Friday, November 24, 2006

Pierre Gemayel

Bikfaya revisited...

Yesterday, at mid-morning, I’m informed that the cocktail of the National Day of Lebanon, due to take place that same day, was cancelled. I was expecting that, in fact. Beirut was in serious political turmoil with the assassination of Pierre Gemayel. And in mourning too.

When I heard about the funeral in Bifkaya, the stronghold of the Gemayels, I remember to have read a reference to that village in Edward Said’s memoir (“Out of Place”). All was still very fresh in my head, since it was just last week I’ve finished reading it. There, I found it:

“In the early days, there was often a decrease in the number of cars as we climbed the dramatically hair-pinned road to Bifkaya, the large town just below Dhour that I knew for its famous peaches and a fantastic red-and-tinsel-colored toy shop, “Kaiser Amer”. It was only later, in the 1970s, that I knew it as the family seat of the Gemayel family. Pierre Gemayel., impressed with the German black-shirts he saw at 1936 Olympics, was the founder of the extreme-right Maronite party, the Phalanges Libanaises, and was father of two Lebanese presidents - Bashir, whose assassination in September 1982 unleashed the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp perpetuated by his pro-Israel henchmen, and Amin, who ran a regime drenched in corruption and incompetence. Bifkaya then acquired a sinister reputation as rabidly anti-Palestinian, and I have avoided it and Dhour for almost two decades”.

Said, a Liberal (in American political lexicon) and a Left-wing scholar (in European labeling) had the right to his own, Palestine-oriented, view-point. His positions ilustrate a point I'm very keen on: Political History is never in Black and White - or "Red" and "White" (Krasnii vs Bielii in Revolutionary Russia; or "Red" and "Black" (in the 20s and 30s in Italy and Spain). Everything is so much more complex than the “Us and Them”.

Let us bear that in mind before we rush to quick conclusions about the whodunit in the case of the more recent political murder in Lebanon...

No comments: