Worried Lebanese

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Can one find the “Israeli Peace Initiative”® appealing?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 11/04/2011

Ten days ago, a group of Israeli business executives and public figures (including the former heads of Shin Bet and the Mossad, and a former IDF Chief of Staff), proposed a plan to end the Israeli-Arab conflict: they modestly called it the Israeli Peace Initiative (considering it’s nonofficial, call this naming wishful thinking). Up to now, not much attention was given to a proposal that seems like a “regional version” of the “Geneva Accords”. In its content, it doesn’t actually offer anything new. It’s a simple variation on the “land for peace” principle that has been the dominant peace paradigm since the drafting of the UNSC resolution 242 in 1967.

The only “novelty” in this proposal is that it presents itself as a “response to the Arab Peace Initiative (API)” which was is the Arab League’s first public endorsement of the “Land for Peace” principle (during the Beirut Summit in 2002, and then during the Riyad Summit in 2007 when it re-adopted the API without altering it). The endorsement of the “Land for Peace” principle is not the most significant element in the Arab Peace Initiative. What matters the most is that it showed the Arab states’ common willingness to recognize Israel…

Likewise, the “Israeli Peace Initiative” most significant feature is that it believes time is playing against Israel, and that it was critical for the Israeli government to revive negotiations.

What’s wrong with the “Land for Peace” principle?
I personally believe that the problem lies in the fact that it proposes a solution to the conflict without addressing the dynamics behind the conflict, and the dynamics that the conflict has created. Moreover, this principle doesn’t “solve” a conflict, but actually proposes a principle for settlement that covers three distinct conflictual dynamics:

  1. Interstate conflicts: two conflicts have already been been solved – Israel-Egypt & Israel-Jordan – and two conflicts remain – Lebanon-Israel & Syria-Israel. In this case, the territorial element is obvious, and the “land for peace” formulae has proven to be efficient in solving two conflicts, and it will undoubtedly prove itself when an agreement will be reached regarding the two remaining interstate conflicts. And the reason is actually very simple, the “land for peace” principles actually translates to an old & agreed principle in interstate relations (and law), that of territorial sovereignty.
  2. The Israeli-Palestinian problem: in this case territory is obviously an issue, but it is not the central one. The central issue is the relation between people (individuals and groups). The 1947 partition plan tried to offer a two state solution to this conflict: this could have allowed a territorial solution to the conflict were it accepted by the two parties, but it was actually refused by both (explicitly by the Palestinian side and implicitly by the Israeli side through the conquest of additional land). Moreover, the successive Israel governments have actually imposed a one state solution to the conflict since 1967 through a policy of land control, ethnic engineering and legal disenfranchisement). Trying to solve such a conflict “territorially” without looking into the people’s needs and grievances is both unrealistic and unethical. The problem here is between people that a particularly unkind history has shaped. So before looking into a “territorial settlement” (and this requires a search for the legal grounds underlying this principle, and the mechanisms of its implementation), one should remember that people have rights… and start addressing these issues.
  3. Refugees problem (Palestinians refugees and Jewish refugees): Here too, one should concentrate on the human dimension of the problem. It’s not about territory, it’s about people.

What are the dynamics that should be addressed?

Use of force to attain gains. Violence pays! and it pays pretty well. It has allowed the Jewish state established in 1948 to expand territorially and demographically, to reverse the ethnic balance, to reallocate wealth and redistribute property. Violence was necessary for the creation of a Jewish State (in a hostile environment), and necessary for its expansion.
Likewise, violence has served the Palestinian leadership well. There were no legal or political ways for it to assert itself, to expand the national movement and make its aspirations heard. That is true in the Palestinian Refugee camps and in the West Bank and Gaza. The only place where rights could be fought for legally (but not always successfully) was within Israel because some Palestinians still residing there were granted Israeli citizenship… Moreover, violence proved particularly instrumental for the Palestinian political parties to impose themselves after loosing an election (Fatah) or to assert their political rights (Hamas).

