Category: Lebanon



Shimon Peres was no peacemaker. I’ll never forget the sight of pouring blood and burning bodies at Qana

By Robert Fisk, Wednesday 28 September 2016 11:00 BST


When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter.

I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smouldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes.

Shimon Peres, standing for election as Israel’s prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not.

A few days later, Israeli troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery used by Hezbollah; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. Peres announced that “we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise.”

It was a lie. The Israelis had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion, they had video film of the camp, they were even flying a drone over the camp during the 1996 massacre – a fact they denied until a UN soldier gave me his video of the drone, frames from which we published in The Independent. The UN had repeatedly told Israel that the camp was packed with refugees.

This was Peres’s contribution to Lebanese peace. He lost the election and probably never thought much more about Qana. But I never forgot it.

When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire.

On the steps of the barracks, a girl sat holding a man with grey hair, her arm round his shoulder, rocking the corpse back and forth in her arms. His eyes were staring at her. She was keening and weeping and crying, over and over: “My father, my father.” If she is still alive – and there was to be another Qana massacre in the years to come, this time from the Israeli air force – I doubt if the word “peacemaker” will be crossing her lips.

There was a UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave Israeli magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as “just a bunch of Arabs” (‘arabushim’ in Hebrew). “A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,” he was quoted as saying. Peres’s chief of staff was almost equally carefree: “I don’t know any other rules of the game, either for the [Israeli] army or for civilians…”

Peres called his Lebanese invasion “Operation Grapes of Wrath”, which – if it wasn’t inspired by John Steinbeck – must have come from the Book of Deuteronomy. “The sword without and terror within,” it says in Chapter 32, “shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs.” Could there be a better description of those 17 minutes at Qana?

Yes, of course, Peres changed in later years. They claimed that Ariel Sharon – whose soldiers watched the massacre at Sabra and Chatila camps in 1982 by their Lebanese Christian allies – was also a “peacemaker” when he died. At least he didn’t receive the Nobel Prize.

Peres later became an advocate of a “two state solution”, even as the Jewish colonies on Palestinian land – which he once so fervently supported – continued to grow.

Now we must call him a “peacemaker”. And count, if you can, how often the word “peace” is used in the Peres obituaries over the next few days. Then count how many times the word Qana appears. or

Photograph by Kursat Bayhan, of a mother weeping before her baby’s grave, before the funeral for 27 killed in Qana.–israel-war/24beyrut or

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We humans hang on to our symbols

2015-0310-Tara-jpg-BeitMeri-FullerHouse-1Meditation on My Home in Lebanon

By Frances Fuller, 21st February 2016


I made a mistake in my book. Let’s just say that I was wrong. In the epilogue of In Borrowed Houses I said that the little stone house around which my whole story revolves would outlive all of us. My actual words were: “It will be there when everyone who remembers this story is gone.” With so much confidence I said that. After all, its walls were built of stones a foot thick. It had survived a hundred and fifty years, enduring wars, earthquakes, occupation by wild creatures, and evolutions from home to abandonment, from abandonment to stable, from stable to home.

On Ash Wednesday, at a moment in which I felt a little glum anyway, I got the news from a Lebanese friend. The little house had been demolished. “Nothing but memories remain,” she said. It seems that someone with money to invest bought it to destroy it and build a hotel in that choice spot, with that lovely view.

It is surprising how much this hurts, and I am pondering the reason.

We spent a year finding it, studying it, asking for it, doubting, waiting. Then we spent two and half years shoveling manure out of it, replacing the door the wind blew off, dreaming about it, remodeling, cleaning, losing it, struggling to get it back, trying to be patient, insulating it, measuring for curtains, furnishing it and moving in. And then we lived in it for only two and a half years.

It was never ours; this is important to remember. Missionaries do not own anything in the country in which they serve. We were permitted to turn it into a home and live in it. This is an illustration of life on earth, where some of us are permitted to act like we own something.

Our neighbors admired it; our colleagues envied it; our young Lebanese friends invested in it time and love and dreams of what we could do there together. We even did a few of those things.

We were sometimes lonely there. Our first Christmas in the house was also our first in thirty years without any of our children with us. Trying with a heavy heart to decorate the Christmas tree all alone, I heard a knock on the door and there stood a young man, one with special affection for our eldest daughter. I think he was surprised by the unusual warmth of my reception, but he made me so happy by helping me decorate that tree.

8509-0000-sandbagsincaveDiscovering ourselves in the middle of a battlefield, we erected a sandbag barrier just inside the graceful stone arch at the entry of the little room we called “the cave.” I’m not sure there was ever, anywhere else in the world, a wall of sandbags decorated in front with a table that was a work of art, holding a potted plant. We slept on the floor at the junction of this neat stack of sandbags and the stone wall, a privileged spot in a village holding its breath.

In that little house I scrubbed the skin off my fingers, sang hymns and prayed, hosted crazy parties, was very sick and got well again, wrote stories, got scared, and in the end left it with my heart broken. Why did I think it could go on standing there on the hillside when I know that what the Lebanese want now, and deserve, is a bright new prosperous country?

In church on Ash Wednesday, during our pastor’s brief homily, I tried to listen but mostly thought about “my” house. Then standing in the aisle behind a line of people, waiting my turn to admit that I am a sinner and get ashes on my head, I thought that perhaps I am too attached to the world. I want to stay in places I love. I want them to stay in my life. Why, I wondered, do I care so much that the little house has been destroyed? Didn’t I leave it and let it go? Don’t I have now a bigger, better house? Why should it matter, when I know already I will never go inside of that little house again? Twice I have been to Lebanon in the past twenty years. Twice I have seen the house from the outside. I admit needing to tell myself on those occasions that it was only a house, because of the ache in my breast.

I am reminded of words from Khalil Gibran, Lebanon’s most famous poet, who also departed the country in pain, under difficult circumstances. He wrote that one cannot easily leave a place where he has suffered. I find that to be mysteriously true.

But my daughter Jan also sees a reason for my pain. She says, “It was a symbol of everything we loved about that place.” That could be it. We humans hang on to our symbols, sometimes after the real thing is gone.

As my pastor painted that cross of oil and ashes in the middle of my forehead, I was thinking that a symbol is only that and not the thing it stands for. The house is gone, but like the little black cross on my head, it is only a symbol.

The cross is actually a sign that is hated in many places I have been, because it reminds some people of ways our sins have hurt them. On my forehead where it survived only a few hours, it was a doubly appropriate sign of mourning, and I thought that night that it was also a brand. The way an animal might bear the sign of its owner, I was marked briefly with a sign that I belong to Christ who is pure and good and who, before he died, promised to prepare a “house” with space in it for me, so that I can be where he is.

So on Ash Wednesday I lost the little house in Lebanon but remembered that I have another that cannot be bought with anybody’s money or ever touched by a demolition crew.

But right now, as I write this, I realize that something is wrong with this, too, because I still have that little house. Honestly, I do. In that place where I keep the best-loved things in life— friendships, kindnesses, little pleasures, things treasured but never owned—it is strong and safe. A finished task. A search completed. A gift once received.

Wayne salvaged a stable, made it comfortable and beautiful. The villagers were amazed when they saw what he had done. The mule who used to live there tried to come home. Our young friends filled it with love and laughter. We cooked hamburgers on the roof and lingered to watch the stars appear. We decorated an artificial Christmas tree and a real wall of sandbags. Snow fell and shrapnel, but we were safe. We stood by a hurting country and did our work. And when I wrote my story, the house was central to the plot and symbolic of things loved and learned, so I put its picture on the cover of the book. I made it famous!

The truth is that whoever demolished that little house made it ours at last. Abandoned, damaged, rejected, revised, borrowed and blessed, sold and resold, devalued and destroyed, it can no longer belong to anyone but those who love it. or

Watercolor painting by Tara Dunn (Said) was a gift to Frances Fuller.

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Once upon a time




The name “Mission: Meeting” is sort of an inside joke for missionaries and MKs (children of missionaries are called “missionary kids” or “mishkids”) who endured endless¹ “mission meetings” (planning and business meetings). It also conveys the idea that this project’s mission is to allow web site visitors to “meet” real people of the Middle East from the points of view of Americans who actually lived and worked among them.

Hopefully, the perspective of unimpeachable (e.g., American + Christian) eyewitnesses will be difficult to reconcile with the hatemongering prevalent in America’s post-911 culture and especially among Christians and Jews preoccupied with end-times silliness and pop-preaching that suggests Israel is always right and Arabs/Muslims are always evil. A little cognitive dissonance might be all that’s needed to erode the foundations of a simplistic “us versus them” world view.

If nothing else, “Mission: Meeting” is to be a historical/academic archive where the thousands (perhaps millions) of photographs and letters and stories by missionaries from the last two centuries can be preserved and catalogued before they are lost forever. It is NOT intended to be a religious/evangelism effort, nor is it to have an overt political agenda.

The project may later expand to include the recollections and photographs of missionaries from outside the USA as well as non-missionaries (ARAMCO, diplomats, spies, etc.), but this is a first step towards unraveling the fascist fiction that God favors the evil Westerners do in the Middle East…

Jacques d’Nalgar

¹Seen on an MK’s t-shirt: “Lord, if I have just one more day to live, let it be at a mission meeting because it seems like they last forever!²”


Origins in the Post-911 Era

Labor Day, September 2, 2002


Dad, Dr. Barnes, Randal, and Steve,

Following is a draft outline for a proposal to create a non-profit organization to record and aggregate and communicate the recollections American missionaries to the Middle East have (or had) of their life among Arabs.


