Is Amal Saad-Ghorayeb disseminating Misinformation?

Michael Young takes aim at three "myths" about Lebanon in his article: "Mostly, a divine victory for disinformation:" 1. That Lebanese overwhelmingly supported Hizbullah during last years war with Israel. 2. That Israel's decision to go to war in Lebanon was premeditated and preplanned, making it inevitable. 3. "That because Israel cannot accept defeat in Lebanon, it is bound to attack the country again in the future….  it gives Hizbullah an excuse to retain its weaponry."

Responsibility for creating the first of these myths, according to Young, are Abdo Saad, and his daughter, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, who head the Beirut Center for Research. Young complains:

The first myth was that of Lebanese unanimity in the face of Israel. Soon after the war began, a spectacular bit of disinformation surfaced when the Beirut Center for Research published a poll that allegedly showed overwhelming support for "the Resistance" – shorthand for Hizbullah. The head of the center is Abdo Saad, and his daughter, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, summarized the poll's results in an interview with the American radio and television program Democracy Now:

"Basically, 87 percent of all Lebanese support Hezbollah's resistance against Israel today. And that includes 80 percent of all Christian respondents, 80 percent of all Druze respondents, and 89 percent of all Sunnis. And this, of course, is non-Shiite groups, so those which have supported the March 14 pro-American – the March 14, sorry, alliance, which is seen as being pro-American, pro-French, anti-Syrian."

These numbers were truly remarkable; so remarkable indeed that rare were the foreign media outlets that did not, early in the war, diligently cite them. Unfortunately, rare, too, were the correspondents who could read Arabic and the question the Beirut Center for Research had put to its respondents. It was a simple one, to the point: "Do you support the Resistance's opposition to the Israeli aggression against Lebanon?"

More loaded a question would have required a firearms license, its answer obvious in advance, particularly when Lebanon was being bombed. Naturally, most of those asked said they approved opposing Israel, but what those preparing the poll got across, intentionally or unintentionally, was that this could be read as support for Hizbullah per se.

Young's attempt to smear Saad-Ghorayeb and the Beirut Center is unfair: The question — "Do you support the Resistance's opposition to the Israeli aggression against Lebanon?" — was a good one, particularly as it was asked when Israeli bombs were falling on Lebanon. Neocons, naturally enough, want to discredit the results because they showed, once again, how wrong their presuppositions are about the effectiveness of the use of force. Refusing to learn from history, neocons supported Israel's bombardment of Lebanon in the belief that pain would split the Lebanese and turn the majority against Hizbullah. The Beirut Center's statistics show that this did not happen. On the contrary, the bombing forced Lebanese together in opposition to Israel and the US. Even Siniora was forced to announce his government's support for the resistance and thank Hizbullah for frustrating Israel's plan to hold a strip of land along the border. It made his negotiations for ending the war easier, he explained. At the beginning of the war, many Lebanese were quick to denounce Hizbullah as "adventurous," but these criticisms abated during the height of the bombing, when the ultimate question became: "Are you with us or against us?" Ghorayeb was right to ask this question at the time she did. The results showed that in the heat of battle, most Lebanese will not choose Israel over fellow Lebanese, no mater how much they may be divided in more normal times. This is perhaps distressing news for some. Certainly, it was distressing for the neocons and Israel, who were banking on a different result.

This is precisely why Saad-Ghorayeb's statistics are revelatory, despite efforts to discount them as disinformation. The US administration and its Arab cheer leaders believed the Iraqis would greet them with sweets and flowers. How wrong could they have been? We know from copious historical examples that bombing a people causes them to rally around their government, no matter how disliked. The firebombing of German cities did not break the will of the German people or cause them to turn against Hitler in WWII. Instead, allied bombing designed to kill civilians and ruin infrastructure caused nationalism to surge and the desperate to rally around the most hateful of leaders. That Lebanese would rally to Hizbullah under the pressure of Israeli bombs should not be surprising. The statistics do not confirm more than this simple truth. As soon as the bombing stopped and Lebanese began to survey the carnage and ask themselves whether it was worth it and who had caused it, the normal recriminations set in, resulting in the deep divisions that exist today. In fairness to Saad-Ghorayeb, her center has tracked the steady decrease in Hizbullah's approval ratings among Sunnis and Christians in Lebanon since the end of the war. The Beirut Center has been among the most dependable polling centers, giving us meaningful cross-sections of popular opinion on a regular basis. The fact that these statistics frequently demonstrate that US policies are no more popular among Lebanese than those of America's enemies may be bad news for the partisans of Siniora's governing coalition; all the same, they cannot be dismissed. 

Syria urges France to be neutral host of reconciliation talks

Syrian government newspaper Teshreen accused France in an editorial of aligning itself with the US "which supports the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora" against the opposition in Lebanon.

"We hope that the France of [President] Nicolas Sarkozy will play the role of a neutral and honest mediator embracing peace and justice," said the editorial, adding that Syria hoped Paris would renounce "the biased policy adopted by former President Jacques Chirac."  The daily also questioned chances of progress at the weekend summit. "How can a  major force like France host a meeting for Lebanese dialogue at a time when its government supports one party against another and Paris makes accusations of terrorism against Hizbullah, an essential party within the Lebanese opposition?" it asked….

