Al-Akhbar and Syria

I’m in Beirut for a couple of weeks, and as usual, the blogging takes a back seat to seeing family, catching up with friends, and fulfilling my craving for hindbeh bzeit, shish barak, and chicken livers in pomegranate syrup.

However… I have been working on a piece about Amal Saad-Ghorayeb’s recent articles on “Third Way” intellectuals for al-Akhbar (see here for part 1 and part 2). Since they came out, there have been a few  responses to emerge which are worth reading:

As`ad Abu-Khalil calls Amal’s position an “outrage”

Antoun Issa believes that resistance is the prerogative of people, not regimes

And Max Blumenthal launches a full-out broadside on al-Akhbar itself for its stance on Syria…

The history of this debate can be traced back all the way to Khaled Saghiyyeh’s resignation last summer as editor of the paper. It’s a cliche to say it, but al-Akhbar’s newsroom is probably as faithful a microcosm of Beirut’s leftist community as any, and so this conversation is worth paying close attention to.

More soon…


106 thoughts on “Al-Akhbar and Syria

  1. Miss Me Yet NewZ

    Here’s Anwar and Hosni competing for the “Colonel Qaddafi Medal-Wearing Contest”:

    And a few more…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2012, 12:36 pm
  2. This reminds me of a joke I just invented.
    How many Lebanese leftists does it take to replace a light bulb?
    Who cares, there is no electricity.

    Why QN is “this conversation worth paying close attention to”? To paraphrase Stalin, how many, guns, voters, money, influence do Lebanese leftists have?

    Posted by AIG | June 20, 2012, 1:59 pm
  3. They Answer to a Higher Authority: Stockholders


    What exactly IS a Lebanese Leftist? And who do they report to?

    More importantly, Hebrew National is again in the news…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 20, 2012, 2:20 pm
  4. Well I’ll wait for Elias’s piece on Amal’s piece.

    Either way, didn’t the very Angry Arab take a rather Assad sympathetic position early on?

    Posted by Gabriel | June 20, 2012, 4:15 pm
  5. Re lightbulbs: That has to go down as one of my top 5 comments ever.

    More later…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 20, 2012, 6:16 pm
  6. Gabriel,
    The Angry Arab’s position has been consistent on this issue. Amal Saad-ghorayeb comes across in both articles as nothing much but an apologist. She twists and turns to repeat her basic hypothesis that the Assad foreign policy entitles him to rule any which way that he chooses. It would be sad if the legitimacy of a regime is to be judged only in terms of its support to the Palestinian cause ; even though such support has been ineffective; when the regime in question pursues a brutal and undemocratic domestic policy.
    The first article also tried to impress by quoting Lenin on an issue that is not relevant to the hypothesis, it is as if one builds ones leftists credentials by quoting anything from Lenin. (I did post a few remarks on AlAkhbar to both installments so far.)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 20, 2012, 6:38 pm
  7. QN,

    Thanks, glad you liked the comment.

    Posted by AIG | June 20, 2012, 7:44 pm
  8. Embarrassed by GWB NewZ

    Looks like uber-MSM liberal, Andrea Mitchell (the one married to the “great” conservative, Alan Greenspan) is doing her best to smear the Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 21, 2012, 7:00 am
  9. AIG,

    You’ll be happy to know that Hamas is ready for a truce. They said they can temporarily stop trying to kill Israelis (jewish or arab) despite their obvious educational and religious predispositions…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 21, 2012, 7:05 am
  10. Putin picked the Wrong Horse Again NewZ

    Oh good. Another MIG-21 to inspect for the latest Russian technological advances.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 21, 2012, 7:35 am
  11. Ghassan, no one know where Angry Arab stands. He doesn’t stand anywhere- except in an angry, a very angry place.

    This is him, relatively recently:

    I know he also calls Amal’s piece an “outrage”.

    So where is he? With the proverbial “Syrian People”.. but against the Saudi-Qatari controlled SNC, and against the Baath of Bash(sh)ar (or is that Bas-Shar), who is at least better than the SNC?

    What do the proverbial Syrian people want? Where do they stand?

    The Angry Arab doesn’t need to answer. He only needs to say the right things. If you’re against everyone (but especially the Zionist-Imperialist-Western-Axis), you still get to be invited to DemocracyNow! debates while not getting yourself entrenched and associated with a soon-to-be-Ancien Regime that won’t do much for your future credibility!

    Consistent you say, I call it a cop-out.

    I’ve said before in the space that the real story is unfolding in nearby Egypt, where this Junta is making a mockery of the “authentic Egyptian voices”. I’ll be interested to read Elias’s position on this whole thing (re: Amal’s piece), but I suspect that if we see Shafiq being elected in the days to come, and the American administration mum about the whole thing… then the Angry Arab won’t find the Amal piece so outrageous after all.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 21, 2012, 8:24 am
  12. PS: It was nice to see in his commentary on the “outrageous” piece that his gripe with Syrian deliverance begins:
    “… ever since the Syrian regime intervened in Lebanon in 1976 to crush progressive Palestinian and Lebanese struggle”

    Posted by Gabriel | June 21, 2012, 8:36 am
  13. Congratulations!

    It only took the government of Israel one year to figure out where it needs to stand on the Syrian crisis.

    Posted by Monolith | June 21, 2012, 3:47 pm
  14. “They” have been so self absorbed with themselves … that is the Israeli syndrome.

