Coming back to Lebanon from holidays, and on my way back home from the airport the taxi driver made a very accurate summary of how politics were going in the country with the Hariri Tribunal. I asked him about how negotiations were going to what he replied: “Well everyone is moving, Americans and French will meet. Hariri is coming back today from Saudi Arabia and Bashar is also seeing the Saudis.” To what I asked “And what about Lebanese?”. He replied: “Well Lebanese are waiting to see what happends. We wait that the food (tabha) is cooked.” He made me laugh and I continue “And what would Lebanese have for dinner?” . After a couple of seconds he finally answered “Well we may have shit, but whatever is for dinner!”.
Here and interesting comment of As’ad AbuKhalil in Angry Arab News Service. It is an old debate about the leverage in US politics of Arabists or Politicians and their role within the US foreign policy in the region. To relate this to Spain, the same problem arise. In spain the debate will be more about the necessity of Arabist that speak the language but have not an appropriate political formation and the politicians more keen in real politics of the region but disconnected of the culture, language and internal dynamics. A combination and collaboration of both could help to improve a better political understanding and reflection in Spain-Middle East relations but unfortunately in Spain the think-tanks as well as politics are more a competitive arena (and close one) more exclusionist than inclusive.
Jeffrey Feltman: the media critic (when lies are mixed with ignorance and with a large chunk of Zionism)Jeffrey Feltman: the media critic (when lies are mixed with ignorance and with a large chunk of Zionism)
So Jeffrey Feltman wrote a letter to the New York Times today to express his disapproval of a Lebanese newspaper and its editorial line. When I read that last night, I could not help but think of the degradation of Middle East expertise in the US government. It is fair to say that ever since Bill Clinton came to power, the Arabists were completely eliminated from policy making positions at the White House and State Department (although some remain at other branches of the US government). Of course, the war on Arabists began in earlier years: Henry Kissinger tried to marginalize them in earlier years too. Their obituary was written in the book on their record by Robert Kaplan. In the late 1990s, I spoke about the Arabists and made the point I am making now at a conference at Georgetown University. After my talk, I was approached by Robert Pelletreau–he was the last Arabist to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs because the job went after him to ardent Zionists from outside the Foreign Service: people like Martin Indyk–and he pleaded with me to not use the word “Arabist” because it hurts the career and image of Middle East specialists at the US government. Feltman comes from the Foreign Service but does not dream of ever being considered an Arabist: not only because of his Likudnik politics but also because of his failure to achieve any of the knowledge or competence of Arabists in yester years. No one will ever compare Feltman to, say, Richard P. Parker (who in fact served as ambassador in Lebanon in the late 1970s and tried as much as he could to stand up to Israel and who referred to Bashir Gemayyel in a private conversation (with me) as “the thug.”) or with Richard Murphy who speaks Arabic fluently and with a hint of a Syrian accent (I have appeared on BBC programs with Murphy and he spoke Arabic). Feltman, after years of study and service, is proud of himself when he says “Thank you” to Arab journalists and he pronounces it as “Shuukkaaarriiiaan”.
After a couple of months of inactivity here we are back. Hopping to post interesting news from colleagues in other media and keep weekly updates with comments and reports on actuality in the region.
Sorry for the long silence.
And hoping this 2011 to be a better year for the region and its people,