Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lebanon is a very complicated place.

You literally need a scorecard to keep track of all the different groups that make up Lebanon's political scene and their shifting loyalties. The three main groups are,of course, the Christians, the Shiites and the Sunnis, but each of those groups have splinter groups that may or may not be aligned with their co-religionists at any time. There are also the Druze and smaller groups, whose very survival depends on being able to anticipate which way the wind is about to blow and jump on the side of the winning team.

Add to this that these are not just political groups but they all generally were parts of militia in the 1970s and 1980s. Sometimes they have to take out their weapons to defend their towns and villages.

And add to this the entire recent history of civil war. Plus the collective memory of being effectively controlled by Syria, by Israel or (more recently) by Iran. Not to mention the French influence on Lebanese culture and the fact that it is a favorite vacation spot for decadent, rich Saudis. More ingredients in Lebanon's ratatouille is the generally liberal and Western-style of downtown Beirut compared with the poverty of the south and the traditionalism in other areas.

The resulting dish is dizzying in its complexity.

Michael Totten, in his great book "The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel ," explains it all (or at least a lot of it) in a wonderful first-person journalistic style.

We learn about Lebanon as Totten does. We follow him as he interviews Shi'ite, Maronite and Sunni leaders and ordinary people as well. We tag along as he gets threatened by people with guns and eventually finds that he is somehow safer with armed people around.

Unlike many journalists who speak as if they are omniscient, Totten lets us see his mistakes and how he learns from them.

He takes us on his journey during the Israel/Hezbollah war of 2006 and mini-civil wars precipitated by Hezbollah in afterwards. He speaks to many people on most sides, and lets us know when he doesn't believe what they say. He and his friends get into dangerous situations that are inconceivable to Western eyes - but he knows that and explains it so the audience gets it.

Totten often uses that skill to great effect. For example, he mentions that he asks Eli Khoury, a leader of the March 14th movement, "What is the solution?" Totten then goes on to tell his readers that this is a very American question, one that he soon learned not to ask, because the Lebanese know that there isn't one. However, Americans are solution-oriented and cannot grasp that basic concept that is so integral to survival in the Middle East.

We cannot solve the problems. We can only manage them as best we can, today.

One other talent that Michael Totten has is the ability to see the entire picture and relate to it. It is easy to get lost in the minutiae, especially in Lebanon where there are so many groups competing with each other and none of them are in the majority. But Totten is always there to remind us what the real danger is. It is Iran, using Hezbollah as its proxy. All of the desire to be pacifist or pan-Lebanese is doomed as long as Hezbollah, effectively an arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, has effective veto power over the Lebanese government and controls its own state within a state. No one can confront Hezbollah militarily nor politically, and as a result Iran is extending its hegemony over the region.

Totten's journalistic style is especially appreciated in the Lebanese arena. While most other journalists will meekly follow whatever restrictions their interview subjects impose on them, Totten reports on the entire context of his interviews, letting us know that if he cannot find out a piece of information it is not because he didn't try. He also lets us know when his subjects are not being entirely truthful.

Totten was not in Lebanon for all the events he covers so he relies on his friends to fill in the personal stories. Also, he didn't talk much about the Palestinian Arab experience in Lebanon outside of broad historical strokes; there is no interview with the Arabs in refugee camps and the Nahr al-Bared fighting is glossed over as a "sideshow." While this is probably true, there are  about as many Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon as there are Druze, and demographics do matter. I would love to have seen him highlight Lebanese discrimination against them across the board as well as what they have done to help destroy Lebanon from inside.

These are minor points, though. The Road to Fatima Gate is a brilliant combination of memoir and journalism, and it is highly recommended.

EoZTV Podcast

Podcast URL

Subscribe in podnovaSubscribe with FeedlyAdd to netvibes
addtomyyahoo4Subscribe with SubToMe

search eoz

Loading...

comments

Speaking

follow me

Follow by Email

Contact

Elder: elder -at- elderofziyon dot com
Mrs. Elder: mrs.elder -at- elderofziyon.com


translate

E-Book

For $18 donation








Sample Text

EoZ's Most Popular Posts Ever

Hasbys!

Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

Donate!

