Saturday, February 28, 2009

February’s Blog of the Month: The Philistine

Israeli discrimination against its own Arab population is at the heart of the message delivered by "The Philistine". Whether in sports, in the media, trough legal or illegal means, his report on standard acts of oppression reveals a face of Israel that is little know in the West.
The Zionist dream is creating nightmares inside and outside its border and this blog aims to tell us of events and behaviors that could be easily go unnoticed while the world media focuses on Gaza and Hamas. His recent posts include the destruction of olive trees by Israel in the West Bank, the ban of Israeli Arab reporters from a Yisrael Beiteinu gathering and the truth on illegal settlements. Multimedia is used efficiently and the embedded videos, like the PBS 60 minutes exposing Israeli Apartheid, are to the point and acceptable to a Western audience.

Another appealing factor in this blog is that it is esthetically pleasing with its clear layout and sober colors. It inspires authority reinforcing the validity of the content. Its rich links sections reveals a good selection of respectable and original blogs and websites focused on Israel, Palestine and the diaspora.
The links maintained and developed with the Arab blogosphere are not surprising. The author provides insight and describes himself as a "disenfranchised American citizen of Arab heritage (…). Not being raised in communities with large Arab populations has left him feeling like an outsider in their own environment. Events as an undergraduate in a larger city with a significant Arab (mostly Lebanese and Yemeni) population brought to light the cultural differences between the assimilated and un-assimilated Arab youth".
He claims creating this blog as "a Testament to the Strength of Words (even those written with a keyboard) ".

However, the icing on the cake is his focus on a little explored area of Israeli legislation with serious consequences for the state’s Arab population. Under the section "The Absentee’s Property Laws and You", the Philistine exposes how the "Absentees" property laws "were several laws which were first introduced as emergency ordinances issued by the Jewish leadership but which after the war were incorporated into the laws of Israel. These laws were passed in an effort to gain as much land from the indigenous people as possible while circumventing International Law".

Beside linking the texts of laws, legislations and amendments of the "Absentee’s Property Laws", the Philistine draws a comprehensive list of the Palestinian villages taken over by the Israelis and demolished according the enforcement of these laws during The past 60 years.

We thank the author for shedding light on such a fundamental issue that is completely ignored by the mainstream media covering the Israeli Palestinian conflict. For the initiative, the research work and the presentation we name ‘the Phlilistine’ our blog of the month for February 2009.

Friday, February 27, 2009

“Arabesque” Unveils Arab Art to Americans

By Bachir Habib

Unwrap the cultural treasures of the Arab world in this Kennedy Center international festival showcasing the varied cultures of the 22 Arab nations that represent the Arabic-speaking world. From the Arabian Gulf to the Levant to North Africa-this region of the world is the birthplace of human civilization and features extraordinary diversity in geography, traditions, landscape, religion, and contemporary aesthetics. In cooperation with the League of Arab States, the three-week festival brings together artists, many of whom are making their U.S. debut, in performances of music, dance, and theater, as well as exhibitions featuring art installations, fashion, a soundscape, cuisine, a marketplace, and much more. Discover the evolution of art forms born from the cradle of human civilization. Experience an amazing breadth of culture that spans both eons and continents.

This is how John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington has unveiled its 10 million dollars event called “Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World”. It is indeed an important moment for the Arab Culture and the Arab art scene to be invited to such a prestigious institution and environment.

Arabesque as the above press release and video show is an important moment for the Arab art scene and the American audience altogether. It happens only a month after the inauguration of President Barack Obama who revealed a new American diplomacy in his speech on the 20th of January. He addressed the Muslim world saying that Washington seeks “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”. The coverage of the launch of Arabesque by international news agencies strongly mentioned the link between the festival and the dawn of a new American diplomacy towards the Arab and Muslim world.

Both events can be linked, but on the other hand, as Alicia Adams, head of International programming at Kennedy Center said, they are not directly related. According to the organizer who spent three years roaming more that 15 Arab countries to find artists and new talents and bring them to perform in the US, the relation between both events is a coincidence. This festival was going to happen no matter what the outcome of the US elections would have been. But Adams insists that it was not an easy task to prepare Arabesque for it was all put in order at “a time when the popularity of the USA was very low and there was a possibility that the artists would say they were not interested because it was America and Kennedy Center, which is a quasi-federal institution”.

