Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hariri Dirty Tricks

"Lebanese officials had lobbied to have the decision delayed until after the election, but tribunal judicial figures refused, saying they could not take political considerations into account, said a senior court official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the court’s inner workings."

The Daily Star is excited: it is jumping up and down

It headlines: "UK queen voices 'deep respect' for Lebanese." Why is it that only in Lebanon words of diplomatic courtesy are taken "literally" (as Joe Biden would say)? Like she does not say that when she meets with the head of state form other countries? Does the Daily Star really believe that the Queen of England really has "deep respect" for Lebanese? And who cares what the Queen of England think on any subject? I mean, I care about the views of Helen Mirren, but the Queen?


"The vast majority of Iraqi women face domestic violence on a regular basis and many commit suicide because of it, the United Nations said on Wednesday." Can somebody find me the full text of this report? Oh, and I want it NOW because I have a cold and I am grumpy. death

"Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected the figure, but one official warned the government would be "ripped apart" if it questioned the Lancet's methodology. The government tried to stop publication, but was over-ruled. A subsequent Lancet article claimed that the number of deaths caused by the conflict up to 2006 was more than 650,000."

Robert Fisk on Lebanon

When Robert Fisk writes on Lebanon, his articles should end with "Long Live Hariri and Long Live Jumblat. This article was approved by the press office of the Hariri family." And the article should mention that Abed Fisk's driver) loves the Cedars.

The is still going strong.

Libyan TV affair

More details on the "nationalization" by Qadhdhafi of the TV station owned by his son. Apparently, Mubarak threatened Qadhdhafi to unleash the Egyptian press on him if the TV station aired criticisms of Mubarak. This does not prove the influence of the Egyptian secret police over Egyptian official media. Not at all. Ask Mubarak and his son. (thanks Dina)

Your Prince Nayif

Saudi human rights monitor has received a threat from a Saudi security source. (thanks Haifaa)

SSNP and anti-Semitism

Since my high school days, I would express my disagreements with SSNP's ideology and the writings of its founder, Antun Sa`adah. One of the complaint that I expressed early on is the blatant anti-Semitic language in the literature in which the enemy is presented as "Jews" and even "internal enemies" are referred to as "Jews of the interior." Yet, I have been told that the SSNP is trying to move away from the anti-Semitic language of the past. Yet, this article by an official of the SSNP speaks about a "Judeo-American" conspiracy. What gives?


""We compile reports on their activities, generals' and military units' movements, and their corruption, the positions they are taking in the government and the contracts they are obtaining. But we don't know what to do with these reports because we don't trust the government.""

Caught up

"Controversy has erupted at UC Santa Barbara over a professor's decision to send his students an e-mail in which he compared graphic images of Jews in the Holocaust to pictures of Palestinians caught up in Israel's recent Gaza offensive." Somebody needs to study the propaganda language of US press on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Look at the simple expression "caught up." It means that they were in a bad situation for which no one is to blame.

Zionist crime scene tour

"Briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet.
  • Briefing by officers in the IDF Intelligence and Operations branches.
  • Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings.
  • Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
  • Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.
  • First hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points."
This is an actual ad for a tour of Israel but I will not supply the link lest I give a free advertisement to a criminal organization. (thanks Molly)


"Russia has purchased its first unmanned drones from Israel after its own manufacturers turned out to be ineffective at making the high-tech reconnaissance aircraft, a newspaper reported April 7." (thanks Marcy)

A Palestinian teen

"A Palestinian teen was injured when an Israeli settler rammed her with his car near the southern West bank city of Hebron on Thursday morning."


"Irate Israeli passengers have complained to British BMI airline that the Jewish state was wiped off the inflight map which showed flights bound for Israel were instead heading to Mecca. But the airline denied any anti-Israel agenda and insisted there was a simple explanation: the planes were recently bought from a bankrupt charter company that flew mainly to Muslim countries."

Worst for bloggers

The Committee to Protect Journalists released its list of the 10 worst countries for bloggers. Several Middle East countries are on the list: Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Egypt. I contacted Prince Sultan to get his reaction but he told me that he is too dead to respond. (thanks Mariwan)

A poll that will not be featured in the New York Times

A few years ago, a poll with questionable methodology and dubious purposes was ostensibly conducted in some Palestinian refugee camps. It was received with fanfare (the word is from Arabic, from Al-Farfarah, by the way) and enthusiasm in the American press. Columnists were citing that poll twice a day: before and after meals. So this is a comprehensive survey in the refugee camps in Lebanon was conducted by the Beirut Center and it revealed that 89% of respondents believe they will return. Around 90% affirmed their belief in the Right of Return. But to rely on the New York Times to learn about Middle East politics is like relying on MEMRI to learn about the Arab press.


