Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for June, 2008

Waltz with Bashir

Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/06/2008

When you watch such a film with a group of Lebanese, you expect a heated debate when you exit from the theatre. Among the little group I was with, I was the only one to appreciated it (it’s not really one of those films you can enjoy). Most of the people I know disliked it because they found it biased, inaccurate, cold, arrhythmic. 

I personally found it thought provoking and disquieting. I really appreciated it’s basic themes (war and memory, and how you deal with them) and most of all the writer’s approach to his personal memory of the war. 

I couldn’t understand why most of my countrymen who had seen “Waltz with Bashir” only focused on how the film treated the responsibility for the Sabra-Shatila massacre. And they felt that it cleared the Israelis completely of it. This criticism seems to me ill-deserved. This cartoonumentary (cartoon/documentary) isn’t about the massacre or anyone’s responsibility in it. It’s about a person who is trying to undertand  why he has no memory of his participation in the “First Lebanon War” (except one image – that is featured here – which turns out to be false). 

The film brought me back to my recollection of the Israeli invasion of Beirut: the way I watched the bombing of Beirut from the balcony, my first encounter with the israeli military, how Sharon’s convoy blocked our car… Scattered images. I had trouble sleeping that night, and that wasn’t because of the real images of the massacre that Ari Folman shows at the end of his film, but because of me and my countrymen’s incapacity to deal with the war and our memory of it.


Posted in Discourse, Israel, Lebanon, Memory, Violence | 1 Comment »

Bitter Lemon trees

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/06/2008

If the title song doesn’t send U screaming out of the theater (luckily, my feet were aching), I’m sure U’ll find Eran Riklis last movie enjoyable and thought provoking (in a subtle way). Sure, the story has been told, but Riklis does it a bit differently. He doesn’t do the whole work for you. He offers all the elements – most of them we are familiar with – and it’s up to us to put them together. 

What he shows are two societies trapped in their mental systems: the Palestinians in their informal “intifada” mentality, the Israelis in their institutional “security obsessed” framework. Both societies speak different languages; and it’s not just about Hebrew versus Arabic, it goes deeper… it’s about institutional versus emotional, consumeristic versus economical survival, jewish-centric versus palestinian-centric…

This “linguistic” clash clearly comes across in the courtroom… the woman’s lawyer brings in a witness who tries to translate what he considers to be “key sentences” from Arabic to Hebrew. His language is poetic, he is appealing to the judge’s humanity. But the judge doesn’t hear him. She listens to the military lawyer’s arguments. They are factual, grounded in law, grounded in a law that allows the military complete powers on security matters, powers that even the Minister of the Interior doesn’t question. The Lemon tree are a security issue. But instead of uprooting the trees, as the military has decided, she decides it’s enough to trim them down to bonzaïs. 

This argument is similar to the one given by the Higher Court concerning the Wall. The Higher Court doesn’t question the opportunity of building a “security fence”/”separation wall” between the Palestinians from one side and the Israeli and Jewish settler population from another… It doesn’t try to balance short term “security” issues with humanitarian principles. It only tries to limit the “shocking” aspects of the israeli policy and its consequences. 

Posted in Communication, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Justice, Palestinian territories, Palestinians | 2 Comments »

Could Lebanon be used as a model?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/06/2008

For years, the Lebanese political class (especially its christians side) has been obsessively sharing with anyone willing to listen to its babble, Pope John Paul’s unfortunate slogan: “Lebanon is more than a country it’s a message”. I personally would rather have more of a country than a message…  

This being said, I find it quite hard to understand how a country can be a message. I find it much easier to think of a country as a model, one that can be imitated or followed. But could Lebanon be one, with its many wars and its highly dysfunctional system? I believe it can. This obviously doesn’t means its political system should be copied elsewhere, but some of its elements have had positive results and it’s important to emphasise this. In order to achieve that, one shouldn’t look at the Lebanese political system as a whole, but distinguish its many principles and mechanisms (both formal and informal). After doing so, one might realise that the positive mechanisms could quite easily be transfered in similar societies.

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Pluralism, Politics | Leave a Comment »