Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Good Doctor

By Joseph El-Khoury

To all Arab leftists the nickname “The Doctor” (El-Hakim) applies to only one man. Dr George Habash, founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who led this group influenced by a blend of Arab Nationalism and Marxism for over five decades. Dr Habash who hailed from occupied Palestine and studied medicine at the American University of Beirut in the 1950s belongs to a time when it was possible and almost unremarkable for an Arab Christian to assume a leadership role in a broad reaching political organization. He witnessed defeat after defeat at the hand of the Israeli war machine but also, more significantly, through the efforts of the Arab establishment and their agents. Many mistakes were made, unholy alliances and tactical disasters with far reaching strategic and ideological consequences but the intentions were well founded. Misunderstood by their compatriots, the doctor and his companions remained steadfast in their fight for the recognition of Palestinian rights by the International community and the establishment of a democratic state which could serve as an example of what a modern Arab society could be and should be. Some argue that we live in a different era where this breed of idealists has no place. In many ways the fight started in the 40s and 50s continues against Zionism, corruption and inequalities but is it the same struggle when it is motivated by a different set of values? Are Hamas and Hezbollah the natural successors to the PFLP? I find it hard to believe that the Palestine of Khaled Mishaal will be the one whished for by Dr Habash. It is maybe because Habash couldn’t resolve this dilemma he decided to voluntarily step down from the party leadership in 2000: A measure rarely seen in Middle Eastern political culture.

Goodbye Doctor, you will continue to inspire us all.

Friday, January 25, 2008

30 Dollars to learn to shoot a Palestinian

Israel has the right to defend itself. At any cost, in any proportion and in defiance of international law and human rights conventions. At a time when European audiences are shocked by stories of African child-soldiers and while Palestinian mothers are blamed for selfishly sacrificing their stone-throwing youth, for the reasonable price of 30 US Dollars The Israeli organization Magen Yehuda finds it acceptable to train 7 year olds at the art of ‘self-defense’. This is not only targeted at Israeli citizen but also at visitors of the country and tourists who are invited to share the ‘experience’ of Israelis faced with the specter of daily terrorism. For a people eager for peace as we are told, some of them appear to be enjoying the war games and the M-16s a bit much.For the more adventurous check out the practical artillery tour at


Who wouldnt want friendly neighbours like these!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Right of Return, and of No Return

By Bachir Habib

George W Bush wants to see a Palestinian state emerging next to Israel before the end of his mandate next November.
Truth, fantasy, goodwill, impossibility, political marketing campaign, maneuver to save Olmert’s cabinet… We heard a few interpretations regarding his motives.

To approach this issue from a realistic angle, we have to place it within its broader context: the negotiations on the final status between Israelis and Palestinians.
In these negotiations, alongside the “ideological” debate over Jerusalem, the major problem will also be: “the right of return for the Palestinians to their land”.

The US president suggested when touring the Middle East lately that Palestinian refugees should get damages for not returning to their land. This declaration is a very dangerous one, and makes us weary of a new international process being initiated at the end of which Israel will have finished with “the right of return”. Most probably, it is on this point that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will fail.

Looking at it from a different perspective, is it only a “right of return” Palestinians have? Don’t they have as well the right of not returning to their land?
While many Western countries gave the Palestinians the opportunity to work, pay taxes, and become citizens, the norm in many Arab countries, notably Lebanon is different. Here, Palestinians have practically no rights. They reside in overcrowded camps, don’t have a normal access to employment, social benefits or decent healthcare.
In Lebanon, Palestinian camps are considered special security zones which are cordoned off and watched closely from the outskirts by the authorities in addition to secret services agencies from around the globe. It is not difficult to see the link between the social conditions and the security threat. This explains how the camps residents became the usual suspect following every bombing or political assassination. Unfortunately, this is not just paranoia. The “ghetto” status of the camps in Lebanon have now made them a safe haven for terrorist organizations like “Fateh-el- Islam”. It is likely the camps will be used again and again in the local political standoffs, and both Lebanese and Palestinian civilians will suffer from it as happened in Nahr-el-Bared camp (northern Lebanon) in 2007.
What we are faced with is the result of a very hypocritical policy meant to make the Palestinian individual live in total misery for decades, in order to remind him that no matter how the conditions are in his country it’s better for him to go back once he’s allowed to. This is exactly how repeated governments have felt comfortable treating the Palestinian individual as inferior in rights, even if he was born in Lebanon and lived his whole life in this country and never travelled (anyway he’s basically not allowed to).
Over many years has been brewing the perfect recipe to generate troubled insecure ghettos and to kill the ambition and creativity of potential Palestinian-Lebanese citizens who would live their lives normally and pay their taxes sharing equal rights with their Lebanese counterparts.

