Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria

Lynch and the Lebanese Zombie

I rarely get a chance to disagree with my friend Marc Lynch about Middle Eastern politics, so when I read his most recent article about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), I thought I’d jump at the chance.

Here are the three basic arguments:

  1. The STL has credibility problems. In its early stages, it blamed Syria for the Hariri assassination, but has since shifted the blame to Hezbollah.
  2. The Arab world reads this shift as an obvious indication that “the STL is being used as a political weapon against Hezbollah” and is not a disinterested effort to pursue justice.
  3. Given the STL’s credibility problems and deep unpopularity in the Arab world, the Obama Administration should think twice about wasting its valuable political capital supporting it.

First of all, I don’t think that the STL’s credibility in the region is perceived much differently today than it was in 2005-06. With few exceptions, those who supported it strongly when it was first established continue to do so today, and the same goes for those opposed. Truth be told, most people outside Lebanon and Syria don’t care much about this issue at all, and among those who do, the STL has never enjoyed universal support or opposition.

Secondly, the implication of Syria in the crime was dropped when the credibility of the prime witnesses was compromised. Ever since then, we’ve had very little new information from the STL itself. All of the rumors about Hezbollah’s involvement are not based on any verifiable sources, and we have little knowledge of the kind of evidence that has been marshalled by the investigation over the past five years. Therefore, the STL’s credibility is not a function of what it has revealed publicly; it’s the product of the vast echo chamber of the regional and international media.

Finally, with regard to whether or not Obama should support the STL, I find Marc’s argument problematic. He writes:

If Hezbollah really is guilty, then a case can be made for the pursuit of justice regardless of the cost. But I don’t think many people in the region are going to see it that way. I would expect the release of the STL’s expected indictments to be received as a political gambit rather than a legal investigation, and to change few minds regardless of the evidence presented. Does it make sense to throw the Obama administration’s support and prestige behind what looks like a zombie from a bygone era?

In other words, even if the STL emerges with clear evidence of Hezbollah’s guilt (proving itself to be a legitimate legal investigation and not a trumped-up conspiracy targeting the resistance) Obama should consider bailing on it anyway because… George W. Bush supported it?

This prescription doesn’t make sense to me. It is perfectly reasonable, to my mind, to question the credibility of the STL and to anticipate its indictments with critical skepticism. But if you eventually are willing to concede — despite your initial skepticism — that the STL has “clear evidence” of guilt, then what is the argument for not supporting it? That walking away will make you more popular among those who remain opposed to it? This, to me, is wishful thinking.

Obama may be more popular in the Middle East than Bush, but this popularity has not translated into tangible gains on any of his major policy initiatives — from Arab-Israeli peace, to Iran, to “unclenching the fists” of regional despots. Disowning or supporting the STL is not going to win America any new friends or enemies, and even if the current administration is not as aggressively invested as its predecessor in trying to use the court as a political tool, there is no straightforward way to back away from it at this point.

Seeing it through until the indictments are released (and then letting the Lebanese and their regional sponsors find some way to mitigate the consequences) is probably the most realistic hands-off policy proposal, in my humble opinion.
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Discussion

98 thoughts on “Lynch and the Lebanese Zombie

  1. I have to disagree with a few of your points, QN. Let me start with the first – that those who supported the STL strongly in the past maintain that level of support today. Perhaps this is strictly anecdotal, but I have spoken to many of my friends who are (or were) strong M14 supporters, and some more moderate pragmatists. They all believed wholeheartedly that Syria was behind the assassination, and they argued for years with M8 supporters who questioned the accusations against Syria. When Hariri came out and absolved the Syrians, their faith in the tribunal was completely deflated – and how could it not? When you’ve argued one idea for so long, and your argument is proven false, it’s not so easy to just blindly jump on board the new accusation. While some of the M14 leadership and press have the same zeal they had in 2005, most of the logical individuals I have discussions with have completely lost faith in the STL, and they concede that the tribunal is being used as a tool. I’m not sure if you’re talking to more ideologically steadfast individuals, or if you’re just reaching this conclusion based on the analysis of the press from afar, but it’s been my perception on the ground that those who were the strongest supporters in 2005 now feel betrayed, disgusted, and exacerbated with the whole process. They’ve lost their faith in the STL, in their political leadership, and most of all, in Saad Hariri.

    On point 2, yes of course all we’ve heard with regards to Hizballah has been second hand rumor. But that’s no different from what we were hearing when they were pointing the finger at Syria. The STL is clearly leaking information to suit its purposes (for one reason or another – I suspect politically) but to suggest that anything has changed would be disingenuous. It is acting now as it has always acted. At this point, I would be shocked if the STL had any real credible evidence – if they did, they wouldn’t rely on leaking rumors to the press so heavily.

    I agree with your final conclusion that they need to see it through and hand out the indictments, I just think you’re overestimating the support for the tribunal at this point. From my own observations, most of the people in Lebanon just want it to go away so they can get on with their lives. No one really believes they’ll ever know the truth about who killed Hariri, nor does it really matter much anymore. Allah yirhamo, enough already!

    Posted by Mehdi2 | November 10, 2010, 12:41 am
  2. Therefore, the STL’s credibility is not a function of what it has revealed publicly; it’s the product of the vast echo chamber of the regional and international media.

    Well, it’s the perceived credibility that matters, in which case the ‘product of the vast echo chamber of the regional and international media’ also matters. And I beg to disagree, people in the region might be uninterested in the STL now since nuanced legal proceedings never captivated the attention of the masses. But were this tribunal to turn into an event where the US marines have to land in Lebanon in order to enforce the indictments, you’d then see more interest. And I guess it’s not hard to predict in which direction the support will flow.

    Posted by offended | November 10, 2010, 1:04 am
  3. It’s interesting to me that for so many people the M14 blaming of Syria was clearly political, but it never seems to occur to them that Hariri’s recent “absolution” was just as likely a political move also.

    But when an opponent says something that supports our hypothesis, it’s clear that he’s speaking God’s honest truth, whereas if he says something that runs counter to our position, he’s clearly just being “political.”

    So let’s just get something straight: all international tribunals are political. The decision to establish such a tribunal is made by an organization that consists of governments, which are clearly political. The criminal tribunals for Rwanda, former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone all suffer from similar problems that haunt the STL.

    That being the case, politics and justice are not two mutually exclusive categories — just because there are politics involved doesn’t mean that there can be no justice.

    At the end of the day, the STL, once created as a political act, pretty much has a life of its own, so opposing it is neither here nor there as far as the process is concerned. To my mind, the US should just sit back and see what happens. (The recent donation of funds could have probably been done in a more discrete way.)

    In any case, to my mind, it seems a little silly to continue parsing indictments that haven’t even been made yet.

    Posted by sean | November 10, 2010, 1:24 am
  4. Hello? The US doesn’t care anymore NewZ

    Obama may be more popular in the Middle East than Bush, but this popularity has not translated into tangible gains on any of his major policy initiatives…

    Yes QN,

    Another-in-a-long-series of blame directed at a US president.

    As if no Arab state, Islamic theocracy, terror organization, or despot ever existed.

    “Tangible gains”? Get real.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 10, 2010, 1:37 am
  5. WSJ articles may not be accessible for non-subscribers, so here’s the full article:

    OPINION EUROPE NOVEMBER 9, 2010
    Prosecute Hezbollah

    There is no hope for Lebanon unless the U.N. and the West will enforce the tribunal’s findings on the Hariri assassination.
    By WALID PHARES

    In the coming weeks, the United Nations will indict the killers of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in its first-ever tribunal to try terrorists. As the international prosecutors of the Security Council’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon prepare to make their case on the February 2005 assassination, in which Hezbollah features prominently, the “Party of God” and its backers in Tehran and Damascus are once again taking off their gloves.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently visited Lebanon to show support for Hezbollah, indicating that Iran, and not only its minions, would act in the event of an adverse ruling. In June, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as well as Iran and Syria threatened the Lebanese government and Prime Minister Saad Hariri—son of the slain head of state—with dire consequences if they support indictments of the organization. Hezbollah threatened to stoke civil unrest and break up the government, which could spark another war with Israel and destabilize the entire region.

    In the past five years, Hezbollah has shown that it usually makes good on its threats. Between July and December of 2005, a range of anti-Hezbollah lawmakers and journalists died or suffered grievous injuries in attacks across Lebanon, and bombings hit several anti-Syrian neighborhoods in Beirut.

    In the first six months of 2006, Nasrallah claimed he was negotiating with Lebanon’s leaders to surrender his weapons, only to trigger a devastating war with Israel. After the war, Hezbollah unleashed more violence at home, killing Lebanese legislators, including the Sunni Walid Eido, the Christian Antoine Ghanem and Minister of Industry Pierre Gemayel, son of former President Amine Gemayel. In May 2008, Hezbollah mounted a full-fledged military invasion of West Beirut and parts of the Druze Mountains, which crumbled Fuad Siniora’s pro-Western government and propelled Hezbollah to the fore of Lebanon’s national security policy. Since then, no domestic force has been able to confront Hezbollah or pressure it into disarming.

