Tuesday, May 31, 2005

greens crossing greens (to Piet Mondrian who lacked green), 1966. Fluorescent light fixtures with green lamps. Dan Flavin. Posted by Hello
The reliable Amman correspondent of Al-Quds Al-`Arabi reported about the fate of Iyad `Allawi. He has been out of Iraq since his ouster from the prime ministership. He has been mostly vacationing in Lebanon, perhaps giving tips about "democracy" to the Hummus revolutionaries, and--according to the correspondent, spending a lot of money in Jordan.

After the uproar in Lebanon over the tour of polling places by US ambassador, he vehemently denied ever visiting any polling places. Lebanese media produced this picture of him outside of a polling place on election day. He refused to say whether he voted for Hariri. Posted by Hello
Urgent. We need your help. "Vatican seeks papal miracle proof" (thanks Marc)
"Demolition threat to Palestinian homes"

A Palestinian proudly showing the deed to his land in Silwan. Posted by Hello
"A new 'scramble for Africa' is taking place among the world's big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds."
Hummus (il)Logic: Here, right-wing Lebanese sectarian Christian writer Michael Young, who in recent years dropped the Arabic part of his name for some reason, expresses his support for the Lebanese sectarian system, and its fundamental inequities. The Maronites, for example, are the 3rd largest community, but yet they receive more parliamentary seats than Sunnis and Shi`ites who (as respective communities) far outnumber Maronites in Lebanon. But the founding myth of Lebanon has to be preserved. Young also claims that the electoral system discriminates against Christians, without mentioning that in order to preserve the myth of 50-50 Muslim-Christian ratio (the formula of At-Ta'if) Muslim voters have to be disenfranchised throughout the country. In fact, according to this formula, Muslims receive a parliamentary seat for every 25,000 voters, while Christians receive a parliamentary seat for every 18,000 voters. Young, like the right-wing sectarian Patriarch, wants Muslims to vote for Muslims and Christians to vote for Christians, and then they dare to chant "National Unity." National Unity my...potato. Furthermore, notice that they are concerned about Christian deputies winning by Muslims votes in South Lebanon (Young mentions that), but no mention is made of a Shi`ite deputy in Jubayl who wins with Christian votes, etc. The sectarian nature of their complaint betrays the sectarian motives. But let us not kid ourselves. There are those in Lebanon, and some have said so explicitly in the heat of the Hummus Revolution, like Jubran Tuwayni and Pierre Gemayyel, who believe that the Christians while a minority constitute a qualitatively superior group, and should thus receive a political share far beyond their numbers. That was the French Mandate's idea. This is like when Lord Balfour (new biographies of him confirm that he was an anti-Semite by the way) was asked in his Hotel room about justification for his "declaration." He said: "you see, numerical self-determination was excluded." That is the (il)logic of Zionism and Lebanese nationalism (or Lebanese Zionism). And only Young, or an American correspondent in Lebanon, would claim that the Shi`ite speaker of parliament has more power than the president. Does anybody believe that Birri had more influence over the state apparatus than Lahhud? And it is true that the prime minister had tremendous powers, but that was more Hariri, than Ta'if. Hariri wanted to be the sole undisputed leader of the country; the maximum leader so to say. This was the origin of his conflict with Lahhud and Syria, not principles or sovereignty. Having said that, the Syrian government (which has disregarded and denigrated Sunni political representation in Lebanon for years which explains the recent outburst) has dealt very unjustly with the issue of Christian political representation. It allowed a sectarian system to be installed according to which Muslims can choose their representatives, but Christians cannot. Christian representation was not allowed to be genuine because the Syrian government and its Christian clients wanted to exclude popular currents. That was certainly unfair, and only helped to boost the fortunes of `Awn and Ja`ja`. All those sectarian formulas and designs, whether to the advantage of Muslims or Christians, will ultimately fail. Only a fully secular system, that would cover the political system and the personal status laws, would be able crystallize national unity for the population. Ilyas Hrawi (for political reasons and not for any secular concerns) proposed during his presidency civil marriage in Lebanon, and Hariri mobilized the Sunni clerical establishment against him, and aborted the plan. But the secular arrangement will not happen, and that is why Lebanon (as a homeland or nation or a large cafe) is doomed. In the Beirut election, by the way, (which received the congratulations of UN and US) the ratio of contestation was 1.8 candidates per seat. Imagine. Finally, as I read about the upcoming parliamentary "contests" in Lebanon, I realize that you cannot support any one side in that country. You cannot find one party (on the left, right, or center, on the Muslim or Christian side) that sticks to principles. Thus, you see the notorious fluctuations of Jumblat (he has been fluctuating from one day to the next as of late); even Najah Wakim aligning himself with `Awn; Hizbullah making alliances with `Awn and running on the same list with Tuwayni and Gemayyel; the SSNP aligning itself with `Awn; the Lebanese Communist Party aligning itself with traditional feudal leaders in South Lebanon; and the so-called Democratic Left serving as mere puppets for the Hariri apparatus. This explains why I was never, even or especially at the height of my political discoveries as a teen, drawn to "a Lebanese cause." There is no Lebanese cause to speak of. What cause? Unless you are talking about fraud, sectarianism, clerical interventions, daily political oscillations, and fakeries. That is why the cause for me has always been...Palestine and socio-economic justice...everywhere.
" ''Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers, suppressing another people,'' Yavin comments in the first segment after listening to settlers insist God gave them these lands. ''We simply don't view the Palestinians as human beings.''" (I agree with that statement, but the date should be "since 1948" if not earlier)
I refuse to allow neo-Nazis in Germany to expropriate New Balance shoes for their "cause." (thanks Julie)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Cats (rayist percep.[tion] in rose, black, and yellow), 1913. N. Goncharova. Posted by Hello

