Baath, ISIS and FIFA

Things are not what they seem. The Baath party failed to fulfill its “eternal” objectives set out for the lands lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arabian Gulf. Da’esh (known as ISIS or ISIL- Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Syria- in Western media) is not laying the grounds for an Islamic Caliphate that would take us back to the days of Muawiyah, Omar or Andalusia, and FIFA is far from reviving football at grassroots level, in every corner of the world, as it is pretending to do. Read the rest of this entry »

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Our Next President: King Carl Gustav

“Syria had established a monarchy under King Faisal Bin Hussein and the proclamation of a kingdom or an emirate in Lebanon was not greeted with any opposition from residents. Yet, the French wanted us to be republicans, so we became republicans…”

“Mount Lebanon lived in the Mutasarifiyah era for seventy years under a system pretty close to the monarchist regime. Why don’t we go back to those days and establish a long-term small-sized administrative council with advisory and legislative powers, and the state will be headed by what we call Emir or King rather than Mutasarrif?”

Iskandar Riachi

 

‘Who will be the next President of the Republic of Lebanon?’ A question frequently raised by the media, the politicians and the public as if anyone knows the answer. As if we lived under a parliamentary democracy in the first place to speculate who the next President will be. Is the current Parliament, whose mandate has been extended, even qualified to elect a new legitimate Head of State? Is it normal for the Speaker of Parliament to be Shia’a, the Prime Minister Sunni and the President of the Republic Maronite? Is it normal to distribute posts based on sectarian quotas? Is it normal for a Za’im (depending on the circumstances that dictate who that Za’im will be) to have the final say on whom to hire and promote to public posts from his sectarian community? Does it really matter whether we have a President of the Republic if there is no Republic to begin with? Read the rest of this entry »

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O Bankers of Lebanon, Set the Tires Ablaze!

It is common knowledge that at stake is not the issue of the pay scale; it is not the issue of public property encroachments or of tax evasion and inequity nor is it the issue of mismanagement and of squandered funds at the Lebanese customs and the land registration services; the issue is not simply one of the decline in public education or of the brain drain nor is it one of social security or lack thereof. At stake is not the issue of the pollution of Lebanon’s air, water and soil either; it is not an issue of heritage destruction nor one of amnesty laws or of thousands of missing persons who have faded into oblivion; it is neither an issue of intermittent power supply and poor road maintenance nor one of irresponsible officials assuming positions of responsibility or of citizens acting as goons for the Zua’ama; it is certainly not an issue of the Zua’ma complaining that they are being victimized by their people or of foreign powers meddling in our domestic affairs. At stake is an amalgamation of all these tragedies combined. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Lebanese Are Better Than We Think They Are

How do we balance between what we know in theory and how we live in practice? Ironically, the powers and technologies that have transformed the world into a global village have partly contributed to our segregation into separate clans, tribes and sectarian groups. How can we satanize and eliminate the other person? How can we reduce him into nobody, into a bitter enemy, despite our knowledge that the self and the self of the other are one? How dare we speak of “coexistence” and “civil order” while we fail to have the simplest dialogue in a peaceful manner? We extol the virtues of love but fly off the handle if someone begs to differ with us. Where is our scale of values? What is our point of reference? Do we use the same standards in evaluating issues and politicians irrespective of our personal interests? Read the rest of this entry »

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Lebanon’s Game of Musical Chairs

The few comments made by Ziad Rahbani about the Diva’s (Fairouz) admiration of the Sayyed (Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah), were sufficient to send the March 8 camp into an elated and celebratory frenzy and its March 14 rivals into tantrums of reprehension and condemnation. Whether it was intended or not, Ziad’s declaration deployed the Diva in the trenches of the March 8 Forces, but put her in the cemetery of the March 14. Fairouz did not utter a word. Her son did and Rima, her daughter, responded. So why was the backlash aimed at her? Read the rest of this entry »

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Hypocrisy in Giving

  • Q: What is the occasion of this fancy ceremony?
  • A: It is for raising funds for the poor.
  • Q: Do you work for the organization?
  • A: No. I work for a reception services’ company to bid you a cordial welcome. Read the rest of this entry »
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The General’s Son

general-son

He was not an activist for the Red Cross or the Red Crescent. Mattityahu Peled, known as Matti, was a Zionist General born in Haifa in 1923 to a father from Belarus and a staunch believer that Palestine was a land promised to him and to his people. For its sake, he engaged in atrocious fighting and killing with the Haganah. Yet, during a fascinating journey, the General went from a military hawk during the Haganah madness and later during the systematic violence of the Israeli Army in 1956, 1967 and 1973 to a peace activist, reconciled with himself and “the other”, and embracing a two-state solution, in a metamorphosis worthy of admiration. Read the rest of this entry »

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Maktoub

“..It was all written by God- maktoub.” Those were the words of a Lebanese survivor of the Australia-bound boat tragedy that unfolded off the Indonesian coast. Indeed, our birth, our land of birth and the families we are born into are all ordained events- maktoub. We were predestined to hail from Qab’it, Akkar. But what’s more? Read the rest of this entry »

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Nour and Reem Chamseddine – Two Success Stories

Most of what we write brings distress to the heart. Most of what we see casts a gloom on the spirit and most of what’s around us creates an aura of pessimism. But amidst deepening gloom, bright spots emerge to defy the dark.

