Something More Kinetic …

“Air power plays major roles, and one of those is as a deterrent, whether it be in border control, air sovereignty or something more kinetic,” said the senior Pentagon official, using a term that refers to offensive military action.

What pricks …

US preparing to fight Iran

It seems that the US is up to something with Iran (and I don’t want to contradict my fellow blogger apokraphyte here):

The United States could be using its two air force bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania’s Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April,” the Bulgarian news agency Novinite claimed. Commenting on the report, The Sunday Herald wrote that the U.S. build-up along the Black Sea, coupled with the recent positioning of two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups off the Straits of Hormuz appears to indicate that U.S. President Bush has run out of patience with Tehran’s nuclear misrepresentation and non-compliance with the U.N. Security Council’s resolution.

Another story (sorry no link this time), says that American planes have entered the Suez Canal area along with nuclear submarines, warships, and other evil doers.

Now all this could be at best theatrical, but with the US, you can always expect the worst.

Meanwhile in Palestine

Grignotes que je te dise, grignotes:

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday condemned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to approve moving the separation barrier near Modi’in Ilit away from the Green Line in order to take in two settlements, as was first revealed by security sources and a brief submitted by the state to the High Court of Justice.

More "Shi’ia crescent" propaganda

Especially for the pedantic “I don’t believe anything, it’s cooler to be Grey (because more sophisticated)” type:

Prime Minister Fouad Seniora and the “Mufti of the republic” Mohammad Rashid Qabbani made some phone calls in order to stop the arrest wave and ask for the release of most of the suspects which ended up being members of the Mustaqbal party.

Yes, this did not take place, they are making it up.

Iran-Hizbullah relations

It would be interesting to think of relations between Lebanese organization Hizbullah, and the Iranian State (and whatever political fragmentation this ‘state’ entails) as a highly complex one that does not easily fit the description of a State with a Proxy.

In this case, any Lebanese ‘local’ interest group or political organization is not a proxy but interacts in a very erratic way with its foreign partners even when they can be described as backers.

Here one needs to look closely at how the relations between the US and 14th of March members, or Saudi Arabia and Mustaqbal and other related political actors, are clearly different from the Hizbullah-Syrian relations, and the Hizbullah-Iranian relations.
Who in Iran has contacts with Hizbullah? I defy anyone to give me the correct answer. The Iranian political system in itself is a riddle; the various power struggles within the various institution is a research project in its own regard. And if we have leads, how did it change over time? The 80s and early 90s period is pretty well documented and everybody records a significant change in the nature of the relationship starting from the coming of Nasrallah as secretary general, and the gentle ousting of Sheikh Tufaili. Understanbly enough, Hizbullah in the 1980s was much more dependent on Iranian goodwill than in the mid-90s.

What scholars called the “Lebanonization process”, I would probably think of different strategies to build political momentum and organize/act successfully. Meaning that these dudes were always thinking in terms of local/territorial/political interest, but in the 1980s, it paid off to talk in “Iranian revolutionary” terms (in order to get from the Iranians much needed help, in the social sciences we call this “framing”), whereas starting from the death of Khomeini on one side, and the institutional development of the party of God on the other side, framing grievance away from the commitment to the velayet el faqih (and a lot of other things) gained more currency.

Looking at the exact political stature of each party or political actor in Lebanon can help explain its relations with other regional or international political actors. I will give a hint: In the case of Hizbullah, It is regional political forces (Syria and Iran) that are dependent on them (and not vice versa), especially since the successive political/military victory (since the liberation of the South in 2000). However, the 14th of March is weaker politically and thus needs American and other assurance that they will not loose power. Still even in the case of the 14th of March, the Americans are somewhat dependent on the fact that the 14th of March accepts to compromise with them.

For the sake of the argument, this can easily explain why Saudi Arabia would push for discussions with Iran in order to find a compromise with Hizbullah. The deadlock is local (i.e. political struggle between Hizbullah and 14th of March), and the regional forces who have interests at stake try to find possible solutions in order to keep their interest preserved. I advise to read this very good article by Nicholas Nassif that explains some of the dynamics at stake. Nassif is maybe the most interesting journalist working for Al Akhbar. He was previously a Journalist at Annahar. He also has an excellent book that draws a thorough historical account of the 2nd Bureau (Lebanese Mukhabarat).