    Posted by Monolith | June 21, 2012, 9:14 pm
  15. “they sunk the country into”

    It is always “they” with you, not “us”. That is 99% of the problem with Lebanon.

    *You might be as old as Nabih Berri and Walid Jumblatt. I’m not!!*

    **GK might be more up your alley.**


    Posted by Monolith | June 21, 2012, 9:28 pm
  16. Monolith

    BTW, where DOES the GOI stand on Syria?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 21, 2012, 9:36 pm
  17. How fitting for you to ask for such news from a mere Lebanese goat.

    I’ll put a “dunce cap” on my avatar if you change your moniker to “Akbar Hmar”.

    Posted by Monolith | June 21, 2012, 9:50 pm
  18. Monolith 9:28
    Chronologically I am almost as old as Walid Jumblatt and by extension Berri. But I think that my beliefs are not as fossilized lol. BTW, I do not think that I have ever spoken to the Bey but I sure remember his red Vette parked on Bliss next to Uncle Sams and the Ellisar coffee shops.He acted like a spoiled rich kid.

    Posted by gkaram | June 21, 2012, 11:52 pm
  19. Monolith/Peter/R2D2:

    How old are you really? You’re not a 21 college student by the sounds of your posts.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 22, 2012, 1:56 pm
  20. Thanks QN for bringing this subject to the limelight. For me, the importance of the internal bickering of the Al Akhbar media outlet cannot be over looked. This is not that surprising given the freedom of opinion it maintains, although Angry Arabs’ response was a bit of an eye opener. But what I enjoyed the most was Max Blumenthal’s brilliant “confession” and honest article that carved up the apologists with surgical precision. He summed up concisely what the anti-regime camp and the “third wayers” were trying to say all along. A must read by all accounts.

    Posted by Maverick | June 22, 2012, 8:50 pm
  21. And a special thanks to Amal S. G for proving to this inquisitive mind, that the intellect does not necessarily equal intelligence, perhaps, on the contrary, too much intellect muddies the otherwise clear path. Hey , but what do I know, maybe just maybe the Palestinian cause will have a happy ending full with a fireworks display above an enchanted castle somewhere in Damascus.

    Posted by Maverick | June 22, 2012, 8:58 pm
  22. The real issue is: How does a self professed progressive anti imperialist Marx and Lenin quoting individual justify supporting a backward status maintaining regime that is class centered and that is intent on demeaning a popular proletarian movement? A real leftist analysis of the Syrian uprising can never support the Assad regime although it would oppose foreign military intervention. Read for starters Khalil Habash and the Socialist Viewpoint. I know of no Marxist/Leninist/Socialist that will take the position of Ms. Saad-Ghorayeb.

    Posted by gkaram | June 22, 2012, 9:28 pm
  23. This will be my last post on this issue, I promise 🙂

    Rosa Luxemburg, possibly the greatest and the most prescient revolutionary socialist of all times had this to say: “Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party…is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” and then she goes on to say: ” With the repression of political life…without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinions, life dies out in every public institution….”

    I ask you: Would such a thinker support the Assad regime?

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 22, 2012, 11:00 pm
  24. Ghassan,

    The Marxist/Leninist/Socialist camp in Lebanon are mostly disenfranchised individuals who agree to slip into bed with the devil himself if the devil uttered the orgasmic words ” A Zionist – American plot”. Most of their narrative is on fighting Zionism and Imperialism. of course they also have to drink heavily and look identifiable to reflect their romanticism.A lot of them have had one too many joints. I might be stereotyping, but who really is a real Leftist? It seems like they look the part more than they act the part. I think AIG said it aptly above with his light bulb joke.

    Posted by Maverick | June 22, 2012, 11:22 pm
  25. Can’t wait to read what you are going to write on this QN…. eagerly anticipating…

    Posted by Zenobia | June 23, 2012, 1:28 am
  26. I thought Salama Kayla did a candid assessment of the situation of the Left in the region in this recent interview published in Al Akhbar:

    Posted by mj | June 23, 2012, 5:03 am
  27. Thanks MJ. Missed that one. Really good.

    Lebanon misses you. 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 23, 2012, 7:09 am
  28. QN,

    Ounsi el-Hajj’s article is very well written. But when you cut to the chase, it is basically a childish lament that the world is complex and that there are never perfect choices or in many cases even good choices. That does not absolve us from making a choice even if it is a bad one in absolute terms, as long as it is better than the other choices.

    To put is starkly, here is a simple example. Two war lords are fighting. Both are murderers but one murders ten times the number the other does. Which one do we support? We can support neither and remain “pure”, but that is the same as supporting the stronger one and being irrelevant and without any influence whoever wins. We can also fight both, but that is usually not realistic. Or, we can support the less murderous one and hope to influence the aftermath. These are the kinds of options that Arabs face today over Syria. There are no good options, but staying out of the fray is one of the worst. It means being marginalized whatever the outcome and guaranteeing 0 influence and more importantly it means not stopping the more murderous war lord from coming to power.

    El-Hajj needs to understand that “non-alignment” is really not an option. In fact he is not really “non-aligned”, he is against both sides. But since he cannot build a credible third option, his “non-alignment” is nothing more than an excuse for doing nothing and escaping from making the hard choices.

    Posted by AIG | June 23, 2012, 10:46 am
  29. AIG

    I understood the piece as a description of the condition people find themselves in, not necessarily a prescription for how to choose a position.

