The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Dexter Filkins and the New Yorker: Was his story fact checked? Why is his anon source “Dany” saying the same damaging things, at the same time, as “Dani” in David Enders piece at McClatchy Newspapers?

I wrote a few days ago on this blog about Dexter Filkins piece on Hezbollah in the New Yorker – which NYer subscribers got February 18, 2013 – entitled “After Syria.”

At that time I was only able to criticize a few points made available in the public summary – now I have read the entire piece and a series of claims are justified to put out in the public domain. In my view:

1) As detailed below, there are more than a dozen major and minor errors, gaps etc. which are almost all easily verifiable with one Google search. I think it is likely that the New Yorker’s venerable fact checking severely broke down on this article about Hizbullah (at a crucial moment in the war mind you and with a wealth of info-ops activity going on all around).

The errors – and lets leave aside the troubling lack of interesting insights – are so glaring that it does reasonably bring into question why this article about one of the greatest enemies of the US and Israel (and many others, including some Lebanese) was allowed to pass through without basic fact checking? I will leave this point for others to explore and press for some answers (the obvious point is that if this piece was about Israel, the fact checking system would have likely worked far more rigorously).

2) Most troubling, the reader and the analyst who knows something a bit deeper than Filkins and his editor’s (given his resume which does not, in the public version, include ANY EXPERIENCE BEFORE IN LEBANON AND/OR SYRIA) is left with two options:

  • a) Either Filkins or the team of writers at McClatchy led by David Enders plagiarised (I am not sure which way this might go, IF TRUE…. and I am not convinced at all about this particular possibility).

Or:

  • b) more troubling perhaps, and I think this more likely at this early point, that BOTH were likely duped by their ONE SINGLE SOURCE who claimed to be “INSIDE HIZBULLAH” a fighter in fact… A man named “Dany” or “Dani” for both, WHO ACTUALLY IS QUOTED SAYING THE SAME DAMAGING THINGS ABOUT HIZBULLAH… i.e. his beloved party…to an American journo!

3) I recognize that these are serious claims and that MUCH MORE work needs to be done to discover what happened… and that the reporters in question and their organizations should have a chance – indeed must – respond a) to the obvious parallels in un attributed sourced quotes a DAY APART, b) to the errors, gaps, oversights etc. and c) to the essentially flimsiness of the content being offered (on the New Yorker side).

  • As such, I want to put these claims as possibilities, only, out there and the link to the Enders piece which appeared on virtually the same day that Filkins New Yorker piece was released – February 19 – as well as the original full PDF, which given the public consideration in this case, falls reasonably under the Fair Use and non-commercial domains.

4) A few opening points, before getting to the errors, weaknesses and sadly, apparent cluelessness, in the Filkins piece specifically (this is the one I am more concerned by given the tremendous amount of money that the magazine pays journalists for these stories and the reputation of the New yorker itself).

  • What fails the Smell Test here is that both Enders and Filkins employ a fake name “dany/dani” who 1) says the same thing in two different pieces for two different news orgs and 2) he says DAMAGING THINGS about Hizbullah that give the appearance to the unknowing reader in the US that the reporter has managed to really get inside the super secret, evil apparatus of HIZBULLAH! Even though, for those of us a bit more familiar with the terrain, the whole “dany” episode smacks of many past examples over the years of either “false flag” operations or an unknowing journo getting duped.
  • I certainly hope, at the least, it is NOT the case of journos and activists manufacturing quotes, sources, scenes etc as we see on occasion in Syria, Iraq in the past etc (as but two examples).
  • The process of verifying who someone is should simply not be attempted by journos unless done very rigorously when COVERING ONE OF THE MOST SECRETIVE ORGNIZATIONS IN THE WORLD. I mean come on, NO ONE in Hizbullah, both reporters say, will talk to them, and they BOTH find a miracle dany (a christian cover name in any case mind you!) and BELIEVE HIM, DONT EVEN RAISE THE difficulty of verifying his identity with readers…. And then this Dany, FOR BOTH, says “the truth” to these American reporters…and it is slightly rich in “admissions” of guilt and snippets of off-putting extremity which make dany’s party look BAD.
  • At the very least – and this a different interesting angle – it should/could raise the point in the pieces about what Hizbullah might be accomplishing or trying in this exercise if indeed Dany is a controlled plant on their part. This is never raised of course, because both journos expect (or are unaware of the possibilities) that they are getting good stuff on its face – an incredible lapse given the extremity of the info war going on these days.
  • MOST EMBARRASSING is for the New Yorker – how in the world do they allow a piece where the ENTIRE narrative of hizbullah from hizbullah is carried by a fake name dany, who claims a series of obvious errors (see below), and provides several anchors for his identity that are frankly laughable (theme park access, a dude in the south with a hizbullah flag in his drawer, living near the Hizbullah “area” where a lot of anti hizbullah people also live and have easy access and having a village on the border with Israel where many christian and sunnis also live and some of which – including shiite families – collaborated during the 22 years of Israeli occupation of the area? And on top of this there are literally only four or so other voices in the piece all of which are critics or outright bitter enemies of hizbullah. I mean Where is the interesting story here at the very least for the reader or the elite? IT MAY BE A DECENT POLEMIC BUT I thought the NYer aspired for more?

