Describing the pro-Lebanon rally on Saturday, August 12, as “a new, unapologetic embrace of Hezbollah” [“The T-Word: Coming out for Hezbollah on the streets of L.A.,” Aug. 18–24] was unfair to many Lebanese attending the march. Sure, a majority of Arabs are in support of Hezbollah, and they were likely the loudest in their support. Many Arabs, cheered along by Al-Jazeera, are glad to see the Lebanese fight once again for Arab honor against Israel.
The fact is that Hezbollah is operating as a state within a state in southern Lebanon. They are also the only armed group left after the Lebanese civil war and are in flagrant disregard of the Taif Agreement that ended that war. Unfortunately, Israel’s disproportionate war of choice on Lebanon has only solidified Hezbollah’s support among Arabs and many Lebanese even though they openly disregard the Lebanese state and its institutions.
Progressive forces such as ANSWER should think twice before hosting a march where many in attendance support Hezbollah. They are doing the good intentions of their movement and Lebanon no favors. Lebanon is the only multireligious democracy in the Middle East, and no action should be taken to undermine its unique yet fragile formula for peace and coexistence.
Where the Grass Is Green
I would like to clarify a small item in David Zahniser’s article on gentrification [“Welcome to Gentrification City,” August 25–31]. Zahniser described Lincoln Place as “a 795-unit apartment complex being demolished and replaced by condominiums.” I’m sure nothing would please its corporate owner, AIMCO, more, but it is far from a done deal, in spite of the pricey legal teams AIMCO keeps busy at City Hall and elsewhere.
Lincoln Place has been designated a Historical Resource by the California State Historical Resources Commission, a designation that carries protections against demolition. AIMCO will also run up against the City Attorney if it tries to demolish any more buildings. That office has stated in court that AIMCO forfeited its right to demolish buildings when it evicted tenants last December in violation of its own development plan.
As far as further evictions go, the Lincoln Place Tenants Association has a major case before the state Court of Appeals. This case has the potential not only to keep the L.P. tenants in their homes as promised by the owner, but also to change the balance between owners’ rights under the Ellis Act, which has enabled the current tidal wave of evictions, and community rights under the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires mitigations for community impacts such as large-scale evictions.
While it is interesting to compare the housing market to a weather system, as Zahniser does so eloquently, the analogy goes too far if you imply that we might as well try to stop the rain. Markets are man-made and shaped by law. The current situation is largely caused by bad legislation. There’s plenty we can do to stop it, and some of us are.
I appreciated how your article on gentrification honored the complexities of real estate and demographic change. I had to conclude that the people of every class are victims, except the wealthiest, and that people of every class are perpetrators, except the homeless. Almost all must steal from below in order to survive, whether “survival” means food and shelter or putting two kids through college. The bottom line is that until we distribute resources such that everyone can own rather than rent, vast numbers of people will be wasting vast amounts of their lives running after a decent place to live.
We can’t achieve an “ownership society” (to steal a phrase from President Bush) through legislation alone. The rich have a knack for turning the law to their advantage; that’s usually how they got rich. What we need to do for the long term is the hard, often elusive work of creating a culture that simply does not tolerate the disgraceful inequalities we’re used to.