29 July 2014

Make love and war

Ricochet
Back in 2007, the pages of Maxim magazine played host to a public relations effort to refurbish the image of the Israel Defense Forces, which had been tarnished by—among other nefarious affairs—the organized slaughter of civilians in Lebanon and Gaza the previous year.
The magazine spread featured scantily clad women, sporting bust-accentuating bikinis and come-hither looks—“The Chosen Ones,” apparently, of the Israeli military.
Seven years later, the female body has acquired additional uses in the context of Israel’s war machine. A page titled “Standing With the IDF” recently debuted on Facebook with an appeal for women to submit photographs of themselves for morale-boosting purposes among Israeli troops. This resulted in expressions of love for the IDF being emblazoned across various breasts and buttocks.
To be sure, naked women will always be way hotter than piles of corpses. READ MORE AT RICOCHET.

26 July 2014

Informant nation

Middle East Eye

It’s no secret that the 9/11 terror attacks in the US constituted a boon for various enterprises—weapons manufacturers, defence contractors, private security firms—which saw a soaring need for their products and services in the ensuing bellicosity abroad and the fortification of the homeland.
An array of new professional opportunities also sprang up, such as in the field of “terrorism expertise”. The ranks of domestic informants swelled, too, and the FBI currently boasts over 15,000 of them. Many are assigned to Muslim communities.
Informants”, a new documentary by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, sheds light on this last component of the 9/11 industry and confirms that we pessimists generally aren’t exaggerating when it comes to US policy.
Convicted con artist Craig Monteilh, one of the informants interviewed in the film, summarises his motive for faking a conversion to Islam in order to enhance his employability by the FBI: “I wanted to be in on the big game, and to be paid top dollar for it.’” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

24 July 2014

A New Round of Birth Pangs

TeleSUR English

During Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon—a 34-day affair that ultimately killed approximately 1200 persons, primarily civilians—then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helpfully described the carnage as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
Of course, some observers may have been at a loss to detect the war’s life-giving qualities. But “birth pangs” admittedly sounds better than, say, the “coat-hanger abortion of the Middle East.”
The blatant Orientalism embodied in Rice’s suggestion is certainly par for the course among U.S. politicians and pundits, for whom the Arab/Muslim world is a backwards region that lacks agency and must be whipped into shape by the “West” and its adopted progeny, the state of Israel.
The 2006 birth pangs were Orientalism 101—the presumed creation of the Middle East according to Western specifications. In this case, Israel’s godlike efforts were facilitated by rush shipments of bombs from the U.S. (Other Orientalist incursions by the empire and its friends have featured Arabs and Muslims in slightly post-fetal stages of development; see, for example, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman’s depiction of Afghanistan as a “special needs baby”). READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

22 July 2014

The second coming of the caliphate in Spain

Al Jazeera

In June, Spanish monarch Juan Carlos abdicated the throne in favour of his son Felipe.

More drastic systemic rearrangements have since been proposed, however, by the guardians of another world order. A short video, the subject of recent hype in the Spanish media, features two men who claim to be jihadists in Syria and who explain - in Spanish - that "Spain is the land of our grandfathers" and will thus be reclaimed for Islam as part of the effort to recuperate rightful territory "from Jakarta to Andalusia". (Their particular jihadist outfit is not specified.)

The tone of the declaration is slightly less than spine-chilling. The holy warriors appear carefree, and one laughingly encourages the other to speak: "Come on, man."