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Two block quote examples. In Enders McClatchy piece, he explains with his Dany:

“A Hezbollah fighter from Beirut who said he’d been to Syria a few times in the past year said Hezbollah was helping the Syrian militia with strategy but that the extent of Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict had been exaggerated…The interview with the fighter, who used the pseudonym Dany because the group’s media department hadn’t authorized him to discuss such matters, offered a chilling window into the intractability of the Syrian war. In addition to Hezbollah fighters who are deployed in Syria, particularly on the Lebanese-Syrian border, Shiites from Iraq have volunteered to fight on Assad’s behalf, Dany said. Iran also could use the Jaish Shabi Arabic for “People’s Army”  as a proxy to pursue its political objectives in Syria, much as it uses Hezbollah to promote its interests in Lebanon. Dany’s reasons for fighting in Syria sounded quite similar to one of the U.S. government’s rationales for invading Iraq 10 years ago: the need to stop Sunni extremists. “We must stop these takfiris before they reach Lebanon,” he said, using an Arabic word that denotes religious extremists who believe that Shiites are apostates. “We’re going to go to Syria to fight because we have to stop it there.”

  • A side note here – Enders started off his Dany by saying the aid by Hizbullah in Syria was mere strategic support and the actual role was exagerated. BUT BY THE END, our dany has come around and said, no, in fact, WE ARE INDEED FIGHTING in Syria. Dany’s charachter confirms to the reader that Hizbullah is a lying party, fighting in Syria alongside evil by the end of the paragraph. Whether this analysis/sentiment is correct is a different matter which we can debate with some good reference to fact and reasonable inference etc: the point is the contradiction WITHIN THE SAME few sentences that apparently did not raise a red flag for the editor!

Now for Filkens in the New Yorker, whose Dany is a bit more unflattering for the party, he says:

“Back in Beirut, a Hezbollah officer conceded that the explanation for the young martyrs’ death-the explosion at the ammunition depot had been con­trived.They had been killed in Syria, he said: “There were a lot of bodies coming back.” Itwas something that no one was permitted to discuss, for obvious reasons: Hezbollah could not afford to anger Sun­ nis, but neither could it allow its allies in Syria to±au.”If Bashar goes down,” a Hez­ bollah commander told me, “we’re next.”  The Hezbollah commander [now not a mere “officer”????], who called himself Dani (a pseudonym required to maintain his safety), met me in a private home around the corner from “the secure area,” a cluster of buildings that serves as Hezbollah’s headquarters in the southern Beirut neighborhood of Al Ghobeiry. Dani walked inwearingjeans, a tight black T-shirt, trail shoes, and a Quicksilver cap;his hair was short and his fair-skinned face was shaved clean.I was struck by his appearance, so unlike the cliche of an Islamic militant, and Dani did not fail to notice. “We’re not all bearded fanatics, you know,” he said. Dani, who is about forty years old, looked more like a good-natured auto mechanic, which he is, most of the time. One of eleven siblings, he is married and has two children of his owm.

“…When I asked Dani what Iran and Syria were doing in Lebanon, he went quiet; the subject is taboo in public and in the press.He would say only, “Assad is our friend; we don’t deny that. Ifhe goes down, it’s bad for us.” On the Syrian civil ‘var, Dani held to the Hezbollah line: it was true that Bashar didn’t treat his peo­ple well    ‘We recognize this,” he said­ but the real trouble in Syria’vas caused by Western nations that were backing the rebels in order to take pressure off Israel. Yet the prospect of a Sunni majority, even a fundamentalist regime, coming to power in Syria is so alarming that at one point Dani seemed to be siding with Is­rael. “You wait and see,” Dani told me. “You’re going to have Salafists in Syria attacking the Golan Heights.What areyou going to do then?…”

  • It is indeed interesting – of many things in these sentences – that Enders notes how Dany sounds like US PR and then Filkins has him sounding like siding with Israel… but more than this, of course, is just the content similarity.
  • Let me also address only briefly now the meta issue – my initial sense is that both articles are useful in the information war raging because they show that HIZBULLAH IS REALLY SCARED, THAT THEY ARE LIARS AND SLICK DISSIMULATORS… but more than this - they FEAR the sunni “wave” in syria. My very initial sense is that this common narrative works well on this plane (much more than the “blowback of sunni radicals” plane which DETERS military intervention by outside powers), and in doing so IT BOLSTERS THE CASE IN THE US and beyond that a-not-ideal, but nevertheless effective way of smashing the great enemy of Hizbullah and Iran is by using the guys they seem to REALLY fear - i.e. arm the sunnis in syria. I am not sure about this speculation, of course, but my sense is this is where the pieces go in the main.
  • Having lectured to and debated with US officials and military folks, syrian activists, and a variety of figures in regards to syria and Hizbullah over the past several years, these pieces help in undermining one key impediment against using force NOW against hizbullah: if they – hizb – are really scared about the sunnis, and even say in TOTAL CANDOR that they are finished when Bashar goes down, then it seems logical that 1) hizbullah should be defeated (the US reader already assumes that) and 2) it can be by arming the sunnis against this “A-TEAM OF TERRORISM.”]

