Worried Lebanese

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Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

Peut-on condamner la violence au Liban?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/06/2013

La cohérence veut que l’on ne puisse condamner Assir d’avoir pris les armes pour se tailler un territoire politique, comme l’avait fait dès 1958 Pierre Gemayel, Kamal Joumblatt, Rachid Karamé ou Saeb Salam. Cela leur avait assuré une belle destinée politique… et une dynastie politique.
Cette même cohérence veut que l’on ne puisse condamner Assir d’avoir attaqué l’armée, lorsque l’on sait que Nabih Berri, Samir Geagea et Walid Joumblatt l’avaient fait en leur temps et participent toujours au pouvoir. Les raisons du Sheikh salafiste de Saïda sont-elles si différentes des leurs ?
Et pourtant, nous nous devons de le condamner et de condamner tous ceux qui à travers la violence se sont taillés un bout de notre République. Un crime ne peut couvrir un autre.

Mais est-ce que cela justifie la violence qui se déploie contre les salafistes? Qu’est-ce que cela en dit de notre société? Depuis trois jours, ces deux questions me reviennent et la réponse me semble claire, il est temps d’entreprendre la débaathisation de nos institutions et de notre société. Mais pour le faire, nous devons commencer par admettre l’empreinte qu’à laissé sur nous près de 30 ans d’éducation et de gestion baathiste de nos affaires.

Posted in Lebanon, Version Francophone, Violence | Leave a Comment »

“When the party is over”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/10/2012

They say it’s an ill wind that blows no good. But this worried lebanese finds many reasons to be worried. Yesterday was undoubtedly action-packed, rife with unbridled emotions and wide-ranging misconducts. It’s actually extremely hard to sum up in a couple of words because of the multitude of arenas in which these actions unfolded and the mass of images they conjured up. Even the media was having trouble dealing with this profusion. The Lebanese TV channels that I followed in between calls had suspended their programs for the day and were struggling to cover and broadcast the day’s events. You  can’t expect them to be ubiquitous; drama was unfolding in most parts of the country: roads being blocked, neighbourhoods being claimed, rival party headquarters being attacked and even gunfire being exchanged. And there’s a limit to how much a television station can multiplex. At a certain point, the LBC screen looked like a CCTV surveillance monitor.

Three squares for one funeral: Between geography and iconography
As early as saturday, three important squares in Beirut were called to become the centre of the opposition’s protestations: The site of the explosion, the victim’s final resting place and the foot of the Prime Minister’s office & residence. As the funeral was increasingly presented as a political rally, the greatest challenge for its organisers was to smoothly link the three squares withstanding their conflicting meanings and the differing emotional impacts Friday’s car bomb had.
1. Sassine Square: A couple of steps north of the explosion’s epicentre. It’s the proscenium of Friday’s drama where you get a full view of the (physical) destruction. Sassine square is the heart of former “East Beirut”, the political centre of what became during the Civil war the capital’s Christian quarter (and Christian only neighbourhood). In this square sits a large portrait of President-elect Bachir Gemayel (prominent Christian warlord, founder of the Lebanese Forces and arguably the most popular of all politicians among Lebanese Christians, past and present), assassinated in 1982 two blocks south from where Wissam al Hassan was killed.
2. Martyr’s Square/Liberty Square: It stands right across Wissam al Hassan and his driver Ahmad Sahyuni’s final resting place. They were buried in the same precinct as Rafic Hariri, former Prime-Minister and founder of the Future Movement, killed by a massive explosion in February 2005, next to Beirut’s largest (Sunni) Mosque. The political significance of this square was resurrected in 2005 when the Lebanese opposition to Syrian occupation camped on this site and organised massive rallies in it. It is the symbolic centre and the main iconography of the March 14 coalition, its most physical incarnation.
3. Ryad al-Solh Square: This is where the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces (amongst others) called for a sit-in to pressure Prime-Minister Nagib Miqati into resigning. This square sits east of the Grand Serail, the Premiership’s offices. It became politically significant in 2005 where pro-Syrian parties rallied to counter the anti-Syrian protests. And it was given in 2006 another meaning when the most prominent shiite parties, Hezbollah and Amal left the government and occupied the square with their allies in order to pressure Prime-Minister Fuad Siniora into resigning. 

