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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 »
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
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.
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.
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.
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 … *
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.
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
It is not true that the people of this region lacked the will for change and the desire for liberty, as we are led to believe by the current media rhetoric. Before the Frenj (“Crusaders”) and till today, thousands have sacrificed their lives for higher causes and there was no Facebook or Twitter then. In spite of this, one must ask why we are the way we are. And the obvious answer is because we lack the vision and the leadership and institutions to achieve it. It goes without saying that neither Sharif Faisal nor Hosni Al Za’im or Jamal Abdel Nasser or King Faisal of Saudi Arabia knew how things would develop because of their alliances, gloating and feuding.
While rallying for Arab independence and cursing the Ottoman rule, Sharif Faisal, in 1916, and the “Great Arab Revolution” rebels unknowingly paved the road to the Sykes-Picot Pact and the creation of Israel. Hosni Al Za’im’s “Inqilab” (coup d’état) in 1949, a word not used before in Arab politics, started a snow ball effect in Syria and also Egypt and Iraq, finishing off the oligarchy which thought it could survive the Ottomans by subjugation to the French and the British. Sharif Faisal did not know that the focal point was French and British domination and not Arab liberation. Nasser and Qassem of Iraq did not know that the focal point was American dominance and the winding down of French and British rule and not Pan-Arabism. Otherwise, how can you have a cold war? You must also get rid of Shakhboot of Abu Dhabi, Sanousi of Libya, Sa’id of Oman, Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Khalifah of Qatar and bring in the high rollers and erectors of the biggest towers, airports and buyers of weapons ready for atrocities and lust. Gaddafi, Sadat, Ben Ali were a must for the legitimacy of Israel, stability and the rhetoric about modernization of the Arab world.
Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali were incapable, due to the aphrodisiac effect of power and their limited IQ, of envisaging the end. Saddam went down by brutal force and the other two by the soft chirping of “Twitter”.
Oppression, corruption and lack of any progress are a recipe for disaster. The permanent presence of BBC, CNN, Al Hurra and Facebook is clear evidence that the end is near. One must really wonder why these networks kept quiet while more than 5 million died in Congo but were really enthused about what Wael Ghneim did or did not do in Egypt?
We are asked to believe that the end of Mubarak came because of Twitter and “Shabab” and a revolution without political parties and without leaders. We are also told that Sharif Faisal raised the Arab flag but we now know that Marc Sykes designed it in 1916. Should we not ask how the region would look like 20 years from now? Is the West preparing another disappointment for the Arab masses? Will there be an Arab awakening or another Sykes Picot?
One can further wonder about the romantic stories mentioned in history:
Did Al Qadi Al Khashab really burst into the Sultan’s mosque with the rebels and subsequently Jihad was declared against the Frenj in 1111?
Did the lady scream “Wa mu’tasamah” in 1258 and then the Khalifah recognized that his end at the hands of the Mogul had come and that he shouldn’t have been mocking the Egyptians because they allowed a woman called “Shajarat Al Durr” to rule them?
-Did Lawrence and Faisal simply hit it off and the Hashemites decided to turn against the Ottomans in 1916?
-Did Asma Andraos and her friends launch the 14 March movement by scribbling “Independence-05” on a mat and “people came to the tent, Christians, Muslims and Druze who hated each other and marched together,” as Asma told the NYT?
-Is Wael Ghneim’s departure from Dubai the sparkle that brought down Mubarak in 2011?
As if Cleopatra’s nose has truly changed history…
The lesson from all this historical rhetoric is that people, leaders and the media will not decide the future of countries in the absence of a vision and a will. Historical developments are driven by socio-economic and political dynamics much more complex than what today’s Facebook ‘scholars’ are telling us. For that purpose, four points ought to be noticed on the events of Tunisia and Egypt:
1. The lifting of the element of fear
The element of fear was lifted by the direct intervention and supervision of the USA. Obama’s address to the Egyptian people is a testimony to this, not to mention the instructions that the generals received from the US to side with the rebels or stay on the sides.