Of course, some view prospects of land recuperation as more apocalyptic in nature. On her website Atlas Shrugs, professional Islamophobe Pamela Geller took credit for predicting the impending Muslim takeover; in a post under the category Spain's Islamic Kingdom, she wrote: "Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya… Jordan and now Rome and Spain. Regular Atlas readers have been expecting this for some time". READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

Dershowitz’s tunnel vision

Middle East Eye

Let’s imagine for a moment that recently retired Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz defended animals rather than criminals and savage states.
In a case involving the mauling of a goat by a hyena, for example, a typical Dershowitzian approach might argue that the hyena was engaged in self-defence and that the civilised world must thus stand behind it.
In a situation in which a group of hyenas devours an entire goat farm, including an array of baby goats, he might instead lecture us that the goats in question had built underground tunnels to facilitate the mass murder and kidnapping of young hyenas.
It may appear that Dershowitz has been over-represented in my writings of late, but the fact is that the man is never absent from the sidelines during periods of systematic slaughter of Palestinians and other Arabs by the state of Israel. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

17 July 2014

Burn Before Reading

Jacobin

Matt Taibbi once remarked with regard to the journalistic techniques ofThomas Friedman, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist, corporate lapdog, and Iraq war fetishist: “Friedman never forgets to name the company or the brand name; if he had written The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa would have awoken from uneasy dreams in a Sealy Posturepedic.”

So we can only imagine what must have been Friedman’s utmost glee when the current Israeli slaughter of Palestinians enabled him to unleash the sentences: “You used to need a contract with Boeing to get a drone. Now you can make one in Gaza.”

This analysis appears in Friedman’s latest dispatch, titled “Order vs. Disorder, Part 2” (never mind that the previous column was titled “The World According to Maxwell Smart, Part 1”). In the lede, Friedman asserts that the Israeli-Arab conflict is “to the wider war of civilizations what Off Broadway is to Broadway … a miniature of the most relevant divide in the world today: the divide between the ‘world of order’ and the ‘world of disorder.’” READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

16 July 2014

Israel’s war on civilisation

Middle East Eye

The recent Haaretz headline “Hamas rockets spur births in southern Israel” might raise a few eyebrows. After all, isn’t the reason for the current demolition of the Gaza Strip supposed to be that Hamas rockets endanger Israeli life, not “spur” it?
According to the article, the staff of Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center observed a 10 percent increase in births in the days following the debut of Operation Protective Edge last week. The “surge” was attributed to the stress of air raid sirens and other centrepieces of life in Israel whenever the state is pummeling its neighbors. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

14 July 2014

Schnitzel the Cat

Jacobin

In my last blog post, I marveled at Israeli resilience in managing to survive — with the help of Facebook and other life-saving devices — the wanton slaughter Israel’s military is currently inflicting on the Gaza Strip. One hundred seventy-two persons have thus far been killed in the coastal prison, but at least the Palestinians don’t have to listen to air raid sirens.

As it turns out, humans are not the only heroes in wartime Israel. A Jerusalem Post article headlined “Missiles are no match for Schnitzel the Cat” reports that an Israeli cat “escape[d] unscathed after missile shrapnel fell directly on his tree Sunday afternoon.” The shrapnel, we are told, was the result of a rocket interception by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The scene is captured in a 12-second security camera video, at the end of which “Schnitzel the Cat hops down from the same tree and runs home, presumably to the joy of his owners.”

Since said owners apparently haven’t been spoken to, it’s not clear how the Posthas determined the cat’s name. But hey, it sounds good. READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

12 July 2014

Homage to Bint Jbeil

Middle East Eye

In July and August of 2006, the Israeli military pummeled Lebanese territory for 34 days, killing approximately 1200 people. Most were civilians. Other casualties of the onslaught included bridges, highways, homes, farmland, power plants, factories, UN observation posts, and a variety of non-human organisms; as Oxfam reported at the time, “initial estimates put livestock loss at one million poultry, 25,000 goats and sheep, and 4,000 cattle.”

Shortly after the end of the bloody affair, a friend and I embarked on a hitchhiking tour of Lebanon that lasted for several months and transformed our conception of what constituted a normal landscape. When we subsequently crossed into Syria and then Turkey, intact infrastructure seemed suddenly aberrant. Villages that hadn’t been reduced to rubble looked out of place.
A main epicentre of Israeli destruction in Lebanon was the south Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, situated four kilometers from the Israeli border and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces for 18 years until the IDF was forced to withdraw in May 2000. Bint Jbeil’s recent history reveals much about why the Israelis were so intent on flattening it. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

11 July 2014

'Nazis rape Brazil': The World Cup according to Twitter

Al Jazeera

For viewers of the World Cup, it's been pretty hard not to notice FIFA's ubiquitously advertised#SayNoToRacism social media campaign. As it turns out, football audiences could potentially benefit from other educational campaigns as well, such as #SayNoToRapeAndNaziJokes.