Holding the picture of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli occupation custody. Posted by Hello
This is a report on women's rights in Lebanon. I am very extremely critical of the standards and methodology of Freedom House, but I fully trust the author. (thanks Zeina)
As some of you know, I do consulting on Middle East-related issues for legal firms around the country. In every case as of late, the other side brings up the...Angry Arab News Service. As if I am hiding it, or as if that is not my name and picture on it.
"In Rising Numbers, Lawyers Head for Guantánamo Bay"
"Here's how things stood for women in the world Mary was born into, the England of 1759: your property and your children were the property of your husband, divorce was impossible, and if you dared to leave your horrid -- or abusive -- husband you had to desert your children in the process and become an outlaw. Marital rape was perfectly legal, and probably frequent. (In all fairness, a new law in 1782 stated that a husband should not beat his wife with a stick wider than his thumb.)"
Full text. News from "liberated" Afghanistan. Tell the Feminist Majority which supported the war to "free" the women in Afghanistan. "Violence against women and girls in Afghanistan is pervasive, said Amnesty International today launching its latest report "Afghanistan: Women under attack". "Throughout the country, few women are exempt from violence or safe from the threat of it," states the report. Daily, Afghan women are at risk of abduction and rape by armed individuals, forced marriage and being traded in settlement of disputes and debts. They face discrimination from all segments of society as well as by state officials.Violence against women is widely accepted by the community and inadequately addressed at the highest levels of the government and the judiciary. Investigations by the authorities into complaints of violent attacks, rape, murders or suicide of women are neither routine nor systematic, and few result in prosecutions."
"Fear and Trembling"
Fruits of "liberation": "The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their posts to assassinate opponents."
"Guardian and Human Rights Watch find evidence of abuse by Iranian revolutionaries under US protection"
"Uzbekistan has shown former Soviet states that the west tolerates the repression of peaceful protest in return for oil"
Bono's political advocacy is bothering me. There is no world leader or dictator or war enthusiast that he does not like "on a personal level." And does he play one musical instrument?
"Claims of abuse at Guantanamo are revealed" (When asked about that, Bush said: "But Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East")
"U.S. Forces Mistakenly Arrest Sunni Leader". The man was a member (and one-time president) of the now-defunct puppet governing council. But don't jump to conclusions. The US military explained what happened, and the explanation eased my mind, and should ease yours. Apparently, the Sunni-terrorist-detector device used by the US military malfunctioned. That is all. Go back to sleep, NOW.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

One more time: Arabs prove that they are genetically capable of stuffing a ballot box (albeit in very small numbers). Western world impressed. Wake up the children, and tell the neighbors. Today, US, UN and Eu extended their congratulations to the Lebanese government for their lousy election. The turnout, it turns out, was even less than was previously reported. It was less than 27%. Lower than 2000 and 1996. Furthermore, the European election observers issued a glowing report about the first round of the election but mentioned in passing that there were cases of voters' intimidation. When asked by Lebanese reporters about those cases, the observers refused to identify them. They are still in mourning over Hariri's death, after all and don't want to upset Sa`d Hariri. I never agree with Gen. Michel `Awn on anything, but I will agree with him on one thing he said yesterday. The mourning for Hariri is now officially OVER. Stop it, NOW. Enough tears and songs already. I can't take it anymore. `Awn is also right to criticize the role of "Petro-dollars" in the election, although he would have loved to received some of it, but when it did not come his way he voiced objections. Also, apparently, the US ambassador did not only go to one polling station yesterday. He hopped from one polling station to the other. There are a lot of criticisms of that in the Lebanese press. Even the Hariri lackey, deputy Basim As-Sab`, issued a strong criticism. Has anybody read Robert Fisk in the Independent (I have not)? Is he celebrating Hariri's victory?

Portrait d'un m�decin militaire, 1914�15. Albert Gleizes. Posted by Hello
For the second time today, I am citing approvingly Hassan Fattah (on Hariri): "But at least some voters said they had been put off by his heavily bankrolled campaign."
After weeks and months of silly US media articles about "Lebanese unity," now, NOW, the US media are finally learning about Lebanon: "Fault Lines Apparent At the Polls: Religion Remains Divisive in Capital"
Now that the Hummus has melted, "After Withdrawal, Letdown in Lebanon"
"Long Jailings Anger Iraqis" (I wonder why)
Christian Science Monitor asks "Is Iran telling the truth about nuclear program?" I don't know, but is Israel telling the truth?