2. Rise of basic food prices
Measures taken by the US Fed contributed to the major rise in basic food prices. No remedial steps were taken to protect poor countries.
3. Homogeneous societies and tyrants
Tunisia and Egypt are among the least polarized countries in the Arab world that happen to be ruled by ruthless tyrants with highly centralized power and this is exactly where the “revolutions” took place. In other places, probability of strives or civil wars is high.
4. Arab moderates
Mediocre “Arab moderates” who were atrocious with their own people were spineless when it came to dealing with Netanyahu. They looked petty and behaved as such without delivering any success stories to their people. And so the fig leaf had to fall.
Back to Lebanon where apparently Siniora, was conspiring, perhaps with Nasser Qandeel, to overthrow Mubarak. It is odd how conflicting parties in Lebanon, March 14 and March 8, were quick to claim victory in Egypt: Siniora, by declaring that the tactics of demonstrators in Tahrir Square were similar to those of 14 March 2005 in Martyr’s Square and March 8 by declaring the victory of their cause and that of Pan Arabism, despite the obvious absence of its slogans or mention of the siege on Gaza.
On another note, especially for the Al Jazeera audience, Qatar is planning to spend billions of dollars to host the World Cup in 2020. Let us also all remember that Gaddafi was not always an enemy of the West as in the climax of the Cold War in 1971 he handed over the leaders of the Sudanese Communist parties to Jaafar Numeiri who executed them.
A window has been opened and the USA opened it for reasons that relate to its own interests and those of Israel; you can demonstrate, you can bring down tyrants as long as you don’t threaten oil and Israel and it is ok if Omar Suleiman falls in Egypt by friendly fire or Hamad Al-Khalifa’s rule is disturbed in Bahrain due to collateral damage. Your role model shall be Lebanon where there is no central power, no nation, no State but only tribes and confessions. You can follow Turkey, Iran or Israel if you wish but forget about being an Arab for the Twitter does not speak Arabic.
Soon, the policy makers in Washington will discover that this window is also open for perhaps an indigenous leadership that will not get high on the words of praise of western leaders levied to win the hearts and minds of the people of this region. These insulting words of praise will not erase the atrocities committed by those tyrants, which the US has and is still supporting, nor redress Obama’s statement that the relationship with Israel is “sacrosanct” nor Hillary Clinton’s photo posing proudly near the dividing wall in Palestine nor the peddling of weapons to Gulf states, or the recent American Veto at the UN Security Council regarding settlements in the West Bank. Yes, this window is open to those who have a vision and a will, as has been the case since the Crusaders to Sykes Picot to the July 2006 war. The question, metaphorically, remains: Is it an Arab awakening or another Sykes Picot? Unless we want to keep focusing on whether “to Tweet or not to Tweet,” instead of remembering that all the twitting in the world will not cleanse thy hands.
Jawad N. Adra
The Lebanese have suddenly discovered that they are being murdered, this time on the road. Of course they do not remember the civil war which has supposedly ended as claimed by its lords and Lebanese who are celebrating its end. This issue is no longer between Muslims and Christians, but between Shia’a and Sunni. The iftar banquets are a testimony to this where the perpetrators of the “Black Saturday” massacre are feasting with the perpetrators of the Chekka massacre.
The Lebanese do not realize that they are being killed in the hospitals where surgeries are being carried out without medical justification and where mistakes exceed 25%, nor do they not realize they are being killed due to fraud in food and medical products and pollution.
Today they want an immediate solution to the traffic problem. They are oblivious to their political choice and to the lifestyle they opted for: it does not matter that used cars are being imported in pieces and glued together after undergoing plastic surgery; new cars are being recalled from international markets except in Lebanon; hazardous roads; sporadic and claustrophobic construction on the highways; drunken drivers without license or who bought their license; policemen working as escort. And suddenly we are surprised that there are accidents! Of course when talking on the mobile phone at a speed of 150km/hr!