    The Syrian situation has no perfect solutions. In the face of all the triumphalism and zero-sum gaming going on right now, this is worth saying.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 23, 2012, 10:49 am
  30. QN,

    I agree that El-Hajj is describing his state of mind, but it also seems to me that he is trying to justify this state of mind and thinks it is good not to choose sides.

    I thought it was obvious that the Syrian situation has no good solution, let alone a perfect one. But if that is not clear in certain circles, then the article drives that point home well. What I can’t agree with is the conclusion that having no good options justifies sitting on the fence or not making any choice.

    Posted by AIG | June 23, 2012, 11:17 am
  31. Lol what’s funny is how many different ways one can have the same conversation.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 23, 2012, 11:39 am
  32. Onsi Al Hajj has added nothing to the clarity of the discourse on this issue. I agree with AIG that the conclusion of this piece is a cop out at best. There are not many state wide conflicts that one cannot label as being complicated. Lebanon, Iraq, Zimbabwe, South Africa, North Korea… were at one time just as complicated and some are still without a solution. But complexity is not an excuse for doing nothing. To point out that the Syrian regime has supported worthy causes and so that overcomes its brutal side is similar to saying that Hitler must be forgiven for all his atrocities because he painted still life. That is wrong by any measure whether Kantist or utilitarian. But above all totalitarianism cannot be justifies by either the Marxist progressive socialists or the bourgeois democracies.

    Posted by gkaram | June 23, 2012, 12:08 pm
  33. Submitted by Qifa Nabki (not verified) on Fri, 2012-06-22 10:21.
    Superb piece Jamal.

    I hope you realize this balanced position makes you an unwitting supporter of imperialism, by Amal’s lights. 🙂

    Would Jamal’s “balanced position” also make the uber-sensitive-but-ambitious bridge-burning Max Blumenthal “throw up in my own mouth”? I wonder if future potential editors will look askance @ Max as a contributor given his entirely gratuitous but tactically saavy poo-smearing departure from Al_Akhbar.

    If Max wants to go native again, I would suggest he offer up his sterling reputation to Al_Jazeera English. After all, AJE had an even larger internal revolution resulting in the departures of numerous employees who violently objected to the slant of the AJE coverage of the Syrian mess.

    Posted by lally | June 23, 2012, 12:44 pm
  34. Israel’s “Stand”


    Time to put on your dunce cap. Nowhere in your article did the GOI state who to support. Israel’s “stand” is to “stop the massacres”. Big whoop.

    “There’s not much that Israel can do, it’s up to the Syrian people, the West and Russia to find a solution to stop the massacres.”

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 23, 2012, 12:52 pm
  35. *********** DRUM ROLLS *****************

    Posted by Gabriel | June 23, 2012, 6:34 pm
  36. Gabriel,

    And the winner is……Mohammed Morsi!

    OTOH, some ME expert once said:

    If you know the result ahead of time, you are voting for the real powerbroker. If you don’t know the result in advance, then you are voting for a position that hardly matters.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 24, 2012, 11:13 am
  37. AP
    I believe that your cynicism is misplaced . There might be a place for it later on but definitely not at this moment. If anything this is a moment that could be very momentous. It is a moment that can change the whole system of governance in the Arab Moslem world.
    Conventional wisdom, backed up by the unenviable historical record of practically ever single Arab country for over sixty years, has often concluded that Islam and democracy are incompatible. But the grandson of the founder of the Moslem Brotherhood, Tariq Ramadan, has eloquently argued over the past decade or so that the problem was not Islam but Wahabism. He called Wahabism a disease that uses idolatry to poison the mind. He has taught that Islam can be as democratic and yet can be observant of the true fundamentals of the religion. He has preached a tolerant Islam and often used Turkey as a potential model to be emulated. So let us be patient and give the MB a chance to prove itself. They just might pleasantly surprise all of us.

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 24, 2012, 5:55 pm
  38. GK,

    In principle, religion and liberal democracy can co-exist. It depends what the religion is. So the question is not whether Islam can co-exist with democracy. That is too vague a question. The question is what percent of Egyptians believe in a Wahabi type Islam and what percentage believe in the Ramadan type Islam? I don’t know, but neither do the Egyptians themselves.

    As for the MB, they have a serious problem because they have the Salafis breathing down their neck (they are the second largest party in parliament). If they allow alcohol for example, the Salafis will make a field day out of it and will steal votes from them and attack them for being hypocrites. You know well that leaders who compromise are viewed as weak in the Arab world. Furthermore, when your motto is “Islam is the solution” you are not leaving liberal democracy much room to flourish.

    Of course we may be pleasantly surprised, but then again, this is the middle east and that kind of optimism is never warranted 🙂 My motto is prepare for the worst and hope for the not so bad. At this point in time, if there is another free election in Egypt in the future, that would count as a huge success in my opinion. Hoping for anything more than that is unrealistic.

    Posted by AIG | June 24, 2012, 6:54 pm
  39. GK,

    Misplaced? No one has any idea what power Mursi will have. He just won an election for a position that has no job requirements.

    The Egyptian military should bow at his feet and proclaim him Caesar. But I have serious doubts. Call me a skeptic.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 24, 2012, 11:38 pm
  40. “ex-post facto . . . meta-narrative . . . ontological . . . a paradigm shift from Realism to Constructivism” … …….

