Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hoping for rebirth

My last post was quite grim, as those on war tend to be. Reading The Egyptian Today, I found a small story from Lebanon that was a little more uplifting. It’s only a short blurb on the back page of the 14-page daily, next to a 4X2 inch picture of a man holding a baby. The man is wearing a brown button down with the top button undone, his black hair gelled, his face looking down as if to watch his step, to avoid dropping something precious. His baby is newly born, almost bald, and, most importantly, alive. She’s wrapped in a pink blanket, maybe she’s sleeping. The title is “Life continues,” and the blurb reads:

In the midst of the bombings of war undertaken by Israel against Lebanon, and under the raining missiles, this child was born in one of Saida’s suburbs, and thus: Children die and others are born…And life continues.

Here’s hoping that that baby and her counterparts in Israel grow up in a more peaceful world.

A couple clarifications on my last post:

The term “The Arab Street,” is one of the most overused clichés in Middle East analysis. It is essentially shorthand for public opinion, but unlike public opinion in America, it is rarely measured accurately. Because it is hard to get solid data on what people think in the region, analysts refer to ‘The Arab Street,” and then make a claim that is generally impossible to either falsify or prove. Like everyone else, I’m just guessing from anecdotal evidence. When I say “The Arab Street,” I’m referring to Arab Muslims who live in North Africa and the Middle East. Within that community – which comprises the vast majority of the population of the Middle East – there is little debate about the current conflict. But in minority communities, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some disagree with the dominant narrative of events. I have heard anecdotally from friends that some Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have very different attitudes on the Palestinian conflict in general. A friend of mine living in Israel also mentioned that she had met an Israeli Druze who was extremely supportive of Israel’s current incursions. The Druze community in Lebanon has also been more reserved in its criticism of Israel, and the sect’s political leader in Beirut, Walid Jumblatt, has accused Hizbollah of acting as a state within a state during the current conflict. He has continuously blamed Hizbollah for instigating Israel, and has demanded that the militant organization disarm and abide by Lebanese law. Lebanon’s Christian Maronite community is also no friend of Hizbollah or the Palestinian struggle. Thus, there is some disagreement about what is going on in Southern Lebanon today, and I should have mentioned that. But the debate and the counter currents should not be overemphasized. Last night, on the popular Al Jazeera debate program “The Opposite Direction,” the shows audience was asked to vote on the internet as to whether or not Arab governments are currently selling out the Arab cause in Lebanon. Of the 10,000 votes cast, over 95 percent agreed with that sentiment.

Also, I should have provided more information on the montage of Palestinian death on Syrian state TV. I have no reason to believe that many, or any, of the images in the montage were filmed during the current Israeli-Lebanese conflict. All of the clips could have been from yesterday or 5 years ago. Thanks for the comment Simon. You’re right, there’s no way to know whether or not those images are all the result of Israeli fire or not. I could probably do some research and talk to a Syrian government official, but I don’t think their confirmation would be sufficient (I hope the sarcasm is apparent). Another friend, playing devil’s advocate, asked how I could even be sure that the images weren’t staged. I think that question pushes the point too far. Even ‘high budget’ Egyptian films have terrible special affects, and the fake blood that is used in Egyptian programs and movies is obviously fake. It is hard to believe Syria would have a much better special effects team. However, Al Jazeera for the most part has a good reputation for looking into the violence it shows on its screens. During the current conflict, I have not heard any vociferous complaints from Israeli officials on the body counts being put out by the Lebanese government. Instead, Israel has focused on Hizbollah’s willingness to hide among the population and the inevitable civilian casualties that result from smoking out such insurgents (Israel calls them terrorists).

The central point of my last post was to explain what the Arab world is seeing right now when they watch the news, and the visceral reaction that so much blood must be producing. Still, I should have been clearer about the uncertain origins of the montage.


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