It all started at a Beirut supermarket, where ACS history teacher Timothy Eddy ran into award-winning journalist and writer Robert Fisk. In between shopping for groceries, Eddy managed to convince Fisk, a next-door neighbor, to come to ACS to speak with his students, who are studying Modern Middle East History. Impressed with Eddy’s intelligence and enthusiasm, Fisk did not hesitate to say “yes.”
It also happened that the National Film Board of Canada was filming a documentary on “the Middle East through the eyes of Robert Fisk,” to mark Fisk’s 40 years of living in and reporting from the Middle East. So Fisk invited the crew to film the Q&A session with the ACS students.
The film, which will probably be out by next year, is expected to be featured in film festivals and on various TV channels around the world.
Even though the event was announced to the ACS community barely a day before it was scheduled, it attracted a full house of students, faculty and staff who filled up the Upper School Library, seduced by the conversation Fisk was going to have with the students.
“This is a conversation between the youth of Lebanon—the future of this country—and the prolific Robert Fisk,” said Eddy in his introductory remarks.
Fisk, who has written on conflicts, tyrannies, violence, and political ploys, is also known to place a lot of faith in the youth of the region.
During his talk, he emphasized, “Want to get rid of dictators? Education. Education. Education.”
Even while addressing ISIS, which he described as an “army of lost souls,” and “a weapon” that has “as much emotion as an anti-aircraft missile,” Fisk insisted that the world cannot get rid of the Islamic State by bombing it out. “If you bring justice and education, and stop suppressing and oppressing people, you will get rid of ISIS.”
The students had thought of dozens of intelligent questions on ISIS, Syria, Lebanon, refugees, politics and the complex history of the Middle East. And Fisk was happy to oblige with his answers and his signature frankness, wit, and provocative (rhetorical) questions.
“We always come to this region, with guns, bombs, tanks, helicopters… to give you democracy,” he said. “But the Egyptian masses of Tahrir Square did not ask for democracy. They asked for dignity and freedom from oppression and injustice, because our democracies had been supporting their tyrants!”
On a positive note, Fisk told the audience with non-negotiable confidence: “Syria and Lebanon will survive, because they are countries with history.”
Following the Q&A, a book signing was held and refreshments were served.