    There is only one word to describe the writings of Amal………. Mendacious .

    I have read many authors in the last ten 10 years but have rarely come across some one so patently and intellectually bankrupt. There are a lot of contradictions in her articles, waiting for Elias to write his response. I dont believe that she is a true leftist, but a sectarian at heart who tries to hide her adulation of Assad.

    Posted by Enlightened | June 24, 2012, 11:43 pm
  41. Amal is the focus of some extreme vilification; so, in a lesser way, is Sharmine Narwani. Tweets are trails leading one-by-one to those in the marginalization posse. From the utter horrors those two evoke, one would think they are frighteningly dangerous young women.

    Sharmine & Amal drove poor Max B right over the edge.

    Who is a “true leftist”? Is there a definitive litmus test one can take?

    Posted by lally | June 25, 2012, 1:52 am
  42. “I wonder if future potential editors will look askance @ Max as a contributor given his entirely gratuitous but tactically saavy poo-smearing departure from Al_Akhbar.

    If Max wants to go native again, I would suggest he offer up his sterling reputation to Al_Jazeera English. After all, AJE had an even larger internal revolution resulting in the departures of numerous employees who violently objected to the slant of the AJE coverage of the Syrian mess.”


    In a back and forth with As’ad AbuKhalil and Sultan al-Qassemi on Twitter, Max refuted Asad’s claim that he was holding Al Akhbar to higher standards than the Huffington Post, to which Max has also contributed, as “ludicrous”. If anything, HuffPo’s selling out to AOL is a more egregious betrayal of a political project, because HuffPo profited from the free labor of contributors who, after Bush’s 2004 re-election, wanted a liberal alternative to Drudge & co. Ariana Huffington built the site through hundreds of free contributors who believed in this political project and then sold the brand. Think what you will of Sharmine Narwani– I myself am not a fan– but she has publicly alleged that HuffPo has turned down her contributions, particularly on Syria, ever since the merger with AOL (and there are countless indicators of the site’s qualitative decline.) By contrast, and as As’ad pointed out, Max was never censored at Al Akhbar. Max never even wrote about Syria. Either Max was heroically acting on behalf of the people who did leave because of Syria-related coverage/censorship at the paper, or — as Lally said– it was gratuitous and perhaps even convenient to leave with a grandiloquent declaration, delivered with righteous fury without prior notice to his editors, on his personal website.
    I say all this while agreeing with the larger narrative about the universal right to resist oppression, including against the Assad regime.
    In subsequent debates fueled by Max’s resignation, many valid points have been made about Al Akhbar’s coverage on Syria, particularly distinguishing between the Arabic paper’s news coverage (and its penchant for regime-narrative language) and the op eds, which include pro-and anti-regime voices. Max’s piece notably lacked this distinction, not the least because he doesn’t read the Arabic version of the paper or probably pays that much attention in the first place (responding, as it were, a year later to Khaled Saghieh’s departure from Al Akhbar). Of course, he has a far lesser stake in the project than many other contributors. And this, though no fault of Max, is what really put me off: the upstanding and entitled outsider, his tolerance for the natives’ imperfect media experiments exasperated, throws in the towel. And everyone cheers. No more brand Blumenthal for you.


    Posted by EDB | June 25, 2012, 3:52 am
  43. Lally,
    I understand your concern regarding the numerous criticisms of Amal Saad-Ghorayeb. But may I point out that if her contributions were submitted under an annonymous name then the criticism would not have been less severe not because there is a litmus test for a true socialist but because she is suggesting that you can be whatever you want to be as long as you support , even rhetorically, the Palestinian cause. She is the one who is applying a litmus test that if passed will exonerate a regime from the greatest acts of exploitation, brutality and discrimination.
    BTW, there is no litmus test for a true left but there are basic principles that one is expected to adhere to , especially when a person goes out of his/her way to self describe themselves as progressive socialist. May I suggest dialectical thinking, historical materialism,total support for the proletariat and opposition for the ruling class.

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 25, 2012, 9:22 am
  44. … and if the ruling class is “of the Left”.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 25, 2012, 1:18 pm
  45. Gabriel,
    There is no such thing as a ruling class “of the left”.

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 25, 2012, 3:32 pm
  46. Unless you’re the government of Russia, China, no?

    You are part of the Proletariat until such time that you are not part of the Proletariat!

    Posted by Gabriel | June 25, 2012, 3:37 pm
  47. You might wanna ask the regime that Amal S G so honorably defends in finding out what makes a real Leftist. Or hear the echoes of the tortured screams within the dungeons of the (in)security apparatus.

    Posted by Maverick | June 25, 2012, 6:14 pm
  48. Whoever told you that Russia is ruled by a “true leftist” must have been pulling your leg, to say the least. It is not enough to proclaim that a regime is X , Y or Z. There are minimum universally agreed upon standards otherwise definitions become meaningless if each person is to apply a different interpretation. So please let us avoid opening this Pandoras box 🙂

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 25, 2012, 6:42 pm
  49. LoL ya Ghassan… Again with that word “true”.

    By that measure… those proverbial Sinistres are a figment of our collective imagination!

    Posted by Gabriel | June 25, 2012, 9:32 pm
  50. Maverick,

    Not that I intend to belittle the tortured screams of anyone… but not long ago, our lovely (Canadian) government sent a certain Maher Arar, courtesy of the democratic US, to one of those scary Syrian dungeons. That the “alleged” scary terrorist was going to be screaming didn’t seem to bother them so much.

