The title of the show, “The Lebanon,” comes from a song by the Human League, which my generation’s familiar with.
The literature on the Middle East, its politics, and individual nations is vast.
For the show, I relied on two books for background on the current conflict: “From Beirut to Jerusalem (Updated with a New Chapter)” (Thomas L. Friedman) (although my copy doesn’t have the new chapter) and “GOD HAS NINETY NINE NAMES : Reporting from a Militant Middle East” (Judith Miller).
Islam is an immensely complicated religion to understand, and its political thinking is a contentious subject. I’ve read, and can recommend, “Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet” (Karen Armstrong) but have yet to read something written by a Muslim for the non-Muslim on the subject.
On Muslim culture and society, how it’s viewed by the West and how it views the West, there are also many books competing for attention in the bookstores. An influential book is “Orientalism (Vintage)” (Edward W. Said). Also, there is “What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East” (Bernard Lewis), which I’ve read with great interest.
“Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, Revised and Expanded Edition” (W. W. Norton) is a glossary of terms, and provides a description of what are considered war crimes according to international law.
Even if you don’t have the time or funds to read the books I’ve mentioned above, you may find the reviews and discussions in Amazon.com interesting.
I also found the following periodical readings extremely helpful:
Six Questions on Lebanon in Harper’s.
Online sources are plentiful. The CIA World Factbook is a handy source of country profiles. There are many Lebanon timelines available on line, such as this one. The BBC has a regularly updated online collection of maps on the conflict as it develops.
We made use of a great deal of maps that are in the public domain. Many are in Wikipedia, including the following: The Greater Middle East for an overview of the area; a map of the area of conflict at present (that’s the map reproduced in this entry), and Areas of Israel that have been attacked. Other useful maps include a map of Shia populations in the Middle East.
Others (including a series of magnificent maps on the spread of Islam and the Ottoman Empire) came from De-Mystifying the Middle East, which has a series of PowerPoint Presentations as well as a downloadable set of maps.
Slate Magazine even has a “buddy list” to explain organizational relationships in the Middle East (not used for my show, but interesting nonetheless).
The Truth laid bear kindly consented to our using his map of blogger locations in the Middle East in the show. The conflict has served to highlight the differences between reportage on Lebanon in 1982 onwards, and now.
Thus, old media: intrepid correspondents eventually writing books, and new media: today’s everyone-is-a-correspondent nature of the blogosphere.
VI. My view
This was my closing statement for the show:
The idea of peace is not only a question of principle, it is an essential requirement for human survival. A few days ago i received a copy of an email written by Rasha Salti, a New York-based writer and cultural organizer now in Beirut. She says Israel is mistaken in assuming that exterminating Hezbollah is not only possible, but will achieve security. At stake, she says, is the life of Lebanon which only very recently thought it had finally emerged from the horrors of the 1982 Israeli invasion. Her remarks must make us reflect why is it that Lebanon must die, so that Israel can live.
In my closing statement, I summarized some points made by Rasha Salti, who has written a series of emails that are being passed around on the Internet. Her email on the sixth day of the conflict is what I quoted from. Read what Rasha Salti has to say (in her Sunday column, Sylvia Mayuga also wrote about that piece and related articles). In Slate, there’s also an essay from someone else who has declined to flee Beirut.