I woke up this morning and traveled the 30-40 minute ride to the U.S. embassy on the other side of the former Green Line. The embassy used to be located a few meters from where I live in Ras Beirut, but they moved after it was bombed during the Civil War to a part of the city Robert Fisk deemed traitorous if journalists moved there at that time. Anyway, I had no choice as my passport is expiring and I need to get it renewed. So I drove out there, after having received instructions about hours and dates of operation and directions in the form of emails from anonymous embassy officials. But they neglected to tell me one thing: that today is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday even if we are in Lebanon. Yes, of course, embassies are considered the soil of the state they are party to, but you would think that a gentle reminder would have been the thoughtful thing to do given that most people are not always conscious of holidays when they are outside of their country of origin. So I swallowed the $30 taxi fee and went to my next stop for the day: the Iraqi embassy. A journalist friend and I decided that we want to try to go back to the No Man’s Land between Iraq and Jordan to try to help the Iranian Kurdish refugees there by writing up a story on them. Since the Jordanian government won’t allow me–especially with a journalist–back in there we decided to get visas to Iraq. Our plan is to hire a car to Baghdad but stop at No Man’s Land instead. The Iraqi ambassador to Lebanon was way too kind and gave us diplomatic visas meaning we can go mulitple times to Iraq from multiple entry points. This is especially good as we’re now thinking of going to Arbil as well to see the UNHCR refugee camp for Kurds in Kurdistan/Iraq. The story will be on the refugees from Iraq in a larger sense, including Palestinians and Iraqis, but I especially want to focus on the Kurds who are trapped in No Man’s Land with no services from the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, or the UN for over two years now. Although a news story just broke on the wire that is suggesting things are a bit unstable in Arbil so who knows if we will end up going or not.
In other news, there is a new series of interesting billboards around town, created by the opposition, challenging the anti-Shi’a billboards that say “I Love Life” all around town. Thankfully, the opposition is creatively adding their own phrasing in spraypaint to a new series of billboards to say “I Love Life in colors” or slogans like that. But unlike any of those battling billboards around town, some friends of mine made their own series of fliers that we handed out at AUB one night last week. They look like the one above and they also state on the back:
Before you buy, read the fine print.*
We’re buying the idea that the vast class rift between rich and poor in our country is an inevitable fact of life. We’re buying the fact that a bunch of warlords with our blood on their hands should still be ruling us and making the same headlines 30 years on. We’re buying the fact that there is no viable political alternative to sectarianism in a country like Lebanon. And worst of all, we’re buying the fact that simply buying is the solution to all our ills.
When did we begin to accept that consumerism is a form of patriotism? That purchasing power translates into political power?
It’s time to stop buying bulls**&^. It’s time to start thinking for ourselves.
*Disclaimer: We are not with the opposition, nor are we with the ruling coalition. We are simply a group of Lebanese citizens, concerned with the empty sloganeering that is polarizing our country along false lines.
Unlike the other campaign, this one at least questions the logic of these campaigns and asks people to think about the meaning behind it. My friend made a whole series of these that are really smart and well done in that they look just like those one sees around town.
In other news, I met with journalist Julie Flint last week to discuss the possibility of bringing Israel to trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed in Lebanon as a group of us have been working on this here. She has as well–both here and Dafur–and I’m sad to report that she’s had far better luck in Dafur despite the fact that the government there doesn’t support such trials either. Unfortunately, the government here is afraid of the U.S. who is just as afraid of the ICC (because, of course, if the U.S. signed on it, too, would be subjected to war crimes trials and perhaps Rumsfeld, Bush, and Co. woulhttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifd be with Saddam Hussein right now). I wish that Lebanese officials would have the moral courage to push through and sign on to such the Rome Statute and become a party to the ICC, but I lost a lot of faith after hearing her thoughts on the subject. Perhaps fears of the U.S. are warranted, though it makes me wonder a lot more about Siniora’s relations with the U.S. It also makes me far more skeptical of his disavowal of news this week that Bush is sending CIA operatives into Lebanon. That’s going to make life for Americans oh-so-much easier in Lebanon. Brilliant ideas never seem to stop coming from that White House.
That said, I met with Franklin Lamb today who renewed my faith a bit. He has been here since the war, a former congressman and a lawayer, and doing amazing work on documenting Israeli war crimes. Since he has been doing this work for decades his final report, which I saw a draft of tonight, documents their war crimes from 1978 to the present–with U.S. weapons. It seems like he’s got an amazing air-tight case and I have high hopes for it when he presents it to Congress. I can’t wait to read the entire thing.
Finally, in boycott news…a new company to add to the never-ending Zionist propaganda list. Amazon.com has changed its policy, especially with respect to Former President Jimmy Carter, it seems, when it comes to its Editorial Reviews page on Carter’s new book Peace Not Apartheid. Check out the biased review (when normally generic publisher descriptions appear in this section) that appears there and then sign the petition to protest this and commit yourself to shopping at Powells or your local bookseller instead of Amazon.com.
One final word for the day: you gotta love the photo at the top of this Blog, which I took from Ha’aretz although it was also on the front page of the paper version of Lebanon’s Daily Star today as well. It’s a photograph of Palestinians dressed as Native Americans to protes the way that U.S.-Israel colonizes and exterminates Palestinians. It’s a brilliant direct action and I want to frame this image. It made my day.