    If Amal would like to- as a result of basic facts such as these- treat the feigning of concerns coming from some quarters regarding said dungeons with a grain of salt, then at the very least she should be able to do so without the risk of being accused of being a closet-case sectarian behemoth.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 25, 2012, 9:40 pm
  51. Gabriel,
    At times I have no idea whether you are being serious or whether you are just having fun tossing around “grenades” for fun. If you think that the Soviet Union was an example of a “true socialist” state then you must enjoy being exceptionally lonely. But to even posit the proposition that Russia and China are “true socialist” states boggles the mind.Russia the most corrupt oligarchy and China the most statist of them all l0l.
    And finally I hope that you do not mind a short quote from David Harvey, one of the most respected and influential academic Marxist in the world: ” Russia was a terrible dictatorship, run by despots, the fact that it used a kind of corrupted and eventually very corrupt socialism while it lurched from medieval to modern, is a testament to how terrible and how effective central planning in conjunction with slavery can be.”
    As for China, I am at a loss where to begin. How about the fact that hundreds of millions of Chinese are living under abject poverty and yet China has added more billionaires than any other country in the world over the past decade.

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 25, 2012, 10:15 pm
  52. Akbar’s “Believe it Or Not”

    Hey guys, get a load of this. I was searching for some old files and I stumbled upon this one, which is almost 5 years old:

    Alex said:


    Sim is not a bad antisemite, YOU are a bad Jew.

    Thou shalt not murder
    Thou shalt not steal
    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

    Stop wrapping your violent aggressive and selfish attitudes with beautiful words like “Democracy”.

    Anyone who tried to tell you that you are wrong, you call him an antisemite.

    If an intelligent Israeli journalist in Haaretz says something sensible and peaceful, you and Akbar try to portray him as a 6% minority whose opinion does not count. If an American analyst promotes the idea of dialogue with Syria Akbar calls him clueless.

    And of course the only thing you are understanding from my comment here is: “This is all coming from a Syrian regime tool … that explains it”

    By discrediting anyone who criticizes yo, you have lost the ability to listen to those who are explaining to you that you are mostly an advocate of violence and mass murder for your own selfish reasons… a fake sense of security and a reinforcement for your superiority complex.

    October 16th, 2007, 7:24 pm

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 25, 2012, 11:00 pm
  53. Ya Gabby ya Gabby,

    Maybe I should have made myself clearer, my point above was a swipe at the hypocrisy that some of the regime apologists use when defending it. Weren’t leftists, liberals, intellectuals almost purged for speaking out against the regime. It wasn’t different in Lebanon, in fact some prominent figures were assassinated for speaking out. So, as a genuine Lefty, it is only natural that by default you would speak out against the regime.

    Posted by Maverick | June 26, 2012, 12:00 am
  54. Maverick’s simple leftist litmus test:

    “So, as a genuine Lefty, it is only natural that by default you would speak out against the regime”

    …….is more to the point.

    Sorry GK, but your criteria; “dialectical thinking, historical materialism,total support for the proletariat and opposition for the ruling class.” seems overly cumbersome. 😉

    But what I can’t help but suspect is that Amal’s and Sharmine’s gender is a component undergirding the fervor with which they are attacked. Somehow, I’m reminded of Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr.

    Posted by lally | June 26, 2012, 12:26 am
  55. Lally,

    To be more poignant , to be human is to be against the regime,[by default] but you won’t understand, since “But what I can’t help but suspect is that Amal’s and Sharmine’s gender is a component undergirding the fervor with which they are attacked”.
    What a joke!
    “Foreign elements” and “terrorists” and now rabid sexists……….

    Posted by Maverick | June 26, 2012, 12:41 am
  56. Did I say anyone was a “rabid sexist”? “Sexism” is not generally expressed with such venom; it’s usually more matter-of-fact. I feel there’s something more elemental at work here.

    It’s puzzling. Perhaps the problem is related to the fact that the girls, along with the Russians, Chinese and lapsed lefties, aren’t fully realized human beings.

    Yeah. That’s it.

    Posted by lally | June 26, 2012, 2:01 am
  57. Amal SG was criticized for her controversial article. I thought that point was simple. It doesn’t make her argument the less, if she was an extra terrestrial. To bring up gender is clutching on straws.

    You have highlighted what Amal SG and Max Blumenthal are, on a personal note, rather than argue what they have said.

    Posted by Maverick | June 26, 2012, 2:38 am
  58. Not to worry, President Morsi will stand by all its international agreements with the “Zionist Entity”…,7340,L-4246949,00.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 26, 2012, 6:42 am
  59. Instead of all the intellectual contortions, the Syrian regime apologists could just say, like in the famous quote, “he is our son of a bitch”, and admit, or explain, that for some “raison d’etat” Bashar Al Assad is needed there and now”. That wouldn’t maybe sound leftist, but it would surely be more honest. Don’t think gender has anything to do in this case: the belligerent tone of the articles is likely the reason of the equally belligerent tone of the critics.

    Posted by mj | June 26, 2012, 8:48 am
  60. Ghassan…

    No of course I don’t believe that Russia/China are “True Left”. Mind you, I subscribe to what I think Orwell says in his seminal book- Animal Farm. Or as I wrote above- you are part of the proleteriat, until such time that you are not.