When Germany defeated Brazil 7-1 in the July 8 semifinal match, Twitter and other social media platforms played host to a competition for most repugnant reaction. Tweeters showcased their presumed wit, with a heavy focus on gang rape and the Adolf Hitler era: "Brazilian team decided to file a case in the court against Germany for gang rape"; "I expected a Germany win. I didn't know they'd dish out a brutal prisongang rape"; "july 8 2014 germany starts it's second holocaust,this time it's for brazilians and it's welcomed by everyone. #BrazilvsGermany #gangrape"; "Brazil did Nazi this coming".

tweet from the official Twitter account of "Lebanese STAR Maya DIAB", which boasts 335,000 followers, speculates that "#hitler is there in person", while a Malaysian parliamentarian weighed in with the following: "WELL DONE..BRAVO...LONG LIVE HITLER…" READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.


Dead People Can't Take Selfies

Jacobin

In one of the worst opening lines ever, Allison Kaplan Sommer writes atHaaretz: “When the going gets tough, the tough take selfies.”

She continues: “That’s the attitude that Sara Eisen, a resident of [the Israeli town of] Beit Shemesh decided to adopt when she started a Facebook groupcalled ‘Bomb Shelter Selfies.’”
The need for this valiant effort arose when “rockets began to rain on Israel” from the Gaza Strip earlier this week. Of course, the Israelis love to allege that rockets are raining on them. But weather reports for their neighbors are inevitably much worse.

To pick one from the timeline of largely one-sided slaughter by Israel — euphemized as “conflict” in international media — the Israeli army launched “Operation Summer Rains” on Gaza Strip in June of 2006, one year after it had supposedly un-occupied the coastal enclave. More than 400 Palestinians, including 85 children, were killed, while only five Israeli soldiers lost their lives. READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

01 July 2014

Lebanon's World Cup own goal

Middle East Eye

When Brazil beat Croatia in the opening game of the World Cup on 12 June, Lebanon erupted in fanfare. Although it was the middle of the night in the diminutive Middle Eastern nation, fireworks were wantonly set off while cars and motorbikes draped in Brazilian flags made endless circuits accompanied by a cacophony of horns.
Among residents of Lebanon immune to World Cup fervour, the sudden commotion prompted a variety of creative interpretations. One friend of mine woke up convinced that Palestine had been liberated from Israel, while another assumed that his neighbourhood was under mortar attack. A friend’s uncle speculated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been killed. Others thought Lebanon had finally managed to elect its own presidentafter weeks without one.
A recent AFP article on the World Cup frenzy contends that the Lebanese “display a near-fanatical enthusiasm for chosen proxy nations” - fitting vocabulary, perhaps, given Lebanon’s history as a preferred site for international proxy battles. Citing a common Lebanese perception of “World Cup mania as one of the few non-political events in a country often marked by political and sectarian divisions”, the article ends with a quote from a 24-year-old Germany fan who describes the football competition as “a unifying event”.
Should this month-long “unification” be seen as an unquestionably positive arrangement? READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

14 June 2014

Keeping the lights out in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

A Lebanese friend is creating a proposal to install a new power plant in Lebanon. Ideally, it would eventually operate with natural gas and help improve the country’s notorious electricity shortage. The power situation at my friend’s own home in north Lebanon is illustrative: “We can’t run the television and the A/C at the same time. And God forbid someone turns on the iron”.

