Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lebanon in crisis: an interview with editor Samah Idriss

Stefan Christoff, Electronic Lebanon, 10 May 2008

".....Samah Idriss is a co-founder of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel, lexicographer, literary critic who earned a Ph.D from Columbia University in 1991, and is editor-in-chief of al-Adab, a Lebanese Arabic-language arts and culture magazine based in Beirut. Samah is also deeply involved in the Civil Resistance Campaign in Lebanon that organizes Lebanese and internationals to provide direct aid at a grassroots level to people impacted by the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon. Samah Idriss spoke with Stefan Christoff concerning the current political crisis in Lebanon........

....Clearly there is a strategy from the government and pro-government forces to portray Hizballah as the outsiders, to try to portray Hizballah as a force coming to change the nature of Beirut by bringing in Shi'ite elements, Iranian elements, Persian elements, barbarian elements, etc. All oriental stereotypes that mainstream western media and some mainstream Arab media will quickly adopt. It is not certain, however, that this portrayal for Hizballah could work in the Arab media because Hizballah is widely respected as the major defender for the Arab cause, for the Palestinian cause.

Across the Middle East the mainstream Sunni populations don't view Hizballah or its leader Hassan Nasrallah as a sectarian leader or simply a Shi'ite leader. However, the mainstream pro-government media in Lebanon attempt to portray Hizballah as a completely sectarian movement, in tune with the political lines fostered by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, France and the US.......

On an international level, obviously this government is allied with the US, with France, with Saudi Arabia, with Egypt, viewing itself as part of the US or EU political agenda in the Middle East, that they put forward with the empty slogan, "I Love Life" in Lebanon. Today the government presents itself to the west as fighting a Syrian and Iranian axis that is based on a culture of martyrdom or a culture of death, as the government claims, while the current government represents western values in Lebanon, values put forward with empty slogans that utilize words like "freedom," "sovereignty" and "independence."

Actually, the government also uses language to present Hizballah as somehow an external force to Lebanon, using similar language that we use in Lebanon to describe Israeli forces. While at the time, a real external threat invaded Lebanon in 2006, the Israeli army, the current government did nothing to resist, contrary to their slogans about sovereignty, independence and freedom.......
Hizballah's telecommunication network is an important weapon for the resistance movement in Lebanon, playing a critical role in 2006 war. In a sense the communications system is even more important than Hizballah's rockets or weaponry. In 2006 the entire weapons arsenal would have done little without the telecommunications network. Now for the Lebanese government to demand to control this communications network, or for it to be dismantled, is equivalent to demanding that Hizballah hand over their arms to the government.

Israel and the US first wanted to politically disarm Hizballah through UN Resolution 1559, with support from western-backed forces in Lebanon. Once this strategy failed the US and Israel tried to disarm Hizballah by force in 2006 through an invasion. In a sense it was the US that invaded Lebanon in 2006. This attempt to disarm Hizballah failed due to the Lebanese resistance. Now again the same forces are attempting to disarm Hizballah, however, through a different strategy, using different titles, and this time the focus is on the telecommunications network of Hizballah in Lebanon -- a critical element to Hizballah's arms......."

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