I have been CONCERNED for many years that there is, in America, widespread ignorance about the Arab world and uncritical acceptance of any injustice towards Arabs, particularly Arabs living within Israel’s 1967 borders and in the occupied territories (Golan, Gaza, and the West Bank).

I have also been DISMAYED that much of that acceptance, especially since 9-11, seems to be based on efforts, often from American pulpits, to present the modern Jewish state as a loyal friend to Christianity and a reincarnation of the same divine favoritism ancient Israel experienced (off and on) prior to their occupation and eventual destruction and dispersion by the Romans.

I have become ALARMED that America’s love affair with Israel seems to require corollary efforts to portray the Arab world, and especially Palestinians, as a faceless anti-Christian horde, an infidel behemoth from the East arrayed against all that is Western. Americans are being conditioned to believe that violence towards Arabs, however arbitrary, is justified in the name of “fighting terror.” I believe we are being prepared to accept a final solution — ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from territories Israel covets.

Belling the cat:

My father (Dr. Jim d’Nalgar) and I have occasionally discussed the idea of somehow interjecting the collective voices of retired missionaries into our national dialog on American foreign policy. Individual missionaries are actively speaking and writing, but their experiences and opinions are muted by their relative isolation. What galvanized my desire to unite a virtual chorus of concerned missionaries was a recent trip from Oklahoma to Arkansas. We were driving into the small town of Sulphur, Oklahoma (population less than 5,000) just before dawn on August 17 when I noticed a small church with two flagpoles in its front yard. One was flying the American flag — the other was flying Israel’s blue and white Star of David. I realized (hoped, really) that if a small church in a small town in the middle of America was proudly flying Israel’s flag, they surely were not seeing the desperate, daily hopelessness and suffering of millions of Palestinian men, women, and children — fellow human beings who shared the same basic yearnings for freedom and opportunity as all Americans.

On August 27, in St. Louis, I met with Dr. Emmett Barnes and two of their sons, Randal and Steve (Randal and I graduated from ACS in 1974). Mrs. Barnes prepared an excellent meal and over the chicken and rice and hummus and cake and coffee, we discussed the current situation and what we could do to advance the case for the humanity of Palestinians (and Arabs in general) to the American people. We semi-solemnly pledged to do SOMETHING, even though we weren’t sure exactly what it was we were agreeing to. Once we had joined hands and rendered that grunting version of “Huzzah” that is peculiar to American males in sporting situations, we settled down to the serious work of “what next?”

Much of the conversation revolved around who should participate and how. In general, we agreed that our initial effort should be limited to retired evangelical American missionaries who wished to preserve their experiences-with and impressions-of life among their Arab neighbors. We also agreed that the Internet would be the best medium for making their unique perspectives generally available to news outlets and the American public. Finally, we agreed that I would draft an outline of the project’s purpose and scope, subject to review and revision by Drs. d’Nalgar and Barnes, and Randal and Steve Barnes.

Why is this important?

First of all, week after week, ordinary Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories are suffering and dying. If we can do SOMETHING but do not, we are indirectly complicit in their repression. In the 1970s and 1980s, a crescendo of world opinion finally ended apartheid in South Africa. In these first years of the third millennium, can we do any less in the face of state-sponsored bigotry and terrorism against Arabs, especially when it is justified and legitimized in the name of Christianity?

Secondarily, from an academic and historical point of view, the opportunity to capture and preserve a unique American view of the Middle East will soon pass. The ranks of retired missionaries who were eyewitnesses to the events that led to the present situation are already diminished by death. It is important that we act NOW, even if there are unresolved details.

Mission statement:

The stated purpose of this organization should be to archive the anecdotal experiences and recollections of retired American missionaries who lived among and worked with Middle Eastern Arabs. The secondary purpose should be to continuously publish these archives and actively encourage their use in our national dialog as an Arabist resource with a uniquely American perspective. The tertiary purpose (which should perhaps be left unstated) should be to mobilize public opinion against policies and military actions (foreign and domestic) that deny basic human rights in the Middle East. Our own Declaration of Independence says it best: We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men (where does it say “only American Christians and Israeli Jews?”) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Organization name:

R.A.H.A.B. — Any ideas about turning “Rahab” into an acronym? Retired Americans Helping Arab… I like the Old Testament account of Rahab’s family being saved from the destruction of Jericho by hanging a red rope out her window. I see a symbolic parallel in that these archives can become a “red rope” of difficult-to-impeach information, a counterpoint to the raucous trumpeting of misinformation and the shouting propaganda that encircles the “Jericho” of modern-day Palestinians and Arabs. I can even envision an easy-to-recognize logo based on an abstraction of the window and red rope metaphor…

Archival content:

Anecdotal vignettes of real Palestinians and Arabs telling their everyday stories to American missionaries. Their aspirations, their trials and tribulations, their day-to-day experiences shopping, cooking, educating, birthing, burying, marrying, fleeing, surviving, etc. Contributions should NOT be evangelical or political in nature, but illustrative of daily life among Arabs of all faiths.

Biographical content:

Contributors should provide personal biographies which can be linked to stories they submit — places of birth and upbringing, high school and college and seminary education, military experience, years served in the mission field, etc. The intent here is to convey the idea that these archives come from ordinary Americans with extraordinary credibility and experiences.

Content contributors:

Retired “evangelical” (Baptist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, etc.) American missionaries to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (before 1948), Israel (after 1948), Jordan, Gaza, Egypt, and Yemen. We can always expand this later, to active missionaries, Catholics, State Department employees, etc., but this initial group is least likely to be dismissed as politically-biased or having “an axe to grind” — or to be targeted for retribution.

Inappropriate content:

It is not the intent of this project to evangelize or convert anyone to Christianity. This organization will have greater stature and credibility among the press, academia, and others who influence national and foreign policy if it steers clear of expressing a particular religious point of view. Likewise, editorializing about events and policies will diminish the effectiveness and legitimacy of the effort by allowing detractors to dismiss it as biased or agenda-driven. Above all, no content can be allowed that could be construed as anti-Jewish or invite legal action against the organization.

Suggested content categories, by historical period:

Before 1940, 1940 until 1960, 1960 until 1980, since 1980.

Suggested content categories, by geography:

Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (before 1948), Israel (after 1948), Jordan, Gaza, Egypt, and Yemen.

Next steps:

Find out how much interest there is in really doing this (vs. just me talking about it); pro bono legal work to set up non-profit organization or foundation to support/house this effort; organization name and logo development; website domain (URL) research and purchase; branding: logo and website development; funding; contributor recruiting.

Jacques d’Nalgar


Conversation with James d’Nalgar

James d’Nalgar (Dad): Have read your paper a couple of times, and here are some questions and reactions: I first thought that a “plan” to unite our voices would involve circulating among like minds a letter we wanted to send to a congressman or cabinet member or the president and after getting the views of all concerned rework the letter and send it. Send it in the name of the “organization.”

Jacques d’Nalgar (Jd’N): “My” plan is a bit sneakier. I think individual contributors should still be politically active, but I see this foundation/archive filling the role of supporting gravitas. I’d like to see it positioned as an academic/historical project, not a PR arm of any particular ideology.

Dad: What you have in mind is less subjective.

Jd’N: Yes.

Dad: Who would be the target of the organization’s research? How would that church in Sulphur be enlightened by our writings?

Jd’N: I see the web presence as being more or less supporting documentation for the idea that Arabs are not somehow less than human. The church in Sulphur is probably a lost cause until such a time as the underlying quasi-religious superstition that promotes unquestioning support of Israel is discredited. Hopefully, editorials to newspapers in OKC and Dallas and even Sulphur would reference the web site — perhaps a member of the church in Sulphur would be influenced directly or indirectly by reading or hearing a different point of view.

Dad: I take it that at first there would be a web site on which would be posted from time to time the results of our research. How would we direct people to this site? Would we rely on surfers?

Jd’N: Web sites are like specialty stores on dead-end streets — you rarely get curious walk-in customers. There would have to be supporting activities: newsletters, editorials, letter-writing campaigns, etc. that direct traffic to the site. There would need to be, at least for a while, a constant influx of new material to keep interested visitors coming back to read more. I can’t see where the site would have “results” — it would be simply an organized collection of recollections.

Dad: Who would maintain the site? Who would edit the material sent to the organization? There might be a lot of material coming to this editor.

Would he have a committee?

Jd’N: Between me and the two Barnes boys, we’ve got three web developers. Yes, there would have to be some kind of review board to accept/reject material to be published. That’s one of the reasons we need to be very explicit about what the mission of the project is, and what types of contributions would be acceptable and unacceptable.

Dad: This approach would not prohibit any of the members or supporters from firing off a letter to an editor or leader. And there might be a time when the organization should compose a response to an action taken by our or some other government.

Jd’N: I would prefer to see the organization set up as apolitical (academic/historical). I think that as soon as it is seen as political, its ability to sway opinions will be diminished. It’s easier said than done, but we’d need to find a way to reference the organization’s content without the organization endorsing the speaker/writer’s comments.