That’s just the start of it, of course. In parts of the country, the government has been known to supply as little as six hours of electricity per day. Beirut receives 21 hours -a privilege that does not extend to the capital’s poor southern suburbs. Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper recently reported the looming possibility of intensified power cuts in certain areas.
Under Lebanese law, it is currently not possible to engage in electricity production that infringes on the monopoly of the state-run power company, Électricité Du Liban. This means that the masses of generators that have by necessity become an integral part of the Lebanese landscape are technically illegal. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

08 June 2014

Human Rights Watch’s Revolving Door

Jacobin

Let’s pretend that we want to start an organization to defend the rights of people across the globe that has no affiliation to any government or corporate interest. Which of the following characters should we therefore exclude from intimate roles in our organization’s operation? (You may choose more than one answer.) 
  1. An individual who presided over a NATO bombing, including various civilian targets.
  2. An individual who was formerly a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, a speechwriter for Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff who in 2009 declared that, under “limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for the illegal CIA rendition program that has seen an untold number of innocent people kidnapped and tortured.
  3. A former US Ambassador to Colombia, who later lobbied on behalf of Newmont Mining and J.P. Morgan — two US firms whose track records of environmental destruction would suggest that human wellbeing falls below elite profit on their list of priorities.
  4. A former CIA analyst. 

Uruguay's Mujica: New global role model?

Al Jazeera

Let's play a word association game. What's the first thing that comes to mind when I say "humility"?

Chances are it's not "heads of state".

To be sure, the conduct of government leaders across the globe would suggest a general eschewal of such virtues. A few egregious examples: the late Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan erected a gold statue of himself that rotated in accordance with the position of the sun. Former Ugandan dictator Idi Aminproclaimed himself "Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea", while former US president George W Bush claimed to receive battle commands directly from God.

Recurring Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has boasted of sleeping with eight women in one night, in addition to self-identifying as "the Jesus Christ of politics".

Amidst these tendencies of the global political class, Uruguay's Jose "Pepe" Mujica looks like a veritable freak of nature. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

29 May 2014

Syrian refugees as Lebanon's latest scapegoat

Middle East Eye

One day last October, hundreds of Syrian refugees were rescued from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean and brought to the European island of Malta. Their reception by the Maltese government was markedly different from that normally offered to asylum seekers who turn up in the country - most of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa and are subjected to a policy of mandatory detention, which involves being held in prison-like conditions for up to 18 months.

Neil Falzon, a human-rights lawyer and director of the Malta-based NGO aditus, told me in an email that the majority of the Syrian shipwreck survivors were not detained and were instead immediately transferred to open reception centres. “Psycho-social support was provided at once,” he said, and every effort was made to “locate family members and support family reunification where possible”. An inter-agency task force was also established, with NGO participation.
Falzon remarked: “This has never happened before, and although we did welcome this excellent and proactive approach, we were somewhat concerned that it indicated a clear divide between Syrian refugees and others who have been fleeing wars and persecution for several years and who have not been given this treatment upon arrival.”
Lebanon, on the other hand - one of the primary recipients of Syrian refugees since the onset of the war in Syria - seems to treat all varieties of refugee pretty much the same, ie poorly. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

18 May 2014

Detention in Malta: Europe's migrant prison

Al Jazeera

A recent Quartz article about "unexpected and terrible destinations for the world's persecuted" lists Malta as the industrialised nation with the largest number of asylum seekers per capita: 20.2 for every 1,000 inhabitants. On average, 1,500 undocumented migrants turn up in Malta every year.

Most are from sub-Saharan Africa and arrive by accident to the small European island, which is located south of Sicily, while attempting to sail to mainland Europe. It's thus clearly an "unexpected" destination in the majority of cases, but why is it so "terrible"?