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Two major errors in filkins piece that need to be pulled out from the long list below – to the top!

# 7 from below

7) Filkins writes: “…In 1975, sectarian tensions, aggravated by the growing militancy of the P.L.O., ex­ ploded into a civil war. The war lasted fifteen years, devastated the country, and killed a hundred and twenty thousand people.In the midst of the war, in 1982, came the Israeli Army…”

  • I mean come on, ISRAEL INVADED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 1978! Jimmy Carter’s famous statements to israel, UNSCR 425! The CREATION OF THE SECURITY ZONE THAT DANY TALKS ABOUT.
  • THIS IS A KEY POTENTIAL RUPTURE IN Filkins piece: He claims Dany was in his border village in 1982 when Israel invaded, but Israel created the security zone in 1978 in south lebanon! SO WHERE DID DANY GROW UP? Was he already in the security zone. Please send me more research and info on this crucial aspect!

Filkins goes on:

“Then, in 1982, the Israel Defense Forces poured across the border,in a huge military operation aimed atdestroying the P.L.O ., and soldiers made their way to Dani’s village.At first, the villagers, like many Lebanese, welcomed the Israelis, whom they hoped would rid them of the P.L.O. “I ate the candy they threw us,”

BUT AT THE END OF THE PIECE FILKINS SAYS:

“Dany got out of his car and looked across the border into Israel. The line benveen Lebanon and Israel is among the most surreal international boundaries in theworld.The implacabil­ ityof the dispute is sutpassed only by each country’s need for space. And so, in place of rows of barbed wire and minefields, there is a single chain-link fence on the Israeli side and an occasional cementwall on the Lebanese. From where Dani stood, the Israeli soldiers were close enough to talk to. Israeli homes are a hundred yards away. A long paved road runs along the length of the border, con­ necting a row of villages. One of them is the village that Dani fled as a young man in 1982, when the Israeli Army swept across the border.

  • This is a serious gap, which leads one to speculate whether Dany may have been a collaborator, or in a family of collaborators WHO ALREADY LIVED IN THE OCCUPIED ZONE. My initial supposition is that Dany may indeed be Christian, possibly Lebanese Forces (the most anti-Hizbullah party in Lebanon), and probably does live in the pro-LF villages all along the border with Israel…. and he may have a house in Ghobeiry next to the Dahiye…and that he snared both Journos. After all, Filkins explains very strangely:

Dani grew·up in a village within sight of the Israeli border, but, as he remembe.rs it, his family had no anti-Israeli feelings. His father traded wheat and olives and often crossed over to buy and sell in the Is­ raeli port of Haifa. “My dad had a lot of Je\vish friends back then;’Dani said. “He didn’t think a lot about occupation.””

  • This is a very rich thread to drill down on for the obvious reasons – it also immediately lends greater support to the claim that Dany may have a lineage quite different than what he claims!

AND #11 – the case of hand to hand combat by “Dany”…. at the hizbullah theme park area!:

11) Filkins writes: “We stopped in a village, at a cafe called Al Bas, where a young man who intro­ duced himself as Hussein Hodeh was standing behind an espresso machine. When I asked him about the village’s al­ legiances, he  shrugged and said, “It’s a Hezbollah town.” I asked how he knew, and he reached under the counter and un­ furled a yellow Hezbollah battle flag.”fm Her.t:bollah myself,” he said, with a laugh. “fm  a fighter.” After a while, we reached Mleeta, a fantastical theme park dedicated to Hezbollah’s triumphs, and pulled into a parking lot next to a tour bus. In the nineties and again in 2006, Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah militiamen fought for the ground on which Mleeta sits

  • Point one – this is ridiculous that this makes its way in to A NEW YORKER PIECE where as we all know, the journo is making 10-15K for the piece and this dude had a flag…. and this is in the story as a kind of proof? Does he have a YOUTUBE video of him with a flag too?
  • MORE THAN THIS MINOR POINT which in another article would get thrown out – I hope – by our friends at the new yorker over the years who do fact checking…. dany takes you to the hizbllah theme park! AND THIS IS EVIDENCE OF WHAT EXACTLY?
  • I take our grad students to mleeta twice a year. Does he really think a hizbullah “commander” would take him – would waste his time – to take him to mleeta, when filkins can go there for 5$ by himself and get an english language guide.

MORE THAN EVEN THIS MINOR POINT, filkins claims: “ In the nineties and again in 2006, Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah militiamen fought for the ground on which Mleeta sits”

  • THAT IS NOT LIKELY. Mleeta is above the Litani river – NO IDF FORCES APPEARED TO CROSS OVER THE LITANI INTO THOSE MOUNTAINS in the 2006 war…. Filkins may have some insider special info here – but he must explain this because the conventional wisdom is that the IDF stopped in going past the litani (operations into bekaa were a different matter.
  • Even if there were special ops fights, which Filkins needs to claim outright!, there was flat out NO SUSTAINED “FIGHT FOR THE battleGROUND” at the Hizbullah Disneyland… that is misleading at best.
  • But yet we get these absurd scenes from Filkins about his own fighting at Hizbullah disneyland!:

“We walked past a tunnel nenvork and an array of Katyusha rocket batteries, alongside a group of European tourists snapping photos. Here and there, Dani paused. ‘The Israelis were right here,” he said. “Sometimes they would advance, sometimeswewould advance. Sometimesthe fighting was face to face.”

