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Monthly Archives: May 2010


International activists cause their own deaths by attacking nonconfrontational Israeli commandos

IDF spokeswoman Avital Liebovitch.

At a press briefing this morning following the massacre by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos of passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, one of the boats pertaining to the Freedom Flotilla attempting to break the siege of Gaza, IDF spokeswoman Avital Liebovitch claimed that the passengers had engaged in “severe violence against our soldiers.”

According to Liebovitch, the violence was premeditated and was administered via live fire, sharp items such as knives, and weapons “grabbed” from the IDF commandos. While underscoring Israel’s unique ability to portray its armed forces as victims, the analysis failed to provide a compelling reason for why—if the alleged attack using grabbed weapons was indeed premeditated—the IDF did not throw a wrench in the works by simply refraining from raiding the ship.



Nuclear weapons permissible on Iranian soil as long as they belong to Russia or China

Lula and Erdoğan conspire to increase political executions in Iran.

FETHIYE, TURKEY—Arriving to a Turkish friend’s house in the middle of last evening’s public television newscast, I was given a recap of national accomplishments reported thus far. According to Mehmet these included:

  1. Turkish qualification to the final round of the Eurovision Song Contest.
  2. Turkish emancipation of the Gaza Strip.
  3. Turkish defiance of U.S. attempts to monopolize the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The premature claim of Gazan emancipation was, it turned out, a result of Mehmet’s misinterpretation of news footage of a port scene comprising the Mavi Marmara, a critical Turkish component of the Freedom Flotilla currently attempting to break the siege of Gaza. The timeline was rectified when Mehmet accepted that Gaza would presumably not be in such dire need of help if it resembled the Turkish port of Antalya, and that the Turkish flag was perhaps not the predominant feature of the contemporary Gazan landscape.


10 Years of Israeli Variations on the Term “Withdrawal”

Photo: Amelia Opalinska

This article first appeared on the Official Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon.

As the Israeli occupation army withdrew from southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000, Zeinab al Mohammad, a resident of Tyre, set out for the liberated village of Adaisseh with her sister Siham, Siham’s husband—a native of the village—and their children. En route, Zeinab’s jeep was attacked by Israeli helicopters, causing the passengers to abandon the vehicle, which was subsequently destroyed. There were no casualties, although Siham’s infant daughter was dropped during the family’s dispersal and only recovered once the helicopters had moved on.

This is merely one of a countless number of episodes confirming that unilateral Israeli territorial withdrawals are not indicative of a shift in the state’s bellicose orientation, something that was underscored yet again in July and August of 2006 with the murder of approximately 1200 Lebanese civilians. The July War was initially described as retaliation for Hezbollah’s behavior but was subsequently acknowledged to have been planned in advance; as for other Israeli actions incongruent with the term “withdrawal,” these include periodic incursions by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into Lebanese territory and regular violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft, some of which break the sound barrier as a courtesy gesture to Lebanese citizens below.


Thomas Friedman reports progress in Mexican baby names

Havana hotel where foreign affairs columnists can afford room service but not Russian breakfast.

In the mid 1990s, before the responsibilities of The New York Times Foreign Affairs columnist were largely reduced to complaining about the deficiencies of the Arab/Muslim world, Thomas Friedman used to write with more frequency about things like Mexico.

In fact, one of the landmarks of Friedman’s journalism career occurs in a 1995 article that begins with “Ricarda Martinez, a 60-year-old Mexican peasant living in a tumbledown shack on the edge of Mexico City,” whom he describes as “peeling cactus from her garden” while denying awareness of “dollar-linked peso bonds, George Soros or Merrill Lynch’s emerging markets fund.” This is one of the rare historical instances in which Friedman identifies and interacts with someone who is not a CEO, politician, “Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen,” or “Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.”


Lebanese government fails to channel World Cup fervor in friendly match

Beirut apartment balconies suggest that conventional soccer teams are still favored. (Photo by Belén Fernández)

The other night while walking in Beirut’s Hamra neighborhood, I was informed by an impromptu escort that all of Lebanon’s problems were a result of foreign meddling and that I should not walk alone at night if I did not want to be harassed by:

  1. Syrian construction workers,
  2. Kuwaitis who had never interacted with a woman, or
  3. foreign-funded terrorists who nonetheless had Lebanese passports and who were to blame for all Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

I pointed out to the young man that no Syrian, Kuwaiti, or terrorist had ever approached me on an unlit street and asked to photograph my feet—as he had just done—and that a cursory review of history revealed that Israeli attacks on Lebanon had in fact prompted the formation of Hezbollah. Such disputes did not, however, put an end to requests that I take off my shoes.

Regarding the Lebanese tendency to act as a venue for the settling of regional disputes, a friend in Beirut recently characterized the country as a soccer field, although this was presumably not the reason for the government’s decision last month to stage a friendly soccer match to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the start of the Lebanese Civil War.


Postwar Photographs of Lebanon by Amelia Opalinska

Amelia Opalinska and I spent nearly two months hitchhiking around Lebanon in the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli assault—a trip that is the subject of my political travelogue Coffee with Hezbollah, which also features Amelia’s photographs.

Following is a series of 22 black and white photos from various corners of Lebanon, reinforcing the notion that physical destruction and aesthetic appeal are not mutually exclusive.

Click on the images below to enlarge.


Lebanon: sectarianism and secular reform

Beirut march for secularism, with the former Holiday Inn--landmark of the Civil War--in the background. (Photo: Belén Fernández)

On Sunday, April 25, over 2,000 people marched in Beirut in support of secularism in Lebanon, in an event dubbed “Laïque Pride” by its organisers. Starting at the seaside and progressing in the direction of the parliament building, marchers displayed posters with slogans in Arabic, English and French, such as “I applied for a job but it turned out to be for a different sect,” “Civil marriage not civil war,” and “Fatima and Tony love each other… That’s not a problem.”

Civil marriage is currently not an option in Lebanon, as matrimonial rights and requirements for each of Lebanon’s 18 recognised religious sects are determined by respective religious authorities. The slogan about Fatima and Tony might just as easily have read “Nancy and Tony hate each other… That’s a problem”, given the prohibition on divorce for Maronite Catholics which in extreme cases has led to Maronite conversions to Islam in order to end a marriage.