Laborers sweating from dawn to dusk, survivors fighting sickness and poverty with a smile, industrialists, traders and craftsmen reaping the yields of their efforts with self-dignity, yet without arrogance, citizens saying no to humiliation, bribery and oppression; those are the unsung heroes. They solicit no posts or money and implore no favors from sects and Zu’ama. Never do they serve as talebearers. Never do they stab a nation or a friend in the back. Read the rest of this entry »

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1985 and 2013: Peak Years for Killings

1982 was the year of car bombings par excellence. Hardly did a month go by without an explosion ripping through Lebanon. As a matter of fact, a total of 34 car bombs exploded that year, thus translating into 2.8 explosions per month. 1985 on the other hand was the peak year for killings with approximately 317 Lebanese dead and 1198 injured in car bomb attacks.

Putting aside the operations against the Israelis, the Americans and the French, which claimed a number of Lebanese lives along the way, the list of yearly car bombings by the highest death toll would be as follows: 1985, 1981,1983 and 1982. Which year ranks fifth?

Here is the gist. It is 2013. At least 74 people were killed and 678 injured in four car bombings that hit Lebanon until mid-September. These numbers put the year 2013 fifth in the list since the 1975 Civil War, and first since 1985. This year alone has seen the death rate of 54% of the total deaths in car bombings since 1990. In other words, the death toll in 2013 exceeds half that registered in 23 years.

No wonder the Lebanese are packing up and leaving the country and the PTSD levels are high.

Jawad N. Adra

drawing

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Neo-Indexers

Neo-conservatives, Salafists, takfiris, nationalists, patriots, resistance fighters, unionists, democrats, poor, rich, Israel, power, Hamas, and so the list could go on forever. The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has conducted, thanks to funds granted by the Qatari government, a series of opinion polls aimed at studying the above phenomena and the status of people in the Arab world, thus producing what is now known as the Arab Opinion Index. The Index aims at “examining trends in public opinion and exploring the views of the Arabs towards economic, social and political issues including democracy, citizenship, equality and civil and political participation as well as their attitudes towards public and private institutions and towards the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Read the rest of this entry »

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The Process

Sharif Hussein was sitting in his tent in Hejaz, unaware of the role that had been woven for him and his sons when he started receiving the MacMahon letters along with the cunning flattery of the “infidels of the West”. He was very content to be the Emir of Mecca, and perhaps Hejaz, and did not even dream of becoming overnight the leader of the Great Arab Revolt. What mattered most was that Britain had assigned an Emirate named Transjordan to his second son Abdullah and a kingdom named Kingdom of Iraq to his third son Faisal, and gone with the wind were all the promises of an independent Arab state. The Sharif Hussein of Mecca ended up stranded between Cyprus and Jordan and was eventually buried in Jerusalem, far from his kingdom and his Hejaz. His sons and grandsons were assassinated one after the other, with the last assassination being the massacre in Al-Rihab palace in Baghdad in 1958. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Stolen Land

Once upon a time, there was a small village in a country called Lebanon. The village was often mistakenly called “Shekka”, for people did not realize its real name: El-Heri. One day, a man decided to buy a property by El-Heri’s seaside and demolished all infringements around the area, so that his property became exemplary. Slowly, beach sand accumulated, and the shore was restored, an event that was quickly celebrated by the “neighbors” who hurried to launch advertising campaigns urging people to come and swim at the most wonderful beach in Lebanon, at a charge levied in defiance of all laws. And so, they encroached on the property, trespassing and cutting trees and excavating land. Ironically, the landowner became the transgressor, while the beach swimmers and visitors were subjected to threats at gunpoint, should they fail to pay. Read the rest of this entry »

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G.G. + N.M.= Null Union Activity = Order of the Republic

Where could G.G. possibly be after having made history as the first Head of General Labor Confederation to stand against the modernization of the Labor Law drafted in 1936 and the provision of better wages and more favorable working conditions? Ghassan Ghosn (G.G.) failed to stay true to the objectives on which the confederation he presides over was premised:

  • Defending Lebanon’s labor force and lobbying to improve its professional, social, economic and moral status.
  • Remaining independent of any political party or influence. Read the rest of this entry »
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Stephen Hawking: The Atheist Believer

What did Hawking tell Khaled Meshaal and Azmi Bishara?

Nothing, of course. Chances are they haven’t even heard of him, for they’ve been too busy grasping grandiose concepts from His Eminence Al-Qardawi. Meantime, Stephen Hawking has been wasting time pondering black holes and quantum physics, let alone that the wheelchair-bound physicist cannot move and has to speak through a computer with a voice reminiscent of the omniscient oracle of Socrates.

For those pushing him to visit Israel to gain a better perception of how matters actually stand, Hawking has already visited Israel several times. And for those calling on him to give up his Israeli-designed Intel chip, the answer is simple: Should we cease using the airplane because it is an American invention, while we are against the US invasion of Iraq? The matter to Hawking is connected to a set of consistent values. Israel is a nuclear state, and he is a firm believer that a nuclear war in which humans destroy themselves and the universe around them is no longer unforeseen. His stand implies that science, morality and politics should go hand in hand, and this is at the core of the matter.

Hawking’s decision to absence himself from the high-profile scientific conference scheduled for June in Israel was not only in response to the appeals of Naom Chomsky and the other 19 academics, Palestinian in particular, but it was also in response to the inner voice inside him.

Doubtlessly, Hawking hasn’t heard of Al-Qardawi’s celebration of al-Bouti’s murder, nor has he solicited the rich or instigated violence. All he did was distance his name from the heinous crimes committed by Shimon Peres, the host of the conference, against the children of Qana and Gaza.

