The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

About Pierre Gemayel

I've been getting emails asking why I haven't written about Pierre Gemayel. The reason is simply that I'm extremely busy until the end of the week.

Still, a few points:

- Obviously I am worried about what's next in Lebanon and horrified at the continued string of political assassinations. This is the last thing the country needs right now and I hope that Hizbullah sees in it an opportunity to rejoin the government, perhaps on better terms for its representation in the cabinet, but drops its opposition to international tribunals.

- I think some of the media is unfair in portraying Pierre Gemayel as a warlord. While his family is responsible for some of the worst episodes of the civil war, he was too young to have been part of them. He may represent the feudal side of Lebanese politics and have been a political lightweight, but that doesn't mean his death doesn't matter. Especially if his replacement is going to be an actual old-school Phalangist. That being said, I have no particular insight into who replaces him.

- This issue was a good test of the new al-Jazeera English. I thought their coverage was pretty decent and intelligent in the commentary but not so much in the pace of news reporting. CNN, in comparison, had quite a politically biased commentator from Beirut (her name escapes me) but faster-paced coverage. That's my impression from watching about an hour of TV after the event broke out. CNN really does amazing amounts of Hariri propaganda though, the other channels are more varied. No wonder CNN got the first interview with Saad Hariri - who didn't come across as badly as I expected him to, actually. In any case, Hariri, John Bolton and the media in general have set the tone: Syria did it.

- In a sense I am left with the same impression as when Rafiq Hariri was killed: how stupid is it for Syria to have done this, yet who else than Syria? Are all the assassinations that have taken place since then related? Are they all by the same group? Even Zvi Bar'el of Haaretz is asking himself those questions. And if not Syria directly or indirectly via its Lebanese allies, then who? Pranay Gupte writes in the New York Sun (which I don't generally trust) that it could be another Christian faction - Michel Aoun's or Samir Geagea's.

- Watching Lebanese pundits on various channels yesterday, I noticed how one word kept being avoided in the conversation about Syria, Lebanon, etc. The word was "Hizbullah."

- Not being a Lebanon expert I have to rely on the opinion of those people I trust. Rami Khouri has a piece for Agence Global that gives few details but sets the (pessimistic) mood.

- I share Angry Arab's distaste for the UN condemnation of the assassination of Gemayel as a breach of Lebanese sovereignty. Not only are they making assumptions prior to investigation, but where were they when over 1,200 people were assassinated by Israel bombs this summer?