Robert Fisk: From Beirut
No civil war is looming … Lebanon
Wed Aug 16, 2006 14:41

Robert Fisk: No civil war is looming … The current events in Lebanon reflect the West opportunism
Azza Tawil Al-Hayat - 15/08/06/

From Beirut, where he has chosen to settle down, Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent of the British "Independent", sets out for Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, reaching Afghanistan.

Following "Pity the Nation," widely perceived as the most courageous and outspoken book approaching the thorny issues, the Arabic translation of Fisk's new book, "The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East" will come out in few days in Beirut.

On this occasion, "Al-Hayat" met Robert Fisk, who said: When I first embarked on writing this book, I feared I would simply ponder on our failure to overcome and evade history, especially that everything we suffered from in the past, as we will in the future, is but the outcome of our fathers and forefathers' deeds. I wasn't born when Balfour Promise was made and Sykes-Picot Agreement concluded. But I endure in every moment of my life the repercussions of both events. We, the Europeans and Americans, believe we can surmount history, slamming the door behind the past. At the end of World War II, when Adolf Hitler and Mussolini passed away, we set up the United Nations then the European Union. So, we keep on slamming doors, on overlooking and disregarding history in sharp contrast with the people of the Middle East. A Palestinian friend of mine had miraculously survived Sabra and Shatila massacres. When he woke up the next day amidst blood, destruction, death and debris - the remnants of the massacre- he lost all touch with time and thought that Balfour Promise was made the past night. Frisk describes his book as "firsthand testimonies, an embodiment of all what I have beheld with my own eyes over the past 30 years. It's a book about Israel and Palestine, enclosing in the 5th chapter entitled "The Girl, the Baby, and Love" some of my correspondences with a Palestinian young man who tried to convince his pregnant girlfriend to plant a bomb on an airplane. In another chapter, I mentioned Hanan Ashrawi, unveiled Yasser Arafat's real wickedness, and depicted Sharon as an obstinate war criminal who takes orders from no one.

When I finished my book, I realized it was a historical illustration of torture, suffering, massacre, and injustice.

We asked him then about the ambiguous word, "civilization," in the title of his book, "The Great War for Civilization," whereby civilization can be meant as a pretext to the Great War.

Frankly, he replied, I never use this word. But this time it came out of irony. I inspired this title from the words inscribed on one of my father's WWI honor medals. Here lies my irony. I do not believe in civilizations - and I insist on the plural form. Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib Himself says that people are either brothers in their religion or morals. I spent 30 years in the Muslim world; the Muslims are also part of Beirut. In truth, religious differences do not interest me personally. I do not care for others' religions. For instance, my driver, housekeeper, and all people around me belong to different confessions - Sunnite, Druze, Shiite… I know the exact religion of each one of them as I know the color of their eyes. But this means nothing to me. I am outside religions and don't believe in civilizations. Even more, the idea stating that conflict will always arise where religious differences prevail does not convince me at all. Have you watched Kingdom of Heaven on Crusades? I have in Dunes cinema, Verdun, where the public was mostly Muslim. When the horrible bloody scenes rolled depicting the Crusaders with their Muslim blood-tainted clothes poised to rape then kill Salah Eddine's (Saladin) sister, I looked around in an attempt to observe the audience reactions. But, to the public, these scenes belong to a bygone history. By the end, another scene appeared - Saladin reached Jerusalem after its collapse, entered a bombarded church where he picked up a crucifix then placed it back on the altar. At this, the audience burst in applause. So, if you please, don't talk to me about civilizations!

In March 2006, in an interview with World Today, you portended a major political crisis in the Middle East. To what extent have your predictions met with the current developments in Lebanon?

In 1993, he answered, I finished the movie "From Bosnia to Beirut" on the reasons behind the Muslims' hatred of the West. Later aired on the British Channel 4 and the American Discovery, it was mostly filmed in Lebanon, mainly the South, in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, Egypt, Bosnia, Poland, and Croatia. In the same year, I entered a fire-consumed mosque. We were then shooting in Bosnia. So, I said in the background that whenever I behold such atrocities, I instantly flash back to the Middle East where I live. I exactly said: I wonder what the Muslim world is concocting for us. Maybe I must end all my articles with the expression: Watch out!

I have also come across another tape for my interview with the Canadian CBC station in Toronto. My interlocutor ended up saying: Things are apparently getting better in the Middle East, especially after the peace treaties some Arab States like Jordan and Egypt have concluded with Israel. I answered at that time: No, that's not true. I am quite certain that an outbreak will rock the region.

Every Middle East inhabitant, particularly a Westerner, can sniff out and anticipate events. Frankly, I ignore what prompted me to say so at that time but I was certainly right, wasn't I?