Dad: The PLO has or had a very effective organization for collecting and distributing information related to Palestinians. One of their offices which was near the dentist we used in Beirut (Dr. Haddad) was blown up by some who, I think, didn’t agree with the work of this fact-finding organization. (History is unkind to bigots.) Maybe we should see what this organization is doing so we won’t be reinventing the wheel. Nor should it be seen as an arm of the PLO’s propaganda apparatus.

Jd’N: Agreed. What would set this project apart from any others, such as the PLO’s, is its uniquely American perspective. If it becomes a vehicle for recording stories that are not exclusively written from the point of view of the missionaries who heard or saw them, then you are right, it’s not much different than a thousand other projects. Hopefully, the stated apolitical mission of the project would insulate it from overt persecution. Hopefully, but sometimes you have to take risks…

Dad: It’s good that you mentioned that we are not out to convert people to our faith. Yet I wonder if our writings might not clash with some church’s views on eschatology.

Jd’N: There was a hispanic kid in class last week from Laredo, Texas. He told me he wasn’t a practicing Catholic, but he pulled out his dying grandmother’s rosary and confessed he never flew without it. That’s illustrative of the type of theology driving the eschatology that in turn leads to flying Israeli flags (and American flags) in front of churches. In my opinion, a clash over eschatology is way overdue — the prevalent view weakens churches, promotes a nationalism that is anti-Christian, and causes Christian indifference and even rejoicing over the repression of people of other faiths.

Dad: How do you propose to “screen” the list of possible contributors? What is the approximate budget for such a project? Would the material be copyrighted?

I feel, Jacques, that there should be room for a “subjective” response to any action, legislative or otherwise, that we feel violates the rights the organization purports to defend. Maybe such response should be left to individuals but such response from a larger group might be more effective.

I’ve thought a little about the acronym for the organization. RAHAB is well known by people of the Bible Belt. Any non-Christians might, if they investigate her, ridicule us for using a harlot as our hero. The writer of Hebrews seemed not to care what her past or trade was. I tried my hand at a “name”. A short one could be American Advocates for the Arab World (AAAW) or AOA (Advocates of Arabs). AA is already used by other advocates.

When you discussed this project with the Barnes, did they suggest any names for a founding committee? Frances Fuller and Nancie Wingo are also concerned about Arab rights.

Jd’N: I reluctantly agree that you’re right that the organization will have to take and defend a position statement re. human rights in the Middle East — I just don’t want it to come across as negatively anti-Israel so much as positively pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian. There are plenty of Arab regimes that deserve as much criticism as Israel; maybe I’m being naive, but I’d like to think that if Americans can come to see the common humanity of a suffering and repressed people, criticsm of governing or occupying states will naturally follow, even if left unstated.

As far as the RAHAB acronym, that was just an idea. I had kinda figured there would need to be a short introductory essay explaining the symbolism to folks who don’t know the story. That Rahab was a harlot is part of what I like about the story — there are multiple layers of rescue and redemption and ultimately triumph. I seem to recall that Gentile Rahab was part of Ruth’s geneology, who in turn was part of David’s, and in turn, Christ’s. (A brief calvinistic commentary: there was a TV show many years ago where the cigar-chomping hero was always saying, “I love it when a plan comes together!”) Because this effort will be documenting the viewpoints of Americans who also happen to be Christians, the so-called “Bible Belt” (which, in my opinion, is a big part of the problem) is going to be a natural target audience — if we can only change hearts and minds there, we will have accomplished much.

There would have to be some kind of review board that would accept/reject submissions — perhaps it could convene electronically in that as soon as a majority agreed upon the action to take regarding a particular item, it would automatically be returned to the author as rejected (or for rework, with comments), or it would be immediately posted on the web site. I built a somewhat similar application for submitting work requests from anywhere in the hospital to my department…

Funding the project is going to be an interesting conversation. One of the reasons it needs to be a non-profit organization is so “it” can seek donations. The cost of the web site, once the mechanics of submitting and reviewing content are worked out, won’t be much (I may even pay for it myself if there is sufficient interest) — less than $500 a year. The greater cost will come from promoting the ideas of the organization — advertising the site’s existence, mailing newsletters, contacting news outlets, paying speakers’ travel costs, etc.

I knew there were other retired missionaries with an interest in doing SOMETHING, but the Barnes and I wanted to limit the initial discussion until we had a solid plan worked out. Maybe someday this idea can grow into another “Amnesty International” but it doesn’t have to start out that big.

It sounds like the very first item of business may need to be a web-based, members-only discussion group to air the pros and cons of various ideas in such a way that everyone involved can see what’s being discussed. Unless we can physically get together at regular intervals and hash out all the details, this kind of back-and-forth conversation needs to be done in such a way that we don’t have to constantly re-state our individual points of view.

Dad, this whole idea is going to require a lot more commitment and activity on the part of the missionaries who lived and worked with Arabs — not on the project’s organizers (we’ll be fairly transparent). If you feel that there isn’t sufficient interest to warrant all this planning and speculation, tell me and I’ll just drop it. I just want to do SOMETHING that will make a difference…

Dad: You’re right, Jacques. What you’ve outlined will require commitment and cash. But this is not a month-long project. It might extend way beyond my life span. I gather that the Barnes are enthusiastic about the venture. Who else are you thinking of sharing the idea with? David King is pretty busy traveling and writing. Dean Fitzgerald is now in retirement. I’ve had little contact with him. One of his sons is about Steve’s age and is a surgeon in Dallas.

One of my friends began a center for Islamic studies in Richmond, VA. He was a missionary in Bangladesh. At first he had just a short newsletter. Then it got larger. Now he has a building in Richmond and offers classes on Islam! But it took him over l0 years to reach this stage. Oh yes, he still sends out the newsletter, and it’s quite sophisticated.

Jd’N: Something that occurred to me over the last two days is that missionaries have thousands of slides — a tangential function of this project could be an effort to preserve those images digitally — a perpetual mission-meeting slide show. We hated those as kids, but we’d love to see them now and pass them along to another generation. Again, this emphasizes the anthropological/preservation/historical aspect to the project. What I mean by that is that pictures of village women making mountain bread would be preferred over a picture of Camille Chamoun at a country club.

You’re right that this cannot be a flippant overnight effort — it will take careful planning and oversight. That’s one reason I’d rather see the board in the hands of MKs instead of the missionaries themselves — I’d like to see this project survive beyond the generation of missionaries who served in the last century. The primary role of the missionaries themselves would be to document what they saw and felt.

As far as WHO would participate — I never saw it as being restricted to SBC missionaries only. The thrust of the project should be “The American Christian experience in the Middle East” — the Weirs were mentioned at my St. Louis meeting with the Barnes, and I can see other evangelical organizations like YFC getting involved, as long as they understand what the project is trying to accomplish.

You brought up the question of copyrighting in an earlier message. That’s the type of thing we need legal advice for. I can’t see a need for it unless it serves to point the curious back to the organization. I certainly don’t foresee any financial reimbursement to authors as part of the setup…

Dad: Jacques, I don’t have any objections to MKs leading in the formation and function of the organization. And I welcome all contributors, regardless of race or denomination.

Your idea of archiving slides and other materials sounds good. Just one word of caution: don’t over extend yourselves.


Emmett Barnes

September 25, 2002


But now I have examined your proposal and have some thoughts. I have not yet adapted to email with the possibility of many partial responses to something. I still think in terms of writing a long and complicated letter.

First I want to tell you that I am so happy that you have the interest and enthusiasm to want to do something which is historical and archival in nature. I have been telling Paul Smith for some time that he needs to write a book about the cultural aspects of the Arabs. He has lived in Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He also lived among the Kurds of Iraq so he knows that too.

I also appreciate your desire to do something which will have political and religious results. We share your feelings at the way that the politicians are following the leading of Israel to the great hurt of the Palestinians. Then the churches with a strange idea of Christianity turn a blind eye to the brutality and ethnic cleansing of that country.

Having said that, perhaps our personal and individual efforts perhaps should be in two areas. One would be to archive what we know for a historical record. Probably the second would be to privately engage in writing opinion essays which would be submitted to newspapers to comment on the political situation.

My reasoning that we should have two different personal efforts is like this: As hot as we get thinking about what is being done we probably distort the historical aspect of our work to the point that we will produce something which is more polemical and dated than historical. Also, the very urgency that we feel would probably not be answered by a historical project which depends on interested people reading and changing their attitudes and the attitudes of the people in their churches.

We do need to “do something” and I am confident that many feel the same as we do. We live in an age of new communication and archival possibilities which can make our task considerably easier than it was for earlier generations. So we need to use what we have. So let’s think now about the historical and archival aspect and leave the present political situation for another letter. We do have to be comforted a bit with our faith in God. That does not mean that we do nothing political, but basically the load of justice is not all on our shoulders. Now about the other area…

Concerning a name, I think that we should have a name which is descriptive spelled out in full. I believe that the acronyms are overrated and confusing. I think that RAHAB, AAAH, OOOH (Ordinary Overseas Observers, Holy) (just joking) or other such names only provide an unnecessary jargon. The name will come. The acronym would be for private usage.

I think that your vision is of an electronic magazine in which would be issued on a regular basis with back issues always available for reference.

Is that right? That is a wonderful idea and I think that it is an obtainable objective. This is how I think that it could work.