    This discussion is veering into what the “True Left” is. But I think sometimes a conversation needs to be anchored and focussed on what is relevant.

    The Ayatollah may not have constructed the Ideal/True “Islamic State”. He may have usurped is ideals, and what we have in Iran may be the farthest thing from an “islamic State”.. but it is an “Islamic state” nonetheless by intended construct. Even if the reasons stated were cynical, or in practice things are easier said than done. This is how I view Russia.

    I don’t think the discussion should devolve into a discussion on what the true litmus test for leftist governance is. If that were the case, hell, I’d say pick a Scandinavian country!

    I don’t think that Amal is trying to be as sophisticated as this, or is intending to be measured by this “ideal” metric. Her thesis, as far as I can read it is as follows:

    – Syria may be run by crazy ruthless authoritarians

    – The opposition are not democrats (funded by cynical Saudis/Qataris/etc), and supported by the American/Israeli axis that is hell bent on weakening the Iran axis. So the alternative- in her reading is not a democratic one, just a different authoritarian one.

    – The third-wayers are neither here nor there. I think As’ad abu Khalil is a good case in her point. They raise the same points/concerns she raises, but the difference is they don’t act either way (short of calling her articles outrageous).

    Posted by Gabriel | June 26, 2012, 9:46 am
  61. MJ..

    Couldn’t have been put more succinctly!

    He may be a Son of Bitch… but he’s Their Son of a Bitch.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 26, 2012, 9:48 am
  62. AP..

    You are a remarkable fellow. Burning time reading our drivel here @ QN is not sufficient! You actually go back and read old archives dating back to 2007.. lol

    Posted by Gabriel | June 26, 2012, 9:57 am
  63. Ils sont fous ces Romains…pardon, Libanais.

    What’s with Al-Jadeed? I could sure use leftist expertise on this one…

    Posted by mj | June 26, 2012, 11:50 am
  64. Gabriel,
    Let us give this one more try:-) No one is holding ASG to a higher standard. She is simply being criticized for the logic of her arguments. I do not wish to comment on personal attributes but Ms. Saad-Ghorayeb is the one who has defined her thesis very clearly and that turns out to be wanting on more than one front. No one is challenging her right to support the Syrian regime, what is being challenged is the logic that she is using to justify that choice. Your statement about her thesis is not quite accurate. She is simply saying this: The central issue in the Middle East and for Arabs is Palestine and the issue is essentially supported by the Syrian regime and by Hezbollah. This support for the Palestinian cause is enough to justify protecting the Syrian regime irrespective of any of its other practices and beliefs. That is patently false. What would we gain if we stand up for the Palestinian cause if we become exploiters, dictators, violators of human rights and decency. This weak argument, at least in my mind, is nothing more than an apologists position. What is wrong in supporting a more democratic regime that would maintain support for the aspirations and rights of the Palestinians instead of trying to rationalize terror provided that the regime supports the Palestinian cause.

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 26, 2012, 12:15 pm
  65. Ya Ghassan,

    First, I should stress, I am the last person to agree with Amal, or her position.

    I think my statements of her thesis are quite accurate, although of course, I neglected to explicitly state the important element she rides on- which is the Palestinian cause. Quite frankly, I think if we were to dissect her brain, there is a good chance the Palestinian cause per se has nothing to do with her position- despite her invoking it for what I think is Pity Points.

    Now to your central point, which I have problems digesting:

    That is patently false. What would we gain if we stand up for the Palestinian cause if we become exploiters, dictators, violators of human rights and decency. This weak argument, at least in my mind, is nothing more than an apologists position. What is wrong in supporting a more democratic regime that would maintain support for the aspirations and rights of the Palestinians instead of trying to rationalize terror provided that the regime supports the Palestinian cause.

    First, I don’t think the argument is Patently false. We don’t know yet how right or wrong Amal is on her position. The proletariat in Orwell’s farm started off with good intentions, but became exploiters, dictators, etc.

    The new “Democratic” system that the US helped usher in Iraq, according to HRW, is sometimes guilty of torture as well:

    There is nothing wrong with your argument of supporting a “Democratic” regime that would maintain support for the “aspirations and rights” of the Palestinians, but I think you will find that the argument that the Amals of the world are making is that the alternative that is being presented is not necessarily something more “democratic”.

    This is the fundamental disconnect in the discussion.

    On the one hand we have the ‘Amals’ arguing that this whole thing is about Palestinians and protecting their rights, and on the other hand, we have people arguing that all this is about is bringing human rights and dignity to the Arab world.

    Now there is one thing I agree with:- The Assad route is tried, tested and proven to be a failure. Thumbs Down for the Amal Argument.

    The other route is one big “yet to be seen”….

    Posted by Gabriel | June 26, 2012, 12:30 pm
  66. Gabriel said:

    You are a remarkable fellow.


    Burning time reading our drivel here @ QN is not sufficient! You actually go back and read old archives dating back to 2007.. lol

    Yes, like you I find these website very interesting. One thing I enjoy is showing how many anti-Zionists have two sets of standards. Alex is just one example of many.

    Another example I’ve noticed recently, is Pat Buchanan. Like most anti-semites, half of all his articles has a jewish name in it for some reason. One of his last articles bemoans all the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, unfortunately totals 6 or 7 thousand american soldiers. A neocon conspiracy for sure.

