By: Joseph Samaha
Published Saturday, February 25, 2012
Five years ago this day and less than a year after the launch of Al-Akhbar, the paper’s co-founder Joseph Samaha (1949-2007) died from a sudden heart attack while on a trip to England. As a symbolic tribute to his ongoing legacy, Al-Akhbar English has translated Samaha’s first op-ed for the paper published on August 14, 2006.
Al-Akhbar's launch is well-timed – or nearly so, given that we live in an age of miscalculations. Amid the persistent aggression facing us, Lebanon stands at a watershed, as does the region, thanks to the many who have engaged in miscalculations.
In the past, it was customary to accuse those who resist injustice of miscalculation, or those who rebel violently against it, and to claim that such resistance is flawed regardless of its timing. According to the hegemonic logic of tyranny, subversion is either wrong or, at best, a silly adventure. According to people with a vulgar sense of “realism,” there is no proper time for criticism.
For a long time, acts of aggression and ruthlessness were never labelled as “poorly timed.” Now it is clear that the roles have been reversed. Several weeks of Israeli brutality that came to naught have shown who miscalculated this time around.
Those who constantly used the refrain “miscalculation” whether inside Lebanon or abroad overlooked a very simple reality. The July 12 operation in which two Israeli soldiers were captured was not, in and of itself, built on a miscalculation. But it was possible for some to depict it later on as such in light of Israel's violent response and the high price we paid. The Israeli military quickly put its propaganda machine to work. It quickly became clear that the perception of Israeli invincibility, whether subconscious or otherwise, was a necessary precursor to the “unquestionable” assumption that the Lebanese national resistance committed a miscalculation. Some people even anticipated an Israeli victory just to prove the “bad timing” hypothesis.
It's not strange then, that these reproachful voices grew quieter as the Israeli military machine proved powerless. Detractors of the resistance quickly discovered that the real miscalculation was their failure to properly evaluate the true balance of power. What was worse was the manner in which these detractors continued to point to the heavy losses incurred due to Israel's criminal onslaught against civilians as evidence of the resistance’s poor judgement – even though the onslaught was itself an attempt by Israel to compensate for its military blunder.
The Israeli aggression against Lebanon will open the doors of debate about its impact and consequences inside Lebanon and on the world stage. The role of the media, if we were to take such a role seriously, is to follow and participate in this debate, and to faithfully report on all its aspects to the wider public. Al-Akhbar is fully committed to this role.
Al-Akhbar's mission is twofold: it will follow this important debate, while working to fulfil our vision of what we planned Al-Akhbar to be, with all the columns, articles, and stories we intended to run but were forced to delay.
We intend to succeed at both tasks. We know it is an adventure, but we are taking a calculated risk. We plan to succeed at our task while declaring that we belong simultaneously to two camps in the political and professional sphere respectively. Politically, we belong to the camp opposed to imperial hegemony: a camp that extends all the way from the heart of the United States to South America, Europe, Africa, and across Asia. Professionally, we belong to the camp committed to pluralism, democracy, modernity, and a culture of creativity.
Lebanon and the region as a whole stands at a crossroads. The Lebanon before us that is rising again from the rubble is buttressed by the strength of its resistance. It will not be the same Lebanon that we knew a month ago. It is in this sense that July 12 was a point of no return. Al-Akhbar is a newspaper that will object to any such return. The Lebanon which existed before July 12 was an uncertain country, a private fiefdom mistakenly called a state. We need to prevent the resuscitation of this fiefdom. We need to work toward building a state based on principles of citizenship. Only with such a state – just, sovereign, and powerful – will we be able to recognize and incorporate this amazing capacity to triumph over adversity. Only such a state will be able to see resistance, any resistance, as an integral instrument of strengthening the country's social fabric, defending its Arab identity, and preventing it from sliding into destruction – a condition long sustained by the illusion of a so-called neutrality that aims to deprive the Arab nation from Lebanon's valuable contributions.
The signs of an on going confrontation are many. Not least amongst them is the exposed weakness of the Arab regimes and the growing rift between them and their peoples. We need to take the discussion pertaining to all Arab issues to a new level. We will also attempt to think about the current state of the world, and of the powers and institutions that govern it. These powers were recently put to the test in Lebanon, and there is a lot left to be said about this experience that can further our understanding of world we live in and our true place in it.
Covering and following Arab and international affairs – to the extent possible – is no luxury. It is part and parcel of understanding what goes on in Lebanon and in the name of Lebanon. It is a prerequisite to confronting the existing mercantilist and rural-feudal mentality that constitutes the backbone of the ideological apparatus of Lebanon's ruling class.
Al-Akhbar is now before you, our readers. We do not fully know who you are. We do not know who among you is displaced, and who is hosting the dispossessed. We hope you will all have the time to read first and inundate us with criticism after. For our part, we promise to listen, to rectify, to strive for better. Moreover, we promise to stir more than one ripple in the pond of Lebanese media.