  • Small group which could include more than just missionaries or MKs
  • Would make organizational and editorial policy decisions


  • Responsible for pulling everything together
  • Responsible for the finances


  • Would contribute articles three or four times a year
  • Would recommend published articles
  • Would review each publication before release


  • New issue every two months


  • Web site open to all who want to read
  • We could offer automatic announcements of articles to contributors and interested people


  • Private contributions


  • Contributions by the missionaries and MKs as you recommended earlier
  • Contributions would be sent by email if possible for ease in reproduction

Not all contributors would be listed as “contributing editors” because they would not be invited to review all the work. Also we want to gather material from many people.

Probably the organization should be incorporated to protect individuals from lawsuits. Incorporation is not difficult but it requires regular reporting and a yearly fee ($45 in Missouri). Of course this would be a non-profit organization.

This is what I think now. I do have ideas about who could well serve on the board and as contributing editors. We need to bring Steve Fitzgerald and Tim Smith into this discussion soon. I think that the MKs will be more interested in doing this than the parents. I will send them a copy of this.


Conversation with Steven Barnes

October 1, 2002


I agree that MKs may be more ready to do this than many of their parents.

However, who would carry more weight with the average pastor and church–which may or may not be flying the Israeli flag out front? The missionaries would, for a number of reasons. I think we should actively try to persuade retired M.E. missionaries to join the cause and speak up. It is a moral issue, about which they have first hand knowledge, while living among people who have the power to make a difference, but do not understand.

I know that many retired M.E. missionaries feel the same way as we do about this, but may need some courage to speak up–especially after being conditioned/required over many years to be apolitical.

Jd’N: I think you’re right about the missionaries’ voices needing to be heard and carrying more weight/credibility than what we could bring to the table. Think of us MKs as the slide projector operator — we’re in a support role until this present generation fades into history. And then our job becomes making sure that history is not forgotten.


Postscript or a New Beginning?



Several years ago, I dreamed up an idea to counter the misinformation routinely propagated about Arabs in general, and Muslims in particular. Some of you asked about the state of the project last week at the DC reunion [for American Community School alumni], and reiterated how badly it was needed. Others asked my parents about it the week before at a Waco, Texas reunion for retired ME missionaries. Because of the interest, I have purchased a virtual “store front” just in case I can figure out how to get this thing started.

Since then, “Mission: Meeting” hasn’t progressed much beyond becoming a place for posting articles and images related to interfaith and diversity advocacy. The need for truth and light is even greater today than it was immediately after 9-11 (yes, that church in Sulphur is still flying the Israeli flag). Your ideas for next steps are always welcome.


Jacques d’Nalgar


²Full disclosure: That joke about the t-shirt is completely bogus. It was adapted from an old joke about swim meets seeming to last forever…

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Historians and other nincompoops

Whoa there, David Cameron! Haste and rhetoric is no recipe for peace

By Robert Fisk, Sunday 22 November 2015 19:28 BST


Eisenhower famously sent some brusque advice to Anthony Eden in 1956 when he decided that Britain’s deceitful war in Egypt should come to an end. “Whoa, boy!” were his words. And they should be repeated now to the politicians, historians and other nincompoops who regard themselves as the soothsayers of eternal war.

Each morning, I awake to find another Hollywood horror being concocted by our secret policemen or our public relations-inspired leaders. Germany’s top spy warns us of a “Terrorist World War” – I accept his expertise, of course, because Germany has itself proved rather efficient at starting world wars – while a perfectly sane and otherwise brilliant historian compares Europe’s agony to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Paris killings are now supposed to have “changed Paris for ever” or “changed France for ever”. I would accept that the collaboration of General Pétain with Nazi Germany changed France for ever – but the atrocities in Paris this month simply cannot be compared with the German occupation of 1940. That most tiresome of French philosophers, Bernard-Henri Lévy, tells us that Isis are “Fascislamists”.

Oddly, I don’t remember the same Mr Lévy telling us that the avowedly Christian Lebanese killers of up to 1,700 Palestinian civilians in the Beirut Sabra-Shatila refugee camps of 1982 – Israel’s vicious Lebanese militia allies – were “Fascichristians”. This was a “terrorist” act with which I was all too familiar. With two journalist colleagues, I walked among the butchered and raped corpses of the dead. The American-armed and funded Israeli army watched the slaughter – and did nothing. Yet not a single Western politicians announced that this had “changed the Middle East for ever”. And if 1,700 innocents can be murdered in Beirut in 1982 without “world war” being declared, how can President François Hollande announce that France is “at war” after 130 innocents were massacred?

Yet, now the poor and huddled masses of the Middle East, according to my friend Niall Ferguson, are the Goths flooding towards ancient Rome. Ferguson admits he doesn’t know enough about fifth century Roman history to be able to quote Romans on the subject. But the Romans endowed their newly conquered peoples with Roman citizenship; and Niall might at least have bothered to study the third century when the new Roman emperor, Caesar Marcus Julius Philippus Augustus, came from Syria. He was born about 30 miles from Damascus and was called “Philip the Arab”. But let’s not allow even modern history to get in the way of our desire for revenge.

Take Mali and last week’s killings. The French “intervened” there in January 2013, after Islamists took over the north of Mali and prepared to advance on the capital, Bamako. “Field Marshal” Hollande, as he was satirised in the French press, sent in his lads to destroy the “terrorists”, who were imposing their revolting “Islamic” punishments on civilians, without mentioning that the violence was also part of a Tuareg-Malian government civil war. By the end of January, reports spoke of France’s Malian military allies killing civilians in a wave of ethnic reprisals. The French defence minister (then, as now, Jean-Yves Le Drian) admitted that “urban guerrilla warfare” was “very complicated to manage”.

By September, the Islamists were murdering Malians who had co-operated with the French. Since France was already declaring victory against the “terrorists”, few paid attention to the spokesman for the very same Islamists when he announced that “our enemy is France, which works with the army of Mali, of Niger, of Senegal, of Guinea, of Togo, against Muslims … all these countries are our enemies and we are going to treat them like enemies.”

Which makes last week’s massacre in Bamako less incomprehensible. And for those who believe that European soldiers who go clanking around African countries are not going to provoke revenge from those of Malian origin, note how we virtually ignored the background of the Isis killer of the French policewoman and of four French Jews at the Paris supermarket last January. Amedy Coulibaly was born in France to Malian Muslim parents.

And now let’s read this report on Mali from early 2013: that French “warplanes are continuing their attacks on suspected rebel camps, command posts, logistic bases and ‘terrorist vehicles’ in northern Mali. In recent days, officials said, they hit targets in the Timbuktu and Gao regions, including a dozen strikes in a 24-hour period …” Replace Timbuktu and Gao with Raqqa and Idlib and this is the same soup we’re being served up today from Paris (and Moscow) about air assaults on Isis – and into which PR Dave himself now wishes to lead our miniature air force.

Our reaction? All rhetoric, of course, brought about by our ignorance, our refusal to understand the injustices of the Middle East, our idleness in addressing conflict with political plans and objectives. If we could apply the “whoa, boy” advice today, it must be with an entirely new approach to the cult mafia that exists in the Middle East. A world conference on the region, perhaps, along the lines of the 1945 San Francisco conference where statesmen created a United Nations that would (and did) prevent more world wars. And for refugees, an offer like the Nansen refugee passport for the millions of destitute and homeless after the 1914-18 war, accepted by 50 nations.

Instead we blather on about the apocalypse, terrorist world wars and Ancient Rome. To our very own PR Dave, I can only repeat: “whoa, boy!” or

Photograph of Eisenhower, by Richard Avedon: or or

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Zara’u fa akalna, nazra’u fa ya’kulun


Stories My Father Told Me

By Helen Zughaib with Elia Kamal Zughaib, November/December 2015



stories02Charity and Compassion

When Jiddu told my father this story, he prefaced it by saying his father had told it to him and he must never forget it, and that is how he told it to me.

Once there was an amir [prince] who owned a horse so strong and beautiful that it was known all over the land. Other amirs were envious and tried to buy the horse, but the owner always refused. Selling the horse, he said, would be like selling a member of his family.

One day a crook came to one of the envious amirs and offered, for a price, to steal the horse. The bargain was made.

The crook waited by the side of the road where the amir and the wonderful horse passed each day. When the amir approached, the crook began to
cry and wail. The amir stopped to inquire why, and the crook replied he was very sick and needed a doctor, and he was too sick to climb up on the horse. The amir dismounted to help him, and as soon as the crook was seated in the saddle, he took off at a gallop.

The amir called loudly, “Stop and the horse is yours.” The man stopped and returned, knowing that the amir would never go back on his word. “Do not say you stole this horse,” the amir said. “Say that I gave it to you. Do this so that charity and compassion will not disappear from our community.”

stories04Making Raisins and Drying Figs

In the summer, my sister and I loved to visit Jiddu’s and Teta’s house in the mountains. We were free to play in the garden, make new friends and ride on Jiddu’s donkey. But the best days were those that we spent in the kroum [vineyard]. We had to leave the house very early in the morning because Jiddu insisted that the grapes and figs should be picked when the dew was still on them.

To harvest the figs, Jiddu and I would climb the fig tree, fill our basket with ripe figs and then lower it to Teta and my sister. They spread the figs on cloth sheets, flattened them and then covered them with a clean cheesecloth to protect them from dust and insects. After about 10 days in the hot sun, the figs would be dried and ready to be put in storage for the winter.

