Back to Beirut, the true extent of divisions

If I could write everything or even a selection of the things that went through my mind since I arrived here a couple of days ago, it would really be a disaster and luckily enough I am too lazy to do that. But there is probably one thing I can mention that has profoundly shocked me among the myriad of things that were disturbing and that I think should be said out loud: Falafel Sahyoun has split in two…

There are now two Falafel Sahyoun on the road that leads to downtown where the opposition tents are slowly rotting. They are stuck to each other, and the first time I saw the new shop, I passed by and said mabrouk thinking that they enlarged the restaurant (or snack as we call this type of eat-standing-in place). But today when I went again to eat in the new place, there wasn’t enough falafel to make a sandwich so the guy had to fry some more. When I said that I was in a hurry and that I will just pop into the other branch, he answered “but it is not the same place”. At this point the woman sitting at the cashiers desk started talking fast explaining that this is the real falafel Sahyoun the one and only Mustafa Sahyoun whereas the other is held by his brother.

I am still trying to get over this tragedy.

C’est pas moi c’est lui

Bank Hapoalim and Israel Discount Bank are facing charges in New York federal court that they violated American anti-terrorism finance laws by allegedly serving as a conduit for Hamas. The accusations come from the Arab Bank of Jordan, which was first accused of similar charges and is now striking back by throwing the charges at the Israeli banks.

Thank god the American public institutions are here to be more rigorous than the Israelis in the fight against terrorism:

The Defense Ministry’s Web site, for example, lists 200 organizations as terrorist entities with which Israeli banks are barred from conducting financial transactions. The list’s American equivalent, by contrast, includes roughly 800 organizations. There is only one entry for Hamas on the Israeli list, whereas the American list has some 30 charities and individuals tied to the Islamist group.
The consequences of the muddled situation emerged in September, when Israeli authorities discovered that roughly $745,000 transferred by Israel Discount Bank ended up in the coffers of the Executive Force, Hamas’s main security force in Gaza. The money, which was classified as wages paid out by the Palestinian Authority, was wired to Executive Force-controlled accounts at the Palestine Islamic Bank in Gaza.

Past and practically current events in the life of Brid. Gen. el-Hajj

So a quick recap of Brigadier Francois el-Hajj’s military history in reverse chronological order

1- Played a central role in the destruction and defeat of Fath al Islam’s forces in Nahr el Bared.
2- Lead battles against the bad guys in Deniyeh (replicas of Fath al Islam) 7 years ago, only to find them released along with Samir Geagea in the euphoria run-up of the cedar revolution.
3- Countered Lebanese Forces attacks in 1989 moments after Geagea (leader of LF) assured him that the army (under the command of General Aoun at the time) won’t be attacked. Hajj accordingly led the attack from Qolei3at and pushed LF forces back to Nahr el Mot.
4- Escaped an Israeli-LF assassination’s attempt back in 1976, after Bashir Gemayel’s forces (LF old face) had asked him to coordinate with the Israelis in order to set up a security zone in the south, to which he refused.

Now consider this:

1- El-Hajj is from Rmeish (Christian), a border village with Israel that is a couple of minutes away from Ayta Shaab (Shiite) famous for its fierce resistance to Israel incursions (especially during the last war). During the latest Israeli murderous adventure, most people from Ayta sought refuge in Rmeish their neighbors with whom they have strong ties due to their common economic work (tobacco cultivation) and age-old family friendships. Considering the fact that Hizbullah and the Lebanese army were coordinating on many levels, I would not be exaggerating if I say that it is possible that people like El-Hajj played key roles in that process. People like that are either preciously cherished (politically I mean), or vehemently hated.

2- El Hajj was going to be the next General of the army.

3- This and that.

Does this look like a guy the “Syrian-Iranian axis” would try to kill? Only if they want to shoot themselves in the foot. More on this later.