"Palestinian youths looking through a hole in the wall following an [Israeli occupation] missile strike in the Jabaliya refugee camp in north Gaza early Monday. (AP)" Posted by Hello
"The U.S. Justice Department is expected to file indictments against two former senior American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers." (Both will be offered jobs as Middle East experts at the National Security Council)
"British soldiers face war crimes charges"
Beirut "election" or Tribal bay`ah? Lebanese pollster `Abduh Sa`d was right today. This was no election, he said. It was more of a tribal acclamation ritual (bay`ah); no surprises and 9 out of the 19 candidates won their seats prior to election day. I meant it when I said that there were more candidates per seats in the last election for Syrian (rubber stamp) parliament than in this Lebanese election. One can argue, as the Hariri and Saudi media argued, that Beirut said its word, in favor of Hariri. This reminds me. There is no Lebanese media source from which you can really learn about Lebanon these days. Certainly not in the Hariri (father or son or grandson) era. The Hariri, Inc cut their teeth in media management at the feet of the House of Saud. Former prime minister Salim Huss told me in the 2000 election that every newspaper in Lebanon except one was receiving money from Hariri. Now, there are none that are independent of Hariri money. Yes. Every radio, newspaper, magazine, and TV is fully or partially owned by Hariri, Inc, except the communist Party's radio, Sawt Ash-Sha`b, and New TV, which only recently resumed its criticisms of the Hariri, Inc. They suspended their attacks after Hariri's death. I know, Hariri sold his share in AnNahar; but that does not matter. He took An-Nahar's director-general (he does not have the talent or competence to be editor-in-chief, and staff almost rebelled when he expressed desire in the position), the rabid right-wing fanatic Jubran Tuwayni, on his ticket. And Hariri's shares in AnNahar were bought by Al-Walid bin Talal. It is very difficult to get independent analysis or views that are not tied to the financial interests of Hariri. I was told that Sa`d Hariri summoned the publishers and editors of Lebanese media outlets one by one over the last several weeks, and did what his father used to regularly do: gave them "subsidies." Yes, all of them. Furthermore, most if NOT all, the Beirut-based correspondents of Arab media are also beneficiaries of Hariri subsidies. Remember that the Economist (the best magazine there is) said that Hariri spent $100 million before his death on media ownership and manipulation in Lebanon. But was it really a Hariri victory even with the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Justice supervising the elections although they both were functionaries of Hariri's campaigns in past years. The Minister of Interior appointed an official of the "Progressive Socialist" Party of Jumblat--what a name for a party that neither is progressive or socialist--to be in charge of polling places in Ba`abda-`Alayy electoral district--a key district for Jumblat. Such are the rules of Lebanese fake democracy. But the turnout was certainly a big defeat for Hariri, Inc who made it very clear that they wanted a huge turnout. Sa`d Hariri said so in all of his speeches, in which he was affecting his newly acquired Beiruti accents (see post below, NOW). So according to the Hariri official, who doubles as Minister of Interior, the official voters' turnout was a mere 28%. That is lower than the year of 2000 when elections were held under Syrian control. This only proves that Lebanese conditions can even worsen, believe it or not. So 117,000 Lebanese voted in this Beirut round of the election out of the 421,000 potential voters. Certainly, the ministry of interior was not expecting that low of a turnout because they prepared 250,000 voting cards. They were that optimistic about turnout. And you thought that we have low voters' turnout here in the US? It is a political stance, though not always--hangovers can sometimes be a factor, for voters to decline to vote. But for such a large number of voters to boycott the elections is a clear political signal. There are many factors. It is true that Christian and Armenian boycott was a factor; Gen. `Awn's supporters effectively lobbied Christian voters to stay home, as did the major Armenian party, the Tashnak. Hariri simply said that the Tashnak (like all Armenian parties and movements in Lebanon they are moderates) cannot be invited to his list because they did not participate in the Hummus Festival on March 14th. Perhaps Hariri is prejudiced against the Armenians because the wife of the Lebanese silent president, Lahhud, is Armenian. But the voters' turnout was low not only in Christian areas but also in Muslim areas. In some Christian areas it was no more than 15% and I did not see a Muslim area where voters' turnout was more than, or even close to, 45% (only in Mazra`ah; in other Sunni areas around 30%) (all official and final results will be released tomorrow but they are not likely to be different). It is clear that many voters were turned off by the non-democratic nature of this "election." This only tells you that "free" elections (and this one was "free") do not constitute a democracy. How could you be eager to vote when half of the candidates have won their seats already? And Hariri's campaign rhetoric turned off many people in Beirut, especially when it was obvious that Sa`d was shamelessly exploiting the blood of his father to rally supporters and voters. It got worse in the last several days when Hariri said, actually said NOT even implied, that those who run against Hariri candidates are the killers of his father. I am not making this up. By the way, do you know the US ambassador in Lebanon went to a polling station to observe today? Even the correspondent of the pro-US Al-Arabiyya TV, the fine reporter Maya Baydun (previously of AlJazeera), had to go up to the US ambassador to ask him about what he was doing there. Imagine if the Lebanese ambassador in DC goes to polling stations on election day in the US. He would probably be sent back home, or maybe to Guantanamo. Also, the Hariri, INC , fearing embarrassment, insisted that their Sunni supporters vote for the entire list (we do not have closed lists in Lebanon; so voters can select some members of one list and others form another list). Yet, the Sunni voters did not abide by the instructions, as we can see from the results. In the first electoral district of Beirut, for example, Sa`d Hariri received 39,500 votes while Jubran Tuwayni (on his list) received 30,591 votes. That is many thousands of Sunni voters who did not vote for Tuwayni, and who did not vote for the entire list "as is" as Hariri kept saying during his campaign. Of course, Jubran Tuwayni is highly unpopular among Muslims and leftists for his past associations with right-wing Maronite-oriented militias and for his current right-wing sectarian Christian views and expressions, especially as he recently compared Shi`ites to sheep. In the 2nd electoral district of Beirut, there also were surprises. The largest number of votes in that list went to Hizbullah's candidate, Amin Shirri, who refused to show up in the official photograph of the list on the first day of its announcement (he said he was "flossing" when asked about his absence). The Shi`ite Shirri received 31,809 votes while the Sunni Walid `Idu received 25,123. Many Shi`ites clearly did not vote for the entire list especially when you see how well Greek Orthodox candidate, the consistently (and unrecoveringly) radical Nasserist advocate, Najah Wakim, received some 10,000 votes (almost half of the votes of the winning candidate `Atif Majdalani (Wakim is keen every year when he sees me to tell me whether I have gained or lost weight from the previous year--Lebanese love to do that for some reason). Those results don't bode well for the future of the Hariri political Inc. Hariri did what his father would not have done--the alliance with Saulange Gemayyel will come back to haunt him in particular. Also, his father was very keen on showing sensitivity to Armenian concerns. Furthermore, Hariri was politically skillful, unlike his son, and he had a style, also unlike his son. The absence of Baha' Hariri (the eldest son of Rafiq) on this election day will only fuel the rumors about a feud between the two brothers following the selection of Sa`d over Baha' as Rafiq's heir. Of course, with money, in a poor country like Lebanon, you can buy many voters. Think about it. Hariri can easily afford to pay at least $1000 for each of his 39,000 voters. But there will be limits to what he can do, especially as he harbors higher office ambitions (see post below, NOW).