– Discrimination and ethnic engineering. This too has worked quite well. For all States in the Middle East. Discriminated and hostility toward Jews has not only resulted in the massive immigration of Arab-speaking Jews, but from the obliteration of their existence in the national narrative. This started in Palestine in the beginning of the 20th century and was followed by all the national ideologies in the Near East. Lebanon has enshrined discrimination against Palestinians in its constitution. Most countries in the Near East define themselves as ethnic states, leaving no place for national minorities in their narrative (the only notable example is today’s Iraq): Israel sees itself as a Jewish state (i.e. a State for Jews), Syria and Lebanon as Arab states (withstanding the notable presence of Armenians, Kurds and Syriacs…), Egypt as a Muslim Arab state and Turkey as a Turkish state (i.e. a State for Muslim Turks)… Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Israel have actively practiced ethnic engineering: Turkey and Israel against Arabs; Syria, Iraq and Turkey against Kurds.

What can be done?

If we want to end the conflict, instead of looking for ONE solution that offers a package deal we should be looking into the grievances and trying to neutralise the dynamics behind the conflict.

  1. Delegitimise violence: That doesn’t happen by simply condemning it! It can only happen once the gains that were done through violence are denounced and once propers institutions (or mechanisms) are establish that could allow the reversal of these gains. In other words, propers institutions should be established that would allow the expression of grievances and the pursuit of legitimate claims.
  2. Protect identities and respect difference: The protection of one’s identity is obviously a legitimate aim, but not all methods of protection are right. Wanting the protect Jewish identity in Israel, or Christian identity in Lebanon, or Arab identity in Syria, or Turkish identity in Turkey are legitimate concerns. But the means to attain it ceases to be legitimate when it’s carried through at the expense of another group. And up to now, Kurds are suffering from it in Syria and Turkey, Palestinians are suffering from it Lebanon and Israel, Arab-speakers are suffering from it in Turkey…
  3. Create institutions that respect difference: All countries in the Middle East are ethnically diverse and yet have discriminatory policies. Only two countries, albeit particularly dysfunctional, have up to now created a political system that respects difference: Lebanon (since 1926) and Iraq (since 2003). In Israel, a Palestinian-Israeli although offered equal citizenship can only watch Israeli politics as a bystander because the ethnic majority doesn’t allow him a space within the national debate that it defines as jewish.
  4. Start a healing process by working on common interests… Common interests are central to the Middle East agreements that have been promoted by the United States since the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt (in 1979). However, they do not support a healing process because the peace treaties have not created the proper institutions that deal with grievances.
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Posted in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Peace, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Reconciliation, Turkey, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Islamic extremism & Christian immigration from the ME

Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/12/2010

I noticed an article on my facebook page by Abderrehman al-Rashid that summed up the doxa concerning the dwindling numbers of Christians in the Middle East: “Arab Christians and their flight from extremism” (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia).
Here are the two central arguments:
1. “يعتبرون [المسيحيون العرب] أنهم يواجهون، بشكل خاص، تمييزا وحصارا من قبل الجماعات المتطرفة الإسلامية المؤدلجة والمسلحة”. [Arab Christians] consider that they face, specifically, discrimination and besiegement by ideological and armed groups of extremist islamists.
2.”والحقيقة أن حجم الاستهداف ضد المسيحيين سواء في العراق أو مصر أو السودان محدود، سواء في خطاب الجماعات المتطرفة أو في ممارساتها” “In fact, whether in Iraq, Egypt or Sudan, the targeting of Christians is rather limited in scope, be it in speech or practice”.
3. “مشكلة المواطن المسيحي العربي هي المشكلة نفسها للمواطن الآخر في حقوقه الفردية ومستقبله المجهول.. حالة عامة ليست خاصة بطائفة أو فئة،” Arab Christians face the same problems as their non-Christian compatriots, with regards to their individual rights and their unknown future. It’s a general condition that is not specific to one group or community.

The problem with this argument is that it misses the main point. It doesn’t explain why the number of christians is dwindling in the Middle East, in places to almost near extinction. It discredits one “objective” reason (specific targeting by extremist islamists), and doesn’t look into other “objective reasons” or subjective ones.