So has his voice echoed to Bishara and Meshaal in Doha? And will Al-Qardawi speak of faith to him? Perhaps Hawking can then quote Prophet Mohammad: “It is better to teach knowledge one hour in the night than to pray all night.”

Stephen Hawking, the atheist believer, spoke to them and to us alike. Let us not turn a deaf ear.

Jawad N. Adra

 

 

“I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank. However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.“ Stephen Hawking

 

 
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Enough!

The March 8 Forces have for a long time held their March 14 rivals accountable for the deplorable state of the country’s economy, education, medical services and infrastructure. The fingers were pointing since 1993 at each successive government, particularly those under the premiership of Rafik Hariri, Fouad Seniora and Saad Hariri. If the past were good, then why complain about it? And if it weren’t, then why persist in the same practices? The fact of the matter is that the March 8 Forces are reinforcing the lingering effects of the past they keep lamenting. 

 Below are a few matters overlooked by the March 8 Forces: Read the rest of this entry »

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Warren Buffet, You Put the Rest of Us to Shame!

Reveling blissfully in the absence of a decent taxation system that could ruffle their tranquility, and putting issues like the electoral law and the judiciary at the bottom of their priority list, the “Committees*” are strictly objecting to the slightest change in today’s economic and fiscal conditions. They actually fear any restructuring of the economy, or any measures proposed to reform the National Social Security Fund and the Ministry of Health.

The “Committees” refuse to sacrifice their comfort zone, yet keep complaining about the status quo. This glaring paradox begs the following question: “What are the “Committees” fussing about if they’re resisting the change?” Read the rest of this entry »

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Know Thy History

“Why did we defeat the Israelis and the Palestinians didn’t?”, the nine-year-old girl inquired, heedless that her question ramified into thousands of questions converging into one single answer.

First, who are “we” and who are the Palestinians? And why did the girl assume we emerged victorious, at a time when a considerable number of Lebanese and Arabs believe otherwise? Read the rest of this entry »

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A White Ballot

“Fair representation” seems to be the most popular term pervading social, political and media spheres in Lebanon nowadays. For some reason, the term takes us back to the last days of Muammar Gaddafi when he established the so-called popular democracy, stamping out the right of his people to free democratic elections, claiming “representation is charlatanry”. His words hit the nail on the proverbial head, as this whole “fair representation” buzz is a lie. Read the rest of this entry »

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Omar Salhab

 Jawad N. Adra

“Why do good men leave us too soon?,” an 8-year old girl asked when she was told that “uncle Omar” had died. Omar George Salhab (1947-2012) bid us farewell as though he had departed to reunite with his professor and friend at the School of Architecture in the AUB, Assem Salam. Gone far too soon, the good always leave a void that nothing and no one can ever fill. Not an eminent politician, or a famed star (although he bore resemblance to Omar Sharif), Omar Salhab deserved being honored for his person, not his title. Unimpressed by the great riches and the glare of limelight, he opted for peace and quiet.

A self-made man from the 50s and 60s’ generation, the nobel Salhab labored hard and reached stellar heights by the sweat of his brow, but also clung dearly to his roots and hometown, Roumieh, and embraced its ashes, when death marched in and took him away.

He, who always held onto his calm, pious and polite temperament, gathered contradictions in his name “Omar George” , his two sons George and Tarek, and his sister Dorothy Kathmi, who navigated sects and countries and died at a young age, just like her brother who left a meritorious reputation marked by an elegant, yet modest lifestyle.

“I ought to be doing more…,” the friend who was forever just used to say. Some of us used to be bothered by Omar’s protocol, for we could not match the unparalleled consideration he used to show during the holidays, the sick days and all the joyous or sorrowful events. Moaning in front of friends was alien to him, as he used to check on them regularly even when bed-ridden and breathing his last breath.

The pious secularist, who wouldn’t miss any Sunday mass or a wine or Grappa gathering at the dinner table on week days, surrendered to no temptations; he didn’t return from the Gulf or London with an eye on a ministerial or a parliamentary seat. He was never after prestige, nor did he indulge in the notorious Lebanese extravagance. He kept it simple, playing cards with his friends and family at the village, far from the fuss of convoys and bodyguards. He was human par excellence. From Tripoli to Broumana High School, to Britain, to the AUB, to Saudi Arabia and London, he crossed all roads surrounding himself with dear companions and with the love of a wife who devoted her life with and for him, and a sister who echoed his name in every breath.

With his Jesus, he walked up the Hill of Calvary and lived the life of a man, in every sense that the word manhood bears. He was an exemplary figure for our youth to model after today and tomorrow.

The loving and courteous Omar bid us goodbye after having attracted all the opposites, especially in his friendships. He worked silently, gave silently, ached silently and left… silently.

Jawad N. Adra

When Smiles Are Swans

To Omar Salhab

(1947-2012)

When in midflight Thanatos shot you down

Smiles left the sky and swans refused to fly

And life’s verdures decayed to noble brown

And greening rains and balming tears went dry.

Fountain you were and unaware you flowed

As fountains do to all who come in thirst

Love mount you were whose white crest always glowed

Brightening nights with many a joyful burst.

Your ancestors, enlightenment and art

Vouchsafed you to our ephemeral times

A siren song that gladdens mind and heart

And tolls our bells with myriad mirthful chimes.

Like you, we’ll serve our turns and bravely die

But who will fill with smiles our swanless sky.