    Hezbollah has reason to fear the Special Tribunal, whose mandate covers more than the Hariri murder. It includes prosecuting the assassinations of Cedar Revolution leaders Samir Cassir, George Hawi, and Lebanese parliamentarian Jebran Tueni, as well as the bloody attempts against former Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade and journalist May Chidiac.

    View Full Image

    Associated Press
    Rescue workers and soldiers stand around a massive crater after a bomb attack on former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 14, 2005.

    If the U.N. pins Hezbollah down on Hariri, the verdicts won’t stop there. It would criminalize Hezbollah’s so-called “political” and “military” wings alike, resulting in further investigations for the murders of Lebanese politicians and political dissenters. The organization would be criminalized under international law, and countries like the United Kingdom and France, which have begun to engage it politically, would be forced to desist. Hezbollah could even face international warrants for the arrest of its leaders. The consequences would be cataclysmic for the group, destroying the image it cultivates as a legitimate resistance movement.

    The Iranian regime cannot afford to lose so precious an ally in Lebanon, and Syria’s Baathist regime knows all too well that if Hezbollah goes under, it will drag many in Damascus down with it. So the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis has locked the tribunal in its crosshairs.

    The U.N. originally established the tribunal as an international criminal court, comprised of judges from Lebanon and across the world, to prosecute the acts relating to Hariri’s assassination under Lebanese law. Under Chapter 7 of its charter, the U.N. is required to provide force to execute its decisions, if necessary, but it cannot do so without the support of the Lebanese government.

    At the time, that would have been possible, as many Lebanese politicians publicly accused Syria’s Assad regime of the assassination, and observers predicted that the tribunal could even result in the indictment of Syrian officials. The Lebanese government was then headed by a pro-Western, anti-Syrian majority, and was modestly willing to push back against Hezbollah.

    When Hezbollah invaded Beirut and toppled then-prime minister Fuad Siniora’s cabinet in May 2008, it brought in a new government headed nominally by Saad Hariri, but with a pro-Syrian President, General Michel Suleiman. It had also by then penetrated Lebanon’s security apparatus, giving Iran an implicit veto.

    That’s why when the tribunal issues its verdict, the Lebanese government is unlikely to make any arrests. In preparation for the forthcoming showdown, Hezbollah has been hyperactive in identifying and arresting anyone it believes would support the indictments, branding them as Israeli spies, and agents of a “vast Zionist conspiracy.”

    Thanks largely to bountiful Iranian aid, Hezbollah is winning its war against international justice. The Turkish government even suggested that the Special Tribunal postpone its decisions. And Lebanese officials, including traditionally anti-Syrian politicians, have been bullied into saying that they would consider any indictment of Hezbollah an act of aggression against the Lebanese Republic.

    The message to those in the U.S. and Europe looking for “dialogue partners” should be clear: There are no moderates in Hezbollah. When the Special Tribunal issues its final verdict, let’s hope for Lebanon and the region’s sake that the U.N. and the West will have the courage to enforce the prosecutors’ findings.

    Mr. Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Fox News contributor, and author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2008).

    Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 10, 2010, 7:51 am
  6. Mehdi

    Thank you for your comment.

    On your first point, I agree that there are many supporters of the STL who were frustrated or deflated by the seeming lack of progress in the investigation and by Hariri’s eventual about-face vis-a-vis Syria. But I have not met many supporters who now believe that the whole thing is completely non-credible, a fabrication and a conspiracy, etc. the way its detractors have maintained since the beginning. Sure, many may take a much more sober view of the STL than they did in the beginning, but that is a normal and healthy development, and if the court does in fact produce compelling evidence down the line, I think you’ll see a resurgence of visible public support for it.

    Secondly, I disagree with the argument that you (and Marc) make regarding leaks. You say:

    The STL is clearly leaking information to suit its purposes (for one reason or another – I suspect politically) but to suggest that anything has changed would be disingenuous. It is acting now as it has always acted. At this point, I would be shocked if the STL had any real credible evidence – if they did, they wouldn’t rely on leaking rumors to the press so heavily.

    How do you know the STL is “clearly leaking information”? What information has it “clearly leaked” exactly? The reports its issues (which don’t contain much information anyway) are not leaks: they are official statements. The only example of leaked information was the Siddiq/Husam Husam affair, and that blew up in Mehlis’s face. It did not serve the STL’s purpose whatsoever.

    But let’s accept what you are saying as true, just for argument’s sake. Let’s say that the STL has no credible evidence and is just leaking rumors to the press for political purposes. What have these leaks achieved? What political purposes have been served? Don’t you think it’s a little bit strange to imagine that a UN court employing thousands of people over 5 years to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars would have a mission statement of saying mean things about Syria and Hizbullah in the Arab media?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 10, 2010, 8:39 am
  7. ….

    “Seeing it through until the indictments are released (and then letting the Lebanese and their regional sponsors find some way to mitigate the consequences) is probably the most realistic hands-off policy proposal, in my humble opinion.”

    It is an opinion that most honest commonsensical citizens of this universe would adhere to; except off course the guilty parties…

    Posted by danny | November 10, 2010, 8:48 am
  8. “Seeing it through until the indictments are released (and then letting the Lebanese and their regional sponsors find some way to mitigate the consequences) is probably the most realistic hands-off policy proposal”

    What if the “consequences” are not/cannot be mitigated?

    Lets us, instead of arguing the merits and independence of the STL, just for a second imagine, theoretically of course, that the investigations/evidence have been tampered with, manipulated or otherwise handled so that the those they wish to accuse are accused. Just for arguments sake.

    Does in anyone think, that in such a virtual set of circumstances that there is no plan for after the fact? How many people die so that the killers of 22 people are brought to justice? Is it worth it if another 22 innocent if not another 220 die?

    In regards to leaks. Regardless of who is doing the talking, the leaks are a tool to pressure the accused. That i think is their goal. I don’t think the STL is and needs to leak info as apart from their reports, they have to provide detailed reports to the Lebanese Justice Ministry (as per the original resolution). And who runs that?

    Posted by usedtopost | November 10, 2010, 10:58 am
  9. Does anyone really take seriously Walid Phares’ claim that Hizbullah and Iran will destroy Lebanon if an indictment is issued? Now, if the international community does as he advocates – attempts to turn an indictment of members of Hizbullah into a “prosecution” of the organization itself – then the party might react in an extreme way. But I have difficulty believing that an indictment of a few members alone would actually spark a major conflict. (A collapse of government, maybe. But this could be inevitable anyways.) Who would they attack? Capture the Serail? Burn Baabda?

    Maybe they’d launch missiles at the Hague.

    Posted by hummusbilahme | November 10, 2010, 11:13 am
  10. Mo said:

    Does in anyone think, that in such a virtual set of circumstances that there is no plan for after the fact? How many people die so that the killers of 22 people are brought to justice? Is it worth it if another 22 innocent if not another 220 die?

    What kind of plan are you envisioning, in this hypothetical reading? Having assassinated Hariri and then launched a UN Tribunal to frame Hezbollah for the crime, the manipulators in your scenario would presumably be powerful enough to bring about something quite dramatic on the Lebanese stage in the aftermath of an indictment. What do you think that would look like? Reprisals against Shiite targets so as to instigate a civil war?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 10, 2010, 11:45 am
  11. UTP,
    There are to sides to every coin. What if we are to make the exact opposite of your suppositions. Let us assume that the indictments are based on solid evidence and that the investigation is totally objective. Should we then hide the evidence because the perpetrators are threatening that if the evidence is revealed then they would fight it with arms instead of the courts? I am sure that will be the last thing that a civilized society would want, give in to alleged criminals twice.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 10, 2010, 12:23 pm
  12. QN,
    Now you’re getting it! This is exactly the point of all this dust HA is kicking up. By pre-empting an indictment (which we all know in Lebanon is as good as being found guilty) with this drive to claim their innocence they are hoping to subdue the reaction to any indictment. The details of such a plan are, imho, irrelevant. Its the goal thats important, which is to continue and inflame the Sunni-Shia conflict i ME and busy HA with internal problems.

    Theoretically of course.

    GK,
    Firstly, you keep saying that HA is making threats of armed uprising. Could you give me the link to somewhere that they have made these threats?

    Secondly, if there is or ever was solid evidence, I doubt we would be were we are today. From what I have read, everyone agrees that most of the evidence gathered is circumstantial.

    And the real issue is going to be what you, as someone who hates HA regards as solid and what I do. But since, unlike my scenario, we can actually measure your scenario, lets debate that when the evidence comes.

