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Objectivity and Partnership

Objectivity and Partnership

Monday, 2 December, 2019 - 18:15
Samir Atallah
Lebanese author and journalist, who worked for the Annahar newspaper, the Al Osbo' il Arabi and Lebanon’s Al-Sayad’s magazines and Kuwait’s Al-Anba newspaper.

At an event I was invited to by the Fouad Chehab Foundation last summer, I gave a talk on Russian-Lebanese relations, while the Russian ambassador, Alexander Zasypkin, gave a talk on the same topic. During my talk, I chose to address the positive Soviet positions on Arab issues, particularly concerning Palestine. I also critiqued the Arab reaction to those positions, particularly the expulsion of Soviet experts from Egypt under Anwar Sadat.

To some of the Lebanese ambassadors in attendance, I sounded “pro-Russian”, while others found bold objectivity in what I said. Despite the long period that had elapsed since that lecture, I received a letter from Annahar newspaper from someone who had been accusing me, weekly, of being an enemy of Moscow and communism.

Consequently, I decided to persist with this despite the worldwide fall of communism, which is still alive as far as the author of that letter and his comrades in Lebanon are concerned. The author wants to ask me whether what I said was due to some awakening in my conscience, and what had changed?

It most certainly is neither an awakening of my conscience nor any remorse. The conscientious is he who had criticized communism and its stance on human freedoms and how it treated its people but felt grateful for Moscow’s position on Arab issues. He who spent his lifetime criticizing American policy in the Middle, Near and the Far East, but stops at Lincoln, Roosevelt and General George Marshall. He who had supported Abdel Nasser when it came to the Suez Canal, the Aswan High Dam and the people’s dignity, but criticized him when it came to persecution and the negligence that led to the Six-Day War. It is he who criticized Anwar Sadat.

Man is given two eyes so that he can make distinctions. This is even more pertinent for a journalist who is not only responsible to himself, but other people as well. A writer in a newspaper that is published for the public to see is not a member of a party who only sees what is dictated to him and who sees things as Lenin, the man responsible for what happened to communism, did a century ago. I am sorry to tell you that, in all honesty, communism’s worst enemies are the dogmatists whose minds are only large enough to make such accusations. I wish you had followed my position on Salvador Allende and Augusto Pinochet in Chile. The first is a humane leftist, and the other is his murderer, whose ruthlessness knew no limits.

Journalism is not a party membership card, nor is it silly accusations of this sort.

This reminds me of other similar incidents, such as when the attaché in the Greek embassy during the dictatorship days would barge into the Annahar building, saying that he had documents proving that I was a communist agent for Moscow because of what I had written about his short-lived leaders.

Dear Sir: To lose one’s conscience is much worse than to lose one’s freedom. My freedom allows me to criticize decades of Communist Russia while lecturing side by side with its ambassador about the importance of the relations between our countries. You, however, are still chained to your position at the party, unable to grasp that it has perished.

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