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ON FILKINS PIECE: Some of the errors and lapses (again, readers can download the piece above – please send me other errors, comments on my supposed errors and my own errors – and sorry on spelling problems, PDF CONVERSION!

1) “The crowd stirred as guards began ap­pearing on rooftops, clutching soft violin 2 cases with the butts of machine guns poking out.”

– i dunno, maybe this happend, but it is a secure Hizbullah chamber for the event, INSIDE…. and hizbullah security guys always have no problem displaying their weapons very much in public around key figures as needed…. WHY THE CLOAK AND DAGGER one wonders NOW all of a sudden? It seems a bit far fetched, but a “perhaps.” Though NOT A GOOD OPENING LINE OR TWO!

2) “…It was Hashem Safieddine, the head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council…”

– Just an interesting aside that Filkins seems not to know that some folks think Safieddine is tapped to be the next SG if nasrallah is killed… anyway…

3) “Safieddine wasn’t exaggerating: after decades ofbelligerence, Hezbollah is sur­ rounded by existential threats. In an Arab world dominated by SunniMuslims, Hez­ bollah agitates on behalf of Shiite iden­ tity-forming, alongwith Syria and Iran,  a column of resistance sometimes called the Shiite Axis. For thirty years, Syria has offered protection and facilitated a pipe­ line of money and arms from Iran.

– I already wrote about how hizbullah desperately tries NOT to be perceived as agitating for Shiites – even though that is of course a key mission! Filkins is unaware of this important and interesting aspect.

– Dexter forgets here, although there is a short reference much much later – that SYRIA FOUGHT AND KILLED HIZBULLAH for long periods during this supposed unbroken thirty years.

4) “It has kept up a relentless campaign to confront Israel, even provoking a war in 2006.”

– Well more on this later, but this is of course the polemical way to look at it. Hizbullah’s border action on July 12, 2006 did indeed provoke hostilities, but the war, we now know thanks in large part to Israeli writers, a reaction to a “border incident” was very much a decision by the bush folks and (some of) the Israeli leadership. Whether right or wrong – or stupid – is a DIFFERENT MATTER.

4.5) “Dani,·who is about forty years old,”

– This means that according to Filkins, Dany was born about 1973 – THAT MAKES HIM 9 YEARS OLD WHEN Israel invaded for the second time in lebanon. But he says this:

“In the midst of the war, in 1982, came the Israeli Army. As Dani looked for a way to resist the invaders, the obvious option, the Leba­ nese Army, was closed. The Army-in­ deed, most of the government had all but ceased to exist. Then a new group arose, dedicated to opposing Israe it was knovvn as Hezbollah, from the Arabic for “Party of God.” The group dates its be­ ginning to November 11, 1982, when a teen-ager named Ahmad ssir  ap­ proached the Israeli headquarters inTyre and blew himself up

– Dany seems to have joined up as a child soldier….huh….?

– No, THE GROUP dates its OFFICIAL beginning from the 1985 Open Letter… although there is much debate about when hizbullah started, and even some differences in some of the public literature, Filkins states categorically that 11-11-82 was when it announced itself!

Google hizbullah’s own english web sites and you get this:

“Martyr’s Day embodies the anniversary of Ahmed Qassir, the harbinger of the era of martyrdom
operatives. On the 11th of November, 1982, large parts of Lebanon were living under “Israeli” occupation only a few months after an invasion reached Beirut, the Mount, part of the Bekaa, as well as the entirety of South Lebanon.  On that date, the Islamic Resistance, still operating in secret, directed a painful blow to the enemy, the first of its kind in the enemy’s occupation history, where a car packed with explosives targeted the Zionist military governor’s headquarters at Jall al-Baher area in Tyre city.”

– in just this one reference – and of course hizbullah scholars can argue a LOT MORE about all of this, the basic fact is that 11-11-82 was the harbinger of the era of martyrdom NOT as Filkins posits it, “The group dates its be­ ginning to November 11, 1982.”

5) “At first, the villagers, like many Lebanese, welcomed the Israelis, whom they hoped would rid them of them…P.L.O. “I ate the candy they threw us,” Dani said.But itwasn’t longbefore Israeli soldiers began to sweep the region’s Shi­ ite villages for weapons, detaining men with no connection to the P.L.O.”

– I find this passage interesting because it is one of the MOST WIDELY used scenes/vignettes to describe how “the shiite genie was let out of the bottle” by IDF actions (in Rabin’s words). I was just struck by the commonness of this scene setting which is EVERYWHERE on the internet when you search for these types of stories/comments… strange only….