    Posted by usedtopost | November 10, 2010, 12:51 pm
  13. HP.

    To continue In the spirit of gaming the STL, I’ll see your Walid Phares and raise you a Debkafile:

    “Hizballah’s four top commanders face indictment by the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon-STL for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in West Beirut, DEBKAfile’s exclusive intelligence and counterterrorism sources reveal. The STL expects to issue the indictments next month or early January 2011.

    Monday, Nov. 8,The Wall Street Journal disclosed the name of Mustafa Badr al-Din, Hizballah’s No. 2 after Hassan Nasrallah as deputy for special security affairs. DEBKAfile’s sources name at least three more leading lights of the Lebanese Shiite militia who face summonses to stand trial before the international tribunal for planning and executing the Hariri assassination. They are:

    Wafiq Safa, heads Hizballah strike force against STL indictments
    Hizballah’s four top commanders face indictment by the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon-STL for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in West Beirut, DEBKAfile’s exclusive intelligence and counterterrorism sources reveal. The STL expects to issue the indictments next month or early January 2011.

    Monday, Nov. 8,The Wall Street Journal disclosed the name of Mustafa Badr al-Din, Hizballah’s No. 2 after Hassan Nasrallah as deputy for special security affairs. DEBKAfile’s sources name at least three more leading lights of the Lebanese Shiite militia who face summonses to stand trial before the international tribunal for planning and executing the Hariri assassination. They are:

    Wafiq Safa: Head of Hizballah’s special security and intelligence apparatus, one of Nasrallah’s closest cronies.
    His powers are broader than his title would indicate: Safa acts as deputy of the Iranian Al Qods officer, Gen. Hossein Mahadavi, who has taken command of the Hizballah militia as chief of staff. In this capacity, Safa would be assigned to spearhead the grab for power Hizballah is planning for the moment the STL issues indictments. Safa is also charged with coordinating military cooperation between Hizballah and its two Lebanese allies, Michel Aoun’s Christian militia and Walid Jumblatt’s Druze forces. Given the tactical talents he displayed by engineering the cross-border abduction of Israeli soldiers in 2006 and other Hizballah border encroachments, Wafa may be wily enough to wriggle out of being extradited to The Hague for trial.

    Talal Hamiya: Head of the Special Duties branch of Hizballah’s Jihad Council. A former operations deputy under Hizballah’s late military commander Imad Mughniyeh (who died in a bomb explosion in Damascus in 2008), his current duties include command of the special details securing Hizballah’s various branches and the conduct of “special” (terror) operations around the world. Hamiya is also responsible for Hizballah’s intelligence service.

    Ibrahim Muhammad Akil, incumbent military commander of southern Lebanon, i.e., the front against Israel.

    DEBKAfile’s sources say that the tribunal’s special prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, has obtained proof that on the day of the Hariri assassination, the four Hizballah officials named here had set up a makeshift command center for running the operation – a huge explosion which killed another 22 people. From there, they used Hizballah’s internal military telephone network to post their orders and coordinate the tasks of the field teams.

    Bellemare’s investigators have been going around Beirut looking for evidence of this telephone network – often in unlikely places. Last month, their search at a military clinic ran into violent resistance from Hizballah, drawing a complaint from UN secretary Ban Ki-moon.

    If Hizballah makes good on its threat to overthrow the Lebanese government and so preempt the STL’s indictments and its officers’ extradition, DEBKAfile’s sources fear Lebanon could find itself governed by terrorists who, moreover, have been inculpated for political assassination by an international tribunal.

    In these circumstances, the UN Security Council would have little choice but to lead an international boycott of Lebanon, impose stiff sanctions aimed at toppling the Hizballah regime or even mandate an invasion to restore legitimate government in Beirut.
    Hizballah’s first act on attaining power would almost certainly be a demand for the UN Secretary General remove the 20,000 UNIFIL peacekeepers policing South Lebanon.”

    Posted by lally | November 10, 2010, 1:31 pm
  14. UTP.

    No offense man. But I don’t get how someone can live in such a fantastical world.

    “Its the goal thats important, which is to continue and inflame the Sunni-Shia conflict i ME and busy HA with internal problems.”

    Ah yes. The all-knowing conspiracy of 5+ BILLION humans on this planet. All hellbent on f***ing with the Middle East and the 3+ million Lebanese. We always go back to this.

    Secondly:
    “Firstly, you keep saying that HA is making threats of armed uprising. Could you give me the link to somewhere that they have made these threats?”

    Uhm. Do you want actual facts? Or are we still in fantasy-world?
    If you want actual facts. Well, the last month or so has seen pretty much DAILY pronouncements by HA officials on the subject. They are pretty clear. Just look back in the archives of any newsource for actual quotes.
    Just look up quotes by Fneish, Hajj Hassan, Kassem, etc. The message is clear.

    But of course, in your fantasyworld, you probably heard the following quotes. “We love everyone very much and will shower you all with flowers if indicted.”

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 10, 2010, 1:34 pm
  15. lally,

    I wonder how SHN intends to subsidize the $150-$200 million UNIFIL presence annually injects into the South’s economy.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | November 10, 2010, 2:13 pm
  16. lally,

    “Safa is also charged with coordinating military cooperation between Hizballah and its two Lebanese allies, Michel Aoun’s Christian militia and Walid Jumblatt’s Druze forces.”

    Sounds a bit outdated to me.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | November 10, 2010, 2:42 pm
  17. There are two kinds of realities ; one in which pundits and the public speculate about who is to be indicted during the investigation of a sensational crime and whether the case will be won or lost by the prosecution. The other reality is a world where the speculation is not about who is to be indicted but whether the indictments are to be enforced and whether the judgments of the courts is to be carried out. I refuse to be part of the second option.

    UTP,
    We have discussed matters related to STL and HA for so long and under so many circumstances that you should know better than to say that I hate HA. I object to all their ideology and I refuse to take seriously any theocratically based philosophy and I find that their military wing is illegal , undemocratic and immoral but I do not hate them. I have never hated anything in my life and I am not about to learn how to hate at this stage. As I have said many times before, as much as I disagree with HA I will literally speaking demonstrate and fight for their right to promote their philosophy and to take part in the political system. I will not have it any other way, it is their military wing that must be dissolved.

    Posted by ghassan karam | November 10, 2010, 3:02 pm
  18. Does anyone take Debkafile seriously?
    Even the way that stuff is written sounds pathetic. It’s like they make stuff up and slap it together.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 10, 2010, 3:25 pm
  19. Debka is a fraud. It should be completely ignored. Every time someone goes to the site, he is giving money to a bunch of scam artists. Debka invents fake news in order to get eyeballs.

    Posted by AIG | November 10, 2010, 3:55 pm
  20. AIG

    Who are the people or organizations that finance Debka ?

    Posted by PeterinDubai | November 10, 2010, 4:59 pm
  21. To the best of my knowledge its one or two private people exploiting people’s interest in middle east related news. They make money from ads as the content is all invented by them. They are quite creative and make sure their stories do not sound crazy but it is all fiction with no real news.

    Posted by AIG | November 10, 2010, 5:06 pm
  22. Shrewd Israeli Atheists having a laugh and making a living exploiting regional religious tensions ?

    I doubt it.

    Not in your part of the world.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | November 10, 2010, 5:16 pm
  23. Debka have been around for ten years.

    Whose interests do they serve ?

    Impossible for them to have survived for ten years based on what you are implicating they are.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | November 10, 2010, 5:24 pm
  24. Nawaf Al-Moussawi threatened anyone who supports the STL will be treated as an American, Israeli enemy invader. In his opinion those who are with the STL should not only worry they should be scared.

    Posted by V | November 10, 2010, 5:32 pm
  25. Peter,

    It is a one or two man operation started by someone who enjoyed being important and inventing news that other people read. Over time, he started making money from his hobby also.

    You tell me whose interests Debka serve. They only serve sensationalism.

    Posted by AIG | November 10, 2010, 5:40 pm
  26. V says “Nawaf Al-Moussawi threatened anyone who supports the STL will be treated as an American, Israeli enemy invader. In his opinion those who are with the STL should not only worry they should be scared.”

    Yup. I forgot to mention mister Mousawi earlier. UTP asked for facts…There you go. Straight from the horses’ mouth.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 10, 2010, 5:49 pm
  27. Oh i know! Maybe Debka is really run by Hizbollah “Posing as Israelis”….

    🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 10, 2010, 5:50 pm
  28. My question to all of those who are talking about Strong or solid evidence; How does one judge if the evidence is strong ?what criteria would one use to make a judgment that a certain piece of evidence is strong enough or non-refutable? What is sold evidence? Isn’t strong a relative term, in this case?
    Going back to the early days ,when Syria was the primary suspect, many people didn’t really need much evidence to conclude that Syria was responsible for the assassinations. Not to mention that the early reports relied on Witnesses, who later on were considered to be non reliable witnesses.
    My fear is that those who spoke with certainty about Syria’s guilt, minus any evidence, Would consider any evidence presented in the indictment as solid evidence.
    What can be said about the STL Credibility, if and when the indictment is out, all the information leaked to the media, regarding the content of the indictment, turn out to be true?