For starters, Malta's policy of mandatory detention of migrants means that the travellers - many of them fleeing violence and political and economic persecution - are often detained for up to 18 months in prison-like conditions. A 2012 report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) specifies that this policy "operates in an automated, indiscriminate and blanket manner in violation of international law". Children, elderly people, and the mentally and physically disabled are not spared by the detention regime. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

13 May 2014

'Judicial charades' in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

About five years ago, a Palestinian-Lebanese friend of mine was put in jail in Lebanon for reasons I never quite understood, but that apparently involved a large quantity of fake cement and a fake Somali ambassador.
I was in Argentina at the time and sent my friend a long letter, delivered to the jail by his sister, in which I happened to mention a visit to Buenos Aires by Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.
As I soon found out, commenting on the travel itineraries of Israeli officials while corresponding with inmates of Lebanese prisons is not only quite boring for the recipient but also dangerously idiotic - particularly when said correspondence is intercepted by prison guards whose limited knowledge of written English includes the word Israel. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.


07 May 2014

THE CREEPING EXPANSION OF THE BORDER PATROL

Al Jazeera America

A couple of years ago, a chatty Border Patrol Agent in Texas told me about a recent experience he had near El Paso, a West Texas city near the U.S.-Mexico border. While he was visiting a particular stretch of the border fence that was normally outside his area of operation, he said, a potential threat to homeland security was detected by colleagues on surveillance duty. Attack helicopters were summoned.
The cause for alarm turned out to be a goatherd on the Mexican side of the fence wielding a stick that had been mistaken for a weapon. The helicopters were sent back. As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Created in 1924 to secure the borders of the United States, the Border Patrol is now part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. It currently boasts more than 21,000 agents, up from 8,500 in 2001. (If certain members of Congress have their way, that number will continue to multiply.) READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

Spain versus Twitter

Al Jazeera

Last week, Spain's Guardia Civil - the Civil Guard or gendarmerie - detained 21 social media users for allegedly "glorifying terrorism" on Twitter and Facebook. Fifteen of them were apprehended in the northern Spanish regions of Navarre and the Basque Country, an area that has long harboured separatist aspirations. Two were minors.

If convicted, the tweeters and Facebookers will face up to two years in prison. Among the alleged glorifications of terrorism, apparently, was a tweeted map of the Basque Country, emblazoned with the Basque word for independence.

Given the nutty news content that has become the norm in this country as of late, many Spaniards perhaps did not bat an eye. First there were the headlines surrounding the proposed Citizens' Security Law, which prescribes fines of up to 600,000 euros ($835,500) for unauthorised street protests - and up to 1,000 euros($1,400) for losing one's identity document more than three times in five years.

Then there was the news that the Spanish interior minister had taken it upon himself to bestow the country's top policing medal on the Virgin Mary. In addition to generally being reserved for human recipients, the award is intended to honour policemen who have been killed or wounded in the line of duty. (The ministry of the interior has now been dubbed the "monastery of the interior" by certain media, and apetition has surfaced at change.org requesting a similar medal for Spiderman.) READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

06 May 2014

Israeli apartheid on the US border

Middle East Eye

What did Suharto and Augusto Pinochet - the ex-dictators of Indonesia and Chile, respectively - have in common with right-wing Colombian paramilitaries and the South African apartheid regime?
All benefited, at one time or another, from Israeli arms shipments and/or military training.
As a 2012 report by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network documents, these are but a few of the entities to which “Israel's government, its military, and related corporations and organisations” have lent expertise over past decades, contributing to a “global industry of violence and repression”.
The US-Mexico border has also attracted Israel’s repressive know-how - albeit of a much quieter variety. Back in 2004, the US Border Patrol - a division of the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) - began using Hermes drones, manufactured by the Israeli corporation Elbit Systems, which has a Fort Worth, Texas-based subsidiary called Elbit Systems of America. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

28 April 2014

Monsanto and the Other Chemical Weapon

WARSCAPES

When the US was initially up in arms over the use of chemical weapons in Syria, various commentators pointed out the hypocrisy of the stance given Washington’s track record vis-à-vis such weaponry. 