Hanna Saadah

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Assem Salam: A Figure of Chivalry, Modernity, Wisdom and Leadership

Issam Bikdash*

My acquaintance, which then formed into friendship with architect Assem Salam dates back to around 40 years. I was a member at the committee tasked with the development and expansion of Beirut Port, which was naturally presided by the Minister of Hydraulic and Electric Resources, as his title was back then. Assem Salam served as Vice-President of the committee, which also consisted of Dr. Khattar Chebli, architects Fayez Ahdab and Philippe Tawileh, and businessman Mounir Abou Haidar, all of who have passed away, leaving me to speak alone of the work and achievements of the committee. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shalit First

Statement of the US State Department on November 14, 2012:

“We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians…There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel…We support Israel’s right to self-defense.”

However, when Shalit was detained by Hamas, the White House issued on June 24, 2011 the following statement:

“..As the anniversary of his capture approaches, the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms his continued detention, and joins other governments and international organizations around the world in calling on Hamas to release him immediately.”

It seems that Shalit’s case shook the world while the killing of Palestinians remains, paradoxically, a debatable matter.

 

Four-year-old Rana Arafah killed during an Israeli airstrike

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What after Assi, Fairouz and Ziad?

When asked about the most prodigious phenomenon that has marveled the Lebanese since 1943, the Fairouz-Rahbani legacy is the first answer that would pop into one’s mind. Music in the Levant was fixated on Syrian hymns for many decades, before Ziryab came and established a unique and influential school of music in Al-Andalus in the 9th century. Much later, in the early 1920s, Aleppine and Iraqi Qudouds rose to popularity as an eminent musical genre. Sayyid Darwish, Abdul Wahhab and others also left their mark on the musical scene. However, the most sublime contribution offered to music in the Arab world was that of Assi Rahbani and Fairouz. Assi’s artistic works, songs and plays revived music in the Levant and gave it its most radiant luster, until his lyrics became part and parcel of our daily musical dictionary. If it weren’t for Fairouz, we and our children wouldn’t have had anything to listen to, except the exquisite lullabies that our grandmas used to sing us before bedtime, or the hit “Bous el-Wawa” and the like, which, our society is, sadly, mesmerized by. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lebanon’s Lawyers Elect their Syndicate Representatives

تصوير هيثم الموسوي

Lebanon’s lawyers elect their syndicate representatives, smoking and littering papers about their seats and the floor. This is a glimpse into Lebanon’s civilized image.

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Moukawinat(1) or Makanah(2)?

We all remember the monotonous refrain of the Lebanese political discourse, which often praised our so-called unique multi-sectarian mosaic. The refrain kept on resonating in the air despite the civil war, which stripped the mosaic of its uniqueness, and the melody still lingers on.

Are we more advanced than India when it comes to what we have accustomed ourselves to calling “coexistence”? Are the five million registered Lebanese, add to them the legendary, or rather mythical, fifteen million Lebanese expatriates, greater than one billion two hundred million Indians? Are we home to several hundred languages and miraculously succeeded in communicating with only one or three? Have we pulled off the biggest democracy in the world despite the presence of over forty three thousand races, classes, affiliations, clans, and “ingredients”? Have we achieved greater milestones in art, technology and manufacturing? We certainly have, for we are Lebanese. “Tell them that you are Lebanese,” says Lebanese folk singer Assi Hellani in his most popular hit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Encroachment(1) on Public Property

Information International has published in 2003 a booklet on coastal property, and below is a slightly amended introduction of it, as nothing has changed except for the worse.

Since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, the successive governments, especially that of the 1992, have tried to manage the remnants of war and to remove the infringements on public and private properties. Militia checkpoints and protection money disappeared, illegal ports were closed, customs resources were partly restored and a law stipulating the settlement of construction violations was ratified. However, the successive cabinets and parliaments have failed to approve a law that addresses the encroachments on public coastal property. The draft law suggested by the 1996 Hariri government on this issue hit snags in Parliament and the other attempt initiated in 1999 by Al-Hoss government was also to no avail. The budget sessions have always been abuzz with discussions on coastal infringements throughout the years and certainly the sessions of the current government are no different. Read the rest of this entry »

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Long Live the Troika!

The Hrawi prize bestowed upon Speaker Nabih Berri has awakened the memory of the Lebanese to the glories of the Hrawi era. With a deep sigh of longing for the past and a firm awareness that the future will be bleaker, they all recalled together: “Those were the days!” Those were the days indeed, for as Speaker Berri put it, the troika[1] was the pyramid that paved the way for the paradise we are savoring today. The late Ghazi Kenaan, may he rest in peace, lavished his countless blessings on all of us and particularly on the national, Arab and revolutionary parties, which had no other concerns but to kiss his hand and gossip about their enemies, friends and comrades equally. Nobody amassed wealth quickly in an indecent manner during the Hrawi era and nobody dared to violate the sanctity of human life. Emigration rate hit the bottom during that golden age with only 300 000 people (around 8% of the population) leaving the country for good. Around 200 000 individuals were “accidentally” naturalized. Public debt soared to roughly USD 16.5 billion and profits from currency and treasury bills rigging skyrocketed to USD 30 billion. Those Lebanese leaders who screamed “Syria out” were in fact indebted to Ghazi Kenaan and his successor Rustom Ghazali but ironically rewarded them with accusations of treachery. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lebanon 2012

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Lebanon’s wars: Why?

In what follows, we publish the introduction of the book Lebanon’s Wars: Why? from the series “Bee” for civil education, published in 2007 by Information International and The Social and Cultural Development Association (INMA).

