Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for March, 2010

Censorship… consensual style

Posted by worriedlebanese on 31/03/2010

Randa Chahal Sabbag’s film “The Kite” was finally withdrawn from NTV’s program yesterday following political pressure and threats made against the TV channel’s director M. Tahsin Khayat. This is not the first time the Lebanese Public is deprived from viewing a film directed by deceased Lebanese film director Randa Chahal Sabbag. A previous film she had directed was banned from Lebanon unless the director re-edit it and cut out 40 minutes, something she obviously refused to do.

Calling a spade any other name
What is interesting is to see how the news of this censorship was reported by the Lebanese Press. L’Orient-Le Jour for instance didn’t speak of censorship when reporting on the matter. They based their short article on the press release issues conjointly by Walid Arslan-Jumblatt and Talal Jumblatt-Arslan: quoting it extensively and using its terminology. Instead of using the word “censorship” or “cancellation” or “de-programming”, they used  the words “postponement”, and instead of insisting on the policial and communal dimension behind this censorship, the Lebanese French-speaking daily quoted the justification given by the Arslan-Jumblat duo: the respect of the “sensitivities that might arise in some religious circles”.
L’Orient-Le Jour published the statement and then very euphemistically put it in context: “The statement followed hostile demonstrations held near the residence of the owner of the chain Tahsin Khayat, and near the headquarters of the TV-station in Wata Mousseitbe”. There is no information on the number of people that participated in these demonstrations, and no comment that the larger demonstration was in front of the owner’s house in Doha (an affluent suburb that was formally controlled by the Druze militia in the territory it had carved for itself). Why demonstrate in front of his home? why make this issue personal and threatening? The word “hostile” is used to replace the language of the demonstrators. The article doesn’t mention what did they actually said. Only the words of the communal leaders are seen worthy of publishing. Nothing is said about the threats that were made (of arson, among many).

Deference to politicians: Hush Hush, let the politicians speak
The most striking feature of this information is the press release that the paper conscienciously published. What is striking is its Orwellian style. It goes well beyond newspeak and claims the opposite of what was actually done: It rejects the principle of censorship! Here is the last part of the release: “MPs Walid Jumblatt and Talal Arslan reaffirm their commitment to freedom of information that remains one of the pillars of democracy in Lebanon, and rejected again all that is likely to undermine this principle, they also reaffirm the freedom of media to disseminate the film and arts in the manner they deem appropriate”.

Censorship… a summary
The last few years, several of l’Orient-Le Jour’s editorialists ranted against two acts of censorship, one by Hezbollah (when its news programme objected against the invitation of Jewish comedian Gad el-Maleh for his alleged ties with Tsahal) and one by the censorship division of the Ministry of Interior (against the film Persepolis). For weeks you had articles and opinion papers that decried “cultural censorship”, “authoritarianism” etc. But not in this case. Why? Because the fight was never against censorship or for the freedom of expression. It was simply an excuse to attack a political party (Hezbollah) or “axis” (Syrian-Iranian). And this illustrates quite well the role journalists and the media have taken for themselves: not that of a 4th estate, participating in the balance of power meant to widen public and private liberties, but that of a political (and geo-political) player.
This type of censorship also show the meaning it has in Lebanon. It’s not about preventing people of seing something. People have access to satellite, the internet and pirated copied that escape all censorship. I personally saw “The Kite” in Lebanon through cable television, and also bought an Israeli by Elia Suleiman in Beirut’s flee market. Censorship is about carving a place in the public space. It’s about asserting a political side’s power over this public space and confirming its quality of representative of a group and its interests.


Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Discourse, Journalism, Lebanon, Semantics | Leave a Comment »

Father Zahlawi’s take on East vs West

Posted by worriedlebanese on 30/03/2010

I came across the “open letter” of Elias Zahlawi addressed to the pope a couple of days ago, and decided to react to it today on the site I found it on. Here is a reproduction of my comment.

A short critique of F. Elias al-Zahlawi’s open letter.