الأوجه المختلفة للفراغ

من خلال تناوله فكرة الفراغوطريقته المميزة لإختيار عبارات ولغة خاصة، يعرض زياد رحباني ثمة من الإشارات لرموز سياسية وإجتماعية متداولة بين الأقطاب اللبنانية المختلفة:

بقي أمامنا عملياً المجهول والفراغ. وقد استُنفرت جميع الطاقات الوطنية ومناراتِ الإدراكِ والحكمة، واتُخذت كامل الاستعدادات الأمنية والدستورية للدخول بسلاسةٍ من الهاوية إلى الفراغ بدل أن تُتْرَك البلاد للمجهول. ودخلنا فعلاً وبخطى ثابتةٍ في «الفراغ الهادئ». والحمد للّه أننا لم ندخل في الفراغ! لكن، ورغم المهارة في دخول الفراغ الهادئ بسلامة، لاحظت بعض الأصوات الواعية الرصينة أن الخوف الفعلي ليس من الفراغ الحالي، بل من الاستمرار في الفراغ. فالاستمرار في الفراغ هذا، هو الذي قد يدخلنا في الفراغ فعلاً! وقد أبدى بعض النواب المسيحيين تخوّفاً من «التعوّد على الفراغ» الذي هو أخطر من الفراغ الموعود. وقد شدّد البطريرك صفير قبل أيام ثلاثة على أن تعديل الدستور أفضل من الفراغ. وهو لا يقصد بالطبع الفراغ الذهبيّ الحالي، بل الفراغ الآتي: فراغ الراشدين، الفراغ المشترك.
لا شكَّ في أن الفراغ الحالي مميّزٌ وفعّال، لكن من المستحسن أن يتمَّ الاستسلام إليه مرّة في الأسبوع على الأكثر، أو كفراغٍ عند اللزوم خشية الوقوع في الفراغ السليم! وعليكم بـ«الفراغ الصيني» باقي أيام الأسبوع، فهو نوعٌ من «الفراغ بالأعشاب» الصحّي والمهدّئ الذي سيهيّؤكم لاستقبال «الفراغ السحري للأطفال» القادم مع عيدَي الأضحى والميلاد. ماذا؟ وهل تفضّلون الدخول في المجهول؟ دعوا المجهو للسنة الجديدة.

The beautiful things you find in a dictionary

Most of you know that the name Hadi (هادي), is an Arabic adjective that means the guide, counselor, leader, etc, a name popularized after Nasrallah’s (the SG of Hizbullah) martyred eldest son. But I bet that few of you know (I had no clue personally) that the root verb Hâda (هَادَ) means ‘to become a jew’ to ‘judaize’. Of course this is different from the actual root verb Hadâ (هدى) that actually means ‘to guide’. But “il s’en est fallu de peu” as the French would say…

Iraq’s occupation: the role of the UN

There is a very interesting article in Al Akhbar on the role the UN (along with the US and UK) plays in crystallizing the division between executive and legislative powers in Iraq (empowering the former, and bypassing the constitutional rights of the latter, a constitution they not only imposed on Iraqis but are happy to violate). The examples include the decision to keep international forces (mainly American) in the country, something Parliamentary members whether Kurds, Arabs, Sunnis, Shi’as and what have you have dominantly voted against but was rejected by executive power and sanctified by a UN resolution.

The difference between ideology and reality

Even Iraqi officials acknowledge it:

Mowaffak al-Rubbaie, Iraq’s national security adviser… called on Washington to engage with both Damascus and Tehran, warning that security in the Gulf was interlinked and “you cannot stabilise Iraq and destabilise Iran”.
Speaking at a conference in Bahrain, Mr Rubbaie sought to assuage fears that Iraq faced the threat of falling under Iranian dominance, saying that Baghdad was working on a long-term strategic agreement with the US that would underline its outlook towards the west.

Some Lebanese are still fantasizing nonetheless (in awful terms):

America has instigated democracy lovers in Lebanon. Yet now that they have stood up, America seems willing to stand down. It’s taking the easy way out by talking to weakened Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and rewarding him with a free hand in Lebanon to finish off the freedom fighters.