Sunday, March 11, 2007

The 33-Day war

Yesterday I finally visited the Saqi publishers book shop in Westbourne Grove, London. I'd passed by it a number of times over the years but kept putting off a visit there. As soon as I walked in I knew I was home, there were shelves and shelves of books on all aspects of politics, philosophy and history. Most importantly a large number of them dealt with the Middle East, I was like a kid in Hamley's on Christmas day. In spite of that, I tried to stay focused on looking for books relevant for my dissertation subject, but found that I had already read or borrowed all the ones recommended. I did however, find an interesting booklet that has just come out called "The 33-Day War" by Gilbert Achcar and Michel Warschawski.



I haven't finished reading it but I did feel a bit of anxiety in the introduction. The two writers come from Lebanon and Israel respectively and the book was supposed to offer two sides to the story, though Warschawski only wrote chapter 4. It was the fact that their friendship was "..based on their common dedication to the motto of the French Revolution that they learned in school as part of the French education that they share:"Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood" which made me worry I'd just brought a book by some March 14th enthusiast pining over his "Paris of the Orient". So far that is not the case however, and Achcar has mentioned something which I had not thought of before:

During the preceding quarter of a century, Islamic fundamentalism had been the favorite ideological weapon of reactionary forces led by Washington in the Muslim world. These were led by the Saudi kingdom, with its fiercely rigorist and obscurantist regime based on Wahhabism, the crudest version of Islamic fundamentalism. What appeared here [the Iranian revolution] quite suddenly was a highly impressive manifestation of another brand of Islamic fundamentalism, one that set itself up as the bearer of radical opposition to the West.

(Achcar and Warschawski, 2007: 32)

What he is saying is that here is another reason for the Saudi's to feel anxious about Iran. Obviously the fact it is Shia is one aspect, but that it has also articulated a policy for the region seperate to and opposed to their (American and Saudi) sponsored vision of the Middle East is the main one. The more I read, the more I realise many of these Wahhabi groups do indeed operate with Saudi blessings. Saudi Arabia is itself the leading client state for the United States in the region after Israel (I guess) and it leaves me wondering....

**Update**
I've just finished reading this booklet and it is actually excellent. It provides a meaningful insight into events occuring both in Lebanon and Israel, showing the restraints and influences on both parties. It's also give very interesting critiques of matters to do with the wider contexts that conflicts in the region are experiencing, from the clash of civilizations perspective, the neo-liberal economic agenda and the effect on the United States, and the situation in the region following the conflict. If you are free one afternoon and wish to read a no frills and insightful analysis of what happened last year in Lebanon, you can do no wrong in reading this book.

16 comments:

Patrick said...

Waasim, apologies for my intrusion in your own blog but I noticed you have a problem on what I said yesterday in "The Syria news wire" blog.
You right, I'm not american, but Italian.
First of all I want to apologize to you for dubbing your comment stupid;I were just criticizing strongly your point of view: do you really see America as an evil?

I am studying international relationships in Milan and I love Middle East: as I wrote I would like to visit Syria, and other arab countries:

Unfortunately in my country, as in the whole western world I suppose, news from Middle East are not so objective: they are all filled with a pathetic anti-americanism, or, on the other hand, with an uncritic pro-americanism, and in my opinions both are quite useless: for this reason I want to find news by myself, reading different opinion throughout blogs.
Well, your opinion maybe is utterly opposed to mine.

Two little comments:
1) Israel is a democracy, the only democracy inside Middle East, isn't it? It does not mean it is allowed to make what it wants and, by the way, it does not mean it has to be exempt from criticisms, but it has to be supported. No doubts American support is an uncritic one, and it sounds not good to me, but your request to America for stopping supporting it is unrealistic.
2)an ipotetic withdraw from iraq will be devasting for that country, and an harshest civil war would become ever more dramatic: without the shadow of a doubt the weak Iraqi government, democratically elected, could not resist a lot to terrorists and insurgents. Al Maliki, not certainly the most pro-american man inside the Iraqi political world, has made it clear many times.

To conclude:
You criticize my sources of informations: I visited Jihadwatch only a few time, but it looked like to me as a good blog. Maybe I'm wrong, I'm going to take your cricism into consideration; though I would like you to give me some sources what I could find better informations. I am going to have a look to your blog.Perhaps I will find it more interesting and I will add it to my favourites, can I?
I hope you understand I'm not polemic in this comment, but that I just want to discuss with you, if you like it of course. I noticed you study international relationships too: well it could be a good point to start discussing with totally opposed points of views and beliefs.
Have a nice day. Patrick

Wassim said...