"Three-quarters of Americans think that Israel should not build settlements on occupied Palestinian land, according to an opinion poll released on Wednesday." But 90% of those polled said that they don't know what Palestine is and they don't know what "the occupied territories refer to. (thanks Olivia)


"Israel has told the European Union to stop criticising Benjamin Netanyahu's government or risk being excluded from future Middle East peace negotiations." (thanks Ali)

The hand of RAND

"In fact, at least a few Islamists seem to see the hand of the RAND Corporation, an American policy organization that produces reports on terrorism and other subjects, in many plots. This year a hard-line Saudi cleric told this reporter during an interview that “RAND-ites” were seeking to de-Islamize Saudi Arabia." Worth misses the point here. People see the hand of RAND not because it is a policy organization that "produces reports on terrorism and other subjects" but because RAND has contracts with many Arab goverments in the Gulf to "reform" their curricula.

Fabrications of MEMRI

So there is a House of Saud columnist (and advocate of eternal rule by House of Saud) who wrote in a Saudi newspaper something favorable to the deeds of the White Man in history. So MEMRI of course produces that in a special bulletin and then labels the man "a reformer." Are you aware how much propaganda humor MEMRI provides for Middle East specialists who laugh at its really dumb tricks? (Oh, the answer to the latter question is: A lot. A whole lot).

Syrian-Lebanese relations

Comrade Samah provides here an excellent and fair review of Syrian-Lebanese relations and its treatment by Arab intellectuals. (thanks As`ad--not me)

The health of the dead Prince

So Prince Sultan arrived in Morocco from New York City. You know what that means, don't you? It means that the dead body of Prince Sultan arrived in Morocco. In fact, he was met at the airport with Moroccan dignitaries carrying shovels: they started to dig already. It is all over. (thanks Michele)

The Four Lebanese Generals are released: who cares?

The Four Lebanese Generals.

This was a powerful team which ruled Lebanon on behalf of the Syrian regime for more than a decade, but in full cooperation with the symbols of the so-called Cedar and Potato Revolution, like Rafiq Hariri and Walid Jumblat. Jamil As-Sayyid was one of the most powerful men in the country for a while: and that pitted him again Nibih Birri who suspected (with justification) that the Syrian regime was grooming him to succeed him as speaker for parliament. The plan was for Sayyid to run in 2005. The generals were finally released today and the spectacle was beyond the expectations: it was well orchestrated and choreographed—to mobilize and inspire the opposition and to tweak and antagonize the March 14 camp. And Jamil As-Sayyid is one tough and shrewd man, and he is one of the best in propaganda in the lousy republic of Lebanon. I strongly believe that the Hariri family (which ruled Lebanon after 2005 on behalf of the American and Saudi regimes just as it ruled prior on behalf of the Syrian regime) put them in jail because they feared their formidable political and intelligence skills, especially the skills and network of Jamil As-Sayyid. And the March 8 camp does not have intelligent figures (except, Nasarallah, Birri and `Awn but their rank is not unified) and As-Sayyid can fill a void, especially in tactical matters where March 8 is pretty dumb while the other side employs a variety of PR and advertising firms in its service. The Lebanese military-intelligence apparatus is of such low caliber that those four represented (and maybe still represent) the elite and the best of the military-intelligence establishment. One of them, `Ali Al-Hajj, was a personal bodyguard of Rafiq Hariri before a conflict arose between them—not on principles, never on principles with the trader Hariri. But I was cautioning friends: you should not assume that this propaganda victory for the opposition will necessarily translate into an electoral victory. No event—no matter how big—will change the basic sectarian stance of the Sunnis and Shi`ites in Lebanon. There are no undecided in Lebanon to speak of, except among a section of the Christians. We know exactly how Sunnis and Shi`ites will vote but the question is the Christians: and the choice there is not between candidates as much as it is between a Christian alliance with Sunnis versus a Christian alliance with Shi`ites. We can speak of only a fraction of the Christian community (let us say some 20 or 25% of the population) who may not be solidly behind `Awn or the Lebanese Forces. So the ability of one event to change basic political realities is very small, if not negligible. And the second factor is money: Hariri family rules not only by virtue of its representation of strong and powerful patron, or by virtue of its skills in acute sectarian agitation and mobilization, but also by its dispense of financial rewards. But this release yesterday is a big event: Jamil As-Sayyid could easily become the brain behind the opposition. This is a very formidable opponent that Hariri family has to contend with. The speech of Sayyid (and of the rest, including the low key Raymond `Azar) was quite strong and impressive, as was his demeanor, if measures by the standards of Lebanese politics. They all sounded strong and unvanquished, and determined to go after their enemies. They now operate with the full knowledge that they will not be arrested again, no matter what. Now let us not go too far in estimation of their skills lest my assessment be misunderstood as praise: these are not some rosy angels: they were part of a government structure that was corrupt and repressive, but so is the present-day government in Lebanon. I can criticize both because I oppose both, but for Walid Jumblat or Hariri to speak from a standpoint of liberty and democracy is like Dahlan speaking about virtue. It can be said that the repression of Hariri government after 2005 exceeded the repression of the Sayyid rule before 2005—you can measure it by the number of people killed on the streets (by government fire) or by the numbers of people killed in Lebanese jails—but Human Rights Watch is busy with the health and welfare of Israeli collaborators and spies to notice. But As-Sayyid and `Azar ruled on behalf of the Syrian regime (with Jumblat and Rafiq Hariri) and they implemented Syrian orders in Lebanon, and helped impose its order. Politically, As-Sayyid is not grateful to the lack of support (until a few months ago) from Hizbullah and its allies who remained silent for more than 2 years after the arrest of the four generals. But As-Sayyid needs Hizbullah and the March 8 opposition needs a leader who is not Birri and who is not Hizbullah (and who is Shi`ite). The Hariri machine must be in tears or in great embarrassment: mini-Hariri, who always appears fumbled and tattering and hesitant and incompetent and clumsy and inarticulate and illiterate, appeared more so today in his statement that he read (he always reads, and very badly and very erroneously). He looked as if he was announcing death in the family. Of course, this comes as a great blow to the prestige and standing of the Lebanese judiciary: as if it was ever credible in the history of Lebanon. I remember when growing up when Lebanese politicians would call individual judges to free murderers and rapists if they happened to belong to the supporters of this Za`im or that Za`im. The Hariri family went too far in its accusation and charges without evidence, and in fabricating evidence: the International Court did not yet deal with the manipulation of two witnesses by individual who work directly for Mini-Hariri. Personally, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as international justice in the age of US domination. No court is immune from US influences and interferences, and those fools in Lebanon and Syria will now rush to praise the court will be disappointed soon. After the release of the four generals, for example, the court issued a special statement in which it said that it could re-arrest the generals if evidence is found against them. There was no need for that statement, and it merely stated basic facts and axioms but it was clearly designed to help the sagging fortunes of the Hariri coalition in Lebanon, as was the silly statement that came from Washington, DC. It was clearly a response to the propaganda blow that its camp suffered in Lebanon. The TV images were quite vivid and the generals were smart in talking about “the innocent poor prisoners” in jail—a clear reference to Sunni fundamentalist prisoners. Hariri family is lucky in inheriting billions: but the family is quite unlucky to have somebody of the caliber of mini-Hariri (I really can’t think of a more incompetent and more unqualified person) to head the family and manage its political affairs. But to be incompetent and have the charisma of a potato is a double misfortune. Personally, I don’t care to know who killed Rafiq Hariri—that is the least of my concern. I care more about finding the identity of the person who planted the potato that now sits in my fridge. The question is a political one, first and foremost just as the Bush administration acted as if it really cared about Hariri and as if it really grieved over his death when Bush humiliated Hariri back in 2002 (I think) when Rafiq met with him to ask for US financial help (for one of the Paris conferences for Lebanon). A person who was present in the Oval Office in that meeting told me that it was embarrassing how much Bush humiliated Hariri. He bluntly told him: why not use your own money, or why not ask your friend King Fahd. But I am told that Rafiq Hariri defended the Syrian regime and Hizbullah in that meeting, just as this duplicitious person did all his life in public. In private, he always played game and lied. It is all a matter of political exploitation. I am not sure that we will know who killed Hariri. The chief of Internal Security in Lebanon (a Hariri man, Ashraf Rifi) never believed that the four generals were guilty, but he was not a decision maker. He did not even think that Syria’s intelligence chief in Lebanon, Rustum Ghazalah, was involved. He was convinced that the Syrian regime (at the highest level) dispatched a special team for the assassination and that it did not even consult with or inform the Syrian intelligence or military apparatus in Lebanon at the time. It could still be a fanatical fundamentalist network of some sorts. That is possible too. It is not clear what will happen: the electoral prospects remain largely unchanged but the credibility of the Hariri family remains weak especially among the Christians and it is more uncredible now. The Hariri family has mortgaged the future of Lebanon and Lebanon will continue to pay the price for intrigues and conspiracies that Rafiq Hariri (politically and economically and militarily) imposed on Lebanon. Oh, and lest I forget: there were other developments in the Hariri tribunal yesterday: blah blah blah blah, and blah.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mubarak Rule