6) “Ever since the nineteen-twenti es, when the colonial French carved Lebanon from the remnants of the Ottoman Em­ pire, it has been a political playground for its more powerful neighbors: Israel, Syria, the Palestinians, and Saudi Arabia, each of which has routinely manipulated Leb­ anese politics through local proxies.Leb­ anon’s vulnerability lies in its intensepo­ larization, which has bedevilled every government that has tried to run the place”

– Filkins, strangely leaves out the MAIN player here in modern lebanese history: THE USA

7) In 1975, sectarian tensions, aggravated by the growing militancy of the P.L.O., ex­ ploded into a civil war. The war lasted fifteen years, devastated the country, and killed a hundred and twenty thousand people.In the midst of the war, in 1982, came the Israeli Army.

– I mean come on, ISRAEL INVADED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 1978! Jimmy Carter’s famous statements to israel, UN SCR 425! The CREATION OF THE SECURITY ZONE THAT DANY TALKS ABOUT.

– THIS IS A KEY POTENTIAL RUPTURE IN Filkins piece: he claims Dany was in his border village in 1982 when Israel invaded, but Israel created the security zone in 1978 in south lebanon! SO WHERE DID DANY GROW UP? Was he already in the security zone. Please send me more research and info on this crucial aspect!

Filkins says:

“Then, in 1982, the Israel Defense Forces poured across the border,in a huge military operation aimed atdestroying the P.L.O ., and soldiers made their way to Dani’s village.At first, the villagers, like many Lebanese, welcomed the Israelis, whom they hoped would rid them of the P.L.O. “I ate the candy they threw us,”

BUT AT THE END OF THE PIECE FILKINS SAYS:

“Dany got out of his car and looked across the border into Israel. The line benveen Lebanon and Israel is among the most surreal international boundaries in theworld.The implacabil­ ityof the dispute is sutpassed only by each country’s need for space. And so, in place of rows of barbed wire and minefields, there is a single chain-link fence on the Israeli side and an occasional cementwall on the Lebanese. From where Dani stood, the Israeli soldiers were close enough to talk to. Israeli homes are a hundred yards away. A long paved road runs along the length of the border, con­ necting a row of villages. One of them is the village that Dani fled as a young man in 1982, when the Israeli Army swept across the border.

This is a serious gap, which leads one to speculate whether Dany may have been a collaborator, or in a family of collaborators WHO ALREADY LIVED IN THE OCCUPIED ZONE. After all, Filkins explains very strangely:

Dani grew·up in a village within sight of the Israeli border, but, as he remembe.rs it, his family had no anti-Israeli feelings. His father traded wheat and olives and often crossed over to buy and sell in the Is­ raeli port of Haifa. “My dad had a lot of Je\vish friends back then;’Dani said. “He didn’t think a lot about occupation.””

– This is a very rich thread to drill down on for the obvious reasons – it also immediately lends greater support to the claim that Dany may have a lineage quite different than what he claims!

8) Filkins claims: “The Iranian regime spent as much as two hundred million dollars a year sup­ porting Hezbollah, according to a U.S. Defense Department report.”

– Filkins knows that this is the US estimate by the mid 1990s! NOT IN THE 1980s as he tries to suggest to the unknowing reader.

9) Filkins has these silly errors: “…wilaayat alfaqih, recognized Iran’s Grand Ayatol­lahas the leader of the global Islamic revolution….”

– It can be translated as Wilayat al-Faqih – but I have never seen it so mangled! And no it does NOT mean the Grand Ayatol­laha in iran is the leader because Khamenei is NOT A GRAND Ayatol­laha! There is a great argument about this in fact that filkins mangles.

10) “In 1992, Israeli forces assassinated Abbas al-Musawi, the leader ofHezbollah, by firing a missile at his car. Nasrallah took his place, only months after returning from Iran.”

–Well it was ALMOST A YEAR AFTER NASRALLAH HAD RETURNED IN FACT.

11) Filkins writes: “We stopped in a village, at a cafe called Al Bas, where a young man who intro­ duced himself as Hussein Hodeh was standing behind an espresso machine. When I asked him about the village’s al­ legiances, he  shrugged and said, “It’s a Hezbollah town.” I asked how he knew, and he reached under the counter and un­ furled ayellow Hezbollah battle flag.”fm Her.t:bollah myself,” he said, with a laugh. “fm  a fighter.” After a while, we reached Mleeta, a fantastical theme park dedicated to Hezbollah’s triumphs, and pulled into a parking lot next to a tour bus. In the nineties and again in 2006, Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah militiamen fought for the ground on which Mleeta sits

– Point one – this is ridiculous that this makes its way in to A NEW YORKER PIECE where as we all know, the journo is making 10-15K for the piece and this dude had a flag…. and this is in the story as a kind of proof? Does he have a YOUTUBE video of him with a flag too?

– MORE THAN THIS MINOR POINT which in another article would get thrown out – I hope – by our friends at the new yorker over the years who do fact checking…. dany takes you to the hizbllah theme park! AND THIS IS EVIDENCE OF WHAT EXACTLY?

I take our grad students to mleeta twice a year. Does he really think a hizbullah “commander” would take him – would waste his time – to take him to mleeta, when filkins can go there for 5$ by himself and get an english language guide.

