Dinner in BeirutAdd to the pitfalls of expat dinner parties this season the topic of Bernard Madoff, the fraudulent financier. Before you know it, dinner in Beirut turns into a a scene from the Merchant of Venice. Just to summarise: Glee about the Madoff affair as the Jews' rightful comeuppance and hatred of Israel over the 'genocide' in 2006 while Darfur gets soft-pedaled. And this is foreigners talking, people who should know better and who are not directly involved in the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Harry, a foreign hack
Mortum, a foreign expert
Mati, a creative local
Lynn, a foreign hack and activist who has done a lot of work on a major ongoing African crisis
And several others.
- Mortum: Ha ha, did you hear about this big financial scandal, this scam? By this Jew? All the Jews have lost their money. Even in Israel it is going to lead to huge problems, a lot of the Jewish charities will have to close down, (gleefully) they are screwed.
- Mati: Yes, it is great, they really fell into their own trap.
- Mortum: And now they complain that since the scandal there has been an increase in anti-Semitic statements on the internet, in blogs and in forums. Can you imagine? People say that it was the fault of the Jews and of course it was. What is anti-Semitic about that?
- Harry: Well, it could have happened to anyone, no?
- Mortum: No, of course not. It was Jews giving money to Jews. It was because of this Jewish solidarity and now they’re all screwed. These rich Jews thought they could get richer but now they lost a lot of money, quite right.
- Harry: But for a lot of them it was not about personal enrichment. It was for their charities.
- Mortum: You really believe that? Of course it was for themselves in the end and they thought they could trust a Jew.
- Harry: It was not only Jews. Big Swiss and Spanish banks also gave money to the guy.
- Mortum: But why do you think they gave him their money?
- Harry: Why?
- Mortum: Because he is a Jew.
- Harry (incredulously and getting slightly annoyed): I think you are obsessed with Jews, Mortum.
Nobody else at the table speaks out either way.
- Mortum: They gave him money because they were using his Jewish connections.
- Harry: The guy had been president of the Nasdaq, he had a huge reputation, other than being a Jew. Besides, this could have happened anywhere. If he had been a member of a WASP country club, other WASPs would have given him money.
Mortum and Mati give each other a significant look, like, ‘I always knew that there was something wrong with him’.
- Mortum (gets up from the dinner table) Come on Mati, let’s have a smoke. They get up and sit down a few feet away in the salon, talking among themselves. Conversation at the table turns to local and regional politics and to Lynn’s work
- Lynn: That crisis was very bad, five years ago but now people are just exaggerating it. You get these Hollywood movie stars who need a cause and they talk about hundreds of thousands of people who are at risk but over the last year or so the monthly average was just 150 or so dead and many of them are government soldiers killed by the rebels.
- Harry: How come that it’s still such a big story then?
- Lynn: The media keep it alive and the movie stars but nobody did anything about it.
- Harry: Yes, that is baffling, after Rwanda I thought the world would not let it happen again.
- Lynn: But this is not Rwanda, it is not a genocide. It is a conflict that needs to be resolved and there are two sides to blame.
- Harry: So what are you working on nowadays?
- Lynn: I want to go after the Shlomo’s for 2006
- Harry: Excuse me?
- Lynn: Get the Shlomo’s to the south for what they did in 2006. In the International Criminal Court.
- Mortum (who has rejoined the conversations): Nah, the ICC is not the way, it has to be done by the individual governments. What we saw in London and New Zealand that Israeli generals did not dare to get off the plane, hahaha, because they are afraid that they are going to be arrested.
- Lynn: I think the way is to go with the Court, that is what is was set up for, genocide etc.
- Harry: I would not call 2006 a genocide, a war crime maybe but not a genocide.
- Lynn: What would you call the forcible displacement of so many people?
- Harry: There was a war going on. Possibly a war crime.
- Lynn (shrugs dismissively): well, we get them for war crimes then.
- Mortum: Good luck with that.
- Lynn: Yes, it is incredibly difficult because the government here does not want to bring charges. They are afraid of the Americans. But even Hezbollah is not so keen. They want a promise of immunity for Nasrallah.
- Harry: Hezbollah is not at all interested in the rule of law. They thrive on instability and they don’t want their freedom of action limited by a court case.
- Lynn: Well, they said they only wanted immunity for Nasrallah but I told them that some less senior people might have to be sacrificed. You know, just like what happened with the Serbs and the Bosnians. In order to go after the most important Serbs, you also have to prosecute a few people from the other side for balance. But Hezbollah did not seem interested.
- Harry: They will never allow any of their people to be prosecuted for what happened. In their eyes they are completely right and they will never accept a challenge to that.
- Lynn: Well, we have to get the Shlomo’s for something. We hate the Shlomo’s.
- Harry: Why?
- Lynn: Because they are the enemy and for what they have done, we hate them.
- Harry (a bit drunkenly): Well I hate the people here just as much. (Corrects himself) Well some people here. (Corrects himself again) Actually I don’t hate anybody, what’s the use of that. This is a conflict that needs to be resolved and there are two sides to it.
Lynn looks at him uncomprehendingly. The dinner is over and everybody starts to leave.