"The Palestinian Ministry of Health of the dissolved Hamas government in Gaza reported Monday evening that a 70-year old man died of kidney failure after the Egyptian Health Ministry refused to recognize transfer papers to an Egyptian hospital."

My least concern

Of all the questions in Middle East politics, I care least about the question of who killed Rafiq Hariri. I could not care less. (Although I did read that he did not take good care of his health and indulged in bad food.)

Gaza: never forget, never forgive

"U.S. corporate media coverage of the Israeli military attacks launched December 27 that, as of January 13, had reportedly killed over 900 and injured thousands more—many of them civilians—has overwhelmingly failed to mention that indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets are illegal under international humanitarian law. "


MEMRI is promoting some Egyptian dude for remarks he made that they liked regarding Israel. So they decided to label him as a "philosopher". This is like referring to Husni Mubarak as thinker.

UAE shame

"The United Arab Emirates is also shamefully equivocating after a year-long campaign against Leviev selling his diamonds in the emirate of Dubai. Dubai's government, despite repeated assurances that Leviev would not be allowed to open two diamond boutiques in the emirate, has allowed Leviev to open stores under another name while his website advertises a Leviev store-in-store at one of the "Levant" shops of his Dubai partner, Arif bin Khadra. A second Levant store in Dubai's Atlantis hotel boldly touts the Leviev brand." (thanks Bill)

Political prisoner

"On Friday, 1 May, Palestinian Nael Barghouthi will become the world’s record-holder as the longest-held political prisoner." (thanks Marcy)

Mubarak and pigs

The Mubarak regime executes people and now they want to execute all pigs in Egypt. The Egyptian ineffective parliament ordered a mass execution of pigs. Pigs were accused of trying to overthrow the Mubarak dictatorship. Cronies of Mubarak will, however, be spared.

