The Explainer: The Lebanon sources

The title of the show, “The Lebanon,” comes from a song by the Human League, which my generation’s familiar with.

I. Books

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 interesting.

II. Periodicals

I also found the following periodical readings extremely helpful:

From the Council on Foreign Relations: Israel and the Doctrine of Proportionality and Profile of Khaled Meshal.

Six Questions on Lebanon in Harper’s.

III. Online

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.

A pro-Israel website is Criticism from within Israel: Israel’s raid on common sense.

IV. Maps

Lebanon Conflict Area

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).

V. Blogosphere

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.

From the Palestinian point of view, diaries by different people. Global Voices Online has a selection of links to Lebanese bloggers (also, an earlier entry on Israeli blogger buzz).

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.

VII. Guests

My guests were Rasheed Abou-Alsahm, my editor at the Arab News, and Felipe Donoso, with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

47 thoughts on “The Explainer: The Lebanon sources

  1. Manolo,

    Thomas Friedman and Judith Miller and Bernard Lewis as primary sources? And the Council of Foreign relations? Not even a pip from Yassir Arafat and other Palestinian sources?

    There are two historical narratives at play here. The Israeli version and the Palestinian version. Your primary sources come from the Israel narrative. Neither one of your sources has ever even acknowledged the Palestinian narrative .

    As I understand it, the Palestinian narrative, simply put, says they are victims of landgrabbing.That is where their narrative begins. No ideology. No religion. It was plain landgrabbing from the very beginning. Ideology, religion and all that came into play when geopolitics entered the picture.

    That’s why I was teasing you about the Israelis and the Sunnis being very pleased by your show.

    Edward Said’s, Orientalism, addresses a larger issue. Colonial mentality. He described the affliction of colonial mentality as believing that “the source of the world’s significant actions and life is in the West, whose representatives seem at liberty to visit their fantasies and philantrophies upon a mind-deadened Third World…[those] outlying regions of the world have no life, history, or culture to speak of, no independence or integrity worth representing without the West.”  

    The language of a conflict defines the conflict. That’s why framing an issue is so important.The frame will determine the language and the way the conflict will be fought. For example, Clinton vs. Bush “it’s the economy, stupid.” The frame is the economy and the capability of Bush as an economic manager. Bush vs. Saddam – “The war on terror”. The frame is not about the turn-around of US policy towards a former ally but a war against some undefined enemy (your terrorist is my freedom fighter)

    So when explaining a contentious issue one has to present both frames. One has to tell both narratives as each side tells it. That way, the viewer can determine for himself which is closer to the truth, hence truly educational.

    But Firedman. Miller and Lewis? It’s like asking Saludo, Defensor and Bunye to explain the Philippine political crisis.

  2. when, oh, when are we getting the podcast edition for those who have no access to the show?

  3. For a book on Islam written by a Muslim, you can try “No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.” (Random House 2005) by Reza Aslan. (I haven’t read it myself, but the reviews seem to be good.)

    BTW, i agree with MB.

  4. The world thought of how to give the Jews total justice, thus Israel was born. The U.N. did not even bother to think of the repercussions this move would have in the Middle East. Manuel is right, its legalized landgrabbing. See how the international community screwed things up?

  5. I hope you don’t mind Schumey,if I have questions on your comment,the Jews spread out Europe and the Americas come from the same land that they now call Israel.

    I know there is a lot of what ifs here.
    Would you have preferered that they stayed in Europe,when Hitler was defeated,or should they have stayed in the states?

    All roads lead to home Schumey,that is why they chose their land of origin.The problem is they have been coexisting with Muslims after the last crusade.
    Or would you have preferred an all Muslim Middle East?

    No can do.Even in Lebanon there are lots of Christians.

    these are just questions for discussion,if I am wrong just tell me.

  6. I tend to have Israel as my “manok” so to speak.
    No secret there.

    Been rooting for them in the threads.
    And supported their right to exist as a nation.

    As to the question of whether a modern Israel should have even been born, that may be another matter.

    But I would have to agree with MB :

    “So when explaining a contentious issue one has to present both frames. One has to tell both narratives as each side tells it. That way, the viewer can determine for himself which is closer to the truth, hence truly educational.”

  7. Do Arabs who call themselves Palestinians have “the” rightful claim to the land now called Israel, now a modern Jewish nation?

    What I do know is…that there had been a relative peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Palestine for hundreds of years prior to the campaign for a Jewish homeland following the second world war.

