Worried Lebanese

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Archive for the ‘Values’ Category

Esquisse d’une opposition en 7 heures et trois minutes

Posted by worriedlebanese on 09/07/2011

Mon intention première était d’analyser les trois journées de débats qui ont précédés le vote de confiance. Mais malheureusement, j’ai commis l’erreur de les suivre sur L’Orient-Le Jour. Ceci revenait à accompagner de très près un camp, celui du XIV Mars®, et de très loin l’autre, celui du gouvernement. Certes, un article de Scarlett Haddad a restitué l’ambiance générale dans l’hémicycle, mais tous les autres articles reprenaient et amplifiaient en choeur les propos d’un camp, et ne rapportait que les réactions de l’autre camp, jamais leur propre discours. Certes, il est généralement plus intéressant de suivre les interventions d’une opposition, puisqu’elles sont nécessairement moins complaisantes, et de ce fait souvent plus éclairantes sur les choix politiques qui se présentent à un certain moment.

Vue sur l'arène

Voeu pieux
Le Premier Ministre, Nagib Miqati, avait annoncé la semaine dernière que “le gouvernement libanais soumettra au Parlement une déclaration ministérielle réaliste et effective, comprenant les idées et les propositions dont l’application est possible dans tous les domaines”. Et il avait espéré “que les séances de discussion de la déclaration ministérielle soient constructives et utiles à tous les libanais, loin des polémiques, des surenchères, du langage de défi et des accusations de traitrise”. Autant dire que c’était un voeu pieux et la politique générale telle que annoncée par la déclaration n’a quasiment pas été discutée. Seule une de ses clauses a suscité de vive polémiques, l’alinéa 14 qui touche au Tribunal Spécial pour le Liban et qui annonce que le “gouvernement, partant de son respect pour les résolutions internationales, exprime son attachement à ce que toute la vérité soit faite sur l’assassinat du président martyr Rafic Hariri et de ses compagnons. Il suivra le cours du Tribunal Spécial pour le Liban créé, en principe, pour dire le droit et faire justice, loin de toute politisation ou de toute volonté vindicative, pourvu que cela ne se reflète pas négativement sur ​​la stabilité du Liban, son unité et sa paix civile”.

A gauche le 8 Mars + CPL ; à droite le XIV Mars et les "indépendants"; au centre la Rencontre Démocratique

Les quatre axes de la polémique 
Les députés du XIV Mars® n’étaient pas là pour discuter la déclaration ministérielle. Ils se sont présentés aux séances de discussion de la déclaration pour exprimer leur grief à l’encontre du Hezbollah et de l’acceptation par Nagib Miqati de sa nomination en tant que chef du gouvernement. D’abord, ils ont asséné leur narratif, celui du “coup d’État du Hezbollah”, du “renversement de la volonté des électeurs” qui auraient donné la victoire au XIV Mars®…
Le premier thème met le doigt sur un problème essentiel dans le jeux politique libanais, celui de la présence d’un groupe politique armée qui a déjà utilisé ses armes à deux reprises pour “trancher” des conflits internes… Le gouvernement de Saad Hariri est certainement tombé en raison du Hezbollah… mais démocratiquement, avec la démission du 1/3 des ministres. Le Hezbollah a exprimé son refus de la nouvelle nomination de Saad Hariri par les armes… mais ceci n’explique pas à lui seul le soit disant “retournement” Joumblatt dont le bloc parlementaire s’est en apparence divisé en deux (mais jusqu’à quand?). Ni le ralliement du “centre” représenté par Nicholas Fattouch, Michel Murr et Mohamad Safadi qui pourtant étaient alliés au XIV Mars®.
Le deuxième thème, celui de la majorité volée est intimement relié au premier. Mais il se fonde sur une mauvaise lecture des résultats des élections de 2009. Le XIV Mars®, ses militants et ses journalistes “engagés”, ont prétendu avoir remporté ces élections, alors qu’en réalité, ces élection avait plutôt consacré les monopôles dans la représentation politique au sein des trois communautés musulmanes, et la division maintenant quasi-paritaire des chrétiens en deux camps (dont le quart relève toujours de formation dominés par un Za’im musulman) avec une figure dominante, celle de Michel Aoun, dont le parti regroupe plus du quart des députés chrétiens. Avec le détachement de Walid Joumblatt en Août 2009 qui avait fait sa déclaration d’indépendance au lendemain des élections législatives, les deux coalitions politico-confessionnelles se retrouvaient à égalité.

Les quatre axes autour desquels se sont articulés leur intervention ignorent en grande partie la déclaration et tous les aspects qui touchent au quotidien des citoyens… Au Liban, on ne s’intéresse pas à la “petite politique”, celle qui a des répercussions directes sur la vie des Libanais… D’ailleurs on s’y réfère souvent dans les déclarations ministérielles, mais bon, au moment de s’exécuter, on préfère le confort de la polémique, la géopolitique, et les grands principes. Et donc voici les thèmes sur lesquels la nouvelle opposition s’est attardée:

  • Le Tribunal Spécial pour le Liban.
  • Hezbollah et ses armes.
  • Miqati et la représentation sunnite.
  • Rafic Hariri.