    Meanwhile, the turd was a complete and total backer of that all important war in Vietnam. You know, where 56 thousand americans were killed for no better reason.

    Go Figure.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 26, 2012, 6:53 pm
  67. Pardon the heretical nature of my statement, but can we just for once put the dear Palestinians aside for one moment and think about the Syrians! They are an end themselves not a means to an end!

    Posted by Maverick | June 26, 2012, 7:15 pm
  68. Mild Manners NewZ

    Turkey’s “mild manners” seems to come apart when dealing with that other country we’re so familiar with.

    “Our rational response should not be perceived as weakness, our mild manners do not mean we are a tame lamb,” he told a meeting of his parliamentary party.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 26, 2012, 9:05 pm
  69. Who is your Daddy … and what does he do?

    Posted by Monolith | June 26, 2012, 10:44 pm
  70. A quick scan of Amal’s track record on the perennial Palestinian problem reveals a consistency and detailed knowledge indicative of a Cause. At least give her that:

    Whether her calculus about what benefits them the most is on point is another question. Ironically, the
    activist Max Blumenthal is another for whom The Problem is of great concern. If only just thinking about reading Amal & co didn’t “make him thrown up in his own mouth”, they might have much in common, alas. Please note that for Max, this is Al_Akhbar stuff is personal, very personal and he saw himself unable to sustain shouldering his portion of the White Man’s Burden:

    “So Al-Akhbar’s supposed to represent something, and for me it was coming to represent, increasingly, through the dominant pro-Assad tone in its opinion section, something that I couldn’t attach my name and reputation to. Specifically, because my beat was Israel-Palestine and foreign-policy debates in Washington, I couldn’t continue to provide cover for the other writers as long as they were there.

    One of Max’s critics suspects Christopher Hitchensonian motives at work. Maybe . Whatever the case, Blumenthal concludes his interview on a positive note:

    “And I am looking to move to a higher ground. And we’ll see if I get there.”

    However one defines “higher ground”……something like say, the NYT?

    Take it away, Sharmine:

    Posted by lally | June 27, 2012, 2:22 am
  71. Jonathan Cook’s Obsession is another man’s Problem


    What is “The Problem”? It wouldn’t be the 15,000 or so dead in Syria since the Arab Awakening would it?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 27, 2012, 6:47 am
  72. Thank you, Lally, for the useful links.

    I found the interview very clarifying and Mr Blumenthal a man of a certain courage.

    As for Mrs. Narwani’s article, I will give her credit about Russia’s credentials when she looks into that country’s foreign and internal politics with the same vigorous scrutiny she uses to look into Qatar’s and Saudi Arabia’s. Some people have Libya and Afghanistan in mind. Some others, unlike you, didn’t forget Chechnya.

    The actual situation in Syria is a real ideological trap for Leftists, something like the Stalinist era in the URSS represented for communists, soviets or not. Not every one has rushed to defend the Syrian regime like ASG and SN are doing. For example, another White Man with Burdens in the ME, Noam Chomsky, keeps a lower profile, and the hygienic distance of not going further than warning of the malignancy of a Nato attack on Syria in the name or with the help of Gulf countries. As far as I know, he hasn’t defended the Syrian regime or Bashar as such. And he has acknowledged at least one of its hideous crimes, the assassination of Bassel Shehade a month ago.

    Posted by mj | June 27, 2012, 9:19 am
  73. The C-word that applies to our ambitious trash-talking Max Blumenthal’s delusional claim that he was providing “cover” to the writers @ Al_Ahkbar isn’t “courage” or even Chechnya; it’s chutzpah.

    Posted by lally | June 27, 2012, 9:48 am
  74. MJ, Lally….
    Noam Chomsky on Syria@ 25:25

    Posted by ghassan karam | June 27, 2012, 10:25 am
  75. Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, the list is long and the conclusion is always the same:

    Nothing the Arab despots do can compare to Israel “crimes”, not even the Assad legacy.

    Try finding an article on Syria inside some of these smelly websites…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 27, 2012, 11:21 am
  76. Jeez … by the rate of it, this year should be coined the “Goodyear” in Lebanon.

    Posted by Monolith | June 27, 2012, 5:23 pm
  77. And the Michel(in) man will be president.

    Posted by AIG | June 27, 2012, 5:46 pm
  78. YUP!!! Today was the start of the “security month/week”(whatever) …and roads were closed and people shot at; off course tires burnt……and no one arrested! I guess you can say it was a “good day” for our ISF/LAF heroes…Way you go Charbel & Kahwaji. You really inspire us!!!

    Posted by danny | June 27, 2012, 5:49 pm
  79. Thank you GK for the link. Lots of “uh…..”s there (and a horrible subtitling, unless you want to have a good laugh).

    These are times when I miss people that are gone for ever. I miss Edward Said, Samir Kassir, and, yes, Christopher Hitchens too. You don’t need to agree with people to appreciate what they write.

    By the way, a brand new “cultural” debate has been opened in Germany. Some will think it is yet another conspiratorial plot to hide the real questions…wait, what were the real questions already?

    For once, it doesn’t concern something women should, or shouldn’t do. Unless you are a mother. Sigh.

    Posted by mj | June 28, 2012, 3:48 am
  80. “and, yes, Christopher Hitchens too…”

    You said that so grudgingly.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 28, 2012, 11:48 am
  81. Actually, Gabriel, I remembered CH because Lally used “Hitchensonian”…I don’t really want to open that can now. Writing in English is complicated for me, don’t have the time or the energy to enter in such a debate. I intervene when it’s quiet :), I’m by no means in your League.

