Posted by Ariel Blumenthal
On August 15th a powerful car bomb exploded in Beirut’s Dahia neighborhood, turning a summer day into yet another hellish scene of terrorism, leaving at least 20 people dead. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (Maronite Christian) reacted to the attack saying that “The Dahia blast bears the hallmark of terrorism and Israel”. Prime Minister Tamam Salam (Sunni) reasoned that “Israel has the most gain out of the blast”, a line used by his Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour (Shi’ite), the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri (Shi’ite) and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
Watch Lebanese politicians' conspiracy theory in all its idiocy, in this Iranian TV report:
Only blaming Israel can bring the sectarian leaders of Lebanon so heart-warmingly together. This is a rare wall-to-wall agreement in a country scarred by a 15-year civil war (1975-1990), one that constantly moves between bursts of sectarian violence and attempts to diffuse it. In this sectarian settings lies the actual background to the bombing as well: Dahia, a Hizbullah stronghold, was struck by Sunni terrorists, as a retaliation to Hizbullah’s (Shi’ite) alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad (Allawite Shi’ite) against a tapestry of Sunni opposition groups. A Sunni organization took responsibility for the blast, promising “More attacks, God willing”.
This sort of claim of responsibility in the Middle East is just a means to show-off, it doesn’t mean they actually did it. But the context of this attack is clear, to President Suleiman as well as anyone else. The same Hizbullah neighborhood was struck by a car bomb on July 9th, and on August 23rd the Shi’ite retaliation came, in the form of - you guessed it: A car bomb, which ripped through two Sunni Mosques in Tripoli right as the crowd got out of Friday prayers, killing 42.
Lebanon’s current snapshot of sectarian power-balance shows Hizbullah, a political party with a powerful army, representing the foreign interests of Iran (Shi’ite) and Assad (Alawite Shi’ite), dominating the country politically and militarily. There’s nothing anybody in Lebanon can do to stop the brutal intrusion of Hizbullah’s army on behalf of chemical Assad, therefore there’s nothing that can stop the spill-over of the sectarian war in Syria across the border into Lebanon, a tiny country extremely prone to sectarian chaos.
This is an ominous reality for any Lebanese, and the fact that the entire leadership wouldn’t deal with the gravity of the situation, but rather blame Israel in a surreal display of Middle-Eastern fantasy, is even more menacing.
How I’d want to be a Lebanese fly on Michel Suleiman’s wall... Does the President believe that his reaction serves to solve the very real sectarian problem? It already failed to do so, 42 dead in Tripoli can attest to that.
The same question goes to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who announced last Tuesday that Israel is behind the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. His evidence: Bernard-Henry Lévy, who “is also Jewish” said in a conference two years ago that the Brotherhood should not be allowed to take power in Egypt. Scientific.
Erdogan’s fantasies tend to shamelessly resemble old-school European Antisemitism, where “The Jews” were known to be responsible for any malaise to begin with, requiring only a ridiculous circumstantial excuse in order to prove their connection to any specific event. This is, ladies and gentlemen, the leader of the modern powerhouse called Turkey, a country of over 70 million, and a NATO member. The seat from which this man, wearing proper suits and carried by the esteem of state protocol, preaches his idiotic antisemitism is the most problematic thing about Erdogan, a man who poses many challenges.
Does the Prime Minister believe that his statement may serve to solve the situation in Egypt? Does any action or inaction by Israel stand to relieve the very real enmity between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood - a war that precedes the founding of the State of Israel?
In the streets of Egypt both camps blame their adversary for supporting or enjoying the support of “The Zionists” and “The Jews”. This is really just an adjective, another synonym to reflect one’s belonging to a certain crowd and the consequential disdain towards the other crowd. You probably won’t see the Lebanese President or the Turkish Prime Minister actually burning an Israeli flag or sticking a Star of David onto their opponents’ likeness - that’s below their office and stature.
But the un-evolved, irresponsible idea certainly seems to fall within their sets of appropriate conduct.