More Depressing News …

Survey reveals total shake-up of political map if elections were held today: Likud would win big with 32 mandates, followed by Lieberman’s Israel Our Home with 10; Kadima in third place with 9 mandates. Netanyahu far ahead of rivals as ‘best suited to be prime minister.’

Anyone who reads this blog knows I often place my hope in the Israelis as the only group of citizens with the potential to avert a coming regional disaster in the Middle East. So, please, don’t let me down …


I’ll say goodbye for now to think of an answer, and leave you with a few of my favourite Leunig cartoons

The Handover of Power …

Well, I guess the Americans really are standing down as the Iraqis are standing up. See this delightful article in the NYTimes for evidence that the USG is now allowing the Iraqi government to issue its own propaganda. It is a bit rough around the edges, but then again the Iraqis dont have access to the DOD’s strategic communications largesse. I really like the more fanciful touches. It kind of reminds me of a young woman learning to flirt (‘And I can even say this and they will pretend to take me seriously’).

Just got this email

Boubess Group is firing opposition employees.
Boycott all their restaurants for the sake of Lebanese unity:
Mandarine, BOB’s, Entrecote, la Piazza & Bennihana plz forward to all…

The source? Iranian Mukhabarat. Bouhou!

For your consideration

Don’t shoot the messenger, even if you do think this comes from a dubious source (next time, I’ll aim to quote from Annahar, promise…).

Fisk is wrong; it’s not “sectarian hatred” that is driving the war, but outside powers that are using their proxies within Lebanon to achieve their geopolitical objectives. In other words, this not the beginning of civil war, but a continuation of the 34 Day war; the deliberate pulverizing of Lebanon to create an US-Israeli protectorate in a critical area of the Middle East. Future pipeline corridors and regional hegemony require a compliant pro-western government in Beirut. That’s why the Bush administration has armed and trained the massive security apparatus of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, so he could succeed where Israel failed, by crushing Hezbollah and the pro-democracy movement.

Consider this: Siniora is freely violating Lebanese sovereignty to conduct covert operations against the very people (Hezbollah) who stood alone in defending Lebanon from Israeli invasion. Additionally, he is accepting this “assistance” from the United States knowing that it was the Bush administration that provided the laser-guided munitions and cluster-bombs which were used to kill Lebanese nationals just months ago.

And if you believe this is your cue to hug the Lebanese person next to you and absolve ourselves of any wrong doing, it’s not. It’s an appeal to look at the bigger picture, beyond the “sides” championed by the b-grade media and the relegating of some news sources to the bench while taking others as gospel. And before you say it, this preacher knows of at least one unconverted reader of this blog.

One last word on “sectarian hatred” (or 3) – sect is overrated.

Reduced to Incoherence …

Does this make any sense? To anyone?

I get the feeling the White House is not a happy place these days, so keep your eye on the exits, especially once Republican presidential aspirants start “talking Iraq.”

Re-raising the Middle Finger …

Obviously, very few individuals probably really know the details of the poker game between the Iranians and the Americans over the last three and half years, but it seems clear that neither side will accept a public shaming without a quick, humiliating response.

Thus, it is not surprising that just a couple of days after the WaPost revealed a Bush order last fall to target Iranians in Iraq, the Iranians trotted out their ambassador in Baghdad for a little oneupsmanship.

Iraq is a losing game for the Americans, and they Iranians know it, so expect much of the same over the next two years. Will Cheney’s ego be able to tolerate the slow taunt? I, and the rest of the world, should hope so, but it does not augur well for the future that daughter Liz felt it necessary to send an early Father’s Day card

Too Funny …

The movie “Assraelis” was produced by a Los Angeles-based porn movie company, Tight Fit, which is headed by Oren Cohen, an Israeli. On the package of the DVD version of the movie, which is sold on the Internet for USD 25, is affixed a kosher stamp similar to those appearing on kosher food products sold in the American market.

Oh, my …

Anyone want to try their hand with A-RABS …? On second thought …

Important points to remember

1- The snipers and other gunmen who participated in the killing and injuring of students at the Beirut Arab University work in one way or another for Al Mustaqbal. Don’t try to sell me the “the other did it” argument (Even if there are Syrians and Palestinians they have been subcontracted by Mustaqbal). They are all Lebanese. So bloggers, journalists, and other knowledge creators, please do the effort of not repeating another ideological mistake (first one made in 1975).