Making raisins, however, was more complicated. Teta took the bunches of grapes and lay them neatly on white sheets covered with straw. My sister always wanted the rows of grapes to be separated by color in long neat stripes of purple, black and white. Teta humored her, even though once they were dried, they would be all mixed up together. After the grapes were lined up to my sister’s satisfaction, Teta sprayed them: She had dipped bunches of herbs, called tayyoun, that grew wild on the slopes adjacent to the vineyard, into a mixture she had prepared from ashes, water and other ingredients, and she shook the liquid on the grapes.

Every day we would return to the vineyards to check on the drying figs and raisins and to moisten the grapes. When it was time to return home, we always left with dried figs, raisins and new stories to share with our friends in the city.

stories06Planting Olive Trees

Visiting Jiddu and Teta in their mountain village was always a treat. Teta would have special sweets and my favorite food prepared for me. Best of all though was Jiddu taking me with him to the fields. Sometimes it was a brief trip to see how the plants were growing. But sometimes Jiddu would ask me to be “Jiddu’s helper” and assist with the small chores. During one visit, Jiddu told me that we would be planting olive trees. Because we would be staying in the olive fields all day, we had to bring with us a zuwaidy [picnic lunch], water and other provisions.

The next morning, Jiddu and I set out for the fields much earlier than usual, with a donkey carrying our provisions and small olive plants. We worked hard planting the young olive trees in furrows Jiddu had dug earlier. My job was to hold the plant straight while Jiddu would dig a small hole in the ground for each plant. Then I ladled some water from the water drum on each new olive tree.

During our break for lunch, I told Jiddu that next year I would return to help him harvest the olive crop. He smiled and said that would be difficult because olive trees take many, many years before they bear fruit. Disappointed, I asked him why we were bothering to plant olive trees if we would be dead before they would give us any fruit. He looked at me with a serious expression and said, “Zara’u fa akalna, nazra’u fa ya’kulun.” (“They planted so we would eat; we plant so our descendants will eat.”)

stories03abThe Show Box (sanduk al-firji)

Long before cinemas or television entertained Lebanese children, there was the sanduk al-firji. This was a brightly decorated, semicircular box that was strapped to the back of an itinerant entertainer. He would come into the village loudly chanting previews of the stories he had, going from hara to hara [street to street] and ending in the village square.

First he unstrapped the sanduk. It was about 18 inches high and had five or six glassed portholes equidistant from each other. On either end of the box were two small inner poles attached to a scroll with bright glossy pictures telling one or more of the fabled Arab stories such as “Antar and Abla” or “Abu Zayd al-Hilali.”

He placed the box on a stool and set up a circular bench facing it. The village children took turns handing him their kharjiyyi, spending money, and in groups of five or six, they peeked into the box and watched the story through the portholes. The entertainer rolled the screen, chanting about the beauty of the ladies, the courage of the men and the strength of their horses. Usually the lucky viewers would briefly give up their place to siblings or friends who did not have enough kharjiyyi.

When all those who wanted to see the show were accommodated, the entertainer strapped the show box to his back, picked up the stool and bench, and walked to the next village, chanting previews and enticing new viewers.

It was an amazement to me at the time how he synchronized the chanted story with the pictures on the rolling scroll. And the box, the beautiful sanduk, with its colorful pictures and many tiny mirrors, was a source of wonder, even without the stories.

stories07Walk to the Water Fountain (Mishwar’ a al-‘Ayn)

In the old days, the only water supply for the village was the communal water fountain. Young women, the sabaya, walked to the fountain at sunset, balancing large colorful water jugs on their heads. This walk to get water had become, over time, a much anticipated social event known as the mishwar (“walk”).

At the fountain, the sabaya would show off their fine dresses, chat and gossip. The young men of the village, the shabbab, would also go to the fountain at the same time to watch and innocently flirt with the young women. Occasionally a young man or woman would muster enough courage to say a word or two to a special person.

In time, the mishwar remained an accepted custom, as the young people in the village would take walks in the late afternoon, whether they now had running water in their homes or not. The sabaya and shabbab would meet, admire each other and flirt from a safe distance.


stories08Playing Basara in Teta’s Room

In Syria and Lebanon, Basara is one of the simplest and easiest card games. Older members of the family teach the younger ones how to play it. When everything else fails and you want the younger kids to quiet down and stay out of trouble, playing Basara is the answer.

My grandmother, Teta, was no exception. During inclement weather when we could not play outside, a Basara game would be proposed by Teta. Sometimes we would suggest a game knowing full well there would be treats after the game.

Teta would sit on the rug in her room. We completed the circle sitting around her. Usually she dealt the cards, though sometimes, to please us, she would ask one of us to deal instead.

We liked playing Basara with Teta. She overlooked minor cheating and made sure one of us won. To us, she seemed very old. At the time, we did not know of anyone older. Her colorful headscarf, her mendeel, trimmed with beads, was wrapped around her head. Teta wore several skirts, one over the other, with a bright apron on top. We were fascinated with the skirts. Under two or three of them, she had a homemade cloth bag, a dikki, tied around her waist with a ribbon. In this bag, Teta kept some change and keys. One key, the most interesting to us, opened a small wooden cupboard in her room in which she kept cookies and sweets. Another key opened a large enameled wooden box in which she kept her finer things, her valuables and any large-denomination money.

After the game, we would begin to pester Teta by asking her to show us what she had in her cupboard. When an indirect request to view the inside of the cupboard did not succeed, a united plea for sweets would be uttered. That demand, in various forms, ultimately succeeded, and sweets would be produced and passed around. If and when the sweets were not in abundance, small change we called nigl would be distributed.

stories09Evenings in the Kroum

Every summer I spent several weeks at my grandparents’ house, which was in Zahle, a mountain village in Lebanon. The best part of the visit would be a trip Jiddu and I would make to the kroum, or vineyard. There we would spend a week working, talking and just being together. During the day, Jiddu and I worked in the field. He would tell me what to do and explain to me why things were done in a certain way. Jiddu spent the day not just talking to me, but he would talk also to the trees and grapevines as if they were people visiting us. In a way, the kroum had become intertwined with the family, part of the community.

As he worked, he would tell me that this tree was planted when Uncle Jamil was born, or this tree was planted when Aunt Wadi’a was married. Every place and plant in the vineyard was connected to something. Sometimes it related to national events or world events, but mostly the connections were to family events. The fields and the kroum had become a diary of family history that he was passing on to me. Jiddu was also an authority on the wild plants and herbs that grew in and around the kroum. This is good for curing a cold, he would say. This is good for an upset stomach, and this is good to flavor a stew. We would collect many of these herbs and wildflowers and dry them to be used in winter.

Every evening after supper, Jiddu would light the kerosene lamp, brew some herbal tea over the charcoal fire and then begin telling stories about our family. He would tell stories about those who had gone abroad, those who did well and those who did not; the good sheep and the black sheep. And then, if he wasn’t tired, Jiddu would recite poetry or tell stories that usually had a moral or lesson to learn. He never preached to me, but he always made sure I got the message.

More than anything else, Jiddu loved to recite poems, and he loved to hear poetry being recited. Sometimes he would ask me to recite poems I had learned in school. I tried my best, but I could not satisfy his thirst for hearing one poem after another.

Once when I was about 13, he asked me to recite, but I could only remember one poem and part of another. When I stopped reciting, he turned the kerosene lamp off and we went to sleep. The next night he asked me to recite more poetry. I repeated the same poem that I had recited the night before. Jiddu protested that this was the same poetry that I had recited the previous evening. I confessed that it was all I knew. Jiddu looked at me for some time before saying that if after eight years of school, all I could remember was a poem and a half, then I was wasting my time and my parents’ money and that I had better quit school and start working.

After that, Jiddu never asked me to recite anything, though he continued to tell me stories and to teach me about various plants in the vineyard. Poetry, however, never re-entered our life in the kroum.

stories10abcdSubhiyyi at Teta’s House

This ritual was a morning routine that never varied. We grew up with the impression that we, the grandchildren, were not to interfere with the morning’s activities.

Usually, six or seven older women, all widowed, would gather at my grandmother’s house. In the fall, spring and summer, the gathering would take place in the courtyard around the water fountain. In the winter the meetings were held in the living room around the charcoal brazier. Two or three argillas [water pipes] were prepared, and the flavored tobacco mixed and dampened. I loved the smell of the tobacco being prepared because it was usually mixed with carob or grape molasses. The aroma made me hungry for a molasses and tahini sandwich, which we called arouss, the same word for a wedding.

At about 10 o’clock the women would begin to drift in. They did not knock on the door, which was always open anyway. My grandmother would be seated in her usual place, and each woman would sit in her same place. They all dressed the same: black tannouras [long skirts] over several slips, tied around the waist with a sash. On top they wore a black jacket over an embroidered vest, and a light blue or gray mendeel covering their hair. It would be coquettishly tied at an angle, a practice carried over from their younger days.

