Ces dernières semaines, trois “cyber-amis” m’ont exclu de leur page facebook. A vrai dire, je ne connaissais personnellement aucune des trois personnes, mais les motifs derrière leur exclusion me semblent intéressants et significatifs par rapport à certains usages de Facebook.
J’ai été d’abord exclu de la page de J.H. (un mois avant qu’elle ne disparaisse elle-même de Facebook), puis de celle de J-M K et enfin de la page d’A.C..
J.H. a décidé que j’étais un “ami de Hezbollah” en se basant sur le principe que “celui qui critique mes amis est automatiquement l’ami de mes ennemis… et donc mon ennemi”. Elle m’a donc exclu en m’envoyant un message expéditif du style “salemlé 3a tes amis du Hezbollah”.
J-M K., l’a fait après m’avoir courtoisement demandé – à travers un message personnel – de relever mon identité. En fait, il l’a fait une semaine de voyages successifs et rapprochés, et je n’avais pas eu le temps de lui répondre… A la fin de mon voyage, j’ai constaté qu’il m’avait exclu de sa page. Quelques semaines plus tard, j’ai découvert qu’il m’avait également exclu du “groupe de refléxion et d’action politique”, groupe auquel on m’avait invité et dont j’avais contribué à franciser le nom. Il a donc rejeté mon choix de l’anonymat (relatif) que j’ai suivi en m’inscrivant sur facebook pour ne pas verser dans l’étalage public du personnel. Je pense que l’anonymat est le seul moyen de “détourner” facebook de son usage premier et de l’utiliser comme une véritable plate-forme de discussion socio-politiques. Le motif de l’exclusion était clairement mon choix de l’anonymat. Et en quelque sorte, je le comprends puisque c’est une violation de “l’esprit” Facebook. Mais c’est justement la raison derrière mon choix! Mon pari était de m’effacer derrière des arguments pour que l’échange reste au niveau des idées.
Quant au Professeur A. C., il m’a rappelé à deux reprises que mes commentaires n’étaient pas les bienvenues sur sa page. J’avoue qu’ils avaient tendance à être sarcastique par rapport à certains positionnement politiques. Et pourtant je m’étais gardé de faire des réflexions personnelles (alors que de son côté, il ne s’en était pas privé sur le mur d’un ami commun). Certains de mes commentaires constatais la dynamique derrière quelques réactions que j’y lisais; la section commentaire avait tendance à se transformer en caisse à résonance, en espace de surenchère où les émotions explosaient (au dépens des arguments) et où l’on pouvait diagnostiquer un syndrome de la Tourette (à chaque fois que le nom de Michel Aoun était prononcé, ou celui du Hezbollah). M. C. m’a répété à deux reprises qu’il ne voulait pas que j’écrive des commentaires – en me disant en ces mots – que c’était son mur et par conséquent il était libre de décider de ce qui pouvait y être affiché. Face à cette sommation de me taire, non accompagnée d’une menace d’exclusion, j’avais compris qu’il fallait que je me contente d’une lecture… silencieuse! Mais j’ai découvert cette semaine qu’il avait changé sa politique, et a finalement décidé de m’exclure sans autre forme de procès… alors même que je m’étais abstenu de tout commentaire!
En fait, je ne me serais pas permis de parler de ces trois pages/profils facebook si leur usage principal n’était pas politique. Car en cela, ils rejoignent l’usage principal que j’en fais. En outre, MM J-M. K. et A. C. envisagent explicitement Facebook comme une Agora, un espace ouvert de discussion politique. Or est-ce que l’on peut toujours parler d’Agora, d’espace de discussion, lorsque le désaccord est rejeté et lorsqu’on s’érige en arbitre d’une discussion à laquelle on participe (ou qu’on initie)? Certes, un espace de délibération peut être perturbé par la présence de participants “masqués” (par l’anonymat). Toutefois, si l’anonymat pose un risque considérable, il ne constitue pas pour autant une présomption nécessaire d’abus. Il faudrait encore qu’il soit constaté. Or je ne pense pas en avoir abusé.
