November 17, 2015

HABR | To Beirut, With Silence

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By KATY HABR

Since the devastating siege of Paris on Friday night, the world has turned upside down in shock and mourning. Throughout the ordeal, Lebanon was still reeling. We mourned not only for our French brothers and sisters, but also for ourselves. We mourned for the terrorist attack just the day before that stole the lives of 43 people, and yet was largely ignored by the entire world. While no Snapchat filter or Facebook picture is going to help anyone, be it in Paris or Beirut, the lack of recognition of the attacks in Beirut is telling. No buildings were lit with the Lebanese flag to mourn our lost people. In fact, most friends I talked to about the incident told me they hadn’t even heard about it at all. All over social media, there had been silence amongst my non-Arab friends, though I am not entirely blaming them, because it is largely the fault of the media. Ironically, most people now know about the attack simply because of articles pointing out the unequal coverage. When we don’t even get a symbolic safety check on Facebook, I wonder: Why? Why shouldn’t our friends and family that care if we are safe? How white do we have to be for our deaths to matter? What does it take for the world to care about our suffering?

Perhaps the reason the attacks have been ignored in the media is that France is a Western country, and therefore  many Americans easily identify with the people of France. Perhaps along with the mourning and pain comes a fear that if terror can strike in Paris, it can strike in the United States. Certainly, France is much closer to the United States both politically and geographically than the Middle East; it is harder to ignore, to “otherize.” Perhaps white lives are seen as more valuable. Or perhaps victims of violence in the Middle East are dehumanized by stereotypes. The common perception of the Middle East as an unstable, volatile, war ridden area of homogenous countries allows this attack to be perceived as nothing out of the ordinary — disregarding the fact that the Middle East comprises many different countries, most of which have long been in a state of peace. In fact, this attack was the deadliest Lebanon has seen since its civil war ended in 1990. This was not an everyday occurrence — it was as big a deal as the attacks were to France — just as shocking and devastating, just as painful.

The lack of coverage is not accidental. It normalizes these attacks, makes them seem typical. It reduces our people and their deaths to statistics instead of humans with lives and stories, and this furthers the belief that we just don’t matter. It is reminiscent of the lack of coverage of this summer’s attack on a Kuwaiti mosque that killed 27 people, and of the following disregard for the beautiful response of a united country because it did not fit in the narrative of the Middle East as a place full of violent, sectarian divides. Among the few headlines Beirut has received, most were phrased to incite sectarian blame by referring to the bombed area a “Hezbollah stronghold” in order to politicize the death of civilians.

When president Obama referred to the attacks in Paris as “not just an attack on the people of France, [but] an attack on the civilized world,” he did not mention the attack that had occurred in Beirut just the day before, nor the suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed 21 people at a funeral — both of which were also perpetrated by ISIS. He has never called ISIS’ terrorist attacks throughout Syria and Iraq an “attack on the civilized world.” The implication of this statement is not surprising. President Obama pushes the trite and racist narrative that we are somehow uncivilized and thus such attacks are commonplace and insignificant. To add to this insult, tweets by an aspiring Republican senator, Everett Stern, rejoiced over the deaths of innocent people in Beirut, wishing for a larger attack to take out Hezbollah while ignoring the fact that the victims had been civilians.

Being half Lebanese and half Syrian, these recent events are personal. To be truthful, I did not imagine that my heart would break for a country I barely remember, and my tears at hearing the anthem at Monday’s vigil took me by surprise. Although I have never been to Syria, and haven’t been to Lebanon since I was a child, I know it could have been my family and me in Beirut. It could have been us as refugees, fleeing Syria from the very same terror inflicted on Paris. If I had died, no one would know. No one would care. It’s an awful feeling to know that my life doesn’t matter because of where I am from — a feeling that fills me with frustration, sadness and rage.

