Middle East

“Swastika symbols exist for one purpose only—to be defaced”

Christopher Hitchens– who has been mocked by a number of supposed anti-fascists for standing up to fascism– writes about his encounter with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Beirut.

He also contrasts two demonstrations he observed while there: a “glum, dark, regimented” Hezbollah rally and an event marking the fourth anniversary of the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who “resisted Syrian manipulation of Lebanese politics.”

As I made my way through the packed crowd I wondered why it seemed somehow familiar. It came to me that the atmosphere of my hometown of Washington on the day of Obama’s inauguration had been a bit like this: a huge and unwieldy but good-natured celebration of democracy and civil society.

And yet there are self-described leftists who find Hezbollah demonstrations– with their constant refrain of shahid, jihad, and yahud— more to their taste (resistance, anti-imperialism, and all that).

Hitchens concludes:

[W]e have a tendency to use the term “Arab street” as if it meant the same as anti-Western religious frenzy. (I think of the brutes who nearly abducted me, but I also remember those passersby who protested at the thuggery.) What I learned from my three street encounters in Beirut was that there is more than one version of that “street,” and that the street itself is not by any means one-way.