UAE and torture

"One of the few notes of condemnation inside the Middle East came from the Iranian Press TV which said Sheikh Issa "has reaffirmed all the behaviours stereotyped in western films, media and literature about the basic and cruel nature of desert dwellers" – a fair point, except that the Iranian regime itself is no angel in these matters and has its own axe to grind against the UAE." Before Brian Whitaker dispenses praise on Iranian TV, he should know that in fact this is a big story in the Middle East and I am receiving links to the tape and criticisms of it probably hourly, and from Arabs around the Arab world. I like and respect Whitaker (and I still recommend his critique of MEMRI and of Arab Development reports) although I did not like his book on gays in the Arab world but he should make more of an effort to destinguish between regime and people.

Zionist swine

So the only swine infected in the Middle East are cases of Zionist swine.

Mukhabarat and media

Egyptian columnist, Fahmi Huwaydi, notes that the recent crisis between Egyptian regime and Hizbullah reveals the extent of control over Egyptian media by the intelligence services.


""No one knows when the trigger of revolution will be pulled. The state is oppressive, but ordinary Egyptians from all over sympathize with us," said Aziz, who likes to recall the passions that roused his countrymen's 1919 revolution against the British." (thanks Olivia)

Lebanese presence in the North Pole

A very funny piece by comrade Khalid about Lebanese presence in the North Pole.

Damascus ahead of Beirut

I am thrilled to announce that Damascus is ahead of Beirut in the international survey of "quality of living." The website does not contain the whole list but I am referring to the whole list that I received. (thanks Rime)

Lebanese Minister of Health

Lebanon's Minister of Health, Muhammad Khalifah, is one of the very best ministers in Lebanon (although he is part of the share of the corrupt sectarian movement, Amal). He yesterday gave general comments about precautions and prevention regarding the swine flu. He said among other things that people should avoid close contact and the traditional Lebanese greeting with kisses. Common sensical approach. Yet, some are presenting this as "Lebanese Minister bans kissing." This should be viewed as part of Lebanon's internal bickering.

Hariri Tribunal

I need to update you about the Hariri tribunal. Blah blah blah and blah. Oh, and the four generals were released.

Qadhdhafi and his son

More on the nationalization by Qadhdhafi of the TV station (Al-Libiyyah) owned by his son because it aired criticisms of Husni Mubarak. (thanks Dina)

Cowardly clerics

`Abdul-Bari `Atwan (with whom I am in disagreement over many issues especially his admiration of Saddam and Bin Laden) here castigates Arab Muslim clerics for their cowardice. Yusuf Al-Qardawi (the fulminating and demagogic tele-cleric) has been banned from UAE and he would not say a word on the matter.

His doctors were stunned

According to the Saudi sleaze website, Elaph, the doctors of Prince Sultan in New York City were "stunned" with his response to medication. You know what that means? The mad is dead. Very dead.

Abu `Umar Al-Baghdadi

So the Iraqi puppet government announced the capture of Abu `Umar Al-Baghdadi. Now we remember that the same government previously announced the death of Al-Baghdadi. He must have risen from the dead. Also, the sneaky (pro-US/pro-Iran) Muwaffaq Ar-Rubay`i who was appointed by Bremer as the National Security Adviser was sacked. What gives?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Husayn Musawi

Husayn Musawi is now heading the Hizbullah list in Ba`albak. He was leader of Islamic Amal and later merged with Hizbullah. This story about him from the archives: "In the late 1980s, when Husayn Musawi (then leader of Islamic Amal and now Executive Assistant to the Secretary-general of the Party of God (Hizbullah) was a “big name” in Western media, linked by US to series of bombings, hijackings, and kidnappings, I went as a graduate student to interview him in Ba`albak in the Biqa` valley. During the interview, he asked me if I had eaten. I said: No. He asked his son Hisham to bring me some food. There came Hisham with a delicious tray of Arabic breakfast food that I love. I immediately began to eat. Musawi looked at me fiercely and intensely, and asked: “Have you not forgotten something?” I said: “What?” He said: “Don’t you know that food is more delicious when you precede it by saying In the Name of God, the merciful, the compassionate?” I paused but then continued to eat.)"

US Ambassador in Lebanon (II)

New TV added more details about the failed visit by the US ambassador in Lebanon to South Lebanon. It showed a group of angry female demonstrators making threats against the ambassador, and there were shoes hailed in the air. When the ambassador made it to the school, she was asked by angry residents about the value of US aid when Israel destroys South Lebanon.

Dahlan army

"The United States plans to expand a programme to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces in the occupied West Bank, the general in charge of training and equipping them said on Monday. "We have plans to train at least three more battalions before this time next year," Lieutenant General Keith Dayton told Reuters. Each battalion has about 500 members." A picture of one of the graduating classes is above.