Since it started on the 23rd of February, the festival lasting until the 15th of March is of interest for the American, international and Arab media. However, this big event mainly featuring mainstream and “commercial” art of the Arab world, fails to focus on the colossal structural problems the Arab art scene faces at home.

Freedom of expression, censorship and self censorship, lack of investments, negative public reaction to the notion of difference, and finally tyrannical state policies and intolerance are the main challenges art faces in many Arab countries.

Art and Culture are spheres that can generate social and even political changes. If used properly as spaces where concepts, ideas, talents and challenges meet, interact and evolve, they might create the right path towards achieving the “dream of a Nation that draws strength and coherence from its differences and diversities”, as assassinated Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir once said.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Dangers of the 19th Confession

By Joseph El-Khoury

For those who care to know, The Republic of Lebanon officially recognises 18 religious group (12 Christian denominations, 5 Islamic and the Jewish faith). Every Lebanese has to belong to one of these faiths to live a fulfilling life. Thus the relationship of the citizen to the State is very much mediated through the sectarian group he belongs to. This relationship goes beyond the usual social regulations to the legal and political framework. From family law to parliamentary elections, the Lebanese individual is subjugated to the laws of a community he has rarely chosen. This was apparently always the case with little hope of change in the near future.

The path to reform

The situation appeared bleak ,until that is… Mr Ziad Baroud appeared on the scene. Two weeks ago, this young activist turned Interior Minister applied, in a stroke of a pen (and genius?), the constitutional right for the individual citizen to remove any mention of a confession from identity cards, birth certificates and related records kept by the authorities. Initially, this surprising simple initiative was greeted with some degree with disbelief in an effectively ghettoised country where religious intolerance is on the rise and the sectarian identity trumps all others. Ironically, this bureaucratic decision can be better understood in the context of Mr Baroud’s own path to the political arena from the heart of civil society. This apolitical phenomenon took over campaigning for a unifying voluntary civil code from a coalition of secular political parties under the banner of the National Movement headed by the late Kamal Joumblat. Reform blended into a failed revolution and with the disintegration of the country, the secular dream was relegated to the cellar. In times of war, the instinct of survival favoured the emergence of ‘federalist’ views which praised segregation in all aspects of life as a guarantee for civil peace for all. As the country recovered in the nineties, another unlikely reformer, late President of the Republic Elias Hraoui, attempted to change the law to allow civil marriages on Lebanese soil. The faint voices of support came from an enthusiastic eclectic mix of liberals and left-wingers with little mobilising powers. They were quickly drowned in the sea of insults and threats emanating from various religious figures in the Islamic and Christian spheres.

This religious counter-offensive did not come as a surprise to the select group of Lebanese who view the confessional system as a straight jacket preventing the social advancement of this small but problematic country. Many more of their compatriots will also lay the blame for years of bloodshed on its political component that has so far only generated inequalities and resentment. In my opinion, the cause-effect relationship is unclear and the constitutional framework know today as 'political sectarianism' is a natural progression from the heavily segregated society that developed under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the Eastern Mediterranean for centuries. Confessional structures in parallel with feudal and tribal ones were reinforced and encouraged in order to mediate the relation between the Ottoman Sultanate and the tax payer. The French colonial rulers that followed redesigned the land and redefined the system to suit their interests.

Shades of Anti-Sectarianism

Consistently since independence in 1943, the rigid confessional system at the basis of the constitution has been opposed and criticized by many from various backgrounds on the political spectrum. At the risk of oversimplifying I will break down its opponents into two groups: The 'selective anti-sectarians' and the 'secular anti -sectarians'. While the first group was keen to challenge the privileges bestowed on the Maronite Christians, their behaviour since the shift in the balance of power reveals a manipulative approach where the systemic domination of one sect is replaced by the unconditional dictatorship of the majority. One prominent critic who fits in this category is the Speaker of the House Parliament Mr Nabih Berry, who has been clamouring through his Amal Movement for the end of 'political confessionalism' since the mid 1970s. But the words of Mr Berri and friends can only be viewed with scepticism since their behaviour in power have shown that sectarian clientelism lie at the heart of their conception of the state. The other group is made up of remnants of the Communist and Socialist left in addition to unaffiliated liberals and the right wing Syrian National Socialist party (SNSP). Although in disagreement over a number of political issues over the years these forces have maintained their status as beacons of secularism in an otherwise dim horizon.