2- Another internal Lebanese affair: the Lebanese Forces reluctance to see the Christian streets turn away from their monopolistic security practices. Samir Geagea himself expressed it in his infamous speech. In his case, I’m sure nobody reviews what he says, because he plainly said that he “made the LF move” (7araket el quwat) because he did not want the opposition to win. As simple as that. At least the guy is frank. And here we are 15 years later at the same point: Geagea wants to prevail security-wise on the Christian side. It’s 1989 all over again. I don’t know how much the emergence of Hizbullah as a fully fledged political party can help in changing the status quo. And so what Geagea did is in total rejection of State institutions. Geagea want to preserve the ‘federalist’ option. For him and for Jumblatt (for example) it is the only politically realistic option in order to preserve a seat. And they will need the Americans for that.

3- The LBC TV has armed men working with the LF (or simply are LF armed members). Michel Aoun showed it in his latest press conference. This is a very important piece of information. The LBC TV is very instrumental in describing the work of the opposition as fomenting sectarian trouble when it is actually the LF that is doing so.

4- The role of the Lebanese army is key here. How much time will they remain in this situation? The political deadlock is here to stay, the American still did not decide what they will do with Iran, and so Seniora will not have a chance to resign before some time. Hizbullah and Tayyar will raise the stakes. It is expected that Hizbullah will not lose its temper, and may even help the Lebanese army security-wise. But what are the LF and Mustaqbal be prepared to do? Could Al Mustaqbal use more ‘subcontractors’? Briefly stated, Mustaqbal and LF will use any possible option in order not to be pushed to the margins.

The poisonous balloon hoax

Funny how the media is sometimes unable to think for themselves. In any case this morning the news broke that Israeli warplanes had launched poisonous balloons over Nabatiyeh. Everyone from Manar to the Lebanese army itself was releasing statements about these attacks. I kept wondering how that could be possible and why on earth out of all methods they would choose this one and for what purpose. Needless to say I found no coherent explanation and imagined the news to be some sort of a joke.

Later on Haaretz came up with the following information: they were gas balloons indeed but from some promotional event, they got carried away by the wind. The scary Hebrew inscription that got everybody into panic was just the “Ha’ir” newspaper slogan for its campaign. I think for once our neighbors will be justified in making fun of us (the whole panic around these balloons must sound pretty funny from the other side of the border).
The big mystery remains as to how all this managed to send 8 people to the hospital. Didn’t we all learn early on that inhaling air from inside balloons could be dangerous…

Update from Annahar:

Wandering, Wondering: A New Land, An Old Love

Three things were taken from my bags as they made it from Beirut to Casablanca to NYC:

1) Brand-new cell phone;

2) Poster of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah;

3) Collection of poems by Billy Collins.

I will let readers divine that mystery …

Ten Questions:

1) Is Marrakesh Orientalism’s EuroDisney?

2) How can Casablanca be Africa’s largest port?

3) Is a prostitute always a prostitute or only while she is “working”?

4) Why do some strangers think a sober-minded individual like me smokes dope?

5) Why do all Arabs approach the Lebanese with a curious affection that is simultaeneously condescending and envious?

6) Can you really get a service from Fes to Dora by twirling your finger in a circle?

7) Why is the airport still my favorite place for Lebanese-watching?

8) Why do posters of Franjieh and Arslan evaporate my sympathies for the Lebanese opposition?

9) Why don’t oil-rich construction magnates from the Gulf understand that Lebanon is a small place for small things?

10) Do I always leave things behind in Beirut so that I always have to go back?

Actually, I know the answer to that last one …

The almighty Lebanese Army

The Lebanese Army is certainly one of the key players in current events, maybe even the predominant variable in the equation.
Several sources have quoted the possibility of a millitary “coup”, but what would that mean? How would it be possible? A real “coup” would be hard to believe, in the sense of a complete take-over of administrativ and civil institutions. Not only does it not fit in the profile of Gen. Suleyman, but also in the current state of the country the plan would simply collapse leading to furthermore chaos. Still some form of control over the country’s activities can be implemented in the form of successive curfews and street presence. The governement is now totally incapable of controling the country, and the opposition is unable to take over, or rather, reaching its objectives of sharing power.
The army is thus the chief regulatory power in the country at the moment and its behavior in upcoming days can largely determine the fate of the country in the years to come.
The question is how long it can stand its role as a public servant that cannot take sides in the current battle, despite both of them having serious leverage to make bend it over. The governement tenors have severely criticized for not fulfilling its coercive role and in principle it should be receiving orders from Murr’s ministry of defense, but on the other hand the major constitutive forces of the army are shias, all of them favoring the opposition, and christians, most of which historically and genealogically lean towards Aoun. Even Murr would know that he runs the risk of implosion if he pulls the strings a little too hard. But as a counterpart the army will not either fulfill it’s role in dismantling the militias.

