Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Whom is one to believe?

This blog was one of the few outlets to predict that the country to suffer most from Hezbollah’s perceived victory this summer (and I stress the word perceived) will not be Israel but Lebanon.

Yes, there has been an anguished heart-searching in Israel and one hopes that it will lead to a clearer understanding of how important the media war is in the modern (and not so modern) world. Yes, the chief of staff has resigned and the President has gone on indefinite leave though that has to do with other, more personal matters. But the country stands and these matters will be sorted out in due course. If ever people want an argument for a democracy as against tyrannies of all hues and colours, look to the Middle East.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Hezbollah is demanding a change in the government in the same petulant way as the peace marchers demanded a change in this country’s foreign policy here. I don’t like this government; I don’t care that it was elected and has the support of a majority; it is not doing what I wanted it to do; I want it to change; boo-hoo.

One can joke about our own demonstrators and armchair revolutionaries. In Lebanon matters are more serious. Hezbollah has withdrawn from the government and called a general strike yesterday.

The strike developed into a running battle between different factions and The Ouwet Front, which bills itself as “Personal Views and Opinions of Lebanese Forces Members” has some interesting pictures.

Meanwhile, the BBC World Service website, calling its story “Warning of new Lebanon Protests”, talks of Hezbollah-led opposition (at least they don’t call it “loyal”) and describes Fouad Sinioara’s government as “Western-backed”. At least, they have stopped calling it “American-backed”.
The opposition is demanding a big enough share in government to give them veto power over any decisions they do not like - a step the Western-backed government has not been willing to take.
Right, let’s get several things straight. The Siniora government was elected by the people of Lebanon, many of whom are sick of Hezbollah, sick of Iranian interference and sick of Syria’s control of parts of their country and society.

Hezbollah is not the opposition. It is the one militia that refused to disarm despite that famed UN Resolution 1559. It wants to run Lebanon’s government and that is why it is demanding the power of veto. No government, let alone an elected one would agree to that.

Having got that out of the way, let us look at the figures. The BBC, as all western media outlets say that three people were killed in the clashes and 100 wounded.

Over on Al-Jazeera, the story is slightly different. For one thing they talk of rivals clashing in northern Lebanon and, it turns out, that there was an exchange of fire the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
Security forces were trying to break up the clash in the northern city of Tripoli, which started after the funeral of a Sunni Muslim government supporter killed in clashes with opposition protesters on Tuesday.

Thousands had packed the streets of the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, for the funeral of Bilal Hayek. "Sunni blood is boiling," chanted the mourners, some of them armed.
There are, as yet, no news of casualties from Tripoli but Al-Jazeera’s report talks of six people killed and 176 wounded during the strike yesterday. Whom is one to believe? And another thing: where are those Western and Muslim protests? Are those innocent Lebanese civilians no longer of any interest?


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