Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for July, 2010

Pretending to be Jewish turns consensual sex into rape

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/07/2010

Another “sophisticated and smooth-tongued” criminal

The first article I read today was about the Roman Polanski case, the second one was about an Israeli case of “rape by deception”:  Jurists say Arab’s rape conviction sets dangerous precedent, by Tomer Zarchin (Haaretz, July 23). So withstanding the heated debate surrounding Nasrallah’s declarations and the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, I will be commenting on this extraordinary Israeli case.

Here are the facts: Sabbar Kashur (30 y/o) had consensual sex with a woman after he posed as a Jewish bachelor interested in a long-term relationship. When the woman found Kashur was not Jewish but Arab, she filed a police complaint that led to charges of rape and indecent assault. Sabbar Kashur has been under house arrest for two years and was just condemned by the District Court of Jerusalem for “rape by deception”.

Now let’s look into the legal arguments. Judge Zvi Segal justified his verdict by stating that “the court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price — the sanctity of their bodies and souls”. He based his decision on the High Court of Justice’s precedent in the Zvi Sleiman case that established “rape by deception” in which a “person does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman, and as a result of misrepresentation she has sexual relations with him”.

The legal category of “rape by deception” or “rape by fraud” appeared in common law countries in a bid to protect the weak and “moralise” the interaction between two adults leading to a sexual relation. In most cases, the “perpetrator” misleads the “victim” into believing that the sexual relationship will procure benefits (medical healing in a welsh case, insurance benefits in an Israeli case…). Gideon Levy is quoted as saying that this judgement would have been quite different had the “perpetrator” been Jewish and the “victim” Muslim. I’m not sure that is true, and I don’t believe that the problem lies there. It’s more about the legitimacy of the claim. Should the court support and defend as “public interest” all considerations considered as crucial by the victim, in this case sectarian considerations?

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Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Justice | 6 Comments »

Background Info on Israeli-Druze Delegation to Lebanon

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/07/2010

Another example of Jumblatt's mastery of ME politics

So basically, Walid Jumblatt has been working this past decade on reinforcing his position as a cross-national Druze leader. He made a major step in that direction in 2001 when he organised a meeting between Lebanese and Israeli Druze in Amman. For more information on that meeting check out Tareq Ayyoub’s article in the Jordan Times: Lebanese, Israeli Druze leaders meet in Amman.

To be able to go ahead in his communal agenda, he has to do three things:

  • Secure the assent of Syrian authorities and Lebanese communal leaders who are hostile toward Israel, so as not be accused of “normalisation” or collaboration with Israeli authorities.
  • Give this communal meeting and the presence of this Israeli delegation a spin. This means selling it in a particular way to the media. The best example of this successful spin is Samer Husseini’s article in the Safir and Orient Le Jour’s article Druze from Israel succeed in breaking the blockade by coming to Lebanon (in French).
  • Reinforce his pro-palestinian credentials. He did that a month ago with the four bills he presented in parliament in order to expand Palestinian civil rights (more info on that here).

Posted in Communication, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Peace, Political behaviour | 1 Comment »

“Eclairages” sur le premier Congrès Diasporique Druze

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/07/2010

En lisant ce matin quatre compte-rendus sur le Congrès Diasporique Druze organisé la veille au BIEL (Solidère), j’ai eu l’impression de suivre une leçon magistrale sur les malheurs du journalisme libanais. Il s’agissait donc pour les rédactions d’informer leurs lecteurs sur la tenue d’un congrès. Ce genre d’exercice journalistique peut-être conduit de différentes manières: la reproduction des interventions orales (intégrale, résumée, ou sélectionné), l’entretien avec une ou plusieurs personnes présentes, l’analyse de la thématique et des enjeux du congrès… C’est une question de choix rédactionnel (le journaliste choisit  un angle) et de culture journalistique. Observons ces choix et la culture journalistique qu’ils reflètent.