It is about time that we recognize that we have chosen an untimely death when we chose a life of beggary. We beg at the doors of the Zua’ama and our Zua’ama in turn are doing their bidding. And finally, we all beg for the establishment of a state and we beg for public schools and the Lebanese University and we beg for the road, the hospital, the medicine and the air and the water.
We are dying by choice and not due to nature’s wrath as in Pakistan nor in Benin (central Africa) due to disease, hurling to our death like the whales in a mass suicide ceremony. Whales however, die in grandeur silence while beggars die slowly as they whine or celebrate.
One can safely argue that the Lebanese society, in the aftermath of the civil war, has been heading toward a two-society segmentation: the oppressive “elite”, comprised mainly of warlords, merchants and bankers; and the marginalized, representing over 95% of the population.
Laws are made and broken for the sole purpose of serving the first category, while the second category is left with unemployment, emigration, poverty and crime. The majority of those are destined (every decade or so) for chaos and sectarian and tribal feuds. Recent Information International polls show that the Lebanese are split around sectarian lines on issues such as UN Resolution 1559, support for this Zai’m and that Zai’m. In addition, the poll seemed to indicate that allegiances are forgotten as quick as they are made. Respondents’ answers (most of the time) varied, not according to age, gender, education, or income, but rather to which sect they were born into.
The Lebanese tend to forget that the second and largest group (the marginalized) is made up of all the sects and has a common destiny:
- More than 500,000 immigrants in 20 years.
- $10,000 is each individual’s share of the public debt by the end of the year 2009.
- More than 250,000 are unemployed.
- 25,000 university graduates and citizens are looking for jobs each year.
- 500 million tranquilizer pills are consumed annually.
- 700 homicides took place in 2009.
- LBP 620 billion was the deficit of the NSSF Sickness, Maternity and Family Compensation Funds in 2009, funds that all of the Lebanese benefit from.
The oppressive “elite” share the following spoils:
- 3.5 million m2 of illegal coastal property.
- 5.2 million tons of fuel that is imported exclusively by a cartel setup, in violation of existing laws.
- $43.7 billion in interest on the public debt since 1993 until the end of 2009 (attributed to few hundred individuals).
- $20 billion in bank deposits that are attributed by 0.5% of depositors (2002 statistics).
- $450 million only paid in corporate taxes.
- $8.2 billion banking sector profit over the past 12 years
- $410 million tax on the bank interest
- $2.1 billion spent on people who were not displaced or displaced who did not return.
One can further argue that both groups often intersect and sometimes certain mobility is allowed or gained. The oppressive “elite” often plays the role of the marginalized, in its attempt to explain its failure to administer the country. On the other hand, the marginalized can also become aggressive and oppressive by infringing on public property or refusing to pay water and electric bills to a state it feels it does not belong to. The hypothesis, however, is not complete without a third missing segment that is neither oppressive, nor marginalized. This is made up of independent individuals that come from all sections of society. Should these individuals continue to fail to work together, they will eventually dissolve into one or the other category. It is high time for the Missing Third to unite.
*An Nahar newspaper published this piece on 3 August 2002. The Monthly chose to re-publish it in its issue number 32 of February 2005. The situation since then has grown worse. The Monthly republishes it again and the figures have been updated with the year 2009 as a basis.
Jawad N. Adra
Jawad N. Adra – Who remembers? On that day in the mid-nineties, individuals from the so-called “civil society”, and most of whom with good intentions and some with a purpose and a strategy, organized the campaign “my country, my hometown, my municipality”. Funding of course is western and the reasoning is change from through the bottom-up approach. With those of purely good intentions there is no discussion, but for those who claimed they had a strategy and views of change involving civil society and 12 years after the first post-civil war municipal elections, the time is ripe for a serious discussion.
My country: Divided horizontally and vertically between five heads, and sponsored by the Ta’ef and Doha agreements and jubilantly celebrated in the ceremony held at the Syrian Arab Republic’s Embassy in Beirut.
My hometown: No electricity, no sewage, no water, and pollution everywhere. No public schools, no preventive health care, lack of awareness for rights and obligations and no accountability for those elected to the municipal council.