Il n’y a pas grand intérêt à revenir sur ces discours. Rien de nouveau n’y a été exprimé. En gros, les députés du Mouvement du Futur tels que Nohad Machnouk ou de Fouad Siniora ont asséné les mêmes propos qu’ils tiennent ailleurs et qu’ils répetent par média interposés. Il est clair que leurs discours ne sont pas adressés à leur interlocuteurs, mais à leur propre public. Ce qui est généralement le cas dans les débats parlementaires télévisés. On remarque surtout que le passage à l’opposition n’a pas constitué une rupture dans le discours du XIV Mars. Trois des quatre thèmes sus-mentionés sont dominants depuis 2005. Et d’ailleurs, ils sont abordé de la même manière: une suite de slogans. L’argumentation se place à un niveau théorique et elle vise a susciter une réponse émotionnelle où l’indignation se mêle à la crainte, le tout enrobé d’héroïsme. La seule nouveauté est le thème circonstanciel, celui qui touche à Miqati qui, en écartant le Mouvement du Future du pouvoir, est accusé d’avoir trahis la volonté des électeurs sunnites.

Posted in Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Lebanon, Values | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Mavi Marmara revisited

Posted by worriedlebanese on 05/06/2010

I’ll try to spill a couple of thoughts that have been whirling around in my mind.

Yes, sure, the Israeli commando was attacked on the Mavi Marmara. A quick look at the organisation behind the protest gives you a clear idea that you were not dealing with your ordinary “peace activists”. These people were here on a mission: Break the blockade, get through to Gaza whatever the cost!  And yeah, many seem to have an islamist background and amongst them there seems to have been several disreputable characters. But Israeli Intelligence knew all about those people and the organisation behind them since their departure from Turkey. Both sides knew that there was going to be a clash. It was expected. But that certainly doesn’t explain or justify the bloodbath.

Now let’s look at the dynamic the Mavi Marmara affaire triggered. One finds three types of media coverage, and one can fairly say that they were all biased, and their approach was teleological.

  • The pro-Israeli media was interested in whitewashing the Israeli army and justifying Israeli policy. And it used all the usual techniques: an agressive smear campaign against the victims of the raid, and a substitution of victimhood (the soldiers were presented as the victims). The only problem with this “defense” line was that it could only convince those who were ready to be convinced. Those who are not die hard supporters of the Israeli government and its policies could easily see the loopholes in that presentation and the manipulation of information. Watching some footage and comments reminded me of Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. Another interesting twist is that the pro-Israeli arguments left the Palestinians out of the picture (as they usually do). It wasn’t about Gaza (that is always cynically presented as ok as long as it is not starving). It was about Israel vs Turkey (which is a rather melodramatic approach, knowing that  the military alliance is still secure, no Ambassadors were called back or off…).

  • The anti-Israeli media was interested in celebrating the victimhood of the injured and the killed while denouncing the brutality of Israel. Everything that didn’t fit that picture was discarded… The activists on the Flotilla were shown as heroes not because of their own deeds (ex: they fought Israel), but through their victimhood and their courage in facing a brutish enemy. They didn’t speak of the militants fighting the commando. They did not insist on the psychological dimension or emotions (fear, panic…), as did the pro-Israel media. The anti-Israeli media was so focused on being anti-Israeli that it even repackaged the objectives of the flotilla: they became more anti-Israeli than pro-Palestinian. Actually, Palestinians were left out of the picture. It was more about “we” vs Israel.
  • Then we have the “neutral” media, mostly western (think BBC for instance) with its very ambiguous respons to the events. Probably because it was being (too) actively fed by both sides. The pro-Israel groups were working on the narrative : reframing the events, shedding a different light on the different actors of this drama, feeding the media “information” in an orderly way (even if the “info” was inaccurate). Pure Hasbara. The pro-Palestinian groups were also extremely active, but as usual, they focused on the emotional side. Instead of expanding the narrative, they reduced it to its most emotional content: they shot and killed us. Instead of insisting on the flaws of the Israeli argument, with its specific framing of the events, they repeated their mantra without backing it with more arguments. What the “neutral” media tried to do was denounce the outcome of the raid but it showed its discomfort with the identity of the protestors who were injured and killed, reminding the listeners/viewers that they were islamists.