– MORE THAN EVEN THIS MINOR POINT, filkins claims: “ In the nineties and again in 2006, Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah militiamen fought for the ground on which Mleeta sits”

– THAT IS NOT LIKELY AT ALL. Mleeta is above the Litani river – NO IDF FORCES APPEARED TO CROSS OVER THE LITANI INTO THOSE MOUNTAINS…. Filkins may have some insider special info here – but he must explain this because the conventional wisdom is that the idf stopped in going past the litani (operations into bekaa were a different matter.

Even if there were special ops fights, which Filkins needs to claim outright!, there was flat out NO SUSTAINED “FIGHT FOR THE battleGROUND” at the Hizbullah Disneyland… that is misleading at best.

But yet we get these absurd scenes from Filkins about his own fighting at Hizbullah disneyland!:

“We walked past a tunnel nenvork and an array of Katyusha rocket batteries, alongside a group of European tourists snapping photos. Here and there, Dani paused. ‘The Israelis were right here,” he said. “Sometimes they would advance, sometimeswewould advance. Sometimesthe fighting was face to face.”

– On this point yet another question – foreigners must get lebanese military intelligence PERMISSION to cross into the south border areas ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST YEAR…. One wonders why these many checkpoint episodes do NOT come up. If he passed ALL THE LAF army stops with famous dany -hizbullah commander – then this surely warrants a comment. It makes me wonder who was complicit with this part of the story since on the opposite angle, did Filkins get cleared in Yaarze through military intel with some help from anti-hizbullah folks (Hariri folks?). I will leave this leg to others.

12) Nasrallah gave a speech in the Hez­ bollah stronghold of Bint Jbeil that was triumphant and anti-Zioni st, if not overtly anti-Semitic. ‘We must acknowl­ edge the grace of the fighting, the resist­ ing and the sacrificing of the people who left their homes, families, and universi­ ties,” he said.With the Israeli withdrawal, Nasrallah became a hero in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.

– Please see the section below from my book on Nasrallah’s speeches and interviews…. Does anything there smack of “OVERT anti-semitic” (although I agree that Nasrallah has indeed made anti semetic statements and that hizbullah has a core part of it which hates jews and jews and which is disgusting and should be defeated and purged)

13) Filkins writes: “It was clear that Hezbollah’s leaders had concluded that any change in Syria was almost certain to wash across the border, and that theywere getting ready. “‘fthe Sunnis take over Syria,”Dani told me, “we’re going to be fighting them in Beirut.”

– Interesting how THIS IS THE SAME LINE in the Enders piece – THEY ARE COMING HERE AND WE ARE SCARED!

– But more than this – NO just because one single source – DANY a commander maybe – said it does not then mean “It was clear that Hezbollah’s leaders had concluded that any change in Syria…” This does not deserve to be in a NEW YORKER ARTICLE period because it is a wild jump on its face in logic.

14) The inevitable visit to Jumblatt! Filkins writes: “To better understand  the link be­tween Hezbollah and Syria,Ipaid a dinnersit to the Beirut home ofWalid Joumblatt, the leader of a tiny religious group, the Druze, and perhaps Leba­ non’smost nimble and sophisticated pol­ itician. Joumblatt is an unprepossessing man-with a bald head, weary eyes, and  a tiny mustache, he looks likealatter-day Edgar Allan Poe. But,withhis smallbloc of parliamentru.y seats, he has spent his career mo ng from one faction to an­ other, making and breaking Lebanese govemments.. Around 2000, Rafik Hariri, a two-time Lebanese Prime Minister and a charis­ matic businessman with ties to the Saudi royal family, bega n trying to pull the country out of Syria’s orbit. In August, 2004, Hariri sited Damascus, where Bashar al-Assad warned him that his efforts were putting him in grave dan­ ger. “V.fe will break Lebanon,”

– THE ENTIRE PIECE relies ONLY on ONE ONE ONE narrative voice Dany and three ANTI HIZBULLAH figures…. I mean Jumblatt to divine Hizbullah! (Amal SG has one line at the end but it makes no difference) WHY WHY did Dexter not call any of the allies hizbullah has in THE MAIN CHRISTIAN PARTY THE FPM…. I mean come on… Get Alain Aoun on the phone. But no, Dany suffices, and the reader suffers for lack of insight.

15) “On February 14,2005, Hariri was driving along the Corniche, Beirut’s spectacular coastal drive, when a suicide truck bomber crashed into his mo­ torcade.He and twenty-two others were killed.”

– No – Hariri was killed before he reached the corniche… at the loop after phonecia hotel and just before the st georges hotel.

16) “(Across tovvn, Hezbollah staged enormous rallies ofShi­ ites calling for the Syrians to stay.) In April of2005, as outrage overthe assassi­ nation gre-.v-and as pressure mounted from the United States and the United Nations-Syrian troops departed, ending the occupation after twenty-nine years . “The Syrians came in on the blood of KamalJoumblatt and left on the blood of Rafik Hariri,”Joumblatt said.