So to those that mourn and pray for Paris, continue to mourn; we mourn for Paris too. But also mourn for those killed in Lebanon and Syria, as I know many in the Cornell community are doing. Mourn for those killed in Iraq, Yemen and Palestine by Western-backed regimes. Mourn the loss of lives of innocent people and extend love and grace to all those who had their lives robbed by evil. Mourn for Paris, but mourn also for those unrepresented because silence fits a political agenda and because their lives are not deemed as important as Western ones. Mourn for those who no longer have a home to defend or land to fight for, for the people who we don’t remember because they are so far away that they can easily be forgotten.

Katy Habr is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell. Comments may be sent to kh547@cornell.edu. On the Margin runs alternate Wednesdays  this semester. 

19 thoughts on “HABR | To Beirut, With Silence

  1. I notice you don’t mention another group of murdered innocents who are ignored and devalued by the world: the children and other innocent civilians killed and injured in Israel by Palestinian terrorists in just the last month.

    • Paris might have taught us that Israel is on the front-line of Muslim terrorism but it sure did not teach you this.

      Muslim terrorists are blowing up people in Mumbai, Beirut, Nigeria, Russia, Kashmir, Spain, London, China, America Ankara, Tehran, Sudan, Kenya, Khartoum, Istanbul, Bali, Sydney, you name it.

      You see, don’t you, that Islam is spreading across the globe just as it has always spread across the globe — through brute force.

      And Israel is just one of the many front-lines where this is happening. Be it with the recent genocide of the Animists of Sudan, or the recently completed genocide against the Chaldeans of Mosul, Islam is on the march.

      Be it in turning Sweden into the rape capital of the west thanks to Swedes liberal immigration policies, or turning Kenya into another unsafe country to visit thanks to Muslim jihadists attacking without warning. Islam is on the march.

      Paris is Israel which is Kashmir which is Nigeria which is nothing more than in Islam’s way towards building a worldwide caliphate.

      What amazes me, truly amazes me is how naive westerners are. Every time a Muslim beheads someone in London, or blows up a train in Spain, or blows up a shopping mall in Kenya or attacks a hotel in Mumbai, westerners cannot fathom that this is part of a pattern. They seem to awaken after a Paris attack for a few hours then fall back to sleep and forget it ever happened until the next time. The west’s stupidity is what really amazes me. Israel, Poland, Hungary are one of the few countries that understand what Islam truly represents – the darkness and savagery that has always defined Islam.

      +++
      Gregory Palamus of Thessalonica on Islam

      “For these impious people, hated by God and infamous, boast of having got the better of the Romans by their love of God…they live by the bow, the sword and debauchery, finding pleasure in taking slaves, devoting themselves to murder, pillage, spoil and not only do they commit these crimes, but even – what an aberration – they believe that God approves of them. This is what I think of them, now that I know precisely about their way of life.”

  2. “Why? Why shouldn’t our friends and family that care if we are safe? How white do we have to be for our deaths to matter? What does it take for the world to care about our suffering?”

    Why not?

    Maybe for the same reason all you care about are Muslims? We never read a word of concern from you for the never-ending Muslim terrorist attacks that span the globe on practically a daily basis.

    Quit accusing us of what you are guilty of being, OK?

  3. “Perhaps white lives are seen as more valuable.”

    Ahh…It didn’t take very long to throw that slur out there.

    You really are a living and breathing stereotype.

  4. “The common perception of the Middle East as an unstable, volatile, war ridden area of homogenous countries allows this attack to be perceived as nothing out of the ordinary — disregarding the fact that the Middle East comprises many different countries, most of which have long been in a state of peace.”

    Could you name those?

    Sure Saudi Arabia has been at peace for a long time thanks to a Sunni royal family that crushes any opposition. Qatar is Saudi Arabia’s mini-me.

    Kuwait was invaded by Iraq.

    Iraq fought a seven year long war with Iran in which 1,000,000 people died.

    Yemen is currently fighting a civil war.

    Syria, well since the despot as-Assad family has lost their grip that country has gone from a repressed dictatorship to a killing field.

    Lebanon has been fighting a slow simmering civil was with the Christians slowly but surely being slaughtered by Hezbollah and the other Muslim sects. The Christian demographic in Syria has been cut in half due to the unrelenting Islamic pressure.