    Posted by Prophet | November 10, 2010, 5:53 pm
  29. Peter.

    Re Debkafile;

    They are supposedly affiliated with Israeli security types. As with other sources that are chock full of……agendas, caveat emptor applies.

    Debka’s political analysis is what it is and often misses the mark. They tend to be more reliable when dealing with the concrete such as their descriptions of the deployments of military assets, technical details and the like.

    In this case, it’s their naming of names for indictment that I find interesting. It could be nothing more than an Israeli wish list. Or not. Time will tell.

    I thought the bizness about HA wanting the Blue Helmets gone was curious, as in the past, having UNIFIL in situ served HA’s agenda. If anything, I would think that UNIFIL’s presence complicates the Israeli plans for another ground invasion.

    Posted by lally | November 10, 2010, 5:59 pm
  30. Prophet,

    Well, to answer your question about “strong evidence”. I don’t know about the bizarroworld black hole that is Lebanon. But in the rest of the world, there is very clear criteria, in every justice system, as to what constitutes admissible evidence, etc.
    My knowledge is mostly of the US justice system, but it applies in principle to most other places in some way or other.
    The way evidence was procured is important (some very compelling evidence may be deemed inadmissible in court, if it was obtained in illegal means, for example, without a proper warrant, or through coercion, etc).
    And once said evidence is admitted in court, it is up to a jury to determine if said evidence is sufficient to convict someone.
    There is no such thing as “strong” or “weak” evidence. Evidence is evidence. It can be a murder weapon, a strand of DNA, phone records, etc.
    It is up to the prosecution to use said evidence to construct a narrative of how and why the crime occurred and to convince a jury of the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

    It constantly amazes me, considering how common this information is (there’s about 10 TV shows that deal with such things, CSI, Law&Order, etc) in popular culture, let alone books and resources, that people don’t seem to really grasp how a justice system works.
    It is beyond me why people seem to think that a judge or prosecutor just shows up one day and makes an announcement that “So and so killed Hariri” and that is either to be taken as truth or deemed to be a lie. That’s not really how it works, people.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 10, 2010, 7:39 pm
  31. BV/Prophet,
    There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the world that is an absolute including judicial evidence. But that does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be paralyzed by asking what President Clinton famously di during the Lewinski case: What is is? What is strong>? How high is up? How much is too many? etc… Most of these concerns can be addressed and they have been all throughout history by using common sense: Remember the retort of the judge when he was asked to define pornography: I do not need a definition, I know it when I see it.
    A “tight case” is one that is based on “solid evidence” which simply means that the evidence was obtained legally, the rights of the accused have not been violated, the prosecution has been able to present a case that will demonstrate clearly the involvement of the accused in committing the crime of which she is being accused. Remember that in most legal systems the null hypothesis is that the accused is not guilty and it is up to the prosecution to show that this is not the case. If the prosecution can shed enough doubt on the innocence of the accused then the null hypothesis is rejected and the alternative hypothesis of guilty is accepted otherwise we accept the null that the accused is not guilt but we do not say that the accused is innocent.

    The stronget part of the position by the opposition vis a vis the STL is the case of false witnesses. There is no doubt that if the false witnesses have deliberately tried to influence the investigation and in particular if there was a scheme to do so then we the public is entitled to all this information. Such witnesses should be held responsible for their acts to the fullest extent of the law. But what I find difficult to follow is the accusation that since there were false witnesses then the STL is not credible and is nothing but an Israeli tool. .The above position conveniently forgets that it was the STL and the previous Investigative UN body that went public with the information about these witnesses and the current prosecutor says that non of these witnesses is important for his case. So how does the presence of false witnesses whose testimony has been dismissed prove that the STL is a neocolonial tool? Furthermore how does the presence of discredited witnesses whose testimony has been thrown out prove that the accused is innocent?
    I have described March 14 before as the gang that cannot shoot straight. They are a bunch of ammaterurs who cannot govern , they cannot find their way out of a paper bag but last time that I checked the effectivness of the party in power cannot be used as a proof that the accused party is innocent. March 14 should have and must demonstrate to everyone that they have not resorted to shenanigans by trying to tamper with the evidence. If they did then they should be held accountable but even if they did attempt to influence the investigation at one point then that is not sufficient evidence, actually it is no evidence at all, that the accused are innocent.

    I always find myself at the same position: we should specualte about the evidence and the accused but we have no right to speculate on whether we are to accept the findings of a court of law or not. Societies play by rules and one of the most essential rules of the game is to accept the rule of an independent judiciary that operates within the guidelines of the accepted law of the land. Anything else will be Hobbesian.

    Posted by ghassan Karam | November 10, 2010, 8:17 pm
  32. BV,

    The almighty United States of America invaded Iraq based on what evidence again ?

    Solid? Forensic? CSI? Law & Order?

    False witnesses ?

    Posted by PeterinDubai | November 10, 2010, 8:25 pm
  33. BV,
    Thank you,
    My humble knowledge of the US justice system is what prompted me to ask those questions. So I’m not disagreeing with your analysis, but I’m not sure how the international court would evaluate evidence.
    I think I was referring to the public judgment of evidence, more than the court’s.
    Public judgment in Lebanon is more important than that of the court, considering the seriousness of the case, and that of the accused. Just to give you an example , Syrian workers were being murdered, and harassed when the public ,and the politicians accused Syria ,politically and without any evidence, of carrying the assassination of PM Hariri.
    Imagine what the consequences are, when the STL issues its indictment with some kind of evidence, coupled with Lebanese politicians rushing to judgment based on whatever evidence presented.
    Perception of facts is much more important than facts in Lebanon.
    An indictment is considered a conviction by the most Lebanese. My fears are real. The consequences could be devastating.

    Posted by Prophet | November 10, 2010, 8:29 pm
  34. Ghasan @31,
    I posted my response to BV, not realizing that you’d just posted in response to my comment as well.
    My only question to you Ghassan is this; Since March 14 has been accused by the opposition of tampering with evidence / creating false witnesses, and so on, Don’t you think March 14 should address the so called false witnesses question, and come clean altogether? Don’t you think they would give much more credibility to what ever indictment the STL hands out? Why stall on this issue if they have nothing to hide? Why not call the other side’s bluff, and allow the case to be taken to the highest counsel?
    I think the more they stall on this issue, the more credibility they are giving to the opposition, at least in the Lebanese public perception.

    Posted by Prophet | November 10, 2010, 8:45 pm
  35. Peter,

    1) Apples and Oranges. Iraq was not a case in court.

    2) Nevertheless, it proves my point. No one was able to provide evidence of Iraq’s possession of WMD. The fact that the US went ahead with the invasion is irrelevant to the logic of evidence/proof/guilt. If anything, that affair clearly painted the US as having committed an unjustified act, for the very reason that no evidence was found. It shows the evidence based logic works.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 10, 2010, 9:15 pm
  36. Prophet #34
    Of course they should handle the issue with more transparency. I think that they are hurting the STL and its credibility by playing these games about the false witnesses. The issue should be dealt with openly and clearly in full daylight. The March 14 crowd must address this issue squarley if for nothing else but the court of public opinion.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 10, 2010, 9:46 pm
  37. Any one who puts forward an argument which trades justice for a price must be suffering from symptoms of impulsive ‘idiocy’. Worse yet the argument that justice should be forsaken in order to prevent an escalation in a millenium old rift between Sunnis and Shias is a clear indication of childish naivete.

    On the other hand Hariri gets thumbs up this time for sticking to his guns about the ridiculous issue of so-called ‘false witnesses’. What false witnesses?! A case should not be built based on speculative reporting of STL upcoming indictments. Syrians may yet be named by the tribunal as indictees in addition to hezb members or other groups.

    Posted by anonymous | November 10, 2010, 10:31 pm
  38. anonymous#37,
    You say “the ridiculous issue of the so called “false witnesses” ” in the same sentence that you gave thumbs up to PM Hariri, who had admitted publicly that the issue of the false witnesses is real.
    I wonder if you gave him the thumbs up for his courage to admit what was obvious.
    I think some consistency would help your argument better.
    If you truly desire truth and justice, you would definitely support investigating what Hariri himself recognized as a serious issue; called false witnesses.
    As I indicated in earlier comment to GK, dealing with this issue openly and transparently would enhance the credibility of the STL, and the indictment thereafter. Every day that goes by, without addressing these issues, it makes the opposition more credible in its accusations against the March 14 group, and the STL. Furthermore, it makes Hariri and the March 14 group look like they have something to hide.
    For those who believe that the STL, and March 14 has no credibility problem, they are in denial. While it may make March 14 group feel better to deny the obvious, it does not make them look good.