Comment alors expliquer ces exclusions? Est-ce que cela illustre que la discussion politique au Liban s’assume et s’affirme aujourd’hui comme fragmentée, et qu’elle cherche surtout à réconforter les lignes de fractures (au lieu de chercher à les dépasser)? Dans cette perspective, on cherche à barricader les murs de facebook afin de préserver “son” groupe en lui assurant sécurité et de réconfort…
I jumped head-on into two discussions with friends about a month ago that confirmed a strong feeling I’ve felt for some time now but never acted upon. I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with the way I argue my points. I don’t have any problems with my analysis per se. I believe that many of the points I make are valid, and that what I criticise is indeed criticisable. But I know I’m not doing it the right way. My approach is too cold, too analytical, and by criticising the other’s reasoning, I’m putting him/her in a defensive position in which things become personal. And I know that were I in their shoes, I’d be extremely agressive and quite bitter. What amazed me in these two conversations is the generosity and goodness that they showed towards me, withstanding what I had said and how I had said it…
Que peuvent ils faire? Tuer? Ils tueront 1, 10 ou 100 hommes libres, et après? Le sort du Tribunal Spécial n’est pas entre nos mains. 02 October at 14:27
Quels hommes libres? Franchement, je n’en vois pas beaucoup au Liban. Je ne vois que des hommes et des femmes apathiques ou embrigadés derrière leurs certitudes. Le premier signe de la liberté est l’autocritique et non pas l’autocélébration. Il est plus facile de chercher une aiguille dans une botte de foin que de trouver une conversation rationnelle et raisonnée avec un quatorze marsiste sur le TSL ou avec un hezbollahiste sur la résistance.
Il n’y a rien d’héroïque dans la mort, ni même d’exceptionnel dans un pays qui célèbre annuellement des bouchers et dont les habitants se laissent conduire périodiquement vers l’abattoir.
Wissam Saade Meme si le TSL revet de la valeur d’un mythe fondateur pour le 14 mars comparable dans cette dimension au mythe fondateur de la Resistance, je crois pas que cette analogie pourrait transgresser facilement les limites separant ce qui est le symbolique et ce qui est factuel. Car justement, dans le cas ou la Resistance est impliquee dans l’affaire du TSL, le parallelisme possibilisant cette analogie est rompue. Et la c’est le Fait qui se substitue meme symboliquement au symbole.
Nous ne parlons plus de la même chose. Et à mon avis, dans toute discussion, il faut s’efforcer à rester clair avec son interlocuteur, et non pas à se perdre dans les subtilités (même délicieuses) de son propre raisonnement. Ma comparaison n’est pas entre le Quatorze Mars@ et la Résistance@, elle ne porte pas non plus sur le rapport qu’ont ces deux “mouvements” à leurs mythes (je pense d’ailleurs que la référence au mythe fondateur n’est dans ce cas ni pertinente ni utile) mais sur le rapport qu’ont les partisans/militants/embrigadés des deux bords à un objet présent et actuel qu’ils ont sacralisés… et de là sur l’effet de ce rapport sur leur discours. Toute discussion sur ce sujet ne fait que confirmer mon propos. 03 October at 10:56 ·
Wissam Saade dans ce cas tout ce que vous disez libneni kalik n est que du blablablablablabla assez stupide 03 October at 12:08
Michel Hajji Georgiou Ya Jihad, ta pseudo “neutralite”, qui n’en est pas une, voire ton politiquement correct, sont ecoeurants. La plupart de tes anciens professeurs, notamment ceux qui ne sont plus la, t’auraient flanque pour le coup un “hors sujet” depuis bien longtemps… 03 October at 12:39
Wissam Saade aha.. Libneni kalik c’est le fameux Jihad? Wawww. 03 October at 13:35 ·
Lıbnéné Qaliq@ Michel. Je n’ai jamais prétendu être neutre. Et je ne m’attends pas à ce que d’autres le soient. En revanche, je m’attends à ce que des gens que j’ai longtemps admiré et continue à admirer gardent une distance critique. Si le “sujet” est l’embrigadement, la bipolarisation, le travestissement des victimes en héros et des bourreaux en victimes, le rejet de toute responsabilité sur l’autre, le remplacement d’une lecture politique par une lecture géopolitique, alors oui, je fais du “hors sujet”, mais je préfère l’appeler recadrage. 03 October at 22:59 .
