Monday, January 28, 2008

Fear is the Name of the Game: Regarding Yesterday's Events

Please check earlier investigations regarding Lebanon and the Ethnic factor: Lebanon and Fear of Other (three parts), Investigating Lebanon: The Ethnic Dilemma (three parts), and Lebanon and Democracy: Doomed to Repeat the Past
As I was writing a gigantic article on the Palestinian situation and the hypocrisy of the Arab World towards Palestine, I decided to write on the most recent events.

Almost every week we are having in Lebanon an average of riots and explosions. In nine days, two explosions took place. Demonstrations are talking place, hypothetically orchestrated by the Opposition, are transforming to riots and clashes. The irony part from the opposition is that they already have a space to demonstrate and raise their demands: Down Town. The tents have been there since December 2006, and the same demands the demonstrators have been demanding in Down Town, were raised there. Now, different confrontations are rising elsewhere with similar demands.

Someone may argue that yesterday’s riots occurred due to the gigantic Arab conference that was taking place parallel to the fiasco events in Lebanon. These events weren’t just a fiasco, rather a massacre. For the past week, 11 people were killed in the Chevrolet site explosion, and yesterday 9 people were killed in violent confrontations.

I would prefer to look at the situation from a different angle, the tendency of people in Lebanon to attack the “enemy”. This offensive attitude yesterday generated refugees whereby I know at least 7 people living in yesterday’s hot zones and slept at their friends. With every collision/explosion, the government blames the Opposition and their foreign sponsors, and vice versa. Despite the fact that the media tuned down a bit in their reporting of events to suit their investors, the political charge is there. In fact, like last year’s January, yesterday witnessed a dangerous factor: The leaders lost control over their masses. Despite the fact the concerned government and opposition leaders told their followers to return home, riots broke out, and the war days were revived between Ain el Rummani (Christian side – mostly dominated by the Phalange/Lebanese Forces) and el Shyaih (Muslim Shiite side – mostly dominated by AMAL).

As MP Khalil was begging AMAL followers to go home, the followers disregarded that fact and entered violent confrontation with the Christian side, since as assumed, an unknown sniper shot a member of AMAL movement. The Christian side, never hesitant to disregard an invitation for a street brawl would welcome it, as tradition goes between these two areas. Yesterday events reminded us that Ain el Rummani and Al-Shiyyaihh were miniature models of East and West Beirut. This is blamed as I argued in earlier posts on the “Sect Leaders/Defenders”.

This is no surprise to us. Someone told me that in AUB elections, sect logos were raised as “Ali! Ali! Ya Imam Ali”, or “Freedom from Ali!” (among hundreds of logos raised there). This university is supposed to be the number one university in Lebanon… interesting to see how its students are behaving. Hence, we look at it from a different dimension: Blame everything on the other. If economy is bad, both sides would blame the other coalition (and mind you, economy is bad!). If someone wants to demonstrate, Opposition members would accuse the government demonstrators as “Israeli agents” or the government would accuse the Opposition demonstrators as “the Barbarians”.

Yesterday’s Scenario: Main Lessons
There are different scenarios to be learnt from yesterday’s events:

1) A civil war can break out any moment from now on

2) The leaders are losing their grip on their followers, they have been too much involved in mobilizing their followers against the “traitors” to the extent they are losing their grips on them

3) Government/Opposition leaders haven’t realized that their “escalation” tactics are not paying off on the negotiation tables (well through the mediators) rather it is reflecting on the people

4) The media needs to be controlled, the political party affiliates should impose on all media (including Al-Mannar) to report information as it happened, and not to build up a situation towards a potential civil war.

5) As we noticed the residents evacuating their areas when things were temporary calm around 7:00, this reflects clearly that minority residents or even minority non-affiliated sect residents are under threat of Sectarian Cleansing due to the moments of rage taking place at the moment.