Dangers Ahead

Before I go further I should highlight that I am all praise for the brave move by Mr Baroud whatever his motivations. If anything he has placed many of us 'secular anti-sectarians’ in front of a real dilemma, as opposed to years of reflection of hypothetical scenarios. Should we take the leap and remove any mention of our sectarian background from the records or not? This is ultimately a personal decision although as exemplified by Bishop Gregoire Haddad it is in no way a renouncement of faith by a Muslim and Christian. In effect it is only denying the state access to ones belief. That said the political implications of this simple procedure remain unclear. In a country where parliamentary seats are allocated to the 18 confessions, would the lack of it consign one to the category of 'minorities' in terms of voting and election to public office? If that is indeed the case then caution must be advised. By erasing any sign of sectarian belonging, the reformist few will rule themselves out of the political arena delaying the possibility for true root and branch reform of the antiquated system plaguing this country. It is interesting that so far no major political force has publicly and actively endorsed the implementation of this legislation. A well structured and publicised campaign is essential if removing your confession from official records is not to remain an isolated personal choice with little public benefit in the short to medium term.

If nothing is done the new initative will at best lead to the establishment of the 19th confession or confession X: a place restricted to the liberal intellectual elite and the ideological hardened secularists, cut off from a majority dominated by the conservative, the national religious and the fundamentalist. Mr Baroud’s ministry should endeavour to clarify these grey areas and make clear and concise information available to those wishing to make an informed decision on the matter. However popular it proves to be, it can only the beginning in a series of steps to establish the healthiest possible relationship in a national framework, one where the rights and responsibilities of the individual are towards democratically run state institutions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