    Jordan is another monarchy. No democracy, little in the way of commerce, no religious freedom, but peace.

    I hate to call you out on your lies but will do so until you stop doing so.

  5. “If I had died, no one would know. No one would care. It’s an awful feeling to know that my life doesn’t matter because of where I am from — a feeling that fills me with frustration, sadness and rage.”

    And tell me Katy did you shed tears for the one million Sudanese Animists and Christians your Muslim brothers murdered in cold blood, or are your crocodile tears saved only for Muslims?

    Tell me, Katy, did you shed tears for the Hindus being murdered on a daily basis by your Muslim brothers or are your crocodile tears saved only for Muslims?

    Tell me, Katy, have you shed a tear for the 5,000 Buddhists killed during the past several years by Muslims and in Thailand or is that not on your radar screen because they are infidels?

    And what of the daily murders of Christians in Nigeria — all killed by Muslim jihadists. Do you cry for them at all?

  6. “Mourn for those killed in Iraq, Yemen and Palestine by Western-backed regimes.”

    Earth to Katy…Come in please…There is no Palestine.

    Earth to Katy….It’s comforting to know how unbiased you are. How fact-driven and objective your “opinion” pieces are. How fair-minded you are as a person.

    Just kidding!

    Your opinions are a window into who you are. They tell us about your inability to be an objective, rational thinker. They tell us that you cannot be impartial that you are not unlike Pavlov’s dog in your knee-jerk response to anything effecting Islam, Israel and the west; or pretty much everything.

    Yours is a closed mind. Closed to factual evidence that disputes your false memes. And because of this you are part of the problem. You do not offer hope or change you offer the Islamization of our future, and speaking for myself there is not one single thing about Islam, or about Muslim countries that I want to embrace into my life.

    I do not want to live in a country like Saudi Arabia (in fact I could not live there because they would not let me), nor would I want to submit to a sadistic religion that would punish me for doing or saying anything – no matter how benign – in defiance of this barbaric religion.

    In short, Katy, adios for now, but just as you think you’re fighting for some kind of perverse social justice so do I. The difference is that what you fight for is the antithesis to the west’s values and freedoms and some of us will not lay down and let you and your ilk do that. I certainly will not. I will cry from the rooftops and speak the truth about Islam, jihad, the caliphate and about what a sadist your prophet was. I know that anyone who does so risks their lives – just as when in Paris your brothers rampaged and killed the Hebdo office and employees, but that is exactly why we in the west, we who care about our freedoms need to do this.

    Until next time.

  7. I disagree with your finger-pointing at the media for not covering the Beirut bombings — most news agencies have covered what’s happening in Beirut, and what you are claiming, that there’s a blind eye turned toward the issues in the Middle East, is more likely a cause of reader disinterest than lack of media coverage. It’s so easy to blame the media for “not covering” certain issues, but more often than not, it’s the people themselves who refuse to care.

    Now, is this lack of attention to the Middle East and increased attention toward Paris a product of Americans (as you say) “otherizing” the Middle East? It’s possible. But you forget that it’s not just the United States that is mourning for Paris, it’s the entire world. So many people have personal ties to Paris than they do Beirut, not because they deem Beirut lesser than Paris but because of all the tourism and foot traffic that takes place there. If you asked a random sample of people how many of them have visited/lived or know someone who has visited/lived in Paris or Beirut, I guarantee the number of hands that would shoot up for Paris would overwhelming outnumber those representing Beirut.

    http://www.vox.com/2015/11/16/9744640/paris-beirut-media

    • “These people are racist”

      Islam is not a race, it’s a religion.

      Islam is not a race, it’s a religion.

      Islam is not a race, it’s a religion.

      Islam is not a race, it’s a religion.

      Islam is not a race, it’s a religion.

      Stop calling people who dislike Islam for all its shitty teachings, aversion to change, and association with toxic chauvinist tribal culture racist. You could call them xenophobic, which would be accurate, or you could call them right, which would also be largely accurate, but…

      Islam is not a race, it’s a religion.