Rerun, Sequel or Cover ?
Nobody quite knew what to expect from Wissam al-Hassan’s funeral. The Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces had made it quite clear that they intended to turn this funeral into a massive political rally. The preparations had actually begun on saturday afternoon in Martyr’s Square. Instead of a “consensual” funeral similar to the ones that were given to two other members of the security apparatus killed in the line of duty (François Al-Hajj in 2007 and Wissam Eid in 2008), Wissam al-Hassan’s funeral would be similar to that of a March 14 politician. Indeed, the funeral bore a lot of resemblance to Walid Eido’s. However, many different elements signalled  that this political rally would be more than a rerun of a March 14 funeral (March 14 had been the victim of 7 targeted assassinations and 3 failed attempts between 2004 and 2007). The political speeches that were heard on saturday and sunday were similar to those made in january 2011, surrounding the Sunni “day of anger”. But the most political and distinguishing feature of this funeral was the sit-in that was scheduled to follow it. On that issue, the Future Movement’s speeches were closer to the ones heard at the March 8th anti-governement sit-in back in 2006 than to those made on the day Omar Karame resigned in 2005.

A day of unbridled anger
During that long day, I personally didn’t venture out of Beirut’s central district. So most of the news I got about events happening outside this area was through biased television coverage. As expected, the Media played its usual political role, that of a resonance chamber. Reporters ditched reporting, and instead actively participated in the events through reframing and communicating faulty information. Switching from Al-Jadeed to LBC and back, you could count the contradictions in the their reporting by the minute. On the streets, emotions were obviously running high, and the most salient one was undoubtedly anger. The media concentrated its efforts on what was happening in Beirut’s central district, failing to analyse and comprehend that the most important dynamic was unravelling elsewhere, in Tripoli and on the major communication routes linking the three largest predominantly shiite areas in Lebanon.

Politicians obviously were not able to manage the anger they had provoked or nurtured.  They proved yet another time how irresponsible they are, by either adding fuel to fire or by failing to respond adequately to the situation. This is equally true for those politicians belonging to the “governing” parties than for those belonging to the “opposition” parties (both terms do not always reflect the reality of their involvement in politics). Sectarian politics being what they are in our republic of many farms, Sunni politicians and political groups were expected to manage the “sunni wrath”. But they proved to be completely incapable of doing it. Fuad Siniora missed the irony of his position, Saad Hariri failed to show up, Nagib Miqati decided to go on a pilgrimage… and Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani spoke knowing no one was listening… and when Nadim Qtaich, a journalist belonging to the Future Movement, called mourners to storm the Grand Serail, he became the official scapegoat of yesterday’s most photogenic event…
And while the political class failed to contain the Syrian crisis, and respond adequately to the many challenges our country faces, a new generation of street thugs, abadayeet, entered the political arena by forcibly claiming “their” territory. Their identity remains unknown, but they are filling up the political void left by the country’s ailing leadership.

Posted in Communication, Intercommunal affairs, Journalism, Lebanon, Political behaviour, Violence | Leave a Comment »

جمهورية المزارع في حداد

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/10/2012

Hier, la République des fermes a perdu un de ses plus valeureux fonctionnaires, un haut-fonctionnaire de la République, le fidèle fonctionnaire de l’une de ses fermes. Wissam al-Hassan a été assassiné alors qu’il exerçait ses fonctions au sein de la République, au sein de la ferme à laquelle il appartenait, celle qui se proclame fidèle à la mémoire de Hariri (Père et/ou fils) et que certains assimilent au Moustaqbal, celle qui est revendiquée par le XIV Mars® et que se sont arrogés hier les obstructeurs de routes (au nom de la communauté sunnite).
Wissam al-Hassan dirigeait un service des renseignements “ad hoc”, celui des Forces de sécurité intérieure (FSI), façonnée à la mode baathiste, sans assises ni encadrements légaux, à la va-vite, pour répondre à des besoins urgents:  la méfiance qui régnait entre les différentes fermes du pays, le pouvoir attribué à d’autres fermes sur les services sécuritaires existants, le danger (bien réel) de mort qui menaçait les personnalités du XIV Mars® et la défense de ce qui était tenu pour sacré, le châtiment des auteurs de l’attentat du 14 février 2005.