    Posted by Prophet | November 10, 2010, 11:43 pm
  39. Prophet #38,

    I meant Hariri gets thumbs up because of what happened in the Government meeting today (yesterday). He made it clear there will be no vote on the ridiculous so-called ‘false witnesses’ issue. But better yet he deserves more credit fore silencing ridiculous argument Minister Hajj Hassan and dressing down to size Minister Nahhas.

    http://www.annahar.com/content.php?priority=1&table=main&type=main&day=Thu

    http://www.almustaqbal.com/Stories.aspx?storyid=439509

    The rest of your comment is senseless and typical conspiracy theory gibberish. It is Hezb and co. that have the credibility problem and may soon have to answer to justice.

    Posted by anonymous | November 11, 2010, 12:19 am
  40. One country: four million amateur lawyers … 🙂

    Politically-speaking, it is hard not see the STL as event that is largely not about Hariri or HA, but rather their respective allies. “False witnesses” angle really just a way to pressure Hariri to distance himself from some of his M14 cohorts. Similarly, an indictment can be seen as a way to isolate Hizbullah from its allies (let us not forget that M14 media described DerSpeigelgate as nefarious Syrian misdirection).

    Legally-speaking, the STL has a glaring weakness/vulnerability: the Lebanese judiciary. I agree with GK that a distinction should and must be made between the Investigating Committee and the STL, but gross misconduct by investigators almost always does derail any potential prosecution. That is certainly true anywhere.

    Still, what a trial it could be:

    “The defense calls Samir Geagea as its first witness; the defense call Marwan Hamadeh as its second witness; the defense calls Koraytem, S.A.L. as its third witness; the defense calls Walid Jumblatt as its fourth witness; the defense calls D. Mehlis as its fifth witness …”

    And don’t even get me started on the cross, which would be even more fun …

    I said a long time ago, I thought the only possible good that could come out of the STL would be if it became a media event where the Lebanese could observe the extent to which their politicians lie 99 percent of the time.

    So here: I will throw my support behind the STL if such a trial occurs, and results in subsequent international prosecutions for perjury, and thus finally putting the Lebanese political class where it has always belonged: behind bars.

    Deal?

    Posted by david | November 11, 2010, 1:29 am
  41. One country: four million amateur lawyers …

    Politically-speaking, it is hard not see the STL as event that is largely not about Hariri or HA, but rather their respective allies. “False witnesses” angle really just a way to pressure Hariri to distance himself from some of his M14 cohorts. Similarly, an indictment can be seen as a way to isolate Hizbullah from its allies (let us not forget that M14 media described DerSpeigelgate as nefarious Syrian misdirection).

    Legally-speaking, the STL has a glaring weakness/vulnerability: the Lebanese judiciary. I agree with GK that a distinction should and must be made between the Investigating Committee and the STL, but gross misconduct by investigators almost always does derail any potential prosecution. That is certainly true anywhere.

    Still, what a trial it could be:

    “The defense calls Samir Geagea as its first witness; the defense call Marwan Hamadeh as its second witness; the defense calls Koraytem, S.A.L. as its third witness; the defense calls Walid Jumblatt as its fourth witness; the defense calls D. Mehlis as its fifth witness …”

    And don’t even get me started on the cross, which would be even more fun …

    I said a long time ago, I thought the only possible good that could come out of the STL would be if it became a media event where the Lebanese could observe the extent to which their politicians lie 99 percent of the time.

    So here: I will throw my support behind the STL if such a trial occurs, and results in subsequent international prosecutions for perjury, and thus finally putting the Lebanese political class where it has always belonged: behind bars.

    Deal?

    Posted by david | November 11, 2010, 1:30 am
  42. First the STL is not limited to the Late Rafic Hariri, investigation into the other assassinations is part of the STL.

    The STL has not published their findings so they have no credibility problems. There were initial reports by the UN but they have not indicted anyone yet, so this article and other sources saying the STL has credibility problems? – you need to wait for their indictments first.

    Also, note:

    1) If leaders from Hezbollah are found guilty in the STL this will of course indict the organization as well.

    2) Indicting the organization doesn’t mean immediate war but several international measures will come to bear on the organization and those interacting with them and attempting to engage them.

    3) Lastly, if Hezbollah tries to play the military card, they may not be successful.

    Posted by Tony Khoury | November 11, 2010, 1:37 am
  43. I mean seriously, think of the possibilities:

    HA lawyers sending emails to Feltman and Abrams asking them to meet in the Dahiyeh to prep their testimony as defense witnesses … or if you prefer, Bellmare ringing Assad to do the same for the prosecution.

    In the fun house, the possibilities are endless …

    Posted by david | November 11, 2010, 1:39 am
  44. Lebanon and the MidEast’s Priority is to solve the problem of JUSTICE, and STL will lay the grounds for this.

    Lebanon and the region’s problems stem from people who live above the law, don’t respect the law, break the law and have immunity and continue to break the law with impunity.

    If we are to rise above the pain of losing such great people in the past to assassinations and recognize the key component that can take us out of this abyss and have a nation in the end for our children to prosper then we must implement Justice.

    No more freedom for outlaws.

    Whomever the STL finds guilty let Justice be served to them. Whomever, no one is above the law and no killer should go unpunished.

    A Killer is just that – a Killer.

    Let Justice Be Served – Once and For All.

    Posted by Camille | November 11, 2010, 1:41 am
  45. David #39,
    “finally putting the Lebanese political class where it has always belonged: behind bars.”
    A wonderful line for a lengthy summation. Just superb!!!!

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 11, 2010, 7:55 am
  46. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea responded last Wednesday by saying that all of the alleged false witnesses used are Syrians and most of them belong to the Syrian intelligence agency, according to a statement from his press office. He also pointed out that the four generals who were detained in 2005 for their alleged involvement in Hariri’s murder were released in 2009 because of lack of sufficient evidence and not because they were innocent.

    this is essentially a legal problem. To use witnesses who used to be suspects and were released not because they were found to be innocent, but because of a lack of evidence is in direct contravention with the basic principles of international law and the principles of lebanese domestic law. therefore on these grounds alone, without regard to what has been said by the “witnesses” these are indeed “false” or at least illegitimate witnesses.

    Posted by John Saghir | November 11, 2010, 8:09 am
  47. David & Ghassan,
    “finally putting the Lebanese political class where it has always belonged: behind bars.”

    It sounds superb. But really, what purpose does it serve? Except a feel-good factor that will vanish after “New” leaders take hold (probably the sons and daughters of the same)

    What Lebanon need is to learn to accept the rule of law (driving is a good starting point). Accepting STL is a test Lebanese will most probably fail.

    There are no shortcuts. Lebanese need to be educated and it will take many generations (without national unity govt and no wars.)

    Posted by IHTDA | November 11, 2010, 10:25 am
  48. Anonymous
    Typical answer from a typical person in denial. You didn’t address any of my points, Yet you refere to the rest of my comment as consipirecy theroy,when I was asking realistic questions,and stating facts that Hariri himself admited that false witnesses issue was a fact, not fiction.
    Just because you think HA has a credibility problem,(and I’m not saying they don’t),doesnot mean that HARIRI Co. does not.

    Posted by Prophet | November 11, 2010, 12:25 pm
  49. Prophet,
    I agree with you that all political parties lack credibility.
    I’m not a legal expert but to my understanding, In a legal sense, false witnesses have a specific definition which does not apply to those in question YET.
    It could be the case, but whether we like it or not, we have to wait and see the STL’s proceedings.

    Posted by IHTDA | November 11, 2010, 1:37 pm
  50. Can somebody please explain what’s the difference between the normal justice system and the counsel (if that’s what they are called). And why the two M’s favor one not the other.

    Posted by IHTDA | November 11, 2010, 1:47 pm
  51. John Saghir,
    No court will ever pronounce the innocence of a person. All what they can do is declare that the accused is not guilty of the charges. We dealt with that in #31 above:

    “in most legal systems the null hypothesis is that the accused is not guilty and it is up to the prosecution to show that this is not the case. If the prosecution can shed enough doubt on the innocence of the accused then the null hypothesis is rejected and the alternative hypothesis of guilty is accepted otherwise we accept the null that the accused is not guilt but we do not say that the accused is innocent.”

    The above is not only an academic distinction but is an extremly basic judicial principal.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 11, 2010, 2:03 pm
  52. IHTDA,
    The question that you raise came up a while ago and the exact definition was supplied on Oct. 12, 2010 as followas:

    he following defines the duties of the Higher Judicial Council:

    مجلس القضاء الاعلى |

    مهامه

    – يسهر مجلس القضاء الأعلى على حسن سير القضاء وعلى كرامته وإستقلاله وحسن سير العمل في المحاكم ويتّخذ القرارات اللازمة بهذا الشأن.