Donate to fight for Israel!

Monthly subscription:
Payment options



One time donation:



subscribe via email

Follow EoZ on Twitter!

Tweets

Compliments

The Jerusalem Report:"A seemingly indefatigable one-man operation, armed only with a computer, chutzpa and stamina."

Algemeiner: "Fiercely intelligent and erudite"

Omri: "Elder is one of the best established and most respected members of the jblogosphere..."
Atheist Jew:"Elder of Ziyon probably had the greatest impression on me..."
Soccer Dad: "He undertakes the important task of making sure that his readers learn from history."
AbbaGav: "A truly exceptional blog..."
Judeopundit: "[A] venerable blog-pioneer and beloved patriarchal figure...his blog is indispensable."
Oleh Musings: "The most comprehensive Zionist blog I have seen."
Carl in Jerusalem: "...probably the most under-recognized blog in the JBlogsphere as far as I am concerned."
Aussie Dave: "King of the auto-translation."
The Israel Situation:The Elder manages to write so many great, investigative posts that I am often looking to him for important news on the PalArab (his term for Palestinian Arab) side of things."
Tikun Olam: "Either you are carelessly ignorant or a willful liar and distorter of the truth. Either way, it makes you one mean SOB."
Mondoweiss commenter: "For virulent pro-Zionism (and plain straightforward lies of course) there is nothing much to beat it."
Didi Remez: "Leading wingnut"

Interesting Blogs

Categories

Abbas liar Academic fraud administrivia al-Qaeda algeria American Jews Amnesty analysis anti-semitism apartheid arab refugees Arafat archaeology art ASHREI B'tselem bahrain bbc BDS BDSFail Bedouin Beitunia beoz book review breaking the silence Cardozo Chanukah Christians conspiracy theories Cyprus Daphne Anson Davis report DCI-P double standards Egypt Elder gets results ElderToons Electronic Intifada EoZNews eoztv Erekat EU Euro-Mid Observer Fake Civilians 2014 Fatah featured Features fisking flotilla Forest Rain free gaza freedom of press palestinian style future martyr Gary Spedding gaza Gaza Platform George Galloway George Soros gideon levy gilad shalit gisha Goldstone Report Good news Grapel Guardian gunness Haaretz hamas Hamas war crimes hasbara Hasby 2014 Hasby 2016 Hebron helen thomas hezbollah history Hizballah Holocaust denial honor killing HRW Human Rights Humanitarian crisis humor Hypocrisy ICRC Ilan Pappe impossible peace incitement Indonesia international law intransigence iran Iraq Islamic Judeophobia Islamism Israel Loves America Israeli culture Israeli high-tech J Street jabalya jeremy bowen Jerusalem jewish fiction Jewish Voice for Peace jihad jimmy carter John Kerry jokes jonathan cook Jordan Juan Cole Judea-Samaria Kairos Karl Vick ken roth khalid amayreh Khaybar Lebanon leftists Linkdump lumish mahmoud zahar Malaysia max blumenthal McGraw-Hill media bias Methodist Miftah Mohammed Assaf Mondoweiss moonbats Morocco music Muslim Brotherhood Nakba Natural gas Nazi News nftp NGO NIF norpac NYT Occupation offbeat Omar Barghouti Opinion oxfam PA corruption PalArab lies Palestine Papers pallywood pchr PCUSA Peter Beinart Petra MB poll Poster Preoccupied Prisoners propaganda Proud to be Zionist purimshpiel Qaradawi Qassam calendar Rafah Ray Hanania real liberals reference Richard Falk rogel alpher roger cohen roger waters Saudi Arabia saudi vice self-death self-death palestinians sex crimes SFSU shechita sheikh tamimi Shujaiyeh Simona Sharoni SodaStream South Africa Speech stamps Syria Tarabin Temple Mount Terrorism This is Zionism Thomas Friedman Tunisia Turkey UCI UK UN UNDP unesco unhrc United Arab Emirates Unity unrwa UNRWA hate unrwa reports UNRWA-USA Varda Vic Rosenthal Washington wikileaks work accident X-washing Yemen zahran zionist attack zoo Zvi

Blog Archive