After they arrived, usually within minutes of each other, my grandmother would begin the coffee ritual. The coffee beans were placed in the mahmassi, a small steel pan with a long handle so that the hand holding it would not be burned. The slowly roasting beans were stirred with a long-handled spoon until my grandmother would determine the color was just right. They were spread on a tray to cool, and then one of the women ground them in the mathani [coffee grinder]. When my grandmother decided enough ground coffee had accumulated in the little wooden drawer in the mathani, she added it to the boiling water in the pot on the brazier and began to stir. When the coffee threatened to boil over, she removed it quickly from the heat, stirred it and returned it to the fire. This process was repeated three times, and the second time, a few teaspoons of sugar were added. Coffee was served in tiny cups, and the conversations began.

What impressed me at the time and until now was that the stories were always the same, told each day by the same woman, and yet the women never seemed to tire of telling or hearing them. They were almost always dated by some important occurrence they all seemed to remember, such as a flood or drought, epidemic or revolution. They recalled their birthdates in the same manner, almost always the time of some calamitous event. My grandmother was born during the tawshi [revolution] of 1865. After any of these events were referred to, there was a chorus of “tinthaker ma tin ‘aad” (“may it be remembered but never repeated”).

stories11The Hallab

As a small boy, living in Bab al-Mussalla in Midan, the old quarter of Damascus, I remember being fascinated by the various peddlers who wandered the narrow streets chanting about their products and services. Sellers of fruits, vegetables and sweets, as well as knife sharpeners, pruners and buyers of old items, all filled the air with their melodic chants. These rhyming chants never actually mentioned the name of the item being offered, but described in detail the color, freshness and taste. Buyers knew by the traditional chants what was being offered for sale, which also would dictate the day’s menu. The streets were crowded with loaded donkeys, pushcarts and peddlers carrying large trays (sddur) piled high with cakes and other tasty things.

Children playing in the street or on their way to school would keep an eye out especially for the sellers of sweets. These were mostly seasonal. Cooked, steaming sweet beets and popcorn were sold in winter. Ice with syrup called sweeq was sold in the summer. Kaak and manaquish were sold year-round, while tamari with molasses were sold only on feast days. Invariably the daily allowance was exchanged for a kaak with za’atar (bread with spices and olive oil), a tamari or a handful of hanblas, a tasty fruit that can be carried in the pocket without being damaged. Usually the sweets were shared or bartered with others, thus expanding the purchasing power of the daily allowance.

I remember the nicest of the peddlers was the Hallab who chanted about his fresh milk. The Hallab had a small flock of eight to ten Damascene goats. The goats were mostly brown, large and gentle. They had two dangling strands from their necks. The small children would stand eye to eye with the goats to pet and hug them on their way to school. The Hallab did not mind, and both the goats and the children loved the attention.

The Hallab carried a pail, a measuring can and a long bamboo stick. When the housewife opened the door and asked for milk, the Hallab would milk one of his goats right there. If she planned to make yoghurt that day, more milk would be required. If the goats began to wander, the Hallab gently guided them back to the herd. After the fresh milk was delivered and the Hallab was paid, he continued on his route, chanting about his beautiful goats.

The other peddlers could not compete with the Hallab, his wonderful goats and the pleasure of petting the gentle and loving animals. I remember that after powdered milk appeared on the grocery shelves, milk never tasted the same again.

stories12When a child is born

In the past, children were born at home with a midwife assisting. This was an occasion when the female members of the family actively participated. They helped the midwife by encouraging the new mother to “bite on a hanky,” to stop her screaming by telling her “sa’adi waladik,” to a certain extent meaning the equivalent of “push.” They also made coffee, tea, zhurat and yansoon drinks for the visitors who flocked in to participate or just to satisfy their curiosity.

As soon as the child was born, the midwife completed her professional duties by informing the father and menfolk of the successful birth and the sex of the child. This was an occasion to pay and tip the midwife. The size of the gratuity depended on the sex of the child and whether the family had desired a boy or girl.

After the midwife was gone, the new mother was dressed in a fancy silk bed jacket, and the baby was wrapped like a papoose in fancy swaddling clothes. The new father entered the room, and depending on his financial circumstances, he put a piece of jewelry on the mother’s pillow and one or more gold coins in the baby’s crib.

From the mother’s bedroom, the zalagheet would begin, which is a kind of chant they did on feast days and other special occasions. It was led by the grandmother, until all the neighbors and family had joined in.

Then for 40 days, the mother stayed in bed pampered and served, changing silk jackets as often as her husband’s wealth permitted. Neighbors, family and friends dropped in to congratulate the parents and to give unsolicited advice and gossip. During this time, the guests were treated to a dish called mughly, which was a mix of spices, powdered rice and sugar.

The mughly is followed by snaniyyi, which is served when the baby gets its first tooth. Snaniyyi is made from boiled wheat, sugar, sweet meats and brightly colored candy. It is piled high on a large tray with maward and mazahar [flowers and rosewater] sprinkled on top. It is beautiful to look at as well as to eat.

To protect against the evil eye and other misfortunes, blue beads, small icons and hijabs are pinned to the clothes and baby’s crib. Blue beads and hands of Fatima protect against the evil eye, while hijabs, amulets and talismans protect the child from illness, microbes and other calamities. The hijab is a sewn small package, triangular in shape, that conceals a talisman or written prayer with spiritual powers to protect the child. When the child grows up, the hijab can be sewn into the inner shirt, to keep the protective powers working. The hijab is never to be opened or disrespected in any way.

stories13Blind Charity

One day my father and I were chatting about everything and nothing in particular when he told me the following day he was going to Dayr Saydnaya, and I could accompany him if I wanted to.

The Dayr was a convent in the outskirts of Damascus, and it was his favorite charity. I accepted gladly, as this was one trip I enjoyed and looked forward to.

He asked me what I thought of charity. I replied that people appreciate good deeds because such acts meet their special needs. He then asked me about blind charity, where the donor does not know the recipient and has no idea what the need may be. He proceeded to tell me a story exemplifying this kind of blind charity, which he described as the most sincere.

Once there was a very rich woman, the wife of a governor of a prosperous port city. Once a week she would take a big basket and seal it with tar to make it waterproof. In the bottom of the basket, she would write a line from a poem, “Do charitable deeds even if they may be out of place, for no act goes unrewarded.” Then she would fill the basket with food, water and clothing and drop it in the sea to be carried away by the waves and the wind.

After some time, she and her family took a long boat trip to visit relatives in another port city. Heavy storms demolished their boat, and many on board drowned. She also would have drowned had she not clung to a plank of wood. In time, she drifted to shore where she collapsed with hunger, thirst and exhaustion.

She woke up in someone’s garden. The lady of the house told her the servants had found her on the beach and thought she was dead, but then realized she was still alive, and so they brought her to the garden. The lady of the house said she could stay with them as a washerwoman, and she gladly accepted.

One day the lady brought a big bamboo basket full of laundry and asked the woman to wash them. When the woman reached the bottom of the basket, she saw the line of poetry that she herself used to write in the bottom of those baskets before dropping them in the sea. She had recognized her own basket. She sat down and began to cry.

When the lady of the house came to check on the laundry, she found the woman sobbing. Asking her why she was crying, the washerwoman explained that the basket was one of hers, and she went on to describe how she would fill them with provisions and drop them into the sea thinking that some shipwrecked people would find the baskets and use the food and water to survive.

The lady of the house was amazed, and she told the woman that once she and her husband were shipwrecked. They had lost everything. Then a big basket drifted by, and they clung to it until they landed on shore nearby. When they revived, they walked to the city, found jobs and, in time, prospered. Out of sentimentality, they kept the basket and used it, thinking someday they would learn more about it and the line of poetry written on the bottom in praise of blind charity.

The lady took the washerwoman into her own quarters and, when her husband returned home, told him about the day’s events. He suggested the woman live with them as a member of the family. They also decided to continue to fill the baskets with provisions and drop them into the sea, in hope that someday a needy person would find them and survive.

stories14Saying Goodbye

After a very long wait, permission to travel to America had been granted. Reservations on a ship from Beirut to New York City were made, and a departure date became certain. The goodbyes began in the village. Relatives, friends and neighbors came to drink coffee and exchange stories about others who had emigrated.

Finally, two days before the actual departure, the entire family traveled to Beirut to stay in a hotel and say their final goodbyes. My mother could not believe that she was finally emigrating with her family to America. She got all the passports, tickets and whatever jewelry and money she had in a special handbag, which she held onto even in her sleep.

She also had to be certain that the suitcases packed with gifts for her relatives in America were safe. A large Oriental rug, purchased in Damascus as a gift for her sister, had been wrapped separately and was always kept in her sight. Hotel employees, relatives and I were all fully occupied on guard duty for two days.

On the morning of the departure, it was determined that the ship was too big to come to the pier. The passengers, suitcases, last-minute gifts and the carpet all had to be put in a large rowboat manned by four sailors. My mother insisted that she sit on top of the rug no matter what that did to the stability of the boat. When they were safely on board the big ship, she demanded that the sailors put all the suitcases and carpet in her cabin. They argued that everything not needed on the voyage must be put in the hold. It finally took an officer of the ship to intervene and guarantee that nothing would be stolen.

Today, that carpet rests in a place of prominence in my daughter Karen’s home.

stories15Coming to America

It was the end of the long sea voyage. During dinner the night before we arrived, we learned that the ship, the Vulcania, would be passing by the Statue of Liberty at about four a.m. the next morning. A spontaneous decision was made by some of the younger passengers to see the Statue of Liberty.

And so, 16 days after leaving the port of Beirut for New York City, an exuberant group of us, from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, stayed up all night to greet with the dawn the Statue of Liberty.

