Sectarian Land Law

Lately, Lebanese Labor Minister, Butros Harb, has proposed a law that would forbid a Lebanese to sell land to another Lebanese of a different confessional affiliation. According, to Al Akhbar Journalist Hassan Oleik, the law does not have much chance to pass and is mostly proposed for electoral reasons, but still signals initiatives from the remnants of what was called “political Maronitism” to assert itself and defend its turf by institutionalizing the “gettoization” of Lebanese politics. Citing a certain “legal expert”, this project is said to be the beginning of the building of a “separation wall between communities”.

It is surely the case that the only area where Christian power can still assert itself in Lebanon is through land ownership. Let’s face it, in other areas, Christians do not have much power left. The Maronite church and other churches for that matter may well possess the largest amount of real estate and mountainous regions in the country. Seen in this light, no wonder why Harb, an attorney by formation, is interested in passing that law project.

But seen in the light of general Christian relations with the “Muslim world” or simply, the region, Harb’s type of politics that mirrors most isolationist practices of groups such as the Phalangists or the Lebanese Forces, poses a crucial problem. It is what one could call the “Zionist syndrome”: trying to enforce political presence through barricading cultural entities. Is there any long-term effectiveness to this policy? More to the point, in the age of the nation-state, how to build durable States that embrace difference and look outwardly rather than act like paranoid and security-obsessed political communities?

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Woman win case to pass on citizenship

A woman, Samira Sowaidan has won a case, with her lawyer Souha Ismail, to be able to pass on her Lebanese citizenship to her four kids. Samira got married to an Egyptian man working at the Beirut port in 1985, and currently lives in Borj Hammoud. Her husband died in 1994, and this automatically meant that her kids were born in a country and lived all their life in it while paying annual charges for living visas or ‘iqamat’. At some point she could not pay this amount anymore while piling up the number of jobs she had to do to get enough money, now that her husband was not here to support.
It took an energetic and determined lawyer, and a judge famous for his ‘humanistic’ approach to ruling, John Qazi, to create a new status-quo when available texts clearly did not give the possibility for a woman to pass on her Lebanese nationality.
So now the decision is in the matters of the State, i.e. the prime minister in this case. Will they accept the judge’s ruling?

New moralists, that is what we needed

That is really funny. A Lebanese NGO is filing a lawsuit against Lebanese political leaders for “violating article 317 of the country’s penal code prohibiting incitement of violence”.

The accused include party leaders Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah, Samir Geagea of the Lebanese Forces, Nabih Berri of Amal, Saad Hariri of the Future Movement, Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement, Amin Gemayel of the Phalanges and Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party.

Ambitious innit? Most important for me is that it is just absurd and ill-directed. See the reasoning:

“It’s not just about people going to the street and fighting each other,” said Rabab El-Hakim, another CHAML member. “It’s the inner feelings of people toward each other – the hatred between different sects and political parties increases after these speeches.”

I beg to differ with this NGOist. This jump from on one side, practical measures taken to incite violence to, on the other, creating feelings of hatred, is a sweeping step. Looking for “inner feelings” can be very perverse.

First of all, this assumption of ‘provoking’ hatred through a mere verbal statement undermines the capacity of people to think for themselves: if people pay attention to what leaders say it is through a more comprehensive approach to their discourse. People try to make sense of the overall. How it fits into the grander scheme of things through time, albeit through their representation of things. And evidently enough their representations of the others have also to do with their daily practices, their lifestyles etc. Confessional and other divisions in Lebanon are socio-economic. “Hatred” whatever that means has nothing to do with it. It is this urge to moralize the conflict that helps the segregating ‘differentiating’ process between groups.

The real issue at stake is that Nation-building going hand in hand with a process of moralizing, and thus framing notions that may be way more complex in reality. For the ethical nation to strive it needs culprits. Hatred needs to be defined and pointed at: “This is incitement to hatred”. Lawyers are here to back it up. There is a process of deliberation and interpretation in order to decide if this or that means incitement to hatred. Do you realize how vague the quest here is? We are not trying to know who killed or tortured or commanded such operations, but really if the statements made do incite to this vague sentiment called hatred. This is probably one aspect of fascism (or liberalism for that matter).

Do we need to remind ourselves that modernity is built on this constant strive to spell out, define, and categorize “inner feelings”, so to domesticate him better, make him more servile to the ‘rule of law’ to the dictate of the nation-state by the sole use of his own ‘consciousness’? Embrace the modern man.

Nationalism, sexism, and other evils

I just learned something that is mostly fascinating, and may shock some of our beloved readers.

Everyone knows that a Lebanese woman cannot pass its nationality to her kid (if the father is not Lebanese, while the opposite is possible).

But did you know friends and relatives that a Lebanese woman married to a Palestinian man cannot even let her kid inherit her? (While if she was married to a man of any other nationality then she could actually make her child inherit).

You may ask what is fascinating about it. Well it is the fact that you can be sexist and chauvinistic at the same time and enclose it in a law. Beware that if I use the term sexist that does not at all mean I believe in “Women’s rights” in the liberal tradition. More on this later.

Lebanese judges accuses Qaddhafi of ‘hiding’ Sadr

I forgot to write about that last week, but recently, the Qada’ (the Lebanese official juridical instance) has accused the Libyan president Muammar el Qaddhafi of having instigated the kidnapping (or disappearing) of the Imam Musa Sadr 30 years ago, commemorated on the 13th of August.

If I’m not mistaken, this event is highly important at the very least in terms of the politics of the international tribunal that the (has been) majority coalition tried to set in the backdrop of the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri. The opposition was all along claiming that the Qada’ was untrustworthy because of its all-too-Lebaneseness, and that the killing of Hariri was too much of a weight to carry. Right before the July 2006 Israeli murderous (and stupid) adventure, Parliamentary member Bahij Tabbara (a close to the Hariri family) opened a channel of discussion with the opposition (namely Hizbullah) to have a ‘mixed’ tribunal where Lebanon’s juridical instances would retain some sort of discretion on the legal process. Talks were quickly halted by the deteriorating local post-war situation.

Here is an opinion that asks why not an international tribunal for Sadr’s disappearance.

Well anyway, Sadr’s disappearance (and most likely assassination) is in the hands of those same untrustable instances, and fingers are being pointed on the highest authority of another country, which is strikingly similar to the Hariri case were the main (14 of March) culprit is the Syrian president.

This is the political power of symbolic acts: No one hopes that Qadhafi would ever be dragged in front of Lebanese judges but it partly means that, ‘See? we did it with our dude, you guys can do the same for hariri!’

Women, Nationality, and "Islamists"

Yesterday morning, I turned on the radio tuned of course to Radio al Nour. There was an interview with Lina Abou Habib that campaigns to have women pass on their nationality to their children. The depth and pervasiveness of the patriarchal system in Lebanon is such that it is much worse than the rest of the Arab world. For example in Egypt, Algeria, and Bahrain, if you are a woman you can automatically pass your nationality to your child even if he’s not from a father of the same nationality. So I’m happy to hear that at least Hizbullah’s media is interested in women empowerment and wataniyeh.