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Defying the art of being passive enough for murder to sound normal

A man threw a bomb at four people having their morning coffee in Tripoli last week because he thought God might like it. In the name of the subjective glee of the almighty, four people are injured and a city continues to die while its authorities are allowing extremists to set new vicious rules for the city. All our Arab cities are dying because we have been conditioned to become helpless throughout a history filled with inevitable defeat. We will continue to die because the people killing us have been conditioned that we’re okay with it, and we are yet to prove them otherwise.

A return to “The Good Spy”: Mustafa Zein responds

I was able to track down Mustafa Zein, who is a major character in Kai Bird’s “The Good Spy” and was a major source on the relationship between CIA’s Bob Ames and PLO’s Ali - Abu Hassan - Salameh (he was close to both and introduced them to one another). I introduced myself to Zein in the email two weeks ago as someone from the Lebanese city of Tyre (he also is from Tyre) and assumed that he must have known my father as he grew up in the city (it turned out that he knew of my father although Zein left Tyre to study in Saida at age 10). I asked him if I can interview him by phone but he declined on security grounds, but said that he would be willing to answer my written questions. I sent him a dozen questions but he answered only some of them. We went back and forth until he said politely to me last week that he would no longer be available to communicate with me via email. I have collected below some of what I thought were the most relevant of his answers to me although I can’t vouch for the veracity or accuracy of the information contained.

The resurgence of the United States’ favorite ‘native informant’ in Iraq

There exists a treasured class which flourishes in this world of raging empires – It is allowed to straddle its foreignness so long as it is in order to reaffirm Orientalist attitudes, and its members are often found crossing back and forth into and outside of the establishment’s dwellings. They are a fragment of the other but to the extent that they use their otherness to disparage those who reside beyond the empire’s domain. Their identity is commercialized; from their self imposed marginalization they cultivate their own brand of civilized personality, and through this they become the gatekeepers of history.

The republic’s new prince

The Lebanese people don’t have a president yet but, for a few moments, we thought we had a prince. Until the faulty report was retracted, we briefly lived in a country where a terrorist organization threatening state sovereignty was visibly more efficient than our parliament in choosing its leadership.

American spies and the contemporary Middle East: Bob Ames and Abu Hassan Salameh

There seems to be an increase in the number of books by and about former (or current) US spies. The phenomenon raises questions about the motives and purpose of all those books and articles that all share a glorification of US spy agencies and their men (rarely are women in US intelligence agencies portrayed as heroes as men are). But we know that US intelligence agencies don’t permit former spies or analysts to publish books and articles without previous screening and editing and approval by a US government censor. The legal justification is that the government wants to make sure that no intended or unintended release of information from classified information occurs. But the lines are not clear-cut: the government can (and has) censor what it may deem to be politically damaging.

Iraq intervention, redux?: The folly of ‘humanitarian imperialism’

US soldiers board the last C17 aircraft carrying US troops out of Iraq. (Photo: AFP-Martin Bureau)

Jean Bricmont’s powerful book Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War, written during the occupation of Iraq, is a timely historical critique of Western interventionism, one worth examining as the United States of America moves once more in the direction of military entanglement in Iraq. Bricmont, a Belgian theoretical physicist and professor at The Université catholique de Louvain, discusses the ideological factors which legitimize military action in response to humanitarian abuses and “in defense of democracy” (p. 7). — “This is the discourse and the representation that must be challenged in order to build a radical and self-confident opposition to current and future wars.” The humanitarian rationales offered under the banner of there being “a responsibility to protect” have only increased since the end of World War II, and methods to reinforce such motivations have grown progressively coercive.

Long Beach: little Beirut

Last Sunday’s weather summoned us to the beach. As we walked towards the Mediterranean, we hit a wall of concrete blocks followed by a ticket office with endearing signage that, like everything except this venue’s glamour, hasn’t changed since the 1960s. Behind the crumbling Luna Park in Beirut is a crumbling resort, the “Long Beach” that charges a $ 20 entrance fee per person.

Fouad Ajami and his legacy

The news of Ajami’s death triggered a competition among American journalists: they all wanted to express how much they loved him and admired him. They all spoke about his “grace” and one Zionist publication called him the “genuine Arab hero.” The New York Times and Wall Street Journal were quick to publish glowing obituaries.

Where’s the outrage over the frequent kidnapping of Palestinian children?

Where’s the outrage over the frequent kidnapping of Palestinian children?

“Until the boys are back, every hour we shoot a [Palestinian] terrorist.” This is the name of a Facebook page that has garnered over 20,000 likes, as reported by the Electronic Intifada — this bold call for the extrajudicial assassination of so-called Palestinian ‘terrorists’ comes after the disappearance of three Israeli teens from Israel’s illegal Gush Etzion settlement. In response to their disappearance the Israeli occupation forces have launched a massive manhunt, conducting widespread operations, in order to find the teens who went missing Thursday evening. By simply perusing the official Facebook page of the “Israeli Defense Forces” you will find Israel’s staunchest supporters leaving prayers and death threats directed at the Palestinian people, one after the other, from calling for the Israeli army to “just wipe Gaza off the map” and “flatten the West Bank” to demanding Israel make an announcement that “if [the teens] are not turned over safe and sound within 24 hours, every Palestinian city will be burned to the ground. Then carry it out if they do not comply.” “That's the only thing these savages understand,” writes one user in response. “The Arabs will never become civilized. Only through violence can [we] create a better tomorrow for our people.”

The road not taken: Beirut-Ramallah

I ate an Israeli yesterday. It tasted good, and came in a box with five others that I kept for later. I will eat the rest of them in the coming week. Then I will eat more until there are no Israelis left on the face of the planet. Halfway through my first, I thought, “Would it be considered treason for a Lebanese man to enjoy the taste of an Israeli while eating them?” My voice of reason reassured, “But of course not! If anything, I would be hailed a ‘mouqawem’ – a brave resistance/freedom fighter – and all should be well.”

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