– Filkins does not know – it seems – that Jumblat grew rich of the syrian occupation up until the bitter end! (sorry Walid as i and many other regularly tell you to your face) and is not even an innocent in this ONE regard…

– And no, the march 8 rally happened before the march 14 rally and IT WAS NOT ACROSS TOWN – come on Dexter! It was in the SAME AREA!!!!!! Of downtown!

17) Filkins says: “The group had been fielding candidates for parlia­ ment since 1992,but only reluctantly, as members insisted that their first duty was to confront Israel. Hezbollah’s parlia­ mentarians have learned to play poli­ tics-NasralL’lh has dropped the sectar­ ian language of his predecessors and stopped deploying suicide attacks but they still stand apart.In the national as­ sembly, they typically huddle across the floor from their fellow-Shiites in the Amal Party, whose Westernized mem­ bers talk freely vvith women and drink alcohol. And they do not speak with­ out permission from their leaders. (None were vvilling to cooperate vvith tills article.)

– Filkins sadly does not know that HIZBULLAH IS IN AN ALLIANCE WITH THE MAIN CHRISTIAN PARTY THE FPM… this description of parliament is both wrong and useless – I mean Hariri folks do the same as amal and are in alliances (or try) to be with SALAFISTS AND, to a certain extent, more radical al-qaidah folks… so what is your point. But again I dont really care since this is simply NOT AN ACCURATE PORTRAIT OF THE PARLIAMENT.

18) Filkins writes: ” In 2005, Leba­ non detained theheads of four ofits secu­ rity agencies-regarded as Syria’s close al­ lies-for their alleged involvement; they were held for nearly four years and re­ leased.Then, inJune of2011, a tribunal backed by the U.N. indicted four mem­ bers of Hezbollah.”

– Released because of LACK OF EVIDENCE…. but this is not important here I suppose even though it goes to the thrust and weaknesses of the STL.

19) “Another thing that helped take the sting out of the Israeli assaults was Ira­ nian money. At extraordinary expense, south Beirut and southern Lebanon were rebuilt; it is difficult these days to find a building that shows damage from the war. According to a Lebanese security official, the reconstruction was financed largely by Iran, which bypassed theLeb­ anese government. In the months after the ceasefire, Hezbollah trucks pulled into devastated neighborhoods and handed out Iranian money to Lebanese who’d lost property and kin.”

– No they handed out DOLLARS…. and Iran is estimated to give 200$ to hizbullah BY THE US….at the highest. Filkens does not understand the network of financing which hizbullah has – and which is troubling indeed – and that goes WAY WAY BEYOND MERELY IRAN!

20) “As I drove through southern Lebanon with Dani, he pointed to freshly paved roads and newly built hospitals. “Iran paid for all of this;’ he said. “If we had been forced to rely on the Lebanese govern­ ment, this area would

– Again – why does this great dany tell all bad things to this american reporter?

21) “It’s Khamenei and Ghassem Soleimani who decide,” he said, referring to the Su­ preme Leader and a powerful Iranian official in the Revolutionary Guard.”It’s beyond Lebanon.”

– Jumblatt is Jumblatt – but what the heck is this spelling of Qasem Soleimani – he is a ghassan now? And what about orders now fromt he saudi king? That guy and his regime do great things for the world, like helping the 17 saudi  9/11 hijackers. (is it 17?)

22) “In October, Nasrallah appeared on Lebanese television, and the uprising in Syria seemed to have changed his face again.Itwas rounder, puffier, paler–the face of a man who is not only hunted but alone. Seated in front of a bright-blue background, hewore fashionable glasses, a trimmed beard, and the black turban that indicates presumed descent from the Holy Prophet. Nasrallah spoke glow­ ingly of the dead: “Dear, chaste holy mar­ tyrs!” Then he denied it all. The reports were cooked up by enemies, he said.A number of Hezbollah fighters had been killed, but they were actually Lebanese along the Syrian border, who had come        under unprovoked attacks from the reb­ els. “This has nothing to do with fighting alongside the government;’ he said.”TT:Us is truly what took place.” The explanation seemed tortured, even ridiculous, but Nasrallah went on, his eyes narrmving and his mouth tight­ ening

– There are many absurd things and inferences here that Filkins has no background upon which to make a claim. Suffice it to say he read David Schenkers WINEP piece which was generally laughed at in DC by folks I respect and officials who I respect, that Nasrallah had become fat and ugly and etc etc etc…

– the alone part is hilarious color…. yes he is soooooo alone…. why then is his party leading the government, a part of the majority and won more than 50% of the popular vote with his allies in 2009 elections? Maybe he deserves to be alone – this is a different issue – but this is silly color to add.

– It seems ridiculous to Filkins because he has little CV in Lebanon….the attempts  to make nasrallah into a jokey-evil – meglomaniac only serve to undermine serious discussion and policies about how to reduce hizbullah’s ability and desire to exercise violence. The cartoon drawing which filkins offers is counterproductive and plain wrong. PLUS his reading of that speech is wrong – Nas ADMITTED IN THAT VERY SPEECH THAT HIZBULLAH FIGHTERS WERE INDEED FIGHTING IN THOSE VILLAGES, though not under orders. The distinction may not matter bit Filkins claim about Nas’s speech is not accurate.