    To sum things up, the “Mavi Marmara operation” highlights two important elements in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. One one side we have a country and a society that is becoming increasingly cynical and unapologetic with the violence it shows towards anyone non-Jewish. This has become quite apparent for most people except a majority of Israelis. On the other side we have a Pro-Palestinian movement that is growing more and more strikingly heterogenous, and its most vocal, recognisable and effective components are islamist (moderate as in this case, or radical as in the case of Hamas and Hezbollah). This dynamic is affecting the whole movement, making some people within it increasingly uncomfortable, and shifting the focus from “pro-Palestinian” to “anti-Israeli”, a shift that is both damaging to the movement and to the dynamics of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

    Posted in Communication, Discourse, Israel, Journalism, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Prejudice, Turkey, Values, Violence | 13 Comments »

    Muslim-Christian feast… symbolised by a song

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/04/2010

    This year, Lebanon finally celebrated its first muslim-christian feast: the Annunciation (البشارة) on March 25th. I said “finally” because the decision had been taken last year by the Council of Ministers, but the Prime Minister Fuad Siniora had refused to sign the decree, yielding to pressure from the Sunni Grand Mufti who had disapproved of the decision (and sacked one of its most crucial promoters, his secretary).

    This day commemorates the announcement to Mary (by the archangel Gabriel) that she would miraculously conceive a child despite being a virgin. As long as you don’t go into details and stick to this general description of the commemoration, you’ll find it compatible with the New Testament and the Coran. But if you delve into the details, disagreements between the two texts start to appear. For Christians, the angel announced the birth of the Son of God, Jesus (يسوع or in the old language of Lebanon يشوع), for Muslims, the angel announced the birth of a Prophet, Issa (عيسى). Now these are very important dogmatic and theological differences. So to safeguard this feast consensual and inter-religions character, one has to respect the delicate line between what assembles and what separates; keep to the communalities and discard differences.

    At first, I was quite skeptical about this inter-religious feast. When I was asked to write a short article about it last year, I had to fight against myself to “stay positive”, rein in my skepticism and cynism. But oddly enough, when the current Prime Minister Saad Hariri signed the decree in February, and announced it to the pope in Rome, I started to feel that there was something good about that celebration, and felt all the potential it had. Hopefully, it will be more meaningful (and pleasing to the eye and ear) than this rendering of the Ave Maria.

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Idiosyncrasy 961, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Religion, Values | 8 Comments »

    InsepArab: Hélène Cixous’ take on Jewish & Arab identities

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/03/2010

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

    Arab and Jewish identities as mutually exclusive

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

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

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

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

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

    Weighing oppressions and odd equations

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

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

    Les sept points du Bristol

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/03/2010

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

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

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

    Language contre language

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/02/2010

    A la différence de ses collègues, Anne-Marie el-Hage ne semble pas avoir de prétentions journalistiques. C’est en tant que citoyenne qu’elle grogne dans les pages de l’Orient Le Jour, puisant de son expérience,  de sa vie quotidienne (c’est à peu près ce que font tous ses collègues du journal, mais passons).
    Aujourd’hui, elle nous donne rien moins qu’une petite leçon sur le language! Cette leçon porte sur le language confessionnel au Liban, mais en réalité elle se révèle une excellente leçon en language journalistique libanais.
    Sa leçon se compose en deux parties: une définition suivie d’une illustration. La définition est très vague et se réduit à une typologie extrêmement floue qui distingue entre un language confessionnel ordinaire (“quotidien”) et un language confessionnel “discriminatoire” (“qui dérape”).

    1. Le language confessionnel ordinaire est pour elle la conséquence du système confessionnel. Cette présomption en forme de rapport de causalité lui permet de faire l’économie d’une définition, d’une illustration et d’une démonstration.
    2. Le language confessionnel discriminatoire est celui qui l’intéresse. Elle s’y attarde un peu plus puisque tout le mal qu’elle pourrait en dire se rapporteront à l’illustration par un rapport de transitivité simple (encore une fois, aucun besoin de démonstration). Anne-Marie el-Hage préfère l’énumération à la définition. Dans cette catégorie valise qu’elle a créé, elle inclut les “blagues déplacées”, les “convictions-clichés”, les discours haineux de la guerre, les “attaques verbales contre des chefs religieux”, “l’affront à la communauté”, et “l’incitation à la haine”. En somme, elle jette dans la même catégorie les préjugés (et leurs multiples expressions), les propos qui accompagnent des actes meurtriers et la fameuse notion pénale libanaise d’incitation à la haine confessionnelle (en fait beaucoup plus vague dans le texte arabe إثارة النعرات الطائفية et dans la pratique juridictionnelle) qu’elle évoque dans une lecture qui semble extrêmement large et donc répressive.

    Après ce semblant de définition du language confessionnel, notre citoyenne syndiquée attaque finalement le sujet qui la taraude et qu’elle présente comme une illustration du language confessionnel “qui dérape”: le prêche d’un prêtre maronite dans une banlieue chrétienne de Beyrouth. C’est par ces mots qu’elle plante le décor et ce sont les informations les plus précises de l’article. Nous ne saurons rien sur le nom du prêtre, de l’Eglise ou même du quartier: l’étiquette confessionnelle suffit aux yeux de l’auteur. Et elle poursuit ce flou dans la description des événements: le prêtre serait coupable “d’attaques verbales contre des chefs religieux d’une communauté musulmane du pays, éclaboussant au passage la communauté dans son ensemble”, ce qui relèverait d’un “affront à la communauté”. Nous ne serons évidemment rien sur ce que le prêtre a dit. L’article ressemble au dispositif d’un arrêt d’une cour de cassation, succinct, abstrait, définitif. Anne-Marie el-Hage traduit les faits en language abstrait, elle les qualifie (comme on le dit en language juridique), rappelle la règle et tranche.