Lebanon is standing today at the brink of an abyss, but this is nothing new. This country has survived wars and conflicts since 1943, not to mention those of the nineteenth century. The main problem lies in the political and socio-economic system, which generates crises but which we embraced willingly, compulsorily or helplessly and sometimes even all three. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rass el Abed

In what follows, we publish the introduction of the book Discrimination in Lebanon from the series “Bee” for civil education, published in 2008 by Information International and Inma Association. The Monthly judged it advisable to highlight this introduction, especially following the skirmishes witnessed on Monday 16 April 2012 at “Bi Mawdouiyeh” talk show hosted by Walid Abboud on MTV.

“Rass el Abed[1]”, “Festoq el Abeed[2]” and “Ma Testakredni[3]”

“I am not sure whether the company, which launched the famous “Rass el Abed”, a favorite treat of the children in the1960s, was racist or not when it chose the name. Similarly, changing “Rass el Abed” later to “Tarboush Ghandour” does not necessarily erase the racist overtones marring our society. I believe that we, the connaisseurs of “Rass el Abed” and the devoted fans of the “Hajj”, who many preferred to call “Dekkanji[4]”, did not know at the time that the name “Rass el Abed” reflects a particular form of racism. We also used to couple the “Sudanese Festoq” (Sudanese peanuts) with a “black man” who used to roast the peanuts at the Burj Square, and those peanuts still are called “Festoq el Abeed” (Niggers’ peanuts). Read the rest of this entry »

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What shall We Tell Them?

“In which country are those?”, the angelic seven-year old boy, playing in his own world, was asking his father when they were interrupted by the voice of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir roaring through Martyrs’ Square and reassuring the Christians of their safety.

The father was planning to tell the boy about the South and its capital… about Muslim Saida resting peacefully in the tranquility of Christian Abra…

This is how Jean Aziz narrated the events he encountered the day Al-Assir and his allies took to the streets in Martyrs’ Square, thus prompting a counter protest staged by the Baath Party and the SSNP in a sick attempt to replay the scenes of the “Hamad Cell” and “Qornet Shehwan Gathering”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Assem Salam: The Custodian of Values

The heart aches proudly when you see them, our knights of the 1920s and 30s, refusing to dismount as if they were on a quest or a journey. Although their lives were full of disappointments they never gave up. They lived independently, proud of their heritage, resisting pressure from external forces and Zu’ama and holding their heads high. They had a dream of a nation that, they knew very well, may never flourish. Assem Salam is one of those professional, honorable, quiet and steady knights who exhibited and practiced chivalry as a professor at the university, in his architects’ office, as President of Lebanon’s Order of Engineers and Architects, and in every aspect of his life. Mighty like the cedars of Lebanon, jubilant like Egypt, audacious and polite like the nobles of the Round Table, rebellious like Algeria, civilized and cultured like Sumer, Assem Salam is a Shami Arabist, an aristocrat, a commoner and universal citizen who has an ever-present smile for us even in the bleakest of times. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Secret

The Lebanese behavior had been a riddle that had puzzled anthropologists, economists and politicians until the day when, out of the blue, someone discovered the reasons behind what his colleagues deemed a peculiar demeanor vacillating between joy and anxiety: a joy resulting from the gains achieved and an anxiety of losing them. After lying deep and sound in slumber, the dormant Lebanese people(s) finally woke up to a new reality: electricity being supplied uninterrupted with very affordable bills, roads being maintained, traffic controlled, parking lots available, public transportation organized, drinkable water provided, contaminated water purified and waste recycled. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jeita: “Thank you, Twitter, Weber and Fattoush.”

Shortly after launching the New 7 Wonders campaign, Jeita Grotto attracted huge masses of visitors of whom the Lebanese constituted the largest portion. Apparently, the New 7 Wonders Foundation presided by Mr. Bernard Weber, did not prevent multiple votes through the Internet or by telephone, as long as money was charged for each and every vote.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Nouhad’s Remains or Lebanon’s

Nouhad Nasser Eddine was unaware that a terrible fate was awaiting her on the dawn of October 15, 2011 on the “so called” Byblos-Beirut highway where she fell victim to a hit and run accident. A fast-driving car ran into her, claiming her life and tossing her dead body over the road to be ran over again by other drivers who “mistakenly” confused her scattered limbs with “inhuman remains” as reported by the National News Agency. Read the rest of this entry »

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What does it mean to be young and Arab?

In his book “The Mainstay Concerning Poetry’s Embellishments, Correct Usage and Criticism”, Ibn el-Rachik recounts that a poet who became very famous was asked how his name was on every tongue and known all over. He said “It is because I have minimized what is right and said ‘what is correct.’”

But what if we believed in Imam Ali’s words that: “Upholding what is right has left me no friend”.