Al-Akhbar, sous le titre “Ouverture du premier congrès diasporique druze” (افتتاح المؤتمر الاغترابي الأول للدروز) nous propose une sorte de première dépêche de l’événement. L’information est claire et succinte. Elle est issue de la grande tradition des communiqués de presse arabes dont voici le format rigide: phrase introductive qui précise que l’évènement a réuni un grand nombre de personnalités; phrase centrale qui n’est autre qu’une citation d’un homme politique (en l’occurrence, Walid Jumblatt; phrase de conclusion qui “contextualise” (généralement par rapport à d’autres déplacements de politiciens) ou “évalue” (toujours une grande réussite) l’événement. Le seul élément qui pourrait titiller la curiosité du lecteur est le segment de la présentation des personnalités présentes qui mentionne “la délégation de Sheiks Druzes des territoires de 1948” (c-à-d Israël) avec la précision qu’ils sont “arrivés au Liban il y a deux jours en traversant la Jordanie et la Syrie” pour rassurer les lecteurs qu’on est pas en présence d’un acte de collaboration avec Israël.

An-Nahar sous le titre “Joumblatt à l’ouverture du Premier Congrès Diasporique Druze: “avec la Syrie, nous avons établie la formule définitive de l’entente interne” (جنبلاط في افتتاح “المؤتمر الاغترابي الأول للموحدين الدروز”:
مع سوريا وضعنا الصيغة النهائية للتسوية الداخلية) nous livre une variante de la première formule. Elle épouse les même règles que la première mais en plus détaillée, au lieu de trois phrases, nous avons droit à trois paragraphes: un paragraphe de présentation des personnalités, un grand paragraphe d’extrait de discours (de politiciens, évidemment), et un court paragraphe de “contextualisation” ou “d’évaluation”. Notons que dans le paragraphe de présentation, le journaliste Amer Zeineddine (عامر زين الدين) nous informe de la présence “d’une délégation druze d’Arabes de Palestine [عرب فلسطين] présidée par Aouni Kneifess” et lui concède un petit extrait de son allocution.

Le compte-rendu du journal As-Safir reprend la même formule “extensive” qu’An-Nahar sous un titre similaire  “Joumblatt à l’ouverture du premier Congrès Diasporique Druze: Nous sommes l’avant-garde de la voie arabe … Et les instants d’errance sont du passé” (جنبـلاط فـي افتتـاح المؤتمـر الاغترابي الدرزي الأول: نحن طليعة الخط العربـي… ولحظات التخلي انتهت). L’article de Jaafar Antari se distingue par un témoigne sur les interrogations et la speculation autour des résultats escompté de ce congrès: aboutira-t-il au “rassemblement des Druzes du Liban et de l’étranger” ou se contentera-t-il d’être “une plate-forme pour des déclarations politiques”? Evidemment, l’article ne propose aucun élément de réponse, mais il fait passer un commentaire sur la délégation druze “en provenance de la Palestine occupée” (circonlocution de circonstance), “arrivée au Liban via la Syrie” (gage de respectabilité). Le journaliste note en passant que la table à laquelle était placée la délégation est devenu le centre d’intérêt de la soirée et qu’elle a attiré vers elle à plusieurs reprises Walid Jumblatt qui venait par moment pour la féliciter et par moment pour la rassurer. Ce genre de phrase est dans le style journalistique libanais une invitation “à lire entre les lignes”, pratique qui au lieu d’informer ne fait que confirmer les préjugés du lecteur initié. Pour un article plus intéressant sur la dynamique