While Sa`d Hariri salutes the masses, polling stations in Beirut show crowds of enthusiastic voters. Posted by Hello
I heard the Minister of Interior in Saudi Arabia say that the health of the Saudi king keeps improving. In fact, if he keeps improving he may start to reverse the aging process.
Some people believe that the rise of Sunni religio-political movements in Syria is due to opposition against the regime. Others believe that the Syrian intelligence service is behind the rise of those groups. I believe that both sides are correct.
Abu Mazen will be going to Tunisia hoping to calm Faruq Qaddumi down. Qaddumi has been very critical of Abu Mazen. The latter (along with Arafat's nephew, Nasir Al-Qidwah--the new Palestinian foreign minister) has been trying to replace all of Qaddumi's people in the Palestinian foreign service. But during the days of Arafat, Qaddumi's criticisms of the PLO leadership usually declined when large amounts of funds got transferred to the Political Department (headed by Qaddumi).
Gabriel Yared. (His recent work has become too commercial for my taste).
Since Israeli was forced to withdraw from South Lebanon in 2000, there have been more than 220 victims of Israeli mines left behind. Israel left some 400,000 mines in South Lebanon. When asked about this matter, Kofi Annan pledged that the UN and the Security Council will not rest until the identity of Hariri's killers are found.
When I wrote my cynical and mocking commentaries about the Hummus and Tabbulah Revolution, I was told that I was being too cynical and that I was judging Lebanon and the Lebanese by old standards. I of course now feel vindicated. Anthondy Shadid of the Washington Post here talks about "Sectarian Differences Begin to Surface Again." (They never sank below the surface, I argue).
I must say this: Hassan Fattah got it right in the New York Times today. "But the sense of bold changes that swept Lebanon after the assassination on Feb. 14 of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, has largely been overtaken by backroom politicking, and the sense that little may have changed after all. Save for a few campaign events, little outreach has been made to the average voter. Instead, most crucial decisions have been made in backroom deals After the months of street rallies, international crises and political intrigue, the vote, for many, now seems an anticlimax. Lebanon's elections, like its politics, seem, inevitably, a labyrinth of sectarian division and time-honored tradition. The 128-member Parliament is evenly split between Christians and Muslims, while the country's demographic distribution is far different - though exact information is unavailable. No one here dares conduct a census." (A source in Lebanon tells me that Hassan Fattah has been wondering about the reasons for my previous attacks on his reporting. Nothing personal--I don't even know the guy. It is all about politics and standards.)

On election day, Beirutis went in large numbers to...THE BEACH. Posted by Hello
Sa`d Al-Hariri has been tutored in Lebanese dialect. Many Beirutis recently complained that Sa`d Al-Hariri's Saudi dialect is too hard to understand. A tutor was brought in, and his accent has become more Beiruti. Here, he speaks to the Washington Post about his decision to seek--or buy, in the tradition of his father--the prime ministership of Lebanon. When asked "who rules Lebanon"? He simply said: "the Europeans, the Americans and the Gulf States." I never thought that I would agree with a Hariri but here I agree fully. In another point of the interview, Hariri reversed his earlier and other statements on Hizbullah by saying: "We will disarm them." That will be quite a spectacle. When Hariri takes his supporters from Tariq Al-Jadidah to disarm Hizbullah. Good luck Sa`d.
Egyptian actor, `Adil Imam (who is politically speaking a demagogue having expressed simultaneous admiration for Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak no less) was recently asked about the recent demonstrations in Egypt. He said: "The recent demonstrations in Egypt were not in the interest of the homeland." Perhaps because they were demonstrations not commanded by the maximum leader.
"There's Democracy, and There's an Oil Pipeline"

Festivities of the Lebanese elections. Security Forces (who answer to the Minister of Interior--who in the last 2000 election was answering to Salim Diyab, the chief campaign manager for Hariri, Inc) were called in after armed goons of Walid Jumblat attacked this center of Harakat Ash-Sha`b in Beirut. Don't expect the UN Security to call for the disarming of Jumblat's goons.  Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Haere Mai, 1891. Gauguin. Posted by Hello
"Aid officials are worried that the United States might not make its annual contribution to a United Nations food drive for North Korea. The U.S. has been one of the largest suppliers of food to the impoverished nation, last year providing 50,000 tons. It has not yet indicated whether it will make a pledge this year, said Anthony Banbury, Asia director of the U.N. World Food Program. "I think there is a real split in the U.S. government on whether conditions are ripe" for a contribution this year, said Banbury, who met with reporters Friday in Seoul."
This is the new Lebanon: "Following a spate of bombings aimed at Christian targets, young men describing themselves as 'vigilantes' have appeared in the wake of the attacks, leading some to fear a revival of the old Christian 'Phalangist' militias - and the memories of the slaughter that they perpetrated."
"Für Elise sounds better in Bonn"
Gen. Michel `Awn claims that he wants to fight corruption in Lebanon. He wants to end the prevalent nepotism and favoritsm in Lebanese politics. Toward that end, he designated two major leaders of his movement, Alain `Awn (his nephew) and Jubran Basil (his son-in-law) to tackle the issue. It is not clear whether his candidate in Zahlah (another `Awn) will also fight this good fight.

