When the British Ambassador in Lebanon Addresses the Lebanese

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Lebanon is not a usual country: a deformed version of a nation, if even that. It is a place where people don’t agree on the definition of statehood and nationhood, and a place where sectarian divisions have constituted a bonanza for foreign intervention. But Lebanon is also a place crying out for an identity. While some do see marks of history, geography, and culture and recognize Lebanon as it is – an Arab country, no less Arab than other countries – others think that they have been misplaced in the Middle East, that they belong to Europe.

Some ultra-Lebanese nationalists developed a variety of forms and motifs of nationalism that stress the (imagined) relationship between Lebanon and Europe – Europe out of all places. Some Lebanese think that donning Western clothes and faking an American or (in previous years) a French accent is sufficient to place them squarely among the White Man of Europe. Some really bought into that. Those Lebanese (represented by An-Nahar newspaper, among others) are more than eager to prostrate at the mere sight of a white man in their midst. Some even think that they themselves are white. It is for this reason that European and American diplomats in Lebanon act more arrogantly and more condescendingly than perhaps in other places.

It was in this context that the British ambassador in Lebanon addressed the Lebanese people on the anniversary of Lebanese independence. He lectured, preached, hectored, sermonized, and moralized to the Lebanese people. He even bragged about the role of the UK in Lebanon’s independence, thereby insulting the intelligence of the Lebanese people (and his own) by pretending that British policies (whether in Palestine – lest he thinks we forgot – or in Lebanon itself) were motivated by anything other than greed, colonial interest, care for Israeli occupation, and competition between the colonial powers themselves.

Of course, the ambassador prefaces his remarks by a perfunctory dosage of flattery – the substance of which he must have heard from the Lebanese themselves – or those upper- class Lebanese who attend embassy functions in Beirut. He even praises the hospitality of the Lebanese people, which is inferior to the hospitality that the UK accorded to the Zionist project. Talk about hospitality.

And while the ambassador – let us call him Tom lest he thinks I am one of the obsequious Lebanese who drool at the mere sight of a European ambassador – expresses admiration for the Lebanese, he also shares their frustration. He tells the Lebanese that he is frustrated with them. But what does Tom think that we feel toward his government? He thinks that the Balfour Declaration, the divisions of the spoils of the region in Sykes-Picot, and the subservience of his country to US war designs in the region are relics of the ancient past? It is not frustration that characterizes our feelings toward his government’s record in the region but deep anger and antipathy. If one should feel frustrated it is us.

What does he think we think about his government plot against Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956 or his government’s role in the civil war in Lebanon in 1958 on the side of Chamoun and the right-wing fascistic elements? Balfour requires much more than an apology to be forgiven – if ever: It requires a restoration of justice. The UK will not reach a historic reconciliation with all the Arabs before the extinction of the Balfour Declaration and all of its ramifications.

His first advice to the Lebanese is that we should ignore advice from outsiders, and he included himself among them. But that is pure flippancy: If Tom truly wishes that we ignore his advice, why did he bother to write this long letter? Furthermore, not all outsiders are alike: Some have truly assisted Lebanon in its struggle against occupation and for independence, and others (like his government) sponsored the occupation and brutalization of Lebanon.

The rest of Tom’s advice is akin to the psycho-babble of American talk show hosts and guests. Renewing marriage vows? What does that mean? And is Britain about to renew marriage vows with Scotland or is it heading for divorce? Does the UK seek advice from the Lebanese ambassador in London? And why do I get the feeling that if the Lebanese ambassador in London were to draft a letter similar to Tom’s, she would be deported at once.

Finally, if Tom and his government like the Lebanese so much, why do the visa requirements make it virtually impossible for any Lebanese to visit the UK unless they are among the rich and powerful of Lebanon? Maybe Tom’s letter is addressed to the political and economic elite of Lebanon, as it is doubtful that Tom ever wines and dines with average Lebanese, or with poor Lebanese (outside of those who work in the kitchen of his embassy).

Nevertheless, I will take the advice of Tom to heart: I will ignore his letter.

PS – I exchanged a few lines with Tom on Twitter, and he said in response to my critique that he was merely expressing his views. I answered by saying that he would never dare criticize, say, the government and society of Saudi Arabia. I dared him to have his colleague in Riyadh draft such a letter to the Saudi people. He answered by sending me the routine human rights evaluation of Saudi Arabia (which is part of an annual global assessment that the UK and US do but without any policy implication). He must have known that does not suffice, and that his government and all of its ambassadors are required to adhere to the highest norms of prostration and subservience in dealing with the House of Saud. Too bad, Tom, that Lebanon has not extracted its oil and gas yet. I bet you that you would have not drafted your letter in that case.