Nombreux sont ceux qui accusent la Syrie de ce crime, de la même manière qu’ils accusaient Israël jusqu’en 2005 de tous les crimes. C’est certainement vraisemblable, mais peut-être pas vrai. Là n’est pas la question. Attendons les résultats de l’enquête et continuons à nous méfier de ceux qui nous ont déjà fait du mal. Rappelons-nous que cette désignation d’un ennemi comme responsable de tous les maux est devenu un réflexe si profondément ancré dans nos moeurs politiques que toute enquête devenait inutile; on ne faisait même pas semblant. Alors on a simplifié l’équation: attentat = accusation + déblayage immédiat + retour à la normalité. À quoi bon dépenser tant d’efforts pour prouver ce qui allait de soi. Une partie des libanais l’a toujours fait à l’encontre d’Israël, l’autre partie à l’encontre de la Syrie. Et il est possible de passer du premier groupe au second, et inversement. De toute manière le mécanisme est le même.
Hier comme aujourd’hui, politiciens et éditorialistes s’agitent, pointent leur doigt accusateur, attisent la haine, agitent les franges les plus fragiles de la société et embrigadent ceux qui cherchent un semblant de confort dans des certitudes factices. Ils essayent de raviver la République pourfendue des émotions qui a vu le jour en mars 2005. Mais une chose a changé depuis… l’enquête se poursuit… spontanément. Le bloc urbain qui entoure le lieu de l’attentat est toujours bouclé, des enquêteurs poursuivent leur collecte d’indices. Les moeurs de nos politiciens et journalistes n’ont manifestement pas changé, mais celles de certains de nos services sécuritaires si. Et nous devons en partie ce changement à Wissam al-Hassan.

Il serait facile pour moi et pour ceux qui me ressemblent de céder à la tentation de balayer cet assassinat, cet attentat ciblé, en se concentrant sur ses dégâts collatéraux. Après tout Wissam al-Hassan faisait partie d’une ferme qui nous est étrangère, et à laquelle nous ne nous identifions d’aucune manière (ou contre laquelle nous avons longtemps été particulièrement hostiles). Alors que l’attentat a eu lieu dans un quartier que nous habitons ou avons habité, à deux pas d’un grand nombre de nos proches (famille et amis) et de visages familiers. Sans aucun doute, j’aurai du mal dans quelques années à me rappeler du nom de la victime que cette explosion avait pour cible. Mais je n’oublierai jamais l’attentat en lui même: ni la transformation apocalyptique de ce quartier si familier, ni le bruit des éclats de verre que l’on balayait sur chaque étage, dans chacun de ses immeubles, jusqu’à tard dans la nuit.

En écoutant les discours qui pleuvent aujourd’hui autour de cet assassinat, je pourrais me répéter que Wissam al-Hassan était le fidèle fonctionnaire de l’une des nombreuses fermes de mon pays. Il en était même devenu l’un de ses symboles. Cette vérité est incontestable. Mais le pas entre le réalisme et le cynisme est vite franchi. Tâchons de ne pas l’enjamber sans même s’en rendre compte. Est-ce que cette appartenance efface son professionnalisme, son dévouement à sa fonction, son courage? Qualités que même ses adversaires politiques lui concèdent. Est-ce que cette appartenance efface la douleur que sa disparition a provoqué parmi ses proches, sa femme et ses enfants réfugiés depuis un certain temps à Paris, ses amis, ses collègues et même les membres de sa ferme (ou ceux qui s’y identifient) qui se sentent directement visés et affaiblis par sa disparition? Certainement pas.

Wissam al-Hassan était un compatriote. Il était fonctionnaire dans un État morcelé en de nombreuses fermes. Il a servi son pays comme il le pouvait, à travers les allégeances qu’il avait, avec les convictions qui étaient les siennes. Il a été assassiné dans ses fonctions, en raison de ses fonctions. La république est en deuil, et elle l’est justement. Elle l’est même doublement, pour avoir perdu un de ses hauts fonctionnaires, et pour avoir perdu tout sens républicain face au cynisme des uns et à la récupération des autres.

