Monday, December 14, 2009

Beirut Journal Day #36: National Priorities


So, President Suleiman (or Sleiman, depending on one's comfort with Lebanon's Arab identity &/or national priorities) is meeting with our own totally ineffectual intellectual, President Obama. Number one on the agenda, which is sure to be short, is military assistance. Also, we are told in the papers here, Suleiman will "bring up the Palestinian issue." The connection between the two is being misrepresented in a subtle way. For, the impression that one gets from it all is that Lebanon needs military assistance to protect itself from its aggressive neighbors, most notably Israel. By extension, then, one assumes that the Lebanese president's "bringing up" of the so called Palestinian issue is benign, at worst. For, Israel considers the Palestinians their enemy, do they not?

A little recent history:

In 2007 the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) fought a decisive war against the Palestinians of the Nahr El-Bared Refugee Camp in northern Lebanon. The camp was laid waste. Literally flattened by bulldozers.
The 15 weeks of fighting left more than 400 persons dead, among them 170 soldiers and 54 civilians, while the core of Nahr al-Bared was completely destroyed, and the adjacent area partly ruined.

It's worth noting that this war began less than a year after Israel's failed, and criminal, invasion. Though Israel claimed to be responding to Hezballah actions, Palestinians are always a part of the framework of Israeli military affairs. Indeed, whenever Lebanese talk about Israel invasions, the phrase "Paletinians started the war," is sure to be mentioned, as if by rote. The ritual scapegoating of the stateless Palestinians in Lebanon has had horrific consequences.

For, just after Israel's "operation" (the term leaves me ill), the LAF enclosed Nahr El-Bared. The refugees there were forced to show ID upon entry, and nearly all economic activity ceased there. By collectively punishing the refugees, they could show that they were serious about controlling "terrorists." Of course, the situation was bound to explode--this is Lebanon, after all.

If only the LAF fought so "fiercely" against the invaders.

Alas, the weak will always be the targets. So, after 15 weeks of destruction, Nahr El-Bared lay flat. War makers "softened" homes with the bullet, then turned them into rubble with the bulldozer. Much the same as Jenin in 2002. Or East Jerusalem today.

So, what's all this got to do with Suleiman's quest for military assistance? Lebanon's military money is directly connected to their "control" of muslims. Let the good people of the Washington Institute explain:
Lebanon is the second largest per capita recipient of U.S. military assistance after Israel. While Washington continues to back Beirut (the administration has requested $60 million in military assistance for Lebanon for 2009), Hizballah's recent political gains and lingering questions about the future disposition of the Lebanese government will likely prevent the administration from expanding either the quantity or quality of the military requests...
...The LAF demonstrated a great deal of commitment in Nahr el-Bared. Not only did the army follow government orders to enter the camp in the face of Hizballah threats -- Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah described entry into the camp as a "red line" -- the LAF persevered throughout a three-month campaign and sustained heavy losses. Regrettably, however, the LAF's performance in the camp was a high point.

So, military aid is being tied directly to Lebanon's commitment, or willingness at least, to fight against "Islamists*," be they Palestinian or Hezballah. For, to the Islamophobes running our country, a muslim is a muslim. The deader the better.

And since the US is committed to maintaining Israeli superiority in the region, and since Hezballah is responsible for doing what no other Lebanese faction has ever been able to do--repel Israel--we're left to assume that any new weaponry will be directed at the Stateless Ones.

*Do not let the conflation of Palestinian Refugees and Hezballah pass you by. First of all, Hezballah is Shia, Palestinians are, for the most part, Sunni. This difference is of major significance. Secondly, Hezballah is based in the south of the country, while Nahr El-Bared is near the northern border, which is to say that they had nothing to do with militant activity in that camp. The Party of God defines itself as an Islamic nationalist defense/resistance movement. In short, though Hezballah is vocally supportive of Palestinians, they are actively silent (for example, they did not respond militarily to Israel's maniacal hellfire over Gaza.)

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