Iraqis ("liberated") Posted by Hello
Nakabat Filastin.
On the farce of the Lebanese election: For those who know Arabic, there is wealth of information on this section of Al-Jazeera's website (thanks Amir). Christian Science Monitor has an interview with their Beirut correspondent, Nicholas Blanford, on the Lebanese election. Surprisingly, I don't have much problems with it...but there is one error. He says: "The prime minister is selected by the president after he holds consultations with members of parliament and hears their views." That is not true. After Ta'if reforms, and their incorporation into the new amended Lebanese constitution, the consultations that the president holds with members of parliament are binding on him/her--Lebanon will have a female president when the US has one, in a century or two. The President does NOT select the prime minister; the deputies do. So tomorrow is the first round of the Lebanese elections. This is the most predictable parliamentary election in modern Lebanese history. There was less predicability even under Syrian domination. Only in Jabal Lubnan and Zahlah there are some mysteries regarding the results. The rest is predetermined...by French/Saudi/US embassies, Hariri money, and the electoral law that already gave South Lebanon to Hizbullah-Amal, for example. To add to the list of deputies who will not face challengers, yesterday two more names were added. Walid Jumblat and Marwan Hamadah will not face any challengers. Thus, 16 members of parliament have won their seats...prior to the casting of the first ballot. Sa`d Al-Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia yesterday to check on the health of King Fahd. How sweet; and how tender, and how touching. And for harmony and concord, the US embassy yesterday hosted a nice candle light dinner--lunch actually--for Jumblat, `Awn, Nasib Lahhud, and other members of the right-wing sectarian opposition--and all deputies in parliament will be right-wing and sectarian, regardless whether they are Muslim or Christian. I don't believe that any Shi`ites were invited to the dinner. They may be persona non grata in the US embassy in `Awkar. The dinner was held to welcome visiting Senators, McCain, Sununu, and Graham. Hours after they left Lebanon, Sen. Joe Biden came to Lebanon, where Sa`d Al-Hariri immediately made a spread of Hummus for him. How sweet, how nice, and how tender. Al-Mustaqbal reported some of the discussions at the US embassy. It reported that they all expressed opposition to the disarming of Hizbuallh. `Awn told the senators that the civil war was due to external factors, while Jumblat jumped in to say "I fought you for internal, not external, reasons." They did not punch one another from what I read. What a bunch. There may be two surprises tomorrow, or three: 1) the percentage of participation in Muslim and Christian areas. That will say a lot; 2) the contrast between the Christian and Muslim votes in reference to the two particularly loathed candidates (in Muslim areas) Solange Gemayyel and Jubran Tuwayni; 3) the chances of Najah Walim in the 2nd district of the Beirut election. The press conference by Salim Diyab (Hariri's chief campaign manager) yesterday in which he lashed out against Wakim tells me that inside polling may have indicated that Wakim was making inroads (among Sunni voters that is). But the money factor is the second (after Rafiq Hariri's dead body) major voter in this election, not to mention the foreign embassies mentioned above. The Hariri campaign wants the Sunnis to think that their vote is for Rafiq Hariri although the man is dead. Imagine an election where political money is absolutely and categorically unregulated and unmonitored. How democratic were elections in Chicago in the 1930s? I am asking you. Former prime minister `Umar Karami mentioned a conversation he had with the US ambassador (he did not name him but ان اللبيب من الاشارة يفهم
--an Arabic proverb that can be translated as: "the intelligent person can understand by mere signs"). Karami was listening to the ambassador going on about democracy and elections, when Karami reminded him about the vast political money used for bribery and influence in Lebanon by Hariri, Inc. At that point, the ambassador said: "Oh, we have that in my country too." Not to that degree, no.
From a poem by Iraqi poet `Aqil `Ali (the one who was left to die on a Baghdad street because he smelled of alcohol--see post below) (my translation):
"Who was that
Who was
that who carries the eagerness
of the spinster at the
threshold of the sea
the fruits of his shoulder are
full of glasses
traveling in the traces,
counting the traps of dreams
How passable these hills are
in their heights,
how passable are the villages
and they are with their sun
calling on you
you, the savior
how extremely low is hope
You loved them with all your
Them, who stand now
like a wall in front of you
They don't want to disentangle
from the truth of their
ownership of you
This is the morning of today
like the morning of yesterday
Millions of horns
sounding within
millions of horns
You alone taught me
to grab with my hand
the bushes of knowledge
and with my other hand
its straws"
I spoke to a friend in Beirut the other day. He/she met recently with the French ambassador and his wife in Lebanon. The person tells me that the French ambassador's wife (and to a lesser extent the ambassador himself) expressed her outrage at the plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon, and the worsening socio-economic status of the community. Yet, in Lebanon: they speak about improving the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians in Lebanon but only after disarming them. Do they think that the Palestinians will rely on security assurances of the Lebanese state, which did so much to hurt and harm them in the past, for their safety?

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949. Rothko. Posted by Hello
ACLU: "Defense Department Personnel Impersonated State Department Officials in Guantánamo Interrogations, FBI"
"over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody so far"
"Iraq ablaze"
Bush's reforms come to the Middle East: "Violence Mars Egyptian Referendum About Presidential Vote"
Berkeley's "KPFA pair give young Palestinians a voice" (thanks Nora for NOT sending me this article)
"Muslims Across World Protest Koran Reports" (I wish those Muslims equally--if not more--protest the daily killing of Iraqis)
This is Zionism: "The commander of an Israeli army squad has been suspended after his patrol took over a Palestinian home and confined the family to a spare room so the soldiers could watch Liverpool's victory in the Champions League final."

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mafia Nature of Politics in Lebanon: It occurred to me today how many of the Lebanese political bosses in present-day Lebanon have had a member of their family assassinated over the years: this is a partial list of the main ones:
Duri Sham`un (his brother Dani was assassinated)
Walid Jumblat (his father Kamal was assassinated)
Sa`d Id-Din Al-Hariri (his father was assassinated)
Sulayman Franjiyyah (his father was assassinated)
Saulange Gemayyel (her husband was assassinated)
Amin Gemayyel (his brother was assassinated)
Pierre Gemayyel (his uncle was assassinated)
`Umar Karami (his brother was assassinated)
Nayla Mu`awwad (her husband was assassinated)
Samir Franjiyyah (his cousin was assassinated)
Usamah Sa`d (his brother survived an assassination attempt)
Bahiyyah Al-Hariri (her brother was assassinated)