    I have also read that modern Palestinians are descended from the ancient Philistines who were even then at war with the ancient Israelites.

    The Philistines were a seafaring race of Greek origin if I’m not mistaken.

    Before ancient Israel, the land was known as Canaan– so who were these Canaanites and who are their descendants today?

    World history always makes for fascinating reading.

    Centuries of invasions and conquests may render the question of rightful claim debatable if such contentions should arise.

    My apologies if I appear to be digressing from the topic.

  8. Karl,

    forgive me from joining your post addressed to schumey.

    Palestinians say that before the Zionist movement was started by some European jews in the late 19th century, they were living side by side with jews . There was no people or religious problem. Jerusalem was shared by all faiths.

    The creation of the state of Israel made Palestinians stateless. Previous to Israel, the inhabitants of that land , both jews and non-jews, were under the British mandate or something like that. They were not Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians or Jordanians. When Israel was created, the Jews in that land became citizens of their own state, Israel. The rest became refugees and stateless. And dispossessed of their private land.

    The dispossession was state policy. Read accounts of the early years of Israel where the mass removal of arabs from Israel was being carried out because Israel as a jewish state could not survive if the majority of their inhabitants were Arabs.

    It’s like the Malays expelling Singapore from their federation because the Malays were afraid that with Singapore in their federation the chinese would end up controlling Malaysia. Well. at least the Malaysians allowed the inhabitants of Singapore to form their own state.

    Mass migration of jews into israel came after WWII and then it slowed down until the US pressured the ussr into allowing jews to emigrate to Israel. After the collapse of the USSR there was another huge influx of jews. Still, many more Jews preferred to remain in europe and america. BTW, the US senator who sponsored the law pressuring Russia to allow jews to return to Israel never immigrated to his land of origin either.

    Israelis don’t like to speak about it, but over the last three years or so, more people are leaving Israel than are going back to Israel. I would guess this is because of the improving economic standards in russia and its former bloc.

    Remember the old american joke – there are more jews in New York than in Israel. ? When you think about it, Israel is home for jews who have no home in the west. At the end of the day , there are more jews living in the west and who choose to stay there than those who want to return to the land of their origin.

    Israel’s door has always been open to all Jews, including those from Ethiopia. But why don’t more jews return to Israel? This despite the financial incentives the state of israel gives to immigrants or “returnees” Because Israel is foreign to them. That’s because their home is in the west. It’s been their home for the last thousand years.

    That’s why the state of Israel creating a homeland. In another 20 years or so, most of their population will not know anything except Israel. They will not be immigrants or returnees anymore. They will be born and bred Israelis. At that point in time, any claims by Palestinians on the land they once owned will become like native american claims against the children of the Mayflower.

    There is common ground between moderate elements from both sides. Peace.
    The Palestinian moderates are those who I call realists. They may hate it but they are willing to settle for the 1967 borders of Israel. Even the late Arafat said he could live with this. Many Israelis are also willing to live within those borders.

    The problem is with fanatics on both sides – Hizbollah who want to push the Israelis to the sea and Zionists who want the Israel of the bible from the tigris to the euphrates or something like that. These two extermes prevent the middle from talking peace.

    The Camp David accords and everything else that followed were sabotaged by extremists from both sides. Remember when Arafat spoke before the UN and asid he was abandoning the gun? The reaction of Israeli fanatics was – does a leopard change its spots.

    Israel refuses to recognize the Hamas government of Palestine. But look at it this way, Israel has been governed by people who run on the same fuel as Hamas and Hizbollah. Zionists.

    Just a few days ago, Benyamin Netanyahu was at a plaque installation ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the King David hotel. That was the terrorist act most famous for driving the Brits out of Palestine and arguably the model for the use of terror as a legitimate political weapon in the middle east.

    Let’s listen to the voices for peace. not the Hizbollah or the Israeli government . The only peace those people want is the peace of the dead.

  9. Manuel,

    Your post is a powerful pledoirie (plea) – in a nutshell, you’ve laid the truth bare for all to see. Let’s hope many voices will add to yours.

  10. MB, on that matter, Anna speaks for me as well. About the extremists sabotaging the peace efforts, i would just like to add that it was an Israeli extremist who assasinated Rabin back in ’95

  11. Informative MB.

    Fact is, Israel does exists today, notwithstanding the injustices, real or perceived that were committed in its road to statehood.

