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Is Robert Fisk suffering from the Bernard Lewis syndrome?

Yassine Channouf

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Lebanon, December 16, 2009 (Pal Telegrah) - Twice I met him, and as many times he delighted me. I can credit Robert Fisk with getting me interested in Lebanon. I have always read his books and articles passionately, and those who know me grew weary of my continuous references to him. But no more. The Fisk I admired is no longer the Fisk that the world knows today. His last article in which he equates Hezbollah, the Lebanese Resistance, with a bunch of anti-Semites is the figurative drop. The reason for this outrageous accusation? Hezbollah's opposition to the teaching of the Anne Frank diary in the schools in the south of Lebanon. Robert Fisk has lived in Lebanon for more than 30 years, and most importantly throughout the savage period of the civil war. It is, nor should it be a secret that Robert Fisk is one of the best western journalists dealing with the Middle East, but that should not impede us from criticizing him on certain critical issues.

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Lebanon has more than any other countries suffered from the Israeli aggression. Since the inception of this state in the heart of the Arab world it has attacked Lebanon subsequently in 1948, 1967, 1968 -Israeli raid causes destruction of 13 civilian airlines on the Beirut tarmac-, 1973 -when Ehud Barak killed Kamal Nasser, a famous poet- and has known occupation ever since, presently in the form of the Sheba farms. Another invasion occurred in 1978 resulting in the occupation of more Lebanese territory for 22 subsequent years. It was not until 2000 that the Lebanese Resistance, whose spearhead was Hezbollah, defeated the Israeli occupiers, and regained unconditionally most of the land occupied by Israel and its proxies. And in 2006, Israel launched a full scale invasion on Lebanon but had to withdraw humiliatingly at the hands of a couple of hundred irregular fighters. In all of these events, civilians, and especially children extracted the highest toll of suffering.

Firstly, no one is eligible to teach the children in the south of Lebanon about misery, not even Robert Fisk. For them; it is not a conceptual theory, nor a distant narrative in one of Joseph Conrad's novels: it is reality.

The children of the south of Lebanon have experienced and continue to experience the daily terror of Israeli jets breaking the sound barrier over Lebanese skies. The children in the south cannot, unlike their counterparts over the world, simply go play in the fields encompassing the beautiful south of Lebanon, because those who claim to represent Anne Frank have refused to -despite repeated 'promises'- to deliver maps of the mines the Israelis planted during their 22 years occupation of the liberated parts of the south of Lebanon. In addition to that, the self-righteous Zionists have dropped more than 3.000.000 cluster bombs during the last days of their failed invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the bulk of which remain unexploded.

The Holocaust is -rightly so- immersed in European history, but too often wrong conclusions have been drawn from that dramatic set of experiences. It has resulted into a compliance, nay, in shared responsibility for the Zionist war crimes. As some great scholars have convincingly argued, under whom Norman Finkelstein; every time Israel commits or is about to commit another series of atrocities; it lets its proxies publicize reports about increasing anti-Semitism, or the New anti-Semitism. Should we judge Robert Fisk's chutzpah in this light? It is increasingly clear that Robert Fisk has tightened his faith to the Future Movement camp of Hariri, and does not dare to criticize neither father, nor son Hariri, let alone his eloquent friend Walid Jumblatt -at least not in public, I have heard him criticize Jumblatt during dinner not long after the latter left the Hariri-block-.