Hello Patrick,
No problem at all, I'm glad that you're consciously seeking out a better understanding of the region. I realise that many don't share my views, which is fine as long as the discussions can be backed up. In many ways your points are valid and do make common sense. That is, until you start investigating deeper and find that there are flaws.

1. With regards to Israel, I'm of the firm view that it is an illegitimate construct which has been imposed by foreign powers on the region. I firmly hold the view that the Palestinian people (of all denominations) have been wrongfully uprooted from their land and fully support their complete and unconditional return to their land. Descendants of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the US and Russia would be welcome to live in a truly democratic entity.

This must be however, with the complete understanding that the creation of Israel has been a historic wrong against the people of the region, no if's no buts.

2. With regards to Iraq, I believe the situation is terrible already. The resistance movements must continue making life difficult for occupation, but terrorist groups killing civilians are due to the lack of lawlessness and occupation. You cannot have a legitimate Iraqi government under occupation, so the Iraqi government must not be supported even if that means security wanes. It's terrible, but the moral burden is with those people who have no right to be in Iraq, not it's resistance. I reject terrorism, but morally I can understand why the resistance must continue it's activities. It goes without saying I condemn the terrorism taking place there.

You're welcome to bookmark this page and I hope the links prove to be a useful starting point. I'm afraid the links on the start are a bit sparse but I regularly include articles and links in my postings which might prove useful. In the meantime, welcome to Maysaloon!

Regards,
Wassim

sasa said...

Hi Wassim and Patrick,

Wassim - thanks for your comments - I just read your post about Saqi, i used to love that place. The bookshop and the gallery too, they have great exhibitions and shows. Are you living in London now?

Patrick - grazie for your comments on the Syria News Wire. I just have to add something about Israel's democracy. First: internally, Arabs have different rights to Jews - it has been described as apartheid by the UN. Second: externally, it is occupying land. Israel is an ethnocracy. Its institutions are very democratic if you are a Jew living in Israel or the illegal settlements. If you are an Arab living in Israel or occupied Palestine, then no, I am sorry but it is not a democracy. Do not forget, Arabs outnumber Jews - if Israel was a democracy, it would no longer exist.

Wassim said...

Hi Sasa,
Yes I'm living, studying and working in London at the moment. I'm going back to Saqi books very soon as I've ordered an Arabic copy of Mowa3ez and Muthakarat by al Amir Usama ibn Munqith. I can't wait!

Very good point about Israeli Democracy too. I think what people always get confused with is that Zionism itself as an ideology must be dismantled like Nazism. It is simply incapable of coexisting in the region. That does not mean Arabs are planning some 21st century holocaust to anybody. If anybody bothers to read history, they'll find that pogroms, holocausts and ethnic cleansing is something which has a much stronger presence in European history rather than Arab or Islamic. Not that I'm pretending we are without blemish, but we have to keep things in perspective sometimes.

Spears said...

Hi ..
I know what it’s like to be in a bookstore .. it’s like being in Candy Land …

* ”their friendship was based on their common dedication to the motto of the French Revolution that they learned in school as part of the French education that they share: (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood)” Well .. this IS a very dangerous sign no matter what comes after! Brotherhood? Between an Israeli guy and a Lebanese one ? The Lebanese wounds are still bleeding for God’s sake ..
You reminded me of Ma7moud Darwish and his “ "بين ريتا وعيوني بندقية

*Although I’m Sunnite I’m a big supporter of Iran and Hezbullah . I believe that what we all should care about is how much certain state or party is being devoted to their case and our case.. apart from dividing people into religious categories …

* now I have a suggestion for you. I took a quick look at your blog and found it interesting but you’re not leaving any time to readers to post their comments and maybe start discussions .. so I think it would be much better if you give each post 2 days at least before you publish another

Best Regards

sasa said...

Not at Soas by any chance?

Wassim said...

Thanks for that Spears! Always good to have some feedback. You are right it is important to give enough time for feedback. I just get a bit ahead of myself sometimes as I constantly get ideas or comments and I need somewhere to jot them before I forget.

Hi Sasa,
No I'm in London Metropolitan University, though I've wished many times to have gone to SOAS instead. It's got a great atmosphere there and their weekly lectures are awesome. Wish I could have been involved with those!

Anonymous said...

I always use to hear these arguments when I discuss about Israeli democracy with arab guys.
In my opinion, and for most westerners, Israel is a democracy. This is a clear evidence.

