World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Contemporary Conflicts in Lebanon (278) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 5-7 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Elvira Sánchez (Researcher, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Paper Presenter: Karolin Sengebusch (Research Fellow, Centre for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Phillips-University), “Discourses and Trust in the 2006 Lebanese War Blogosphere”
Twitter, SMS, blogs and the like have become a factor in violent conflict. The Summer War 2006 in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah is an example of this development. During that war, the number of war blogs exploded. Newspapers and TV stations reported about bloggers and even used blogs as a source of information for their own news. If the Gulf war in 1991 was the first TV war and Kosovo was the first internet war, Lebanon 2006 was, even more than Iraq 2003, the first blogged war. Blogs are fast, occasionally even coming close to real-time reporting. They are for free and open to everyone with an internet connection. Their discussion boards make them interactive. An ideal blog provides detailed, timely information, analysis, discussion, and links to like-minded sites. The paper addresses two questions about the Lebanese war blogosphere of 2006: First, the sceptical part of Web 2.0 literature points to the lack of trustworthy structures in Web 2.0. Blogs can easily be manipulated, users don''t reveal their real-life identities, and information related to a war can always be propaganda. So why is it that anyone reads war blogs, obviously trusting in the information provided? Second, the internet is an open space transcending physical borders. The euphoric literature stresses the capability of Web 2.0 media to constitute a counter-public. They expect war blogs to trigger discussions between users from both sides of a front line. This paper uses methods drawn from discourse theory to examine the question of unrestricted discussions between enemies. Bloggers are independent of state or party structures and blogs constitute an open space in which enemies can, undisturbed by physical borders or state propaganda, discuss their respective points of view. However, a content analysis of blog posts and discussion boards shows that what happens in war blogs is not an open discussion between Israelis and Lebanese, or Hezbollah supporters and opponents. Rather, their respective political discourses are not negotiated or adjusted, but reproduced. The strict reproduction of discourses constitutes a crucial factor to the trustworthiness of war blogs. In order to explain the paradox of trust in information from war blogs, elements of trust models from Niklas Luhmann, modernization theorist Anthony Giddens, and others are combined. Our trust model shows how the unfavourable trust conditions of a war blogosphere are counterbalanced by a number of trust cues. These include, among others, the reproduction of a certain political discourse.

Paper Presenter: Mustapha Lahlali (Senior Lecturer, University of Leeds), “Arab Media: Discourse and Representation of the Hizbollah-Israel conflict in 2006”
This paper shall examine the discursive practices of two Arab channels, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, during their coverage of the last Hizbullah-Israel conflict in 2006. The paper will specially examine how the conflict is represented by both channels. We will examine how different voices involved in the conflict have been represented by the two channels through language. The focus will be on their selectivity of lexis, their sentence structure and their naming and labelling. Our analysis of their news texts and information is contextualised and linked to the channels’ main aims and objectives, as well as their strategies. The textual analysis shall take into consideration different contextual factors which might have contributed to the way the conflict is represented in both channels. In our analysis, we will draw on Fairclough’s 1992 Critical Discourse Analysis framework for the analysis of media discourse. The framework will enable us to contextualise the text into its wider social, cultural, political and ideological context, which govern the production of news texts by both channels. News items and stories covering the conflict are collected and analysed.

Paper Presenter: El Samad (Doctorant, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier III, France), “New logic of territorial decomposition in Beirut: geopolitical approach”
The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, on 14th of February 2005, has come to form a turning point, making of a new political cleavage. Still, many internal and external political views divided the society between both of the movements (The 8 March and The 4 March). Lebanese national identity, foreign policy, friends and enemies, interior sharing power and the perception of the social and economical policy are some examples. The main stake of this political division is the power: who controls the country, according to which vision and for which goal. Those rivalries take place mainly in Beirut’s public spaces, which become areas of interventions and confrontations for the opponents. Many unprecedented manifestations and demonstrations come among growing tensions in Lebanon which is reflected in the worst political crisis since the Ta’if agreement signed in 1989 (which ended the civil war in the country). A political crisis erupted in 2006, when all Shiite cabinet ministers resigned, few months after 2006 war. Indeed, the political division has taken the dimension of Shiite-Sunni conflict; it has opened the way for a dangerous escalation in violence. On the 7th May of 2008, Shiite-Sunni clashes intensify in Beirut in which more than one hundred people were killed. In this sectarian fighting, Lebanese have re-experienced several episodes of its violent past. The control and appropriation of space has been an important dimension of political competition in the country. It appears particularly in two phenomena: the Race for the appropriation of public spaces in the downtown of Beirut, and the increasing of confrontation between the opponents’ will to control territory. Still, territory of West-Beirut (quarter, street) and public squares (Martyrs and Riad Solh) became the space of confrontation and antagonism, a space of exclusion between opposed groups. The meaning of this presentation is to show up the territorial dimension of the Shiite-Sunni’s tension in Beirut. Using a geopolitical approach, we will expose the political and the sectarian contradictions, the new logic of territorial decomposition in Beirut and the territorial strategy of the different players.