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August 23, 2013 | 5:09 pm
Posted by Ariel Blumenthal
A military court today found Major Nidal Hassan guilty in the November 2009 Fort Hood killing which left 13 dead. Hassan, who mounted his own intentionally weak defense, followed a clear line: He had simply “Switched sides”.
And yesterday, in Washington State, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was sentenced to life without parole for the intentional killing of 16 Afghan citizens in March 2012. The coincidental proximity of the decisions in the 2 cases is symbolic: Here are two men who had gone on indiscriminate killing sprees. Major Hassan’s claim to have “simply switched sides” makes the resemblance between the cases even closer, raising moral questions:
Does the fact that Hassan killed US soldiers, not citizens, make his actions less criminal?
Had Bales killed 16 Taliban fighters rather than citizens - still indiscriminately and in cold blood, would he had been sentenced differently?
Would Nidal Hassan go out and kill American citizens with the same moral conviction he expresses for killing American soldiers?
In these questions lies the definition of terrorism. Staff Sergeant Bales is sentenced by his own peers because his action is deemed criminal and an unacceptable conduct in a situation of war. His equivalents on the Taliban side would be celebrated and glorified. It’s safe to say that a pole among Talibs would reflect a mentality where the killing of as many Americans is a worthy goal. American soldiers - I want to believe - don’t hold this view.
The indiscriminate nature of terrorism is what defines it. Egyptian generals, who now put their money on branding the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, should realize that the indiscriminate nature of their own actions put them under precisely the same definition. Yes, the generals are right: The brotherhood crowd, burning Coptic Churches and executing 25 police officers in cold blood, are terrorists. And so are the Generals. No good side here.
No good side in Syria either. Bashar Assad, who mounted the original branding-as-terrorists campaign against his own enemies, is also the chemical killer of women and children. His Sunni opponents, terrorists indeed, killed 27 with a car bomb in Beirut last week.
Across the Muslim world factions wage their sectarian and religious wars through terrorism: in Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Yemen - you name it. “Terrorist” in these parts is a synonym for “My enemy”, and despite the erroneous use of the word, they’re all, tragically, correct in so labeling their opponents.
The definition of terrorism in the democratic world is based on moral convictions, not sectarian stances. In his wonderful, surprisingly entertaining documentary “UN Me”, Ami Horowitz presses a UN official to admit that the organization has never managed to agree on a definition to the word “terrorism”. The UN represents the entire humanity, and seeing the stark differences in the way different parts of this humanity regard terrorism, its definition and its moral problematics, makes this UN fiasco soberly natural.
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August 17, 2013 | 10:56 pm
Posted by Ariel Blumenthal
The BBC News Hour reporter was clearly taken aback by the Egyptian interviewee he talked to on the streets of Cairo. The man was expressing unsettling support for the military’s action that left at least 638 Muslim Brotherhood members dead.
The number of casualties is unreal. It’s difficult to cope with this scope of disaster or with the idea that soldiers - ordinary people and representatives of the government, can take part in such a political massacre. (Or that a citizen in the street would show support for it on the BBC News Hour).
The Egyptian civilization is clearly very different than ours. A report from Egypt from March 9th illustrates that: “22 killed in riots sparked by the sentencing to death of 21 people following the death of 74 soccer fans in a game at Port Said”. Death and more death, horror after horror after horror.
The brutality of the war in Egypt is not the only shocker. The pace and velocity of the drama there are no less hair-raising: The Muslim Brotherhood, the military’s arch-nemesis, went from rags to riches, from jail cell to the President’s palace in a matter of months. Preventing this from happening was the military’s raison d’etre, but they did tolerate two years of the unthinkable - Muslim Brotherhood rule. Eventually, the military had decided to snap out of it. Now we’re talking about the destruction and dissolution of the Brotherhood, there’s no compromise or negotiations here, it’s total, life or death.
Nothing new here. The epic battle between Egyptian military rulers and the Muslim Brotherhood has been going on for decades, with similar middle-ages mentality. There’s only one new aggravating factor: this is now going on under unprecedented international scrutiny, and a serial pull out of international corporations from Egypt is the first, immediate result.