I will not list those who survived assassination attempts. The list is too long. Among them: Walid Jumblat, Amin Gemayyel, Salim Huss, Michel Murr, Marwan Hamadah, Michel `Awn, Nabih Birri, Rashid As-Sulh, among many others.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Untitled (Black on Grey), 1969/1970. Rothko. Posted by Hello
And now, a new look at the crusades from a 2005 crusader: "For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression—an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands. Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword." Thomas F. Madden, Professor and History Department Chair, St. Louis University. (thanks Ghada for alerting me to this)
"Pentagon admits five acts of 'mishandling' the Koran" (mishandlings of human beings were not counted)
Amnesty Internation on Syria: "End crackdown on human rights defenders"
The spoiled brats of Arab Rulers: "Gaddafi's son sentenced: A Paris court gave a son of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, a suspended four-month sentence for slapping a seven-month pregnant woman and carrying a gun without a licence, a judicial source said. Hannibal Gaddafi was also fined €500 (£340) over the incident, which occurred in February."
Saddam..A SUFI WITH CUBAN CIGARS AND ITALIAN SUITS: There is an annoying construction of Saddam's (false) heroic image in Al-Quds Al-`Arabi. All of Saddam's conversations with his lawyer are reported in details. Today, we learn more about the last meeting between Saddam and his lawyer. He reports that Saddam was sorry because "he was not permitted to be martyred when he was arrested." He said: "I wished I had my gun on me at that moment, so that I would have been martyred or cut the throat [sic, he used the word "dhabaht"] of one of the Americans at least, but providence did not permit me that." Saddam again claims that he was arrested in the house of his friend in Ad-Dawrah. He wants to believe that he was praying at that point because Saddam, like Noriega, has found God in jail. He said that he was betrayed but did not want to identify the person responsible. As usual, Saddam sent "his salutations" to the Palestinian people. I hate it when he does that. His regime used he Palestinians but never cared about them unless you count his support for the terrorist Abu Nidal as support for the Palestinians. And in the 1980s, his regime entered into negotiations with the Israelis but Saddam's supporters do not want to believe that. But nothing, NOTHING, irritated more in this 1st page article than this sentence: "And Saddam lives in a state of religious Sufism [mysticism] since the collapse of his rule that made him ascetic in his life and inside his jail cell." As if the brutal tyrant has a choice. Like he can choose to eat caviar in his cell? And An-Nahar's newspaper claims that it received (and published) the text of letters exchanged between Saddam Husayn and Muhammad Baqir As-Sadr from March 1980, one month before Saddam executed As-Sadr. But there are no photocpies produced to judge the athenticity of the letters. The letters published, in my estimation, represented the thought and the style of both, but how knows?
I have been reporting to you the results of the Lebaense "election" before it even takes place. There are some deputies who have already won because there is nobody running against them. In South Lebanon yesterday, and after the official end of the deadline for nominations, 6 members of parliament from the South have won because they do not face any opposition. (Don't confuse them with those from the Beirut electoral districts who already have won their seats). Secretary Rice today said that the Lebanese elections may not be "perfect." Now why would she say that? I thought that the Hummus and Tabbulah Revolution solved all of Lebanon's problems.

How dare she? Goons of Husni Mubarak are beating her because she dared to join the Kifaya opposition movement while Bush is busy praising Mubarak's "reforms". Apparently, those who voted for Mubarak's reforms (his reforms basically stipulate that he will decide who will run against him). Don't laugh. The next presidential election may bring surprises. I really can't predict how Husni Mubarak will fare when he runs against Husni Mabarak. I bet Mubarak may win. What do you think? Posted by Hello
"The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline"
The (new) Arab Cold War: For those who follow Arab politics, there is (only slightly under the surface) a new Arab cold war. The late Malcolm Kerr wrote about the war between Nasser and his rivals in the 1950s and 1960s in his book, The Arab Cold War. Now, there is an intense and undeclared war between Syria and Saudi Arabia, and between Sunni and Shi`ite Arabs on another level. The pro-Saudi press for example is clearly taking swipes at the new Iraqi government, perhaps because it represents Shi`ite (and indirectly Iranian) political ascendancy, and yet the Saudi press was fawning in its coverage of `Allawi, their man. There is an unrelenting Saudi propaganda campaign against the Syrian government, and it is unrelenting. I say that after Al-Arabiyya TV aired a "documentary" on the Syrian role in Lebanon. The piece had more than a tinge of racism and sectarian prejudice to its contents, and had on the antiSyrain side, the most eloquent speakers, and on the Syrian side, they invited famous buffoon, `Asim Qansu, the head of the pro-Syrian Ba`th party in Lebanon (which has 3 or 4 members). In fact, one protestor in the documentary(and only right-wing opposition protestors were featured) was taped shouting that "we are the real authentic" Lebanese, in reference to the inauthentic presumably Shi`ite Lebanese, who were dubbed as sheep by Jubran Tuwayni, who is on Hariri's electoral list in Beirut, along with a Hizbullah candidate--dont be surprised. There are no principled parties and candidates in Lebanon. None. The Syrian-Saudi cold war has not yet been declared, and it is obscured by that typical traditional Arab official obfuscation and dissimulation. Crown Prince `Abdullah even visited Syria recently. And the Syrian and Saudi leaders will be seen shaking hands and kissing (even French kissing), but that is typical political fraudulence. And it seems to me that the assassination of Hariri should be seen not as the cause of the Syrian-Saudi war, but as its effect. I am told that there are minutes of meetings in which Rafiq Hariri spoke unfavorably of Shi`ites, and that they may be released. Saudi-American relations are almost fully repaired: Saudi Arabia now toes the line on Arab-Israeli issues, oil, "war on terrorism," and Lebanon. Of course, the House of Saud has not changed the ideology that produced Bin Laden, and will continue to produce future Bin Ladens. But you dont expect Bush's officials to look that far ahead, or even ahead at all. If the Saudi-Syrian cold war escalates, and if the Syrian minority regime feels cornered, this conflict could spread in violence to places beyond the two countries, and certainly beyond Lebanon where this conflict will play itself out. And the Syrian regime seems to be in a self-destructive mode, losing the few friends that it has had. When I read today the name of Talal Salman, the publisher of As-Safir, as a signatory of a statement against the recent Syrian crackdown (and arrest) of the leaders of the Atasi Forum, I knew that the Syrian regime has lost one of the most passionate and consistent supporters in Lebanon. Anybody who ever says a word of praise for any Arab regime will one day regret his/her words. I make it easier for myself by never praising, and never harboring any illusions about any of those regimes. Today, I heard Gen. Michel `Awn say that "the Lebanese are the most civilized people in the world." Does that civilization include the savagery of the Lebanese civil war when people used to find barrels (collected by the right-wing militia of the Lebanese Forces) of severed penises from victims who were stopped at checkpoints for belonging to the "wrong religion"?

Nothing--no Zionist barrier or wall--will stop Palestinian march toward independence.  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Gleaner, August 1978. G. Baselitz. Posted by Hello
"US terror laws 'creating a new generation of the disappeared'"
Bush remakes the Middle East: Celebrate. "Security forces and violent gangs cracked down on dissenters yesterday as Egyptians voted in a constitutional referendum that opposition parties have denounced as a sham."
Full text. Amnesty International Report 2005.
"Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant"
"Laura Bush Endorses Mubarak's Ballot Plan"
His Step to stay tyrant for life Called 'Very Bold'
"FBI Records Cite Quran Abuse Allegations"
"Balfour Declaration draft to be auctioned in NY"
The literary-political magazine, Al-Adab, has a new website. For those who care, past articles of mine can be accessed. Here, there is "Against Francophonie: The Falsity of Lebanese Culture"; and here there is "How do we Stay Arab, How do we Stay Human? Or, Challenging Globalization."