Michel Hajji Georgiou Je trouve cela parfaitement pretentieux, cher Jihad. Je pense que tu devrais recouvrer un peu d’humilite et cesser d’etiqueter les gens. Surtout ceux que tu “recadres” sur ton blog en fonction de categories d’analyse parfaitement martiennes (et tout a fait partiales, l’air de rien). Tu accuses les autres d’avoir sombre, cher ami, mais en fait, tu derives aussi, plus que les autres meme. Dommage. 03 October at 23:02
Lıbnéné QaliqPeut-on étiqueter des gens qui avancent sous un étendard? Tu fais sans doute référence à un billet dont je suis peu fier, mais je pense y avoir en son temps explicité la démarche. je pense qu’elle est quelque peu liée à l’acte d’écriture. Mais bon, certains d’entre nous s’en sortent grâce à l’élégance de leur plume. Ce n’est malheureusement pas mon cas. Et t’es également en droit de me reprocher mon agressivité, ma tendance à la circularité dans le raisonnement et mes écrits plutôt brouillon. Mais tt ça reste loin de Mars, et surtout du parti pris. 04 October at 00:33
Michel Hajji GeorgiouMais tu as autant de parti pris que n’importe qui ya Jihad. Khalas ba’a. Si tu ne t’en rends pas compte, c’est que tu es atteint d’une cecite grave !! Arrete de donner des lecons et de juger les gens ! Tu peux exprimer l’opinion que tu veux, mais finis-en avec cette attitude scolieuse et condescendante a la fin !! Quand a tes billets, je t’en remercie, mais c’etait facile et mal informe.Une attaque gratuite en fait, qui se cachait derriere une pseudo demarche intellectualiste. Mais t’en fais, c’est quand meme un plaisir de te lire. Moi, au moins, je ne te juge pas. De grace, ecris ce que tu veux, mais, s’il te plait, descends de ton super piedestal analytique !!!
Lıbnéné Qaliq Entendu (un mot qui résume 15 minutes de relectures) Merci Michel
Hicham Bou Nassif Had the Good Samaritan arrived a bit earlier on the scene, should he have let the wrongdoers beat the innocent traveler, possibly to death? Had he intervened, how would that conform to the obligation of non-violence? Had he not intervened, how would that conform to the obligation of defending the innocent? 03 October at 05:24
Lıbnéné Qaliq I’m genuinely surprised by the way you revisit the parable of the Good Samaritain. You seem to be reinventing it in a way to justify violence. And to think that the parable is given as an explanation to the commandement “love your neighbour as yourself” in which Jesus radically redefines the “neighbour” as possibly an opponent (belonging to another faith). Ironic, don’t you think? 03 October at 22:33
Hicham Bou Nassif How can I be justifying violence when i actually refer to non-violence as an”obligation”? In fact, how can I be making any kind of statement when I use three question marks in one status? Isn’t it clear I am troubled by what I perceive to be contradictions in Christian teaching? Granted, this contradiction my only be apparent. There may be a way out of the moral/intellectual quagmire. But your answer doesn’t offer even a hint in that direction. That’s because once again, you fail to read carefully. It seems that the Libnene Qaliq just cannot make himself read carefully anything HE did not write. He just takes a quick look at a text, jumps into conclusions, then jumps into Rosinante, and Hola ! Here goes the Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote Libnene Qaliq of La Mancha, ready for the windmills.
Yours are the ways of the permanent monologue. Sad, don’t you think. 03 October at 23:51
Hicham Bou NassifAbsolutely, you said it. But i am not done yet: I think it’s sad because it’s a waste of talent. I have always believed in yours and will always continue to do so. Not because i am easily… impressed, but because it is indeed impressive. Disagreements about politics are no problem. In fact, they are a sign of good intellectual health. But things are beyond “politics” now. What is at risk is the very meaning of our country, its intimate liberal raison d’etre. I am sorry we dont see eye to eye on this 04 October at 00:09
Lıbnéné Qaliq now that was an unexpected blow; humbling and embarrassing all at once. gotta sleep over it. 04 October at 00:40
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.
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.
I took a week off from the internet right after finishing a post that went to the draft section instead of being published. So I published it on the date it was written and hope to resume this week some regular blogging. I will be publishing two new posts on the “Four amendments presented by Jumblatt a week ago.
