Middle East Series Goes On

Cal State Stanislaus professor speaks on current condition of Lebanese politics

One time I was on 'Nightline' and they said they would give me a long time: four minutes. Then I was on Al Jazeera where they told me that time would go by fast. They gave me 90 minutes.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Dennis Zhou, Daily Bruin contributor

As'ad AbuKhalil, a professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus, spoke on campus Tuesday about the current state of Lebanese politics as part of a series dealing with the current situations in the Middle East.

The series, titled "The New Middle East: Five Years After 9/11," was presented by the Center for Near Eastern Studies to help explore and explain recent events in the Middle East, particularly to students.

"I think it's informing them of serious problems facing the country," said Leonard Binder, the center's director and a UCLA political science professor.

This summer fighting erupted between Israel and Hezbollah, an Islamic organization based out of Lebanon, after the group entered into Israel and captured two soldiers.

The program invited AbuKhalil as part of an aim to present specialized knowledge of a variety of sources from the Middle East.

"We try to get a variety of points of view from different institutions and different disciplines as well," Binder said.

In his presentation, titled "The New Old Lebanon," AbuKhalil spoke not only of the turbulent history of Lebanese policies but also its relevance to the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel.

He maintained that Lebanon is on the brink of civil war between the current government and Hezbollah. This conflict, he added, is primarily between Shiite and Sunni Muslims despite the presence of other factions composed of groups such as Christians.

Born in the city of Tyre in South Lebanon, AbuKhalil said he has had a personal interest in studying the country extensively, even interviewing Hezbollah leaders during the 1980s.

AbuKhalil is known for his commentary on the Middle East, having served as a consultant for Western outlets such as NBC News and frequenting Arab outlets such as Al Jazeera.

He said his experiences have led him to have a distaste for certain aspects of Western media.

"Not all foreign affairs can be reduced to soundbites. This is why I was frustrated. One time I was on 'Nightline' and they said they would give me a long time: four minutes. Then I was on Al Jazeera where they told me that time would go by fast. They gave me 90 minutes. Here you have to make everything into cut or uncut soundbites," AbuKhalil said.

Based on experiences, AbuKhalil said Western media does not always give the full picture when reporting events.

"I believe that the media woefully reports foreign affairs," he said.

But AbuKhalil said war might not erupt in Lebanon despite continual friction between Hezbollah and the current government.

"It has remained on the verge for a while, but that doesn't mean that there will be a civil war," AbuKhalil said.

Amanda Rizkallah, president of the Lebanese Social Club, holds a similar view of Lebanon.

"I think he is partially correct in saying that the Western media doesn't do an adequate job of always portraying the situation in the Middle East and Lebanon accurately. There are details that are sometimes left out and it is difficult to really understand the situation, and the motivations of people aren't explained in Western media. People get a picture of violence without understanding why it's going on," Rizkallah said.

Published: Wednesday, November 29, 2006