Across the Bay

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The NYT, Western Journalism, and Lebanon

Here are two articles dealing with Thanassis Cambanis' atrocious report in the NYT, which I had dealt with here.

First is an excellent article by Michael Young. Michael focuses on the chronic cliches that have plagued Western reporting about Lebanese Christians. This is an issue that old readers of my blog will recognize as something that I had covered at length.

Anyway, Michael's piece is superb, and I strongly recommend you read it. Here's a slice:

To the anti-globalization left Hizbullah is a heroic vanguard against the United States and Israel; to many Western liberals it is a social service serving a deprived community. The thing is, the Muslim Hizbullah is regarded in Western consciousness as a "truer" product of Arab society than Christian parties, who have had to fight against a sense (sometimes self-inflicted, but mostly not) that they are interlopers. This has earned the party a reprieve from the "fascism" label.

On a slightly different, but related note, regarding the issue of Hezbollah, there's more from Michael in this recent review of a book on Nasrallah's speeches edited by a Hezbollah groupie:

THE EMBRACING OF Hezbollah by many on the international Left has been perverse. But it is no mystery why an autocratic, religious party with close ties to Iran’s theocracy and Syria’s dictatorship appeals to secularists supposedly defending humanism against neocolonial oppression. Both share intense antipathy for the US and Israel, because of the Palestinian conflict.
Nasrallah’s totemisation of resistance accompanied his disdain not only for state authority but also for Lebanon’s sectarian order which, for all its flaws, has made the country democratic. Will Nasrallah accept that he is in a dilemma? If Hezbollah doesn’t disarm, tensions may lead to a civil war that destroys the party. If he agrees to disarm and integrate Hezbollah into the system, a party that thrives off permanent conflict will lose its reason for existing. Noe’s book shows a superior and systematic mind at work, but also that of a man leading his flock into a labyrinth without exits.

Make sure to read the review, including the telling statements by Nasrallah that Michael selects and comments on.

The second piece is by the dogged chronicler of the NYT's putrid Lebanon reporting, David Kenner:

Furthermore, the March 8 Christian parties have not allied themselves with the Shia community per se, but with Hezbollah and Amal – factions which support policies that ensure sectarianism and endanger Lebanese sovereignty. Their dependency on the Syrian regime risks turning the clock back to the days of Syrian occupation. Hezbollah’s refusal to give up its arms has prevented the central government from extending its authority across all of Lebanon. Aoun and Sleiman Franjieh’s only accomplishment is supporting a deeply illiberal force in Lebanese politics.

Speaking of Hezbollah, see this excellent and aptly entitled editorial in NOW Lebanon today commenting on the pathetic speech by the bankrupt Hassan Nasrallah the other day:

And this from the man who declared, not long ago, "bring us a state and we shall join." (Which, come to think of it, is pretty rich coming from a politician whose party has done all it can to obstruct national progress.) In fact, Nasrallah is a man who has wholly rejected the traditional idea of being in opposition – a rejection of democracy if ever there was one. He has given us no indication that he wants anything to do with a Lebanese state unless it's run according to his rules.

But now it appears that the Hezbollah secretary general has turned the presidential elections into a battle to banish the specter of Israeli dominion over Lebanon, allowing him to throw out his favorite chaff: An Israeli/US conspiracy. The warning is this: Any president that is not selected according to a consensus will automatically be labeled an Israeli agent. Why? Because such a president will want to see both the establishment of the Hariri tribunal, something Israel (not Lebanon, mind you) wants and UN resolutions implemented, again, an Israeli not a Lebanese aim. Nasrallah has also accused Israel of being responsible for the slew of political killings that started with Hariri in 2005 and last month took the life of MP Antoine Ghanem. "The Zionists," he said, "are killing the March 14 leaders."
He is clutching at straws. His war is over and the Shebaa Farms is not worth another. If he truly wants to join the Lebanese state, Nasrallah will have to abandon his selective reasoning and accept that Israel has for all intents and purposes withdrawn; his weapons, his rhetoric and his behavior are the only reason it will come back.

I'll have more on this and related news later.