    Les lecteurs du journal ne sauront rien sur les propos du prélat. On ne leur donne pas l’occasion de se faire leur propre idée des mots et de l’argument de la personne dont le journaliste parle. Le sujet principal de l’article s’efface devant la figure du journaliste qui se pose en juge. Si le sujet l’intéresse,  c’est au lecteur d’aller chercher les faits en se renseignant auprès de proches, en rapprochant quelques indices essaimés  dans l’article d’autres informations trouvées ailleurs. Mais, à vrai dire, la seule piste que le lecteur pourra prendre est confessionnelle (car c’est finalement la seule que le journal lui laisse)… Et l’information la plus facile à trouver (ailleurs que dans l’article évidemment) est l’identification de “la communauté musulmane”. En gros, la seule information qui transparaît dans cet article est “un prélat s’attaque à une communauté musulmane”… ce n’est pas de l’info c’est une manchette… une manchette sans article! N’est-ce pas un bon exemple du language journalistique libanais? Ne serait-ce pas justement cela l’incitation confessionnelle?

    Pour ne pas agir comme elle, voici l’article incriminé: Dérapage verbal par Anne-Marie El-HAGE (13 février 2010).

    Posted in Culture, Discourse, Idiosyncrasy 961, Intercommunal affairs, Journalism, Lebanon, Semantics, Values, Version Francophone | 1 Comment »

    Deconstructing March XIV®

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 02/02/2010

    March XIV® or February 14th? Tapping into emotions to fill a void

    This post is long overdue. I’ve been announcing it for almost a year now and Sunday’s Bristol meeting encouraged me to get it over with. Let’s go beyond slogans, mottos and other striking and memorable phrases that are used to refer to March XIV®; let’s look into what exactly lies beneath the label.

    In its most literal meaning, March XIV® refers to a specific day, March 14th 2005, in which an unprecedented number of Lebanese citizen took the streets, peacefully, to demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Crowds from all over the country converged around Martyrs Square, where a temporary podium was set up from which politicians could harangue a relatively small audience ; probably less that 10% of the people amassed around the square could hear them. But that didn’t matter much. People were not here to listen, but to throw their weight behind a politician or an idea; they were here to make numbers, to assert that a majority of Lebanese was with the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and supported an international inquiry into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

    This event was undoubtedly a memorable one, an estimate of 1 million people (about a quarter of the national resident population) converged to the city center…  but there were many memorable events during those months of 2005:  the assassination Rafic Hariri, his burial, the sleep-in calling for the resignation of the government, the sunday demonstrations, the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, the political assassinations, the return of General Aoun from exil… Interestingly enough, only three dates are commemorated today: February 14th (commonly referred to as St Hariri day), March 14th (national folklore day), May 7th (Orange Tsunami day). The most iconic is undoubtedly March 14th. Why? The reason is very simple, it has become a national myth, one that reflects on two of the elements it refers to: the political coalition and the “public” that marched down to the city center on that sunny spring day.

    March XIV® as a national myth. National myths usually refer to a distant past with legendary figures and acts. In our case, we’re dealing with an instantaneous myth, one that refers to the present. This feature has become a rather common phenomena these days. We saw it all across Eastern and Central Europe in the 1980 and 1990s, the most iconic event is obviously the fall of the Berlin Wall. These events share many things in common, they are extraordinary, they are supported by visual material, they were quickly branded and exploited by entrepreneurs, and they are considered as watershed moments. Their promoters believe that they represent important values and make an inspiring narrative that can serve as an important symbol (“lieu de mémoire”) that brings the nation together. One ingredient is essential for an instantaneous myth, and that’s emotion! Not only this ingredient must be present on the day of the event, but it should be nurtured and sustained.

    The massive demonstration of March 14th obviously has all these features. And the emotions that is aroused were nurtured throughout the year thanks to the political discourse and a servile media.

    Representing a crowd as a unified audience

    The public of March XIV®. One fourth of the resident population is quite a lot of people. And it becomes a very interesting audience to refer to because of its numeric importance and the fact that it shared the same “moment”. Tapping into that feeling can help any politician reach this audience and manipulate the people’s feelings, hopes, fears and expectations. It’s not actually the emotion that is nurtured or sustained, but the emotional response. The characteristics of the initial emotion is of no importance, what is important is to convince the audience that it is the same as the one that is being triggered, that what is being prompted is simply its actualisation (while in fact, it’s the other way round, the memory of the initial emotion is modified and the present emotion is projected onto the past).