In think even Al-Malicki would hate to be in Suleyman’s shoes in the present days.

The privatization of security

Whatever you want to say on what happened in the past two days, there are a couple of points one will have to keep in mind:

1- The government is obsolete and has no authority whatsoever on what’s going on in the streets. Seniora lives on another planet, along with Chirac. They have no idea, or refuse to acknowledge, what’s happening on the streets. (Update: And if Seniora is being briefed on how mustaqbal and LF militias are causing turmoil, then he should be hanged by the side of his jaw that’s droping).

2- Groups within the government operate militias and are trying to create confusion among opposition ranks. My bet is that they are trying to push Hizbullah partisans to the streets, thus convincing the public that Hizbullah would go to the streets and would use its weapons against other Lebanese. For now, Hizbullah did not fall (and presumably will not) into this trap.

3- The Lebanese army is put to test, and as it showed that it could indirectly side with the Tayyar, we are left off with what Al-Manar discourse has crystallized as “The Militias of the State”, against the cross-sectarian opposition grouping. (Update: what I meant here is that the army will never allow militia-like behavior, and saw that ipso facto (to use a pedantic expression) the army will be against the government).

4- The particular case of intra-Christian clashes is worth elaborating on: forcing the unification of the Christian streets is a painful process, one that will be (and was as we saw) met with violent opposition. Aoun here tries to do exactly what he did in the late 80s. The Lebanese Forces’ snipers were a challenge to that.

5- Government-owned TeleLiban played some classical music while tires were burning. This is to tell you the helplessness of some government officials.

Update: 6- People will start to understand the difference between resistance (Hizbullah) security practices, and militia behavior (Mustaqbal-related gangs, Lebanese Forces). This is a good thing I suppose, although I would have preferred that Lebanese would not have had to go through this to understand!

Lebanon today, a viable state of sheep with opposable thumbs

Beirut. Thursday, 25 January 2007. When did university students, traditional bearers of social revolution, start to play out the designs of murderous old megalomaniacal hypocrites nostalgic for the days of sectarian militia death-by-ID checkpoints, sniper warfare, chaos and curfews? A perfect smokescreen for the real inciters-cum-killers in their ivory towers and their hit men on the rooftops.

Next, mobilise the children.

Dark days

Maybe there is an underlying message in Geagea’s criticism of the national security apparatus. Some sort of auto-legitimisation of the importance and role of his militia in taking over where the regular forces fail, some sort of warning that it might be time for him to take up his historical role as paramilitary leader.
Some of us have known about the Lebanese Forces training camps and rearmament since 2005 but for the great majority this remained an unconfirmed rumour, and for those living abroad there was no way to get any information about it.
Even now there is this basic structure in the way current events are transcribed in the worldwide press and the national propaganda cannons such as DS that go like: the nationwide protest resulted in the death of at least 3 individuals and the wounding of about a hundred… giving a clear causality effect between the protests and the casualties that suggest the protests themselves were violent or the sole cause of violence. Nowhere can we read that militias literally attacked the protesters and even fought with the army that tried to hold them back.
The Free Patriotic Movement made a list of all the attacks it sustained on that day but you cannot access their website (a sentence says they are under attack but that they will be back).

Back to basics: Is who you are, good for you?

All Lebanese share a context. And a common history, even if Lebanese educational administrators fail to formulate this to fit a national curriculum. In the pursuit of a national identity, this is criminally negligent at best. Can an amnesiac learn from his/her mistakes? And, what’s the problem? Here, Laurie King of Electronic Lebanon with ‘Lebanon for Beginners’, posted during Israel’s July ‘Operation Just Reward’ campaign against Lebanon. This basic history lesson does not come across as sympathetic to any one domestic player, nor accusatory. Can a similar approach not be taken in writing up school textbooks? Or is it to be perpetually a case of “church or bus, 13 April 1975?” – “too hard”.