  8. France is our first ally and shares so many core values with the US. Three times more deaths in the meticulously organized multi-location attack in Paris than the bombings in Beirut — far more extreme. Also, YOU are non-Hispanic white according to the US Census — sorry whitey, no pity party for you. Grow. Up.

  9. The issue is not the supposed lack of respect of the West for Arab fatalities, but the total lack of respect exhibited by Arab leaders and terrorists for the lives of their own citizens and neighbors. Over 250,000 Middle East Arabs deliberately killed by fellow Arabs in the past few years, and million of others displaced from by their homes. Who is responsible for the deaths of those Lebanese victims and what motivated the killers? That is what should concern you Kate.

  10. “Being half Lebanese and half Syrian, these recent events are personal. To be truthful, I did not imagine that my heart would break for a country I barely remember, and my tears at hearing the anthem at Monday’s vigil took me by surprise. Although I have never been to Syria, and haven’t been to Lebanon since I was a child”

    LOL, stop pretending to be a minority. You’re a privileged whitey American like the rest of us.

    • She actually lives in Kuwait so your attempt at trolling an article that at the end of day is to acknowledge and mourn atrocities of the world is really insensitive. I would consider how you would feel if you were from either country: mourning a terrible event isn’t a matter of priveledge it’s a matter of humanity. Please in the future take into account that you don’t know all sides of the story and making judgemental comments shouldn’t be your first attempt at discourse.

      • Kuwait? No wonder she cares so darn much about the Palestinians…
        +++
        The Palestinian expulsion from Kuwait or 1991 Palestinian exodus from Kuwait took place at the end of the Gulf War, when Kuwait expelled almost 450,000 Palestinians.[1] The policy which led to this exodus was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The exodus took place during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. The story received little media attention in the aftermath of the liberation of Kuwait.

        The policy which led to this expulsion was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. The expulsion took place during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi occupation. On March 14, only 150,000 Palestinians were still residing in Kuwait, out of initial 450,000 – many of them fearful for their fate.[4]

        In total, Kuwait expelled 443,000 Palestinians.[1] Several Palestinians were killed by vigilante groups including some with links to the royal family.[5] With the completion of the exodus only 7,000 Palestinians remained.[1]
        Kuwaitis said that Palestinians leaving the country could move to Jordan, and that most Palestinians held Jordanian passports.[4] No reports of where the Palestinans actually went to after the expulsion have appeared.

    • She is a white-passing POC, which I am sure she is aware of, as am I, but that doesn’t mean you are necessarily privileged in all aspects of privilege. There’s no need to compare people’s struggles based on their identity, each is unique. Arabs are a minority, because there is OBVIOUSLY discrimination against them based on ignorantly formed stereotypes. Our culture does not belong with white American’s “culture,” so educate yourself before you try to tear someone else down.

  11. Great article! It’s difficult to mention all sides of each story in one article and that should be noted to those reading said article. There will always be a critic who has something negative to say. The lesson here is to look at the criticism cautiously. Some of it will be helpful however, personal comments and insults look unprofessional and carry no value.

    Short message to Arafat: No harm meant by this but, you clearly have an issue with Katy and not this specific article. Im the future please post your criticism in one short comment and keep your personal issues to yourself as they distract from the main discussion. Also you should know, since you are such an eloquent debater, that mentioning all said points which you have made would deviate away from the main debate.

    • Stefan,

      Thank you for your constructive criticism. That acknowledged I see it differently. I try to stay loosely on topic while at the same time taking into consideration the context Katy’s provided through all her Opinion pieces. I’m of the opinion taking this approach is reasonable and provides greater context and understanding of Katy’s true motivations as well as of her consistently prejudicial and unreasonable approach to these issues.

      In any case, thanks for the feedback.

  12. Very strange how people lack the most basic form of decency which is respect for those who mourn. If the country of your origin had suffered a terrorist attack, you wouldn’t appreciate comments like this either. Remember the hysteria when Susan Sontag merely stated that the 9/11 attackers were not cowards (they were mass murderers, but obviously not cowards). Try some empathy for a change.

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