War of the Camera Phones

druzetubeA few weeks ago, a video of Walid Jumblatt saying nasty things about his allies appeared on YouTube. This week, a new video has popped up, which has Jumblatt’s arch-rival Talal Arslan calling on the Syrians to make Jumblatt “pay the price” for his betrayal of the community.

What is it with Druze leaders and YouTube? Once upon a time, rival clan chiefs would have sent messages to each other with decapitated horses’ heads or by trampling helpless serfs under their stallions’ hooves. Today, they seem to prefer posting embarrassing videos on YouTube.

I have a feeling that the War of the Camera Phones is just getting started. Arslan may next release a video of Jumblatt picking his nose and flicking a booger at a picture of Samir Geagea, to which Walid Bek will undoubtedly respond with an old clip of Arslan giving Rustom Ghazaleh a warm oil massage. These guys are ruthless and are not afraid to play by Nokia Rules.

If you’re interested in precisely how Arslan worded his invitation to the Syrians, take a listen from 4:24 until the end. It seems that in a meeting in Damascus, someone suggested that troubles be stirred up in various Druze villages so as to make Jumblatt take a fall. Arslan replied that only the local families would pay the price of such a strategy, not the political parties. He suggested instead that “if your arm is long, then make him pay the price himself, and when I defend him, you can delegate me in his place.”

It has a bit of a cryptic ‘gotta-see-a-guy-about-a-thing’ quality to it, and I’m not sure that Arslan was really calling for a hit. What he probably meant was that if the Syrians had Jumblatt on a camera phone video doing something super humiliating, they should put it on YouTube and Jumblatt would have to abdicate his throne in shame.

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11 thoughts on “War of the Camera Phones

  1. Good Lord, QN. First, decidedly un-kosher acts of sexual depravity, and now Ghazaleh and warm oil massages?

    Perhaps a parental warning for some of these posts …?

    More seriously (or not),just hilarious, once again.

    Posted by dadavidovich | May 11, 2009, 3:39 pm
  2. The intra-Druze political fued is based on where the community is heading, since survival and preservation is what they are concerned with the most. Very few are advocating the “moqawama”/Syria/Pan Arab line recently, as the great majority are putting their trust in the state and the nation.(M14)
    On the surface it seems, that the community is led,or manipulated by the two Zuama, but in reality this community has had its fair share of drama in the history of Lebanon and has naturaly called for the end of occupation-whether French,Isreali,Syrian. In addition has fought extreme elements whether right wing extremists/Isloationists/ or recently HA.
    It is only natural to assume that the Druze community will head towards Centrism,nationalism,citizenship in a multi confessional state continuing the struggle for equality and representation well after these two Zuama are long gone and judging by their obliviousness to technology, isnt too far away.

    Posted by Maverick | May 11, 2009, 5:04 pm
  3. If anything, the video proves Arslan a midget and highlights the real problem facing the Druze as well as the Lebanese. The threats to the Druze community that Arslan seem to want to capitalize on politically proves the validity of Jumblatt’s and other M14 ‘Zaims’ that the real issue is the illegal weaponry in the hand of gangs like Hezb… that are now used for political blackmail instead of their intended purpose. I don’t understand how Arslan continues to use the term ‘muqawama’. What ‘muqawama’ is he talking about that fights in the mountains for political gains? This is bizarre! The next government, no matter what who will form it, will stand or fall based on its program for dealing with the issue of weapons that are not under its control. Its objective is clear: to disarm by any means all militias. When it succeeds, it should then immediately resign in order to form another government for building the State.

    Posted by mike | May 11, 2009, 9:11 pm
  4. After posting the last comment, a thought came to mind. Due to the bad visual quality of the video, one has to question its authenticity and consider what propaganda purpose is intended behind it. Nevrtheless, the next governmnet should have the limited objective as in the previous comment. That is the only way to save Lebanon from itself.

    Posted by mike | May 11, 2009, 9:48 pm
  5. Nokia rules 🙂

    I’ve seen Thomas Friedman talk in person. At one point he used three different extended metaphors at once, all to explain something really simple. It was painful.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | May 12, 2009, 7:24 am
  6. Mike,

    As I understand, Jumblatt has something of a militia himself. Historically, what has he used it for, and is there any prospect of it standing down?

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | May 12, 2009, 8:10 am
  7. I guess the next step will be to ban all mobile phones from meetings 😀 it’s too embarrassing.

