Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for September, 2007

Good reason for confusion 3: Time and action

Posted by worriedlebanese on 29/09/2007

lib018068.jpgWhile the battles were raging on, I was working in a Palestinian camp, a couple of miles to the south of Nahr el Bared. I was coordinating the activities of a group of early teenagers comprised of Lebanese and Palestinians residents of Baddaoui and a group of displaced Palestinians from Nahr el Bared. The month long workshop’s general theme was that of peace and how the youth could play an active part in promoting and advancing it. The whole topic was thought of months before the Nahr el Bared battle. It felt quite out of place but I had not time to work on the topic, to adapt it to the current situation. There was a need for something to be done and I couldn’t answer that need. That was terribly frustrating. During one of the sessions we touched on violence and fear. It was a very interesting hour, probably the most interesting hour that month; thought provoking and emotionally very raw. It ended with almost everyone in teers. The youth were expressing their views on peace and violence. And while doing that, they expressed their feelings about the Nahr el Bared battles. Those who had fled the camp talked about what they had left behind, what they had lost, what they had kept and brought with them. Those who were Baddawi residents talked about how they saw the IDPs, and tried to relate to their experience. It was very intense.
I knew that there was something there to work on, but couldn’t see how I could modify the program accordingly. So after that session, the facilitator went back to the original plan and put all that was exchanged in brackets.


Posted in Lebanon, Palestinians, Peace, Violence | 1 Comment »

Good reason for confusion 2: Daniel behind bars

Posted by worriedlebanese on 29/09/2007

I discovered a couple of days ago that a person I knew was in jail. I learned it from the news, in a gradual manner, by putting one and one together. I had met that person three years ago and had kept in regular contact with him since, through email and telephone messages, seeing him once a year, first in Beirut and then in Paris.
I didn’t know his family name and wasn’t sure he had given me his real first name. I didn’t feel he was very truthful about his identity. But I didn’t find that important. I found him complexe and interesting, many times exasperating. He was obviously smart, but sometimes extremely futile. He was at the same time mature and purile, which was quite unsettling. And there was something about his coldness that was compelling; something in his heart/soul was broken, and I didn’t know what. There was something tragic in the way he played around, enacted his role/character.
I gradually discovered by piecing things together that Daniel Sharon, the Israeli guy imprisoned in Beirut was no other than the guy I knew.

Posted in Israel, Justice, Lebanon | Leave a Comment »

Good reason for confusion 1: The army and I

Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/09/2007

lib018068.jpgDuring the past 3 months, an undeclared war shook Nothern Lebanon: killing, damaging and endangering lifes in their thousands, displacing people in their tens of thousands, reopening old wounds and creating new ones. Why call the Nahr el Bared battle an undeclared? Didn’t the Lebanese military publish daily reports on it, weren’t they constant and neatly packaged for the evening news and the international media?!
Well, I believe the war was undeclared for a very simple reason: it was never taken seriously by the Lebanese political class. Ministers kept on with their lives and quarrels as if nothing was happening; exchanging accusations and leaving the whole “affair” to the military. It was as if the battle was raging abroad, in a far off land that was taken over by newcomers and gradually recovered by the army. Something like the Falklands!

Accordingly, the Lebanese army was given complete control over the handling of the crisis: fixing the goals, the means… and managing the media campaign!
One has to recognise that the military succeeded in managing the media campain, which was not a terribly demanding task, knowing the state the Lebanese media is in: no conficting reports, no dissenting voices, clear cut information: “we’re the good people, they’re the bad people”. “We will prevail”. “We are winning every day”. “The army is pure”. “The army is defending the nation”.
You couldn’t voice a comment or a faint criticism without being accused of treason by anyone in hearing distance.

Posted in Lebanon, Palestinians, Political behaviour, Prejudice, Security, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Confused and exhausted Lebanese

Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/09/2007

For those of you who have been visiting this blog this past year, you might have noticed that the posts haven’t been very regular for a while.
Like all of my countrymen, I have been under sever stress for the past two years because of the political turmoil my country has been undergoing: car bombs, terrorist attacks, political assassinations, heavy shelling: you name it. And if that wasn’t all, as if violent acts were not enough, every day I see reckless politicians waging verbal wars with each other and poking a hornet’s nest (i.e. Israel & Syria).
On a more personal level, I put myself through a very intense experience throughout the summer. Not only did it physically and emotionally exhaust me (envolving my family and friends, and filling my days and nights), but it showed me my limits. It’s never easy to see and recognise one’s failings and shortcomings.
Furthermore, in my research and in my daily work, I have been playing around with multiple perspectives for some time. And this exercice can drain you because it removes certainties, markers and frames; and your left wondering how to position yourself.
And now two things happen to people I know. One is killed in a terrorist attack and another in a murder case he had nothing to do with.