In Lebanon, it seems, everything happens in brutal isolation or in retaliation for isolated acts perpetrated against miscellaneous category of victim. Who does this myopia benefit? Your average man/woman on the Lebanese street? Ha! Reclaimed by historical context, these events will become suitable for school students, as all unpalatable events in history eventually do because we need them to build on, or to diverge from. Evidently, enough Lebanese share a lack of perspective, even if it is an imposed lack of perspective, as to warrant genuine fears of a new civil war (even if it doesn’t happen tomorrow), and certainly a lack of critical awareness of “identity as a function of administrative regimes”:

Identity is neither programmed nor pre-existing; it is constantly being shaped by the interplay of contexts and the dynamics of power inherent in such contexts. If identities were determined by virtually immutable genetic realities alone, then we would expect to see the same categorizations, symbols, and expressions of identity enduring over time in the same place, regardless of economic, cultural, or political developments. This is clearly not the case in the Middle East, a region that has experienced rapid metamorphoses from empire to colonial regimes to modern nation state structures in less than a century, and in which organized ethnic and religious groupings have emerged in different periods to compete for power, resources, and privileges, thus highlighting the contingency and relativity of identity.

In Lebanon, the entire population, being a mosaic of contending minorities, was thinking and feeling like potential victims even before the war broke out on April 13, 1975. It is no wonder, then, that the war was so violent, so bitter, and so protracted. Long before the war began, the Lebanese were enmeshed in a political and psychological “economy of scarcity” which left everyone feeling both vulnerable and opportunistic.

Clearly, many of Lebanon’s eighteen different sects had valid historical, political, and economic reasons to worry about scarcities of power, security and resources. Taa’ifiyya, however, actually obstructs power-sharing at the grass-roots level and gives rise not to a nation of fellow citizens, but rather, to an arena of pronounced conflict and competition between many anxious and agonistic minority groups. Because of Lebanon’s confessionally based system, every individual is encouraged to think of himself or herself as a Maronite, a Shi’i or a Sunni first, and only secondarily as a Lebanese citizen. By emphasizing the group over the individual (and thereby minimizing the individual’s choice, power, and sense of responsibility), and by privileging the sect over the state (thus contributing to the fragmentation of the polity), ta’ifiyya cannot but set the stage for future conflicts.

Not only has Lebanon’s system of confessional power-sharing had detrimental effects on national identity and the consolidation of the institution of citizenship, it has also complicated Lebanese conceptions, attitudes and behaviors associated with power. In Lebanon, power is not vested in the individual; rather, individuals can only attain power through their community, or, more specifically, through the leader (za’eem) of their community, who usually wields absolute power (backed-up by credible threats of force) in the context of his confessional group. The concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals in Lebanon’s political system has increased the sense of powerlessness and dependency which are already so prevalent among the members of each of the country’s contending minority communities.

The institutionalization of ethnic and religious identities for legal and administrative purposes, seen most clearly in states such as Lebanon and Israel, is a double-edged sword. Although official recognition of cultural heritage and religious laws may provide answers to individuals’ psychological needs and communal organizational problems, it can also trap individuals (particularly women) in the vise of inflexible identity categories not of their own choice or making, thus limiting their personal options and opportunities while preventing the development of a more inclusive sense of overarching national loyalty and identity.

At a time when historical perspective is in dangerously short supply, and with a rigid category of identity the only commodity consistently apportioned among the population by the powers that be, the whole article is well worth reading even for seasoned veterans struggling to see beyond the haze of burning rubber.

What about the people?

From watching the news lately, I come to think that the Lebanese media simply does not recognize that there is a population in the country. For the past couple of days, I heard Geagea, Seniora, Jumblatt, Frangieh(s), Nasrallah, Aoun, a plethora of bishops and sheikhs, and I may be missing many, attacking each other on the issue of Paris III and the imminent general strike that will take place tomorrow.

There were talk shows showing economy and finance ministers (former and present) assessing the pros and cons of Paris III and the “Development Plan”. To that effect, I am still working on a translation of Corm’s arguments, but I got severely sick since I am here so I am basically writing one paragraph a day and comatozing (I’ll spare you the time to search, this verb does not exist) in front of the TV occasionally waking up to the sweet sound of the different protagonists’ voice.