    What is fascinating with instantaneous myths is that they are interactive. The audience is part of the production. It surely is the weakest player in this interaction, nevertheless it is still a player. Its collaboration is needed if the myth is to survive. This gives instantaneous myths a reflexive dimension. The participants need to think of themselves as participants and act accordingly. They have to nurture the myth socially and psychologically, even if it is by repeating a mantra. And truth to tell, there are a lot of mantras surrounding March XIV®. One of the most important one has to do with the participants themselves, the public of March XIV® or its audience جمهور اربتعش ادار. So you repeatedly hear about jamhour arbata3sh adar in the media, in coffeeshops and living-rooms. But is there such a thing as a March XIV® public. Obviously not. But like all abstract categories they work as long as people believe in them. But this can only work as long as there is an authority that supports this category, recognises it. And so politicians and the organic intellectuals actively supported this category, selling it as a cristallisation of the “majority of Lebanese” (annulling the other part), “the Lebanese in general” (insinuating that those who didn’t participate were less Lebanese) or the “Democratic Lebanese” (insinuating that those who refrained from joining were undemocratic), while it was an aggregate of individuals and groups motivated by many different things: personal initiative, group pressure, communal mobilisation, political mobilisation… Some people took their cars and walked to Martyr’s Square, others received calls inviting them to go, or were pressured or convinced by their socio-political network or several private TV channels that made a live coverage of the event, and regularly announced where one could take the free bus to Beirut. Many people wanted to participate in this event that was already being marketed and labelled as a groundbreaking event.

    Once the label of March XIV® and the Jumhour of March XIV® were well established, their use became quite practical to reorder the political landscape. Lebanese political groups or communities could be brought together or separate once needed by simply granting them the label or depriving them of it. In 2006, the politicians who controlled the label (most importantly the Future Bloc and Walid Jumblatt and his followers) took the Shiite component out of March XIV® in a process I call tighyib تغييب (making absent those who were present), at first this was implicit, but then it became very explicit (during the governmental crisis). The same thing happened to the FPM, an important component in the March 14 mobilisation, and the only party at that time that called for a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops (the Future Movement and the PSP at that time was ready to settle with a redeployment to the Beqaa valley). The same techniques were used to symbolically bring together people who had no ties with each other of any kind (political, geographic, communal) and put them under one label. The label was practical in blurring the sharp division one found in the crowds that gathered on March XIV®. A friend had qualified the event as a tribal confederation. And people were admonished to hide their true political colours. I actually witnessed several battles around political banners: people wanted to march under their own banners (party flags), but their leaders forbade them to do so to give an image of unity and because they were afraid that some banners would demobilise their own group (I remember several clashes with the Lebanese Forces when they showed their colours; at that time were considered political pariahs, and totally “infréquentable”).

    La quadrature du cercle: the leaders of March XIV... what do they say about too many cooks?

    The March XIV® coalition. One couldn’t think of a more heterodox group of politicians. Two things united them: their slogans, and their opposition to another group (either a rival within a community or a geopolitical opponent). A non-identifiable political object was created to support the “independents” (those who did not have a large or autonomous socio-political clientelist network): the secretariat of March XIV®.

    As for the strength or coherence of the coalition, I have written a dozen posts on it and wouldn’t want to bore you by repeating myself. The length of this post should do this job.

    Posted in Civil Society, Communication, Discourse, Diversity, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Politics, Semantics, Values | Leave a Comment »

    Can we stop the reconstruction of St Vincent de Paul?

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 30/12/2009

    (that's the kind of picture u get at 3 o'clock in the morning)

    I learnt  from a friend four days ago that the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul planned to restore their church in downtown Beirut. I was totally shocked by the news. I realised that I always hoped that the society would never come up with the funds to rebuild it. I wished this church would become Beirut’s Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. You’ve certainly heard of this church in the center of former West-Berlin. All that remains of this neo-romanesque building bombed by the allies in November 1943 is its damaged tower. It stands today as a reminder of the destruction of war and the symbol of the city’s resolve to rebuild itself after the war.
    In Beirut, there is no strong reminder of the war and the city’s resolve to rebuild itself. Solidere has erased all traces of the war and added to the destruction of the old to make way for the new, the expensive, the profitable. The semi destroyed St Vincent the Paul church is a strong symbol that is worth preserving. I wonder if I will be able to convince many people of this. Is there any reader ready to help me

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, History, Lebanon, Memory, Personal, Speculation, Values, Violence | 2 Comments »

    On book fairs and naked bodies in Beirut

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 27/12/2009

    Less than two months separate the Francophone book fair (Octobre 23 – Novembre 1st) from the Arab book fair (December 11 – December 24) at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL), yet the two events are truly worlds apart.