    Posted by Ronny Karam | May 12, 2009, 4:16 pm
  8. AR,
    From personal experience, I can tell you Joumblatt does not have a militia.The defence in the mountains during May 7 pitted together a few old elements of the PSP militia of the 70s and 80s that led groups of rag tag poorly armed volunteers/civilians.
    As much as I would like Jumbo to extinguish the PSP( I believe it died along time ago with Kamal Joumblatts failure to lure non Druze members and give it a secular/non-confessional nature), I dont see that happening before we eradicate the sectarianism and confessionalism of the Lebanese system. In the end the party has become a voice of the majority of the Druze.

    Posted by Maverick | May 12, 2009, 7:12 pm
  9. Abraham Rorsapsky,

    I believe Maverick answered your question with regards to Jumblatt’s militia as it stands in the present. However, there is more to your question with regards to past usage. If I read you correctly, you’re probably trying to say some militias are legitimate and others aren’t. I may also be reading you wrongly. Nevertheless, it makes sense to answer the question of the legitimacy of a militia.
    In order to put things in perspective I have to deal with few other questions first. Can or should the Lebanese erase the memory of the civil war? I believe the answer is no to both questions. The Lebanese still remember the 1840 and 1860 events 170 years later. There is also no reason why they should erase these memories because they would always serve as a point of reference and an incentive for the people to realize that social order in a multi-ethnic and quasi-democracy as in Lebanon can be easily shattered, and therefore people should always be alert in order to maintain social peace. Jumblatt and others of course share the responsibility of having created this legacy through the use of militias in internal fighting and no one can deny that. Hezb also had its share of internal fighting particularly with AMAL on several occasions in the eighties.
    The other part of the question which deals with legitimate militias has to do of course with what came to be known as ‘muqawama’ or Resistance. Out of the 17 years of the black history of the Lebanese civil war, only two years stand out as a source of pride and honor for the people of Lebanon. These are the years following the invasion of the country by the zionists which galvanized most of the Lebanese into a spontaneous National reaction which produced the heroic ‘muqawama’. These are the two years from 1983 to 1985 and ‘muqawama’ was by no means the exclusive domain of Hezb. In fact Hezb at that time was still in its early years of formation and its participation in the efforts of ‘muqawama’ was the least compared to other groups. These two years resulted in the first major and DECISIVE victory against the zionists by any Arab country. The zionists were dealt a major military, political and strategic defeat following their forced withdrawal from Beirut, the mountains and most of the south. What they achieved was a return to the status quo ante which was the 1948 armistice agreement. Instead of the celebrated 17 May agreement, they were forced to sit down again through military officers opposite their Lebanese counterparts in Naqoura in order to implement what was already in place 37 years earlier. Most of Lebanon was liberated at that time with the exception of the so-called border strip that was left in the hands of the SLA. What Sharon did in 2000 was simply to disengage from the SLA and hand the area over to the UN. It was in effect an anti-climax to the real achievement of the ‘muqawama’ of the eighties. The objective of this disengagement was to eliminate the raison d’être for the Hezb appeal for the people of the south.
    After 1985, Hezb sought to politicize the ‘muqawama’ for its own agenda. Hezb succeeded in filling up a vacuum created by the expulsion of the PLO from the south and the absence or inability of the central authority to fill this vacuum. It went further and prevented the central authority, even after the rehabilitation of the armed forces, from fulfilling its duty by making the south off-limits to the national army up until 2006 following its known adventure. The 2000 disengagement deprived the Hezb of a cause within a constituency which it sought to champion – the disenfranchised Shia community. Hence, you can understand the decision of Hassan Nasrallah to initiate that war as an effort to recreate conditions that may legitimize once again the presence of an armed militia. That is when Hassan the demagogue appeared from beneath Hassan the ‘holy warrior’. He expected that the whole country must line up behind his autocratic decision to initiate a war and anyone who voices opposition is immediately labeled a ‘traitor’. In a country like Lebanon, this is a recipe for another civil war and therefore all militias at the moment are illegitimate.

    Posted by mike | May 12, 2009, 9:01 pm
  10. Thanks, Maverick and Mike. I wasn’t trying to imply that some militias are legitimate (at least in liberal democracies they’re not). But there is a big difference between some people who band together for local defense and a professional force that controls and rules territory. It sounds like whatever Jumblatt has fits in the former category.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | May 13, 2009, 2:57 am
  11. AR,

    And That is exactly what Hezb has proven itself to be after 2006 and the events of May 7, 2007. It is simply another militia which is as dangereous to social order as the pre-war bands. Its 2006 adventure proved it incapable of such defense, whereas may 7, 2007 proved it to be as thuggish and anti-democratic. Therefore, only a National Army under the command of central elected authority can be entrusted with National Security.

    Posted by mike | May 13, 2009, 3:19 am

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