May 27, 2007

Who is Franklin Lamb?

It’s Franklin Lamb suddenly all over the place. The man is right now inside the Palestinian camp Nahr el-Bared. While all of us journalists are sort of hovering on the outskirts of the camp, this man actually went inside. Or at least that is what he writes.
Franklin Lamb

I ran into this man down south in September of last year. He was touring the south, like me, checking out the cluster bomb issue, and the extensive bombing damage of the Israeli war. He gave me his card. ‘Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East it read. I remember thinking he was probably some type of bible wacko. You have them here; people that somehow see the light and come to the Middle East on a one-man-peace-mission-from-god. I ditched the card, but for some reason I remembered the name.

Well, he has surfaced again, and this time inside the Nahr el-Bared camp up north. No, he’s not a Fatah Islam member :) He is writing. He wrote an earlier article for Counterpunch (who’s behind the fighting in the north) on the situation in Nahr el-Bared, and he is currently writing from the inside.

Trouble in this part of the world is that you have to be very careful with people like this. As much as he could be genuine, he could be a massive fraud as well. If he is genuine, he’s pretty good.
The problem is, I cannot get much background on him. I googled him, but there is no information other than that he just released a book (The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel's Use of American Weapons in Lebanon) and another book (Hezbollah: a Brief Guide for Beginners) is supposed to come out soon.
He does somehow seem to be related with an organization called If Americans Knew. (He was working for them when I ran into him) The mission of this particular organization is to ‘to inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported in the American media.’ That is a noble enough mission, I must say. Most reporters that work for an extensive time in the Middle East do seem to get exasperated by the Israelis, and all lean to the Palestinian side after a while. Let's rephrase that; they do not buy the Israeli side anymore.
There is a Dutch reporter, Joris Luyendijk, who recently published a very interesting book on his problems with reporting the Middle East. (They’re Almost Like Real People, it’s called). It’s in Dutch only for the moment.

Both organizations (Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East and If Americans Knew) are looking at the conflict from the Palestinian side, and I doubt that the pro-Israel organizations in the States are very pleased with these people.

As I said, you have to be careful in this part of the world with the information you get. There is always AT LEAST two sides to it, and most probably more. And you've got to be careful where it is coming from. The line between information and propaganda is sometimes almost impossible to detect. For someone who seems to be so well-informed, and courageous to go into the camp right now, he does not seem to have published a whole lot in newspapers.

Franklin Lamb is like a Jack-in-the-Box. Where did he so suddenly come from? His case is the same as with all these obscure radical groups that appear out of the blue; ‘who’s his paymaster?” He could be one of those – what we call here – Hezbollah groupies. Hezbollah seems to like the man alright; they even posted one if his articles on their web site. They may have done this without his knowledge though.

And then again, he could be for real. And if he’s for real, he’s real good.
Update: Sorry, but no more commenting allowed on this particular post. Mr. Lamb - probably unbeknown to him - has created a little controversy though. It turned out that Lamb's name opened a can of worms that was a bit too much for some people who had nothing to do with the issue, yet did get mentioned. Well, it was fun while it lasted.