You’ve undoubtedly heard what happened to Helen Thomas! She resigned after making a comment on Jews having to go back to Poland and Germany. In case you haven’t heard the story, here’s the video that started an avalanche of reactions in cyberspace with some extolling her as a martyr of the jewish lobby, and others congratulating themselves for debunking an antisemite (or even a nazi) and applauding her disgrace.
All this started in Washington DC, so why is it relevant to us, Lebanese? Well, Helen Thomas’s family hails from Lebanon… But that never brought Helen Thomas any attention in Lebanon. So how can one explain all the attention she got in our media? Let’s see what three editorialists have to say about it:
Michael Young, “Arabs shouldn’t weep for Helen Thomas“, Daily Star (june 10th): ” It’s never pleasant to see someone self-destruct”. The argument that “she was pushed out of her job because of criticism from the ‘Jewish lobby’” is “nonsense. The condemnation was universal, and rightly so”. The editorial focuses on Helen Thomas’ words: “They should go home” to “Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else”. He looks into their significance in an American, Jewish and Arab context.
Michael Young makes it clear that he is no fan of Helen Thomas, and he obviously has scores to settle with her for her adamant opposition to the neo-con worldview he shares with the previous American administration. His arguments are familiar to all pro-peace activists. But he never states the obvious, how hypersensitive the US is to anything that touches Jews/Israel. Had Helen Thomas said something similar about the chinese of Malaysia for instance, we probably wouldn’t have heard anything about it.
Badr al-Ibrahim, “Helen Thomas, the voice that cries in the wilderness of America” (in Arabic), al-Akhbar (june 10th): “When it comes to Israel, freedom of expression becomes a sin for which one is reprimanded”. The editorial focuses on “censorship”: “Free media is a slave to a corrupt political ideology, and it suffers in this case from the same ails than the media in the « Unfree world »: double standard, partiality, deviation from objectivity, and a rejection of intellectual diversity, as well as actively helping the government suppress opinions, criminalise them and force “expiation” on those who express them”.
Badr al-Ibrahim is far from convincing. Comparing the freedom of expression that is enjoyed in the US to the one that is prevalent in the Middle East is simply preposterous. Every society has “its issues” and can be hypersensitive when they are discussed. But that has nothing to do with state censorship, and is not always related to the existence of a lobby.
For more details about what happened, check out Hicham Hamza, The Helen Thomas Affair (in French), Oumma (June 9th) for whom Helen Thomas “resigned herself to leaving office because of the uproar caused by her radical critique of the State of Israel. Back on the underside of a timely political-mediatic diversion”. In his view, the affair is “a degression designed to divert the attention of the American public from the real issues of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis”, and he presents all the info he gathered in this perspective.
Sure, some people have pushed that issue as a divergence mechanism. But this doesn’t explain everything. Helen Thomas did say what she said, and it wasn’t even accurate (most Israeli Jews do not come from Poland and Germany, a larger number comes from the Middle East and North Africa). And this would have hit the cyberspace sooner or later making the same splash.
Like many of you in cyberspace, I’ve been reading extensively about the “Gaz Freedom Flotilla affair/raid/attack/massacre”.
Trying to represent "evil" and missing the point while at it
At first, I received an avalanche of such emails. Frankly, I was irritated by the tone of these emails. They all focused on “Israel’s barbaric acts” and “its monstrosity”. This kind of commentary is shallow (how important is labelling), easy (it’s done by people who are hostile to Israel and/or its policies to start with) and useless (it’s intended for audiences that are hostile to Israel and/or its policies), and usually boders on Tourette Syndrom. Not only it preaches to the converted, but its language confirms the pro-Israel public in its own prejudice and paranoia. It mostly forgets that the whole issue is about GAZA, and not Israel. Take a look at Carlos Latuff’s cartoon and try do imagine how a supporter of Israel would understand it.
Then I started reading blog entries about the whole affair. Trying to look beyond the praise, the condemnation, the victimisation and the accusations, I started processing some information:
What are the facts? If you think identifying the relevant data or “hard facts” is an easy matter, well think again. Check out the articles written, pick out anyone of them, randomly. Ignore all the commentary (accusations, justification, condemnation) and set aside the hard facts. You’re not left with much. Here’s a little quiz: how many boats did the flotilla consist of? How many injured were there (on both sides)? What do you know about the deceased?
