Beirut and Paris: Two terror attacks with different tales

Auckland With Paris 560wide
In solidarity … a vigil for Paris in Auckland’s Aotea Square at the weekend. Photo: David Robie

See also Cafe Pacific

By Belen Fernandez

AS NEWS arrived of terror attacks in Paris that ultimately left more than 120 people dead, US President Barack Obama characterised the situation as “heartbreaking” and an assault “on all of humanity.”

But his presidential sympathy was conspicuously absent the previous day when terror attacks in Beirut left more than 40 dead. Predictably, Western media and social media were much less vocal about the slaughter in Lebanon.

The Independent’s weekend front page, UK.

And while many of us are presumably aware, to some degree, of the discrepancy in value assigned to people’s lives on the basis of nationality and other factors, the back-to-back massacres in Beirut and Paris served to illustrate without a doubt the fact that, when it comes down to it, “all of humanity” doesn’t necessarily qualify as human.

Of course, there’s more to the story than the relative dehumanisation of the Lebanese as compared with their French counterparts. There’s also the prevailing notion in the West that — as far as bombs, explosions, and killings go — Lebanon is simply One of Those Places Where Such Things Happen.

The same goes for places like Iraq, to an even greater extent, which is part of the reason we don’t see Obama mourning attacks on all of humanity every time he reads the news out of Baghdad.

The situation in Iraq is also obviously more complicated — not to mention the ones in Afghanistan, Yemen, and other locations on the receiving end of US military atrocities. Why doesn’t it break the president’s heart to order drone attacks and other life-extinguishing maneuvers?

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Short answer: because it’s not the job of superpowers to engage in self-reflection. Thus, Obama’s selective vision enables him to observe in the case of Paris: “We’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorise innocent civilians.”

Carrying a victim to safety in Beirut after the November 12
suicide bombing. Photo: Cairo News

Superficial Western media

It bears mentioning that, in the case of Beirut, the city’s multi-sectarian composition has allowed for varying intra-metropolitan gradations of humanity, available for detection by the Orientalist eye. It’s safe to surmise that, had the recent suicide bombings taken place in, say, an upscale Beirut nightclub, beach resort, or other Lebanese venue about which the superficial Western media love to exclaim, the human fallout may have aroused more audience interest.

Indeed, had the victims been more “like us” than the otherised, eerie and criminal-sounding inhabitants of Beirut’s southern suburbs where the bombings occurred — incessantly described by the sheeplike media as a “Hezbollah stronghold” or “Hezbollah bastion” — they’d have stood a much greater chance of breaking our hearts.

Hell, we might have even seen references to Beirut’s romanticised former identity as the “Paris of the Middle East.”

Following Friday’s attacks in the Paris of Europe, meanwhile, Facebook users in the vicinity of the city were encouraged to check in as “safe” — an option not made available the previous day to Facebook users in Beirut.

In her own Facebook status today, Professor Laleh Khalili of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London noted that, while the online social networking service had also offered the safety check-in after this year’s earthquakes in Nepal, Chile, and Afghanistan/Pakistan, the same “button is not offered to people in Palestine or Syria or Iraq or Lebanon and countless other zones of destruction”.

Stripping of politics
Khalili added: “What might including Paris in the rank of ‘natural’ disasters mean other than a stripping of its politics, a kind of anti-politics that sees this as a story of good vs. evil or of suffering but without a history? Those other places are ‘political’ and their victims cannot be invoked in [Facebook’s] supposedly ‘neutral’ milieu.”

Armed French police outside the Stade de France, Paris.
Photo: Al Jazeera

As for the clearly political repercussions of the Paris massacre, which French President François Hollande has blamed on the Islamic State group, persecuted refugees and minorities naturally stand to bear the brunt of the inevitable racist and xenophobic backlash — a godsend for right-wing European politicians and organisations, keen to exploit the bloodshed to the max in the service of their own sociopathic visions.

In its live updates on the aftermath, the British Guardian reported today that “Poland has announced it will no longer take refugees via an EU programme, in a deeply controversial statement which linked the [refugee] crisis to the killings in Paris.”

The Auckland “Pray for Paris” vigil. Photo: David Robie

Obstacles multiply

Unfortunately, however, there are a whole lot of people who won’t see such a move as controversial at all. And as the obstacles to refugee existence multiply, what’s often forgotten is that events like the Paris massacre pale quantitatively in comparison to the situations many refugees are fleeing — ones in which the West itself is often implicated.

In a world far superior to the one we have, the scenario might qualify as an assault on all humanity.

The fact that it doesn’t is truly heartbreaking.

Republished from Green Left magazine and TeleSUR English. Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.