6) As more confrontations are taking place, more hatred will spread. Yesterday’s events are a clear invitation for bigger and bloodier collisions. The more people are wounded or killed, or the more of property damage will occur, the more hatred will build and the more justifications for carrying/stockpiling arms are justified by different militias. This leads us to what the Realist School would call the Security Dilemma: Whereby one group suspects another group to stash arms, hence they start for their own security. The other group sees that and would stash more arms, and hence every political party would have arms. In fact, such a dilemma took place two years ago, and remains increasing. The government, a while ago, embarrassingly acknowledged publicly that political parties affiliated to the government and the opposition have weaponry and demanded that the Ministry of Interior freezes providing weaponry license to interested people (with a minor exception of the bodyguards of the Politicians). In Lebanon nevertheless, weaponry (at least AK-47s and M16s) can be easily attained elsewhere, the biggest proof is the burst of Fatah Islam in Nahr el Bared with a well armed/trained army along the most sophisticated weaponry.

7) Demands for real day-to-day crisis lost their face-value. Demands for the reduction of prices or awareness campaigns against the World Trade Organization would be dubbed as “Opposition maneuvers” (although the vast majority of the opposition do not have issues with the WTO, except probably the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party). The Opposition is not better as well because there was an independent movement of NGOs against the WTO which the Opposition tried to hi-jack.

8) People are desperate, specially the older generation that lived through a civil war that lasted 17 years and lost their golden years. I know that for a fact from my family... and now they are worried that their elder phases would be wasted on watching and avoiding militants struggling each other for “a higher cause”.

9) Racism is spreading to war-time levels, despite the fact the enemies reshuffled. The fact that people dubbed the other as “dogs”, “backward residents”, “pigs”, “American A**-lickers”, “Iranian freaks”, and never ending others shows to what extent I have been warning and discussing the situation would elevate to. Henceforth, as I said in previous posts, no coalition will reside till the “other” is fully destroyed. That is at least on the grassroots level, the politicians on the other side are trying to safeguards their interests and snatch a nice juicy business deal.

10) AMAL needs to impose militant authority on its supporters. Whenever Hezbollah supporter go frenzy, Hezbollah in a record time can control their masses. AMAL on the other hand, they lack discipline. Their members have a notorious reputation of being gangsters who invite fist to fist fight at any moment. Almost every incident has AMAL members/supporters involved in fist to fist fight. Whoever is aiming to instigate collisions of yesterday knew what he/she is doing (be that Government/Opposition itself/Syria/USA/Israel/Iran/other suspects). The AMAL supporters lack discipline and it is through AMAL supporters you can instigate a crisis which will overcharge and polarize the entire country.

11) Instead of worrying about explosions alone, we also have to worry also about the potential resurrection of unkwnon snipers...

Welcome to the jungle my fellow readers…tonight, everyone will go out and party as if nothing happened because people are desperate to forget the current reality of the status quo. Just when the Chevrolet explosion occurred, the same evening people went out to forget this hellish country. In Jemayzi it struck me loud and clear that “tonight is just a normal day in an abnormal situation whereby first impression that Beirut as a rich life, and there is nothing wrong.”

As I was leaving my friends’ apartment (whereby three refugees were sleeping due to yesterday’s riots), one said: “Tosbihoon 3a Watan”, and another replied: “Iza fee ba’ad Watan” (translation: Waking on a Country, reply: if there is a country).

This is just another clear situation where the elites are making profits on the sufferings and corpses of the masses.

No War but class War


Darko said...

i agree with 99% of what you said, but i think you should have also shed some light on the Future News handled the events, i believe they played a big role in it. They were the ones who said that the army shot the AMAL official even though the national news agency said that the shooter was not identified and their reporter was the only one who saw guns with the demonstrators on the ground.

P.S: could you plz fix the link to my blog, i moved to wordpress.

Renegade Eye said...

Readers of your blog are well aware of the sectarian feuds going on in Lebanon.

As I told Darko, your numbers are small, but their is strength in your analysis.

Lalebanessa said...

I agree with most of what you said MFL both sides are to blame for our situation, however I disagree with one thing: you blame both sides equally for mobilizing the masses (and then loosing control over them) while in reality it has been the opposition time and time again who sent their followers down to the streets, pushing (now armed) civilians into confrontations and thus ratcheting up the civil war factor several notches.
Please but blame where blame is due on that one.