What do we actually know about what actually happened? Nothing much. It’s more about “they did it again” or “they were looking for trouble and they got it”.
What are we being told about it? One could excuse the cyberworld for sticking to the emotions and emotional responses. But what excuse does the Media have for doing such a lousy job. I just watched the news report on the BBC, two days after the events, and all I got was two conflicting versions, one made by Israeli officials, and another made by activists from the Flotilla. Both versions were either unspecific or blatantly inaccurate, with more smear than info.
What are the contentious issues? There’s a bunch of them: the Israeli blockade on Gaza (is it legal, ethical, effective, productive?); the Gaza freedom flotilla’s attempt to break the blockade (is it effective? is it lawful? is it suicidal?); the Israeli army’s enforcement of the blockade and its capture of the boats (is it brutal? proportionate? hysterical? lethal? normal?)…
What are the frameworks within which the data is being processed and propagated?
When whitewashing borders on paranoïa
Next came the “pro-Israel” blogs and outlets. I wasn’t surprised by their reactions either. I’ve heard their arguments before, and actually expected to hear them. One could sum them up in three sentences : “we are the victims”, “they are the agressors”, “they made us do it”. The cartoon pictures here illustrates this perception perfectly. The argument presents itself in the following manner: it starts with an abstract apologetical formula that is not linked to an act but to an outcome (which is odd for an apology). Then there’s a quick recasting of the events in which are presented an elastic yet always humane “we” (that alternatively or hypothetically refers to the IDF, the government, Israelis or Jews) and an accusative barbaric “them” (in which those directly concerned are presented as a small sample of a much larger and threatening group). Any act attributed to “we” becomes a mechanical reaction to an act attributed to “them”. This transforms this “act” (and any act is by definition voluntary) into something of a “coerced” or “involuntary” reaction (think knee jerk reflex) which absolves the person who committed it from any responsibility.
Finally, I started constructing my own story (compatible with my worldview, you’d argue), trying to verify some info, and comparing it with other affairs to try to make sens of it all. If one wants to strip the whole affair to its bare elements, the story is quite simple, and let’s not start arguing about chronology.
Who: The flotilla brought together an international group of militants who want to break the blockade on Gaza as a first step towards getting it lifted.
What: The blockade is imposed by Israel (with the complicity of many other international actors, including Egypt), and its alleged objective is “defensive” (to prevent the rearmament of Hamas). The result is punitive: collective punishment that transforms Gaza into a large prison and creates an informal economy completely dominated by Hamas and that is dependent on tunnels through which many things are smuggled including material that is used for weapon construction.
How: The strategy is to force Israel into changing its policy towards Gaza, more specifically, to get it to lift the blockade. The key word here is obviously “force”. And it’s a tricky word and a complicated objective. Basically, you have a group of people who want to change a military strategy through non-military means… The Media is a central component of this strategy because it’s about “image”, symbolic steps and building pressure within and outside Israel to get its security complex to modify its strategy.
Where’s the problem? Israel can no longer count on domestic pressure because its Jewish population is today totally unconcerned by Palestinians and insensible to their plight. Its only concern is to remain unconcerned, untroubled by them. As for international pressure, it is not strong enough to influence the Israeli government. So the Flotilla’s strategy didn’t have a chance to succeed. All it could do was encourage more flottilas to head toward Gaza and hope that this would lead to a snowball effect… and in the meantime keep the blockade on the global agenda (the international community has a very short memory span). It also could hope to get as much humanitarian aid through as it can. But that’s about it.
What next? With its customary brutality and the death toll it leaves behind (that is obvious to all who simply look at the figures), the IDF might have changed things. The “Mavi Marmara” deaths have already started a new dynamic, just like the Cana massacres did in 1996 and in 2006 or the Sabra and Chatilla massacre in 1982. Sure, the story will be revisited over and over again, whitewashed as much as possible. But in the meantime it would have created an insufferable image for Israel that would force it to revise its strategy or at least refrain from doing the same mistake (while at the same time denying it was a mistake) in an immediate future. And in this immediate future the Rachel Corrie will be arriving, and probably other flotillas.