My Municipality: A miniature replica of the public sector and the Council of Ministers with every family being represented by a person irrespective of how corrupt or ignorant he is and with the head of municipality controlling all decisions. The saying goes: “The municipality is a president and a policeman.” Squandering of public funds, outright theft, construction of roads and retaining walls even when they are not needed, and the ambition of families for their sons to be hired as municipality policemen.
The solution? The solution lies in the dissolution of all the municipal councils and the implementation of the laid out and paid for schemes, plans and strategies including (Lebanon’s urban and rural master plan and the strategies of social and economic developments, among others), holding elections after the integration of the municipalities to minimize their number to less than quarter, allowing residents to vote in their place of residence rather than their place of birth and placing them under the jurisdiction of the Court of Audit.
Considering that all of this is not in the horizon, it is therefore recommended to raise Nancy Ajram’s picture in their so-called “municipality palaces” and to start the day with her song “baladiyat”…” literally meaning municipalities or from the same hometown. Following are the lyrics:
“Very very good … I am also naïve, I thank him, there is no one else to make my hours happy … I am a part of him as he is also a part of me … he is also from the same hometown… he is my “baladiyat”.”
Since Nancy is the United Nations goodwill ambassador, we can here celebrate the so-called international legitimacy partnership with the private and public sectors and celebrate our success in raising Lebanon’s name high in the world of art and democracy.
A lie called civil society! Yes, “I am a part of him and he is also a part of me!” as Nancy says.
Jawad N. Adra
Issue June 2010 | Issue95
Ever since Walid Jumblat spoke of his “moment of abandonment” and the Arab sultans (kings and presidents) and zua’ama of Lebanese tribes are engaged in a fiesta to justify to themselves their moments of abandonment.
But some of them decided to move from “a state of abandonment – Halat al- Takhali “ to “a state of enlightenment – Halat al-Tajali” so here it is:
- Bashar Assad is planning to establish a state of institutions where independent judiciary can deliberate freely and citizens can elect independents and opposition figures according to a plan that moves Syria within 20 years to the 21st century not governed by a family or a single party and where public money is not squandered. Then the people would freely support their leadership and the resistance facing Israel with dignity for the sake of Palestine and Syria. Then he (Bashar) signals to “the allies” in Lebanon, and more specifically the secular parties, that their relation with the intelligence services is forbidden.
- And there he is Hosni Mubarak deciding that he has ruled Egypt long enough and that the water of the Nile is still polluted, the Cairo air is still suffocating and that half of Cairo’s residents envy the two million grave dwellers in it.
- And there he is Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz deciding to lead the Friday prayers in Al Aqsa Mosque and demanding the immediate lift of the siege on Gaza.
And there he is …
And there they are, the zua’ama of the Lebanese tribes deciding that their ancestors were killed, their fathers were killed and their sons were killed, and they shall no more squabble and fight.
And there they are the Arab sultans (kings and presidents) suddenly enlightened.
Then Muammar Gadhafi awakens you from the dream laughing to tell you “I am the king of Africa’s kings” and longest serving ruler worldwide.
Wake up, gather yourself, rub your eyes and never dare to dream again. Stay in your “state of abandonment” as long as you wish but never be enlightened. Now leave, you are unwanted.
Jawad N. Adra
Jawad Adra – Citizen Zero decided to break the silence. Two local events provoked his sadness and his words. He was taken by a statement by Samir Geagea that he is an Arab nationalist and the jubilation of Fouad Siniora – also an Arab nationalist – with his new comrade. He was also taken by Walid Jumblat’s statement about an “abandonment of reason” (‘Lahthat Takhlee’ in Arabic). Citizen Zero did not know that Geagea, Siniora and of course Condoleezza Rice were up to their ears in their Arab nationalism nor did he know that the Druze enjoyed a special language worthy of a lexicon understood only by the enlightened of the “Arab Druze”. And he wondered about the variances between this lexicon and that of Bsharre when some of its inhabitants, after burning the houses in Ehden, stated in bewilderment: “Who burned Ehden?… Thank God!” At this point, Citizen Zero wonders: what happens if everyone declares they were living in a moment of abandonment?