Hizbullah's attendance was cast into doubt following comments made Monday by Sarkozy characterizing the group's operations as "terrorist." Sarkozy was speaking during a meeting with families of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Hizbullah officials confirmed Tuesday, however, that the group would send a delegation to the meeting comprising resigned Energy and Water Resources Minister Mohammad Fneish and Hizbullah Foreign Relations Coordinator Nawwaf al-Moussawi.

The confirmation came after Andreani told reporters that France maintained its invitation to the group, but mostly after a statement issued by the French presidential place late Tuesday, saying that France did not consider Hizbullah to be a terrorist organization. …

During a visit to Paris last month, Siniora said he did not expect much progress at the meeting. "Expectations are not extremely high for this meeting," the premier said. Syrian newspapers reported on Tuesday that Damascus has a key role to play in finding a solution to Lebanon's deadlock.

Replying to allegations made by the Syrian press, leader of the parliamentary majority MP Saad Hariri said only the unity of the Lebanese "would ensure that all of Lebanon's problems would be solved."  

"Lebanon's Bloody Summer," by Mohamad Bazzi in The Nation

What if the battle over the presidency continues past September, and the country is further paralyzed? There's a real fear that the Lebanese government could once again split into two dueling administrations, as happened in 1988, when outgoing President Amin Gemayel appointed Aoun as a caretaker prime minister because Parliament could not agree on a new president. He created a largely Christian government, while the sitting Sunni prime minister refused to leave and led a rival Muslim administration. The crisis ended in October 1990, when Syrian warplanes bombed the presidential palace, driving Aoun into exile in France. It's remarkable how many Lebanese are talking openly today about the possibility of another government breakup; some are even resigned to it.

Splitting the country into two administrations in 1988 was a logical endpoint of the confessional system. Lebanese leaders are going down the same path once again: They're trying to run the country under a system that's no longer viable and that continues to create a perpetual crisis. Until the Lebanese can agree on a stronger and more egalitarian way to share authority, they will be cursed with instability, their future dictated by foreign powers.

CIA Said Instability in Iraq Seemed 'Irreversible': This Washington Post article by Bob Woodward is important. Woodward quotes top CIA and military officials who argue that the US cannot win in Iraq. They believe the Maliki government cannot deliver what is being asked of it because it was designed for balance not effectiveness. Many believe it is part of the problem. Some top army brass claim that training more recruits for the Iraqi police is counter-productive because they are fueling the civil war. In contrast to the President, who claims our main enemy in Iraq is al-Qaida, many in the military argue that al-Qaida is pretty far down on the list of enemies and organizations that the US is fighting. The message of the article is that there is a major disconnect between the White House, which continues to maintain that the US will win in Iraq and the top tier of the people on the ground, who have been saying for some time that the president's claims are faith-based poppycock.

Comments (9)


1. annie said:

“We hope that the France of [President] Nicolas Sarkozy will play the role of a neutral and honest mediator embracing peace and justice,” said the editorial, adding that Syria hoped Paris would renounce “the biased policy adopted by former President Jacques Chirac.”

I don’t know about France and Lebanon and Syria but here is Sarko and French organizations supporting Palestinians

Communiqué de Presse

ORLEANS LOIRET PALESTINE
Maison des Associations
46 ter rue Ste Catherine
45000 Orléans

Le secrétaire de notre association, représentant légal de celle-ci a reçu un courrier l’invitant a « impérativement prendre contact avec la police pour un entretien dans le cadre d’une affaire le concernant » termes exacts de ce courrier.

Lors de son coup de téléphone, l’interlocuteur, policier, l’a informé que c’est en tant que « Président de Orléans Loiret Palestine » qu’il était ainsi convoqué pour répondre à des questions concernant le nombre d’adhérents de l’association, son activité etc.

Devant l’incrédulité de notre secrétaire face à ce genre d’enquête, concernant une association 1901, déclarée en préfecture, avec un bureau déposé, des statuts connus etc. le policier a défini l’enquête comme « normale ». Le secrétaire de l’association a refusé de répondre à toute question qui relève de la vie de l’association, ne voyant pas en quoi, celle-ci méritait tant d’attention !

Nous savons, que nationalement, plus d’une dizaine de responsables d’associations pro Palestinienne ont reçu une même convocation !

Il apparaît aujourd’hui, que l’action en soutien au peuple palestinien, à ses droits reconnus internationalement, devient passible d’enquête ! Tout citoyen ne peut plus agir selon ses convictions, dans le cadre des lois existantes, sans se voir soupçonné d’on ne sait quelles intentions terroristes !

En réalité, c’est bien le droit d’agir pour la Palestine qui est mis en cause, aujourd’hui, demain qui sera la prochaine cible ?

Orléans Loiret Palestine proteste :
-contre ces remises en cause du droit d’association -contre la pression exercée sur des militants.