I would like to list a few reasons that I find relevant. These reasons could be divided into two categories: individual and collective. These two dimensions actually interplay with each other, and to understand the phenomenon of mass emigration, one has to look into this complex intertwining of individual and collective elements.
– Economical reason: This reason certainly hits everyone, regardless of his/her religion. But on the whole Christians are more likely to emigrate to countries in which they can integrate with a certain ease (Western Europe, the Americas, Australia), while Muslims are more likely to go to countries that don’t allow a complete integration (Africa & the Golf).
– Cultural/religious reason: Christian, on a whole, have less difficulty identifying with the west and integrating its values and cultural system. Even though there are many cultural conflicts between contemporary western values and traditional middle-eastern values that are mostly shared by Muslims and Christians alike, Christians do not perceive them necessarily as conflicting, and when they do, they don’t perceive them as necessarily “foreign”. So Christians would more likely integrate these cultural differences or the changes that they call for as “natural” or “progressive”. Moreover, Muslim Arabs can easily express their cultural difference in a globalised world. Christians Arabs have not been able to do that. Their cultural production is limited in its scope and its expression.
– National/political reason: With the end of the “age of ideologies”, the Arabist project faded off and Arab countries have reaffirmed their muslim character. This leaves Christians in an uncomfortable situation in which they cannot easily project a collective destiny (as christians) within a hybrid secular/muslim state.
– Structural reason: Individual can count on a strong diaspora that could help him/her travel, find a job abroad, and regularise his/her situation.

Posted in Discourse Analysis, Identity, Intercommunal affairs, Middle East | 2 Comments »

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 »

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 »

Leaders, Spectators & Clowns: the UN’s General Assembly’s 64th session

Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/09/2009

UN-GENERAL ASSEMBLY-OBAMAThe contrast between these four men is striking. One could easily say that in this world Assembly, they are “worlds apart”. On one hand you’ve got a world/worldly leader, on the other three buffoons with very distinct styles.

Obama knew very well who his audience was, and he spoke to them in his habitual clear and cultured style. He was here to convince the UN and world leaders that the Bush days are gone, a page was being turned and that multilateralism was to replace unilateralism. He spoke as a leader, summing his country’s policy change and telling his audience what it wanted to hear. He addressed many issues, took twice the time that was alloted to him, but everything he said was linked to a policy that he had already launched, and that he vowed to pursue (here is his speech).

Now let’s check out the three buffoons: the delusional megalomaniac buffoon, the possessed preacher buffoon and the dogmatic historian buffoon.

I’ve searched the web through and through, but found no transcription of Muammar Gaddafi’s text. The reason is simple. There was no text! The Libyan autocratic leader preferred to improvise. He brought several folders, papers and books with him, and flicked through them, giving solution to every single conflict that sprang to his mind. And instead of sticking to the 15 minutes given to him, he took a whole 90 minutes. So don’t expect coherence or clarity, it’s rants that you’re going to get.

Amadinejad’s speech on the other hand was very well constructed. It clearly defined the good guys and the bad guys. It also spoke lengthly of God… and to a lesser extent of Zionism. It hardly adressed the nuclear issue or other upsetting matters. It didn’t give much thought about the audience or the fact that Israel has been campaigning against him quite heavily accusing his country of genocidal intent. Autistic to the very end, he stuck to preaching, giving no consideration to the fact that his audience wasn’t particularly receptive to his message, and that he needed to be very convincing if he wanted to get his point through.

And then came Netanyahu! If you want a good summary of Israeli Hasbara (propaganda techniques called “explanation”), you can’t dream of a better lesson. Bibi’s speech will tell you everything about how to be self-righteous, how history is to be used against others, how rhetorical techniques could be effective and how certain references can help you sway an audience toward you.

Posted in Culture, Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Middle East, Political behaviour, Semantics, Values | 8 Comments »

عيد مبارك & שנה טובה

Posted by worriedlebanese on 18/09/2009

3D-Balloons-ScreensaverWhen Americans speak of the “wall of separation”, they mean the principle of separation between “Church” and State (i.e. Religion & Government). The expression takes a whole different meaning in our region, doesn’t it?
Well, I thought the title of this post (transliterated: Eid Mubarak and Shana Tova, translated: Blessed Feast and Happy New Year) reflects the hopes of many perfectly, that an ampersand replaces the wall.

Notice the clouds lurking in the back… well, you’ll understand what they’re up to in a coming post 😉

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Middle East, Personal, Religion, Values | 1 Comment »

“Regional Normalisation”… an assessment -1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/07/2009

Palestinian-israeli_flagsNormalisation or  االتطبيع  (el-Tatbi’) is certainly one of the most detested words in the Arabic political lexicon. But western diplomacy willfully ignores that and  hasn’t come up with another word to wrap up its propositions. I could delve into semantics and share with you my views on the reasons behind the word’s extremely negative connotations, but that would spawn a whole different article. I’d rather tackle the propositions directly.

