Christians targeted while Gunter Grass warns against Israel’s intentions
Arabic media review

Christians targeted while Gunter Grass warns against Israel’s intentions

A Lebanese Christian leader survives an assassination attempt, Turkey and Iran quarrel, and Christians fear for their futures in Syria

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

An Israeli Dolphin submarine at the shipyards in Kiel, northern Germany (photo credit: AP/Philipp Guelland)
An Israeli Dolphin submarine at the shipyards in Kiel, northern Germany (photo credit: AP/Philipp Guelland)

Lebanese Christian politician Samir Geagea announced Wednesday that he had survived an attempt on his life, a story covered widely by Arab media Thursday.

Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces party, told local media that he was shot from two rifles while walking near his home in the Keserwan district of central Lebanon.

He refused to name suspects in the assassination, but compared the attempt on his life to the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

“Sniping at Mi’rab returns the specter of assassinations and Jaja hints to a ‘big, well-organized group’,” reads the headline of liberal Lebanese daily A-Nahar. The daily, associated with Saad Hariri’s March 14 movement, remarks that the last assassination in Lebanon occurred over four years ago.

“The noteworthy fact in this event is that most political forces did not treat it as an assassination attempt, only four hours after shots were fired from two heavy weapons… when Geagea himself exposed what had happened and that he had survived an attempt on his life,” A-Nahar reported. In a photo accompanying the story, Geagea displays the bullets fired at him on a white sheet of paper.

Hizbullah news channel Al-Manar, predictably, downplays the shooting event. “Contradictory security estimates surrounding the attempt,” reports the channel in its headline.

“Within one security agency one finds multiple stories. One senior officer… said two possibilities exist for what happened: either the sniping was a message to Geagea, or what happened was ‘fabricated.’ Considering this, expecting a useful piece of information from the security agencies was pointless,” Al-Manar reported.

Tension between Iran and Turkey

New rifts are emerging in the diplomatic relations between Iran and Turkey surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that “in a new escalation of tensions between Tehran and Ankara” Iran has requested that Iraq, rather than Turkey, host the newest negotiation round to discuss Iran’s nuclear plan on April 14. In response, Turkey summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest the move.

Al-Hayat editor Ghassan Cherbel comments on the new alliance between Iran and Iraq in an editorial titled “The coup of the coup.” He writes that the combined oil reserves of both countries, coupled with their combined military powers and population sizes, should not be ignored.

“The mere alliance between Tehran and Baghdad sends an important message to the neighbors of both countries,” writes Cherbel. He regards the alliance, in which he includes Syria as well, as based primarily on the Shiite beliefs of state leaders.

“What surprises me is that key states in the region refuse to read the changes that occurred and refuse to adapt to them. I fear that we are on the way to a Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region, as an alternative to the failed attempts to remove the Syrian link in this axis.”

But the Arab nationalist editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Abd Al-Bari Atwan, claims Thursday that Israeli nuclear capabilities, unspoken about in the Arab world, are the real threat to the region’s stability, not Iran. He quotes German writer Gunter Grass as warning the world of the perils of Israel’s intentions.

“While Israelis begin to specify the number of their victims [as the result of an Iranian strike], even if for psychological reasons, we as Arabs do not pay any attention to this matter. It would be no exaggeration to claim that doing this would be heresy; we are not allowed to talk about the fatalities, or the psychological and material destruction our region would suffer… after this war [between Israel and Iran] erupts.”

Christians consider fleeing Syria, fearing oppression

Saudi-owned news channel Elaph reports that many Christians in Syria, who were protected by the Assad regime as a religious minority, are considering fleeing the country for fear of Islamic extremists.

According to Issam Bshara, regional director of Lebanon, Syria and Egypt at CNEWA  (Catholic Near East Welfare Association), the Christians in Syria face a threat on two fronts.

“Staying in the country would expose them to fire from rebels and government forces. On the other hand, if the rebels prevail and the [Assad] regime collapses, an Islamic government will take its place, and this will make their life very difficult,” Elaph reports.

Bshara cites the case of Tunisia, where a secular state existed for more than 50 years, but where large demonstrations now demand the enactment of a religious constitution.

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