US Ambassador in Lebanon

US ambassador in Lebanon was inaugurating some theater in some schools in `Aba in South Lebanon earlier today. As soon as she arrived, reporters gathered and showered her with questions about American support for Israeli war crimes in Lebanon. Suddenly, a crowd gathered outside with makeshift signs against American embrace of Israeli war crimes and the use of American weapons in South Lebanon. She hurried and left. This is based on a report with footage on NBN TV.

Wahhabi standards

"Many women-only sports clubs and gyms in Saudi Arabia face closure under a government clampdown on unlicensed premises, Saudi media have reported."


"Today, 66 percent of Jerusalem's residents are Jews and 34 percent are Arabs. By 2020, the Jews are expected to comprise 60 percent of the city's population, while the Arabs are expected to reach 40 percent." What would it be in 2050 or 2080, I wonder. (thanks Sana)

To wear or not to wear...the abayah

"Although many Western women do choose to wear an abaya while traveling in Saudi Arabia, and the Foreign Office recommends "conservative dress," the airline's requirement that female flight attendants consider the abaya "part of the uniform" upon arrival in Saudi Arabia seems excessive. (In 2002, legal action over a similar issue with the U.S. military resulted in the U.S. Senate passing "legislation that prohibited defense officials from requiring female personnel to wear abayas.") Yet the employment tribunal looking into Ashton's complaint "ruled that BMI was justified in imposing 'rules of a different culture' on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination."" But the article assumes that wearing or not wearing the abayah determines whether one is a feminist or not. (thanks Molly)

Sons of.....................Abbas

"Reuters’ recent review of U.S. aid programs in the Palestinian territories uncovered two USAID
contracts made with the sons of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that are involved with the agency’s attempts to promote a better public image of the U.S., winning over the hearts and minds of the Palestinians through advertising and infrastructure. Sky Advertising, managed by Abbas’ son Tarek, was awarded a $659,600 contract in May 2006, to take part in a USAID’s campaign to “reduce the negative attitudes and skepticism held by many Palestinians towards economic assistance from the American people.” The other contract of $1.89 million was awarded in May 2005 to a firm owned by Yasser Abbas, Falcon Electro Mechanical Contracting Company, to build a sewage treatment facility in the West Bank."


A group with Fath insists on the exclusion of Dahlan gang from the Fath conference. Mahmud Darwish's closest friend, Akram Haniyyah, is a Dahlanist. (thanks Mirvat)


" An anti-Israel student event was planned, and then canceled Monday, at New York University (NYU). The student, who has asked to hold an event unrelated to Israel, was actually planning an event to explore Israeli "brutality" against the Palestinians. After receiving permission to host an event at NYU on May 4, based on a proposal for a forum on climate change, the student responsible then hung flyers for a conference on "The Hidden History of Zionism: The Road to Gaza's Killing Fields," (thanks Sophie)


"One Monday, Israel's deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, who belongs to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, said the outbreak should be renamed "Mexican flu" in deference to Jewish and Muslim sensitivities over pork." (thanks Sarah)

All that you have done to our people is registered in notebooks

"Israeli settlers destroyed Palestinian farmers’ crops and took over land that belongs to farmers near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, while soldiers searched homes in the old city part on Tuesday."


"Once a profitable business, Abu Abdallah's tunnel under the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been out of work for three weeks due to an Egyptian security crackdown on smuggling." Bullshit. For $10 I can still arrange for the body of Prince Sultan to be smuggled to Gaza.

Israel's demise: or the demise of the usurping entity

"Israel's current policy is leading toward the country's demise, journalist and head of the WorldNetDaily Jerusalem bureau claims in his newly-released book..." News? This is news? I was a toddler when I first predicted Israel's demise.

Saudi-US conspiracy?

US-Saudi conspiracy? What US-Saudi conspiracy? I have noticed that all pro-US occupation media (Saudi and Hariri) now consistently publish pictures of US occupation soldiers playing with Iraqi children. It has become a standard picture that accompany all articles dealing with Iraq in those dirty media.

Mubarak rule

Egyptian authorities arrest a Saudi physician in Egypt because he had a picture of Hasan Nasrallah. He was later released. Human Rights Watch and Freedom House both considered the arrest a sure sign of democratic reform and progress under Mubarak. In other news, Mubarak denied that he was the source of the swine flu. He blamed others.

Ready for burial

"Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, who had surgery in New York in February, will return home soon, one of his sons said in remarks carried by the official SPA news agency on Tuesday." You know what that means, don't you? It only means one thing and one thing only. The man is dead. The prince is dead: down with the prince. It is over. He will be returned for burial. We know how much he likes to stay at the Waldorf Astoria, so for him to leave and go home is a sure sign of death. Deep death. (thanks Olivia)

Corporate Swine

"The boy’s hometown, La Gloria, is also close to a pig farm that raises almost 1 million animals a year. The facility, Granjas Carroll de Mexico, is partly owned by Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based US company and the world’s largest producer and processor of pork products. Residents of La Gloria have long complained about the clouds of flies that are drawn the so-called “manure lagoons” created by such mega-farms, known in the agriculture business as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)." (thanks Matthew)

Dahlan, O Dahlan

"This can be best illustrated by a non-event, namely the sixth Fatah general conference, which some 20 years on since the last such meeting, continues to be bereft of a firm date or location. Rumours come and go about when – or even if – the conference will be held; in public, the official line is that the inordinate delay is a result of the necessary preparations. There is some sense in the claim that a degree of unity among delegates must be achieved beforehand so that the conference is not a complete failure. However, there are many who see the foot-dragging as a sign that those in power fear the results of internal elections." (thanks Ben)

Supreme Media Censor for Lebanon

Saja kindly translated this article of mine which appeared in Al-Akhbar.