Thanks to Adib S. Kawar and Mary Rizzo for sharing this article with us, and for taking the time to translate it, making it available to a larger audience, one larger than the originally intended or expected from its author. It is precisely because of this widening of its audience that I believe some elements should be thrown into the discussion.

F. Elias Zahlawi’s letter belongs to a particular literary style, that of the “open letter”. This journalistic genre is typically ambivalent surrounding its addressee. It has an epistolary addressee (one that the open letter is addressed to) and an actual audience (the one that has access to the support it was published on).

It’s often quite legitimate to ask oneself to whom it was actually written. This question is crucial because the meaning of this act of communication can only be fully understood if one looks at all its actors, the active one(s) (i.e. the emitter) and the passive one(s) (i.e. the recipients). With Father Zahlawi’s “open letter”, the answer is quite easy, and one can deduce that from the style of the letter and its arguments: the letter is intended for its (Syrian and Arab) audience.

One expects a letter from a catholic priest to the Pope to bear a particular language and tone. One would also expect the text to limit itself to presenting and explaining the motivating behind this subordinate’s criticism of the Pope’s policy, acts or speeches. These elements are quickly dealt away with because F. Elias Zahlawi is not here to convince the Pope of anything. He is not publishing a letter intended to the Pope, but writing an editorial to present to his Syrian/Arab audience his adherence to a specific political stand and geopolitical vision, one that is incidentally shared by most editorials in this part of the world. This explains why the doctrinal and pastoral arguments are so extremely weak and sparse. They are completely manipulated to serve the geopolitical argument and perspective advanced by the author. This just another opinion piece, identical in many ways to many opinion papers published in the Arab press in its language, arguments and references. Its “epistolary” style is just a literary tactic that actually flatters the author (by parading a kind of bravado) and confirms his ethnic narrative: that of a binary world divided between West and East, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressors and the oppressed, the rich and the poor. In this binary world, the author faces two challenges that contradict his strict division. Two elements do not fit in the mutually exclusive categories he defends:

  1. F. Zahlawi is Christian (and Catholic), a religion identified with the West (the powerful, the oppressor, the wealthy). This is why he insists on presenting himself as an Arab priest, putting forward an ethnic identity (based on language, culture and an alleged common ancestry) and throughout his article he stresses the divide between him and the Pope who he portrays as belonging to the West, the powerful, the wealthy… So his open letter actually reinforces this divide and shows quite clearly his identity politics and the ethnic strategy he is defending (and which are expected from a person belonging to a vulnerable minority).
  2. The region faces a rather powerful and destructive force that is not “western” but Islamist. Here again, the binary divide is upset. But Father Elias Zahlawi finds a way around this. He considers Islamic groups as a creation of the west and of violence carried in the name of Islam as a reaction to the West’s policy. This re-establishes his binary divide between the West (to which he conflates Judaism and Israel) and the East (that is composed of Muslims and Christians united by their alleged Arab identity).

What is missing from this opinion paper

Well, the editorialist in black dress doesn’t really address what motivated his “open letter”, the Pope’s call for a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness” that is to take place in October this year (from the 10 to the 24th). He doesn’t say anything about the catholic church and catholics in the Middle East. He doesn’t speak of the challenges they face or address their current plight (drop of 20% to 70% depending on the country, inertia and difficulties in the ecumenical dialogue with orthodox, protestant and non-chalcedonian churches…). He says more about the plight of American natives and Palestinians than about Oriental christians (that he actually hardly mentions). Why?

Probably because such a synod rejects the binary divisions his worldview is based on, and because he probably perceives such a synod as being divisive; It might tackle some issues in their full complexity instead of the simple terms he defends. So he answers its call with a kind of “preemptive strike” one that doesn’t really strike its opponent but comforts its supporters in their certainties.

