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Lebanon: Civil Strife

The military confrontations between the different factions in Lebanon have subsided a bit. The Lebanese Army has declared that it will interfere forcefully to restore order. It also seems that there is some sort of undeclared agreement between different sides to avoid escalation. There is a real fear that the conflict will slip into a full fledged civil war. The past five days were marred with killings, atrocities, destruction and violence. Here are some bloggers’ reactions on the crisis:

The forceful closure of Future TV and other Future-owned media raised much criticism and indignation from most bloggers, even from those who are opposed to the politics of the Future Movement.

Prof Abu Khalil mentions this shut down and denounces it as a replication of the one sided polemic exist in other countries in the area:

I was also displeased with the closure of Hariri media, as much as I detest them and as much as I believe that they have been engaged in acute sectarian mobilization that is exactly the same as of the propaganda of Al-Qa`idah. I will not enjoy writing in Al-Akhbar and attacking my opponents if they are not on an equal footing: especially if their media are closed. One sided polemics are the stuff of which the Saudi and Syrian media are made, and we can't replicate that in Lebanon. Having said that: i still blame the Hariri Inc for the crisis, and their external backers: the agenda of the external backers pose the biggest threat to Lebanon and Palestine, but that does not mean that the left should be a mere cheerleader of organizations that are not leftist.

Charles Malik reports on the re–launching of Future TV:

Future TV is back on air. Future CEO Nadim al Munla is on, and Minister of Information Ghazi Aridi is calling in, at the moment.
A technician is showing the torn and cut Future TV cables and where equipment was broken and stolen.

Other bloggers are criticizing the media for taking sides and propagating biased and untrue information. Antoun has the following:

F*** all the hoopla about the Lebanese media being free and liberal. What we need in this conflict is fewer أطرفة , fewer partisan sides, and more unfiltered, honest information. The Lebanese deserve better. Don't they realize that they are being tricked, maligned, lied to by the media every day?! What we have instead is far too much biased analysis and far too little information, and I unfortunately don't see this being resolved any time soon.

Similar protests against some media’s portrayal of the conflict as a sectarian strife was raised by In the Middle of the East:

Media that are allied with the government in Lebanon aims to present the current situation simply as sectarian strife. … First it’s important to highlight that Beirut was never strictly Sunni, while the people who are now fighting for the opposition, many belong to Beirut, live in Beirut, a city that has never been just Sunni but a mixture of all religious sects in Lebanon. This is one critical point. 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.

Sursock is posting his observations on the events as they happen. Here is a sample:

The army's French made armor was on display in the downtown area. Little did the US and France know that all the weapons sent to upgrade the army for a showdown with the resistance are instead taking aim at the western backed government.

The majority Shia Muslim and Christian areas are peaceful; the battles are mainly taking place in the mixed areas, with the resistance and its allies in the opposition driving out pro government forces very quickly indeed.

It is without a doubt that the army is backing the opposition. It is stepping into to battles to disarm pro government forces, taking over captured positions and seizing any arms. The thinking is that the head of the army and possible president, Michel Suleiman, is clearing any opposition to his appointment from the ruling coalition.

In addition to the updates on his blog, MFL worries that the conflict will drag on like the 1975 to 1990 civil war in this post:

What worries me most is that tomorrow we wake up and pray: “it is over”, but it doesn't. I know it won't be 17 years of war, but my parents for everyday then lived the horrors, and every day they woke up praying that it will be over.

Bloggers are also reporting about atrocities committed on all sides. Blacksmith of Lebanon lists what he sees as six atrocities committed in just five days of the conflict.

Darko wrote about an atrocity that he experienced first hand and had to flee Lebanon because of it:

I’ve been trying to sum up the word to write this post for over an hour now, and honestly…no words can sum up what happened yesterday and all the events that followed in Halba, Akkar.
[…]
Negotiations began to put an end to the fighting, and the attackers demanded that the SSNP evacuates the HQ and hands it over to them. SSNP fighters rejected the offer, and the fighting continued as both sides used machine guns, B-7s, stingers(WHERE THE F*** DID THEY GET THAT????) and mortars (the home of a journalist i knew was hit with two successive mortar shells with his kids inside the house, we caught with him later). At 4:30 PM, SSNP fighters ran out of ammo as FMers moved in and threw a burning Truck tire into the HQ. At this point, a shaikh intervened and asked the SSNP fighter to hand over the office to the army, the fighters agreed after the shaikh guaranteed their security. Army soldiers took over the office and we all thought that this was it. It wasn’t. FMers stormed the office and as the army watched, lined up the SSNP fighters on a wall and executed them at point blank range. They executed the fighters after they surrendered. That wasn’t all, FMrs brought axes and started hammering down at bodies, cutting every limb. All of this happened while the army was watching.

