Monday, August 28, 2006

Blogging From the Front and War Will Never Be the Same

Iraq is a war being blogged at the same time it’s being fought. Lebanon the same. There’s an active blogosphere among Israelis and Palestinians and one can but wonder if the traditional hatreds and prejudices can hold out against information.

Iraq is a war being blogged at the same time it’s being fought. Lebanon the same. There’s an active blogosphere among Israelis and Palestinians and one can but wonder if the traditional hatreds and prejudices can hold out against information.
I remember walking through Sarajevo, shortly after the war and before the country was really over the trauma (if that ever truly happens). Much destruction, bullet-pocked buildings were the norm, whole villages destroyed and large areas yellow-taped off as still mined and dangerous.
But what struck me the most, along with how rapidly life returned to the streets, were the graveyards. Not cemeteries, but public spaces. Front yards, former parks, vacant lots and schoolyards—anywhere bodies could be buried—not legally buried, but physically put in the ground, marked with names and covered.
Small groups of school kids made pilgrimages to the flower-covered graves of their friends. Sarajevo was (and is) a city of killed friends. That wasn’t much more than ten years ago and yet, for the most part, it happened out of public view and comment.
No more.
Bloggerlebanon Delphine Shrank writes in the Washington Post-Blogging Under The Radar;
"I think it's the start of something. In a way, it's a revolution," said Mustapha Hamoui, the blogger behind Beirut Spring. "Communication is never bad. It's better to tell someone, 'I hate you.' Then you have to ask, 'Why do you hate?' Then you have to have a conversation."
The Lebanese government forbids its citizens contact with Israelis. But keeping a lid on the Internet is a bit like trying to shovel sand with a sieve. And in the midst of war, scouring online for views from the other side has been one way for Lebanese and Israelis to alleviate the terrible sense of the impotence of standing by as their countries bled.
Mustapha has nailed it. Conversation is never bad. Brings to mind tales of hostage-taking and the indelible differences hostages and hostage-takers bring away from those encounters. Who we are, who they are, who any of us are is only partly determined by our history and the things we learned at our parents dinner-table.Bloggerisrael
"Bloggers from both sides of the border . . . have been providing live updates, commenting on one another's blogs and sometimes linking to posts by bloggers on the other side of the border," wrote Lisa Goldman, a Canadian-Israeli blogger and journalist, on her site On the Face six days into the war. "Will this turn out to be the first time that residents of 'enemy' countries engaged in an ongoing conversation while missiles were falling?"
Maybe so. Cell-phone cameras and cyberspace are rapidly taking control of ‘news from the front’ from governments and spreading it in ways beyond an earlier comprehension. Not a generational comprehension, but a two, three, five year model that harks more to the fashion industry than the war industry.
Wars are planned and carried out for various power-centric interests and it goes without argument that the necessary ingredient to that model is managed information. Control the dialog and you control the politics.
Bloggeriran In the highly combustible atmosphere of the Middle East, the governments of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Saudi and a host of other nearby interests vie with private militias, Hezbollah, Hamas, Shiite, Sunni and Kurd warlords. Their ‘position papers’ come on the evening news or, more belligerently, at the point of a gun after doors have been splintered.
None of them, not a single one, share the desire of their people for peace. They speak of peace and demand it on their terms, but the will for peace is overcome by the stronger will for power. Lebanese and Israelis, Palestinians and Iraqis share the hunger to take their children to the park and buy them an ice cream without the threat of losing them to violence.
It’s possible, just possible, that the power of conversation may have been let out of the bottle and that war will never be the same again.
Souc (Lebanese) and El Hashahar (Israeli) are new friends. Eager to seek a Lebanese and Arab perspective, El Hashahar had actively sought out and commented on Lebanese sites, generating a regular correspondence with several people from Australia to Iran, and enough trust with Souc and another Lebanese man to invite them to visit her and her family in Israel, she said in a phone interview from Pardes Hana.
"It's been very refreshing for me to talk to them," said El Hashahar, which means "toward the dawn" in Hebrew. "I wasn't that familiar with Lebanese people, their history or politics."
For his part, Souc surfed only the Lebanese blogosphere "to get an idea about street opinion" when the conflict erupted. But, he said in an e-mail, he was "hit by the intense presence of Israeli people commenting on those Lebanese blogs." With that in mind, he started his own space, The Middle East Exception, inviting Israelis to comment on how they perceived Lebanese.
El Hashahar, the Israeli mother and soldier's wife, was sufficiently inspired by the contacts she's struck up across the Arab world to start an online Middle East forum. "It's just a shame," she said, "we had to have war to get to know each other."
Some other observations on blogging;

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