Orléans Loiret Palestine appelle l’ensemble des forces politiques, associatives, syndicales à défendre le droit démocratique de se réunir en association, sans aucune pression policière

Pour Orléans Loiret Palestine
Le secrétaire
Patrick WEYLAND

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July 12th, 2007, 12:18 pm

 

2. Deception Or Not? | The Beirut Spring, a Lebanese Blog said:

[...] Naturally, When Michael Young, a Lebanese columnist, brings up the topic, he gets an immediately attacked from Syria. Joshua Landis, a Syrian regime propagandist, immediately dismissed Young’s article and calls him a Neocon: Young’s attempt to smear Saad-Ghorayeb and the Beirut Center is unfair: The question — “Do you support the Resistance’s opposition to the Israeli aggression against Lebanon?” — was a good one, particularly as it was asked when Israeli bombs were falling on Lebanon. Neocons, naturally enough, want to discredit the results because they showed, once again, how wrong their presuppositions are about the effectiveness of the use of force. Refusing to learn from history, neocons supported Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon in the belief that pain would split the Lebanese and turn the majority against Hizbullah. The Beirut Center’s statistics show that this did not happen. On the contrary, the bombing forced Lebanese together in opposition to Israel and the US. Even Siniora was forced to announce his government’s support for the resistance and thank Hizbullah for frustrating Israel’s plan to hold a strip of land along the border [...]

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July 12th, 2007, 12:33 pm

 

3. K said:

In this piece from last summer, Michael Young elaborates on his critique of the BCRI polls (he also takes on Helana Cobban). If you’re interested in his reasoning and lots of relevant links, check it out:

http://www.reason.com/blog/show/115318.html

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July 12th, 2007, 4:25 pm

 

4. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Have you all heard this “leak” from the Brammertz report about the Hariri assassination?

That the van with the explosives was stolen in Japan (where it was possibly stuffed with 1,800 kilograms of explosive), shipped to the UAE, driven to Tripoli and “bought” on a used car lot.

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July 12th, 2007, 11:20 pm

 

5. Thomas said:

Perhaps a another question should have been asked in the poll at the beginning of the war. “Do you think that Hezbollah’s attack and capture of Israeli soldiers served the national interest of the Lebanese republic?”

The BRCI polling question is clearly a loaded one. So much for the design of good survey questions. Such work lacks credibility and deserves the scrutiny that Young provides.

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July 13th, 2007, 6:11 am

 

6. Ran said:

I have been following this blog for a while, and I hold Joshua Landis in high esteem. I must say I find his defence of the survey surprising. It is true that people tend to rally around their government when under attack, be them German, Lebanese or Israeli, but that does not relieve a research organization from its duty to use neutral language in surveys. Not doing so substancially reduces the value of the results. It also puts in question the professionality and integrity of said research organization. One hardly needs to be a neocon to see that. In fact, one would need a neocon like mentality of us-against-them in order to ignore the crass lack of professional ethics in the wording of the question.

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July 13th, 2007, 10:10 pm

 

7. ausamaa said:

How about if the question was prased:

Does Hizbullah, or any other willing Lebanese, have the right to fight Israel to Liberate occupied Lebanese Land and Lebanese Prisoners?

or,

Would you really mind waiting until nice Israel decides out of its own good heart that it should return occupied Lebanese Lands, return the Lebanese Prisoners, stop its Air Force flights over Lebanon, and Pledge not to treat Lebanon as a doormat?

Statistics!!!??? Hmmmm, they are needed sometimes. To prove what we like to prove always, or to un-prove it! Since we are at the subject, let us go now to early Parlimentary Elections in Lebanon and find out the answer to all we want to know about what the Lebanese People really want!

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July 13th, 2007, 10:59 pm

 

8. Thomas said:

AuSamma:

Why is it that “hizballah” always comes before “Lebanon” in your world? Oh no, Nasrallah put “Hizbollah” ahead of “Lebanon” in his thinking as well.

Just think of what Lebanon would be like right now if Nasrallah had gone to his psychiatrist to get some medication for his impulse control disorder last July? People in Lebanon could actually find a job. The economy would be booming. We wouldn’t have half of south Beirut in a giant pile of rubble. 1400 more people would be living their lives. The country would be $10 billion less in debt.

No wonder Hizballah is loosing their grip on Shia society! People aren’t stupid.

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July 14th, 2007, 1:48 am

 

9. Peter H said:

A few comments on Michael Young’s piece.

(1) It is not true that the BCRI poll was unavailable in English. It is available here.

(2) The same poll asked:

Q:”Did you support the resistance’s move to capture two Israeli soldiers for a prisoners swap?”
Yes:70.1%
No: 29.9%

(3) Another poll that was taken by Information International after the war in September 2006, and using somewhat more neutral language, asked the following question:

Q: “What is your stance to the abduction of the 2 Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah?”
Support: 57.6%
Oppose: 33.9%
Don’t Know: 8.5%

Frankly, I don’t know why Young is so invested in trying to discredit that particular BCRI poll. It’s not like people are unaware that there diverging opinions in Lebanon about Hezbollah. I was glued to the news after July 12, and practically every news story that came out in the first couple of weeks after the beginning of the war mentioned how divided Lebanese were.

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July 18th, 2007, 5:51 pm

 

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