Aren’t We Bitter…
Mr. Jihad Al-Khazen of Al-Hayat newspaper is the paramount pundit of Arab letters, and he is also the living embodiment of all that is wrong with the Fourth Estate in the Middle East. Previously, he had been the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Hayat, but now slobbers a daily column for that paper’s last page. He is also recognized as Prince Turki Al-Faisal’s mouthpiece. Not to be confused with the princely—and very Maronite—Khazens of Mount Lebanon, Jihad Al-Khazen hails from a Palestinian Orthodox family that immigrated to Beirut early last century.
His column today is entitled “Solagh is Solagh” and its last part is an attack on Iraq’s Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr Solagh, whom he denounces as an Arab-Iranian “mutt”. The occasion is the Jadirriya Prison, and the origins of this deep antipathy can be found in statements made by Solagh in response to Turki’s brother, Prince Saud. Solagh dismissed the Saudi prince as a ‘camel driver’.
Ever since Jabr’s remarks, there has been a rabid interest in his origins and a desperate scramble to prove that he is not of Arab genetic stock—a campaign mounted by Arab pundits in the pay of the Saudis. There is also an etymological fascination with his grandfather’s name “Solagh”: is it Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish or Farsi? Sometimes people cite a February 29, 2000 interview with Aljazeera where, in defense of his ‘Arabness’, Jabr recites his full name as “Bayan son of Solagh son of Jabr son of Hadhir son of Itmais son of Abed ‘Ali Al-Zubeidi”. But after the liberation, his first name turned out to be “Baqir” and not “Bayan”. He was born in Kut but raised in Kadhimiya. Hey, if the guy wants to be an Arab of the Zubeidi tribal confederation, all power to him, and short of DNA testing, we simply will never know if he is indeed descended from the progenitors of the early Arabs.
Al-Khazen, a Crusading extra in "Kingdom of Heaven"?
But it is a bit indigestible when a Christian Orthodox Palestinian—with fair features (hint, hint)—like Mr. Al-Khazen calls out Mr. Solagh on racial purity, and does so across the pages of the leading Arab newspaper. Some would call that uncouth—reflecting, say, the mannerisms of camel drivers.
Maybe this would be a good time to bring-up the fact that basically all the media that matters in the Arab language is owned by the Saudi royal family. Except Aljazeera, which is owned by another Wahhabi-leaning brood: the Al-Thanis of Qatar, who endlessly proclaim their elevated ‘mule driver’ status…