The beating Omar Harqous received Thursday at the hands of SSNP members and the party’s subsequent apology — shamelessly packaged in justifications — have elicited a wave of reactions from various Lebanese journalists, including news sources invariably described as pro-Syrian or pro-Opposition. One of these is Samah Idris, editor-in-chief of al-Adab magazine. Idris is one of the few Lebanese public figures who have tried to shape a third line since 2005, balancing a respect for the necessity of resistance while simultaneously being very critical of Hizballah and its allies. Below is a translation-on-the-go of his op-ed in al-Akhbar on the Harqous beating.
In defense of myself… not of Omar!
by Samah Idriss
I do not like most of what Omar Harqus has written, particularly his classist and sectarian criticism of the Opposition’s sit-in (notwithstanding our position on that sit-in and on that dubious opposition). I still feel anger whenever I remember his repugnance at “the grilled meat under the statue of Riyad al-Solh,” “the hubbly bubblies that block the way,” and “the outhouses in the middle of the street” (al-Mustaqbal Newspaper 8/12/2006)! But I feel that the punches directed at Harqus were directed at me. And I feel that the blood that flowed from him is part of my blood… Or could be part of my blood and the blood of other writers if we overlook or make up excuses to justify what has happened. The hands that attacked Harqus do injustice, first and foremost, to their own principles and to their martyrs assassinated in Akkar [Halba] at the hands of people who took advantage of their defenseless small numbers. It would have been more worthy of [Antun] Sa`adah’s deep-rooted party not to use its members’ refusal to be photographed by Harqus as an excuse. What is worse is that the perpetrators called Harqus “Jewish”: Being Jewish is not a disgrace and should not be treated as such… Particularly not by those who adopt the causes of secularism and the fight against confessionalism.
I am not only defending Harqus. I am also defending, perhaps primarily, my right to say and write what I want. When I remain silent about [Paul] Shawul’s trial, Harqus’s beating, [Michel] Kilo’s imprisonment, the banning of Edward Sa`id’s books, or Samir Kassir’s murder, I am contributing to my own trial, beating, imprisonment, ban, or murder. Because with my silence I am preparing the ground for my own future oppression. I know that some of those expressing solidarity with Harqus would have kept quiet about the beating of another journalist form outside March 14. I also know that they kept quiet about my own trial — after an adviser of one of Iraq’s sultans filed a lawsuit against me — while they vied for the defense of Paul Shawul against General Aoun. And I know that some of them express solidarity only with the prisoners of conscience in Syria (who should be released immediately). Despite this, we, the people of the pen, make a grave mistake if we turn the slogan of “freedom of expression” into a political expedient. My position could be described as idealistic. But I do not find an alternative to it if we still believe that intellectual struggle is the only admissible weapon against our intellectual opponents.