Posted in Journalism, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour, Version Francophone, Violence | 2 Comments »

Retours Martyrologiques

Posted by worriedlebanese on 07/07/2011

En lisant le discours de Ziad Qadri, j’ai appris que son père avait été assassiné. Cela m’a surpris parce que le nom de Nazim Qadri ne figure pas dans la liste des Martyrs du XIV Mars qui est souvent scandée par les politiciens ou les journalistes… et qui d’ailleurs est de temps en temps illustrée sur la télé ou sur les pancartes. J’ai effectué une petite recherche sur google pour me renseigner sur les circonstances qui entourent sa mort et je suis tombé sur cette liste de martyrs. Saviez-vous que la soeur de Joumblatt avait été assassiné à Beyrouth Est un an avant son frère?
A sa relecture, j’ai remarqué que les noms relevaient à peu près du consensus national, c’est à dire qu’ils excluaient certaines personnes pour des raisons essentiellement politiques… d’où quelques rajouts qui ont le méritent de montrer le caractère fragmenté de listes martyrologiques. En cherchant, je suis d’ailleurs tombé sur une liste qui me semble plus intéressantes que d’autres: les assassinats politiques au Liban depuis l’indépendance.

Figures politiques
. Riyad el-Solh, premier ministre du Liban, 17 juillet 1951
. Mohammad Abboud, député, 1952
. Albert Hajj, député, 17 avril 1961.
. Farjallah Hélou, secrétaire du Parti Communiste, 25 juin 1959.
. Naïm Mghabghab, Député Chamouniste, 1959
. Maarouf Saad, 6 mars 1975
. Linda Joumblatt, sœur de Kamal Joumblatt, 21 mai 1976
. Kamal Joumblatt, président du parti socialiste progressiste et leader du Mouvement National, 16 mars 1977
. Tony Frangié, député, chef du parti Marada, 13 juin 1978
. Béchir Gemayel, chef du parti des Forces Libanaises, président du Liban, 14 septembre 1982
. Rachid Karamé, premier ministre du Liban, 1er juin 1987
. Nazim Qadri, député, 21 septembre 1989
. René Mouawad, président du Liban, 22 novembre 1989
. Dany Chamoun, chef du Parti National Libéral, 21 octobre 1990
. Abbas Mousawi, secrétaire général du Hezbollah, 16 janvier 1992
. Elie Hobeika, ancien chef des Forces Libanaises, 24 janvier 2002
. Jihad Jibril, chef des milices du FPLP-CG, 20 mai 2002
. Rafic Hariri, premier ministre du Liban, 21 février 2005
. George Hawi, chef du parti communiste libanais, 21 juin 2005
. Pierre Gemayel, député, membre du parti des Phalanges, 21 novembre 2006
. Imad Moughnieh, responsable du renseignement au sein du Hezbollah, 12 février 2008

Figures médiatiques
. Nassib Metni, directeur du Télégraphe, 8 mai 1958
. Kamel Mroué, directeur du Hayat, 16 mai 1966
. Ghassan Kanafani, rédacteur en chef du Anwar, 8 juillet 1972.
. Edouard Saab, rédacteur en chef de l’Orient-Le Jour, 16 mai 1976
. Salim al-Lawzi, éditeur du magasine Al-Hawadith, 24 février 1980
. Riyad Taha, chef du syndicat des journalistes, 22 juillet 1980
. Gebran Tueni, rédacteur en chef du Nahar, 12 décembre 2005
. Samir Kassir, éditorialiste au Nahar, 1er juin 2006

Figures religieuses
. Musa Sadr, President du Conseil Supérieur Chiite, 31 août 1978
. Hassan Shirazi, 5 mai 1980.
. Albert Khreish, 5 mai 1988
. Hassan Khaled, Mufti de la République, 16 mai 1989
. Nizar Halabi, Chef des Ahbach, 31 août 1995

Posted in Lebanon, Version Francophone, Violence | 4 Comments »

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.

Posted in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Middle East, Palestinian territories, Palestinians, Peace, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Reconciliation, Turkey, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Political discourse needs some spring cleaning

Posted by worriedlebanese on 10/04/2011

I was quite shocked when I read the Bil’in Popular Committee’s press release following the assassination of Juliano Mer-Khamis. It read:

The popular committees against the wall and israeli occupation express their deep sadness and sorrow to the murder that happened in Jenine today against the activist and director Juliano.
The popular committees see this act as part of the escalation politics exercised by israeli occupation. These politics permits such horrific acts. Therefore, we hold the israeli occupation accountable and fully responsible for such acts. […] Regardless that this act was committed on an occupied land , we believe that the killing of Juliano only serves Israeli interests”.