In Europe, where it is almost obligatory to teach "the diaries", racism is one of the most tangible features of the liberal society it takes pride in. Education is an important foundation stone in each society, but those who think that teaching about racism alter society positively should simply be presented the European example. Not only did the Shoa took place in Europe, which automatically leads to a preponderance of guilt but secondly; the curriculum's are infused with references to the European perpetrated genocide. Europe's better world is indeed one without intolerance, racism. Lebanon's better world, and indeed the entire region, is one without being adjacent to a terrorist state not bound by law nor morality. It is in fact surprising how little anti-Jewish sentiment there actually is in the entire region. Can you image the anti-Islamic outburst in each European capital if an Arab Muslim takes a gun and shoots people in a church because they're Christians? Well, the people of Lebanon, and the constituency of Hezbollah have been subject to 62 years of harassment, psychological warfare, occupation, carnage, extra judicial killing, maiming, full scale invasions, stealing of water at the hands of the Jewish state, and still, they have not resorted to blatant anti-Jewishness, the cousin of anti-Muslim sentiment that is all too present in Western states that pride themselves with their secular civilization.

Robert Fisk surely knows this all, but in case he suffers from the Bernard Lewis syndrome -the neo-conservative orientalist whose scholarly outputs credibility deteriorated with his age- that the Arabs have an own history; rich and varied. And this history does not only entail the scholarly outputs of an Ibn Khaldun or Ibn Sina, but Arabs have their own tragedies and sufferings. The pogroms of Lebanon and Palestine are-Qana, Shatila, Deyr Yassin, Sabra, Jabalya, Jenin-, their Anne Franks - Huda Ghaliya- their Auswitch -Khiam-, their Dresden -Quneitra in the Syrian Golan-, and their Warshaw Ghetto -Gaza-. The Arabs have their own ethnic cleansing, and the Palestinians are living it.

Now what did Robert Fisk really mean when he said that Hezbollah is anti-Semite?

Did he forget that Nasrallah had a meeting with Noam Chomsky: a Jew! And with Neturei Karta: a Jewish organization. How anti-Semitic? Norman Finkelstein, another Jew met representatives of the anti-Semetic Hezbollah, Mr. Fisk! And only two weeks ago did Nasrallah present Hezbollah the new political document, and in the speech in which he presented the new politics of Hezbollah, Nasrallah reiterated that his strife was with Zionism and the Zionist state, not with the Jews. Does Fisk not know Arabic? Cannot he decipher the simple truth that in all speeches Nasrallah refers to Zionism and not Judaism or Jewry. In fact Nasrallah's most recurrent quote is one in which he attacks Jews, which is the only recorded anti-Semite statement of the Secretary General. When did he utter these words? In the aftermath of Israel killing his 18 years old son Hadi. Yes Fisk, even the 'anti-Semite' Hezbollah people become emotional when their sons get killed by an occupying army.

And Fisk, this region really does not need another paternalistic White Man telling the people here what to do. If you want to do the people of the Arab world a small favor then talk about the massacre of Setif which occurred on the 8th of May 1945, the day the Nazis unconditionally surrendered. The people in Algeria were still being massacred at the hands of the victorious free Allied forces led by their hero Charles De Gaulle. Let him talk about the secret -but unsurprising- dealings of Nazism with Zionism, both were allies until well into 1942... Hat David Ben Gurion es nicht gewusst? Zionism, just like Nazism is a true racist ideology. While the whole world has left the ideal of racially homogenized nations behind, Israel still wants to be a Jewish state. Is Hezbollah talking openly about transfer of its internal adversaries or is it Israel openly talking euphemistically transferring the Palestinians to Jordan? It is Israel that occupies other peoples lands, and those Brooklyn Jews that have become die-hard Zionist such as Alan Dershowitz after the June War in 1967 didn't care one bit about the Shoa, until it became politically and economically expedient to play the victim.

Fisk is wrong when he attacks Hezbollah. He realizes that they are too clean, too embedded in Lebanese society and that no army in the world can defeat a people's resistance. So he looks to a minor incident and capitalizes on it, instead of reporting objectively for the European press which has demonized and continues to demonize the Resistance in both Occupied Palestine and Lebanon, and to present them the true image of those who are considered the heroes of the Arab and Islamic world. Fisk, sadly resorts to the blatant populism which we grew wary of but which apparently still sells in Europe and North-America. He, out of all people, should know better.

By Yassine Channouf