With respect to the current events in Lebanon, he said:

They constitute another blatant example of the Western opportunism, the American hypocrisy, the Israeli barbarism, and the West's continuous betrayal of Lebanon. They equally reflect how one group in Lebanon can easily monopolize the fateful decisions without consulting the others, how the others can easily slip into drama, chaos, and confusion - I mean the Shiite and Hizbullah that trespassed the Blue Line to capture the two Israeli soldiers - a decision tinged with underrating politically and cruelty and recklessness militarily. Hizbullah was certainly aware of the potential repercussions, of Israel's exaggerated reaction. Its attack rested on the assumption that Israel's retaliation will be unjustly violent; that Israel will shed the blood of the Lebanese - and right was it! We sense irony in the stances of the conflicting parties. Hizbullah's theory has undoubtedly relied on the fact that with Israel's aggressive retaliation, the world will forget to criticize it as is the case now. The world currently keeps on criticizing Israel instead of Hizbullah, as proves Siniora's speech, whereby the Lebanese Premier neither mentioned Hizbullah nor blamed its Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. Interestingly, the US ambassador in Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, engrossed last year in hailing Siniora's highly democratic conduct, described the speech as eloquent and impressive in one of the most pathetic declarations I have ever heard from a US ambassador in such times. Feltman has certainly got himself in trouble. By describing the speech as wonderful, he implicitly criticized Israel. So, in my view, he will be soon dispatched to Mongolia where he will serve as an ambassador to the United States. In addition, Feltman mirrored the US as coward, afraid of criticizing Israel in any context and devoid of compassion and respect for the Lebanese.

I have previously likened the Lebanese to the Westerners. You, the Lebanese, resemble us. You live amongst us in London, Paris; you master, Arabic, French, English; you are in sum the most cultivated people in the region. We respect you and yearn to be your friends, to share your food and company. Many westerners, males and females alike, have married Lebanese. But when it comes to Israel, we instantly abandon you and betray your trust as is the case nowadays. All these western warships massing in the Mediterranean waters are not here to protect you but to protect their expatriates, mostly Lebanese of dual nationality. Paradoxically, when the battleships reached the Lebanese shores, reporters started chasing all foreigners with blue eyes and blond hair in line with the West's deliberate attempt to suggest that foreigners or citizens born in the west are the only ones evacuated. So, even when they came to save you, they concealed it.

The Lebanese are the victims

Are we witnessing now, as Israel tries to convince the world, a war between Lebanon and Israel?

No, absolutely not. But the Lebanese State cannot rein in Hizbullah. It is a war between two countries: Syria and Israel, while the Lebanese are as usual the victims.

There is a confirmed relation between the capture of the two Israeli soldiers and the Iranian nuclear program. In my opinion, Hizbullah may be God's servant, but it is certainly Iran's too.

Likewise, it serves Syria. But Iran remains its real reference. As proof, I always meet on my visits to Tehran Hizbullah's affiliates.

Regarding Bush's stance on the assault against Lebanon, his refusal of a ceasefire as well as the UN stand, he says that it is pathetic to the largest extent. Bush, in his intention to embody power and strength, only represents political weakness. Bush does not fight, not even for his own country. He has not fought in Vietnam so nobody expects him now to support a country like Lebanon. He and Blair are but mouthpieces of Israel's interests and policies.

In the same vein, John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, has tumbled and is in desperate need of medical treatment. Bolton lied when he said: How can we, in the presence of terrorists, reach a ceasefire in Lebanon, where democratic elections were held? To prove his lies, I will just refer to the 1990 ceasefire reached under the UN auspices between Israel and Yasser Arafat, the terrorist in the eyes of Israel. It worked for two whole years before Israel breached it in 1992 alleging that Arafat was behind the murder of its ambassador in London. But the truth is, Saddam Hussein was behind that assassination! In short, Bolton totally ignores his country's history. He is careless. Watch him and you'll find out!

Where the US is present

You said in your book, Mr. Fisk, that the United States devised a geographical plan for the region. What is it and what are its limits?

He met this question with another one. In some way, he noted, the US is present, thanks to its military positions, in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Bahrain, and others. What are the Americans doing there? What goal does this disguised presence serve? Let's start from Greenland to Britain, Germany, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, and Greece near Turkey. In a nutshell, there is a disguised US presence stretching from Somalia's borders to the North Pole. Why? Don't you find in this a reply to your question?

What about this war raging in Lebanon?

With French and American assistance, the Syrian troops were humiliated and driven out of Lebanon last year pursuant to the Resolution 1559. This has certainly displeased Syria that historically claims to be the most important Arab State. The Syrian president, by granting the Lebanese a democratic State, wanted everybody to resort to Damascus when things become out of control, to beg him to intervene and exercise his clout. Hence, every party desiring to curb Hizbullah must resort to Syria, Iran, and sometimes to Beirut, though the latter will be ineffectual. In my opinion, this is partially what the war is all about.

Is Syria, in other words, behind this war?

I haven't literally said that Syria is responsible for this war. There are hundreds of reasons behind this war. But I think that Syria is inextricably linked to what's going on. Lebanon's basic problem lies in its multi-confessional political regime. Amid its easily exploited confessional differences, it is difficult for Lebanon to become a modern and typical state. This is the problem and other parties are exploiting the Lebanese. Why do you think we read on the steles in Nahr Kalb all those inscriptions about the Crusaders, the Phoenicians, and the French…… the mere passers by.

No civil war looming in Lebanon

You haven't portended a civil war in Iraq. Do you expect a second one in Lebanon amid the boiling news on the issue? Do you believe that the Lebanese will waver again?

I was apparently wrong about Iraq. But in Lebanon, I do not think that a civil war will erupt so long as the army remains united. Israel may try to arm some Lebanese political parties. Still, the Lebanese have grown mature after their long civil wars. When Hariri was assassinated, I was 400 meters away from the blast area. I thought at first sight that the specters of the joint forces of the Lebanese civil war will resurface. But the days slipped by and nothing of the like occurred. Lebanon was spared another civil war. During the Lebanese civil war, the youth emigrated to the West, to Geneva, Paris, London, and studied in Harvard and Lyon and came back with a riper thinking. They definitely don't want their parents' war to recur.

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