Monday, March 31, 2008

Not so Keenan: from Beirut to Stockholm

The Beeb just broadcast two fascinating documentaries back-to-back.

The first was an excellent 20 minutes of Brian Keenan revisiting Beirut and talking about what had changed and his own emotions about returning to the scene of his kidnapping over 20 years ago.

The second was a 40 minute propaganda film in which Lebanon's woes were blamed on Israel, along with the usual broadside of accusations about massacres, disproportion, torture, occupation and myriad other injustices. This was also hosted by Brian Keenan, but somehow the two films merged into one with no credits rolling in between.

Keenan's initial time in Beirut in the 1980s, and his subsequent kidnapping, had absolutely nothing to do with Israel or Israel's presence in Lebanon, and certainly had nothing to do with events in the summer of 2006. Nonetheless, the war that took place then was the focal point for about half of Keenan's documentary, and he placed absolutely no blame on Hezbollah (in fact, he didn't do more than mutter the word under his breath) for any of the terrible loss of life that took place.

Is this the same Keenan who spent over five years as a captive of Islamic Jihad, an associate of the very same Hizbollah? And wasn't his release brokered with Iran and Syria, the only two parties who had influence to do so, and who continue to wage proxy wars in Lebanon and have helped make it volatile and a terrorist hotbed for thirty years?

This is the same Keenan who said in reference to Israel's highly accurate precision bombing of Hizballah's stronghold in Beirut that:
"The word "holocaust" entered my head as I looked back at the devastation."
This seems to be an example of the famed Stockholm Syndrome. I am struggling to put into words how incredulous I am at such an articulate and intelligent man, who has been through so much, taking the standard emotional line of "I see dead people and destruction, Israel dropped bombs, so it's one-sided and all their fault". This is especially distressing from someone who really lived through the complexities and nuances of Lebanon's fractious history.

Norman Geras over at Normblog has summed up in concise fashion:
"It is sometimes said that one of the fruits of personal suffering is wisdom, and I know that can be true. But Keenan's sentiment shows that it is not a truth without exceptions - that even one who has suffered unjustly can make himself the conduit for the most poisonous of themes, this one repeated now often enough to be acquiring the status of a special version of the blood libel."
It is even worse - but totally to be expected - that the BBC would broadcast this uncritically.

1 comment:

Daniel E. Levenson said...

An interesting post - here in the US we also have issues with fairness when it comes to reporting about Israel.

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We're always looking for new contributors so if you or someone you know might be interested in submitting something we would be happy to hear from you.