Mais le pompon revient à l’Orient-Le Jour avec l’article intitulé “Les druzes d’Israël parviennent à briser le blocus en venant au Liban“, franchit allègrement la complaisance de ses confrère et verse dans la propagande de style héroïque. Au lieu de quelques circonlocution politiquement correcte, la rédaction journal préfère l’emphase avec un désintérêt total pour la réalité décrite. Le titre annonce la couleur: Il parle de blocus, alors que ce qui empêche la visite de cette délégation druze sont deux lois identiques de part et d’autre de la frontière libano-israélienne: les deux pays interdisent le voyage de leurs citoyens vers un pays ennemi et interdisent aux citoyens de l’autre pays de se rendre dans leur pays. Donc en principe, ces dignitaires n’ont pas seulement “bravé l’interdit des autorités israéliennes”, mais également la loi libanaise. Mais on peut noter qu’il existe une exception à cette interdiction légale, et elle touche les hommes de religions: ceux-ci peuvent faire ce déplacement sans trop d’encombres… Et il le font. Les synodes maronites, arméniens et grecs-catholiques comprennent souvent des prêtres venus d’Israël (qui d’ailleurs sont parfois de nationalité libanaise). D’ailleurs, ce n’est pas la premières fois que des dignitaires Druzes de nationalité israélienne se rendent au Liban, ce n’est donc pas “une première”. Comme les trois autres journaux libanais, rien n’est dit sur la particularité des Druzes israéliens et de leur rapport avec l’Etat d’Israël, autre qu’une allusion de Walid Joumblatt sur “le courage” de cette délégation dont les membres ont “refusé de s’enrôler dans le service militaire obligatoire en Israël”. Allégation qui au demeurant reste à vérifier…

Posted in Communication, Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Israel, Journalism, Lebanon, Semantics, Version Francophone | Leave a Comment »

Hooking up: my month with Facebook

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/07/2010

Well now I actually am.

I’ve been on Facebook for a little more than a month now, and I have to admit that I’m rather hooked. I still haven’t discovered all its possibilities, and even less engaged in them, but I do believe that this medium has an extremely interesting edge to it. Set aside its extremely limited language (where all people who are linked are “friends”, and all pages that you follow are those that you “like”), and look at its possibilities. It gives you the opportunity to communicate with people you know without having to knock at their door every single time. It allows you to work on your readership, nurture it, engage with it, interact on a personal level.

Like many, I heard through friends about Facebook. I learnt that it was a fascinating mutant interface that combines email/chat/blog/social networking. For a long time I was wary of its exhibitionistic and superficial tendencies, and wasn’t very comfortable with the idea that it would link the different networks I’m engaged in (they are not exactly compatible). So I resisted Facebook until a friend of mine (my number one fan and paragon) convinced me that it could be tempting and that I should give in. And so I did.

Truth to tell, I’m rather put off by the “personal” dimension of Facebook and decided from the onset to keep private things private: so no holiday pictures, no display of mood swings or details of my personal and social life (when I have one). No posting will seem to be torn off from my diary (one that I choose to share with others while I write it; that sounds very Tanizaki, doesn’t it). I’d rather share ideas, explore them as I write them, throw them around and see what bounces back. And instead of chasing info, roaming from one blog to another, it’s really great to find so many interesting things scattered around on my page every time I log in.

Tapping into the unexpected

One thing really caught me off guard: The process of creating a “friend list”. Here’s the catch, when you open a personal page with your name on it, you send an invitation to all the email addresses in your possession, and you’re sure that friends and family will accept it. And gradually, people you have met or who fancy you, or know you by name or you’ve lost contact with will send you an invitation. And that’s that. Well, things play differently when your profile is anonymous and you only deal with political issues. Friends and family are certainly among the least interested in your political prattle. So they’d probably refuse your invitation unless you revealed your identity… And even then, you’re sure they’d be the first to roll their eyes (and suck their teeth) every time you post something.

So here’s what I did. After activating the automatic search engine to find the facebook profiles of the people I interact with through mail, I started asking myself whether or not I should invite this or that person. How would (s)he likely respond? Would they be interested in my political rambling? So I started asking myself questions about my readership that never ran through my blogger’s mind. Why wouldn’t people be interested in my political prattle? Is it because it is political or because it is prattle? Could one interest them and how? As I wrote my second note on Lıbnéné Qaliq, I felt things were starting to change in my writing process. I wonder if it is noticeable.