    (Ramzi HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images)

    The Francophone book fair is at its 16th edition. Launched and sponsored by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Beirut as “Lire en Français et en Musique”, it meant to sponsor the French language at a time when French language was seen as increasingly threatened by the spread of English in Lebanon. In 2008, the organisation of the salon was handed to the Lebanese Syndicat of Importers of Books and was rechristened  “Salon du Livre Francophone”. This move was meant to have a dual effect: give the book fair a more local and global aspect by securing its Lebanese anchorage and opening it to the Francophonie. Withstanding these moves, the fair is still centered around France and its cultural production. It attracts a large Lebanese francophone public for which it represents an annuel rendez-vous, an important cultural event thanks to the presence of prominent french authors and the celebration of the local francophone production (mostly journalistic, but increasingly literary). Francophone books are expensive, most of them are printed in France… so it’s no wonder the public is mostly upper class, and unsurprisingly it hails from the Mission Laïque schools (that underwent  an importent expansion in the 1990s, and enjoys an increasingly muslim audience). The middle-class sectors of Lebanese society are also represented through young student groups that are brought by catholic schools.

    (Marwan Tahtah)

    The Arab book fair is at its 53rd edition. It’s organized by the Arab Cultural Club with the collaboration of the Lebanese Publisher’s Union. It’s not only older, but much larger than its francophone counterpart. It brings together some 176 Lebanese publishing houses (and slightly more than 20 foreign publishing houses). Most of the books you’ll find here are printed in Lebanon, a country that still remains one of the bigest publishing centers in the Arabic speaking region even though other centers have emerged and are now quite competitive. The prices are quite low, so it is no wonder the fair attracts a much large audience. You’re not likely to have a wine tasting contest over here or have a book stand offer you a glass of wine during the signing of a book (two things that are expected in the Francophone book fair). The organisers and the audience are mainly muslim and rather conservative. The number of veiled women seems to be constantly on the rise, year after year. And in the midst of all this, what did I stumble upon? Al-Jasad magazine.

    (picture taken on my kilim)

    Now this was quite a surprising find. Al-Jasad describes itself as a cultural magazine in arabic specialised in the body’s arts, sciences and literatures. Launched a year ago, this quarterly has just issued its fourth number.

    Check its website to have a clearer picture of this unexpected magazine. I have mixed feelings about it. It is certainly groundbreaking for a local magazine. In a region where bodies, especially female ones, are increasingly hit, this quarterly doesn’t shy from showing full frontal nudity, a woman holding a man’s erect penis, antique erotic art, a pierced clitoris. But all this seems rather tame compared to what you can find on the net with a simple google search in Beirut, Dubai, Cairo or Algiers. There’s a strange gap about it, don’t u think?

    Posted in Civil Society, Communication, Culture, Diversity, Journalism, Lebanon, Values | Leave a Comment »

    Christmas, elections and territorial conquests

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/12/2009

    MP Kanaan (with his elves) speaking to the children

    I stumbled on an interesting news item today on Tayyar.org that says more about Lebanese affairs and our current political culture than the season’s celebrations. Here is what it had to say:

    “The secretariat of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) organised a huge christmas celebration for the children of the Norther Metn district. The event took place at the Miche Murr Sports facilities under the patronage of Michel Aoun and brought together Ibrahim Kanaan and Salim Salhab, clerics and FPM coordinators, mayors and mukhtars”.
    These extremely descriptive and conventional sentences actually inform us on the many changes that underwent in the Metn region. The FPM is now a local political force. It is able to mobilise people on Michel Murr’s (its former ally and current rival) home “turf” and use the public facilities and agents that were part of his patronage network. All these are good indicators that the FPM is very likely to conquer many municipalities in the coming municipal elections.

    The brief news report ended with an amusing (and embarrassing) quote by MP Ibrahim Kanaan. He spoke to the children with these words : “We would like to extend our wishes to “Jeddo” (grandpa) Michel Aoun who watches over you, over peace, over understanding, over tolerance… all those values that Santa Claus spoke to us about and that are the true meaning of Christmas” [my translation from arabic].

    Do I need to comment it?!

    Posted in Communication, Culture, Entertainment, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Politics, Religion, Values | 1 Comment »

    Civil mariage… a Lebanese discussion

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/12/2009

    Does that include same sex mariages? multiple spouse mariages? what about inheritance law? Have you read the proposition you are defending and that makes reference to God?!

    The Unesco club of Saint Joseph University organised this year a discussion on Civil mariage, inviting two clergymen (a sunni and a catholic), two laymen (a judge and an actor) and two laywomen. Yes, it was quite a large pannel that included a great deal of different perspectives. But unfortunately, the discussion wasn’t very interesting. The speakers were quite interesting and made their best to infuse as many ideas in the debate as possible. But the problem isn’t there, it is in the issue of civil mariage is debated in Lebanon. So one can hardly blame them for confusing political, legal, administrative and normative arguments.

    As I sat listening to Yorgo Shalhoub, I caught myself humming Moonage Daydream with its lyrics running through my mind: “don’t fake it baby… lay the real thing on me… the church of man, love… is such a holy place to be…”. But I kept listening to this relatively young Lebanese actor make the worst defense possible for the introduction of civil mariage in our legislation; he based his argument on an odd mix of 19th century positivism and new age spirituality. He spoke of man’s liberation, of religious freedoms, shared with us his spiritual coming of age story, and threw himself in a lengthy presentation of how he perceives the relationship between God, “church” and man to be. His intervention was closer to a sermon than the one that preceded him (and believe me, it was hard to outbid the preachy carmelite father who held up the Bible three or four times during his sermon speech).