I do not know why we insist on holding so many seminars, symposia and conferences in English, while we talk about the problems of our youths, who are supposedly Arabs. Are they really Arabs? And while we don’t question further whether the Kurds are Arabs and the Berbers are Arabs and the Chaldeans and the Assyrians are Arabs, have we asked them about their opinions and how they want to be called? Are young Arabs, Arabs; or are they Lebanese, Moroccan, Syrian and Saudi? Read the rest of this entry »

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Saints, Traitors, Villains, and Fools with Two Airports

“…Historical self-deception is a luxury which only societies confident of their unity and solidarity can afford…Divided societies, on the other hand, cannot afford such fanciful indulgence. To gain the degree of solidarity that is needed to maintain viability, their best chance lies in getting to know and understand the full truth of their past, and to accommodate to its realities”. Kamal Salibi

In a country like ours, names of places and individuals are not mere words but deep expressions of emotions and memories. They become symbols and idols not to be taken lightly. Examining some names in our history would take us to an interesting path, especially when we trace how the egos of these individuals were transformed into legends and fantasies that are treated as historical facts, by which we live, and sometimes die. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Ramadan “dialogue” in the cedars forest

“They” decided to meet in what is left of the Cedars’ Forest to discuss what is left of Lebanon. The dialogue started with interventions from representatives of the Phalanges Party and the Lebanese Forces stating that the oldest cedar tree today in “Ain Al Rab” is 1,000 years old according to a carbon testing report and that the oldest tree in Lebanon is the endangered Lizab (Juniper), which is threatened with extinction, especially following the construction of the Dinnieh-Hermel road and the Brissa dam. Hezbollah representatives objected and demanded the verification of the laboratory tests. As a result, the attendees decided not to discuss this issue and agreed to only discuss matters affecting daily lives of people that could be tackled. Therefore, there shall neither be talk about the international tribunal nor the weapons. There shall be no talk regarding “international legitimacy”, “alliances with Saudi Arabia or Iran” or even debates about the age of the Lizab and the cedars, thus avoiding any escalation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zaki Al Arsouzi and Antoun Saadeh, when they talk or cry

The “conventional wisdom” decreed, during the Turkish-Syrian rapprochement, that the case of Iskenderun commonly known in this part of the world as the “usurped province”, ought not to be discussed. So the two parties, the Ba’ath Party and the SSNP, the former founded by Zaki Al Arsouzi and the latter by Antoun Saadeh, who always campaigned for the case of Iskenderun, remained silent. They even praised the “wisdom” in making a deal with Turkey to spite their local rivals. Suddenly and apparently after being satisfied with its human rights records on the Kurdish question, Turkey declared its concern regarding human rights in Syria. And simultaneously, these two parties started to remember Iskenderun again. Neither party deliberated on the problems of ideologies, strategies and national interest. Is the land more important than the people? How do you deal with a neighbor who declares friendship but has taken a land that you feel is rightly yours? Neither party felt it was high time to launch a critique of their ideas and their conduct since their foundation.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Adma Nassif topples the confessional system

Perhaps she has seen it all: the Baghdad Pact and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s era, the blooming of new ideas in  young Arab generations, the emergence of the tribes of Hashid, Bakil, Taghlib and Tamim, and Al Qardawi and Al Jazeera, the widening schism between the “Sunni” and the “Shia’a”, the division of Sudan and Yemen and Iraq and potentially Syria, the rise of Erdogan who is sitting on Iskenderun and more and Netanyahu who is sitting on Palestine and more, the bankruptcy of Egypt and splurging Qatar that is to spend $100 billion on a football game, to Abu Dhabi, who is oblivious to the rights of its migrant workers but is highly concerned about human rights in Syria, to the Ba’ath party’s tedious rhetoric  since it gained power in Iraq in 1968 until 2003 and in Syria since 1963, to Ghazi Kanaan and Rustum Ghazaleh ruling with Lebanese Zua’ama who now curse them, to the dissipation of the SSNP that seems to be always fascinated by the genius of Kanaan and Ghazaleh and their heirs, to the proud confrontation with Israel in 2006, to the demise of Ben Ali and Mubarak, and until her last breath in May 2011, Adma Nassif succeeded in bringing down the confessional system. Read the rest of this entry »

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“The people demand…”

but I buried my heart in Maroun Al-Ras

The youth of Laique Pride who demonstrated on the 15th of May 2011 “demanding the fall of the confessional regime” did not know what that date (15th of May) means to us. Some of Laique Pride demonstrators apparently have a selective memory that dates back to the day when they launched their call on Facebook, which sometimes is touted, not only as a tool for change, but as the ultimate goal of revolutions in this part of the world.

Have the youth asked themselves whether the American people will ever forget September 11 or more importantly 4th of July, their Day of Independence? 15th of May 1948 to us is more than a “Nakba” and larger than a land called Palestine. It is the date of our ongoing  tragedy and shame, which we will never forget, and the date of our forthcoming independence, which we shall always work for.

The youth of Facebook and twitter do not know that our hearts were buried on the 15th of May 1948, and our memory is still sizzling with many dates, notably 5th of June 1967. Those youths perhaps don’t know that Maroun Al-Ras has raised our heads high in 2006. And that the words of the White House about Israel’s rights to defend itself, after shooting peaceful demonstrators on the other side of the borders, brings to memory what the settlers have done to the Apache under the leadership of Geronimo (or Goyaale) in 1829 and to the Miniconjou in 1890 and what they are doing to us in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria today.

Our collective memory is still alive as evidenced by the demonstrations on the 15th of May. The youth will remember that we have buried our hearts, once again, in Maroun Al-Ras, Majdal Shams and Aisawia and that we held our heads high.