Posted in Blogosphere, Civil Society, Communication, Personal | 3 Comments »

Credo in form of a decalogue (changes I believe in)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/07/2010

Some people have very rightly said that my approach to “Laïque Pride” (among other things) is too negative and that instead of simply criticising, I should be presenting some alternatives. So I took two hours to think about it and came up with this decalogue.
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1. I believe that we should pressure the parliament into establishing the “communauté de droit commun” that was recognised in the 1930s!!!! And allow it to have its own institutions and its own laws in matters of mariage and inheritance, and also its own courts. In other words Create a democratic and liberal “op out” mechanism to communal membership.

2. I personally think the Lebanese state should stop financing the muslim clergy and the muslim courts, because it is discriminatory towards non-muslims and it contradicts the principle of separation between religion and state. In other words Enforce the principle of  separation between State and Religion.

3. I also believe that the civil inheritance law that applies to Christians should be abolished because it is patriarchal and discriminatory. I believe Christians should be allowed to have their own inheritance laws (the catholic inheritance law for instance is more liberal than the secular Lebanese inheritance law), just like Muslims do… In other words: Enforce the principle of equality between communities.

4. I believe that the “clergy” has the right to express its political opinion, like all other citizens do. And that we have the right (and the duty) to criticize it when we don’t agree with it. However, the Muslim “clergy” BY LAW doesn’t have the right to express political views because it holds the status of “state agent”. If it wants to benefit from this right, it should set itself free from the state. In other words Enforce the principles of rule of law.

5. I also believe that people who belong to a community should pay a specific tax for this community (like in Germany) in order to to finance each community’s institutions (courts and non-clerical representative institutions) and give it the means to have a properly trained personnel (most importantly judges)! And where there are taxes, there’s accountability! In other words Guarantee a greater autonomy to communities.

6. I also believe that pressure should be made on state courts to reinterpret Law 534 of our criminal law that doesn’t mention homosexuality but speaks of sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature”… I believe this sentence’s interpretation should be restricted to bestiality… and not include adultery, homosexuality and what have you: In other words “upgrade” Personal Freedom to international standards.

7. I also believe that there should be NO censorship. And that the censorship board should be replaced by a rating board (like in the US). I believe freedom of opinion and information should be guaranteed. For this we need a new legislation and excerpt  a lot of pressure on our political class (that controls the media and restricts the creation of new media). In other words “upgrade” Freedom of Expression to international standards.

8. I believe that military courts should not be allowed to try civilians. And that even soliders should be given the right to oppose a military court’s ruling by bringing the case to a higher civil court (Constitutional court, Court of cassation, Council of State or preferably a common supreme court that replaces them). In other words Extend the principle of Due Process.

9. I believe that the history of communities should be taught in schools because people are extremely ignorant about these things and they replace their lack of knowledge with prejudice. Our students should learn about communal persecutions, conversions, liberal and conservative religious movements… They should learn about the dhimmi laws, and that they were not always applied. They should learn about religious extremism (how Syriac and Protestant converts were persecuted by the Maronite church, how Chrisitans, and non orthodox Muslims were persecuted by the Mamlouk, how the Eastern Catholic churches were latinised by Rome and missionaries, how the Oriental Orthodox clergy were discriminated against by the Greeks (and how the Arab speaking orthodox clergy revolted in the 19th century, how the Iranian clergy and schools changed the Lebanese Shiites religious practice, what sunni religious reformers proposed in the 19th century… In other words, Replace prejudice and ignorance with knowledge.

10. I believe that the confessional system can be reformed… But this reform should keep in mind the basic principles on which this system is based: inclusiveness and diversity. That’s why all recognised communities should have a representative in Parliament! Today, the rule applies only to 11 communities out of the 17 established communities (the “communauté de droit commun” just like the Ismaeli community is recognised but not established, once it is established it will become the 18th community). Moreover, we should have a law that sets a procedure for the recognition of other religious communities (the Czech law is quite a good one). I also believe that there are competent people in all communities and that “confessionalism” shouldn’t be an excuse to choose the most corrupt or the least competent of them, or an excuse to strengthen the power of patrons over people who belong to their community (within the state and outside it). In other words, Enforce the principles of Inclusiveness and Diversity inherent in Confessionalism.

