Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for February, 2008

Mohammed al-Atar’s “The Iron Wall”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 24/02/2008

theironwallb.jpgTrying to get to watch this movie was an adventure in itself. A couple of months ago, I tried to catch it’s only public screening in Paris. I had received a message from my aunt reminding me about it. Only I read it 30 minutes before the start of the projection. So I pedaled and rushed as fast as I could from the other end of the city. I had a flat tire… I couldn’t find another bicycle to swap it with… And after finally finding one and reaching my destination, I couldn’t find a terminal to park the rented bicycle… So I arrived a couple of minutes late and saw a large crowd cuing before the theater. They weren’t actually cuing. They were discussing politics, middle eastern politics. Most looked French. But I’m sure there were a couple of Lebanese, Palestinians and Israeli amongst them. The theatre was packed, but they stayed on to discuss the same topic, either hoping to be allowed in, or they were just happy to meet with like-minded people and were planning on watching another middle-eastern film programmed for the same day.  After eavesdropping for a couple of minutes, I returned home.Later that day, I learnt that a friend had bought back a DVD copy of the film from England. So i decided to borrow it from her. And so I did. I literally shelved it for weeks. But decided to watch it a couple of hours ago. I wouldn’t say I found it disappointing. It was actually rather close to what I had expected. It is a militant palestinian movie that’s main argument is against the separation wall.  What I hadn’t expected was the reaction it was going to have on me. I felt totally discouraged. The whole Israeli-Palestinian issue seemed to be totally hopeless. Strangely enough, this impression didn’t come from the film’s subject, but from it’s approach. It reminded me of Alan Dershowitz’s “A Case for Israel” in its obsession to “prove” one point right by discarding any information that doesn’t directly suit this purpose. What does Mohammed al-Atar’s expect from this film? Sympathy for the Palestinians? Antipathy towards Israel? Most of the people who are likely to see his movie already share his sentiments… As for the rest, they’re going to be surprised by his portrayal of Israel and its colonisation policies. Even though he undeniably relies on facts, people are likely to be taken aback by the way he browbeats his point. When one makes such a militant documentary, one hopes for change. If Mohammed al-Atar aims at that, I believe he’s chosen the wrong strategy.


Posted in Discourse, Israel, Palestinian territories, Palestinians | 4 Comments »

Does involvement in peace-work imply double-language?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/02/2008

This question has been running through my head for some time now. I wonder if I haven’t already treated it in a post. It drifted into my thoughts last summer, when I joined a group of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists meeting in Lyon. During our discussions, I noticed that I spoke differently with each national group. This could have come from the fact that I was able to speak to one group in his mother tongue (Arabic), while it was necessary for me to speak with the other group in a foreign language (English). But that was not always the case. I chose to speak in English most of the time, regardless of the person I was with, so as not to exclude other people could be interested in joining in. Even though I mostly spoke in the same language with both nationals, my discussions differed according to the nationality of the person I was talking to. Being somewhat of an intruder in their group (I was just joining them for a day), I was the one who initiated each conversation. I tried to find a topic that could interest the person I was meeting. Peace work was obviously something we both had an interest in. But even that meant different things to the Palestinian and the Israeli. I’m not saying they had a different understanding of Peace (this seemed to be equally true, but it cut through national belonging and shifted according to ideological affinities). They just belonged to (and worked in) very different social and cultural contexts. So even if they agreed on the same definition of Peace, they had to translate it to two different contexts when working on the ground for its advancement. They had to make it relevant and appealing to their audience. And I was doing exactly the same thing with them… And so I’d speak differently to each. Adapting my speech accordingly. Choosing the relevant examples, topics of intrest, and even wording.
Is there anything wrong in this? Morally or practically? Could it be counterproductive? Is it duplicitous? I don’t think so, at least, not if you make it clear from the onset that you are going to do it, and explain why you’re doing it. And I believe that in doing so, you render the whole interaction and discussion more productive because you pinpoint a major paradox in peace-work: bringing together people who not only disagree, but perceive things differently. 




Posted in Discourse, Israel, Palestinians, Semantics | 3 Comments »

Third commemoration of St Hariri Day

Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/02/2008

800px-rafik_hariri_memorial_shrine.jpgThe French satyrical weekly, “Le Canard Enchaîné”, published an article proposing to move France’s national feast from July 14th (Bastille Day) to February 14th (St Valentine’s Day) because of the French president’s very publicised mariage and love affair. Ironically, the Lebanese government seems to have gone ahead with this plan, but obviously for other reasons.  The government decreed this February 14th a public holiday.The Lebanese government could have decreed that day one of national mourning, and marked the time of the assassination of the former Prime minister by a public speech. But even that would have been quite shocking in a country that has never marked an official holiday for its 200 thousand citizens butchered during the civil war, or the assassination of two Presidents (Bachir Gemayel and René Mouawad),  two Prime ministers (Ryad Solh, Rachid Karamé) and the heads of two of it largest Muslim communities (Musa al-Sadr, Hassan Khaled). So why should we commemorate that day in particular? To what purpose? And why decree the closing of banks, schools, universities and public administrations on February 14th? Is it to encourage and facilitate the organisation of a large public manifestation in downtown Beirut in which all the pro-government parties and figures were partaking in? This is quite obviously a kind of abuse of dominante position.  

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

Egypt closes Rafah border

Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/02/2008


How said it was to hear that the Rafah border was closed again; that the inhabitants of Gaza were once again walled in their strip. When I saw the images of the Egyptian army pushing the Palestinian back with water-cannons, setting up a barbed-wire fence, patrolling the border areas to catch the “fugitives” still wandering free in Egyptian lands. As I watched those pictures I started to feel the anger Islamists throughout the world were feeling as they watched the same pictures. I started to understand how this fueled their general mistrust of the West that was applauding such a measure and their hate of the Arab regimes for not only failing to condemn it but openly supporting it.  It was like watching the West German army in 1989 sealing off the Berlin Wall again, claiming that if it did not do so, it would be breaching the quadripartite agreement between the WW2 allies and that this lack of reaction could be interpreted as a casus belli by Democratic Republic of Germany or the USSR!! Does one have the right to transform a district home to 1.5 million souls into a roofless prison? To condemn all its inhabitants to economic underdevelopment? To kill all hope for a brighter future?  

Posted in Egypt, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Political behaviour, Violence | Leave a Comment »