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‘New York’ Does Beirut, With Disastrous Results

Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah is more than a ‘mover and shaker’

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Beirut beachgoers.(Paul Blackmore/NY Mag)

Every now and then, New York magazine runs a segment called “The Urbanist” that instructs readers how to pursue the same empty pleasures and fleeting vanities to which the magazine is so staunchly dedicated in other cities around the world. This month’s flavor is Beirut, and the wise men of New York dedicated a sidebar to the Middle Eastern capital’s “movers, shakers, and deal-makers.” They include two “Princesses of Pop;” Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah; a cool young filmmaker; and the fashion designer who made Mila Kunis’ Oscar dress last year. These are the people you need to … wait, Hassan Nasrallah?

One, of course, hardly looks to New York as the paragon of morally serious reporting; last week’s cover story, for example, was an analysis of Facebook written by Henry Blodget, the disgraced Merrill Lynch analyst whose practices of lying to the public were so craven that he was banned from the securities industry for life. And yet, even the shallow end of the pool has to abide by the rules, and the inclusion of an arch-terrorist like Nasrallah in a list otherwise dominated by singers, designers, and filmmakers is maddening—mainly because New York never calls him that. Instead, Nasrallah is described as “the most powerful political figure in Lebanon” and as “the leader of the Shiite militant group and political party Hezbollah.” Call them political, call them militant, just don’t call them late for dinner!

I realize that such matters aren’t as important as the magazine’s usual preoccupations, such as a recipe for olive-oil poached bluefish crostini or word about the hottest new trends in manicures. But common sense and the U.S. Department of State both consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. And while New York is largely correct to attribute Nasrallah’s power to his parliamentary influence, there’s also the minor trifle about his very likely being the one behind the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an act of violence that disturbed the delicate balance that is Lebanon’s political system. Oh, and there’s the minor thingie about the war Nasrallah started when his men killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two in the summer of 2006, a war that cost more than a thousand Lebanese civilians their lives.

The rest of the feature is similarly complacent. The answer to the question, “Christian or Muslim?” is “It’s complicated,” as though it were a long-distance relationship on Facebook. It notes that “while there is a vibrant gay subculture, homosexual activity is technically illegal” and that “travelers with Israeli stamps in their passports (or even so much as a Jewish-sounding last name) can still be arrested and detained.” So, Beirut is awesome if you’re straight and Christian. Good to know.

Beirut is probably an awesome place to visit—I’d jump at the unlikely chance. But if New York wants to sell it with reference to international politics, it might consider approaching the topic seriously and accurately. Otherwise, back to piffles we go.

The Urbanist’s Beirut [NY Mag]

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herbcaen says:

Hezbollah is admired by the NYT editorial staph. If the NYT had to pick between the US Republican party and Hezbollah, the result would resemble a N Korean election

What an awful response. You basically criticize a piece for not being written in a western perspective. In your eyes (and the US state dept) Hezbollah (as well as Hamas) are terrorist organizations. In Lebanon even those that strongly dislike Hezbollah see Israel as a terrorist state. It’s all about perspective. If you want to write a piece on Lebanon, you should tell people about the perspective of the Lebanese, no?

In regards to being a straight Christian– there is an open gay community. Furthermore, I’ve never met a Lebanese who said they disliked Jews–most don’t even dislike Israelis–they dislike the Israeli government and its foreign policy.

    Jacob Arnon says:

    “In regards to being a straight Christian– there is an open gay community. Furthermore, I’ve never met a Lebanese who said they disliked Jews–most don’t even dislike Israelis–they dislike the Israeli government and its foreign policy.”

    You mean they dislike the fact that Jews are defending themselves against Hezbollah-Lebanese attacks o their country?

    I find you comment very shallow and very false.

    Have you read the NY Mag feature being referenced?  Would you say it’s written from a Lebanese perspective?  I actually think it comes off as a little insulting to Beirut residents, suggesting that all they do is party and sit on the beach in a quiet bubble while the rest of the Middle East implodes around them, with their cool “movers and shakers” being hip artists and one notorious terrorist leader – as if there were no legitimate politicians, or businessmen or intellectuals.

AmHistorian76 says:

Yes, such Western arrogance to proclaim someone who leads an organization that intentionally targets civilians as a terrorist…such imperialist notions! And of course Hezbollah and Hamas with their Protocols-inspired ideology are nothing more than social welfare organizations…

verificationist says:

New York Mag, trifles though it indulges — I was just about to look closer at a news bulletin about Rashida Jones, whoever she is, disparaging haggis to Craig Ferguson when I suddenly heard my brain rotting — typically features some pretty good writing, especially in its longer pieces. And Henry Blodget, though he must remain classified as a moral gutterite for life, is still a smart guy — just like Spitzer, by the way, with his TV shows. The Facebook piece was interesting. So NYM doesn’t deserve that kind of snark. That said, the Nasrallah, um, “oversight,” is incredible. He’s a terrorist whether you’re looking from the US or from Lebanon, I think, even if the Israeli government is, too. And, Justin Salhani, the piece is very much for potential American travelers by an American magazine — the Western perspective is part of the point.

royleb says:

The Jewish community in Lebanon is considered and remains one of our main component …we are proud of all Lebanese of Jewish origins.
One of the great website I have seen was dedicated to the Jews of Lebanon.
I can feel that the writer of this article,may have not visited Lebanon or Beirut otherwise he would not propably wrote that.
As a Lebanese, I wish we didn’t have to suffer all these wars with our neighbouring contries! buy we have to admit that everyone did something wrong. we could have lived together!
now one good thing we can do, is try to understand each other in a positive way and try to sees the good things about the other!
Our roots and strength will shape our future

julis123 says:

Royleb you’re kidding right? Are you referring to the 20 or so old men that remain of the Lebanese Jewish community that numbered in the thousands before it was ethnically cleansed? To begin to make peace with each other we have to acknowledge the unpleasant facts. Somehow the Arab countries are unwilling to admit that they ethnically cleansed approximately 800,000 Jews.

    royleb says:

    Thank u Julis for ur reply!
    I didn’t know the number is as huge as you mentioned.. I wish they could come back and rediscover their origins. I can tell u that many Lebanese inculding those who I know from University and Family respect the Jewish culture. Now people are more educated and knowledgeable of other cultures.
    Let us start with positive thinking, people our age could make a diffrence.
    I invite u to see Lebanon in a different perspective, and encourage Lebanese to become to open their heart to all cultures.
    Plz take a look at the website of the Jews of Lebanon (google it).. let us start from there

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‘New York’ Does Beirut, With Disastrous Results

Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah is more than a ‘mover and shaker’

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