    With “progressives” like these, who needs “conservatives”?! What exactly is their battle?

    Deja vu... all over again

    • Provide the Lebanese with a liberal legislation on mariage that guarantees identical rights to men and women, and a possibility to dissolve their union whenever either of them chooses?
    • Provide the legal framework that would allow or encourage interfaith mariage and bring about the physical fusion of all the Lebanese into one national community?
    • Provide a legal framework that allows people to opt out of a religiously determined identity?
    • Provide a legal framework that allows people to opt out of a religious determined legislation?
    • Change the relationship between individuals and clerics?
    • Provide a space for atheists, agnostics and new agers?

    These are very different battles. And the proposed civil mariage law hardly meets any of these aims. What I find pitiful is the fact that no one has ever discussed the problems that such a civil mariage legislation could bring about in our particular system (multiple religious legislations and neutrality of the state with regards to religion) and try to see how they could be prevented or solved!

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Discourse, Diversity, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Secularism, Values | Leave a Comment »

    Municipal elections: what’s awaiting us?

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/12/2009

    The coming municipal elections haven’t been scheduled yet, but they are supposed to take place sometime between the spring and summer of 2010. The Akhbar newspaper (arguably the most interesting read in the Lebanese press) has an interesting take on it: The Governors of community say no to municipal elections (in Arabic). Now that’s what I call a title. I could write a pages one of the specific expression it created – Governors of Community (حكام الطوائف) – which sums up perfectly the political dynamics in Lebanon. But instead of that I’ll stick to something rather simple: summing up the content of the article, analytically.

    In a nutshell, the article deals with three issues: time, will and interests.

    Time: now that’s a complicated issue. The law provides there should be new elections this year. Only no specific date has been chosen. We know that it should take place sometime between the coming spring and summer. But there’s one slight problem. The law isn’t very good and it should definitely be improved. But is it the time for such a change? Isn’t it too late? The Minister of the Interior Ziyad Baroud thinks not. He argues that politicians would only look into this law ahead of the elections to try to see if they can tilt it their way. So he believes that this is the best time for reform. He also is convinced that he is the best suited person to go ahead with this reform; he has worked extensively on that issue after all (here‘s a report he did in French). Lastly, as the article clearly states, Ziad Baroud doesn’t believe postponing the municipal elections even for a couple of months is a good idea. He seems to be afraid politicians who have a vested interest in the status quo would try to renew the mandate of the municipal councils for another term.

    Will: The article shows that there are conflicting interests at play, and that grossly, there are three categories of actors:

    • The Minister of Interior who wants to go ahead with the elections so as to push for a reform of the electoral law.
    • The Quadripartite oligarchy (Mustaqbal, Amal, Ishtiraki-PSP, Hezbollah) that would rather not have elections because it could upset the relationships between its pillars (Hezbollah vs Amal in the South, Musataqbal vs Ishtiraki in the Chouf, Mustaqbal vs. “Independents” sunni notables in the cities). It could also upset the relations between one pillar and a junior partner that isn’t part of the oligarchy yet (Ishtiraki-PSP vs Lebanese Forces & Kataeb; Amal vs Free Patriotic Movement).
    • The junior partners (the Gemayels’ Kataeb, Frangieh’s Marada, Geagea’s Lebanese Forces, Arslan’s Democratic Party, Aoun’s Tayyar-Free Patriotic Movement…) who want to partake in these elections because they have all to win and nothing to loose to either confirm their political weight or conquer new territory.

    Interests: Now that’s where it gets tricky. The article is quite good at showing how difficult it is for the political parties to deal with “local issues”, mostly family issues, competition between local figures on an ego trip. Ghassan Saoud, the journalist who wrote the article is very good at analysing these issues: he does his homework, sees who is doing what and how people are interacting. He did a good job a couple of days ago when he analysed the problems the Free Patriotic Movement is having in student councils, trade unions and professional organisations (you can read about it here, in Arabic). But he always misses (or underplays) the structural dimension when he does that. In this case, he doesn’t explain why these “personal” considerations are so important in local elections. He doesn’t say why there aren’t any other issues that come into play. The reason is pretty simple. In a majority of localities, most of the people registered on the electoral rolls do not reside there (it can go up to 90%). And in many localities, especially cities and suburban areas, most residents are not registered on the electoral rolls of the municipality! So the local issues are not relevant. These elections are not about local services, they’re about personal services that the municipal council can provide to people who are scattered everywhere. This is why local figures have to have links with national figures who can provide these services for them. Local elections are meant to give a territoria dimension to these national figures, but also to integrate new members to their patronage network. This central element unfortunately is hardly ever mentioned. And when it is, no one takes the time to look into the structural reason behind it. It’s not about culture, it’s about a simple legal provision.  If only residents were allowed to vote in municipal elections, the picture would be very different and local issues will take precedents.