    Begs the question: how can Israel work to achieve peace with a Palestinian government led by Hamas which adamantly refuses to recognize Israel?

    And in fact seeks its destruction?

    quote “Let’s listen to the voices for peace. not the Hizbollah or the Israeli government . The only peace those people want is the peace of the dead”

    but what of Hamas?

  12. Begging another question posed in a previous thread:

    Was the creation of the state of modern Israel a mistake?

    Has it’s coming into existence created an unnecessary disharmony in the middle east, perrennial instabilities which would never have arisen otherwise?

    I can only imagine what could’ve been.

    Kinder, gentler middle east?

  13. “Israel killed UN observers. that’s really bad… ”

    That is bad.

    Too trigger happy– and the analogy by Phil Cruz in another thread quite fitting I might add.

  14. mrabello,

    But didn’t Hamas declare a uniateral cease fire as soon as it assumed power? And didn’t the cease-fire hold? Now how does one declare cease fire on something it does not recognize?

    I think what we witnessed is reality going ahead of rhetoric. Although Hamas has not condemned those elements within its organization that still espouse the violent destruction of Israel, the action of the government in power demonstrated to one and all that (1) it could live in peace even with a state it does not recognize and (2)that more practical elements within that organization are ascendant. Wouldn’t it therefore be smarter for Israel to start talking with them instead of trying to discredit them? Or putting impossible and impractical preconditions like telling Hamas to condemn their associates before any talks can begin? What if Hamas tells the Israeli government okay we will do that as soon as you condemn the Zionists in your ranks? Would that be a fair deal? And who will be crazy enough to do it in Hamas and in the Israeli government?

    As to the creation of Israel being a mistake. What can anyone do about it now if indeed it was a mistake? And also what if we phrased your question differently – could Israel have been created without dispossessing hundreds of thousands of people of their private lands? Or, does a biblical claim override the rights of those who have been inhabiting the area for a thousand yars?

    No use engaging in unwinnable debates. We can comb all the Palestinian literature and all the Israeli literature and both sides will give us good reasons why they are correct . In the end, it becomes a question of whose narrative you want to believe.

    Israel is now talking UN resolution 1559.The Palestinians are saying but Israel still has to abide by 242 and 338. So where do we start? From the Old Testament or the Balfour declaration or 1948 or 1967 and so forth and so on?

    Let’s just get rid of the roadblocks to peace. The only true and correct argument is the one that will produce peaceful co-existence. And don’t ask me how because right now all I can see is Israel bombing the bejeezus out of a country that was minding its own business.

  15. Uhmm.. far from splitting hairs,

    “No use engaging in unwinnable debates..”


    But just for the record MB, never was looking to engage anybody in any “debate” or come across as argumentative.

    Just posing some of the usual probing questions that I find myself doing(as in the other topical threads of the blog) hoping to stimulate a little discussion ..but never had in mind a debate, much less an argument(read:”hey I lose”)…

    Never a case about winning any argument(in my case and I assume with yours)..I do seek to understand perspectives.

    Tell you one thing: I am at least now further educated on the hows and whys from which the “zionist” label came to be..I will admit.

    But going back…

    The points are always “debatable” and we do have our own thoughts and opinions on any given issue.

    “So where do we start?”
    The conflict, the what it is.

    Guess when you really come down to it, it really isn’t a simple problem now is it?

    Blaming one side or the other may be an easier road to take for some or most.

    “In the end, it becomes a question of whose narrative you want to believe”.

    I think that hit the nail on the head.

  16. Mrabello,

    Sorry, I didn’t mean us debating or arguing.

    I was referring to the debate between Israel and Palestine. I meant that the whole issue between Israel and Palestine comes from two contradicting narratives, That’s why it was useless for them to engage in a neverending debate instead of looking for peace for the living instead of the peace of the dead, for the other side.

    I think an outside party should try to formulate or create a new narrative that both sides can agree on.

  17. Realistically, it will take at least a generation or two for the conflict to get resolved on the assumption that the cycle of provocations and counter-provocations stop from today. Those who hold the current narrative in their heads must first die-off. Of course, if they pass this on to their offspring, then things will take longer. To kick start this process, both sides are badly in need of a Gandhi or a Mandela who then has to survive long enough to see through the implementation of the peace agreement. It would also help if Israel’s evangelical supporters in the USA who are hoping for Armageddon to trigger the Second Coming should be neutralized. Along with Bush’ ‘War on Terror’, that’s one narrative we can do without.