The saddest thing about this press release is that it is not even “tailor made” to suit the particular case. It obeys a abstract and rigid format that could apply and is applied to all crimes or heinous acts. The standards were set by oppressive regimes and their servile media across the Middle East. If any violent act with political repercussions is made, it is always convenient to accuse Israel, to denounce its regime and consider it accountable for any similar act… and finally end the statement by saying that this act serves Israeli interests.

It is very said to witness a dynamic and young NGOs fighting for a just cause (ending occupation and Israeli encroachment on Palestinian land), such as Bil’in Popular Committee, repeating that discourse and parrotting those regimes.

Not everything can be blamed on Israeli policies (occupation and violent escalation). Isn’t there enough stuff one can rightly blame israeli occupation and violence for? Doing it systematically on things that cannot be directly attributed to israeli acts and policies only discredit legitimate accusations and denunciations!

Affirming that Juliano Mer Khamis was probably killed by the same people who had repeatedly threatened him, and denouncing the violent and intolerant groups within Palestinian society that should be held accountable for such crimes is not a sign of weakness but an important step toward strengthening Palestinian society, deepening its understanding of pluralism and diversity and liberating it from the forces of oppression (be they local or foreign).

Posted in Discourse, Israel, Journalism, Palestinians, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Le réveil douloureux des quatorze-marsistes

Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/01/2011

Certains sommeils sont si profonds que rien ne semble les perturber. La douce musique des slogans du printemps de 2005 bercent certainement le public quatroze-marsiste dans ce genre de sommeil. Et pourtant, on pouvait s’attendre à ce que les chocs qui se sont succédés les sortent de leur torpeur:
1. La résurrection de l’alliance quadripartite (Mustaqbal/PSP/Amal/Hezbollah) durant les élections législatives de 2005 et dans la composition du gouvernement…
2. Le départ du CPL de l’alliance du 14 mars (2005) durant ces mêmes élections législatives…
3. L’affaire des caricatures danoises et l’ambivalence du courant du Futur (Mustaqbal)
4. La guerre des 33 jours (2006)… et l’échec du pari de l’élimination du Hezbollah par les armes (israéliennes).
5. La guerre de Nahr el Bared… avec l’implication de l’Armée (qui a laissé les armes entrer dans le camps) et du Mustaqbal (qui a soutenu les mouvances islamistes du camp jusqu’au déclenchement de la guerre).
6. Le départ du PSP de l’alliance du 14 mars suite aux élections législatives (2009)…
7. Les déclarations des gouvernements Siniora (2005, 2008) et Hariri (2009)…
8. L’écroulement de la coalition gouvernementale (2010) avec le vote de “défiance” de Joumblat…

Mais non, il y a des sommeils obstinés que seul une journée comme celle d’aujourd’hui peut réveiller. Effectivement, le “Jour de la Colère” a certainement sonné le glas des fantasmagories surgies en 2005 et nourries aux amphétamines depuis. La “colère” que le Courant du Futur (Mustaqbal) a voulu exprimer est en parfaite contradiction avec les slogans de 2005. On est bien loin de l’image de la “révolution du cèdre” qu’avaient fignolée les agences de publicités et les responsables d’événementiels. Ce qu’on a vu et entendu sont des discours violents, strictement et ouvertement sectaires, on a vu des routes bloquées, des sommations de fermetures d’écoles et de commerce, des pneus brûlés…

Si tout cela n’aboutit pas à un réveil, c’est qu’il n’est pas question de sommeil mais de comma.

Posted in Lebanon, Political behaviour, Version Francophone, Violence | Leave a Comment »