Posted in Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Identity, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Journalism, Levantine Christians, Middle East, Palestinians | Leave a Comment »

A debate on how to manage a virtual network

Posted by worriedlebanese on 29/03/2010

I tried to access Palestinian Mothers a couple of minutes ago but couldn’t do it. The site’s introductory page announced that “this Ning network has ben taken offline by its owner”. It was a bit surprised by this announcement even though things haven’t been going very smoothly on that network. Its owner and main animator Iqbal Tamimi had informed all members that she will be terminating a certain number of accounts. And soon later she started implementing her new policy. I voiced my objection to such proceedings and a rather animated debated was launched surrounding Iqbal Tamimi’s policy and my complaint.
Oddly enough, Iqbal Tamimi had problems publishing some articles two weeks ago (on her own network) and today the network was shut down, for reasons I don’t know. I though the debate that my comment launched was rather interesting, so I will publish it here (the discussion is found in the first comment).

Blogging under Damocles’ sword
Posted by JC|WorriedLebanese on March 16, 2010 at 10:40pm

As I write this entry, I cannot help but think of the sword of Damocles that hangs over my head. Like all members of this network, I’ve received of late two emails from the creator and animator of Palestinian Mothers threatening the following categories of members of expulsion:

  • Anonymous members (people who do not share a “real name” and “personal picture”);
  • Old members with false identities (because they cause the creator and animator of Palestinian Mothers a great distress);
  • Passive members who do not participate (because they do not take the Palestinian cause seriously) ;
  • Peepers (a sub-category of passive members who are busy with other stuff but who indulge in their voyeuristic urges from time to time);
  • Spies (people who are here to eavesdrop on other members’ activities).

I have a problem with this type of “spring cleaning” or screening, and not only because I’m very likely to fall victim to it. I believe the logic behind it is flawed. Doesn’t everyone find this compartmentalisation impoverishing? What is great about the internet is that if offers us the opportunity to hear voices that we are not likely to hear in our every day life. It allows us to interact, argue, learn, teach, inform, question our certainties. I’m not sure all this is possible in a network of totally “like-minded” people. The reason I came to Palestinian Mothers in the first place was precisely because it offered a different voice that was no longer heard on MEpeace after several members were either excluded or driven out because their views were different. And I followed them here so as not to loose their voice.

Posted in Blogosphere, Check them Out, Culture, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Justice, Memory, Middle East, Palestinians, Peace, Personal, Pluralism, Political behaviour | 1 Comment »

InsepArab: Hélène Cixous’ take on Jewish & Arab identities

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/03/2010

Odd word, isn’t it? “InsepArab“. Hélène Cixous is actually quite fond of such neologisms. Most of the words she coins have a very literary quality to them (I quite like another one she had coined earlier in her career: “Oublire” which borrows from “Oublier”, to forget, and “lire”, to read, and has a proactive quality to it). With “insepArab” she brings out from the adjective “inseparable”, the noun “Arab”, and then removes the last two letters hinting at the complexity of her relation to Arab(s)/Arabic, but not “Arabness” or “arabité”, that is specifically left out of the picture.

Arab and Jewish identities as mutually exclusive

Hélène Cixous has spoken on more occasions than one about her identity, and most notably in her autobiographical essay/novel “Reveries of the wild woman”. But I will stick here to an interview that she made on the BBC two weeks ago (and that is available on an “Arts & Ideas” podcast), insofar as it doesn’t contradict her earlier stands.

“I didn’t want to be an Arab, I knew I was Jewish” and she explains that the “history of Jews was heavy enough” and that she didn’t want to escape its burden and responsibility”. This is probably the strangest argument in the interview. Hélène Cixous claims that becoming Arab or identifying as an Arab would prevent her from carrying on the burden and the responsibility of her jewish identity. The notion of “burden” and “responsibility” of an identity is already quite difficult to fathom, but the supposed effects of an Arab identification by a Jew are indecipherable.

And then Cixous procedes with the type of argument that give culturalism a bad name. She speaks of the pragmatism that she got from her German mother and talks about the “culture gap” between her Arab classmates and the others (including herself) and illustrates it by saying that “they had never slept in beds”. She also speaks of their “family culture that was so far from modern culture”. Her argument would have been completely different had she spoken of western culture, but instead of space, she prefers time, presenting Algerian Arab culture as archaic, a sentiment that is reinforced when she speaks of the “prominent positions within arabic tribes” of her Arab classmates’ fathers.