That record includes, among other things, the unleashing of depleted uranium and white phosphorus on Iraq, permitting Israel to use white phosphorus on Gaza, and—a bit earlier on the timeline—dousing Vietnam with the lethal defoliant Agent Orange.
According to a 2011 Al Jazeera documentary, this last substance was responsible for “killing hundreds of thousands and causing dreadful diseases and birth defects in subsequent generations.” Last year, the BBC reported that “[t]here are claims that thousands of [Vietnamese] children continue to be born with horrific facial deformities due to the 20 million gallons of Agent Orange chemical sprayed by the United States.”
The legacy of the American military’s Operation Ranch Hand—the cutely-named herbicide warfare program—is thanks in part to the US biotech corporation Monsanto, formerly Agent Orange’s manufacturer. READ MORE AT WARSCAPES.

24 April 2014

Targeting Hezbollah's ‘Achilles’ heel’

Middle East Eye

In a recent op-ed for the Washington Examiner, US Representative Mark Meadows outlined his reasons for introducing the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act in Congress, which would target a financial network he refers to as “Hezbollah’s Achilles’ heel”.
A Republican representative of the state of North Carolina and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Meadows introduced the legislation in collaboration with three colleagues, among them Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.).
Before delving into the content of the proposed bill in his article, Meadows provides a bit of counterfactual history:
“Hezbollah is responsible for the largest number of American deaths overseas by a terrorist organization second only to al-Qaeda. Its deadly global reach has included bombing US targets in Lebanon during the 1980s, Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s, and recent attacks in Europe and Southeast Asia.”
This piece of pseudo-trivia about American deaths in Lebanon is one that is regularly invoked by fearmongering politicians and pundits with no regard for context. For starters, the October 1983 attack on the US Marine barracks in Beirut - which killed 241 servicemen and was claimed by the Islamic Jihad Organisation, a precursor to Hezbollah - occurred in response to Washington’s decision to insert itself into the Lebanese civil war as a combatant. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

22 April 2014

JUNK SCIENCE OF CENSUS DATA MAKES US A NATION OF 'OTHERS'

Al Jazeera America

We are becoming a nation of write-ins. So found a report released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau. When filling out census forms in 2010 (the year of the last national population tally), more people than ever before did not choose one of the race options provided; they chose “some other race.”
The report, part of a years-long project to re-examine the census’ racial and ethnic categories, underscores the extent to which demographic changes in the U.S. have outpaced our methods of documenting them.
The bureau’s concerns about the unrepresentative nature of its census categories appear to be well-founded. Approximately one-third of the 47.4 million respondents who self-identified as ethnically Hispanic also self-identified as “some other race.” A full 96.8 percent of all people claiming to be “some other race” were Hispanic. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA. 

Spain's rightward plunge

Al Jazeera

Following the 2009 coup d'etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, whose ever-so-slightly left-leaning inclinations were deemed unacceptable by the powers that be, months of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-coup protests took place. These were diligently repressed by Honduran police with tear-gas, water cannons and other harmful items.

The Honduran coupmongers and their backers in the right-wing media engaged in frequent bouts of hysteria over the fact that some of the protesters insisted on covering their faces with bandannas. This, it was argued, was proof of their inherent delinquency. In reality, of course, bandannas were a logical palliative accessory given the indiscriminate firing of tear-gas.

Five years later in a country across the Atlantic - Spain - headgear donned during protests has again become a hot topic. In this case, protesters are not agitating against a coup d'etat but rather another coup of sorts: The austerity measures rammed down Spanish throats at the behest of the European Union in the aftermath of the financial crisis. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

14 April 2014

The al-Qaedification of Lebanon?

Middle East Eye

A Lebanese friend who recently accompanied me to Tripoli in northern Lebanon decided that no city tour was complete without a late-night drive down Syria Street — in the wrong direction. Syria Street is the frontline of ongoing fighting between the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen, which killed 27 people in just 12 days in March.
When our drive coincided with the sudden explosion of nearby fireworks, I showcased my battle readiness by cowering on the floor of the car. As for the battle readiness of more resilient entities, the proliferation of al-Qaeda flags in Bab al-Tabbaneh perhaps underlined the contribution Syria's war is making towards the professionalism of some participants in Lebanon's domestic strife — providing as it does a training ground for militants. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

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