  1. Obviously the Paris killings are a travesty,but are we totally sure it was
    terrorist action? The refugees are copping the fallout ,more blocking of their flights to freedom.
    As Dr Robie writes,”this is a God send for right wing euro polititions and organisations to exploit the bloodshed to the max in support of their own sociopathic visions”
    A similar act with the 9/11 twin towers ,justified going to war on Iraq.

    These poor people in Paris could have been sacrificed to suit these sociopaths.
    Of course the claim one of the terrorists came in with the refugees,is going ignite the anger against these refugees,some who are genuinely fleeing war.
    The claim they found a Syrian passport on one of the terrorists,thats handy to point blame.
    How on earth could a refugee get assault rifles through all the checkpoints, how on earth could a group of “terrorists ” race into the
    places of attacks without being seen and stopped, none of this adds up, the claim the arrested some of the perpertrators around the city,
    im sure if they were terrorists they would have planned a hiding place in advance.
    A similar thing happened in Beruit the day before incited no such anger, refugees couldn’t be blamed or targeted there.
    Given the way the governments treat the people with lies and deceit ,
    its to be questioned wether the government in Paris was involved.
    It would be easier to deal with the unessessary deaths if it was terrorists, but now Hollande is going to bomb Syria with a vengeance,
    an opportunity for revenge,more innocent people sacrificed along with the incumbent terrorists, a sure way to get rid of Assad,Obama will be
    all for it,get rid of Assad and be in on the action that showed Russia in a good light.sorted.
    Read Wake up New Zealand for news of how the cabals are going down, and it will give hope.

    • Why was my post censored?
      Elle is saying the attacks were by the French government not terrorists.
      I was merely asking Elle to state that view clearly and in a few words.
      For my part I will state it was Muslim terrorists, not the French government.

      [Patrick, your posting privileges were suspended due to previous comments you made that were little more than trolling. This was pointed out to you in a post you made, with my bold-lettered over-writing. – ScarletMod]

      • I said it is to be questioned if the government was involved not that they did it . there has been false flags before.
        Obviously terrorists were involved but the news that governments assist isil and isis ,means government were obviously involved.

  2. Well said, David. I also feel deep unease at how governments and mass-media have led public outpourings of grieving for the horrendous events in Paris – whilst barely mentioning the equally-horrendous events in Beirut.

    In both instances, the attacks were carried out by ISIS extremists.

    The Western response has been anything but equal.

  3. Where’s Michelle Boag now? Would have thought she’d be mouthing off about bomb survivors ‘parading their victimhood’.

  4. The terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut spilled innocent blood.

    But the media and governments focused on only one. I guess that tells us what the worth of non-white blood is, in the eyes of some.

      • Further to franks point.

        Hamas is cracking down on IS in Gaza for a while now (they are making an attempt to channel discontent in Gaza against Hamas to try and recruit people there as well as make a coup, Hamas has even attacked several mosques that supported them) and they are also starting to get in on the rocket buissness, having fired rockets into Israel on several occasions to try and provoke Israel to respond against Hamas.

        We’ll have to see how far they take their shit before they reach a full-blown clash with Hamas. IS have far less success in the West Bank, at least overtly, since both the PLO and Israel are working there to crush whatever infrastructure they try and build before it gets going.

        • Interesting, Sam… the PLO and Israel working together against a common foe. Maybe there will come a dawning realisation that the future of Israeli and Palestinians is inextricably linked in peaceful co-existence. I might be hopelessly naive, but if they can work together on this… *fingers crossed*

          • In the end. Only the bankers win.

            Now that IS is the flavour of the month. Some one like Hamas has to move out the way on the worlds top ten terror organisations list, and await banker occupation in the form of loans, to continue the Ponzi scheme, that fuels climate change induced conflict.

            • Always thought it was ironic/funny/bizarre that the West considered Hamas a “terror” organisation – yet it was democratically elected to govern…

              Kinda like the US. Except the US isn’t on the Official Terror List.

              Though it should be.

              • Its not like Russia and China hasn’t tried to bring up U.S war crimes at UN Security Council meetings and vis a vis, it just they all veto veto vetoooooooooooooooooooooo to infinity

            • Also, Hamas has been coalition partners with Assad, Iran and Russia in Syria, and now France, as well as Obama not wanting to be left behind.

              All of Hamas best fighters are in Syria. Once the dust settles, It will be in Israels best to be on the good side instead of Hamas best fighters turning there attentions and newly formed relationships towards Israel

  5. Again governments and media manipulating the situation.
    Both tragedy’s should be given equal air time.
    I was surprised at the minimal news by the media/ government, when the Russian passenger plane was downed and 200 + Russians lost their lives. Where was the red lit sky tower then?
    Definitely a case of all people’s / countries not being equal.