Westernisation would have been a much suited and  fruitful approach because one could see its effects on Algeria’s native population: some sectors of the Muslim population that voluntarily integrated into Algerian-French society, and the Jewish population that was quite vigourously westernised since the 1870s (through the systematic transformation and replacement of their native institutions by Jewish institutions coming from France).

What is also quite strange is that Hélène Cixous has no problem identifying her mother as German (and giving her supposedly “germanic traits”), while she refuses to do the same thing with her father  who is denied both Arabic and French identities). When she speaks of him choosing her two language instructors, one for Arabic and one for Hebrew, she attributes this to his socialist leaning, and not to the fact that Arabic was the language of his ancestors for centuries (and the most important cultural language of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews) and that of the vast majority of the population in Algeria. So while Jewish and Arab identities are mutually exclusive, Jewish and German identities are not.

Weighing oppressions and odd equations

“I wanted that the Jews and the Arabs who were equally oppressed to join”, Cixous says. When asked if it was true that at that time (after 1945) and at that place (Algeria) “Jews and Arabs were equally oppressed” she answered that “it was true” because “there was a double racism, one against the Arabs and one against the Jews” and then spoke about the differences between Arab and Jews under Vichy and Nazism. She concluded this argument by saying that she “knew about history”, about “the conditions of the different oppressions” and “thought that the oppressed should become allies”. It is quite obvious that she is struggling with her argument, she starts by equating “oppression” and “racism”, then shifts in time to a specific period (which was off topic) to shift the balance between the two oppressions, and after that historical argument slips back to an ahistorical approach (devoid of any contextual element).

Posted in Culture, Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Identity, Intercommunal affairs, Judaism, Memory, Values | 6 Comments »

Dynasty – Jumblatt style

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/03/2010

A prophecy realised!

One of the least commented announcements in Walid Jumblatt’s lengthy interview on Al-Jazira is that he would not visit his father’s tomb on the day commemorating his father assassination, but that his son, Taymour, would do it instead.

Now this information is in itself quite trivial, but if one follows the whole interview one would realise that it is probably the most significant part of it. Why? Because it reflects the way politicians portray politics, the way they represent it and represent themselves as political actors.

Let’s put this simple announcement in context. Five years ago, Walid Jumblatt accused openly the Syrian regime of being behind the assassination in 1977 of his father, Kamal Jumblatt (conservative and traditionalist politician, warlord, businessman, founder of the dynasty and of the Progressive Socialist Party). In 2005, Walid Jumblatt held the Assad family responsible for this death at a time when the Lebanese political class was feeling extremely vulnerable and emotions were running high. In 2009, emotions are not as strong, the Lebanese political class is feeling less vulnerable and it has been pressured into a reconciliatory attitude. And so instead of the “Forgive but don’t Forget” that Walid Jumblatt claimed was his motto from 1977 to 2005, the Druze Za’im announced that his new motto would be “Forgive and Forget”. And to show his compliance to his new approach, he refrained from visiting his father’s tomb. However, by sending his son to represent him, he is signalling some ambiguous message to his audience (communal and Syrian): a willingness to reform (forgiving and forgetting) or to abdicate in favor of his son (who forgives without forgetting).

Posted in Culture, Discourse, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour | Leave a Comment »

Les sept points du Bristol

Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/03/2010

Back to basics, coming of age or dying call? March XIV morphs back to a diminished Bristol Gathering