انفجار في القاهرة

وائل عبد الرحيم
كأنه لا يكفي المصريين أن يواجهوا يومياً مصاعب الحياة والفقر والقمع وفساد النظام السياسي الاجتماعي حتى يعود الإرهاب الغبيّ ليستهدف عاصمتهم.
الانفجار الذي ضرب منطقة الحسين الأحد جاء بعد ثلاثة أيام فقط من الإفراج عن أيمن نور، حدثٌ رغم التساؤلات التي تحيط به أرخى ظلال ارتياح نسبي على بعض من جوانب الحياة السياسية في القاهرة.
من الطبيعي جداً أن يكون هذا التفجير مثار استنكار الجميع في مصر وخارجها، وبغضّ النظر عن التحليلات الأمنية والاستخباريّة بشأن من يقف وراء هذا العمل، فإن الجزئية المهمة من الصورة قد تكون في المعاناة اليومية التي يعيش فيها عشرات ملايين المصريين، الأغلبية الساحقة القابعة على مسافات قريبة جدا من خط الفقر، وأحيانا تحت هذا الخط، في ظل غياب تنمية اقتصادية وبشرية مقبولة.
ففي تقريرها عن التنمية البشرية لعام 2007 ذكرت الأمم المتحدة أن 14 مليون مصري يعيشون تحت خط الفقر، بينهم أربعة ملايين لا يجدون قوت يومهم، لتبقى مصر في المركز 111 بين دول العالم الأكثر فقرًا.
وذكر التقرير أيضاً أن نسبة السكان الذين يعيشون تحت خط الفقر عند مستوي إنفاق دولار واحد في اليوم تبلغ 3.1%، بينما تبلغ نسبة مستوي إنفاق دولارين في اليوم 43.9%.، وهي نسب مهولة إذا أخذنا بالاعتبار أن تعداد الشعب المصري يفوق الثمانين مليوناً.
فضلاً عن الشعور بسحر هذه المدينة التي يحكي كلّ شارع فيها صفحة من التاريخ الحديث والقديم، وإلى طيبة ناسها وعفويتهم، لا بدّ لزائر القاهرة أن يلاحظ فوضى عارمة تختصر كل تفاصيل الحياة العامة والخاصة للمصريين.هي فوضى بناء، وفوضى نمو، وفوضى في توزيع الثروات التي تنعم بها قلّة قليلة تحتكر السلطات والمال في ظل نظام اقتصاد مافيوزي ليس هو بالنظام الليبرالي الحرّ ولا بالاشتراكية المندثرة.
لكن اللافت للنظر أيضاً هو حجم اللامبالاة التي يعبّر عنها المصريون تجاه هيبة النظام التي لم يعد يكفي انتشار الأمن المركزي الدائم في المفترقات الرئيسة والفرعية لشوارع القاهرة ليحفظها.
لم يعد النظام قادراُ على فرض هيبته على الناس، وبات شتمً النظام على لسان الجميع وغير مموّه بالتفريق بين حكومة أحمد نظيف أو العائلة الرئاسية المالكة، بل يسمّون الأشياء بأسمائها. ومن مظاهر انهيار هيبة النظام انتشار ظاهرة تقاضي الإكراميات بشكل مفرط ليس بين العاملين في القطاعين الخاص والعام فحسب بل في أجهزة تنفيذية حسّاسة من مهامها حفظ الأمن في الداخل وعلى منافذ البلد. تجد هذا حتى في المطار!
كما يعامل المصريون نظام حكمهم، فهم لا يقدّرون أكثر أحزاب المعارضة التقليدية التي يراها الكثيرون الوجه الآخر لنظام الحكم الحالي، وفاقدة للصدقية في قضايا كثيرة لا تقف فقط عند حدود توريث الحكم وهو حديث الشارع اليومي، وإنتما تتخطاه لتضع علامات استفهام كبيرة حول شفافية هذه الأحزاب والفساد الذي لا يبدو أنها نجت منه هي الأخرى.
إذن "هي فوضى"، وغياب شديد الوضوح للعدالة، وأمور كثيرة بات الحديث عنها من البديهيات وجزءاً من تكرار رتيب.
ربما يكون انفجار الحسين حدثاً محدوداً في سياقه، لكنه يأتي كإشارة تحذير لمن يهمه الأمر عن المخاطر الحقيقية التي تتهدد "الأمن القومي" في مصر. فليست الأفكار هي التي تهدّد هذا الأمن الذي يحميه نظام طوارئ النظام، بل هي البيئة الخصبة لولادة أنواع كثيرة من التهديد الأكثر خطراً وأخطرها: اليأس.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

في أهمية الجبهة القانونية والحقوقية في الصراع مع إسرائيل

سهيل الناطور *
ينشر بالاتفاق مع نشرة الافق

لم نكن كفلسطينيين في الماضي نحفل بالتدقيق القانوني للمفردات المتعلقة بالصراع مع إسرائيل. لكن التجربة المريرة علّمتنا بعضاً مما فاتتنا سابقاً أهميته:
- نقصان (ال) التعريف، مثلاً، في الترجمة عن الانجليزية لقرار مجلس الامن الشهير 242 حول "أراض محتلة" أو "الأراضي المحتلة"، إذ تبيّن لنا أن العدو وحماته تعمّدوا ذلك كي تتآكل أرضنا بالاحتلال والاستيطان.
- كذلك تكرّست التجربة المأساوية قانونياً، حين جرى توقيع اتفاق أوسلو، المعروف باسم "غزة/أريحا"، دون الإشارة الى وقف المستوطنات في الاراضي الفلسطينية المحتلة أو تفكيكها، فجاءت المحصلة بالاستراتيجية الاسرائيلية نزعة نحو تهويد ما يقارب 40% من الضفة الغربية، ناهيك عن القدس العربية.