Abu Muqawama posts a video about the same incident that Darko mentions:

Okay, Abu Muqawama has no idea how long this video will remain up on YouTube, but this is a video of some Future Movement gunmen kicking and torturing wounded opposition fighters in Halba, North Lebanon. This video is not for the faint of heart.

Harryzzz mentions the mobilizing of Salafist fighters and declaration of Jihad against Hezbollah:

With urgent peace talks currently taking place in Tripoli (Northern Lebanon), 500 heavily armed Salafist fighters in and around this city have decided, on Monday, to declare Jihad against “Hezbollah, Shi'ites and their allies”.
This according to a very well informed source in Tripoli.
The fighters, who all are armed, are ideologically close to Al Qaeda.

Jeha’s Nail comments on the escalation of the conflict and its spread to the predominately Druze mountain region over Beirut:

As in the past war, the Druze have united in a sectarian fight against “the Shiite”. For all the talk from pro-Syrian “leaders”, it appears that all “bani maarouf” have been checking Hezb’s advance all through last Sunday, maintaining control over their towns and strategic positions such as “hill 888” and well into Sunday night, all in the face of a heavy artillery barrage, with Hezb’s guns bombing many Druze villages.
Hezb’s forces may yet storm the mountain; the Druze are isolated and encircled, and supplies should be running low. The news blackout creates difficulties, but we can always figure a few things out; the artillery barrage, for example, had been going on all Sunday with little reports, and whatever filtered was inaccurate… But we're sure of one thing; those “mlabbas” was not ‘82’s, but a much higher caliber.

Ghassan Karam ends his article “Who lost Lebanon” for Ya Libnan by stating what he sees as the solution to the Lebanese problem:

The current system of confessionalism has not served us well. We need to end it, the sooner the better. If ,we the people, act and show our disgust with the current state of affairs then we can reverse the apparent gains made by Hezbollah's armed bands and at the same time we can push all the politicians into creating a new Lebanon based on modernity, equality and social justice.

Will there be a new Beirut? Habib Battah explores this question in this post:

Here's a photo taken a couple of hours ago in Ain El Mreisse in what has once again become known as ‘West Beirut’. The massive poster that has been ripped off an apartment building (center) was that of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and his son Saad Hariri.
For over a decade, the Hariris have been the biggest political force in the capital. Now many Lebanese are wondering what the new Beirut and the new Lebanon will mean for them.

2 comments

  • Great collection of comments from blogs for those of us concerned about events in Lebanon. I would like to invite comments on the following alternative interpretation that aims to get beneath the superficial sectarian explanation so popular among certain Western and Arab circles.

    Rather than viewing Lebanon (not to mention Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan) as sectarian conflicts, it is arguably more realistic to view the instability as a competition between feudalism and modernity, but with some twists that Americans may have a hard time digesting. By “feudal,” I mean a political system that remains under the control of traditional oligarchical families who effectively inherit power. They are no less feudal for having replaced war horses with Mercedes. The feudal forces, albeit with a modern capitalist veneer, are supported by the U.S.

    On the other side are the modernizers, but modernizers with an Islamic twist: it is arguably the case that the main road to political modernization in the Mideast is not the Western road of middle class democratization and civil rights but the road of what we might call “sectarian nationalism.” In the case of Lebanon, it may be Shi’ite nationalism that will offer the successful alternative to continued control by traditional oligarchies. It is, after all, Hizbollah, that has the most modern political party in the country (i.e., a party structured bureaucratically and pursuing a platform rather than structured under a family and run for that family’s benefit). I explored this idea a bit further in a recent post at shadowedforest.blogspot.com.

    Comments from all you Lebanon bloggers in English ou en francais would be much appreciated.

  • […] more: Moussa Bashir has written two roundups of anglophone blogs on the political crisis in Lebanon and Lydia Beyoud translates the harrowing […]

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