How can you criticize Israeli democracy?I remind you that arab countries are, on the ground of democracy, hugely backward!!!Have arab countries free election?Are there in these countries equal rights for all, men and women? How could you justify the attendance of armed groups (like Hezbollah or Hamas) to elections to which it is used to refer to as democratic elections? Is the juridical system independent, or it's submitted to the political power? Have women and men the same juridical rights? Is there in Egypt, Syria, Lybia, Saudi Arabia a free political opposition to your governments? What about if someone, like for example Ayman Nour in Egypt, dare to criticize, strongly, the rulers of your countries? What about if someone in Saudi Arabia shows a cross: is there religious freedom (although I know other arab countries are more tolerant)?
I have deliberately left out the situation in Iran (where democracy is utterly absent), given that it's not an arab country, although it seems that Lebanese guys have a particular attraction for that illiberal regime...
What I want to say is that you cannot criticize Israel when you have such a situation inside your countries!On the other hand, what I do not want to say is that westerners, like me, or also Israelis are better than arabs!

Even if my english is not perfect I hope you understand what I mean.

Anyway I'm going to write an article on my blog in which I will expose my opinion on Israel, whether it's a democracy or not.

Have a nice day
Patrick
www.ilsecolo.blogspot.com

anonimous said...

Ah, by the way, it is used to say:
"è più facile vedere la pagliuzza negli occhi degli altri che non la trave nel proprio occhio" that in english could be translated in this way:
"it's easier to see the the straw in someone's else eyes than the beam in your own eyes".
this is a classic situation in which this proverb fits perfectly :)

Wassim said...

Patrick,
On all that you have pointed out, are you right? Yes. Is it relevant? No.

We are not criticising Israel's democracy because we believe we have better governments, we have many big problems to sort out sure. We are not criticising it either just because it is Israel, this is not a soccer match where we compare which team is better.

I criticise Israel because :
a) I don't believe it has a right to exist there.
b) It's occupation of Palestinian lands and it's treatment of the Palestinians.

It can be paradise on earth, but it has no right to be there. That is why myself and many like me do not recognise it. That does not mean I want to throw anybody in the sea though I understand why Nasser made those statements. I support a "one-state solution" where all Palestinian people have the right to return and for all their homes lost since 1948 to be returned. I also support a "fully" democratic government for all inhabitants of Palestine including Israeli's who wish to stay. That, in my view is a starting point of discussion.

Good luck articulating why Israel is such a great country, I'm sure it is. What you had read earlier in my comments and what you understood are two different things.

Anonymous said...

"I am sorry but it is not a democracy": this is what Sasa said referred to Israel.
Apologies for misunderstanding you.
Now I have understood your point of view: good vision but unfortunately nowadays it is utterly unrealistic.
Patrick
www.ilsecolo.blogspot.com

Wassim said...

Well actually Sasa is also correct, it is a democracy for Israeli jews, but for particularly Muslim Palestinians, the situation is extremely uncomfortable for many. I think if you wish to understand this puzzling situation you might be interested in reading some of the articles on http://www.zmag.org/ where a considerable number of writers and thinkers mention exactly what is happening.

By the way, it's interesting how you mention "nowadays". As if our "modern" time is somehow divorced from history and not a part of it in some strange way. That was just a thought I had.

Anonymous said...

wasim what do u think of these facts?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2223717.stm
http://www.zmag.org/CHOMSKY/sam/sam-2-08.html
foolish?

Wassim said...

Foolish is pasting some links expecting that they state some kind of obvious fact when it's clear they actually mean nothing at all. Yes there was the Contra scandal. For the first item I can also tell you that weapons Hezbullah used in the South were also brought from Israel, so what more could you say if somebody pulled off a deal between Iran and Israel. If you haven't realised, weapons from the US army are also sold to the resistance by those more interested in a quick buck.

The second link is also out of context. Iran was in the middle of the bloodiest war in it's recent history with Iraq which was encouraged and funded by the United States and the Gulf states respectively. I think it was the American President Roosevelt who said he'd hold Satan's hand in order to beat Nazism? Are things like this something that you conveniently forget?

If you have a point, make it. Don't waste my time.

Anonymous said...

wassim,and who kill the iraqi scientists ,only mossad are u sure?

Anonymous said...

wassim,hamas also has israeli weapons but those were purshased from corrupt or drug israeli soldiers...but these important arm deals were more a state to state deals....
i'm not defending the arab rulers at all...
but u should read more about the iranian hidden policy...and avoid to be fooled by slogans.