واليوم يحاول الإسرائيليون اعتماد مقاربة قانونية تضليلية من النوع ذاته، إذ بدأ عدوانهم الدموي في 27/12/2008 ضد قطاع غزة بالإعلان أنه ضد حركة حماس، رغم أن استهدافهم الفعلي هو للشعب الفلسطيني في القطاع ولمجمل قواه المقاومة. وقد حاولوا إعطاء أشكال من العمل والأداء مدّعين فيها أنهم يطبّقون قواعد وأعراف الحرب في القتال، من نمط أنهم يستخدمون السلاح بتناسبية مع الهجمات عليهم التي وصفوها بال "اعتداءات الإرهابية". وادّعوا أنهم حاولوا انهاءها بالانذار والاختراقات الصغيرة سابقاً ولما فشلوا في ذلك ولم يرتدع مطلقوها الفلسطينيون، اضطروا لإعلان حملتهم ونفذوها، وان هذا حق دفاع عن الذات تكفله المادة 51 من ميثاق الامم المتحدة...
ورغم ان ذلك ليس صحيحاً على الإطلاق، فإن بعض الدول الغربية الداعمة للمشروع الصهيوني تبنّته بشكل كامل، وكان وما زال عنوان موقفها الاساس "أمن اسرائيل والاسرائيليين"، وكأن جوهر المشكلة ليس الاحتلال الاسرائيلي ورفض الفلسطينيين لاستمراره.

هل يؤثر كل ذلك في مسار المواقف العالمية من الصراع في فلسطين؟

طبعاً. فالشعوب في العالم تصلها المعلومات مقننة وموجّهة، ويتأثر قطاع واسع بأقوال ومواقف المسؤولين في بلاده، والى أن تخترق كلمة الحق وصورة الواقع الفلسطيني الحقيقي ويتبدّى الإجرام الاسرائيلي، تكون الكوارث الانسانية قد بلغت ذرى مهلكة.
والامر لا يتوقف عند هذا الحد. فبعد توقف العمليات العسكرية الطويلة، تأتي آفاق الصراع السياسي لتكرّس نتائج الحرب. وهذا هو الأخطر. فالادّعاء مثلاً بالحاجة لأمن الاسرائيليين، أفرز عملياً امراً سياسياً ومادياً خطيراً، إذ نرى الرئيس الفرنسي ساركوزي يرسل "فرقاطة" الى ساحل غزة لحماية اسرائيل، وليس لحماية الفلسطينيين ومنع العدوان عليهم! وفي هذا موقف يشوّه الحقائق ويشير الى تبدّل في المواقف الفرنسية.

وفي نفس السياق، تتركز بعد الحرب الضغوط الدولية على المقاومة المسلحة وفصائلها، داعية إياها الى التحوّل للعمل السياسي كي تصبح مقبولة ضمن معايير ما يسمى بالمجتمع الدولي (بالتفسير الاوروبي الامريكي له)، والذي يتسم بازدواجية كريهة في المعايير. فبدلاً من مطالبة اسرائيل التي تحتل بلادنا بأن تنهي احتلالها وتنسحب من أرضنا، وبدل محاسبتها على عدم تنفيذ قرارات الامم المتحدة ذات الصلة، نُواجه بدعاوى تنفيذ اتفاقيات حول المعابر ودعوات لضبط الأخيرة ومراقبتها، فيما هي تؤمن الطحين والدواء لشعب محاصر، وعنيد يرفض الاذلال ويرفض التخلي عن حقوقه بالاستقلال والعودة. فتتحول القضية الى مسألة مساعدات وإغاثة وتأمين معابر لوصولها !

وقد اعتدنا كفلسطينيين لملمة الجراح والانهماك بغوث الضحايا بعد كل عدوان على نحو ننسى معه تسعير جبهة المواجهة القانونية. لكننا هذه المرة، ونتيجة شدة وقع الهجمية والبربرية العسكرية الاسرائيلية وما ارتكبته من جرائم وآثام، نجد أنفسنا أمام مشهد جديد يتحرك فيه الكثيرون، وتعلو أصوات الحقوقيين وأعضاء المجالس النيابية ونشطاء المنظمات غير الحكومية، وحتى بعض الهيئات في الامم المتحدة يطالبون بإتخاذ اجراءات فعالة لمحاسبة مجرمي الحرب الاسرائيليين.