    • Thanks Helena, so Obama is going to declare Martial Law,just the chance he wanted,and he announced it before the Paris attacks.!!!
      The banksters and corporates have a lot to answer for.
      Serco is incarcerating prisoners at a great rate but the real criminals the 1% are running around causing havoc and making loads of money,they are the ones who should be incarcerated, but they make money from their prisons.
      The world is like a game to 1% they push their pieces around on the chess board of humanity, lets hope they lose the game soon.

      • Actually Congress is acting under marshal law currently. Which means new legislation doesn’t go to the committee phase, just goes straight to a vote.

  6. John Ward over on The Slog, has a couple of informative “ignore the hype, look at the facts as we know them ignoring the hysteria” articles. Well worth a read…

    “For the moment, here in France we have only a tragedy on our hands. I live over 350 miles from Paris, so obviously I’m not in a position to comment on the mood there. I have spoken to Parisian friends, and while they have been stunned by the action, I would say that categorically that they do not share the sense of horrified shock being played out by the media here, in the UK, or the US. None of them seemed surprised.
    That is unquestionably true of the French in my corner of the world, where the reaction has been a quiet combination of the gallic shrug, but no sign at all of anger. I asked Pepito in the convenience store what he felt, and he just said, “Sad for the victims, but not surprised. Why would anyone be surprised?”

  7. ‘As for the clearly political repercussions of the Paris massacre, which French President François Hollande has blamed on the Islamic State group, persecuted refugees and minorities naturally stand to bear the brunt of the inevitable racist and xenophobic backlash ‘

    Yeah well I.S have claimed responsibility so Hollande was right in blaming them.
    You assume a lot, don’t you, about the French…that they will be ‘racist and xenophobic’ at a time when they are mourning their dead.
    How about some sympathy?

    • What we assume is the small majority in France who believe there Health system is superior in many was to the U.S health system will go silent, and the large majority of right wing extremists will fill the vacant echo chambers.

      Luckily defence and law enforcement policy in France is designed by veteran professionals of there respective branches.

  8. It is not just the “superficial” western media to blame for the reporting we get, fact is, we are far from a truly global humanity. The new means of communication and increasing use of social media has NOT done away with significant cultural and social differences that exist between many countries, regions and their populations.

    Do we know what is “trending” in China? Do we know what products are in high demand there, I mean consumer products, and do we know what films and movies they watch? We can ask the same about India, about Vietnam, about Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and also places in Africa. I bet few if ANY here could tell me.

    Then there are linguistic differences, different religions and altogether different cultures, where people celebrate different festivities for different purposes. We are simply NOT all the same, also not in social well-being and status of course, highly dependent on the kinds of jobs (if there even are any paid jobs as we know them) and incomes we may have.

    So we rather have regions and spheres on this planet, and as our media and social media is dependent on what language we use, and where we are based, what we earn and like to do, we have marked differences.

    People in Beirut use different media, speak and write in Arabic and perhaps a few other languages, and will not feel that connected to what may happen in Paris, Berlin, New York or Beijing.

    And we in Auckland, same as people in Sydney, may for historic ties with Europe still have some tendency to rather follow what happens there, same as in “similar” countries and cultures like in North America.

    So that needs to be considered, before just criticising the media for under-reporting or not reporting on events and disasters, including terror attacks, that happen in other places.

    When we use Twitter and Facebook, that is social media that comes from the US, same like many email and other services we may use.
    And the fact that they are based there, are mainly used in English and a few European languages, that makes them important to us, while in places like China, India or the Middle East, there will also be many different social media and internet services used, which we hardly know about.

    I thought I throw this in, just to consider also.

    • I know the Chinese call the 2008 Global financial crises as the 2008 US crises. Up to date news is really hard to come by in communist China. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chinese are waking up to the Paris attacks now.

  9. François Hollande needs to blame himself for this massive intelligence failure and his limp wristed approach to Muslim radicals in his country.

    He should resign in shame.

    (By the way: THIS is why we have the GCSB)

    • “(By the way: THIS is why we have the GCSB)”

      Yeah right, they are largely in the DARK, it seems, as Prime Muck(rak)er Key told media yesterday, as there has been increasing use of encrypting technology and also of the so-called “dark net”.

      He admitted that all the technology they have does not give them much insight into what goes on there!

      So by the logic of that and what we were told before, it appears all that meta data gathering is rather useful for GCSB and government, to simply keep an eye on us law abiding “idiots”, who trust them, or have little choice to avoid them, as we may not have access to affordable encrypting technology, or do not want to go there, and are afraid of using the “dark net”, as it is also home of some dubious law breakers and that includes terrorists.

      Read this:

      “The amount of “dark communications” which New Zealand spy agencies are unable to intercept is increasing, Prime Minister John Key says.

      Mr Key made the comments in response to reports that French intelligence did not pick up any communications which foreshadowed the massive, co-ordinated terror attacks in Paris on Friday night.”

      YOUR logic is that of an illogically thinking and baseless arguments delivering troll, I fear.

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