As many might have realised, I’ve been forcing myself to blog for many months now. And it’s not because I have little to say or don’t have an opinion on any particular subject. I’ve often come across as an opinionated person, and even an arrogant one, for a good reason. And it’s not because I lack the time for it; I struggle with every word when writing, but still: when there’s a will, there’s a way!
So what’s the problem? Frankly, I’m a bit bored and tired of rambling on the Middle East. I’m weary of hearing my own voice and knowing its inconsequentiality. This “regular” exercice isn’t really meaningful and certainly doesn’t bring anyone (including myself) much. As one of my (recently deceased) professors hinted to me years ago using Blaise Pascal’s terminology, I belong to the second category of people, the half-clever people(demi habiles): I’m blessed with the capacity to “discern” (perceive or recognise matters) but instead of working with that knowledge, I rebel against the order that I recognise as being flawed. Such an attitude is expected of a teen or even a young adult (or a socialist come to think of it), but it becomes ridiculous after a certain age.
A quick glance at my posts should bring anyone to the following conclusion: they are not informative enough to be journalistic, and they are not precise enough nor methodologically driven to be academic. This is quite normal for a blog, but I was trained as a journalist and I work in academia… so what’s my contribution to the blogosphere?
I believe my posts do give an informed and non conventional view on matters relevant to the Middle East (and more specifically to Lebanon). But once you’ve heard it, how useful is it to keep on hearing it? The more it is repeated, the more it borders on ranting.
I’ve seen bloggers use their blogs for academic purposes, and have followed others who used them for journalistic purposes. I’m not using this blog for any purpose other than blogging. And this type of blogging isn’t what we need in Lebanon. Most articles in our newspapers resemble blog posts. And the views you come across in the academic world are extremely conventional (and frankly detached from reality, at least as I see it). So my challenge is to find a way to make my writing more meaningful.
As the title of this post clearly states it, I’m looking for another format, a new approach that would make my modest contribution meaningful and useful. Here are a couple of ideas I’m rolling around.
Create or integrate a collective platform that focuses on the Middle East or Lebanon. Does anyone know of any interesting existing platform? Or is anyone interested in participating in such a platform?
Link my blogging to the my involvement in Peace and Diversity education. I have been involved in this field for 4 years now. I have actually followed several platforms on Ning (Mepeace, Ipeace, PalestinianMothers) for 3 years to see what is done, how it’s done, what is missing and what can be done.
Hello Reader(s). I will be backtracking today. I will be publishing two short posts that I wrote sometime ago (one on April 14th and the other on April 25th. And I will be developing the notes I took while visiting three cultural event in Beirut last week. I hope all this will be visible in the following 2 hours. And expect an article on the municipal elections tomorrow. Be good!
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).
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.
Yes, it’s this time of the year when you look back at what you’ve done and try to evaluate it. I ran across a dead blog today that sums things perfectly! It’s titled “Unnecessary, and not very diverting, musings”… and this tag line follows: “Much like other bloggers, I have the vanity to believe that strangers will want to read what my actual friends are not interested in hearing”. It cracked me up!
So here’s my plan for my blog’s facelift and body sculpting:
Less opinion pieces! many have slipped into agressive or humdrum rants… and I’ve been repeating myself. It’s true that the risk of repetition is high in a country where things never seem to change (except for the main politicians’ alliances). So less commentary and more analysis on our preferred idiosyncrasies.
More reviews. I’ve been skimming through lots of blogs lately, and I think it would be interesting to write a weekly review on them, maybe take an issue and see how it’s being treated by fellow bloggers.
Renewed interest in regional matters. And I’m not talking about geopolitics. I do not care where the Egyptian government stands on such an issue or how the Saudi King wants to deal with his northern neighbours. I’ll focus on one country every two weeks. See what its press has to say about current issues it is dealing with.
Some interactivity. But you’ve got to help me out on this one. It takes two to tango and at least 10 to interact fruitfully. So please, throw the ball back instead when you see it coming towards you. For that. I’m going to try a couple of new tricks.
Improved linguistic skills. This will not show overnight, but here’s my plan. I haven’t read a book in English for years. Most of the analysis I do is in French (in real life that is) and my sources are mostly in Arabic. So no wonder my writing is so stifled. A nice book every now and then will certainly improve things.