بذلك، نحن اليوم أمام آفاق قانونية واسعة وأمام أبواب ينبغي فتحها لمعاقبة القتلة الاسرائيليين. وعلى قوى اليسار العربية خاصة، وعلى الحقوقيين الديمقراطيين جميعاً تحد حقيقي، بعيداً عن كل رهان على الأنظمة العربية التي تخشى أساساً محاسبة شعوبها لها، أن يعملوا كي لا تضيع فرصة مقاضاة إسرائيل، وألا يقتل الوقت الاندفاع الحالي للجهود القانونية الهادفة الى التصدي للجرائم الإسرائيلية...

* قيادي في الجبهة الديمقراطية لتحرير فلسطين

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is Muslims' Treatment of Women Islamic?

By Dr Elie ElHadj*

On March 11, 2002, fire struck a girls’ school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Firemen and concerned citizens were quickly on the scene. However, the religious police locked the schoolgirls inside the inferno rather than let them escape into the streets without their veil and head-to-toe cloak. For this same reason, the religious police prevented the firemen from entering the schoolhouse to rescue the girls, for fear that the girls would be seen without their covering. Fourteen young girls were burned to death and dozens more were injured. Is this treatment Islamic?

To answer this question, a comparison will be made between the noble treatment that the Prophet Muhammad reportedly accorded to the most celebrated Muslim woman of all, His first wife Khadija, on one hand, and the treatment of women that emerged under Sharia. We are told that the Prophet’s first wife was the best born in Quraish, a successful businesswoman and, too, the richest. We are also told that Khadija employed young Muhammad in her business, that she proposed marriage to him when he was about 25 years old, and that she was about 15 years his senior and twice a widow. We are told that for the 25 years of the Prophet’s marriage to Khadija, until her death in 620, He remained monogamous to her, that she was the one person to whom He turned for advice and comfort, and that Khadija was the first convert to Islam. Such an image makes Khadija an emancipated, commanding woman of high standing in Meccan society and in the eyes of her husband par excellence, and that the Prophet treated her with faithfulness and devotion.

The difference between the Prophet’s treatment of Khadija and the treatment of women that emerged under Sharia Law is stark. To begin with, the Quran subordinates women to men. In 2:228: “men have an edge over women.” In 4:34: “Men are the masters [protectors, maintainers] over women... As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct admonish them and refuse to share their beds and hit [beat] them.” In 18:46: “Money and sons are the finest adornment of earthly life.” Curiously, daughters are not included in 18:46. On the legal standing of men relative to women, one man is equal to two women when bearing witness in a legal setting. In 2:282: “Have two of your men to act as witnesses; but if two men are not available, then a man and two women you approve, so that in case one of them is confused the other may remind her.”Also, in inheritance, a male’s share is equal to that of two females: In 4:11: “The share of the male is equivalent to that of two females.”

On marriage, the Quran allows Muslim men to have up to four wives simultaneously, on condition of equitable treatment. In 4:3: “Marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you cannot treat so many with equity, then only one.” Regarding divorce, a husband can divorce his wife without giving reason, though the Prophet is reported to have described divorce as the most hateful privilege granted by God. A wife can divorce her husband only after establishing good cause such as impotence, madness, or denial of her rights. Allowing the Muslim male to marry four wives simultaneously and divorce any one of them at will without giving cause is synonymous with unlimited polygamy.

Additionally, Shiite religious scholars interpret Verses 4:4 and 4:24 of the Quran as if men are allowed a temporary marriage contract (when travelling, for example), called Mut'a for which a payment to the woman is made by the man in return for her companionship for a specific period of time with no consequent obligations. In 4:4: “Give to women their compensation (dower) willingly, but if they forgo a part of it themselves then use it to your advantage.” In 4:24: “Give those of the women you have enjoyed the agreed remuneration (dower).” Shiite ulama believe that the Prophet allowed the Mut’a contracts, but Omar, the second Caliph (634-644) prohibited it. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, “it is certain from Tradition that Muhammad really permitted Mut’a to his followers especially on the longer campaigns. But the Caliph Omar strictly prohibited Mut’a and regarded it as fornication (a group of Traditions already ascribes this prohibition to the Prophet).”