    The only other way i can think of as a short-cut to reconciliation would be if both peoples face a common enemy or experience a shared catastrophe not originating from either party. Not something i would recommend.

  18. MB,
    If Israel really wants to extend to Tigris and Euphrates,that wouldd extend up to Iraq,that would be a lot messier,wouldn’t it?.Well,you said something like that,I hope it would not be as far,though;that really would be landgrabbing!

  19. My apologies MB =)..I may have read too much into your post and took much of its intended context : that you were in fact referring indeed to the main protagonists in the conflict..

    Point being: doesn’t really matter how things came to be…

    but it’s really about arriving at solutions no matter how elusive or seemingly unattainable.

  20. that is: I may taken too much out of the MB’s post in terms of its intended context.

    @ cvj:

    “It would also help if Israel’s evangelical supporters in the USA who are hoping for Armageddon to trigger the Second Coming should be neutralized”…

    hmm.. how do we neuter them? Kidding..cvj.

    These guys are waiting for the “man of peace” Mr. 666 … Mr. Antichrist himself — and for the evangelicals, it is a fulfillment of scripture “as they see it”.

    Armageddon MUST take place first before the antichrist is known or even before the second coming of Christ himself.

  21. mrabello, only the American voting public can neutralize the evangelicals (who btw make up 1/3 of the American voting public).

  22. Mr. Quezon, III

    I had suspected it all along. I don’t particularly follow the Manila political scene that closely, so maybe I’m ignorant, but the Mideast references you’ve selected shows your predeliction for leftism, if there ever was such a thing!

  23. betol, in terms of the us media, i do tend to sympathize more with liberals. but what do you mean leftism in terms of the middle east?

  24. The loving view
    Sir Manuel Quezon, i read about your critic on a news paper.

    Why you said that-or as certain sympathetic archbishops might put it,”in saecula saeculurom? what is the connection on it on the SONA? sir i am very happy to read your critics. Idol ata kita.

  25. josef, “saecula saeculorum” means “for ever and ever,” because one bishop, mondejar, says it’s God’s will for the President to be in power, and other archbishops campaign for her within the CBCP.

  26. turn for the worse?

    Al Qaeda has broken its silence and is basically telling the world’s Moslems that they are needed in Lebanon.

    If and when, that may lead to third theatre of war where the US is directly involved.

    SO, Israel is still THE enemy, and Sunni/Shia enmity can take a backseat(except in Iraq).

  27. Osama is a mystery. He is a wahabi. His family’s ties to the Saudi Royal House is well known. And he is not totally out of touch with his family. Osama says he wants to overthrow the Saudi royalty but he is doing them a great service by attracting Saudi fundamentalists away from Saudi Arabia. His 911 attack carried out with the help of Saudi suicide boys opened the door to Saddam’s overthrow and Saddam is an avowed enemy of the Saudis. And the war on terror raised the price of oil so the Saudis are raking it in and his family which controls the Saudi construction business stands to benefit from government spending of its huge oil revenues. So is Osama just another businessman?

  28. And then his call for Moslems to aid the Hizbollahs makes them allies of Al Qaeda so now any Moslem who goes there to help the Lebanese becomes a terrorist and that makes it easier for Israel to cry self defense and war on terror. And that’s Bush’s song too. So now instead of an innocent country being bombed to hell, we are going to see a terrorist lair being destroyed. So who is Osama trying to help?

  29. man…it’s a powderkeg just waiting eh?

    The situation in Lebanon threatens to spill over into the region.

    That cowboy, Bush, should wake up to the reality that any further delay in settling the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict may lead to some bigger, nastier scenario.

  30. “And then his call for Moslems to aid the Hizbollahs makes them allies of Al Qaeda”

    yep, Al Qaeda and the Ayatollahs of Tehran — what a combination.

  31. and it makes one wonder if Iran will even touch osama with a ten foot pole. But that doesn’t matter.

    The important thing is that osama says he wants to become Iran’s friend because when that happens then a whole new story of Iran supplying terrorists with nuclear weapons will be created and there will be a justification to bomb Iran back to the stone age.

    So I keep asking myself – who is osama helping?

  32. Got it now MB, that cunning fox Osama, marriage of convenience with Shia Iran …then WHAM! stabs them in the back.

    I have read that Sunnis most especially of the Wahabi kind do not regard Shias as Moslems at all.

