Tuesday, March 17, 2009

العرب جرب

The title, although not tactful enough, shows the anger of many Arabs (and those Lebanese who do not consider themselves Arabs, which is a completely different tangential story) with their governments, their compatriots and their supposedly "sister" countries. It also mirrors the last scenes of Waltz With Bashir showing real footage of the Sabra and Shatila camps post-massacre, with a woman wailing at the camera "Waynoun l3arab la yshoufo! Khalliyoun yshoufo!" (*Not word for word, acceptable nonetheless.) Translation: "Where are the Arabs so they can see [what is happening]? Let them see!"

I go back to Waltz With Bashir today, because I just noticed comments on my post on news.beiruter.com, by Joseph Hitti and Sultan El Qassemi. And although I wish I can do both justice by answering, I am unfortunately not in any place in my life at the moment to be able to follow up a much needed and lengthy discussion. However I would like to publish a passage of Mr. Hitti's post here, (And Thank you both for your insight.)

You know why there is no moral dilemma worth making movies and writing books and establishing inquiry committees for the Damour massacre? Because it does not involve Westerners and Israelis. In the condescending mindset of the racist elitist Western and Israeli Left, Arabs are supposed to kill Arabs and there is nothing shocking about it. In fact, it is expected and therefore does not pose a moral dilemma. Only when a morally superior being - like an Israeli or a Westerner - becomes involved in gruesome acts – even as an observer - that the floodgates of moral angst open up to a deluge that has yet to stop 30 or 40 years later.

Touché, I agree. But then you say:

Another reason why the Lebanese feel insulted by that subtle moral superiority argument is that no one bothers to look at the real victims and the real perpetrators of the Sabra-Shatila massacres: The Palestinian refugees and the Christian militias. Isn’t it there that the real horror must be the most striking, instead of the placid ruminations of an observer? What drove the Christian militias to commit this act? What is the narrative from the perspective of the butchers? Would these massacres be minimally justified – as attenuating circumstances – if the Christian militias committed Sabra-Shatila in a direct act of revenge against the Damour massacres, as is generally well known? (Read the rest here).

Yes, it seems the Lebanese are looking for justice in this story, or the real unwinding of events, but what does the Western media or an Israeli filmmaker have to do with this? Why or how would they be able to relate that story? Maybe you are right, maybe going to the screening, I was personally looking for some kind of enlightenment regarding that massacre or any other during the Lebanese civil war, maybe that is why I was partly disappointed, maybe I felt Ari Folman was not being truthful, but maybe only because he doesn't have the real facts and he can't even come close. (Although I am still perplexed at the way Folman only briefly mentions the whole Israeli invasion of 1982, and in a very casual way to say the least).

So let's tell a Lebanese to open those history files and make a documentary, (not the kind of tear-jerking romanticized war movie, trying hopelessly to stay out of the real context, so that it can appeal to all audiences) and let's have a screening in Beirut. And let the denouncements, the hypersensitivity, and the outrage begin!

Post-War Lebanon is not mature enough. What's even worse is that it's extremely virtuous and holy of me to talk but I will probably be just as bothered by a movie that is relating the story with what might be a biased point of view in my book. Because I have to admit, it's hard to tolerate those who might point fingers at one party and not another. (Yes I see the weakness here, and I am most willing to work it out). I am realistic nonetheless, my family was in the middle of this, Yes it is personal.

However, here is some positivity to end on, a good chunk of the 80's generation seems more flexible (me included) and ready to open talks and maybe even admit that in a civil war our parents were probably as guilty as "the others", maybe less, maybe more, but they played a part. And instead of continuing the legacy, instead of paying our parents' dues, we can confront this, admit it, forgive it and forget it. We are all on that same sinking boat.

Which brings me to UMAM, A Lebanese Association for Cultural and Artistic Exchange. UMAM is a non-profit organization whose work revolves around collecting documents and archiving anything related to the Lebanese civil war. Please do Check their Website.