Jawad N. Adra

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The True Story of Ain Al-Roummaneh Bus

Jawad N. Adra – There are those who believe that the Lebanese have “ignorantly” decided not to discuss the causes of the civil war, which started in 1975 and supposedly ended in 1989. And they are bewildered how a society can move so swiftly from a Hanoi to a Hong Kong. Crimes were committed with impunity and no reconciliation process took place. Yet, we read about national unity everyday and about Lebanon being a unique multi-confessional model of peaceful co-existence. Discussions about how Britain, Germany or Japan re-built their societies after World War II and about conservation of cultural heritage and national memory and how austerity measures were adopted, are not welcomed. This happens for a reason. And the reason is: the war has not really ended. It has just taken a different form and a lower level of intensity. We have simply chosen to jump from the game of blood tinted with money during times of “war” to the game of money tinted with blood in times of “peace”. Considering that we are still in a state of war, denial is convenient and so is the continuous worthless talk about a fictional “national debate”.It would therefore be a good idea to write a new convenient “history” of the civil war that we can teach to new generations, which will also be a novelty to historians. And here is the introduction to the book:

Youth of Lebanon, you have been told that there was a civil war from 1975 until 1989, and that the sparkle was in April 1975 because of the Ain Al-Roumaneh bus when allegedly tens of Palestinians were killed by the armed militia of the Phalanges. This story is simply not true. The truth is that Lebanon is situated on an earthquake fault line extended from Nahr Al-Kabeer to Naqoura and from the Mediterranean to Eastern Mountains and on that day we had an earthquake rated 9/9 on the Richter scale, which caused the bus accident. Later on, Lebanon witnessed many after shocks and in 1982, coinciding with Israel’s occupation of South Lebanon and Beirut, another earthquake reaching 8 on the Richter scale took place. The intensity of the earthquake caused a perpetual split between Eastern and Western Beirut.

Youth of Lebanon, do not believe that the Lebanese have killed each other. Nor have they committed any atrocities. As for our Zua’ama, they were working hard as rescuers and volunteers in the Red Crescent, Red Cross and Civil Defense. Druze and Maronites did not fight. Muslims and Christians did not fight. Sunni and Shia’a never had a problem. Nor did a Sunni have a problem with a Sunni, a Shia’a with a Shia’a, a Druze with a Druze, a Maronite with a Maronite. We were all one, working to rescue the victims of the earthquake.

Youth of Lebanon, do not believe that anyone capitalized during the earthquake era, stole, killed or embezzled. Afterwards, when things became quiet in 1989, Lebanon’s Zua’ama embarked on a campaign of reconstruction, using their own money and connections to support these efforts. Public land and public money were protected. Most of all, remember that the banking sector worked for the unity of Lebanon and its reconstruction tirelessly after the earthquake with exemplary altruism. Please do not believe those who tell us to learn from Japan. Japan has nothing to teach us. They have been subjected to two nuclear bombs, many earthquakes and tsunamis and damaged nuclear reactors and look how they behaved.

Example 1

Japan: “They” survived with a handful of rice for a family of 4 for 24 hours quietly standing in a queue and bowing.

Lebanon: “We” accept handouts without needing them, no queueing no bowing but we pay back by our votes in elections.

Example 2

Japan: “They” accept calamities in silence. Perhaps you have heard about this Japanese lady who was dug out of the rubble apologizing to the rescuers for not being able to help them.

Lebanon: “We” don’t … we don’t … and we don’t … *

Example 3

Japan: “They” do not raise photographs of their prime minister and do not extend their appreciation for his help.

Lebanon: “We” raise the photographs of our Zua’ama proudly and always thank them while cursing them in our hearts.

Example 4

Japan: “They”, the Buddhists, don’t know God and His Prophets

Lebanon: “We”, the Lebanese, are the cradle of civilization and the example of co-existence and do not pray for idols unless they are Zu’ama.

The Japanese stood for one minute in silence for their victims and carried on working. We are in constant mourning for our earthquake victims while at the same time rejoicing being Lebanese at White and Sky Bar and on Facebook, Twitter and satellites.

Youth of Lebanon, we have never forgotten the victims of the 1975 earthquake including the children of Qana. Japan has a lot to learn from us.


* Please fill in the blanks

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When “they” correct “our” history

For the eyes of Feltman and Sison

Jawad N. Adra

Considering the latest Wikilieaks revelations about discussions between Lebanese politicians and the former US Ambassadors to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman and Michele Sison and the accusations levied by those politicians, most of whom were supposedly friends of those ambassadors, The Monthly finds it appropriate to republish this editorial, which was published in Issue # 66, January 2008.

When “they” correct “our” history

“Why do you keep talking about the 16th and 19th centuries? What about today?”, My colleague asked. I do not think we are ready yet. But let us see…
The letter of Bani Shu’aib(1) raised nostalgic feelings among the descendants of foreign envoys who played an important role in the history of the region, including Lebanon.
Their statements reflect true stories they heard from their parents or found in family documents. They all had mixed feelings towards Lebanon. They remember sweet stories about the “beautiful country” and its “hospitable people” who rece ived their ancestors warmly when the latter were powerful and victorious. On the other hand, they hold bitter memories of these “welcoming” zu’ama turning on their guests like ravenous wolves when defeated.
These descendants are surprised at the ability of Lebanon’s “ruling families” to appear highly “cultured” and “modern” and to simultaneously act like voracious beasts. It seems that History to them does not matter, because stories, fictive or real, will depict them as great Zu’ama, heroes definitely, and “martyrs” if needs be.The descendants of these envoys, however, have another version of Lebanon’s history.
Let us see what they say.