Comments

For an outsider who spent a few years in Lebanon, the article, and in particular the comments, make it easier to understand why the country keeps on heading for its self destruction, without any attempt to focus on a constructive approach towards the future, let alone use the potential the country has to offer. What is really weird is that people are even proud of this counter productive attitude, continuously blaming the others for their own failures, and doing this with an unmatched degree of arrogance....

So, one came to Lebanon for a few days and feels entitled to instruct the natives how to manage their own business? Talk about arrogance.
I guess HJ is from the former Yugoslavia. If co, no matter what his views are, I bet he is sure blaming not only himself on the problems of his country (and justly so- the same forces which ruined Yugoslavia are doing their best to ruin Lebanon as well - esp. NATO, but not only)

Bravo
the mass murdering brutal vile barbarians . fantastic to know that the rest of world knows these scums for what they are

Go to hell Tom and as for your obnoxious vile view, well in diplomatic language "stick it where the sun does not shine"
you bloody jerk

If he had kept quite and distant you would have called him aloof, cold, haughty and pretentious. Tom is not guilty of the mistakes of the past! If you want to be serious and responsible, you should go deeper into those mistakes in order to find out what was behind them. Pretending it was just greed of one visible party is not enough. In the past, it was as it still is today, powers with hidden agendas stand in the background, they manipulate and mislead, they profit and don't mind if the manipulated and visible parties get entangled and blamed.

Past? Mistakes? It is crimes and very recent too. If UK was not a colonial state, its minister could be polite and courteous. But it seems that this Anon cannot even imaging UK minister behaving thus. No wonder, because Anon is as ignorant and as haughty as all of colonialists. I wonder would Anon call Nazis' crimes "mistakes", while Hitler was but a pupil of UK colonialism and imperialism

I think there is a mistake in the 8th paragraph."Does the US seek advice from the Lebanese ambassador in Lebanon?"

Your depiction of some of our people is disturbingly accurate. Despite clutching onto all that is western, brandishing designer logo tops, displaying their cell phones as id badges (even if when they longer work) and insinuating gratuitous English gibberish with well-rehearsed sound bites, Lebanese wannabes still struggle for acceptance into the Euro-Ethnic Elitist Club.

Perhaps the nagging shades of a swarthy complexion present a drawback. But there's hope; Michael Jackson found a way to bleach himself white.

Excellent, courageous response to an arrogant ambassador.

Has it not been for the colonialists,Lebanon would had been part of greater Syria.i,e-few or any Christians alive in Lebanon.one can not undo the past.so how is tom responsible for the outcome of decisions made centuries and decades ago?he is in the role as a professional diplomat not a free minded intellectual. only a professional ranter and pathological whiner like the author can cling to ancient history.
if Europeans and other western groups don't show sympathy to his causes, they are deemed sanitized. if they do "interfere"and try and help,stop self carnage,they are labeled as meddling in internal Arab affairs.from a quick scan of al akbar front page,one can read that in the past 24 hours,hundreds were killed ,arrested and abused by fellow Arabs/Muslims.
me think Arabs need all the help they can get from infidels.

Chamoun, who fought Gamal Abdel Nasser, was a "right-wing fascist"?! How ignorant can the author be?!
Correction: Gamal Abdel Nasser was opposed by ANTI-fascists. Gamal Abdel Nasser instituted one-party rule... banned all non-state-owned news outlets... promoted teh racist ideology of ethnic Arab supremacism... murdered journalists (among them Lebanese journalist Kamel Mroueh) and this fascist ideology was about to be implemented in Lebanon were it not for the anti-fascists who resisted it. The author should learn a little history before writing.

I do not see your, or dear As'ad's. White Man Problem as racism, it's just resentment over the success of the upstart West..
Neither to my own fault, nor glory, just a few centuries ago, a small corner of world, changed the whole world with it's abilities.
Behold the accomplishments of the Great White Man!
It may be as unwelcome as Strontium 90, but the West is in your teeth, and bones
You can bury your heart at the gates to Vienna,but the fruit of the tree will always taste of bitter Envy

The fan of the most dumb USA prez (no mean feat) is as arrogant as he(?) is ignorant
West "success" was in robbing, pillaging, enslaving and ethnic cleansing all other world and then bragging about it as if it is a great achievement.. And to say about bones, without Arab culture the West would be still without even Plato and Aristotle, saved and translated by Arabs in the time when Westerners did not even know how to bath properly LOL
The parasite usually is sure that the person he is parasiting on "envies" the parasite. By the way, I wonder when the most dumb USA prez (no mean feat) is going to see the USA (and West) being broke even after all robbery - in USA they cannot even feed properly about the half of the children - the future of USA! Not mentioning firing the firefighters just in time of more firestorms then ever.

Bravo!

spot on, i felt sickened by all the gratitude by lebanese compatriots to this letter, once again totally adopting a subservient attitude to the UK ambassador or any other Westerner for that matter.

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