    – وضع مشروع المناقلات والإلحاقات والإنتدابات القضائية الفردية أو الجماعية وعرضها على وزير العدل للموافقة عليه، ولا تصبح التشكيلات نافذة إلاّ بعد موافقة وزير العدل.

    – عند حصول إختلاف في وجهات النظر بين وزير العدل ومجلس القضاء الأعلى، تعقد جلسة مشتركة بينهما للنظر في النقاط المختلف عليها. في حال إستمرار الخلاف ينظر مجلس القضاء الأعلى مجدّداً في الأمر للبت فيه، ويتّخذ قراره بأكثرية سبعة أعضاء، ويكون قراره في هذا الشأن نهائياً وملزماً.

    – تصدر التشكيلات القضائية بمرسوم يتّخذ بناء على إقتراح وزير العدل.

    – تأليف المجلس التأديبي للقضاة.

    – درس ملف أي قاض والطلب إلى هيئة التفتيش القضائي إجراء التحقيقات اللازمة وإتّخاذ التدابير والقرارات المناسبة.

    – النظر في طلبات العفو الخاص المقدّمة من المحكومين بعقوبة الإعدام أو المحالة إليه من المراجع المختصّة.

    – تعيين لجنة مؤلفة من ثلاثة من أعضائه للنظر في سائر طلبات العفو الخاص.

    – إبداء الرأي في مشاريع القوانين والأنظمة المتعلقة بالقضاء العدلي، وإقتراح المشاريع والنصوص التي يراها مناسبة بهذا الشأن على وزير العدل.

    I hope this answers your question.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 11, 2010, 2:11 pm
  53. GK
    You have demolished my years of legal education acquired by watching Egyptian movies where the judge shouts at the end “Bara’a” 😉

    Posted by IHTDA | November 11, 2010, 2:13 pm
  54. Thanks Ghassan,
    I’m aware of the definition but I don’t understand the implications to M8 and M14 if the case goes to either. M8 seems to be determined to take it to the council at ANY cost, what’s the deal?

    Posted by IHTDA | November 11, 2010, 2:19 pm
  55. Game, set and match. Nasrallah makes it perfectly clear in his latest speech that he is not seeking political equality for the Shia in Lebanon. What he wants is the end of Israel and to stand up against the West. Time for all those with an illusion of a negotiated solution in which Hezbollah lays down its arms in exchange for more political power to wake up.

    Posted by AIG | November 11, 2010, 2:34 pm
  56. IHTDA,
    My argument was about credibility more than anything else. Lebanese society is not the ideal society that goes by facts.
    As I said In my earlier posts, Public perception is more important to Lebanese than facts.
    The perception that Syria was behind the assassinations(with no evidence presented), cost five years of instability, and lots of blood was spelled.Some people talked about the guilt of Syria as a fact.
    If the government addressed the witnesses issue, It can gain credibility ,and it can give more credibility to the STL, and the indictment thereafter.
    Both sides are accusing each other. March 14 can and should deal with this issue with more transparency if they have nothing to hide, as they claim My my question is why not do it?why stall on an issue if you have nothing to hide?
    I agree that the indictment may not rely on any testimony provided by an of the so called false witnesses, but no one can deny that the early repots of the investigators relied on some of these testimonies. And those reports had bad consequences .Those consequence created doubts about the whole investigation, and the way The STL has conducted itself. Wether this doubt is justified or not, it became a fact that many people distrust the STL.

    Posted by Prophet | November 11, 2010, 2:41 pm
  57. Indeed. Yet, I can assure you, most will continue to live in denial.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 11, 2010, 2:44 pm
  58. Prophet,
    How can the Lebanese judicial investigate? The testimonies are confidential (for the time being).
    Any action in that direction would be folkloric and only have PR value.
    Lebanese have waited for 5 years, can’t they wait for 5 weeks more?

    Posted by IHTDA | November 11, 2010, 2:50 pm
  59. According to the justice minister report, there is a case to be investigated. The justice department report had enough information to make the recommendation to hand the case to the normal justice system.
    This is the position of PM Hariri and March 14 Group. While March 8 group want the council to do the investigation.
    My point is that , the dispute between the two positions isn’t about the capability of the Lebanese to investigate, but rather about which justice body should investigate.

    Posted by Prophet | November 11, 2010, 3:02 pm
  60. My question is, why does it matter which judicial body investigates? What’s so important about the judicial council, that M8 is so adamant?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 11, 2010, 3:16 pm
  61. I’ve got to give it to SHN.

    Bringing out a letter Kissinger wrote to Raymond Edde 34 years ago to explain why we should reject the US/French imposed 1559 resolution as well as the STL is brilliant.

    What he’s saying is that Hariri was their agent. He had to go.

    Victory or Martyrdom !

    Posted by PeterinDubai | November 11, 2010, 3:20 pm
  62. Well, if Hariri was their agent…Doesn’t proper logic (not Lebanese-style assbackwards logic) dictate then that HA did indeed take him out to foil the US/Israeli plot?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 11, 2010, 3:39 pm
  63. On an unrelated subject, but one which is often debated at this site, the possibility of any peace between Israel and its neighbors is dismissed by Bibie’s father.
    In an interview with Maariv, full of racist comments, He totally dismissed the idea of two state solutions; He can’t bring himself to admit that Palestinian people exist as people.
    Like father like son, Bibie is reading from his dad’s ideology.

    These are some excerpts of his interview with Maariv:
    “Q: You don’t like the Arabs, to say the least.
    A: “The bible finds no worse image than this of the man from the desert. And why? Because he has no respect for any law. Because in the desert he can do as he pleases.
    The tendency towards conflict is in the essence of the Arab. He is an enemy by essence. His personality won’t allow him any compromise or agreement. It doesn’t matter what kind of resistance he will meet, what price he will pay. His existence is one of perpetuate war.”
    Q: Is there any hope of peace?
    A: “Out of agreement? No. the other side might stay in peace if it understands that doing anything [else] will cause it enormous pain.
    The two states solution doesn’t exist. There are no two people here. There is a Jewish people and an Arab population… there is no Palestinian people, so you don’t create a state for an imaginary nation… they only call themselves a people in order to fight the Jews.”
    Q: So what’s the solution?
    A: “No solution but force… strong military rule”
    http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=803

    Posted by Prophet | November 11, 2010, 7:22 pm
  64. Wow! That’s some pretty nasty stuff…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 11, 2010, 8:34 pm
  65. Let the STL issue its indictments and let the chips fall where they may. Walid Phares makes excellent points.

    The people of Lebanon have been denied justice for far too long. Although bloodshed in the wake of the indictments is foreseeable and regrettable, far more blood will be shed if the whole matter is swept under the rug under the all to familiar line of the crime being another “Zionist Conspiracy”.

    Posted by jhajj | November 12, 2010, 11:14 am
  66. BV,

    Yes, Netanyahu’s Sr.’s view is extreme and not to my liking.
    But let me make two observations.
    1) Many so called Arab moderates cannot bring themselves to accept that the Jews are a nation, so why are they surprised that he denies the Palestinians are a nation?
    2) Historically he is right. It is Israel’s ability to survive its wars with the Arab world that has led to its acceptance in the middle east. And in fact, Hezbollah is still speaking about the end of Israel as their goal and that is considered main stream in Lebanon. And I think he has an interesting point here that is worth contemplating. If so called Arab moderates accept Hezbollah doctrine as main stream, are they really moderates or does this imply that they only understand force?

    Posted by AIG | November 12, 2010, 12:13 pm
  67. To IHTDA (54)

    I can attempt a very partial and very speculative answer to your question. The caveat being that these are the reflections of an amateur.

    The key for M8 is that the Cabinet refers matters to the Higher Judicial Council, and in that respect it is unlike any other court. My reading is that March 8 want to insist that this is a matter for the HJC because that way they get all the talk of Cabinet meetings, agendas and votes, and they get maximum airplay out of the term “false witnesses”. Perhaps even more importantly, keeping it on the Cabinet radar puts direct pressure on Hariri, among others.

    M14 don’t want it to go down that road because they agree with Najjar’s report that nothing should happen on this issue within any Lebanese judicial body until the court in the Hague gets under way with its trials. And in any case, they claim it is not within the HJC’s jurisdiction.

    The other option of it being dealt with the Lebanese judiciary is too low-key for M8 as it doesn’t involve Cabinet and doesn’t put direct pressure on Hariri. That route would require that someone, say Sayyed, make a civil or criminal claim. He tried that once and got knocked back. Perhaps he should try again now that Najjar has said it is within Lebanese jurisdiction.

    Posted by Jonathan | November 13, 2010, 8:17 pm
  68. AIG, “Hezbollah is still speaking about the end of Israel as their goal and that is considered main stream in Lebanon.”

