Monday, July 31, 2006

A very simple concept...

A lot of people are peddling notions that Arabs “teach their children hatred” or that the anger felt by Arabs and Muslims is “irrational” or “primal” or “thousands of years old”. Don’t believe it. People in the region are angry because their children are dying and their homes blown up. Wouldn’t you be if your children were killed and your home blown up? I was pretty angry on 9/11, weren’t you? Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq – they are suffering daily 9/11s, we can hardly blame them for feeling the same way we did.

What needs to be done is to stop the occupations that are killing their kids and blowing their homes up. And that’s a political problem, not a cultural or a religious one. Which means it’s solvable. That’s how everyone in the region (including Israelis) can find a peaceful life and move forward. Every time someone realizes that, we move one step closer to peace. Every time you hear someone peddling fear-mongering notions of irreconcilable cultural or religious differences, peace is pushed one step farther away. Isn’t it interesting that both Osama Bin Laden and the Israeli, American, and European right wings are peddling those same hateful arguments? Don’t let those falsehoods win, they only win if people turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people realize that a few basic political and humanitarian wrongs need to (and can) be fixed, things can be better.

Hizballah: A Primer

MERIP has published a typically excellent primer for the unfamiliar on Hizbullah. It gets beyond the slogans endlessly repeated in the media into the meat of what the organization really is, where it came from, and what it's real goals are. Have a read:

And while you're at it, familiarize yourself with the site, it is excellent. They are non-profit that operates on a shoestring budget in order to stay independent of political pressures, so if you can afford to subscribe to their publications, they can always use the support.

Watching Arab & US TV today on Qana

[Written Sunday night]

I’ve been watching the news on all the Arabic international, Lebanese, and US (yes, even Fox News) channels. It’s like watching two different worlds. In the US it’s “tragic”, “regrettable”, “collateral damage”, “painful”, etc. Yes it kind of shows something really bad happened, and the political message that this is not sustainable is coming through (even Fox News commentators in-between repeating Israeli propaganda lines and screeds against the UN were acknowledging this was a turning point), though no one is really showing how bad this was today, let alone how horrendous Israel’s assault has really been the past few weeks.

But even though people in the US recognize in a muted way this was really bad, in the Arab world this is 9/11. Images of children’s bodies are being replayed over, and over, and over again just as happened with the constant replay of the 9/11 attacks. Channels of every political persuasion (Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, NBN, New TV, LBC, and even the typically very pro-US Future/al-Mustaqbal) are showing the same thing and giving one unified message: there must be an immediate ceasefire with no-preconditions (i.e., no giving into Israeli demands), and Hizbullah has almost universal support even among a large and growing number of their traditional arch-rival Lebanese Christians. Al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Qana had an emotional breakdown as they pulled the children’s bodies out of the rubbles and one man helping to pull out bodies shouted at the TV crew “show the Arabs, show the Arabs!” expressing his disgust at the Arab rulers (read the Saudis, Jordanians, and Egyptians primarily) who have refused to help Lebanon.

Also, the US TV I saw today made some mention of the fact that this was the same place a similar thing had happened when the Israelis slaughtered over 100 civilians fleeing their shelling at a UN outpost in 1996, but in the Arab channels the logos on the screen were almost instantly reading “Qana Yet Again”, “The New Qana Massacre”, etc. and running video montages showing the massacres then and now. If “massacre” seems a strong word, I’ll just say it is the only word being used to describe this on all the Arab and Lebanese channels (well, sort of, they have two words that both mean massacre, majzara and madhbaha and they’re using both of them) and is not even questioned. Thus the US managing to get the word removed from the UN statement this evening along with any condemnation of Israel goes down as yet another black mark for the US in the region.

The east-west divide grows deeper and deeper…

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Part 2: Arab-Israeli Violence 101

Part 1: Arab-Israeli Violence 101

I've been very frustrated lately watching events in Iraq, Palestine/Israel, and now Lebanon. A lot of my friends here in the States know I lived a good chunk of my life in the Middle East and that I know quite a bit and feel very passionately about it. That's gotten me into a lot of arguments lately. To be fair, most Americans just don't know the details very well and tend to judge based on the huge mess they see on TV and which seems to make no rational sense to them. I in turn tend to get frustrated, then angry when I face those off-the-cuff judgements. So, as my attempt to contribute something other than frustration and shouting, here's a little something I put together as a sort of guide for the perplexed on Arab-Israeli violence. Very simplified, no maps or dates or crazy-sounding names, just key concepts. I'll post it in two parts. You can click on the images to pull up versions with bigger text.