    Some links of interest:

    Posted in Culture, Discourse, Diversity, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Politics, Reform, Values | 5 Comments »

    Week’s highlight: the weapons issue

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 08/11/2009

    weaponsWeapons sparked three debates this week. It all started when the Israeli military fished a weapon cargo heading to Beirut. Then the Maronite patriarch made a speech on how weapons and democracy were mutually exclusive and finally the head of the FPM Michel Aoun criticised the Patriarch’s speech and added that if he had the means he would arm himself to fight for Palestine! We’ll look into these polemics one at the time.

    The record weapon catch. The most fascinating thing about the story isn’t what was said, but what wasn’t said. We got a lot of info about how much the booty weighted, we didn’t get any info about what exactly these weapons were and who had made them. We got a lot of info about the crew and the three last destination of the ship, but no info on its past and its real ownership. Classified information or courteousness between weapon dealers and producers?

    The Patriarch’s sermon. The Patriarch picked up a habit of recurrently making a sermon against Hezbollah and its weapons. His followers, that is political followers (not necessarily of his flock) and backers applaud his “national stands” and celebrate his “national role”. But they never mention the effect it has on communal politics and the gate it opens for other political interventions of clergymen in the public sphere (his backers had even asked him to pick a President for the country two years ago…). His stance does not prevent him from backing parties who will join a government in which Hezbollah will be part of and whose declaration will not condemn the weapons this party holds. Three of the christian political groups he has been actively supporting for nearly a decade (what is left of Qornet Chehwan that was never a political party and is the biggest looser of the past elections with only one MP in parliament, the Lebanese Forces that hasn’t been reestablished as a party since its dissolution in the 1990s probably for financial reasons and the Kataeb that has been hijacked by the Gemayel family after having been hijacked by the Syrian intelligence) will probably express their reservations on the government’s declaration but that will not prevent them from participating in it.

    This kind of condemnation is the best example of the “public stand culture” ثقافة المواقف that is meant to satisfy (with words) one’s constituency or sponsor, but that never translates into political action.

    Aoun’s tantrum. When angry, the hindered Za’im has no qualms about contradicting himself and making the most outrageous and irresponsible declarations. His first argument to the Patriarch followed these lines: “these weapons were never used against you, so why are you complaining”. Then he expressed his willingness to take up arms too, but regretted he didn’t have the financial ressources for that. I pity Michel Aoun’s supporters who will have to find a way to justify this outburst.

    Posted in Discourse, Hezbollah, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Religion, Values | 10 Comments »

    David Issa on MTV, political analysis gone astray

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 07/11/2009

    david-issa170This guy is obviously angry… and in need of recognition. During his hour long discussion on MTV (a resurrected Lebanese TV channel), his voice showed an emotional range that varied from displeasure to exasperation to indignity to outrage. At a random moment I decided to count how many times he repeated “I” in one minute: 7 times, and twice for no apparent reason (there was no call in grammar, syntax or meaning for it). I didn’t catch the show from the start (when the presenter gives a flattering biographical outlook on his guest), but I believe he ran as candidate in 2000 for Beirut’s Greek-Catholic seat (and lost to Michel Pharaon).

    The host obviously tried as hard as he could to formulate his questions as if his guest was a fortuneteller or a weather forecaster; doesn’t political analysis belong to this family of activities after all? when you read our press or watch our news programs, you come up with the obvious answer: YES.

    So you can’t really blame David Issa for answering these questions as a weatherman or a fortuneteller would. When given the occasion, he pointed out a couple of things that were very true, but then made a mess of the analysis that was a times incoherent at others biased and most of the time unfounded (traits that are alas shared by the political system).

    Here are the most interesting points he made:

    • The Christians are divided, but what are the issues that they disagree on? They have an important role in bridging the divide between Shiites and Sunnis.
    • Now this in itself is a topic that could be discussed lengthily. David Issa didn’t notice the internal contradiction between his two statements. He regrets the division of the Christians, but believes that the mobilisation of the Shiites and Sunnis behind two blocs is negative (and leaves aside the Druze and Alawite communities). If the Christians were mobilised (which is structurally impossible) behind one leader and bloc, how would that facilitate the demobilisation of the muslim groups?

    • Zahlé, as the capital of Greek-Catholics, should be represented in government by a minister holding a “respectable” portfolio.
    • David Issa, speaking on behalf of his community (although he claimed several times that he was against the communal feelings and the power-division scheme with a communal dimension) introduced a new principle for the composition of the government. He linked together two constitutional principles: the quota system along communal lines and  the fair representation of region. If such a rule is introduced, one could imagine its complicating effect on the formation of governments. Should Armenian ministers be from Burj Hammoud, should there be a minister Shiite minister from Baalbeck, one from Nabatieh and one from the Southern suburb of Beirut… Regional representation are obviously taken into account in all governments, so are family issues. But does this mean they should be transformed into rules that know of no exception?

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