Then, there is the Misyar marriage, sanctioned by the Sunni ulama. Under Misyar the man is not responsible financially for the woman and the couple live apart; the man visits the woman at her home whenever he wishes. Unlike Mut’a, Misyar has no date certain for divorce. Misyar has been sanctioned by the Mecca-based Islamic Jurisprudence Assembly, which declared on April 12, 2006 that a marriage contract in which the woman relinquishes her right to housing and support money and accepts that the man visits her in her family house whenever he likes, day or night is valid. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and the Grand Mufti of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Islam’s venerable thousand-year-old university, have both sanctioned Misyar. The Misyar contract has become widespread. A recent survey conducted by the Saudi newspaper Arab News found that in Saudi Arabia some marriage officials say that many marriage contracts they conduct are Misyar marriages.

The Prophetic Sunna contains Traditions unflattering to Women as well. Sahih Al-Bukhari attributed to the Prophet saying that most of those who are in hell are women, that women’s "lack of intelligence" is the reason why a woman’s testimony in an Islamic court of law is equal to half that of the testimony of the Muslim male, and that the reason why women are prohibited from praying and fasting during menstruation is due to them being "deficient in religious belief." Sunan Al-Nasai attributed to the Prophet saying: “People who entrust the management of their affairs to a woman will fail.”Thinking of women as having less religious belief, being less intelligent, and more sinful than men reduces women to wicked deficient beings.

Sharia Law is not applied uniformly. In Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, the Wahhabi ulama, acting on behalf of their benefactor rulers, interpret Sharia as if to eliminate the potential political opposition of one half of the population to the Saudi government. Saudi Sharia means guardianship over and responsibility by the male in the family (father, brothers, husband) over the actions of the women in their charge. Saudi Sharia means strict segregation of the sexes at work, schools, hospitals, shops, public parks, elevators, etc. It also means banning women from driving motorcars, travelling without the guardian’s written permission, and wearing a black cloak from head to toe to conceal not only their face and hair but also the side of their shoes. It is not surprising, therefore, that Al-Bukhari's attributions became a common popular Saudi proverb: "women are light on brains and religion.” A well known Saudi cleric told Lebanese television viewers on June 19, 2008 that it is permissible for girls to get married as young as age one but have the consummation of the marriage postponed until age nine; following the example of the Prophet who took Aisha to be his wife when she was 6, but had sex with her only when she was 9.

By contrast, in Muslim non-Arab Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey, Sharia Law is interpreted in such a way as to give women more rights, including becoming presidents and prime ministers. The contradictions between the Prophet’s fine treatment of His first wife Khadija and the way Sharia evolved on the treatment of women need to be reconciled. Harmonizing Sharia with the Prophet’s way of life (Sunna) is all the more important because the Prophet’s Sunna as a way of life has been made by the ulama of the tenth century equal to the Quran as a source of Sharia Law.

A meaningful first step here was announced in June 2006. Turkey has formed a committee of thirty-five religious scholars to study the removal of all Hadith references attributed to the Prophet that encourage violence against women. To recap, in marriage, divorce, inheritance, social standing, legal rights, and piety Muslim women are left with fewer rights than men, leading to damaging attitudes towards women. Consider, for example, the saying in the popular culture of some Arab communities: Women are like Persian carpets; they get better with beating.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

المسيحيون اللبنانيون وشياطين الشرق

وائل عبد الرحيم

لبنان الذي شغله التضامن مع غزة عن يوميات تناحره الأهلي الدائم، عاد إلى التركيز على استحقاقاته "المصيرية"، وإذ هو على أبواب انتخابات سيحدّد تمثيل النواب المسيحيين فيها حجم الكتل، نرى الأحزاب الرئيسية تتصارع بشكل محموم على زعامة المسيحيين فتزايد في التطرف الطائفي لتكسب العطف والتأييد، ويضخّ كل طرف فيها، من جماعة ميشال عون إلى القوات اللبنانية والكتائب، خطاباً تعبويا يضخّم مركّب الخوف على الوجود، سعيا وراء أصوات الناخبين، منضمّة في ذلك إلى التناحر الطائفي العام في البلاد*. كنت منذ فترة قد كتبت رسالة إلى صديق هي بين الجدّ والدعابة، وفيها" درس تاريخ" على سبيل النكاية، أنشرها تتمّة لمقدمتي هذه.