Just a parenthesis, the “Development Paper”, has nothing in it that touches developmental issues. At least, from what I saw of it when I worked at the ministry of economy last year (at the time drafting the paper for a hypothetic Beirut I). The whole rationale of the plan was to prepare something that looked serious enough (in terms of IMF, and Club de Paris standards) in order to get the funds required to service the debt. What’s even more funny is that initially the ‘social’ component of the plan wasn’t even considered, until the international instances advised the government that if they plan to push taxes that high, they must include what is called in the neoliberal-washington-consensus jargon “minimum social safety nets” as its absence would backlash on the whole project of “development” (because it would create unemployment and widespread poverty thereby hampering consumption). So, reluctantly the minister of finance included it. I actually assisted on its work with an economist (that I won’t name) and when he presented his paper, most of it was scraped as ‘not feasible’ because it needed to have administrative and legal reforms in place, and that for now the government was looking only for quick short-term solutions in order to get money.

In any case (I’ll write more on economic issues in upcoming posts), just to go back to my initial question, the media fed us with all the various declarations, press conference, rally calls, warnings, etc. voiced by the leaders. But not at any point did we see any investigative work at the people’s level. I mean if you think about it nothing interesting can happen tomorrow if the people don’t go out on the streets. So to say the least, the people are the most important variable in this political deadlock. Whether people would decide to close their shops and go on the streets, or will stay in their house, in both cases, they are highly instrumental to the unfolding of events. Ultimately, the leaders’ agendas are all conditioned by how the various constituencies will behave. But when the leader base all their hope on the people, the media (and public opinion) takes them for granted.

And so nobody, from the average citizen, was asked what he thought. For example, some journalist could have went on the street and asked some shop owner what is he going to do tomorrow, as simple as that. The media assumes that what the leaders say the people will do blindly. I always have l’Orient le Jour as an example (because my mom gets it every morning at home so I get the macabre delight to read this piece of toilet paper) they had two editorials today treating the people as “backward” and “regressing” and that paris III is a blessing because it is in some ways (not really understood by the authors themselves, related to the West which is good because they are superior. Of course, they are only repeating concepts voiced by arch criminals like Geagea or simple oligarch employee like Seniora, so no praise for the originality, but just to tell you how the fascistic tendencies (i.e. the total disregard for social issues) are prevalent and become unquestioned paradigms. The way to obliterate discourse is to say that what’s apparently economic has political ramifications (and regional extensions).

But whatever you say, whether somebody decides to close his shop and go down on the streets, is a matter of a thought-of decision due to a specific social and economic condition in which he’s been living in since who know when. And this is something no one tried to understand.

Security Risk or Fashion Victim?

Allen Jasson, prevented from flying by airline staff who argued that his T-shirt was a security risk. Don’t you feel safer? All hail the Flying Kangaroo! That’s Qantas, by the way.

And now for a quick ‘security’ commercial break

Not that important considering the daily flow of events taking place in Lebanon, but some of the Lebanese press reported on the seizing of 75 katyusha rockets in the house of an unnamed guy from Bira (in the region of Rashaya). Security sources said that the dude is an “arms’ dealer”.

Time to Be Pro-Saudi, Pro-West, Pro-…Pro-Lebanon?

From the very objective and factually impeccable Arab News, direct out of Saudi Arabia (my emphasis):

The Siniora administration, says Nasrallah, has no legitimacy since he withdrew along with five other Hezbollah ministers [1] in November. He is demanding fresh elections.

In normal times it would be perfectly sensible for President Emile Lahoud to dissolve what remains of the coalition government and seek a fresh vote. But these are not normal times. It is anyway hard to see what a general election would achieve [2]. Lebanon’s different factions would each return just about the same number of legislators and another all-party coalition government would have to be formed. If Hezbollah would once more refuse to take its share of the government, it is hard to see how the situation then would be any different from what it is now.

This confrontation is of course not simply about Lebanon. Because Europe and Washington back the broadly anti-Syrian Siniora-led coalition, Syria and its ally Iran back the broadly anti-Western Hezbollah, whose status has been elevated by its successful defense against Israel’s latest invasion. Once again Lebanon, ravaged by 15 years of civil war is being subjected to foreign interference, which has underpinned its tragic recent history [3].

What about Lebanese of all political opinions, sticking up for Lebanon for a change? It is easy to condemn Nasrallah and Hezbollah for pursuing an agenda that is inherently contrary to Lebanese interests, but other factions also carry blame. There were those who hoped that the Israeli Army would utterly destroy Hezbollah and rid the country of an increasingly high and mighty militia over which the government had no control. Most middle class Lebanese of all backgrounds just want peace and stability so they can get on with the business of business at which they excel and which once made Beirut the financial hub of the Arab world. The West, rather than Iran and Syria are the most profitable commercial areas, so there is a built-in Western bias [4].