    I’m not convinced this is correct. You may be confusing HA with Iran and even there, while the current leadership in Iran declares what you state it is not clear there either that the populace agrees.

    Has HA declared what you state about Israel? I would be extremely surprised if the idea of the “end of Israel” is “considered main stream in Lebanon.”

    The idea of “resistance” which has been so forcefully spread by HA using carrots and sticks is a defensive posture and I haven’t seen or read or heard anything that extrapolates from there to the “end of Israel.” I am open minded and could be convinced otherwise if indeed there is evidence of this. As far as the “Lebanese” I would be surprised if anything but a minority might think of such concept as “mainstream.”

    As far as “acceptance” being the result of “ability to survive” first it is an understatement to say “ability to survive.” It is more to ‘triumph definitively and expand territory and threaten utter devastation through the unofficial but very true nuclear capability.’
    Second, is this so different in history from so many examples? The Japanese yielding to the forceful American military power including nuclear weapons (do you think they would have surrendered otherwise?), the native Americans yielding to the military power of the settlers, the Ottoman empire yielding to the military power of the allies in WWI, …, you get the picture, the examples abound.

    So, let’s please get off this high horse of claiming moral outrage and adding another “why us?” element of feeling “special as a nation” by making the statement you make about acceptance of Israel. Pragmatism is the key here and history has shown that once acceptance is achieved, it is maintained and the new generations develop a different outlook that sheds the fanaticism of the elders.

    Ignoring the myriad of people in the Arab world, in Lebanon (which I personally continue to object to being characterized as part of the Arab world), and by the diaspora of both, who think very differently than what you state is not a healthy outlook towards future peace. Of course maintaining military power is a must for Israel. No one has any illusions that it won’t or that it shouldn’t, and besides, such build-up and maintenance are usually very good economic prosperity drivers.

    Denial of Palestinians as a “people” or a “nation,” is not something that should be justified nor explained, as you attempt to do, but rejected outright, just like denial of the “Jews” as a nation should be rejected outright. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as I have stated N times in this blog and at SyriaComment.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 1:27 am
  69. I should also acknowledge that AIG has said that Bibi’s father’s “view is extreme and not to [his] liking.” Besides, why is this news? Just because someone is the father of the Prime Minister doesn’t make their opinion “news.”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 1:33 am
  70. CNN – “U.S. offers incentives to Israelis to halt settlements for 90 days”

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/11/13/israel.us.incentives/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

    That’s how rewarding the brat who throws a tantrum will only lead to more tantrums.

    Netanyahu’s positions betray his true intentions which are in line with those who consider the Palestinians as an inferior people, that is if they are a people at all. This is the kind of intransigence that sucks the wind out of every moderate in the Arab world and gives oxygen to the extremists. These are the positions that are consistent with those who speak of “Jerusalem, the united and eternal capital of Israel.”
    The U.S. is like a big transistor where the base current is made up entirely of the wishes of the portion of the Jewish diaspora that is Israel-supporting.
    In this attitude it is isolated from every other country in the world.
    I think the Palestinians should go ahead with the declaration of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and including East Jerusalem, Clinton’s warnings notwithstanding.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 1:49 am
  71. … and before someone else makes the observation, yes, the comment section seems to find a way to always curve back asymptotically to a discussion of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
    I have often stated that the solution to this conflict is key to removing the justification for all the extreme movements in the Arab world, including HA. Others have disagreed with that opinion.
    Recently, none other than Thanassis Cambanis, on Charlie Rose’s program on PBS, made the same argument.
    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11290
    Of course, solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem won’t solve ALL the issues in the Middle East but certainly it will be the beginning of the end to all the extreme movements who use that conflict as a rallying cry, and this includes the Iranian regime’s overreach to exert influence in the Arab world.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 1:57 am
  72. HP,

    In a “Privilege to Die” Cambanis documents very thoroughly that one of the aims of Hezbollah is the destruction of Israel. Nasrallah repeats often that Israel is a “spider web” society and the “resistance” will bring its end. Now, Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government and represents about 1/3 of the Lebanese. Therefore Hezbollah and its views are mainstream in Lebanon. It is not as if because of these views they cannot be part of any government or coalition. Nobody refuses to talk to them because of these views. Therefore, they are mainstream.

    What sucks the wind out of the moderates in the Arab world is their lack of courage or the fact they get put in jail or assassinated. If Israelis based what they did or did not do to better their society on what Arab politicians said, we would not be the 15th most developed country in the world. Your problem is with the extremist in your society, not with Netanyahu. It is them you have to convince. Sorry, but blaming Israel is just a symptom of the Battered Person Syndrome.

    By the way, until a few weeks ago you did not think that Jews were a nation. What changed your mind?

    Any realistic peace with Israel will only make Lebanon’s internal problems worse, not better. HA will not give up its weapons as the “seven villages” in the Galilee are the next excuse as well as the request for a “defense strategy”. And how will the Lebanese Palestinian issue be solved without another civil war when it becomes clear they will stay in Lebanon?

    Isn’t it obvious to you that successful societies solve their own problems instead of basing their future on the hope that an enemy state will perform some action to save them? You cannot control or influence Israel’s actions, just as I cannot control or influence Lebanese actions. We each have to act in our own community and not expect our enemies to help us.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 2:25 am
  73. The comment by Mr. Cambanis about a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “taking the sails out of” HA is at the very end of the Charlie Rose interview.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 2:50 am
  74. AIG, “What changed your mind?” … You can take credit for it: you did!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 2:52 am
  75. AIG, you liked Cambanis’ book and quote his views as evidence. He agrees with me that a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will significantly mitigate HA’s influence and, in so doing, likely help Lebanon converge towards a solution to its internal conflict. Of course, it is not the only factor and the Lebanese have a lot of responsibilities to fill and actions to take, etc. But clearly the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been quite devastating to Lebanon, starting with the 400,000 Palestinian refugees causing an imbalance in what was then less than a 3-million population, rousing many of the muslims to the defense of what they considered the “Arab cause,” which spread fear in the hearts of the Christians and caused some of them to seek remedy in armament and internal military struggle.

    I do see now – based in part of Cambanis’ reporting – that HA has put in its charter a rejection of the notion of a Jewish state in Israel. I do still believe, however, as Cambanis states, that the minute HA moves from “resistance” to offense by attacking Israel as part of supporting the Palestinian cause, particularly when the Palestinians themselves are not fighting but seeking a peaceful solution, then the mask would immediately fall and a majority of the Lebanese will rally against HA. Of course, HA may resort to civil strife but they won’t get the support of Aoun and his followers in this.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 3:01 am
  76. HP,

    The important question is the following: Will an Israeli-Palestinian peace lead to HA relinquishing their arms and becoming only a political force? The answer is clearly “no” as Cambanis argues in his book and as Nasrallah confirmed in his last speech. Nasrallah clearly said that he valued “resistance” above political power.

    Will it make HA less likely to attack Israel? Yes. But how is that different from the situation now? Even without peace HA cannot be seen as provoking a war.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 5:18 am
  77. HP,

    I think we agree that it is an extreme view to deny either that the Palestinians are a nation or that the Jews are a nation. So the question to you is the following. Do you accept that until you changed your mind on this issue, you were not really a moderate?

    The point I am trying to make is that many people in the Arab countries think of themselves as moderates but in fact are not really so. They hold extreme views when it comes to Jews and Israel without even being aware. And even if they don’t hold these views themselves, they view it as a non-issue if someone else holds such views. In the Lebanese case it manifests itself in the fact that Hezbollah and its rhetoric and ideology are mainstream and Aoun for example, has no problem being their ally. In Syria it means that Tlas (the former defense minister) can write a bestseller about how the Jews kill children to use their blood in their rituals and nobody blinks.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 5:53 am
  78. AIG, yes and no. You may be right about some assumed “moderates” who still believe that eventually, at the right time, elimination of Israel should be back in the cards.

    I don’t think it is fair to tag folks like me, and there are more of us than you imagine, as folks who only become moderates when a rather subtle distinction is recognized between Jews as followers of the Jewish religion and Jews as a nation. From a practical standpoint, it was not going to make a difference.

    Furthermore, stories abound of American Jews who made Aliya only to be frustrated that they are not recognized as Jews because of the criteria of mother-should-be-a-Jew or else the conversion has to be supervised by the Orthodox Jews. So there is in Israel quite a bit of issues about this Jews-as-a-nation and Jews-as-a-religion. Granted that a majority of Jews in Israel are secular but certainly the religious still need so much power — as reported in the press, I haven’t been there — that many a rule is discriminatory and sometimes even self-destructive because it’s based on religious interpretations.

    As I think I mentioned some time ago in an exchange with you on SyriaComment, there will be no more understanding and reasonable folks with ties to Lebanon than the likes of QN and me who would be supportive of a peaceful Israel that is part of a prosperous Middle East. As you well know many of us are already tagged as “Zionists,” a laughable characterization. The real enemies are the extremists, those whose very existence and prosperity is dependent on the perpetuation of conflict and hate.