Tariq Metri, Lebanon's Supreme Media Censor

As’ad Abu Khalil

Information Minister Tariq Metri's eagerness to announce his media principles occurs in somewhat curious timing. Against the backdrop of political clampdown, there seems to be a dire need to critique all political sides, not to gag speech. So what led to Metri's involvement in an announcement like this? Political partisanship or merely naiveté?

Much can be said about Tariq Metri as an undistinguished phenomenon of an educated politician in Lebanon. You can revisit his leftist history in the Lebanese Nationalist Movement and expediently analyze yet another ex-leftist. You can revisit his ascension to power by nomination and endorsement of Emil Lahoud, only to switch gears in less than two years and somehow turn into a permanent Fouad Seniora nominee. You can impute innocent reasons to the radical shift in his discourse (in less than two years): for instance, you can try believing that he changed his perspective based on conviction. Minister Metri was possibly influenced by Sa'ad or Nader Al-Hariri's power of persuasion. You may remind him of his futile speech before the UN Security Council during the peak of Israeli aggression towards Lebanon. But that is not our topic. We're concerned about the "Statement of Principles" draft Minister Metri presented to media representatives in Lebanon (in spite Saudi ambassador Abdul Aziz Khoja's absence due to extenuating circumstances).

The statement started under the rubric of "concern for the freedom of media outlets." Before proceeding any further, you realize when you read the preamble that it's a prelude for latent intentions of repression that will appear in the rest of the statement. The minister reiterates his emphasis on "the profession's principles and ethics." He didn't explain what he meant by "principles" or ethics or who defines them. Will he take the initiative of recruiting his esteemed ministry for the task of framing those principles and ethics? The minister goes on to reverberate agreeable discussion of "the values of tolerance and dialogue", which is troubling especially since the he belongs to the Saudi axis (which, in fairness, places all Salafi sides in Lebanon on the same footing without bias). Are the values of tolerance and dialogue a prologue for bringing Lebanon to a warm meeting with Shimon Peres, like the Saudi king had done with the excuse of dialogue and tolerance? Furthermore, if the Minister is truly concerned about tolerance, will he join us to condemn beheadings and the stoning of lovers in the Wahhabi kingdom, which represent an extremist example of religious fundamentalists in the world even by the Department of State's standards? This discourse per se contradicts media liberties in democratic countries to which everyone in the miserable homeland claims membership. The Al-Hariri family is preparing to impose restrictions and repression on journalistic liberties in Lebanon using different names, and on behalf of the Saudi Kingdom, which has many outlets in Lebanon (like "misery to the heart" - whoever coined that phrase must have been very depressed) to finally condemn the "media campaign" against it, as if Lebanese media doesn't include vehement criticism of other regimes including Syria and Iran. Criticism of the two axes must continue if Lebanon's journalistic liberties actually mean anything. However, the Hariri group's intentions to repress journalistic freedoms came early, in a memorandum it prepared for the Ta'if conference (this was proven in a book about Ta'if by George Bacasini himself). This approach has become quite clear in the Lebanese ruling family's discourse - that is, almost-ruling family were it not for the objection of at least half of Lebanon. What is this equality between speech (no matter how stern, assertive or vile) and violence? Speech is speech, violence is violence, and they are conflated only in totalitarian regimes. However, this concept has become the ruling elite's official policy in order to gag people, suffocate voices and repress liberties. One senses frustration in Saudi media from one newspaper that dares to criticize Saudi Arabia, albeit the House of Saud's media (and its adherents among Al-Hariri media) freely criticize regimes with which it disagrees, while it is notable that Al-Saud's media (and its adherents among Al-Hariri media) forgives any regime which buries the hatchet with the Saudi government and immediately cease to criticize it.

Equating speech and violence is an Orwellian trick that won’t pass. Allow me to enlighten the ruling elite's Media Minister about freedom of speech in democratic countries, although he has lived for a long time in one of them. For example, in America the jurisprudential interpretation of the First Amendment regarding freedom of speech distinguishes true speech and false speech. The standard for constitutional review of freedom of speech also entertains the standard of protected and unprotected speech. Here freedom of speech guarantees the freedom of opinion even to false speech, while true speech is not subject to censorship. Restriction of speech may expose the government (or the President) to a legislative and judicial lawsuit (for the history of freedom of speech in America, see the new book by Anthony Lewis titled Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment, in which he explains the evolution of freedom of expression, which was not always protected since the establishment of the Republic, as the American government criminalized the "defamation" of government officials in the late eighteenth century, similar to Anwar Al-Sadat's "vice" law, the law of "Verbal Transgression" in Jordan, or the law of "Weakening National Spirit" in Syria, etc.) A victim of false defamation cannot sue someone who publishes a lie except in limited situations in which the plaintiff can prove not the falsehood, but the intent of falsification in addition to proving the truth. This is a very high bar in constitutional law which makes proving unprotected defamation nearly impossible. Of course, the standard differs among countries, and Britain for example has a lower bar than that. The law there also distinguishes between the purpose of defamatory speech and writings; the law protects the right to lie about someone in "the public eye", meaning a public official or a celebrity.

