Raï in Jerusalem

Maronite-Cardinal-Beshara-Rai-Getty-1The new Christian maronite patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros el Rai, has been making some bold moves since the beginning of his mandate. First his visit to Syria in the midst of the conflict degenerating, and now his decision to visit Jerusalem as the Catholic pope has schedule a Middle East tour, all show that Rai wants to re-assert some form of power for Christians in the Middle East. Now I don’t know why everyone on the left side of the political spectrum (whatever that really means nowadays) lashed out at Rai, I think this visit is deemed to be considered as involving novel strategies that inscribes Rai as the most Arab of Christian Maronite authorities since the coming of the French in the region.

Rai kept on repeating, as he defended his controversial trip to Jerusalem, that he was going strictly for religious reasons. But then Rai added “I am going there to say this is our city, I am going home, and I am going to see my people. We have been present in Haifa and Galilee long before Israel.” Now that’s cleverly said as it contributes in a way to challenge the sovereignty of Israel over this chunk of land. Holy land is not to be possessed by nation-states. But that’s the Khomeinist rationale as explicited by his Jerusalem Day commemoration. That’s probably why Hizbullah was not so vociferous about Rai’s visit, opposing it publicly but quickly silencing the subject at the media level.

In the land where “non-state actors” prosper with or without the support of official states, what better way of producing political leverage than to use the various institutional tools at one disposal. Rai seems here to have learned from Hizbullah who uses Iran to further the interest of their community in Lebanon, producing political actions that can spill over outside of Lebanon.

Rai’s power material and symbolic springs from two different directions. His constituency and the various implications of the confessional system in Lebanon, and his institutional affiliation to the Catholic church based in the Vatican. This means that if Rai wants to bolster his position he can act on both these fronts. His recent visit to Jerusalem is clearly an attempt at gaining leverage through the organizational hierarchy of the Catholic Church especially now that the latter elected somewhat of a “third world” oriented pope. And in so doing, Rai can gain more independence as a figure representing a community that is not delimited by nation-states (Maronites in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, etc).

By using the “religious” card, his institutional affiliation to the Church, Rai reminds contemporary societies that communities are still represented by institutions that transcend State boundaries (in this case Israel and Lebanon). Most importantly, they remind us that where State fail to provide solutions for communities, other institutions can be used. Given the type of power the Catholic Church has, this is probably the best political move they can do. And by saying that his motivation are non-political and strictly religious, these are religious motivations that are strictly political.

It remains to be seen the extent to which Rai’s move manifest an action that transcends the State, it is still framed by State-related political calculations, in this case, the power leverage Christian can get in Lebanon.

Ramadan “made in Israel”!

20130808_195648I know it is a bit late now, but I forgot to add this picture I took in a Sainsburys supermarket in Dalston, London, a week or so ago. If you zoom in on the photograph, you’ll be able to see that the dates offered come from Israel. A nice way to celebrate Eid! I wonder what the Sainsburys management team was thinking when they put that stuff out there. Don’t they know that Muslims are generally allergic to something called Israel? At least, for the festivities, include a couple of dates from somewhere else! Out of all countries that can sell you dates, why choose to bring them from that tiny place that calls itself Israel!? This is another example why the claim that UK or Europe adopt policies of “Free Trade” is complete bullocks, to use an expression dear to a British audience. There is always a bit of political logic behind any policy to trade “freely”.

What is meant by “Israel should cease to exist”

This magnificently visionary passage of Fanon’s “Les damnés de la terre” nails cleverly what is at stake when the colonized decides to effectively fight the colonizer. What has been the slogan of the Palestinian resistance for decades and is now preserved by the “Islamist” resistance (that is still Palestinian but also Lebanese.. and beyond) grouping Hamas and Hizbullah that Israel should cease to exist could be well understood in this particular way:

« La violence qui a présidé à l’arrangement du monde colonial, qui a rythmé inlassablement la destruction des formes sociales indigènes, démoli sans restrictions les systèmes de références de l’économie, les modes d’apparence, d’habillement, sera revendiquée et assumée par le colonisé au moment où, décidant d’être l’histoire en actes, la masse colonisée s’engouffrera dans les villes interdites. Faire sauter le monde colonial est désormais une image d’action très claire, très compréhensible et pouvant être reprise par chacun des individus constituant le peuple colonisé. Disloquer le monde colonial ne signifie pas qu’après l’abolition des frontières on aménagera des voies de passage entre les deux zones. Détruire le monde colonial c’est ni plus ni moins abolir une zone, l’enfouir au plus profond du sol ou l’expulser du territoire. » (Fanon, Les damnés de la terre, p.44)

My translation:

The violence that has shaped the arrangement of the colonial world, has unrelentlessly paced the destruction of indigenous social structures, demolished without restriction economic system of references, modes of appearance, dress codes, will be claimed and endorsed by the colonizer when, deciding to his own history in action, the colonized mass would engulf itself in the forbidden cities. Blowing up the colonial world is henceforth a very clear image of action that can be used and understood by every individual consituting the colonized people. Dislocating the colonial world does not signify that after the abolition of borders, tracks of passages would be arranged between the two zones. Destroying the colonial world is not more nor less than abolishing a zone, bury it in the deepest ground or expel it of the territory. (Fanon, Les damnés de la terre, p.44, my translation)