Paper presenter: Henrietta Wilkins (PhD student, Durham University), "The impact of state, identity and regional dynamics on Lebanese foreign policy in the 2006 war"
Incorporating wider international relations theory this paper focuses on how dynamics relating to nature of the state, identity and wider regional dynamics have determined foreign policy in Lebanon in the context of the 2006 war with Israel. It focuses on how international relations theory can be used to understand foreign policy making in Lebanon and how identity issues and domestic politics can impact upon the effective functioning of state structures. The thesis is an attempt to reconcile Waltz's neo-realism, which argues that structures determine foreign policy, with identity and the nature of the state. It tests the literature on the foreign policy of Arab states and on Lebanon within this framework. The literature argues that foreign policy in Lebanon is incoherent because Lebanon is a fractured state that is heavily influenced by identity and systemic structures. The literature doesn't tell us which factor is dominant but they are all taken as significant. Under conditions of armed attack, as in the 2006 conflict, we should be able to identify the main factors preventing the formation of a coherent Lebanese foreign policy. Using material gathered from interviews, the media and archival research this paper aims to answer the question and in the process produce a more nuanced and locally specific understanding of Lebanese foreign policy.

Paper presenter: Hala C. Abou-Zaki (Doctorante- EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales), Liban), «Mémoires de guerre dans le camp de réfugiés palestiniens de Chatila »
Plus de quinze années après le conflit libanais (1975-1990), la société a encore du mal à évoquer ces sombres années de guerre, encore problématiques. Jusqu'à ce jour la seule histoire officielle de cette guerre est peut-être bien celle de son existence. Au lendemain du conflit, une amnistie générale est décrétée et les seigneurs de guerre sont reconvertis en hommes politiques. Ces derniers ont tenté de faire table rase du passé, de leur passé, afin d'assurer leur légitimité, et l'Etat, de son côté, en a fait de même, soucieux de préserver l'unité nationale » du pays. Ainsi, les expériences de guerre, tues en public, ont été confinées aux « frontières » des différents groupes dans le pays et se sont transformées, depuis, en mémoires vives qui se transmettent et se reproduisent au sein de l'univers familial et de la communauté. Depuis la fin du conflit, divers pans de la société civile ont tenté d'entreprendre un travail de mémoire sur ces années noires. Il est fort de constater qu'une partie de la population du Liban, largement impliquée dans la guerre, a été très souvent exclue de ce processus. Il s'agit des réfugiés palestiniens exilés en 1948 de la Palestine historique et installés depuis au Liban, et de leurs descendants. Protagonistes de cette guerre, ils en sortent déchus et très affaiblis tant sur le plan humain, économique que politique. Depuis, ils n'ont cessé d’être marginalisés spatialement, institutionnellement et économiquement en plus d'être marginalisés sur les scènes politiques internationale et régionale. Une marginalisation d'autant plus forte qu'ils sont accusés d'avoir déclenché la guerre, eux ces « étrangers », et d'avoir ruiné « notre » pays. Perçus comme un élément externe servant à la cohésion du pays, ils n'ont pas droit à une reconnaissance de leur expérience et de leur souffrance de guerre, hormis pour certains épisodes de celle-ci. Cette communication intéresse à l'expérience des Palestiniens, civils et combattants, dans le conflit libanais et à la place de celle-ci aujourd'hui. En partant du cas du camp de réfugiés palestiniens de Chatila, situé dans la banlieue sud de Beyrouth, j'appréhenderai la question de la mémoire de la guerre en m'interrogeant sur ses différentes formes, ainsi que sur les pratiques et les discours qui y sont liés. Il s'agira de rendre compte de l'impact de la présence de ce passé conflictuel dans la vie des habitants et dans la vie même du camp.