Le Quatorze Mars® a accouché hier d’un plan de travail, une initiative pour proteger le Liban en sept point. Pour comprendre la teneur du texte, il est conseillé de placer une chaise au milieu d’un salon, de se mettre debout dessus, et de les déclamer en ponctuant les phrases d’une gestuelle grandiloquente. Le texte de la déclaration (tel que publié sur le site officielle du mouvement est en italique. Les titres en gras sont de moi, ainsi que le commentaire qui suit le texte en italique.
La nouvelle déclaration du Bristol est étonnante dans sa posture: elle se déclare initiative pour la protection du Liban et dit soutenir la stratégie de défense mentionné par la table de dialogue. Mais que signifie exactement cette distinction? L’initiative du Bristol 2010 n’est certainement pas un programme politique, elle est bien trop vague pour l’être. Elle constitue au plus une pétition de principes qui se veulent peut-être les soubassements normatifs d’une future stratégie de défense. Comme la lecture rapide des sept points l’indique, la texte est fondamentalement normatif et d’une abstraction extrême. Les sept points s’articulent soient autour d’un verbe “être” déclaratif, ou du verbe “devoir” ou “falloir”.
  1. Soutien des décision de la table du dialogue. Le respect de l’application des décisions prises à la table du dialogue national, dont notamment l’établissement de bonnes relations normales avec la Syrie. L’étude sérieuse et limitée dans le temps du dernier point restant à l’ordre du jour de la table du dialogue : la stratégie de défense. L’appel à une étude “sérieuse et limitée dans le temps” de la stratégie de défense est le premier des nombreux voeux pieux égrenés dans la déclaration.
  2. Solidarité nationale. La divergence des points de vue est une chose, la défense de la nation en est une autre. A partir de là, toute agression israélienne contre une partie du Liban sera confrontée comme une attaque contre l’ensemble du pays, pour protéger la nation et ses intérêts. Comme pour chacune des propositions on a envie de leur dire “Bravo!! vous êtes braves, maman est fière de vous”. Mais bon, on aimerait quand même savoir comment ils comptent “confronter les attaques”.
  3. Primauté de l’Etat pour la défense nationale. Toutes les parties politiques doivent clairement affirmer et s’en tenir au fait que la défense nationale est l’affaire de l’Etat, à travers ses institutions constitutionnelles et son armée nationale. Cela se fait sur la base de la consolidation des institutions de l’Etat et du respect de leur autorité et de leurs décisions. Si on reste au niveau des principes, il  y a rien à redire, mais comment traduire concrètement le principe de “consolidation des institutions de l’Etat” sachant que toutes ces institutions existent, mais leur mission est paralysée ou détournée par les réseaux clientélistes (une bonne partie étant bien représenté dans le Quatorze Mars®).
  4. Prémunir le Liban des conflits régionaux. Il faut s’efforcer de faire en sorte que le Liban ne soit pas le point de départ d’une guerre dans la région sous n’importe quel prétexte. Facile à dire, mais un peu hypocrite venant de personnalités qui comme leurs rivaux reçoivent des ambassadeurs chez eux et envisagent la politique interne comme une politique d’axes régionaux.
  5. Primauté de l’armée et du gouvernement pour la riposte. La réponse à l’agression israélienne est la responsabilité de l’armée libanaise qui doit informer le gouvernement, conformément aux règles constitutionnelles, de ce qui se passe sur le terrain, et c’est au gouvernement seul que revient de décider quels sont les bons choix à prendre. Jolie manière d’éviter la réalité: l’existence d’une formation armée au Liban qui ne relève pas du gouvernement, et qui a plus de moyens et de savoir faire militaire que l’armée nationale.
  6. Solidarité arabe. L’Etat doit prendre rapidement l’initiative de mettre la Ligue arabe, conformément au traité de défense commune, face à ses responsabilités dans la protection du Liban. D’abord, ce troisième point ne doit pas s’adresser à l’Etat, mais au gouvernement et au président de la République. Ce genre de confusion entre l’Etat et ses organes est symptomatique. La métonymie est le mécanisme rhétorique idéal pour évader la question de la responsabilité.
  7. Solidarité internationale. L’Etat libanais doit prendre rapidement l’initiative de mettre la communauté internationale face ses responsabilités dans l’application de la résolution 1701 qui est essentielle à la protection du Liban. Le Quatorze Mars somme les Arabes et l’ONU d’assumer leur responsabilité dans la protection du Liban. Mais comment?

Posted in Culture, Discourse, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Semantics, Values, Version Francophone | Leave a Comment »

This is not a Table…

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/03/2010

Magritte wouldn’t have said it any better! The most notable decision that came out of the national dialogue table was its relabeling. President Michel Suleiman proclaimed that it will no longer be called “National Dialogue Table” but “National Dialogue Committee”.
This name change signals a will to institutionalise what can be described as an official informal institution. To understand what the dialogue table is about, one has to look at its short history.

