Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for March, 2008

Dubious Resurrection of the “Cedar Revolution” -2

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/03/2008

Have you read the Spring 2008 Charter yet? You should. It’s the best teaser campaign that was ever made. You will find in it most of the values you believe in. The people who wrote it sure know how to please their audience. It’s exactly like the “I Love Life” campaign. But did you ask yourself who doesn’t love life? Did you answer this question by saying Hezbollah because they support a culture of death. How did you get to this conclusion? Does it have to do with their talk about the blood they’re ready to spill for their cause or all the portraits of martyrs you find in the Hezbollah dominated areas? Have you listened to the March 14th discourse (and counted the occurrences of “our sacrifices”, “the blood that rejuvenates”, “our martyrs”…) ? Have you looked at the posters of martyrs that they regularly print and flood the billboards and walls with? Just look at the giant poster that was hanged on the BIEL (c.f. Dubious Resurrection of the “Cedar Revolution” -1). But if you do not find a contradiction between what the Charter states and how the politicians are acting and will probably keep on saying and doing (because this is their understanding of politics and the source of their power), then there is a problem. 

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Posted in Anticonfessionalism, Discourse, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Death of a Bishop/Death of a Monk

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/03/2008

deathofamonk.jpgI went back to the Paris book-fair today for a book reading and signing. Alon Hilu, an Israeli-Jew of Syrian origin was presenting his book, “Death of a Monk“. This work of fiction written in 2004 was inspired by the real historical event know as the “Damascus Affair”. This  affair occurred in 1840 and was triggered by the disappearance of Father Tomaso, an Italian monk, on the eve of Passover in the Jewish quarter of Damascus. It led to a blood libel against the Damascene Jews. The Damascus affair was much publicised in Europe and led to the mobilisation of European Jews who decided to come to aid of their brothers in faith by exerting pressure on their governments. This mobilisation induced the creation of the Alliance Israélite Universelle

It seems that this was the first blood libel against Jews in the Ottoman Empire. Some people present it as an example of imported anti-semitism. In his presentation, Alon Hilu spoke of the way the blood libel was distorted while imported: in Europe, the accusation revolved around a supposed ritual murder (sacrificial) of Christian children. In the Damascus affair, the supposed victim was an old man.

Through an odd coincidence, I had learnt about the book signing on Friday, minutes before noticing the cover of the French catholic newspaper, La Croix, that announced the death of Faraj Raho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mossul. Many politicians and communal leaders condemned this murder. But what steps are they likely to take to protect Iraq’s rapidly declining christian population? rahoubis1.jpg

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Politics, Prejudice | Leave a Comment »

Dubious Resurrection of the “Cedar Revolution” -1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/03/2008

14march-leaders-031908021351.jpgThe “March 14th” coalition commemorated the third anniversary of the “Cedar revolution” equally dubbed the “Beirut Spring”. In a large ceremony organised at the BIEL, a group of minor politicians (Soueid, Jisr, Achkar, Mekattaf, Haddad, Abillama) adressed  an audience comprised of middle level and high level Lebanese politicians and their followers. The commemoration aimed at resurrecting the “March 14th” spirit. Fares Soueid (a former MP who lost his seat in 2005 to the FPM) read the “Spring 2008” Charter. Samir Jisr, Future Movement MP, read out a speech meant to assess the actions of the “March 14th alliance up to now (some journalists called his verbal exercice a courageous act of self-criticism). The other politicians announced the coalition’s programme (conferences and workshops).One can easily be impressed by the Charter’s headlines and the speeches’ main arguments. They are meant to butter up the audience and the Lebanese public in general. The values that are upheld are those that a majority of Lebanese share (or think they share… that’s another story): commitment to liberalism, to pluralism and to republicanism (anti-communalism and the support of a strong centralised state). But how convincing are these headlines? The implementation of these ideas would not only damage the career of most the coalition’s members, but would certainly shock and probably enrage the Lebanese public: most Lebanese are conservative and are wary of individual and collective liberties; most Lebanese are attached to communal politics and clientelism; most Lebanese would rather have a weak state than one that is headed by a leader who belongs to another communal group. 

Posted in Democracy, Discourse, Lebanon, Pluralism, Political behaviour | Leave a Comment »

Listening to Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/03/2008

treeisrael.jpgI went to the Paris Book-Fair today to listen to three authors who are amongst Israel’s most celebrated writers and intellectuals. Oz and Grossman were already familiar figures to me, but not Yehoshua. I was curious to hear them not only for their talent as writers, but because of their political involvement. They were involved in “Peace Now” for several years and they had supported Olmert’s government in its war against Hezbollah/Lebanon in 2006. They discussed three main themes: the relation to the other, their political involvement, the meaning of literature (and the writer’s role).  The talk was intelligent and funny. It was a real pleasure to hear them debate over such issues, and to see them confront their points of view.

I felt rather uncomfortable when I listened to A.B. Yehoshua tell his audience that as Jews they should immigrate to Israel. I wondered how he reconciled this call with he’s so called commitment to peace.

Posted in Israel, Peace, Political behaviour, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Why Boycott the Paris Book-Fair?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/03/2008

boycott.jpgThe Paris Book Fair opens today to the selected few and tomorrow to the general public. Unfortunately, Lebanon will not be participating this year. Tareq Mitri, Lebanon’s Minister of Culture, had announced in February that his country will be withdrawing from the event to protest against the organizers’ decision to honor Israel. By doing so, Lebanon became the first country to boycott this year’s Book-Fair. Several other Arab countries and publishers followed suit.  I was much surprised by Tareq Mitri’s decision. I expected a more intelligent move from someone with his experience in interfaith dialogue and his commitment to fight censorship and intolerance. His reaction seems to confirm what I call the Mubarakisation of the Siniora government. To balance its alliance with the US and its lack of arabo-islamist credentials, the government never misses an opportunity to confirm its ideological “orthodoxy”.What did Lebanon or the “Arab cause” gain from this boycott? How was this symbolic gesture interpreted? It certainly pleased Israel’s foes, but they probably think it’s the least the Lebanese government could do (and they probably deplore the government’s lack of commitment in fighting Israel other than by symbolic actions). As for Israel’s supporters, the boycott represents another proof of the Arab’s deep-rooted hostility toward Israel. How productive or counterproductive was it? This question ushers in two others: how legitimate and efficient are such boycotts?I personally believe that boycotts are important symbolic actions the first time they are acted. In other words, if Belgium had decided to boycott the book-fair for the same reason, it would have been a meaningful gesture. It would have sparked a real debate around the call of boycott and the honouring of Israeli in this francophone book-fair. But Lebanon has no chance of sparking a debate over that question because it has been systematically boycotting Israel for nearly 60 years.  Aren’t there more efficient and creative ways to protest against the honouring of Israel by the Paris Book-Fair? Why didn’t Tareq Mitri think of them? 

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