Metri would say there are instances when governments may restrict freedoms if the written or verbal speech constitutes, according to the interpretation of the Supreme Court, which does not answer to the authority of the President or Congress, "clear and present danger" to public safety. The point of the text of the statement to reserve the responsibility of defining what constitutes danger in the hands of the government itself. Hence, criticizing the situation of women in Saudi Arabia, for example, constitutes a "threat" to public safety in Lebanon. This doesn't pass legal or constitutional muster, Mr. Minister of Information.

The minister appeals to "the spirit of the Doha agreement" when he announces his authoritative intents. First, let's note that nobody notices absence of a "spirit". What in the world is a spirit? Do you know what a spirit is, Minister Metri? Are you trying to call on spirits today? You’re akin to someone who tries to put out flames with fire. As for the Doha agreement, like many agreements and kisses between politicians in Lebanon, it has no constitutional or legal legitimacy. Who decides the "spirit" of the Doha agreement (besides fortune tellers)? Pierre Al-Gemayyel led the country to civil war and collaborated with the Israeli enemy in the name of the National [Pact]’s spirit. Keep us away from spirits, Minister. Metri then repeatedly speaks about "prohibiting declaring others traitors, and political and sectarian instigation." This is certainly hypocritical and cannot be negated by affirmations. Again, who besides your excellency decides the standard for declaring someone a traitor. There is obscurity here because this description is easily used in Lebanon to silence dissident voices. And where were you, Minister Metri, when your partner Ahmad Fatfat (who else?) of the previous government accused me personally of treason on the pages of this newspaper for no other reason than that I had criticized (or "trespassed upon" per Fatfat's expression) Rafiq Al-Hariri. Did you, as someone who discourages resorting to a judgment of treason, rush to condemn Fatfat's speech? Did you utter a single word at the time? Because it is not easy to agree upon a clear definition of treason, especially since Solanj Al-Gemayyil, who prepared dishes of appetizers for Ariel Sharon (as he wrote in his memoirs), sits under the Parliament's dome and since the Maronites’ patriarch does not cease to apologize for the murderers, collaborators and butchers in the South Lebanon Army, the definition of treason has become obscure, and this is bad. When there is no agreement among the Lebanese people, not even on that Israel is an enemy, then all vulgar polemics are merely hogwash and part of political bickering.

There are more dangerous matters, Tariq Metri. When the ruling elite denounces declaring others as traitors (even though it practices it towards its adversaries), does it prepare Lebanon for a phase in which deeming others as treason is entirely excluded from Lebanese law? What about treason itself? What about dealing, communicating and collaborating with the Israeli enemy, which current Lebanese law penalizes? Is this what the Patriarch meant when he highlighted in a recent sermon the importance of overruling laws and concepts that pertain to the era of occupation (he uses occupation to refer only to Syrian reign in Lebanon. We can't say here that the Patriarch spoke against the Israeli occupation, because he wants Lebanon to get along with "all its neighbors"). Deeming one guilty of treason is part of criticism in all democratic countries. It is widespread in this country. Right-wing author Ann Coulter has written an entire book titled Treason in which she deemed Liberals in America traitors. The danger here does not lie in parties' use of the treasonous label or the ease of using names and descriptions in organizations, but rather when it is used by governments (and all Arab governments use the definitions and laws for political reasons, which makes true pursuit of the treasonous virtually impossible. How can you pursue Israel's agents in Lebanon if Rustum Ghazala imprisons Tahseen Khayyat under charges of agency for Israel if he doesn't succumb to him, for example?). Governments may repress under both treason laws and prohibition thereof. Tariq Metri's team plans to limit liberties in Lebanon under the rubric of disallowing media outlets to deem individuals traitors. Considering others traitors is a part of free speech in a country, exactly like the freedom to exchange insults and name-calling between political rivals.

Tariq Metri shouldn't try passing legislation that gives politicians more freedoms than those afforded (or reserved) to the media. Politicians are exchanging treasonous labels and insults in Parliament, which is their right a universal right. However, placing violence and verbal speech on the same footing is a petty trick that lacks constitutional muster. It's as ironic as Fouad Seniora's talk about "merits democracy" while he's a part of a group headed by Sa'd Al-Hariri, as if the latter had gained his position due to merit. Democracies, not the Wahhabi regimes that embrace you, Tariq Metri, do not limit free speech and do not deem speech as violent unless it involves threat of bodily harm. Otherwise, you're attempting to erode free speech regardless of your use of words that equate speech and violence. It is rather funny (or sad) that the Seniora government considers criticism of a particular political tract violent speech (or verbal violence) while one of its leaders called for the assassination of the president of a neighboring country (not Israel) and called on the US to send booby-trapped cars to Damascus. This does not constitute violent speech in your definition but you do object to naming someone "an ex-leftist" and consider it a threat to his safety. From where do you get these standards, Minister Metri?

