Sunday, June 26, 2005

I can tell how fragmented this country is by the different moods and sub-political cultures of every audience I address. From the southern suburbs, to Beirut, and yesterday in Tyre, the audiences are quite different. But imagine how odd it was to have the brother of Layla Khalid (THE Layla Khalid) express full support for the right-wing opposition in Lebanon. One person in Tyre was a supporter of `Awn, and asked me for my reasons of opposing him. In Tyre, the centers that invite me are too poor to afford airconditioning, and I suffer greatly and yet have an emotional bond with an audience that knew me as a child or some who knew my father as a child. I took pictures of what remained of my grandfather's house in old Tyre. I have tons of pictures that I will post upon return--I dont take personal pictures, just pictures for the site. The flashcard (as this is my first camera ever) is incredible, and thanks Robert for recommending the Cannon S500). My audiences tend to attract a disproportionate number of secular Lebanese and I have to remind myself that this is not a representative crowd. I took a cab this morning from my GYM to this internet cafe. I asked the driver where he is from, and he hesitated for several seconds before saying: "Syria." ANd then he shared his ordeal with me. He wondered why poor helpless Syrian workers get blamed for things that they have not done, or for a regime that they have not selected. HE was robbed twice in the city, and his cellphone was stolen by the thugs who attacked him. Once a knife was put to his neck in East Beirut (predominantly Christian) and another time he was almost beaten up in Raml Adh-Dharif (predominantly Muslim)--Lebanese unite only when it comes to racism and chauvinism. He is related to another Syrian worker who was stabbed 10 times and killed near Mahatat Ad-Dana in Beirut. His body was taken to his village in Syria where crowds were very angry. This will not be reported in WP and NYT or in Nahar or AlArabiyya. I shudder to think of the consequences of he Sunni-Shi`ite rift in the Arab world. Grand (not really) Ayatollah Sistani was greatly admired among Shi`ites here, and among Hizbullah supporters and leaders. Among Sunnis he is despised. I learned of the details of his trip to London during the attack on Najaf but will write about that later upon return to the US. There are barely any pictures of Hariri in Sidon, his birthplace, and none whatsoever in Tyre. In Tyre, there is great frustration among leftists and secularists for the way Amal-Hizbullah decided who gets what seats in Parliament, just as the rest of the country. What a predictable election it was. I am told that Sa`d Hariri spends more politial money than his father. There is a Hariri payroll list that includes the names of prominent politicians and journalists, according to a member of parliament who has seen it. He gave me some names. Reportedly, former president Ilyas Hrawi was getting $75,000 a month, and the figure was mentioned by Hasan Sabra on LBC-TV. The social climate in South Lebanon has changed from the 1980s, when Amal tried but miserably failed to ban alcohol. Now, Amal and Hizbullah do not interfere in social affairs because Lebanese of all sects would not stand it. The elections in Iran were odd: the socio-economic divide expressed different political cultures that may translate in Arab countries once elections are held. US wars may also be boosting the fortunes of hardliners everywhere here. I visited the oldest printing house in the Arab world from 1640s. But the monastery that runs it does not know how to manage the thing. In the US, they are very good at managing historical sites for touristic purposes. I came across an "Australian" restaurant on Hamra Street in Beirut. I stopped to check the menu: it indeed had Australian food: fries and burgers. I hear that a new Bulgarian restaurant is about to open: it will feature authentic Bulgarian food: fries and burgers. I wondered when Lebanon will eventually have a Thai restaurant with authentic Thai food: fries and burgers. A person called me at my hotel at 12:45AM to invite me for a talk in Sarafand. I was furious. You never meet a supporter of president Lahhud. This morning, I read on the front page of AnNahar that yet another "senior aide" to Zarqawi was captured, and a "relative of" `Izzat Ad-Duri was also captured. Those will be added to the piles of "senior Zarqawi aides" and "relatives of Ad-Duri" who already are in US custody in Iraq. When will the book be written on US propaganda during the 2nd Iraq war that continues unabated?