August 5, 2006: Day 25 of the July War • The US as Source

This month marks the 15-year anniversary of the July War on Lebanon. I kept a diary at the time, and will be uploading excerpts from it over the coming 33 days. It’s painful the examples I use here, when my sourcing was limited to non-Arabic writers. I do end up drawing the same conclusions, but the sources are all “tainted” if that’s the right word. I leave it as is as a reminder of the effort to “return”, and to de-acculturate….

Last night the Israelis bombed again. And again. And again. And this time it was different than before; my building didn’t just shake, it swayed. Were these the new bombs sped here from Rice via Britain and Qatar (to hell with you, Qatar)? I feel nauseous just remembering.

There is an interesting collection of articles here at….I can’t quite figure out how they are doing their aggregating, but there is perhaps some good reading here for those who want to explore further….

Other quotes of the day include this from Noam Chomsky:

The “real issue” that is being ignored is the systematic destruction of any prospects for a viable Palestinian existence as Israel annexes valuable land and major resources, leaving the shrinking territories assigned to Palestinians as unviable cantons, largely separated from one another and from whatever little bit of Jerusalem is to be left to Palestinians, and completely imprisoned as Israel takes over the Jordan valley.

This program of realignment cynically disguised as “withdrawal,” is of course completely illegal, in violation of Security Council resolutions and the unanimous decision of the World Court (including the dissenting statement of U.S. Justice Buergenthal). If it is implemented as planned, it spells the end of the very broad international consensus on a two-state settlement that the U.S. and Israel have unilaterally blocked for 30 years—matters that are so well documented that I do not have to review them here.

To turn to your specific question, even a casual look at the Western press reveals that the crucial developments in the occupied territories are marginalized even more by the war in Lebanon. The ongoing destruction in Gaza—which was rarely seriously reported in the first place—has largely faded into the background, and the systematic takeover of the West Bank has virtually disappeared.

However, I would not go as far as the implication in your question that this was a purpose of the war, though it clearly is the effect. We should recall that Gaza and the West Bank are recognized to be a unit, so that if resistance to Israel’s destructive and illegal programs is legitimate within the West Bank (and it would be interesting to see a rational argument to the contrary), then it is legitimate in Gaza as well.

Noam Chomsky came and spoke here at AUB last semester. I have problems with a lot of what Chomsky says (and forgetting his whole theory of linguistics) especially when he praises American “freedom of speech”; but he is at the very least focused on the history of the United States that the U.S. would rather conveniently forget. We can of course also ignore Chomsky’s belief in American exceptionalism, in a two-state solution, and his belief in the useless entities of the United Nations and the World Court. To focus on is the endless grinding wars decades long, serving only the interests of imperialism and global capitalism.

But it brings up some more food for thought. One of the people I’ve been working with in the volunteer effort is a political science major; Samir Kassir, murdered by a bomb explosion last year, was teaching his class on the “Arab-Israeli Conflict” the day he was killed. AUB stands out in stark contrast to what is happening on American campuses, as witnessed by this article by Joseph Massad at Columbia University and this book, The 101 Most Dangerous Professors in America written by one David Horowitz. When was toeing the line ever not the prevailing dictate of the United States? And why should it be that this subject is debatable here in Lebanon but apparently not in the United States?

As always, America loves demonstrations it instigates in foreign lands such as Lebanon which it doesn’t allow back home. So this should not come as any surprise, quoting from the Assembly for Rights: NYC blog:

Under the guise of protecting the public safety, the New York City Police Department plans to expand its control over protest activity by labeling many common street and side walk uses as a “parade”. If put into effect, these new rules will greatly suppress the right to assembly and expose peaceful protestors as well as regular people to arrest for things as simple as crossing the street against the light. Under the NYPD’s proposed rules:

Any group of two (yes, 2) or more cyclists or pedestrians traveling down a public street, who violate any traffic law, rule or regulation can be arrested for parading without a permit;

Any group of 20 or more cyclists must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD or would be subject to arrest;

Every group of 35 of more pedestrians must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD or would be subject to arrest.

I ask again: Who has freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly?

And this, from the cousin of one of my students:

Today, who threatens Lebanon’s freedom—Israel, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah or some toxic blend—is debated endlessly. But who has betrayed Lebanon’s freedom and its civilians is clearly the United States….

She finishes by speaking of the “model” that Lebanon would be for the Middle East if truly, truly, Israel and the United States wanted there to be peace in this region. Which we know they don’t.

Even the stooge prime minister was forced to speak some truth:

For decades, we have demanded a return of land [the Chebaa Farms] that belongs to us. Start by giving them back to us and you will see the tensions lessen. Hezbollah has an important role, it has defended borders that have been continuously violated, it stands up against the invasion of a sovereign state. Eliminate the causes, that would also mean eliminating the effects….Hezbollah was created by Israel. Not materially, but [Israel] provoked the conditions for it to exist and to be reinforced over time. Lebanon was occupied for 20 years and Hezbollah had the means to justify its presence in the South. We often speak of Resolution 1559 from the United Nations, but we speak much less often of resolutions to which the others have never adhered to….Do you really think that this war was launched for [the retrieval of two soldiers]? The reality is that Lebanon has suffered seven invasions in its recent history. I am not speaking of simple attacks, because that number surpasses 30 or so. The massacre in Qana is the second there in 10 years….in all of this, I see but ferociousness.

Many friends have been discussing (separately, I should say; it is like an idea that is there and hasn’t jelled yet) an idea that this is Lebanon’s chance; that there can be a “new” Lebanon free of power brokers, free of outside influence. It is witnessed by volunteer actions country-wide which have taken up where the government is incapable of acting.