Finally, among Palestinians who managed to “escape” from their camps in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world, many are now very good citizens in a large array of countries. They have a passport and can travel, and when we meet them at any occasion, the large majority of them still present themselves as Palestinians.

This is to say that being Palestinian today is of course about having the right of return, but it is as well about having the right to choose not to go back and live in the darkness of the Gaza strip.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Death of Joseph El Khoury

By Joseph El-Khoury

Joseph was killed on the afternoon of the 15th January 2008 along with Fouad Kamal Abbas and Ghassan Ali, a Syrian national in the car bomb that targeted a US embassy vehicle on the coastal highway north of Beirut. The Lebanese expressed relief at the press release from the embassy that ‘ No Americans were hurt in the attack’. Joseph’s views on the political debate in Lebanon or the role of the US in the region are not known. We know of him that he was young, married and on his way back from work when he was blown up to shreds in the explosion. We can only assume he was listening to the radio or engaged in his own thoughts. Those responsible for his murder had nothing personal against him. Their ‘message’ was for the American president on his Middle Eastern tour and his departing affable representative in Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman. Unfortunately Joseph happened to be in the way, disposable and unremarkable. The message did get through but its impact on the visit was minimal. The schedule of coffee drinking and engaging in silly tribal rituals with the Sheikhs continued as planned. Life goes on…. Until the next attack.
Rest in peace Joseph!
The image is taken from http://www.nowlebanon.com/

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Iranian students banned from studying at a Dutch University

By Joseph El-Khoury

Soon after 9/11 many impulsive souls advocated that Arabs should be prevented form attending flying schools with the hope that this would help fight terrorism. Now other well meaning officials feel that Iranians cannot be trusted to handle technological knowledge. Recently, Dutch Universities started restricting access of Iranian students to some courses for fear that they might end up working on the Iranian nuclear program. It is doubtful whether in this day and age access to knowledge can be restricted in such an archaic manner. And how hard would it be to hire a former Soviet scientist or a North Korean engineer!? At first view these measures might seem reasonable and proportional but the ethical and moral implications are disturbing. Being born in one country or one ethnic group have always played a role in determining your chances in life or your career path but individuals with exceptional skills and determination managed to break through that ring fence and achieve in their chosen field. The price was usually emigration to the west and the brain drain. These new trends of University departments working closely with immigration officials threaten the credibility and independence of academic institutions in Europe and other parts of the world. It is a short-termist undemocratic move which, coupled with calls on developing countries to restrict their economic growth in order to help fight climate change, can only fuel the resentment of the third world towards the ‘arrogant’ West. It can also push countries such as Iran, which are at political odds with the US-led camp, on further self-reliance and opacity in their dealings with the International community on the nuclear programme and other contentious issues.

Dutch university bans Iranian students
Fri. 04 Jan 2008
Radio Netherlands

By Ruben Temming

Iranian students are not welcome at the Technical University Twente in the town of Enschede. At the request of the Education Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the university has agreed not to admit any Iranian students. The government fears that Iranian students and workers would steal sensitive nuclear information to help their government develop nuclear weapons. The university's decision is the direct result of a 2006 UN resolution calling on member states to prevent Iran from gaining access to nuclear knowledge

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