism we’re reaching for.

Israeli soldiers out of Lebanon

So Israeli soldiers are out from Lebanon (except from Ghajar that is set to become yet another Israeli colony), and Hezbollah still has the two Israeli soldiers captive. The bargaining cards are still the same then with an added point for Hezbollah. Next round would be either negotiations, return of prisoners and territory. All this destruction for nothing. Israelis could have negotiated from the start as they always did before. But unfortunately, Americans thought they could erase Hezbollah from the map. Will Americans continue mismanaging things in their push to control the Middle East? Judging from the increasing threats waged against Iran (Check out the latest house of representative bill that push for regime change in Iran, it seems that they did learn from past mistakes. Let’s fear the worst then.