The descendant of Jamal Pasha (1872-1922)
“Old documents, which belonged to my great-grandfather, prove that those who were called ‘revolutionists’ and ‘reformists’ and stood against the Turks, were in fact Jamal’s followers turning against him when Turkey was defeated by the Allies. They then replaced him by France and Britain. As for those who displayed patriotic fever they most probably did that to spite a neighbor or a cousin,” he said.
“My grandfather told me once: “The Arabs have a weakness in their character that is jealousy of their countrymen who become important,” and he literally told me that “if those zu’ama forge alliances with France and Britain against Turkey in World War I (1914), the Arab nation will be defeated forever… and those who pretend to know nothing about foreign schemes are either short-sighted or have decided to sell their conscience and dignity.”
Jamal Pasha’s descendant concluded his letter, saying: “Those who called my great-grandfather the ‘Butcher’ used to kiss his…”(2)


The Descendant of Damien de Martel (1878-1940)
“My great-grandfather was not as bad as you think. He had a good sense of humor and loved women.
He fell in love with a woman who was revered by all your zu’ama.It is true that he used the game of money in the 1934 parliamentary elections, but he said: “I am doing a humanitarian job as there are no other means for Abboud Abdel-Razak, Emile Tabet and other candidates to help the poor voters and penniless journalists…”
It is also true that he meddled with the 1936 presidential elections but your Zu’ama were more than willing, since he wrote to his girlfriend: “You have always told me that our relationship should make of you a millionairess… I will not allow the candidates (Emile Eddeh and Beshara al-Khoury) to win the elections unless they lose their minds or money or both together…”
The descendant concludes the letter: “Yes, they waited in queue at his door and when the French government decided to transfer him, they abandoned him.”(3)

The Descendant of General Edward Spears (1886-1974)
The great-granddaughter of General Spears begins the letter saying that Britney is not a relative, stating that she was very angry that the singer had a wider popularity than Edward.
She says that her grandfather was the main contributor to Lebanon’s independence. “He was the one who threatened French High Commissioner Jean Helleu and expelled him from Lebanon after the latter detained your “heroes” of Independence. He deployed many efforts for the election of your first President(4). In the mid-1960s, I met one of your zu’ama who told me that my “late” grandfather was a hero. I told him that he was still alive and that he would be very happy to receive him again or any of the Lebanese zu’ama. He declined, saying he was overwhelmed with work.”
She continues: “You left my grandfather to die alone and I will never forget that.”
Skimming through old documents and dispatches, we stopped at the beginning of the civil war in 1975.
“Please let us go back to the time of Fakhreddine I (fictive or real), as I am still confident that Fakhreddine II is the founder of modern Lebanon… and please do not try to change my convictions,” my colleague said.


(1) See The Monthly issue no.65 of December 2007
(2) Memoirs of Jamal Pasha, translated from Turkish into Arabic by Ali Ahmad Shukri
(4) “Lebanese Presidents as I knew them”, Iskandar Riashi, title translated from Arabic.
(3) Fulfillment of a Mission (1941-1944), Edward Spears

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“Baltajiah”

Jawad N. Adra

It would be interesting to study how and why certain words and expressions become widely used at a certain time and suddenly they disappear to perhaps appear again. In the case of Obama, “change” is the word. During the Syrian presence in Lebanon, no politician would make a statement or speech without mentioning “the unity of the two tracks” or “destiny and the path” or “the Syrian alternative”. When the American troops arrived in Baghdad, the then Iraqi Minister of Information used the word “uluj”. This word became popular for a while and now we hear it no more. Recently, in most political articles and interviews, the word “harak”, meaning movement, is “a la mode”. And following the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Cairo, the word “baltaji” has entered the political lexicon in the Arab World.
Following are some observations about the word “baltaji”.

First: the Baltaji family
It would perhaps be beneficial for the March 14 supporters who are popularizing this word in Lebanon to remember that the Baltaji family is Sunni and did not participate in the attack on the demonstrators in Tahrir Square nor in the famous 7th of May 2008 in Beirut. Perhaps they might be offended by the derogatory use of this word, but who cares, their number doesn’t exceed 130 voters.

Second: the word “baltaji” in Egypt
In the Turkish language, the word refers to an axeman, or a butcher or a logger. There used to be a battalion in the Ottoman army that would use the axe as a weapon. In the Sultan Diwan, there used to be a “baltaj” who would “discipline” people if they upset the Sultan. After the occupation of Egypt by the Ottomans in 1517 and when law and order broke down, a criminal would be referred to as a “baltaji”.

Third: the etymology of the word “baltaji” according to Ibn Manzour
“Balatnahom” means we fought them and “ablata” means bankrupt or broke, which confirms that a “baltaji” is a poor man. “Balat” is the axe in Arabic, which also confirms that he is the axeman.

Fourth: who are the real “baltajiah”?
The real “baltajiah” who attacked the demonstrators in Tahrir Square are those who ruled Egypt for more than thirty years. The real “baltajiah” in Lebanon are those warlords who committed atrocities and then procured an amnesty law for their crimes, and those who robbed and embezzled the Public Treasury and seized public property while watching Israel bombard their people. The real “baltajiah” are Western leaders who sold arms to dictators knowing well they will only be used to crush and oppress the people of this region.

Fifth: “Al Mubaya’ah”
It would be interesting for the researchers to study this word and its origin, according to Ibn Manzour again. In Islamic history, this word is a proof of a democratic tradition where people “youbayi’oun” i.e. support a ruler or a Khalif. Ibn Manzour tells us that although this word means a contract that one can romantically fantasize is a “social contract”, it could also be a sales contract where “one would sell what he has or himself” and obey … And that is “the deal”.

The roots of two words “baltajiah” and “mubaya’ah” might explain the way we are: “thugs” and “deals” do not build nations.

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