When are we going to start doing something about these issues instead of parroting an almost centennial discourse that is produced and manipulated by politicians and that leads to nowhere?

Posted in Diversity, History, Intercommunal affairs, Islam, Judaism, Levantine Christians, Memory, Patronage Networks, Personal, Prejudice, Reform, Religion, Secularism, Values | 6 Comments »

The secular march… what next?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/07/2010

What is future of the Lebanese Laïque Pride? Salman al-Andari offers us an informed glimpse at what lies ahead for this dynamic group of Lebanese in an article published by the  Nahar al-Shabab: “The secular march… what next?“. He asks three people involved in this march what future steps should be undertaken to achieve their goal. A quick look at their answers shows that they are facing huge problems that were perceptible from the onset: There’s a whole lot of ideology (and ideological confusions), the goal is general and vague, and the action plan unfocused.

Instead of analysing their arguments, I believe it would be more interesting to try to suggests some concrete and profitable future steps. But I honestly can’t do it because the goal is too vague and the ideological matter too thick. This is not really the “Laïque Pride” groups fault. The issue they are tackling, secularisation/secularism/laïcité, is an extremely ideological one. This is particularly true in Lebanon (with our consociative system and its anti-confessionalist rhetoric and program) and France (with its particular blend of republicanism and its religious history and anti-religious rhetoric). So basically, here are the problems they are facing:

– “Laïque pride” is running under a highly ideological banner, that of Laïcité. This word is extremely tricky because its definition speaks of absolutes while its history is that of compromises. Moreover, laïcité presents itself as an abstract and universal principle, while it is grounded in a very particular history (that of France) and owes a lot to it.

– “Laïque pride” embraces a very common reading of Lebanese politics that is extremely ideological and misleading: it adopts the constitutional program for the abolition of confessionalism, it confuses State-Religion relations with Society-Religion relations, it opposes communalism and secularism… Its Arabic name is even more emblematic, “the seculars’ march towards citizenship”, which fits perfectly with other slogans used by the political class such as “abolishing confessionalism to give birth to the nation” (what I call national negationism, a virulent type of national self-loathing), or “building the state” (delusion at its best, we’ve got a huge and expensive state). Is there a more effective way to disfranchise citizens than by refusing to acknowledge the rights that they already have?

Is there a way out of this? Obviously, but it won’t be simple. There’s a whole lot of intellectual work that should be done. And this type of work takes time and needs a lot of ressources. And like all intellectual activities, its only reward is intellectual. I’m not sure that Laïque Pride is really interested in “intellectual rewards”. They want change and they want it now. And this attitude is the reason for their success. Anti-confessionalists in Lebanon are comfortable in their certitudes and they are frustrated by what they perceive is a lack of change on this issue (this perception is erroneous… the Lebanese political system is all but static, and it has been undergoing constant changes since the 1920s… all of them allegedly reinforcing the so-called “confessionalism”, but actually diverting it and changing its meaning).

What are the risks of avoiding this “intellectual work” and remaining in these murky ideological waters? I believe this would condemn the goal to remain general and vague, and the action plan to remain unfocused. How much would this hinder “Laïque Pride”… I’m not so sure. The group didn’t propose any new content, what it did is offer a new packaging and a new methodology. It repackaged the dominant anti-confessional rhetoric, put it under a new label “laïque pride” (likely to attract a westernised middle class crowd), functioned as a network and used Facebook as a mobilising tool. The group proved that it was rather good in what it did. To sum things up, there’s a conventional side to “Laïque Pride” (its substance) and an innovative side to it (its form). It’s not clear how long the innovative dimension will remain. When asked about the future step “Laïque Pride” should undertake, the three activists interviewed by Salman al-Andari gave extremely conventional answers. They proposed what other organisations have been doing for years.