Most people interested in Lebanese affairs must have run across a map such as this one. There is actually no way of avoiding it. One of the main features of this country is its communal composition and people are interested in seing how this translates “on the ground”… And by this expression, they mean territorially. But what does that really mean? And how useful is it to understanding the country and its society?
I personally believe that such maps are extremely misleading. Not only do they distort reality, but they reinforce erroneous mental representations.
Here is a short list of the distortions:
– it reduces Lebanon’s diversity to a limited number of categories. In this map, you find six of the largest communities, but what about the Armenian communities, and the smaller communities such as the Alawites and 8 smaller christian communities) ?
– it draws middle-sized communal territories and gives the impression that they are homogenous while they are almost all mixed. Should minority communities be show?
– it mixes three elements without making them explicit : the demographic element (the demographic weight of the community), the administrative element (how the territory is divided into districts) and a spacial element (how the territory is used). To make my point more explicit, let’s take a couple of examples. ex1: The country is very mountainous and over half of the land is either uninhabited or cultivated. How come this land is attributed to such or such community?! This is particularly true for the “shiite attributed territory of the Beqaa-Mount Lebanon range. About 80% of the area covered is uninhabited… How can it be attributed to the Shiite community?! ex2: A region like the Chouf underwent ethnic cleansing in the 1980s loosing for the third time in two centuries most of its Christian population. But the land property hasn’t shifted much and Christians still own a lot of property there? How does this translate on the map? On the other hand, the Sunni population has grow a lot, and it has the same demographical weight at the Druze even if it is less spread out territorially. How does this translate on the map?!
through another sectarian lens... notice the differences between the two maps that work with the same data?
– it doesn’t take into account the mobility and mental representations. People move around and their movements are conditioned by infrastructure. These elements have an effect on the way they represent to themselves and to others the space they live in. A friend of mine worked on a small sunni neighbourhood in Beirut. This neighbourhood is considered by its christian inhabitants and its christian neighbours as a muslim enclave within a larger “christian” neighbourhood. Its muslims inhabitants consider it as an appendice of a larger “sunni” neighbourhood.
– it has no political significance because the country is on one hand extremely centralised, and on the other split up by numerous patronage networks that cut across administrative bodies and carve up their own territories. This map certainly does not show that.
I stumbled on this advert yesterday while checking out what was new on Laïque Pride, and I think a short comment on it would sums up my position on this issue perfectly. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it. And you’ve probably heard me on this topic too. Two years ago, I reacted quite violently to a campaign by Amam05. A couple of months ago, I discussed the paradoxes of anti-confessionalism, its ambiguities, the consensus and state support it enjoys as an ideology and its side effects. So I’m sorry to repeat myself. But I think it will enable me to sum up my rants and clarify the point I’m trying to make.
The ad you’ve just watched is clearly intended to shame the Lebanese for identifying with a specific community. Everyone in this clip identifies himself/herself according to his/her nationality, except for the Lebanese, who bow their heads in shame after declining their communal identity (with firearms shots to add to the dramatic effect).
This scenario is quite unlikely. When asked about their identity, most Lebanese refuse to tell you what community they belong to. This is a taboo subject, and in all statistics, it’s the most troublesome data to collect. So why shame people for something that is taboo?!
The underlying idea is that our political system because of its recognition of communities, quota system and multiple personal laws, prevents people from identifying as Lebanese. If this is the case, the choice of countries in the sample we just saw is mind-boggling.
Oman: Not only the State is clearly divided according to religious lines (Ibadi, Sunni, Shiite), but islam is the official religion and the law is based on the Coran.
Serbia: The Serbian identity revolves around Christian Orthodoxy, just as the Croatian identity revolves around Catholicism (withstanding the extensive secularisation of both societies). Moreover, the country had recognises a special status to two ethnic minorities: Albanians (who are now independent) and Hungarians.
South Africa: The country still maintains quota systems (in the private sector!!!) and considers itself as a rainbow country, respecting people’s choice to identify as Afrikaans, Zulu, Indians (etc) and seeing no contradiction with being South African.
Palestine: Interestingly enough, Palestine isn’t a sate yet, but it shares two elements with us. It has a quota system for christians and also multiple legislations in matters of personal status, and religious tribunals.