Here are the regional normalization steps Washington seems to be seeking (according to Haaretz):

  1. Arab countries in the Gulf would allow Israeli passenger and civilian cargo aircraft to fly over their territory. The move would save long detours on flights to Asia, a popular destination for Israeli travelers.
  2. Israel would be able to open interest sections in other states’ embassies in Arab capitals, such as Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Israel had interest sections in several Arab countries but they were closed after the start in 2000 of a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Civil Society, Israel, Middle East, Peace | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Suleiman & Hariri (1): the unlikely president

Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/07/2009

610x (154b02e0349f7a714a5bf7a426c5f474)One of the greatest political unknowns in Lebanon is surely the evolution of the presidential cohabitation between Saad Hariri and Michel Suleiman. They both share the same views on the head of the executive: his function, duty and responsibilities. Only both see themselves as that head. Let’s take a brief look at the political positioning of two men who never were intended to take such prominent political positions and try to see how things are likely to evolve for two unlikely politicians and between them.

If you want to read more on the unlikely President (what will & what way?) read below. In the coming days, you’ll find some thoughts on the unlikely Prime Minister. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Anticonfessionalism, Democracy, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Middle East, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Politics, Reform, Values | Leave a Comment »

Obama speech to Muslims: beyond a rhetorical shift

Posted by worriedlebanese on 05/06/2009

Indonesia Obama MuslimsI read Obama’s Cairo speech twice yesterday and just viewed to it on Youtube, from beginning to end; and it still had the same effect on me. Between the time I read it, and the time I saw it, I had skimmed through many editorials commenting it. But this hadn’t altered my views on it. It is by far one of the most impressive PR stunts that I have ever witnessed. Barak Obama had succeeded in extending to the Muslim communities worldwide the message he gave to Americans during the presidential campaign. He sold them “change they could believe in”.

Many things could be said about the American President’s speech in Egypt, and indeed, many things have been said about it. However, what seems to be extremely important is the liberal approach that he has espoused to discuss Islam. Instead of referring to the Muslim World or addressing Muslim countries, Obama preferred to talk on one hand about Islam as a religion, one that should be treated in the very same way other religions are treated, and on the other hand about “Muslim-majority countries”. Now this expression is rather new to me. It’s obviously  preferable  to the expression “Muslim countries”, because it insists that the “muslim” character comes from the fact that the population is mostly muslim, it’s not a character of the state. Furthermore, the expression “muslim majority” hints that there could be a non-muslim minority in those countries… This expression is undoubtedly a non-essentialist and liberal one. It reflects the way religion is seen in America: it is recognised as an important social feature, but one that doesn’t have a direct tie with the government because of the principle of separation of church and state (first amendment: establishment clause and freedom of religion).

Posted in Egypt, Identity, Intercommunal affairs, Middle East, Reform, Religion, Semantics, Values | Leave a Comment »

Marketing belligerence: “The ultimate mission to Israel”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/03/2009

misssionsI stumbled upon an astonishing tourism program this morning called “The Mission“. It offers “a dynamic and intensive eight day exploration of Israel’s struggle for survival and security in the Middle East today: a military, humanitarian, historical, judicial, religious, and political reality check“.

Not only you are served propaganda, but you pay for it too! 

Take a look at the “Mission Highlights”:

  • Briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet.
  • Briefing by officers in the IDF Intelligence and Operations branches.
  • Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings.
  • Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
  • Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.
  • First hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points.
  • Inside tour of the controversial Security Fence and secret intelligence bases.
  • Meeting Israel’s Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.
  • Briefing by Israel’s war heros who saved the country.
  • Meetings with senior Cabinet Ministers and other key policymakers.
  • Small airplane tour of the Galilee, Jeep rides in the Golan heights, water activities on Lake Kinneret, a cook-out barbecue and a Shabbat enjoying the rich religious and historic wonders of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Isn’t it just mind boggling. This tour invites you to share an experience where the most controversial of policies are presented as necessary, legitimate, lawful and heroic (targeted killing, penetration raids, separation wall)…

I wonder what a Lebanese version of such a show would look like. Any suggestions for an “Ultimate Mission to Lebanon”?

Posted in Israel, Middle East, Values, Violence | 1 Comment »

Someone please tell Siniora that charity starts at home

Posted by worriedlebanese on 09/03/2009

siniora-clinton-420-03309013049Siniora pledged 1m $ to Gaza last week. How considerate, how charitable, what a great signe of arab solidarity, right? nah.

