Ace, who was traveling with the group of journalists, describes “What Happened with Hitchens”
I wasn’t there. I was there, however, for the immediate after-action report, and have heard it told ten times by now, including most of it from Hitchens. Although I didn’t really bother asking much, as I’d already heard it.
Hitch and two others were out on some or such errand. One guy was just telling Hitchens that the Syrian Nazi party had little support in the country but was paid by Syria to kill people, and that he’d been told they’re the one party you don’t fuck with.
So five minutes later they come across the poster for the Syrian Nazi Party on an abandoned bagel shop — abandoned, if I had this right, after Hezballah had attacked it last year due to the overly Jewish connotations of bagelry.
So Hitchens immediately takes out a pen and writes “No, no, Fuck You” on the poster. I don’t know if he’d digested the story and decided to fuck with them anyway, or else he was just reacting to the modified swastika on the poster.
Now, the Syrian Nazis are not popular and neighborhoods have tried to get their posters taken down. But then they threaten people and cause problems.
So the state leaves them up. To avoid getting their posters defaced or torn down, they post a paid Nazi watcher to keep an eye on their posters.
Well, when this Syrian Nazi goon saw Hitch do this, he confronted him and kinda-sorta attacked him. I say kinda sorta attacked, because what his main intent was was to delay Hitchens from leaving — until the ten Nazi goons he had just texted on his cell phone could arrive…
I first saw the SSNP’s swastika-based flag when I was in Beirut photographing Hezbollah’s rally in Dec. 2006. Since I had taken a picture of every other group and flag, I was going to take a picture of theirs too, but I stopped when I noticed how all the other Lebanese reacted to this group. They moved away from them, they glared at them – they hated them. The Christians in the neighborhood openly showed their hatred, but the were even, more subtly, treated as dangerous pariahs by their fellow Syria/Hezbollah supporters.
It’s generally assumed that they are responsible for the car bombings that terrorized most of Beirut and targeted Lebanese politicians and journalists. When police found explosives in one of their lairs, one SSNP member said “we are a resistance force, and we use different methods of resisting, among which is using explosives.”
The group was banned for a while but unfortunately, Hezbollah and concurrent Syrian influence have gotten more powerful lately. The SSNP is coming out of the shadows. I was there last August and saw that their swastika emblems are painted all over West Beirut. Their flags are on display on the road to Baalbeck.
Although most Lebanese hate this group, they usually don’t paint over the symbol or tear down these flags because they know how dangerous this group is. Since Hitchens knows the area, I assume he did too. Given the way they drive, I’d guess that many Lebanese admire this kind of crazy bravery. A lot of people would probably like to buy him a beer.
Gene at Harry’s Place says:
“Coincidentally or not, Hitchens’s old nemesis, George Galloway, addressed a 2006 celebration in Canada commemorating the 74th anniversary of the founding of– yes– the Syrian Social Nationalist Party…So once again we gaze in bewilderment upon a world in which someone who confronted and physically fought fascists is routinely accused of selling out to the Right, while someone who celebrated with their Canadian fellow fascists is viewed by some as a hero of the Left.
Charles at LGF says:
Apparently it’s not popular to say it, but I applaud Hitchens for flipping the bird to those creeps. If more people had the guts to do things like this (and a few drinks in them to loosen them up) skinhead punks like the SSNP might not have so much power.
I wrote about growing SSNP influence in Lebanon after my last visit, but the issue didn’t get much attention. I should have started a fight –