India: Now this country is probably the most diverse country in the world. And believe it or not, they have a system of personal laws quite similar to our own. An Indian would identify herself as Indian to a foreigner. But in India she is likely to put forward her communal or state identity (Punjabi, Bengali, Kashmiri, Tamul, Sikh, Hindu…). What language is this Indian going to use to identify herself to start with? This in itself is the marker of a distinct identity. The only way out is to use English, and not Hindu (which by the way is the sister language of Urdu, the original difference is purely religious).
America: It is quite common for Americans to refer to themselves as African-American, Jewish-American, Italian-American, Cuban-American, Scandinavian-American… Few people find a problem with that. Just pick any American TV serie and see how the characters in it identify themselves or are portrayed.
Lebanon isn’t as “unique” as we would like to admit. We have multiple identities, and the State recognises this diversity. This isn’t very rare around the world, and certainly not in the sample chosen in this advert! Some of us are attached to their communal identity while others are not… This trait is equally shared by many societies. So to make its point clear, this ad not only misrepresents the social reality in Lebanon, but social reality in other countries as well. So how do you explain all the praise it received?
In an earlier post, I alluded to this new civil initiative that made quite a buzz on the Lebanese blogosphere a couple of weeks ago. And the general excitement surrounding it doesn’t seem to be abating. You can find “Laïque Pride” on facebook, twitter, over-blog.
The version you see here was rewritten on December 9th. I found the original draft too aggressive and pontifical and couldn’t leave it that way (If you’re feeling masochistic enough or miss your preacher, you can check it out in the comment section).
Anyway, let’s get back to our business. What seems to be a growing number of Lebanese citizens are getting ready to hit the streets on April 25th 2010. They intend to march for the establishment of a secular state in Lebanon. That’s pretty nice, but there’s something that doesn’t seem too right with this initiative.
The whole approach is very dogmatic. What do they mean by secularism? How can they translate that in practical terms. A quick look at their declaration of intent shows that several of their demands already exist and others are so extremely abstract that one wonders if they are little more than abstract principles or ideological slogans.
To paraphrase Elvis, I’d say a little bit less ideology, a little more pragmatism please. Forget about the anti-confessionalist rhetoric that we’ve been brought up with and look at the dynamics of our political and legal system. If you want change, target specific goals! It’s only by pinpointing specific problems in our system that we can solve them, putting ideology on the shelf and tackling one issue at a time (or at least separately). Each target needs a different strategy. Let’s be realistic! With such a declaration, what could the outcome of the march possibly be? collective unwinding and a public release of pressure… is it worth working for months and mobilising so many for a simple فشت خلق ?
Here are a couple of targets that I would work on:
Fight State censorship. Why not rally for the abolishment of the censorship committee within the Interior Ministry? Why not replace it by a rating system like in the US? Sure Tareq Mitri mentioned this once or twice (when he was minister of culture), and Ziad Baroud did too… But is that enough? Come on! Wouldn’t it be more profitable to march for the abolishment of this censorship committee (in which the religious establishment participates without any habilitation to do so). Shouldn’t we be telling our politicians that we refuse any kind of “tutelage”. Couldn’t we actually contravene systematically to this law? Obviously we can. But people seem to lack the courage to do so. It’s much more comfortable to uphold abstract ideals than actually fight for specific rights.
Respond to the religious establishment’s interference in public affairs and criticize politicians who seek backing from the religious establishment. Why not meet with politicians and clergymen to discuss these issues. Why not protest when their behaviour shocks you? Why didn’t anyone do anything when the Prime Minister asked the Maronite Patriarche to nominate candidates to the Lebanese presidency? Why doesn’t anyone remind the State authorities (Baroud, Hariri and Najjar) that Sunni and Shiite preachers are not allowed by law to give a political opinion when they preach because they are civil servants…
March to pressure the State into adopting a legislation for the Secular community (Communauté de droit commun). People tend to forget that the very law that recognised the different communities also recognised the existence of a secular community (communauté de droit commun). The legal provision already exists. This community is already recognised! All that is needed is to establish its legislation (and why not, its institutions, if you want it to be independent from the conservative thugs that are in parliament)! So why not pressure the government and the parliament to finally enact the laws that were promised over 70 years ago?!