Saturday, April 17, 2010

Remorse Personified

I had never heard of this story, despite the fact that As’ad Shaftari has been telling it pretty loudly for quite some time.  He was second in command when the Christian militias massacred Palestinians during the Israeli invasion of Lebabon in the early 80's.  And he came out and apologized for it.
“I apologize because when I was defending what I thought was Christianity in Lebanon, I wasn’t practicing at all the true Christianity, which is about loving others,” he said in the apology, which was about 500 words in all and was initially published (in Arabic) by a news agency and several newspapers. The apology made clear that he believed that nothing — not the exigencies of war, any prior crimes by others, or any legal amnesty — could extenuate the wrongs he had done.
Pretty remarkable.  And, given how cynical I usually am, I cannot help but be impressed that he was led to this dramatic statement and subsequent ostracism by a group called Moral Awakening (now called Initiatives for Change) that "preached peace through personal change."  However, no others have really followed Shaftari, so that his lone voice has not altered the realities on the ground nor the divisions among the Lebanese. 
“He is a tragic person, somehow,” said Lokman Slim, the co-director of a documentation and research center in Beirut who had interviewed Mr. Shaftari as part of a film about Lebanese attitudes toward the war. “He made this huge step forward, but he didn’t find followers.”
The article ends on a hopeful note, that there was a soccer game between lawmakers of the different factions.  I guess this is typical of the Middle East--individual acts of progress, surrounded by collective resistance to moving ahead. 

No wonder I have avoided this area in my research (besides from the other obstacle of mountains of stuff to read if I wanted to catch up).

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