Posted in Personal | Leave a Comment »

Words matter

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/09/2007

f11004b.jpgThe lebanese political lexicon has been shrinking, swamped by emotions, ideological catchphrases and misused concepts. An effort should be made to ban some expressions from our vocabulary. It will certainly help us see things more clearly.

The first words that should be shunned are “martyr” and “martyrdom”. They should be replaced by “victim” and “assassination/falling (i.e. on the battlefield)/killing”.
The word “Sovereignty” should be escorted back to the place it should have never left, that is Universities.
Some expressions should be burried as soon as possilbe, such as “to build the state”, or the “state is absent”. The Lebanese state is very much there! it is a big and heavy machine often paralysed or hijacked by elected politicians. It cannot be absent! not more than it can be present. It either exists or does not. It’s a legal construct.
“the state has…” The state doesn’t do anything. Its institutions do (such as the parliament, the government, the army…).

Posted in Lebanon, Political behaviour, Semantics | Leave a Comment »

On foreign influences

Posted by worriedlebanese on 10/09/2007

Politicians have been exchanging many insults and accusations lately, accusing each others of training militarily, working for partition, and serving foreign interests.
The last argument is quite interesting because it is usually conflated with othes such as being pawns to foreign powers or working for foreign powers.
While all arguments share the idea that foreign powers have interests in Lebanon, they differ in the means and the strength of their influence.
The question that polical actors and analysts seldom ask is in which way do foreign actors excert influence in Lebanon.
– What is lawfull and what isn’t, why is nothing done about it?
– What is the degree of autonomy of local actors?
– What is the type of relationship between the two?
– Do both have the same interests?
– Do they have the same aims?
– Are there different ways for them to fulfill their interests or reach their aims?
– Who sets the agenda, and why?

By confronting the current crisis with these questions we can probably find a couple of interesting answers.
I will try to do this tomorrow.

Posted in Conspiracy, Discourse, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Staging the Metn elections – 3

Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/09/2007

1.jpegKamil Khoury won the Metn elections by a difference of 418 votes. Former Lebanese President, son of the head of Lebanon’s former largest party and father of the slain MP Pierre Gemayel lost with a difference of 418 votes to FPM candidate Kamil Khoury. These are the facts and figures, but they didn’t please most journalists and political analysts. They looked for other figures to reverse the interpretation. Little did they care about what the voters thought. No survey was done to see why the voters had voted in such a manner. What analysts and journalists wanted to do is make the “figures speak” and they knew exactly what they wanted them to say. The first thing they did was look at the confessional distribution of votes, and they deduced the popularity of the candidate among this confessional group. Then they started comparing figures, in abstracto, removing all contextual elements or reinterpreting them to fit their analysis.  In Bekfaya, the Gemayel clan declared its victory and started receiving guests congratulating them for the victory of Amin Gemayel. Some politicians even accused the Armenian voters of being un-Lebanese because they had insured the victory of Kamil Gemayel.

The analysis I heard on TV or read in the papers were all appalling, but I think the worst was published by the Orient Le Jour and written by a journalist called Fayad (I forgot his Christian name). He compared the last two Metn bi-elections saying that in 2002 there were two sides, on one side there was the March 14 alliance and the FPM, and on the other side there was Murr-Tashnag-Syrian Nationalists. And the results were almost 50/50. In 2007, there FPM switched sides and the results remain 50/50. This analysis  left the reader to deduce that the FPM had  in fact no electoral weight.

People will argue that this kind of analysis was triggered by Aoun’s claim that he represented 70% of the Christians because the candidates he backed received approximately 70% of the Christian votes in the 2005 parliamentary elections. I personally believe that this kind of reasoning is flawed. Aoun used it an abused it during the past two years. This doesn’t entitle journalists and analysts to do the same.

Posted in Democracy, Journalism, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Semantics | Leave a Comment »