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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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
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 »
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 »
“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 »
“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 »
“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
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.