So at the end of the day, Laïque Pride can be summed up as a particular moment in “anti-confessional” activism in which a new generation takes possession of a heritage and gives it a facelift. Its success and its failing will be those of the “anti-confessionnal” movement, that has always been politically hijacked by communal leaders and patrons (Kamal Joumblatt yesterday, Nabih Berri today), and its only horizon seems to be the civil marriage proposition which will condemn all Lebanese who seek to avoid religious law to a conservative, patriarchal and bigoted alternative (check out the Hraoui proposition if you’re not convinced) deemed good because “secular”, instead of allowing them to choose more liberal laws abroad.

Posted in Anticonfessionalism, Blogosphere, Civil Society, Culture, Discourse, Idiosyncrasy 961, Lebanon, Secularism | Leave a Comment »

Paul the octopus new envoy to the Middle East

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/07/2010

In an unprecedented step, the Quartet on the Middle East decided to appoint Paul the octopus as their special envoy to the Middle East. Paul will be taking over the position held by British former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The new Special Envoy seemed rather confident and unshaken by the daunting mission that was bequeathed to him. He will be arriving to Jerusalem tomorrow morning and Helga, his official spokesperson, announced that he would immediately start working on solving the Middle East’s most pressing problems. Paul chose Helga as his spokesperson earlier today, as she sat cramped at the bottom of his fish-tank in one of the two transparent boxes the public has grown accustomed to seeing on every news edition. He seemed so happy with his choice that he clung to her with eight arms, almost suffocating her. Three divers had to plunge into the tank to detach them from one another. The Quartet agreed never to put Helga or any other person in the tank again.
Instead of predicting the outcome of a sports game, Paul will be recommending the best move to make in the Middle East’s most intense political game. Every morning he will be presented with an Israeli position and a Palestinian position, and he will announce which one will have the most favourable outcome for Peace in the Middle East. Tony Blair, in the name of the Quartet wished Paul the best of luck, even though he confessed that his successor clearly didn’t need it.

The Quintet was established in Madrid in 2002 and is made up of four sides involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The Quartet’s first Special Envoy was James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank, who stepped less than a year after his appointment when he realised he couldn’t do anything. The Quartet’s second Special Envoy refused to admit his failure in his mission and only learnt of his dismissal through an article in the Jerusalem Post.

Posted in Fiction, Israel, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Peace, Personal | Leave a Comment »

Fourth anniversary of July War

Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/07/2010

Haret Hreik... before and after the war

To put it bluntly, I have no clue about what I’m going to write under this heading. Many ideas have been swirling in my head, and going in all directions. I’m not sure what I want to comment on. I’ve read four newspapers and found only two articles about this commemoration. Nothing in the Orient-Le Jour, nothing in the Daily Star, two articles in al-Akhbar, and two translated israeli articles in the Safir. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus around this commemoration. But this doesn’t mean that the July war has been forgotten, or that it has lost  meaning in Lebanese politics. Hezbollah and Amal outlets refer to it as frequently as they could; so does March XIV® (and its outlets) when it wants to attack Hezbollah and its weapons. So why are there so few articles about this war on the day it started 4 years ago?

Commemorations serve many purposes. But whatever purpose that is,there is a political will behind it, the decision to mark that day as a day of remembrance. The political will obviously lacks in Lebanon. The parliament, the government and society is divided in its understanding of this war and that day. Some blame Hezbollah for starting the war with its operation against the IDF, others consider that Israel only used a legitimate Hezbollah operation as a pretext to wage war against Lebanon.

This deep division certainly explains the lack of public commemoration. But with all this talk about a future war between the two countries (that many consider inevitable), shouldn’t this day be used to clarify things and reflect on ways to prevent that war?

On a personal note, I can’t help but commemorate this day. It represents an important turning point in my life. It sparked my interest in blogging and in Peace work, two activities that I’m still hooked to.

Posted in Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Memory, Violence | 9 Comments »