The Democratic world doesn’t play this way, this is all very foreign: The outrageous violence, the confusing burst of spontaneous street-democracy that landed Morsi back in the jail cell, up until his dramatic address from Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday, even President Obama looked like a camel caught in the headlights.
The President was equally blamed for supporting both sides; Perhaps it’d ease American guilt and confusion to internalize that there’s no good side here, no candidate for support - at least not on moral grounds. The events in Egypt are unacceptable across the board (just like in Syria), it’s a screenplay with no character you can identify with, and that movie - anybody in Hollywood can tell you - is never going to be made.
The Generals have a clear head-start with the Western public because they’re not religious fanatics. They’re wrong to think that’d sustain support though: Lack of moral clarity tends to end up with total identification with the victim
Victimization is perhaps the dominant political principle of this generation. The victim is sanctified, exempt. We’ve seen human rights champions hug it out with the un-liberal leaders of Hamas; We’ve seen Brotherhood-affiliates from the Turkish IHH on board the Mavi Marmara pump each other with fantasies of glorious violence and chant antisemitic slogans all the way to their unfortunate encounter with the Israeli navy, just to be dismissed by world opinion (and the UN) as aggressed victims.
Congratulations, Muslim Brotherhood, you’ve been accepted into the program. If all goes well, the Brotherhood will be granted a blank slate any American with bad credit would kill for.
On PRI’s The World Thursday edition, host Marco Wurman ended the program reading portions from the tragic text correspondence between 26 years old Habiba Abdel Aziz, who ended up dead in Cairo on Wednesday, with her mother. The text messages didn’t include a mother’s call to get out of an area where religious extremists known for their desire to die for Allah are getting ready to confront a blood-thirsty military. It did end, though, with a troubling line, an essence of radical Islam, texted by Habiba most likely seconds before her death:
“Death, here we come. We are not afraid of you, but you from us”
When read with enough pomp, even this chilling choice of a 26 year-old sounds heroic.
August 12, 2013 | 5:42 pm
Posted by Ariel Blumenthal
A persistent cry from the global anti-Israel campaign claims that Israel enjoys impunity under which it commits unspeakable crimes. Based on a categorical definition of any Israeli action as a horrible crime, this argument is essentially flawed, and is actually aimed at stripping Israel of its ability to operate in a series of extremely hostile and active fronts.
But now, in light of the expected release of 104 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, the question arises: Who’s really operating with impunity here?
The definition “political prisoners” covers only the background of these men’s actions; These are no freedom-seeking-flag-hangers. Most of the released this time around are in prison for murder or attempted murder. Among them are two who had stabbed a 78 and an 82 year old to death; Some who murdered their Palestinians brethren; A man who boarded a bus and stabbed 3 passengers to death. Under the comfortable auspices of a political cause these men committed severe criminal acts. And now, their accumulative violence will enjoy impunity.
Learning from history: This is an unfortunate ocassion to revisit the Gilad Shalit dillema:
Can the violent death of 180 human beings be regarded as a move towards peace? Are 180 murdered people - or 36 or 2 - the price of peace? They may have certainly been just that, as a tragic backdrop to a momentous, historical reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, where the crimes and atrocities of the past are to be put to rest for the sake of a prosperous, hopeful future.
Alas. We’re far from that. These Palestinian criminals are going back to a society that sees them as heros and examples, a sick society that lacks a moral compass of the most basic kind to deal with the atrocious legacy of Palestinian terrorism. This kind of soul-searching would be a basis for a real peace process, where the sides are willing to place their bets on compromise, and give up fantasies of total victory, holy martyrdom and glorious bloodletting.
No, we’re certainly not there. Not a single Palestinian will have to audacity to doubt these killers’ heroism. These criminals are part of a society that sees their unspeakable acts as accepted and even virtuous behavior, and is happy to give them moral and cultural impunity.
Follow me on Twitter: @Lostroadtopeace