    As far as impact we can have in the Arab world, I have made no bones about my choice of exile driven by the real close-brush-with-death experienced and the realization that in the climate I had to deal with I had no assets and no ability to effect change. I’m happy to see the likes of Uqab Sakr, young politicians home-grown and with a head screwed on right, with courage, intelligence, and competence. This is the kind of generation and individuals who can make a difference. Unless they get assassinated, a tactic used by the fanatics. Believers among us pray that such does not happen. Non-believers hope for the same.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 9:49 am
  79. “yield so much power” instead of “need so much power” — Yalla, QN, we need an review/edit/delete feature for our posts.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 9:50 am
  80. HP;

    Just to point out that the Religion/Nationality distinction for Jews is really artificial, an attempt to ‘shove’ Jewishness into definitions it does not fit. For Judaism is part Religion, part Nationality, and part Ethnic group, while being none of them at the same time.

    A born Jew inherits his Jewishness, and can not only be secular, but convert to Christianity or Islam and still be considered a perfectly ‘cosher’ Jew. Not one liked by his peers, perhaps..but still a Jew.

    On the other-hand, as you mentioned, converting to Judaism is based on religious principles – but once you ‘get into the club’ – your kids will inherit their Jewishness and can go about eating pork until they burst.

    This simply doesn’t fit the definition of religion (which requires you to at least believe) or Nationality (which usually does not require you to adhere to a religion).

    Outsiders (and some insiders as well), tend to prefer one ‘definition’ (religion/nationality) over the other, and thus both over-simplify and mislead.

    We are both, and we are neither.

    Posted by G | November 14, 2010, 11:06 am
  81. G,

    You are just plain wrong. You become a Jew by going through a process of learning the tribe’s history and customs, just as you would join an African tribe, or a Native American one. Your mistake is to label these customs as “religion”. The Jewish tradition does not require belief. It requires following the customs. In order to convert the Rabbis do not check if you believe. They check how you live i.e. do you keep a kosher home?

    The bottom line though is that a vast majority of the Jews view themselves as a nation, and that is what counts.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 12:41 pm
  82. HP,

    The denial of nationhood of the Jews is not a subtle point because it defines the conflict. The Jews want a Jewish state in the middle east and most Arabs cannot accept such an entity.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 12:45 pm
  83. AIG;

    Nothing in Jews defining themselves as a nation contradicts anything I said.
    Yes, the Jewish religion demands deeds (e.g. Kosher) vs. A statement of belief such as in other religions, but that is still a religious requirement.
    I don’t keep Kosher, neither did my parents… am I less a Jew because I do not ‘adhere to the nation’s customs’?
    In fact, I could in principle be so ignorant so as to not know how to spell the word ‘Jew’ and still count as one on virtue of my mother.

    Again, this does not negate our right for self definition and nationhood in any way. Stop being so stubborn. You’r not the only Jew on the planet, ya know.

    Posted by G | November 14, 2010, 12:54 pm
  84. AIG;

    Nothing in Jews defining themselves as a nation contradicts anything I said.
    Yes, the Jewish religion demands deeds (e.g. Kosher) vs. A statement of belief such as in other religions, but that is still a religious requirement.
    I don’t keep Kosher, neither did my parents… am I less a Jew because I do not ‘adhere to the nation’s customs’?
    In fact, I could in principle be so ignorant so as to not know how to spell the word ‘Jew’ and still count as one on virtue of my mother.

    Again, this does not negate our right for self definition and nationhood in any way. Stop being so stubborn.

    You’r not the only Jew on the planet, ya know.

    Posted by G | November 14, 2010, 1:01 pm
  85. G,

    Why is keeping kosher a “religious requirement”? It is just the custom of the tribe. What makes it “religious”?

    My point is that just as in other tribes, say Native Americans, if you are born into the tribe you do not need to follow all the customs to be part of the tribe, but if an outsider wants to join, he has to go through an initiation that involves following the customs of the tribe.

    I am not being stubborn, your claim that “We are both, and we are neither” is just plain false. In fact, it doesn’t even make sense since you agree that most of us define ourselves as a nation.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 1:15 pm
  86. AIG;

    You are trying to describe Kosher like a Jewish National custom as Beget & snails are to the French. But that comparison doesn’t hold water. Kosher is related to specific religious commandments in the Torah, as are most Jewish customs – From Eating Tshulnt On Saturday to having a Bar-Mitzvah – our rituals and customs are mostly derived, directly & indirectly, from religious commandments and their interpretations across the millennia.

    Having a strong sense of nationality is no reason to turn our back to this.

    As you may perhaps be aware, Israel’s flag is NOT the flag Hertzel proposed.
    He proposed the “seven golden stars” flag, which was purposefully disconnected from any religious motifs.

    However, after a long debate, the current flag was chosen – the two blue ribbons taken from the Jewish ‘Talith’ (prayer Shawl) and in the middle the star of David – a Jewish symbol which emerged and is mostly connected with the European (Urthodox) Jewish Diaspora in the middle ages.

    This is our national flag. So please do not try to forcibly disconnect the Jewish Religion from Nationality. They are connected.

    G

    Posted by G | November 14, 2010, 3:07 pm
  87. G,

    You are missing the point. I do not describe eating kosher as a “Jewish national” custom. The kosher rules are only marginally related to what the Torah says. They are derived from the ORAL traditions of the tribe. For example the kashrut law not to eat milk and meat together is based on the cryptic torah phrase against:
    “boiling a (kid) goat in its mother’s milk”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_and_meat_in_Jewish_law

    Now how do you get the intricate kosher laws from that? You get it through rabbinic interpretation that is based on prevailing traditions thousands of years ago. You may call this “religion” but I think a much more appropriate name is “tribal traditions”.

    The same goes for most if not all what you call “religious” customs. In fact, many “religious” customs related to the temple are described in the Torah but are completely deemed unnecessary by the rabbis.

    So of course Jewish nationality is related to Jewish tribal traditions, but these traditions are not connected in a necessary way to a belief in God.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 4:59 pm
  88. This was a very interesting and illuminating debate. The question inevitably arises: could such a debate also be undertaken about Islam and the muslim societies? I think it is fair to say that Christianity has been debated openly for ages now so the missing link in the Abrahamic religions engaging in self exploratory debates is one about Islam.

    As I wonder I find that perhaps this is not possible because specifically Islam considers that the Quran spells out the actual words of God Himself, vs. inspired scripture as in the Torah and The Bible.

    Still, it is an interesting question.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 14, 2010, 7:03 pm
  89. HP,

    You can discuss Islam here ,

    http://www.islamcomment.org/

    Posted by Norman | November 14, 2010, 7:20 pm
  90. HP,

    The interesting question is when you can have that discussion about Islam without the risk of being killed. Nobody is going to kill you for interpreting Jewish or Christian scripture any way you want or if you question their validity or holiness. Unfortunately, there are enough Muslims that will kill you if you do the same for Islam. And the really sad part, is that the vast majority of Muslims, that would not kill you, would still silently support those who did, or at least not attempt to stop them or quiet them.

    http://www.memritv.org/embedded_player/index.php?clip_id=2676

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 7:25 pm
  91. HP,

    Norman is back here. How about asking him why he supports a dictator and tyrant? His views are very extreme. He is a supporter of Asad.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 7:27 pm
  92. Because he protects the minorities and stand up for Arab rights,I hope that satisfactory for you , i always try to satisfy you,

    Posted by Norman | November 14, 2010, 7:57 pm
  93. Norman,

    Yes, Bashar gives Arab so many rights! That is why it is one of the most oppressive countries in the world with the least freedoms.

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 9:03 pm
  94. We like what he does , you don’t have to

    Posted by Norman | November 14, 2010, 9:06 pm
  95. The ‘ol “Do as I say, not as I do” routine.

    How convincing…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 14, 2010, 9:10 pm
  96. Norman,

    Yes, you like what he does because you are in the US. But if people in Syria really liked what he does, why would he need to be so oppressive?

    Posted by AIG | November 14, 2010, 9:40 pm
  97. He is not , the majority of Syrians like him , they even love him , except your friends , the MB,

    By the way do you really think that you and i can change the election in the US , our ability to vote only makes us feel that we are doing something and justify the politicians ability to do what they want as we can vote them out , even though less than 50% of us vote at anyway,

    Posted by Norman | November 14, 2010, 9:53 pm
  98. A similar piece here, but maybe more vocal favoring the tribunal…

    http://pagelebanon.com/2010/11/17/no-justice-no-peace-lebanon-and-the-logic-of-special-international-courts/

    Looks bad from Lebanon guys, any hope?

    Posted by Bachir | November 19, 2010, 9:31 pm

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