Goons of Mubarak supervising free and democratic voting in Egypt. Posted by Hello
Full text. "U.S. WEAPONS AT WAR 2005: PROMOTING FREEDOM OR FUELING CONFLICT? U.S. Military Aid and Arms Transfers Since September 11." You have to see this table.
Did you extend your tongue at the King of Jordan? I am translating this item verbatim from Hariri's newspaper, Al-Mustaqbal:
"Former Jordanian deputy Dr. Riyadh An-Nawayisah appeared before the Court of The Security of the State in Amman the day before yesterday, accused of criticizing Jordanian King Abdullah, in the wake of the speech that he [Nawayisah that is] had given...Nawayisah denied before the judge of the court that he was guilty, and said that his speech did not contain any insults to the king, and that he spoke "with a political opinion and did not hurl any curses that require a trial." It is to be noted that article 195 of the Jordanian Penal Code stipulates that "he who is convicted in daring to extend his tongue at the king [sic], whether by a written, oral, or electronic letter or by a photograph or caricature is to be sentenced from one to three years in jail." In other news, Bush this week praised political reforms in Jordan.

Mubarak of Egypt. Posted by Hello
My name is the House of Saud, and I will be your servant forever, Uncle Sam. I can't believe how hard the House of Saud is trying to please the US. They are mostly winning US approval by the incredible restructuring of the Arab media, almost all of which are Saudi-financed in one way or another. The Arab media are now synchronized and carefully calibrated to US propaganda interests especially after the abysmal failure of Hurra-TV, and musical--but not news--success of Sawa Radio. Harb, who runs both stations, did not know that his mission was not to urge Arab youth to dance to musical tunes. In one week, Thomas Friedman, as I mentioned before, paid tribute to a columnist in Al-Hayat, a columnist of Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, and mentioned Rose ElYoussef. US propagandists are taking notice very quickly. But this has gone too far. AlHayat has started a website in English to translate its neo-conservative articles to please the US government. And Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat yesterday launched its English website. But it was a glaring omission that the various Arab nationalist and Islamic-oriented columnists (who are censored and tightly controlled of course) are not translated. Only the right-wing Saudi columnists who are handpicked by the House of Saud are translated in full. You will be able to judge how insightful and sophisticated these columns are, especially by the new editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Tariq Al-Mu'ayyid, who was appointed to his position before he celebrated his 17th birthday by Prince Faysal bin Salman, who runs the show there. And this week, Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat and the Center for Strategic and International Studies held a joint conference on US-Saudi relations in Washington, DC. For some bizarre reason, I was not invited although the affair was funded by Prince Faysal bin Salman with whom I used play marbles as a kid--do people still play marbles by the way. I was so good in marble games as a child. I should write about my marble adventures some day. According to AlArabiyya TV report on the affair, the participants agreed that things are getting so much better between the two countries. Now you can sleep better.

For US occupation soldiers in Iraq, that is what the Iraqi people are, at best. Numbers. Mere numbers. Posted by Hello
Today is the 5th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from brutal Israeli occupation. I send my congratulations to the people of South Lebanon--my people by birth--and beyond. Five years ago, my dissertation advisor, Michael Hudson, my sister Mirvat and I toured the entire region by car days after the day of liberation. I was slightly ill in the car and Michael was a careful observer--as always--locating every village on the map. We stood right at the border and looked at Palestine. It has always been melancholic for me to look at Palestine from South Lebanon. My anger will certainly subside if Palestine is liberated, but it will not completely go away. There are many other injustices around the world.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Lebanese actor (Samirah Barudi) was promoting her pet charity on Future TV. In her case, it was domestic violence. I began to be impressed until she said this: "A woman who stays with a man who hits her, does not deserve to live." At that point, I felt like...flying a kite for...peace..on earth.
I have taped an interview with the BBC Arabic service on the Angry Arab site. If anybody in the Middle East happens to catch it, let me know. It should air in 10 days or so.

The Crying Crocodile Tries to Catch the Sun, 1956. Karel Appel. Posted by Hello
`Aqil `Ali is dead. My friend Sinan told me the sad story of Iraqi poet `Aqil `Ali. He died a few days ago. Apparently, he was very ill, and they called the ambulance for his rescue. When it showed up, they refused to pick up him up because he was inebriated. He was left to die on the street. I would never want to live, or die, in a republic of religious virtue.
An Oprah-like show on Future-TV (widely watched in the Arab world) invited a "psychologist". In the course of her discussion, she cited--I am not making this up--the wisdom of Larry King in his latest book. Now that is Globalization, and the earth IS flat (perjoratively speaking, and not in the Thomas Friedman's sense).

His farm was destroyed by Israeli occupation soldiers. Posted by Hello
AlArabiyya: you really need to shut Al-Hurra down when Al-Arabiyya does not cost American taxpayers any money. No matter what they say in public, it is clear, that the US government, and its propagandists, are operating on the assumption that Al-Hurra TV is dead. Nobody is watching it, so US officials now rely on the highly reliable and submissive Al-Arabiyya TV and LBC-TV. In a one-hour news show today, Panorama, they had 3 segments. The anchorwoman (snatched from AlJazeera early on) kept the deputy spokesperson of the Department of State for 2 consecurive segments. In the first segment on Zarqawi, Adam Ereli, was on with a Dubai-based "analyst" who is pro UAE and Gulf governments. He barely said a word. Ereli spoke for the whole time. The next segment was on Syria, and it featured, you guessed it, the helpful Adam Ereli along with Syrian member of rubber stamp parliament, Muhammad Habash. Habash again barely said a word. In fact, when Al-Ramahi ended the segment, we saw Habash talking. Apparently he was talking the whole time but his microphone was cut off lest he offends the honored guest, Mr. Ereli. (Oh, and the last segment on Lebanon, which oddly did not include Ereli, was a debate on Lebanese affairs. For the exciting debate, AlArabiyya invited right-wing member of the `Awn movement (and his nephew), along with right-wing candidate Jubran Tuwayni. That was more than I can handle. In fact, it was at that point that I left to...fly a kite for peace in the Middle East.)
Don't tell anybody. It is trivial, I know. "Iraq Can't Explain $69 Million in Fuel Oil From '04, Audit Says"