What a PR stunt! What a typical arab face saving scheme!  What a pitiful action to obscure the fact that the Lebanese government did nothing when the battle was raging in Gaza. This kind of reaction is expected from the Gulf’ Petro-States. Petro-dollars are surely their best diplomatic and political asset.  But Lebanon is no petro-State, and the country doesn’t have a dollar to spare.

What it has is a relatively old diplomatic tradition, some very dynamic and imaginative diplomats (No, this comment is not intended for a regular reader), and quite a numerous Palestinian population born and raised in Lebanon. So why not start with that? Why wasn’t Lebanon more active in December and January? Why didn’t our diplomacy find a way to reconcile the two arab positions concerning Gaza? Why doesn’t the government find an imaginative solution to have a diplomatic representation in Palestine ? Why doesn’t Siniora use the million dollars he promised to Gaza to help out Lebanon’s Palestinian or to finance programmes (or a larger public institution) to advance the condition of this disenfranchised population and its relations with Lebanese nationals?

Instead of those necessary actions, all Siniora did was secure a photo-op with Ms Clinton.

Posted in Justice, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinians, Values, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Nothing so bad it cannot be made worse

Posted by worriedlebanese on 02/03/2009

Storm GatheringThat’s the sentence I came up with when I tried to find a way to be optimistic about the situation in the Middle East. The only hope I could grasp was that today is undoubtedly better than tomorrow; so let’s make the best of it and seize the opportunities that are withering away.

The greatest advance would be to find a way to preserve them.

Posted in Middle East, Political behaviour | 4 Comments »

A month in a virtual-peace-community – part 2

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/09/2008

What I didn’t say yesterday about this virtual-peace-community is that it is managed and owned by an young Israeli, a member of Peace Now.

This fact could explain some of the problems the virtual-peace-community faces. Peace Now is a left leaning zionist organisation. It enjoys a large international support in intellectual circles because of its pro-peace stands, but in Israel, it is criticized by all sides:  On the right because of its attitude against the settlements in the West Bank, on the left because it’s seen as inefficient and too zionist. 

I personally have been quite sympathetic to some of this NGOs work, but critical of its two shortcomings:  

– Its support of the 2006 July War

– Its lack of interest in non-jewish membership (which is odd for a Peace movement that is in a multinational country and in a multi-religious region). 

Nevertheless, one can only be admirative of the courage Peace Now and the creator of the virtual-peace-community have for extending a peaceful hand to their enemy when they are criticised by their own and generally ignored and rejected by those to whom they extend your hand. This is what Peace Now has faced, and this is what the cyber-community is suffering from. If they can’t find a way to solve these two problems, there’s very little chance that they will be able to succeed in their venture.

Posted in Blogosphere, Discourse, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinian territories | Leave a Comment »

A month in a virtual-peace-community – part 1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/09/2008

Dear blogosphere,

It wasn’t really work that kept me off this blog, but my growing involvement elsewhere in cyberspace. Over a year ago, I joined a virtual-community committed to peace in the Middle East. For months I was a regular, but this summer, things slipped out of control. I spend over two hours a day reading and responding to postings and comments. It was eating up almost of my spare time, to what avail? This is what I asked myself yesterday when I decided to wean myself off it. 

It was time to check the balance sheet. What was I getting out of this virtual-peace-community? Was it of benefit for me to stay on?

Well, it was interesting to see that the “Peacemakers” on the site are deeply divided among different lines:

– the first line is linguistic: the site is mostly in English, so those who master the language are likely to dominate the discussions (i.e. English native speakers and people with a high academic background). The site tried to encourage postings in Hebrew and Arabic, but it didn’t work,

– the second line is ideological: on one side you have the pro-zionist (adamant defenders of Israel) and on the other the anti-zionists (they’re mostly anti-zionist Israeli or diaspora jews). Each group has his cyber-soldiers who shoot at anyone that doesn’t belong to their camp.

– the third line is on the level of arguments and experience in “peacemaking”: some arguments are journalistic, others are academic, some were highly ideological, others were technical… Some were informed, others not at all… The same subjects were treated ad nauseam… the same arguments repeated incessantly… Copy/Pasting from other cites used extensively by some in their postings and comments… 

What a challenge it was to make such a diverse audience interact with each other peacefully! Anger is palpable in most discussions and cyber-soldiers are very efficient in hijacking discussions (though their number is limited: never more than 10 out of 1000 member).

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