Quoting Gracchus Babeuf, 1791 (this from the introduction to L’empire de la honte [Empire of Shame] by Jean Ziegler:

O treacherous ones! You cry that we must avoid civil war, that we must not distribute among the people the arms of discord. And what civil war is more revolting than that which would have all of the assassins on one side and all of the defenseless victims on the other!….Let the people overthrow all of the ancient barbarous institutions! Let the war of the rich on the poor stop being characterized by complete audacity on one side and complete cowardice on the other! Yes, I say it again, all evils are of them, they can’t make it any worse. Things can only be bettered by a complete upheaval!

The First World needs to come clean and admit to itself that its standard of living, if expanded around the globe, would instantly destroy this planet. So the choice to maintain that standard of living through wars, and forced attrition, and economic blackmail, and slavery of others, cannot continue, and must stop.

Continuing along this line, and now quoting Denis Blondin, author of Les Deux Espèces humaines. Autopsie du racisme ordinaire, in a letter to Georges Corm, Lebanese author of Orient-Occident, la fracture imaginaire:

To me, there never was a West, in the geographic and anthropological sense, because everything that characterizes the West comes after the putting in place of colonial empires: democratic parliamentary forms of government, free-market and capitalist economies, the ideology of the rights of man, the central place given to technological progress, etc. In the same way that the aristocracy cannot exist—in cultural as well as political and economic terms—separate from the rest of society over which it reigns, the West could never have existed as an entity without the establishment of globalizing empires. It follows then that the “Westernizing of the world” is, at the same time, a fabrication of the West by a world that includes the Europeans among others.

The West cannot be considered a civilization among others, as compared to that of China, India, or the Middle East….If one accepts seeing the emergence of “democracy” as a culture of class, completely analogous to the aristocracy, as opposed to an original form of government uniquely a product of the West, this contradiction disappears and it is, on the contrary, its essential claims which are revealed. In this sense, we are truly dealing with a cultural borrowing from antique Greece, and not just an invention of mythic Greco-Roman roots. In effect, the Athenians truly invented a democratic discourse serving the functional needs of a pro-slavery society. Putting to the side the difference in scale, this does not differ too much from the mythology and discourse of Western democracies formulated to bolster the functional needs of pro-slavery societies—in the proper sense, to begin with, and later in the figurative sense—and now established on the scale of the entire world-system.

It is these mythologies that bother me most now; that in the entire discourse of this war in Lebanon, everyone is screaming about Hizbollah and Israel’s two soldiers, when the true discussion that needs to take place is so somewhere else.

Israel needs to come to terms with itself concerning whether it is in fact a democracy (it’s not) or truly aspires to be one, which would mean representation for all peoples within its borders, non-second-class status for a majority of its population (including its Arabs and its Arabized Jews as well as Palestinians with the right of return that Jews worldwide currently enjoy); whether it is a land with borders, a country among other countries, as opposed to an undefined entity, wholly not contained, and therefore the de facto and intrinsic cause of its border wars since its inception. One cannot attack as theocratic another religion (Islam) without examining the theocratic basis of, say, Israel or the theocratic basis of, say, the United States—the bases of which bond the populations thereof as peoples who see themselves as denizens of “Promised Lands” in the middle of barbarian hordes to be vanquished and who are currently wrapped up in an End Times eschatology that should frighten every lats soul on the planet.

Up for examination as well is the mythology of America as a land of equality and openness to all; the race question in America needs to be discussed and answered frankly and honestly. I don’t think this is possible in terms of its roots; As faulty as she remains, Hannah Arendt in On Revolution points out that the American Revolution was the only revolution based on property rights and not civil rights, and fought during a time of prosperity due largely to the huge slave population of America at that time. It is the hypocrisy of the mythology of these places that becomes most painful when attempts are made to apply them wholesale elsewhere in the world; places in the world that are not without fault, but which are, nonetheless, not to be judged and condemned to death simply for not being of the West.

This quote is from Emmanuel Todd:

[The US] has, above all, become a weak [superpower]. The U.S. no longer has the might to control the large strategic players, primarily Germany and Japan. Their industrial capacity is clearly smaller than that of Europe and approximately equal to that of Japan. With twice the population, this is no great accomplishment. Their trade deficit meanwhile, is in the order of $500 billion per year. Their military potential is nevertheless still the largest by far, but is declining and consistently over estimated. The use of military bases is dependent on the good will of their allies, many of which are not as willing as before. The theatrical military activism against inconsequential rogue states that we are currently witnessing plays out against this backdrop. It is a sign of weakness, not of strength. But weakness makes for unpredictability. The U.S. is about to become a problem for the world, where we have previously been accustomed to seeing a solution in them….Most apparent is how clumsy the U.S. has been to date, and how far they have moved away from any notion of universality. They don’t see the world as it really is anymore. They are failing in any balanced and fair approach to their allies. All of this reminds me of Germany under Wilhelm II. The U.S. is losing allies steadily. One gets the impression that an office somewhere in Washington has been tasked with the duty to daily prepare a scheme to develop new enemies for the U.S.

The “problem” that the U.S. has become is what is most frightening to those of us who live here and now wait for its okay to stop the destruction of this country. To bear in mind is the fact that what we are witnessing has nothing to do with Lebanon per se; it is a continued and longstanding tradition of punishing any group or country that might stand up to the hegemony of United States power or against the mythologies it represents. There is but hope in those outside of this predominant power that might, through their alliance, bring sense and order to the world again—a Bandung Conference II—starting, perhaps, with Lebanon.

About Daniel Drennan ElAwar

Adoptee, rematriated.
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