Unable to decisively win their open war in Yemen, or their proxy war in Syria, Saudi Arabia is opening a new front in Lebanon. They have withdrawn their investments from the tiny Mediterranean country, ordered their citizens to avoid its tourist-dependent economy, and this week coerced most members of the Arabic league into voting to classify Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. And now their local proxies, parliamentary deputies from the Sunni “Future” party, have tried to shut down one of the country’s most prominent newspapers, Al-Akhbar. Here, Al-Akhbar’s editor Pierre Abi Saab pens a furious response:
The Saud family is facing the tangible possibility of complete military, political and economic collapse; the regime in Riyadh can no longer meet its financial obligations to the legions of servants and slaves who grovel at the gates of its feedlots. And now the Sauds are launching the mother of all battles.
They are calling for all Arabs, first among them the Arabs of the Gulf monarchies, to avert their eyes from the crimes of their medieval regime; from its tyranny, its arrogance, its despotism, its corruption and its backwardness. What the Sauds demand for their money is that we bend public opinion in the Arab world to accept their regime’s suicidal activities-massacres by their armed forces, mercenaries hired to slaughter their own brothers, and the entire Persian Gulf region drawn into their murderous project.
The depths of iniquity to which the Sauds have sunk: they claim to have received a new revelation, a mission to lead the fight against extremism themselves! So these are the people who are going to fight extremism, while they continue treating women who drive cars as criminals. While they continue teaching their schoolchildren that “the West is Christian and therefore kafir [infidel].” While they forbid these kafirs from even entering many areas of their kingdom.
The Sauds have suddenly discovered their inner pan-Arabism. But the rest of us are all quite aware that along with Zionism, Saudi Wahhabism is the great enemy of Arabs and Arabism, as the [prominent Lebanese economist]Georges Corm demonstrated three decades ago. The day is not far off when we will see an official Israeli delegation to Mecca, broadcast live on [Saudi satellite channel] al-Arabiya.
But where today is it even possible to read these facts? Who dares to stand up to the backward cabal who have sold out Palestine? Who is willing to object out loud to their extremist ideology, this ideology that seeds intellectual desolation, decay and underdevelopment to the rest of the Arab world? It is their language that drowns out nearly every voice in the airwaves and columns of the Arab media.
One of the few exceptions is this newspaper; publishing unrevealed stories of the evils of the Sauds is our mission and our message, one of our founding principles.
Al Akhbar is one of the few places around willing to point an accusing finger, or raise a caustic laugh, at the buffoons in Riyadh, these clowns who seem competent to do nothing but fuel feuds, sow devastation and murder, and corrupt the souls and minds of those who take their money.
All of their attempts at intimidation, provocation and harassment against us will fail. Like the absurd farce perpetrated yesterday by Jamal al-Jarrah and Ziad al-Qadri [deputies of the pro-Saudi Mustaqbal party].
They filed a criminal complaint against the editor-in-chief of Al Akhbar, Ibrahim Amine, as well as the head of the Arab Unity Party Wi’am Wahhab, for fomenting sectarian conflict and damaging Lebanon’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The amusing part is that the two Mustaqbal deputies did not choose the customary and democratic route – suing the newspaper –but instead tried to induce the public prosecutor to go after a media outlet. A unconcealed attack on freedom of expression and a clear attempt to intimidate us, and one that didn’t lack for audacity or stupidity. Against a newspaper that names the names, part of the long tradition of professional journalism in the Lebanese press, one which defends what is left of the country’s democratic space, a space that is being gnawed away by the chiefs of the factions.
In previous days, it was enough to buy off journalists. Today it has become necessary to resort to all the methods of repression and intimidation the Kingdom can manage.
Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri tried it a few months ago, threatening us openly. We’re still waiting for him to show up in front of the office, here at the Concorde building.
Then it was the turn of the Saudis’ deputy-lackeys here, to attempt the worst sort of censorship. A pair of Hariri deputies, of all people, are accusing us of spreading sectarian strife! These are comrades in arms of [Islamist Mustaqbal deputy] Khaled Daher [accuse of violent extremist links]; their boss is [party head]Saad al Hariri and their enlightened masters in Riyadh – famous supporters of liberation movements. A real master class in accepting the other, respecting difference and peaceful dialogue between religious sects. Religious conflict and takfir [calling other Muslims apostates]are a Saudi-Israeli brand, dear readers.
And as for “damaging the relationship between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia”, that is a pretty rich accusation, both politically and legally. So they want us to dance to the beat of the flogger of [dissident Saudi writer]Raif Badawi, or of the prison guards of Ashraf Fayyad[poet sentenced to beaheading]. Or say, with the butchers of the Yemeni and Bahraini people. And yes, with all the blessings of the western democracies.
The Al-Sauds want us to believe their blood-spattered lies. They have colonized the satellites, subjugated the Arab League, bought off the consciences of the public and taken over or silenced all the media organizations, with pressure, intimidation and provocation. Not to mention the enormous media machines that they manage directly-they have recruited an army of media mercenaries, though it is one that they may no longer be able to afford.
Fortunately they have their eager armies of volunteers like Jamal al-Jarrah and Ziad al-Qadiri. Volunteers of the hour before midnight who want to silence us. Silence our telling of the deeds of this degenerate regime that is trying to pull the whole vast Arab nation into the abyss; this regime which with its ideology and its institutions has constructed the world’s most enormous factory of terrorism and extremism.
What sort of nation is it that demands that we reconcile and befriend the traitors and the criminals? Our deepest apologies to you two enlightened activists. We have such deep respect for your secularism, for your socialist concern for Lebanon’s ‘Cabaret Economy,’ for the reign of the pimps and real-estate hustlers.
But please, go back to your bosses down in the ‘Cities of Salt,’ and tell them that down there along the Persian Gulf, the only people we are interested in hearing from are the people like us, the Abdallah al-Qassimis and Abdul Rahman Munifs [prominent dissident Arabian writers]and their like. Tell them that what we hear in our ears are the muffled cries for liberation of a people who are bound to the yoke of slavery, who dream of escaping the medieval age they are somehow cursed to inhabit. Tell them those are our kin and our allies, and it is for the sake of people like them that we will keep on confronting the “Kingdom of Cruelty” until the end, until the final recession of the takfiri tide.
Pierre Abi Saab Translated from Arabic by International Boulevard
04 Mar 2016