    Posted by mj | June 28, 2012, 12:05 pm
  82. For those that missed it.

    The man that changed the world.

    Posted by Monolith | June 28, 2012, 12:11 pm
  83. Posted by Monolith | June 28, 2012, 12:12 pm
  84. Posted by Monolith | June 28, 2012, 12:13 pm
  85. You do a fine job in English, MJ.

    I miss Hitchens, too. Somehow, it’s just incomprehensible that his voice is silenced.

    Posted by lally | June 28, 2012, 12:18 pm
  86. Somehow, it’s just incomprehensible that his voice is silenced.

    Must be the Jews.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 28, 2012, 1:12 pm
  87. I love Hitchens. I miss him and his pen terribly.

    Posted by Gabriel | June 28, 2012, 1:30 pm
  88. BTW. MJ. Not sure which league you suppose I belong in. I’m in about as low a league as they get!

    Posted by Gabriel | June 28, 2012, 2:05 pm
  89. I was talking of the League of the many eloquent voices that populate the Blog of the Smoking Cow, that I have the pleasure to follow with a certain regularity 🙂

    Posted by mj | June 28, 2012, 5:39 pm

    A must read, in my opinion. A candid look at the inside in Syria’s information war.

    Posted by mj | July 1, 2012, 3:19 am
  91. The following is blatant discrimination and an appeal for all the Lebanese Canadians to stand up to it!

    They touch our Kibbe Nayeh … we mess with their Carpaccio and Steak Tartares !

    Posted by Monolith | July 2, 2012, 7:42 pm
  92. Wikileaks Syria: Let the games begin!

    Juicy it will be.

    *** Has QN been kidnapped or has he crossed the line into Design? ***

    Posted by Monolith | July 5, 2012, 4:23 pm
  93. Monolith,

    I’m guessing Wikileaks has Assad phoning BB asking for military aide. We all know how much they admire each other.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 5, 2012, 7:53 pm
  94. Well, I’m expecting a bit more than a shopping list and racy photos of bare-baked ladies this time.

    *** Where do I begin? To tell the story of how great a love can be ***

    Posted by Monolith | July 6, 2012, 5:09 am
  95. I’m suspecting that we will not get any documents related to the assads-isra’eel peace negotiations… not a word, zero, nada, walou, la shee, rien de rien 🙂

    Posted by 3issa | July 6, 2012, 10:27 am
  96. According to this wikipedia update, Manaf Tlass has been under house arrest since May 2011. That’s 14 months ago.

    Posted by Monolith | July 6, 2012, 3:54 pm
  97. If that is the case, it shows how tight lipped the regime actually is and that nobody outside the circle of Syrian power really has a clue about what is going on in the inner circle.

    Tlass apparently hasn’t been part of the inner circle for some time now. That is probably why he defected.

    Posted by Monolith | July 6, 2012, 5:19 pm
  98. The entire country has been under “house arrest”. The price of resistance…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 6, 2012, 5:20 pm
  99. Wikileaks Syria:

    Bashar is actually a Scientologist.

    Posted by Monolith | July 6, 2012, 8:40 pm
  100. BBC ME,

    Syrian civil war spreading to Lebanon.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 7, 2012, 8:01 am
  101. In Lebanon there is no such thing as the right, the center or the left in politics.

    There are those who are always right, those that are at the center of current affairs and then there is whatever is left.

    Posted by Monolith | July 8, 2012, 5:42 pm
  102. Syrians are returning to Homs, to areas that have been cleared of terrorists. The Syrian army guards their homes. A few terrorist attacks targeted buildings that stored the intelligence and police archives. For example, on December 23, 2011, suicide bombers set the intelligence archives ablaze before blowing themselves up in a car. Kidnapping people is a major business of the so-called revolutionaries. The terrorists “supervise” the places from which the army has been withdrawn upon the order of the United Nations. So, these territories were not occupied by military operations. People in Yugoslavia, Libya and Iraq didn’t believe in the possibility of NATO invasion until recently. NATO invasion of Syria will be launched by summer’s end. Iraq, especially in light of the fact that about 2 million of its citizens live in Syria, supports Syria, in particular, by helping combat smuggling. Lebanon helps the struggle against smugglers, but Saad Hariri’s Mustaqbal movement is one of the major stakeholders in the anti-Syrian campaign. Saad Hariri finances the militants, supplies them with weapons and manpower. Saad Hariri’s media empire leads the information war against Syria. Hariri’s people tried to pull the forces from the border by inciting the riot in the capital as the army almost overtook the smugglers. As for Jordan, its state can’t be envied. On the one hand, Jordan is much dependent economically, in food supplies and transit, on its relationship with Syria – but, on the other hand, if Jordan isn’t much of a compliant ally of the USA and NATO, the King isn’t likely to save his power.
    Civil war and instability in Syria are very profitable for Israel. Apart from this situation, nobody raises the issue of returning the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. The specific characteristic of Israeli mass media is making up sensational news. As for Qatar, one could speak for ages about this nano-aggressor: they provide weapons and money supplies in an attempt to solve their own internal problems.

    Posted by Nalliah Thayabharan | July 8, 2012, 10:11 pm

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