How it all started
The National Dialogue Table came about on March 2nd 2006. At that time, two of the state’s institutions had been neutralised: the Constitutional Court and the Presidency. The ruling coalition (composed of the Quadripartite alliance and some of its members’ allies) was starting to split between two blocs that threatened two other state institutions (the government and the parliament). The first meeting was convened by the Speaker, Nabih Berri and gathered 14 leaders. This reunion short circuited the state’s institutions and made them seem superfluous (which they were soon to become). The national dialogue helped redefine and shift the power structure in Lebanon: it was no longer in the state’s institutions but belonged to the communal leadership. It brought the country back to the 1970 and 1980s when the militia leaders succeeded in paralysing the state and holding the country hostage to their individual interests and collective deliberation. The National Dialogue table is in many ways the resurrection of the National dialogue committee (1975-1976) and the  Geneva (1983) and Lausanne (1984) conferences. It follows the same basic principle and objective : formalising the distribution of power in the country. For an interesting comparison check out Mary Jane Deeb and Marius Deeb’s article “Internal negotiations in a centralist conflict: Lebanon” in William Zartman’s Elusive Peace (1995).

What has changed since 2006?
One has to admit that we owe the state’s resurrection to this National Dialogue Table, when it spawned the Doha agreement in 2008 (May 16 – May 21), its only efficient meeting. However, we owe this efficiency to a Qatari team that set up the agenda, convened the meeting and brokered the deal. Interestingly enough, the only true accomplishment of the National dialogue table was neither mentioned by the President (on March 9th 2010) or by the final statement of March XIV (on March 14th 2010).
What changes has the National Dialogue Table undergone since 2006? The most obvious change is its expansion and the shift in its chairmanship. Instead of the original 14, it now regroups 20 people. Most of the original members are the same, but Qornet Shehwan is out (Butros Harb had to be expelled to realise that the National Dialogue Table was meaningless) and so are the Orthodox dinosaures (Michel Murr and Ghassan Tueni). The dialogue roundtable is no longer a roundtable but a committee! It is no longer convened by the Speaker but by the President who not only chooses its members but sets its agenda and publishes its statement. But some things never change: its decisions are still too general and it has no mechanism to implement them.
On the other hand, much has changed in the country: All state institutions are back on track: the country has a national unity government, a consensual president, a resurrected constitutional council (mediocre as ever) and a convening parliament. With all these institutions working again, do we still need a National Dialogue Table? Has Michel Suleiman given it a thought? Did he even notice that the meeting he convened and the name that he gave it bear a striking resemblance to  that which was assembled on september 24, 1975. It was called the National Dialogue Committee and gathered 20 people…

Posted in Diversity, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Politics, Semantics | Leave a Comment »

How to destroy the Dialogue Table?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 03/03/2010

I wish I were able to leave the question mark out of the title. But I honestly don’t think anyone has a chance of ridding the country from this “official informal institution”. Any law student would tell you that’s a contradiction in terms, a state institution cannot be informal, and an informal committee cannot have an official status. That’s probably true, but our political class isn’t afraid of absurdities.

Now here’s the composition (for the past two days, the press has been debating quite lengthily the Table’s composition, but I only found one source that actually stated everyone’s name (as we all know the local press isn’t interested in hard data, it’s interested in opinions):

The communal Zu’ama:
– Nabih Berri, MP, Speaker, former warlord, Shiite Super-Za’im and head of the Amal patronage Network
– Saad Hariri, MP, Prime Minister, Sunni Super-Za’im, Representative of the Hariri Clan and head of the Future patronage Network
– Michel Aoun, MP, former commander-in-chief of the army, Christian Super-Za’im, head of a sprouting patronage network
– Walid Jumblatt, MP, former warlord, Druze Super-Za’im, head of the PSP patronage network
– Hassan Nasrallah (current warlord and head of the Hezbollah patronage network) represented by Mohammad Raad (MP)

Second rank Zu’ama
– Amin Gemayel, former President, son and brother of a former warlord, father and uncle of two MPs, Kataeb Leader hoping to re-establish his patronage network
– Sleiman Franjieh, MP, former warlord, head of the Marada patronage network
– Hagop Pakradounian, MP, Armenian Za’im, head of Tashnag patronage network.
– Samir Geagea, former warlord, husband of MP, Lebanese Forces leader, arguably the head of the fastest growing patronage network.
– Talal Arslan, MP, Druze Za’im, head of the Democratic Party patronage network.