I remember it was a clear morning.


stories - HelenArtist Helen Zughaib ( was born in Beirut. She received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Her most recent solo exhibitions were at the Arab American National Museum, which hosted the full original series “Stories My Father Told Me,” and at University of Maryland University College and the Mamia Bretesche Gallery in Paris, which showed “Conflict Within.” She lives and paints in Washington, D.C.


stories - EliaElia Kamal Zughaib studied at Syracuse University, and in 1959 he joined the US Foreign Service to work in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait and France until his retirement in 1978. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Art by Helen Zughaib.

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Correct reading, it used to work wonders


gerusalKamal Salibi: Scholar and teacher regarded as one of the foremost historians of the Middle East

By Robert Fisk, Wednesday 07 September 2011


Almost two decades ago, recording a BBC radio programme on Islam, I dropped by the American University of Beirut to interview an old Christian Protestant friend, Kamal Salibi. I asked him the same question I had already put to many Muslims: what happens after death? They, of course, assured me of their belief in an afterlife. Salibi, the great breaker of historical myth, did not share this conviction. “After life is nothing,” he said, eyes cast slightly upwards, his voice almost shaking with indignation. “It is the end. We are dust.”

I sincerely hope not. For Salibi, who died last Thursday after a stroke, was perhaps the finest historian of the modern – and the old – Middle East, fluent in ancient Hebrew as well as his native Arabic, his English flawless, a man whose work must surely shine into the future as it has illuminated the past. In one sense, his desire to deconstruct history, his almost Eliot-like precision in dissecting the false story of the Maronites of Lebanon, his highly mischievous – and linguistically brilliant – suggestion that the tales of the Old Testament took place in what is now Saudi Arabia, rather than Palestine, made him a revolutionary.

In one sense, his wish to live in a world unstifled by the texts of dictators made him one of the founders of the new “Arab awakening”, 30 years before his time and scarcely 40 years after George Antonius first used the phrase as the title of his great work on the British betrayal of the Arab revolt. History, Salibi believed, should not only draw on original sources but should have a beginning and a middle. He was a “chronology” historian – such creatures are now back in fashion, thank God – who was also the first Lebanese writer to confront the country’s civil war. His Crossroads to Civil War, Lebanon 1958-1976 was published less than 12 months after the 15-year conflict began.

Kamal Salibi never showed his age – he was born in 1929 in the Christian hill-town of Bhamdoun – perhaps because he so enjoyed the company of younger people, both his students at the American University and his later companions in the Jordanian Prince Hassan’s Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman. He was a gentle, simple man whose respect for the views of others was balanced by his scorn for the world’s hypocrisy. He often blamed the arrogance of Christians for their own fate in the region. How he would have loathed Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s recent half-support for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Paris, an echo of the widespread Christian suspicion that only strong dictators can protect Christian minorities from Islamist extremism. Salibi, like his contemporary, the late historian Yusuf Ibish, admired the Ottoman Empire and was contemptuous of the West’s destruction of the Caliphate.

“You often forget that one of the reasons you fought the First World War was to destroy the Ottoman Empire – but the Ottomans, in their last years, they wanted to be like the West,” he told me one afternoon in his English department tutorial room, always the teacher, always mixing emotion with the kind of detail that obsessed him. “The Sultans and his closest advisers learned to paint. They learned to play the piano. The Ottomans wanted to be like you. So you destroyed them.”

He was a brave man. When thesectarian civil war began to target the Christians still living in West Beirut, he chose to stay on in his beautifulOttoman home in the Hamra district, scarcely a hundred metres from the 1920s villa in which Ibish lived. When the Lebanese army broke apart and Christian units bombarded thedistrict, Salibi fled to a neighbour as shells destroyed his home. Ibish stayed downstairs in his own house, reading Hamlet as the upper floors burned. But when a local paper drew attention to the meaning of Salibi’s name – in Arabic it means “crusaders” – he set off for Jordan to help establish Hassan’s foundation.

He quickly became a confidante and adviser and was able to give me the prince’s account of the final break with King Hussein when the latter decided that his brother Hassan should no longer be heir apparent. The prince had laid his pistol on the king’s desk and invited his brother to shoot him if he believed he was plotting his overthrow or preparing for his demise. The king – who was to die of cancer a few weeks later after making his son Abdullah Crown Prince – handed Hassan an official letter renouncing his role as the next king; Hassan heard the contents read on the news over his car radio before having the chance to open the envelope.

Several years later, after Hassan had unwisely mapped out the future of Jordan in the Middle East at a conference in London, King Abdullah was understandably enraged. Hassan sought Salibi’s advice. “I told him to go and see the king at once,” Salibi recalled for me. “And I told him to tell the king that he was very, very sorry.” Good advice from a wise man who never tried to enrage anyone. Indeed, he was the only visitor to come to my home and be warmly greeted by the family cat – a “scaredy-puss” if ever there was one, always fleeing from visitors – who would leap upon Salibi like a long-lost friend.

But Salibi made enemies aplenty when he published The Bible Came from Arabia, a long and detailed linguistic exegesis in which he claimed to have discovered – through long research into place names – that the lands of the Bible and of historical Israel were not in Palestine at all, but in Arabia; in fact, in that part of the peninsula which is now Saudi Arabia. Salibi was intensely proud of his achievement, refusing to be cowed by the storm of often abusive criticism which he provoked. Israel’s self-appointed defenders in the West condemned Salibi for trying to delegitimise the Israeli state – it is surprising how long the fear of “delegitimisation” prevailed in Israel, as it still does today – while more prosaic writers treated the author with good-humoured contempt. A reviewer in the Jewish Chronicle referred to Professor Salibi as “Professor Sillybilly”, a wonderful crack that I forbore to repeat to Salibi himself.

The Saudis, true to their fears that the Israelis might decide to take Salibi seriously and colonise the mountains of Sarawat (which Salibi believed was the real “Jordan valley” of the Bible), sent hundreds of bulldozers to dozens of Saudi villages which contained buildings or structures from Biblical antiquity. All these ancient abodes were crushed to rubble, Taliban-style, in order to safeguard the land of Muslim Arabia and the house of Saud. At the time of the Prophet there had indeed been Jewish communities in Arabia. Salibi – wisely or not – never abandoned his Arabian convictions. The last time I saw him, he was offering me a new edition of his Bible, with a laudatory new preface by an American academic, in return for a hitherto undiscovered Dumas novel about the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, caught the nature of Salibi’s work accurately when he wrote this week that Salibi sought through scientific-historical research “to overcome inherited beliefs which had taken on a sacred character”. He was talking about the book which will still be read in a hundred years, A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered in which he emphasised the place of Christian Maronites in the Middle East, insisting that they did not come to Lebanon as a persecuted minority – one of the stories which Lebanese often repeat to account for the cluster of Maronite towns in the high mountains around Bcharre. The predicament of the Christians of Lebanon had always fascinated him – his PhD at SOAS, under the supervision of Bernard Lewis, was entitled “Maronite Historians and Lebanon’s Medieval History” – and was also the subject of his greatest despair.

“I like to give my students,” he told a reporter four years ago, “a passage from an historical document and ask them: ‘What does it say?’ Also, ‘What does it not say?’…Correct reading, it used to work wonders.” It still does. Which is why, for Salibi, the end can not be dust.

Kamal Sulieman Salibi, historian and teacher: born Bhamdoun, Lebanon 2 May 1929; died Beirut 1 September 2011. or

Photograph of the basilica mosaic in Madaba, Jordan, one of the oldest depictions of Jerusalem.

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Apoplexy of fear and hatred

Brigitte Gabriel
Brigitte Gabriel is a vicious and probably deranged Islamophobe

By Hussein Ibish, October 1, 2009


A lot of readers seemed to benefit from and enjoy my evaluation of Irshad Manji from yesterday’s Ibishblog posting, and I have been asked to give my views on another charmer, called Brigitte Gabriel. I argued that Manji is not an Islamophobe as has sometimes been alleged, but that she is an anti-Arab racist and an ignoramus to boot. About Gabriel, there can be no doubt. She is one of the most vicious, venemous and possibly deranged Islamophobes and bigots presently active in the United States.

As one reader pointed out, Manji is taken more seriously than Gabriel, who is widely regarded as a kook and fanatic. But she certainly has her audience on the far right, especially among bigoted and/or ignorant Christian right and ultra-Zionist circles. And she has produced two well-selling if preposterous books published by St. Martin’s Press, a very (otherwise) respectable publisher, and has been on Fox and other news outlets too often for the comfort of any sane or sober person. Therefore, no doubt my readers who wanted a small review of her activities are right. Here goes.

In 2008, Gabriel was described by the New York Times Magazine as a “radical Islamophobe,” which is probably the gentlest way to put it. She appears to be the scion of a South Lebanon Army (SLA) family, the SLA being the mercenary force set up by Israel in southern Lebanon, run first by Major Saad Haddad who died in 1984 (the same year her biography has Gabriel “moving” to Israel) and then by Antoine Lahad (who now runs a Lebanese restaurant in Tel Aviv). Her book, Because They Hate: a survivor of terror warns America (St. Martin’s Press, 2006) purports to be, among other things, the story of her life. At varying times she has claimed to have lived for either seven or ten years, depending on the source, in a bomb shelter with her entire family.