Fourth anniversary of July War

Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/07/2010

Haret Hreik... before and after the war

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

    Haunted by Kıtırmäya

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 30/04/2010

    I couldn’t get the image out of my head. I tried, but it kept on coming back. Not the one posted here, which is bad enough, but the one that my mind reconstituted from the pictures I saw and the facts I learnt about this ghastly affair. This type of drama is the stuff of fiction; Peter Greenaway’s Baby of Mâcon meets Ken Russell’s The Devils. Having it happen a couple of miles from where you live is unbearable.
    So basically, a man who had brutally killed an old couple and their two grand-children was nabbed while in custody… twice!! by angry villagers. The first time, he was beaten unconscious by a mob that snatched him from the police who had taken him to the scene of the crime for reconstitution (a day after the crime was committed). After being taken to hospital, he was nabbed a second time by the same crowd (that had followed him), stabbed, hanged to a car and dragged to the village square where he was hanged by a butcher’s hook while women ululated and men shouted that the crime was avenged.
    I won’t be surprised if some journalist in the Orient Le Jour claims that this crime committed in a Sunni village of the Chouf is somewhat linked to Hezbollah being armed…
    All day, I listened to the news and read the press, nobody spoke of any arrest in the village. All that time I sat wondering how the police and the judges should react to such a criminal outburst of collective anger. And frankly, I don’t know how.

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Lebanon, Violence | 4 Comments »

    Commemorating what?!

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/04/2010

    “You should do activities that have to do with the memory of the war. The most important thing is to remember what happened during the war”, that’s what a socially very active woman said the other day when she learnt about the activities we were doing in the peace organisation. A few years ago I would have congratulated her for her stand, but now, I wasn’t so sure how to react. Why is remembering the war so important? Are people forgetting what happened during the war? Is this dark experience not being transmitted to the younger generation? Would this knowledge prevent future wars from happening. I’m not so sure about that any longer. I’ve been interested in that topic for a long time. I remember back in college a teacher in anthropology launching a large research project on that. I remember the many authors and books he suggested I read. I remember reading them, I remember them. And yet I’m not so sure that “remembering” the war should be everyone’s priority.
    I’m not saying that the war should be forgotten. Quite the contrary. I firmly believe that we should preserve some of its physical traces. I also think the work many organisations and individuals are doing is crucial. They are collecting the traces of this war, trying to understand what happened and why it happened. They are gathering data, providing narratives. But all this isn’t enough to prevent a new war from happening. However, it is more than enough to condemn the perpetrators: the politicians, the militiamen, the hate-mongers… Oddly enough, this elements is usually overlooked by those who work on the “memory of war”. Those on the “left” still believe that Kamal Jumblatt, or Yaser Arafat were good blokes (and absolve them of all criminal intent and behaviour), the few that are on the “right” have the same feelings for Bachir Gemayel or Dany Chamoun. If these men and their wrongdoings are not condemned, is it really worth remembering or commemorating the war? and what exactly is being remembered?

    Posted in Civil Society, Lebanon, Memory, Peace, Violence | 4 Comments »

    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 »

    Policy statement. Who gives a damn?

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 25/11/2009

    Resistance picture, part of the "only in Lebanon" series.

    Future Movement’s Shiite effigy, MP Oqab Saqr considers that the sentence regarding the “spread of state authority throughout Lebanese territory” and placing “war and peace decisions solely into the hands of the Lebanese state” does not harm the resistance (Voix du Liban). So he sees no reason why it shouldn’t be included in the Policy Statement of Saad Hariri’s government.

    I personally see no reason why any sentence should or shouldn’t be included in the Policy Statement. It is after all a totally futile rhetorical exercice with no legal or political effects whatsoever. The only use it could possibly serve is feed sterile polemics whenever any disagreement appears between any two parties/blocs represented in the government (with no less than 10 political parties on board, I’m sure there will be numerous occasions for that). Has anyone bothered to take a look at the previous declaration and see which part of it was actually implemented? Such an exercice would certainly be extremely difficult to follow through because it is rather difficult to see what these abstract statements imply in practice.

    What does the sentence “spread of state authority throughout Lebanese territory” imply practically? Does that mean that police officers would be able to do their job in Palestinian camps? Certainly not. Politicians and officials have already “given guarantees” to Mahmoud Abbas’ representative that they won’t. Does that mean that the Minister of Interior will actually be able to monitor the work of the security forces anywhere outside his office? And I’m not only hinting at Hezbollah’s “security pockets”, but also some directories and local forces in Northern Lebanon and Beirut (that obey to Hariri), Southern Lebanon (that obey to Nabih Berri) or Southern Mount Lebanon (that obey to Walid Jumblatt). Wouldn’t it be more effective to say that the Minister of the Interior is mandated to assert the authority of his ministry throughout the territory and make sure that no group can hold arms unless authorised by Parliament?