- Hundreds of thousands of dead, missing and disabled in Lebanon’s civil war had become victims of an abandonment of reason.
- Billions of dollars worth in public funds from properties were squandered and violated, in an abandonment of reason.
- Confessions and tribes loathe and then love one another and elect zua’ama in moments of love and hate at the same time – all of course, in an abandonment of reason.
- Citizens protesting and voting after getting paid, in an abandonment of reason.
- A country with no electricity, in an abandonment of reason.
- Officers, politicians and capitalists ruled Lebanon and Syria and enriched themselves, in an abandonment of reason.
- Political assassinations and haphazard killings of students and citizens in clashes between March 8 and March 14, in an abandonment of reason.
- Lebanese soldiers were killed and the Nahr El Bared camp was destroyed, in an abandonment of reason.
- Public debt with high interest rates for Lebanese banks was accumulated, in an abandonment of reason.
- Media outlets were financed by politicians and states, in an abandonment of reason.
- Teachers do not teach and learners do not learn, in an abandonment of reason.
- Demands for Hezbollah’s disarmament on Sunday, August 13, 2006 were declared as soon as there was a “cessation of hostilities”, in an abandonment of reason.
- Bad roads and suffocating traffic, in an abandonment of reason.
- A railway without a train, in an abandonment of reason.
- A city without a public park and a public library, in an abandonment of reason.
- Polluted water everywhere and solid waste in the valley, in an abandonment of reason.
- Audi-Saradar announces the construction of an “urban dreams” complex after destroying what little remained of Phoenicia and Byzantium, in an abandonment of reason.
- LBCI suddenly discovers, after MTV was reopened, that there had been a squandering of funds over the past few years and that Solidere had crossed the limit, in an abandonment of reason.
- From “one people in two states” to at least two people, two nations and two embassies, in an abandonment of reason.
- From “the complete liberation of land” to two states: Palestine and Israel, in an abandonment of reason.
- From the “usurped province” (Iskenderun) to the Ottoman caliphate, in an abandonment of reason.
- An Arab world ruled by individuals, of whom the oldest ruler is Muammar Gadhafi (first worldwide) followed by the Omani Sultan Qaboos ben Sa’id, then by the Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, of course seeking to hand down the reins of power to their sons, in an abandonment of reason.
However, he read what Dr. Hassan Sarkis wrote in the Monthly about “Canaanite-Phoenician cities-states” and “Phoenicia and the Phoenicians”:
“Cities acted completely as independent states… He/she was either Sidonian (from Sidon), Aradian (from Arwad/Arados) and so forth. The natives’ negative reaction to be named Phoenician is caused by the term’s hidden pejorative meaning. Phoenician seems to have been derived from a Greek word for bloody, blood-soaked and even murderous or criminal.”
Furthermore, he read from Dr. Sarkis:
“Phoenicia, as a geographic entity, is confined to the middle part of the central eastern Mediterranean region situated between Ra’s Al Bassit in Syria, to the north, Mount Carmel in Palestine, to the south and the chain of Lebanon’s mountains to the east…”
But didn’t the Phoenicians establish Carthage in North Africa as well? Maybe it is possible to overcome the Sunni-Shia’a-Christian and Lebanese-Syrian-Egyptian-Iraqi-Saudi hurdles, but how?
Citizen Zero, after all this, deduced that he was a Phoenician in a moment of abandonment. He is therefore a Phoenician-Druze and so went the cry to the Arabs stretched from “the roaring ocean” (Morocco) to the “rebellious gulf” (Arab or Persian) to join him in this new identity.
1 – The “Canaanite-Phoenician” city-states by Dr. Hassan Salameh Sarkis, The Monthly, issue number 89
2 – Phoenicia and the Phoenicians by Dr. Hassan Salameh Sarkis, The Monthly, issue number 88