Her account of the Lebanese civil war is nonsensical and completely incoherent, holding that the war in the 1970s was a “jihad” by a non-existent “Islamic army” against the Christians of Lebanon. On the other hand, her career began with Pat Robertson’s “Middle East Television” which pioneered this fictionalized version of the conflict in Lebanon during the war itself, and this association might help explain her bizarre characterizations of the war. The SLA was the host of “Middle East Television” from 1982 until the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the concomitant collapse of the SLA in May 2000, when the station relocated to Cyprus.

She claims that:
I was raised in the only Christian country in the Middle East, Lebanon. A lot of people think the Middle East has always been made up of Moslem countries. That is not true. There once were two non-Muslim countries in the Middle East. One is a Jewish state called Israel which is under attack for its existence today and the other was a Christian country called Lebanon now under a Moslem majority controlling influence. When Lebanon got its independence from France in the 40’s the majority of the population was Christian. We didn’t have any enemies.

At no time in her life was Lebanon in any meaningful sense a “Christian country,” having not had a Christian (or any other) majority for many decades, let alone having ever been a “non-Muslim country.” In fact, Lebanon was and is a mixed society without any majority population, including large and diverse groups of both Christians and Muslims. The spirit of sectarian chauvinism and mythology that pervades all her thinking about Lebanon and the Lebanese is distressingly familiar and can only be profoundly depressing to anyone who understands the delicate balances between the myriad sectarian and ethnic communities that make up a very small country which has no majority population.

Gabriel quite extraordinarily casts the Lebanese civil war that began in 1975 as a “jihad” launched by Muslims against Christians:
When the Moslems and Palestinians declared Jihad on the Christians in 1975 we didn’t even know what that word meant. We had taken them into our country, allowed them to study side by side with us, in our schools and universities. We gave them jobs, shared with them our way of life. We didn’t realize the depth of their hatred to us as infidels. They looked at us as the enemy not as neighbors, friends, employers and colleagues. A lot of Muslims pored in from other Muslim countries like Iran — the founder and supporter of Hezbollah, one of the leading terrorist organizations in the world today. They came from Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The Lebanese civil war was not between the Lebanese, it was a holy war declared on the Christians by the Muslims of the Middle East.

Again, for anyone with any experience of Lebanon and the Lebanese not only is the complete disregard for reality in favor of the most shameless and self-deluding sectarian chauvinist myths disturbingly familiar, but so is the tendency to blame the largely self-inflicted wounds of the Lebanese civil war (in the worst instances often self-inflicted by sectarian groups themselves through vicious periods of infighting) on foreigners. It is not clear if this is a manipulative sleight-of-hand or if she really doesn’t know the most basic Lebanese history herself, but Gabriel’s contention that the founding of Hezbollah is part of a jihad declared in 1975 does not square with the fact that the organization was founded in 1982 as a direct consequence of Israel’s invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon, not in 1975 and not as a consequence of the conflict between Lebanese groups.

There are many strange interpretations and characterizations of the civil war in Lebanon available from various quarters, but this must be one of the most fanciful and least convincing, not to mention tendentious, of them all. In another striking passage, Gabriel claims that “Syria shelled Israel along with Hezbollah the Iranian financed holy warriors” and that because of the shelling, “by 1982, Israel was fed up with Syria’s repeated attacks on its northern border” and therefore invaded Lebanon. In fact, Syria was not engaged in shelling Israel prior to the 1982 invasion, and Hezbollah did not even exist until after it. Again it is hard to know whether Gabriel is deliberately deceptive or amazingly ignorant.

Her Islamophobic hatred being very extreme, Gabriel frequently resorts to the bestiary and other classic racist tropes to denounce Islam and Muslims:
America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam… If you want to understand the nature of the enemy we face, visualize a tapestry of snakes. They slither and they hiss, and they would eat each other alive, but they will unite in a hideous mass to achieve their common goal of imposing Islam on the world.

Gabriel vehemently denies that there can be such a thing as a moderate Muslim, only a “non-practicing” one:
I call it a practicing Muslim and a non-practicing Muslim. I think it is a better description than “moderate” and “radical.” A practicing Muslim goes to mosque, prays five times a day, doesn’t drink, believes God gave him women to be his property – to beat, to stone to death… He believes Christians and Jews are apes and pigs because they are cursed by Allah. He believes it is his duty to declare war on the infidels because they are Allah’s enemies. That is a practicing Muslim.

She goes on to state that this kind of evil, “practicing” Muslim constitutes 98 percent of all Muslims world-wide. It is hard to know if Gabriel has any sense of how preposterous she sounds, since she appears to be consumed with hatred and completely unable to grasp how her words might appear to a rational person: “The difference between the Arabic world and Israel is a difference in values and character. It’s barbarism versus civilization. It’s democracy versus dictatorship. It’s goodness versus evil.”

Gabriel regularly accuses Muslims of not recognizing the civilian status of non-Muslim civilians. However during the 2006 Israeli war in Lebanon, she dismissed any concern for Lebanese civilians killed in the fighting, declaring, “These ‘civilian casualties’ are terrorists and terrorist families and terrorist sympathizers. Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists!” As with so many bigots, racists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes, projection is a primary symptom of her psycho-pathology.

Her second book, They Must be Stopped: why we must defeat radical Islam and how we can do it (St. Martin’s Press, 2008), is a virtual compendium of all the themes and tropes of contemporary American Islamophobia. Virtually no element is missing, with a special emphasis on the dangers posed by ordinary Muslims living in Western societies.

She even goes so far as to insert, not once but twice, the same absolutely fabricated quote from the Quran, claiming that it commands “all Muslim women” to ensure that they are “screening themselves completely except for one or two eyes to see the way,” and falsely attributing this nonexistent command to Sura 33:59. Her citation for this is two ludicrous sources that transform into Quranic text an interjected and extremely debatable explanation which was clearly marked as an insertion into their translation by Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali.

Her first use of this fabrication is cited to a hate-mongering website called “Prophet of Doom,” while her second reference to it, oddly enough, is cited to a different, and apparently related although hardly more reliable source, a book subtly entitled Prophet of Doom: Islam’s terrorist dogmas in Mohammed’s own words (CricketSong Books, 2004). This use of the same fabricated quote from two different, although possibly related, sources calls to mind the image of Gabriel and her staff haphazardly combing the blogosphere and hate literature for anything, no matter how preposterous, that she can use to incite negative sentiments against Muslims and Islam.

The fact that St. Martin’s Press would not only attach its name to such shameless bigotry, but would permit the bare-faced fabrication of a quotation from the Quran which is cited to two alternative sources, neither of them with the least credibility, speaks very poorly of the publisher and its editors, and of the tactics generally employed in Islamophobic rhetoric

Some newspaper reports suggest that Gabriel is furious that a group of Arab evangelical convert-extremists including “Walid Shoebat,” Zak Anani and others have been undermining her position as the most notable Arab Islamophobe in the United States, reportedly telling her staff, “Not only are these creeps Arabs, but two of them are Palestinians!” According to the same account, “Shoebat” gloated after a particularly extreme right-wing radio talkshow appearance, in which he called for either the conversion or extermination of all the 1.25 billion Muslims in the world, “let the spoiled brat from South Lebanon top that!”

Her extremism has been too much for a number of people who have regretted working with Gabriel. At a 2004 “concert against terrorism” at Duke University Gabriel referred to Arabs as “barbarians” and made many other patently derogatory remarks. The Duke Chronicle reported at the time that, “Junior David Gastwirth, who organized the event, apologized on behalf of the Freeman Center for Gabriel’s comment. ‘She went against what she was going to speak about. We by no means agree with what she said,’ Gastwirth said.”

In addition, in a letter to the Chronicle, the Duke students who led the groups which organized the concert — Gayle Argon, and Mollie Lurey, co-coordinators for Students Against Terror, and Rachael Solomon, Student president for the Freeman Center for Jewish Life — wrote, “Had we known Brigitte Gabriel’s speech would have been as inflammatory and offensive as it was, we would have unhesitatingly removed her from the speaker list. Despite her detestable aberration, the message of the concert and rally still came through, and The Chronicle failed to portray that adequately.”

All of this leads one inevitably to conclude that Gabriel is a nut whose hateful views are so extreme that many people who are initially attracted to her end up running as quickly as possible in the other direction sooner rather than later. She certainly has never had, and undoubtedly will never get, the kind of respectability or audience of Irshad Manji or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But, preaching to the choir of the fearful, hateful paranoiacs of the Islamophobic right, Gabriel certainly does harm, in the same way that the birthers, truthers, death panelists and teabaggers have been since the inauguration of President Obama. We are living in an era in which the extreme right, including and especially the racist right, feels completely sidelined by the results of the last election and is in a full blown hysteria (you lie, YOU LIE!).

This is a time in which the quivering, terrified, weepy panic of Glen Beck, who gives every impression of constantly being on the verge of a nervous breakdown, speaks to and for the sentiment of a large segment of the right. It is to this same sentiment, and this same apoplexy of fear and hatred, which Gabriel speaks. She may be marginal, but after our summer of town hall discontent, one can’t seriously think this kind of hysteria isn’t dangerous. or

Photograph (modified) of Brigitte Gabriel at a U.S. Capitol press conference on the 2nd anniversary of Benghazi, September 10, 2014.

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