Others (Billionnaires, and other notables)
Najib Mikati (MP, former PM)
Mohammad Safadi (MP, Minister)
Fouad Siniora (MP, former PM)
Farid Makari (MP, Deputy Speaker),
Elias al-Murr (Deputy PM and Defense Minister)
Michel Pharaon (MP, former Minister of nothing)
Jean Ogassapian (MP, Minister of nothing )
Assaad Hardane (MP, former Minister)
Fayez Chahine (Dean of Law Faculty and proud son of Zahle)
and… Michel Suleiman (President, former commander-in-chief of the army)

Simple stats:
Gender composition: 20 men, No women!!

Communal distribution: 4 Sunni (3 billionaires), 5 Maronite, 3 Greek-Orthodox (the dinosaures are out), 2 Shiite, 2 Druze (both half Jumblatt, half Arslan), 2 Armenian, 2 Greek-Catholic. IOW 14 christans for 6 Muslim, a ratio unheard of, even in the 19th century when Christians made up about 84 % of the population.

Patronage networks represented: All except one! Michel Murr’s network that he hasn’t handed down to his son, Elias Murr who is a new member of the National Dialogue Table.

Blocs represented: All of Lebanon’s parliamentary blocs are represented!
– Blocs part of the ruling coalition:

Lebanon First (30 MPs): 4 (Hariri, Siniora, Makari, Ogassapian),
Reform and Change (18 MPs): 1 (Aoun),
Development and Liberation (13 MPs): 1 (Berri),
Loyalty and Resistance (12): 1 (Raad),
Democratic Gathering (12 MPs): 1 (Joumblatt),
Lebanese Forces (8 MPs): 1 (Geagea),
Kataeb (5 MPs): 1 (Gemayel),
Zgharta (4 MPs): 1 (Frangieh),
Armenian (2 MPs): 1 (Pakradounian),
Tripoli (2 MPs): 1 (Safadi),

Blocs that are not part of the ruling coalition:

Nationalist and Patriotic (4 MPs): 1 (Hardan),
Unity of the Mountain (4 MPs): 1 (Arslan),

Independents (11 MPs)
2 (Miqati, Pharaon)
Others (non-parliamentarians)
3 (Michel Suleiman, Elias Murr, Hage-Chahine)

Chessboard players represented:

March XIV: 8 (Lebanon First, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, Tripoli, “Independent”)
Orange: 2 (Reform and Change, Armenian)
Jumblatt: 1 (Democratic Gathering)
Centre: 4 (Miqati, Suleiman, Murr, Hage-Chehine)
March 8th: 5 (Loyalty and Resistance, Liberation and Development, Zgharta, Unity of the Mountain, Nationalist and Patriotic)

Regions and cities represented by “their” communal “representatives”

Tripoli: 2 Sunni notables
Saida: 1 Sunni Super-Za’im, 1 Sunni notable
Zahle: 1 Greek-Catholic notable (future politician)
Beyrouth: 1 Greek Catholic notable. No sunni (Hairi should count for Saida in these equations), No Greek-Orthodox
Koura: 1 Greek-Orthodox notable
Northern Mount Lebanon: 1 Maronite Super-Za’im, 1 Maronite Za’im, 1 G-O notable
Historic Mount Lebanon: 2 Maronite Zu’ama
Southern Mount Lebanon: 1 Druze Super-Za’im, 1 Druze Za’im
Nabatieh: 1 Greek-Orthodox notable, 1 Shiite notable (representing a Za’im)
South: 1 Shiite Super-Za’im
Beqaa: None
Baalbeck-Hermel: None
Akkar: None

Posted in Diversity, Idiosyncrasy 961, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Politics, Semantics | 2 Comments »