My questions:
1. Was Hassan Nasrallah a Hezbollah minister?
2. Really? Would general elections mean a return to the status quo? I genuinely would like feedback on how people envisage the outcome of general elections (including co-bloggers).
3. When did Saudi Arabia make the move from foreign interferer to domestic player?
4. “High and mighty”? Never mind. When did Nasrallah and Hezbollah begin to pursue an agenda contrary to their own interests as Lebanese? And what of Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement? At least Arab News has addressed the interests of the Lebanese middle class and business. And the rest?

As for the last sentence, well, possibly the best summary of the Saudi position.

By the way, this editorial piece is entitled ‘Time to Be Pro-Lebanon’. And it’s telling the Lebanese to be pro-Lebanon. Really.

Back to the culturally biased rags

The good thing about being in Lebanon is that it’s always nice to come back to seeing stuff like this printed on the front page of Lebanese newspapers (here l’Orient le Jour):

Here’s the caption:

Lorsque tous les moyens sont vains, les villageois palestiniens n’ont plus que la prière pour montrer leur protestation face à l’impitoyable grignotage de leurs terrains par le mur de séparation érigé par Israël.

Rough translation: “When all has failed, the Palestinian villagers have nothing but prayer to show their protest against the horrible shrinking of their lands caused by the separation wall erected by Israel”.

1- Why from all pictures you could find on AFP’s website did L’Orient choose this one to put on its front page?

2- So you tell me, why can’t these people just be praying with no hidden meaning to it? Do they seriously think (the biased media) that these people are actually praying in the hope of changing the unjust state of their living?

This clearly exemplifies the deeply entrenched thought that religious phenomena, and other related ritualistic behavior are grounded in irrational beliefs/affect and that there is a clear opposition between these irrational manifestations and the proper scientific way of going about doing things (that is rational). This is the biggest misconception of what we call today “modernity”.

Georges Corm s’exprime

I said in an earlier post that I will write about the paris III conference and the economic situation in Lebanon. But why do so, when you find no one else but your favorite Lebanese economist (and political scholar) Georges Corm writing a very good overview of Hariri’s destructive economic policies today in the press?

I will provide translated excerpts soon. Will also add some of my ideas on the subject. Now I need to sleep. Good night.

Update 1 (20/1/2006): Click here for the second part of Corm’s analysis

We Love Life …

Can somebody find the original version of this (by Mahmoud Darwish):

We love life whenever we can.
We dance and throw up a minaret or raise palm trees for the violets growing between two martyrs.
We love life whenever we can.
We steal a thread from a silk-worm to weave a sky and a fence for our journey.
We open the garden gate for the jasmine to walk into the street as a beautiful day.
We love life whenever we can.
Wherever we settle we grow fast-growing plants, wherever we settle we harvest a murdered man.
We blow into the nay the color of far away, of far away, we draw on the dust in the passage the neighing of a horse.
And we write our names in the form of stones. Lightning brighten the night for us, brighten the night a little.
We love life whenever we can.

متابعة: أشكر هلال الذي اتى لنا بقصيدة محمود درويش في اللغة العربية:

ونحنُ نحبُ الحياةَ إذا ما استطعنا إليها سبيلاَ
ونرقصُ بين شهيدينِ. نرفعُ مئذنةً للبنفسجِ بينهما أو نخيلاَ
ونحنُ نحبُ الحياةَ إذا ما استطعنا إليها سبيلاَ
ونسرقُ من دودة القَزِّ خيطا لنبني سماءًا لنا ونُسيِّجُ هذا الرحيلاَ
ونفتحُ باب الحديقةِ كيْ يخرُجَ الياسمينُ إلى الطّرقاتِ نهارا جميلاَ
ونحنُ نحبُ الحياةَ إذا ما استطعنا إليها سبيلاَ
ونزرعُ حيثُ أقمنا نباتا سريع النُّمُوِّ، ونحصدُ حيثُ أقمنا قتيلاَ
وننفخُ في النايِ لونَ البعيدِ البعيدِ، ونرسمُ فوق تُرابِ الممرِّ صهيلاَ
ونكتبُ أسماءنا حجرا حجرا، أيها البرقُ أوضحْ لنا اللّيلَ، أوضحْ قليلاَ
ونحنُ نحبُ الحياةَ إذا ما استطعنا إليها سبيلا