  33. Might’ve gotten your signals wrong.

    Osama inadvertently or indirectly giving the US justification to attack Iran..?

    and Israel more justification for offensives in Lebanon because it has evolved into an Al Qaeda base?

  34. Good day Mr. Quezon
    I’ve read your columns, and while I may not always agree with what you have to say, you are indeed a good writer. However, I have a few comments on your new show on ANC.
    1) first, I don’t believe you are in a good enough position to be able to explain such a complex issue as the Middle East conflict. The sources you have provided above (books and Internet sites) are accessible to anyone. In theory, anyone could read the same books, visit the same sites and host their own show about the Middle east conflict. I would prefer, a real expert, a more knowledgeable one to explain such an issue to me. In the same way that when major news networks like CNN and BBC ask someone to explain an issue, they seek highly reputable individuals.
    2) Your show is almost like a lecture in High School History class. I feel like I am being spoonfed information as if I were a High school student. Most of those who watch ANC are not necessarily totally unaware of the events in the Middle East. I felt as if throughout your presentaton, you were assuming that we were a bunch of kids who knew nothing of this issue. Please take note many of us who watch ANC know a great deal about the issue and would like to be presented such information in a more intellectual manner. It seems as if the whole time, I was being lectured by you, assuming I knew close to nothing on the issue. A brief introductory primer is fine, but not as long as you had in your show.
    3) Your presentation was uninteresting. I suggest you watch yourself on the video. It was not catchy, plainly put, very boring. Have you ever seen a show with the host talking about an issue for 10-15 minutes? Improve your pace and tone, as to entice your audience.
    4) The analysis was very shallow. Again, made us seem like we were at a High School debate. But then again, the discussion had to be shallow because the information provided in your primer was not very deep or extensive in the first place. Don’t ask questions with clearly overly obvious answers. Ask thought-provoking questions on the conflict.
    5) If your show is called the Explainer, then why take a side at the end of your closing statement? You may be used to your job as a columnist but on a show like that, it is not your job to make such a clearly biased statement: ( Her remarks must make us reflect why is it that Lebanon must die, so that Israel can live.)
    That was undoubtedly inappropriate. Larry King would never make a statement such as that on his show. And one who seeks to explain an issue should never such a statement. That is not the kind of show you are hosting.
    6) The show to me was very below par from what I expect from ANC. Please review your show again and hopefully you will understand where my comments come from.
    Thank you.

  35. Mrabello,

    Parang ganoon na nga di ba? Look at it this way – Osama announces he likes the MILF and then issues a call to asian muslims to help Milf. And MILF may not even have anything to do with it but they can’t tell their brother muslims to “butt out this is not a religious war” because then they would lose the support of OIC. So Osama becomes a kiss of death.

  36. lab,
    you need the explainer if you think Larry King is objective.

    Larry King never makes comments like that because his guests do it for him. When Ken Lay died he invited Ken Lay’s friends on his show and all those friends said Lay was a good God fearing man who loved his family. Even if the fucking greedy bastard destroyed the lives, wiped out the life savings of so many people. and manipulated power supplies so that the poor consumers of Clifornia ened up being overcharged for nillions of dollars worth of power they never consumed.
    Watch the explainer young man. You still have a lot to learn.

  37. lab, thank you for your comments. i appreciate them very much. rest assured the program is always subject to improvement based on what viewers like you have to say. let me point out, though, that the show is aimed at a general audience, and what may be lacking in depth for discriminating viewers may be useful to others, as well.

  38. I think it would be more useful if Lab, or those who had taken a keen interest here in Middle-East conflict, and if I might suggest it as well, to MLQ3 and those who would want to point out an idea, if how and what kind of alternative should we pursue in dealing with Hezbollah in order to achieve peace in the region. There’s a growing concensus among analysts and policy makers, that an appeal for a cease-fire, if heeded, will only map a groundwork for Israel’s enemies into a more and aggresive violent campaign.

  39. those who say that are israel’s friends creating the perception of a growing concensus.

    I say disarm israel, hizbollah, syria, jordan and egypt.

  40. I think the answer is more despairing than resolve Manuel and it seemed more likely a punditocracy remark. The point, I guess, is of more than being a freind or a foe in this war — but within the purview of having a resolution and framework that is quit achievable that will, in effect, work in the long run. Any body who ardently belive in their cause is a personal matter, being right or wrong, in a sense, is another story.

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