Tariq Metri resorts in another section of his emergency draft (which is similar to emergency proclamations in Arab countries that claimed to work on the liberation of Palestine and restricted freedoms in the name of the liberation of Palestine) to stating he intends to "secure balanced coverage". Balanced? Again, who decides? Has nobody brought to your attention the fact that balanced coverage has become an international joke because right-wing Fox News, which is the most biased here, presents itself as "fair and balanced"? Will the balance you're calling for be similar to that of Fox News'? Minister Metri expresses naiveté, or deception, when he calls for the separation of news and opinion. How will that happen, Minister Metri? It is possible to separate the two? See Pierre Bourdieu's book About Television which describes a reality created by the media, not reflected by it, even without intervention by the state elite. He warns of a new kind of indirect censorship. There are limitations and restrictions on speech under capitalism that follow from capital's tyranny, especially since expensive television dwarves other media outlets. Media independent of the Saud and Hariri families' monopoly can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

In his discussion of "the common good", Metri reminds us of the Baath Party's statements in the 1960's. Which common good is this, Information Minister, when blood has become as cheap as water (as Amal Danqul says) on the streets of Beirut and Tripoli? If the Lebanese can't agree on the identity of the enemy, do you want them to agree on the common good? You're detached in your ivory tower. Metri reaches the peak of orwellianism in the fifth section of his ominous draft when he shamelessly addresses the "purification" of media of "assault" and "mockery". What's wrong with mockery, esteemed Minister? Mockery and satire are literary devices. If you really want to purify media and school curricula, you might as well omit the books of Al-Jahiz, Ahmad Faris Al-Shidiaq and Maroon Abood for consistency with your information philosophy. Will this article be subject to your purification process? What happened to you, Minister Metri? How can an educated person, or a citizen, call for the purification of speech of mockery? Do you have any idea what the repercussions of your proposal are? Will you prohibit the satire of Al-Hutai'a and Al-Mutanabbi too? What will you leave for us? What will happen to our liberties if we allow you the freedom of repression? Whether you know it or not, you've become an enemy to culture and liberties, and moreover you discourage "excess" of criticism. Are you kidding, Mr. Minister? Did you import this legislation from a repressive Arab regime? Are you going to prescribe for us doses of criticism like a physician prescribes medicine? Have you become a pharmacist, Mr. Minister? Is this like Fakhri Karim's thesis about "permitted speech"? You've gone so far in your statement as to prohibit agitation and political discourse. How can there be politics without agitation? This is part of the political process without which democracy can't survive in this miserable homeland.

No, Mr. Minister. Your project is very dangerous and hints of destroying the last venues of free expression in Lebanon. We don't know why one independent newspaper that has no connection to your abundant wealth disturbed you, agents and allies of Al-Hariri. Your intentions were clear when Sa'd Al-Hariri entered the political arena: he didn't only accept and legislate Syrian restriction of Lebanese liberties, but he went farther than Ghazi Kan'an and Rustum Ghazala. There are numerous stations and newspapers that were sued, shut down or threatened with closing by the "Salafi Future" current. This flows with Saudi official disapproval of criticism in Lebanon. Ibrahim Salama discusses this in his valuable book "Tomorrow We Will Enter The City"; voices can be silenced, opinions may be sold out, consciences may be rented, biographies may be transformed, but absolute rule is not possible.

You've changed dramatically, Minister Metri. Those who knew you in college say you're now an entirely different person. We won't discuss your choices; those are your business. However, you're subject to democratic accountability by any citizen. You're free to change, and that's up to you, but you have no right to change us or to change public opinion.

Walid Jumblat: the (former?) ally of the US

Here, Walid Jumblat calls on Jihadi groups to send car bombs to "the [American] occupation" in Iraq instead of civilian targets. This one phrase in his long weekly article for Al-Anba' has not received much attention in the Arabic press.

PS This will not be translated by MEMRI which only translates Jumblat's anti-Syrian statements, which have been diminishing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dubai miracle

"A recovery in the property market in Dubai is unlikely this year with some analysts predicting further steep falls in real estate prices."


"The Sweeties were brought to Iran from China, where faking the origin of goods is a common practice. The discovery of apparent Israeli origin caused a stir in Iran." (thanks Saeed)

Race in the US

"Like the time at a Pocono Mountains flea market when Riding scolded Katie, attracting so many sharp glares that he and his wife, Terri, 37, and also African-American, thought "we might be lynched." And the time when well-intentioned shoppers followed Mark and Katie out of the mall to make sure she wasn't being kidnapped. Or when would-be heroes come up to Katie in the cereal aisle and ask, "Are you OK?"—even though Terri is standing right there." (thanks Ali)


"Palestinian security forces on Sunday gave the IDF an explosive belt found in the West Bank town of Salfit." Dahlan and Abu Mazen would give their wives and kids to Israel, if asked.