    Posted in Lebanon, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Politics, Semantics, Violence | Leave a Comment »

    Security first? The contours of a Lebanese policy for peace talks with Israel

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 12/08/2009

    661054_pw_diplomacyThe Lebanese have grown accustomed to governments unable or unwilling to deal with their southern neighbour. Some regret that these governments haven’t been able to defend the country militarily and diplomatically (from the IDF’s ferocious attacks), while others deplore that none has come up with a policy for peace talks with Israel.
    Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a contributor to NOW Lebanon, has come up with an interesting analysis on the subject. He believes Lebanon should define a policy on Israel and embark in peace talks because “Lebanon will never defeat Israel militarily, [so] its ‘conflict’ with the Jewish state can only be resolved by diplomacy”. He concludes his article with the following statement:

    Since the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, both governments have failed to produce a policy on Israel. The Mitchell team is determined to change all this, but they need the help of Lebanon’s leaders, who must not be shy about talking peace with Israel, just like their Syrian and Palestinian brethren. The rest will become details.

    At face value, his conclusion is indisputable, but if you look into it, you discover there is an important dimension to Israeli-Lebanese relations that Hussain Abdul-Hussain completely leaves out: the “security” dimension.

    This is quite common among Beirutis. But if you ask Israelis or Lebanese living in Southern Lebanon, it’s their primary concern. And this issue is certainly the murkiest. Here’s why:

    • Since the 1960s, the Lebanese government has failed to secure its border with Israel. So before embarking in Peace talks, the Lebanese government should see how it will be able to achieve that and start working on it.
    • Since the 1960s, Israel has been “retaliating” after each attack coming from Lebanon. This has brought a lot of destruction, death and distrust in Southern Lebanon. Shouldn’t Lebanon build a defensive strategy so as to dissuade, limit or restrain the “IDF”?
    • An armed grouped, Hezbollah, backed by the majority of the local population wants to keep the fight going. Their most popular argument within their constituency is similar to the one of the Israeli army: only military strength will ensure our security and disuade our enemy from attacking us. It’s a defensive argument (that is not weaker than that of the Israeli army). What could the Lebanese government answer to this argument be?
    • There are other armed groups that are held back by Hezbollah (mostly Palestinian, and Sunni islamists) who are willing to pursue the fight, and the Lebanese State doesn’t seem to have a hold on them.

    Before asking the government to come up with a diplomatic strategy toward Israel, I think it is foremost important to ask them to come up with a coherent military and defensive strategy, one that takes into account and deals with Hezbollah and the Palestinians of Lebanon.

    Posted in Geopolitics, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Peace, Security, Violence | 10 Comments »

    Violence spills over: Shooting at Tel Aviv gay center

    Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/08/2009

    Candles in memory of dead spell out "love"

    Candles in memory of dead spell out "love"

    How fast is Israel heading for trouble? How much can one extrapolate from one crime news heading, a simple human interest story? Could it be an indicator or is it just an isolated case?

    One thing is certain, Israeli editorialists and politicians are not taking it so lightly (c.f. Yediot Ahronot article). For them, it’s not just about Nir Katz (24) and Liz Trubeshi (17) who were killed on saturday. It’s about a shooting attack on a gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv. It’s about a hate crime. It’s about an automatic weapon (such as an M-16 rifle) that was used by an Israeli to kill other Israelis because of differences in lifestyle and values.

    It’s about a bubble exploding, but unlike Eytan Fox’s הבועה, the needle that burst it is not directly tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… but might very well be indirectly link to it. For how long can Israeli society nurture  its militaristic culture and breed distrust between some of its sectors, before that starts spreading?

    Judging from the reaction of editorialists and politicians, the fear is there, but also the discomfort. How should this attack be called? A terror attack? Can it be called a terror attack although its perpetrator seems to be jewish? This is the kind of hesitation one sees in interviews and opinion papers. It’s not a simple case of semantics, its about classification, operating a distinction between “jewish violence and “palestinian violence”: when violence is so instrumental in separating and defining two groups, what happens when it erupts within one of the groups? what does it say about the opposition between the two groups…

    Posted in Conspiracy, Culture, Identity, Israel, Palestinians, Prejudice, Religion, Secularism, Security, Semantics, Values, Violence | Leave a Comment »