Guess who is behind the Iraqi insurgency this week? You are looking at him. He was found red-handed. Posted by Hello
Is Kite Flying good for peace in the Middle East? Yesterday, I posted about the Kite Flying event aimed at bringing peace in the Middle East. I posed several questions for Leila. Leila replied to me on her site. (She had angrier replies, but she then edited them out. I told her that she should have kept them in. I believe that you should not reedit your posts after publishing them, but maybe I am an "original intent" blogger). I am not opposed to Kite Flying. Leila has the right to ask about what I am doing, for "peace in the Middle East" that is. Nothing, but I am not claiming otherwise. I have never claimed that anything I do (writing, teaching, or speaking) is for peace in the Middle East. Hell. I never even said that I want peace in the Middle East, especially when the American vision of peace in the Middle East has coexisted, if not embraced, Israeli killings and oppression. I have to go now. I need to eat some strawberries...for peace in the Middle East of course. Then I need to grade some papers...for peace in the Middle East, of course. I know that Leila is a good person who is well-meaning, but these things, as I said yesterday, could unwittingly belittle the issues, the scale, the scope, and the suffering. But I never say that she can't fly kites. If I have a kite, I would be flying it right now for peace in the Congo.
"U.S. interrogators have repeatedly sought to offend the religious beliefs of Muslim detainees as part of their interrogation strategy, Human Rights Watch said today."
Full text. "Iraq’s Evolving Insurgency". Disregard the section about the Iraqi "model" inspiring other countries in the region.
MESA News: For MESA members, please sign the petition against the recent letter by CAFMENA. I have received many angry letters and messages by MESA members. The next step, according to one person who knows about the bylaws, is to initiate a motion to submit the whole matter to MESA members. Let MESA members decide.
NIALL FERGUSON solves the American problem in Iraq. Basically, he wants more US troops and more brutal methods against Iraqis. He also wants the use of more foreign troops. He does not want withdrawal, though. OK, Niall.
"Wolfensohn: PA must fix financial problems to attract aid"; but Israel must not fix financial problems to attract aid.
What is happening in Syria? Even pro-Syrian publisher Talal Salman of As-Safir raised questions about the recent arrests in Syria. "Eight members of Syria's only active political forum have been arrested in the latest crackdown on dissent." This was the last permitted forum, after the closure of others in 2001. Subhi Al-Hadidi, the well-informed Syrian dissident, wrote in Al-Quds Al-`Arabi that the "offense" of the group was to read a letter sent by the leader of the Syrian Muslim Brothers. He also reports that one member was taken away in her night gown. But you should only be surprised if you ever had hopes in any regime, or if you ever harbored admiration for any Arab "leader." Arab leaders are not only oppressive; they also are dumb. And yet they bask in longevity.

Sen. Clinton did not know that war criminals could be so funny. Posted by Hello
Zarawi and Tatarrus: The news of the wounding of Zarqawi coincided with my reading of the text of his recent long 90-minutes speech that was issued only a few days ago. A kooky Bin Ladenite website has asked readers to pray (mother of all prayers, they want) to cure him. But if prayers save, prophets, popes, and saints would have been immortal. Don't they know. I know. Everybody should know. But reading the text of the speech underline this: US' (and the occupation apparatus') problem is far beyond the person of Zarqawi. This is going to be like the capture of Saddam (who still has fans in Jordan for some reason), and the American official and media expectations that all will be well for occupation afterwards. All will not be well for foreign occupation, no matter what. And the practice AND ideology of Zarqawi ensured that his enemies will only grow, and they will be far beyond the occupation soldiers, and far beyond the Shi`ite community. This was a man whose deeds entailed daily killing of scores of civilians. And reading the long text of the speech, you realize that he knows that he has a serious Muslim PR problem. The entire speech was very defensive in tone--even for Zarqawi, especially for Zarqawi, and thoroughly documented and footnoted (in Islamic jurisprudential sources) which tells me that he may be getting serious library help. Could it be the Islamic `Ulama' Grouping of Harith Adh-Dhari? I do not know. Just speculating. The speech is full of bizarre justifications and rationalizations for the murder of innocent Muslim Iraqis--he appranetly does not feel the need to justify the killing of the others that he kills--at the hands of his group. He drew upon sources to argue for the right to kill fellow Muslim civilians during tatarrus? (meaning, the use of Muslim as shields by the enemy). But could the very notion of tatarrus not be used to justify the killing of Iraqi civilians by occupation army? Zarqawi's tatarrus is the Arabic term for what the Pentagon calls "collateral damage." How similar counterpropagandas are sometimes in justification of violence, indiscriminate violence at that. Also, in times of war and civil strife, hardcore criminals and murderers make their way into militias and organizations and prosper. I saw that in the Lebanese civil war. Zarqawi is one of those. He would probably would be a serial killer in regular times. He AND the occupation authority bear the full responsibility for the killing and mayhem in Iraq. Make no mistake about it. Also, the diatribe against Shi`ites, ALL SHI`ITES, continues in this speech. They are equated with infidels. That anti-Shi`ite rhetoric only helped to rally all Iraqi Shi`ites against his movement and its murderous deeds. But the war of words between Harith Adh-Dhari and `Abdul-`Aziz Al-Hakim will have wider consequences; the signs of Sunni Shi`ite mini-civil wars are there. Occupation practices have only aggravated the tensions. And if Iraqis watch Lebanese TV stations (especially LBC-TV) they will really learn the skills and methods of sectarian sedition.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Velocità astratta + rumore, 1913-14. G. Balla.
 Posted by Hello