– One wonders if Filkins even bothered to read that or the other speeches?

23) Now my favorite part: “Sidon, a crowd of three thousand Sunnis gathered at the Bilal bin Rabah mosque. They had come to hear Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir, one of the country’s best-known Sunni preachers. Sidon is a Sunni-major­ itycity in a region dominated by Hezbol­ lah.In recent months, as the Syrian civil war has taken on a sectarian character, Sunni-Shiite tensionshave risen in Sidon, and Assir’s sermons have become  in­ flamed.He is a striking figure: tall and thin,with an enormous wiry beard, which he sometimes sets off with black wrap­ around sunglasses.

– The Assir part is amusing because it seems to lend this VERY VERY VERY RECENT media star some gravitas… but really I want to quibble on but one point: for those of us who have met Assir, HE IS ANYTHIGN BUT A STRIKING FIGURE…. I mean Filkins does not need this color for his prose that even lovers of assir will readily admit is not accurate!

24) “And, in September, Nasrallah agreed for the first time to allow the Lebanese Army to enter southern Beirut to restore order.

– simply not true – the ISF was “invited in” as per a far earlier speech! Fact checking guys!

25) “Perhaps, I suggested, Hezbollah’s moment had passed. Dani’s eyes stayed fixed on Israel. “Next time, we’re going across,” he said”.

– This ending by “dany” lends support to the speculation above that dany may have been a plant for western journos to encourage public opinion in arming syrian rebels to go after a CLEARLY DANGEROUS, imminent threat i.e. hizbullah – Dany concludes powerfully – that essentially hizbullah is about to go into israel – they are just waiting for it.

In this sense, case closed.

I am exhausted by these items above – please send me more!

Either way – an incredibly shoddy piece for the New Yorker and how not to cover lebanon primer for journos jumpin in in the future.

*************

BINT JBEIL EXCEPTS of nasrallah’s may 2000 speech from my book “Voice of Hezbollah” (Verso: 2007)

*************

The victory is, first, the liberation of a large part of our territory, a large number of our detainees in occupation jails, and the defeat of the enemy, thanks to jihad, resistance, steadfastness and sacrifice. Today we enjoy freedom and security, and enemy warplanes dare not fly above your heads. I tell you, those who are afraid of dummy armaments, a toy, and a phony Katyusha platform in Kafr Kila,9 are so cowardly that they do not dare come to you on a day like today. We are standing here on our own land thanks to our martyrs’ blood, and to the people who needed no one’s help, neither the United Nations’ [help], which for twenty-two years failed to implement its own Resolution 425, the Security Council, the impure government [the United States of America], or [the help of] negotiations. Neither is it thanks to Barak’s government, which withdrew from this land because it had no other choice but to do so. These are the sacrifices which, for the first time, have totally liberated an Arab land through resistance and the force of arms.

The enemy thought that towns in this area would be destroyed like the town of Hanine,14 that blood would be spilled, and massacres would take place. But you proved, as did the resist- ance in perfect harmony with the Lebanese state, that the people, state, resistance and sects of Lebanon are deserving of the victory they are celebrating today. After Israel’s departure, this region entered into a season of light, and emerged from an era of darkness that has lasted for twenty-two years—an era during which the citizens were oppressed and imprisoned by Lahd’s militia, whose relatives and families still live among us here. Despite all the destruction of houses and oppression, was a single one of them killed? I said a few days ago that when the Nazi army collapsed in France, the civilized French resistance executed 10,000 French agents without trial. The resistance in Lebanon, and Lebanon itself, is more civilized than France and the whole world. Was anyone killed here? Was anyone beaten? Was one drop of blood spilled on this entire land? This is the ideal image that stunned the world; this is our second victory.

No one among you, neither Christian nor Muslim, should be fearful. I will not enumerate the villages and towns, but simply say: this is everybody’s respon- sibility; each one among you should be responsible. This region needs forti- fying after all the darkness it has lived through, and this responsibility should be shouldered by its Christian and Muslim religious leaders, and by its political forces, institutions, personalities, intellectuals and families; they should heal the wounds of every town and every family in this region….

Seventh: Barak is today calling on Lebanon to consider the withdrawal a message of peace. This is treachery. He left having no other option—and now he wants us to consider the withdrawal as a token of peace, after having killed thousands of our civilians and no less than 1,276 martyrs from Hezbollah? If we add to them the thousands of martyrs from among our brethren in the Lebanese Islamic and national forces, what would be the final reckoning? In the wake of the death of tens of thousands of civilians in Lebanon, and the destruction of our country and economy; and while Barak still holds our prisoners in his jails, occupies territory dear to us— namely the Shebaa Farms17—welcomes the millionth Russian Jew and announces his readiness to welcome 1 million more immigrants in the next few years, he refuses to allow the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to return their homeland and houses. What message of peace is this that Barak talks about before threatening Lebanon with untold miseries?

You can regain your land, you oppressed, helpless and besieged people of Palestine; you can force the invading Zionists to return whence they came, let the Falasha go back to Ethiopia and let the Russian Jews go back to Russia….

Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 22, 2013 at 2:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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