.. ألا توافق معي أن الحرب اللبنانية مسؤولة قطعاً عن الكثير من التشوهات السياسية.
لكن يا عزيزي تأثيرها على الثقافة كان أشدّ وطأة.
صحيح إن هذا البلد لم يعرف في تاريخه وحدة مجتمعية متماسكة، إلا أنه من الخطأ القول إنه لم يشهد تطوراً ثقافياً متيناً باتجاه ترسيخ هذه الوحدة في دائرة المشترك، وهي الدائرة التي نحتكم إليها في اتفاقنا على ضرورة بقاء هذا الكيان.
منذ إنشاء دولة لبنان الكبير بل وقبل ذلك، برز الأدب اللبناني المقيم والمهاجر كتعبير عن نهضة سياسية وأدبية اختزنت ما يمكن وصفه بعصر الأنوار اللبناني على المستوى الأدبي.
وليس صدفة أن تكون الغزارة الأدبية التي عبّرت عن نفسها من خلال مؤلفات أدباء لبنانيين بارزين قد اصطفّت في موقع النهضة المشرقية.
كذلك ليس خافياً أن أدب النهضة أو أدباء النهضة اللبنانيين كانوا بمعظمهم من مسيحيي لبنان، وعبّروا عن تطلعات تخطّت حدود لبنان وكسرت الطائفية التي كان الإكليروس يرى فيها النافذة الضرورية لعلاقة الرعية بالكنيسة، فاصطدم بعض هؤلاء بالكنيسة مثل جبران خليل جبران، وتجاوزها بعضه الآخر معبّرين عن نزعة الأدب للارتباط بقيم الحداثة وتجلياتها.
والتطلع العروبي لأدباء لبنان المسيحيين جعل الشاعر اللبناني البعلبكي خليل مطران يحوز لقب شاعر القُطرين (سورية ومصر)، والياس أبوشبكة اللبناني الكسرواني ينبري مع رفاقه في "عصبة العشرة" للدفاع النقدي عن الأدب العربي، وايليا أبوماضي اللبناني المتني ينشر مجلة السمير وينظم الشعر لفلسطين قضيته، وبشارة الخوري (الأخطل الصغير) يرفع شعراً راية محاربة الاستعمار والصهيونية في حينه، والأديب اللبناني البتروني مارون عبّود ينجب صبياً فيسمّيه محمداً وينشد شعراً:

"اُمّه ما ولَدتْهُ مسلماً أو مسيحياً ولكن عربي".

وهذا التطلع العروبي النهضوي التحرري، هو الذي دفع قبل ذلك اللبناني نجيب عازوري ليكتب دستور القومية العربية الأول بمفهومها الحديث، وهو الذي جعل يوسف ابراهيم يزبك ابن العائلة البيروتي يساهم في تأسيس الحزب الشيوعي في لبنان وسورية (كان حزباً واحداً)، وهو الحزب الذي أنجب قائداً بحجم فرج الله الحلو ابن بلدة حصرايل الجبيلية. والتطلع العروبي يدفع بفارس الخوري ابن مدينة حاصبيا اللبنانية إلى الخوض في معترك السياسة السورية فيصبح رئيساً للمجلس النيابي السوري المنتخب ديمقراطياً ثم رئيس وزراء في دمشق.
اللائحة تطول، وتصل بدايات القرن العشرين بالسبعينيات، ولكن العبرة فيها أن المبدع المسيحي في لبنان انفتح على آفاق أكثر رحابة أغنت ليس فقط التراث اللبناني بل والعربي ببعده الثقافي والسياسي المتنور.
الحرب اللبنانية وما تخللها من صعود للفئات الأقل تشبعاً بهذه الثقافة النهضوية (شياطين الشرق وملائكته) والأكثر قرباً إلى "الجيش الأسود" إيّاه، جعلت هذا التراث يُحنّط في متاحف الذكريات والشموع، وفتحت الباب امام جيل آخر من المثقفين الذين جعلوا عقيدة الخوف هي السائدة والردّ عليها بالعودة الى فكر الأقليات الذي كان سائداً أيام السلطة العثمانية.. فصار فكر الأقليات هو الموجّه والسائد، واستُبدلت أسماء كبيرة بأصحاب فكرة العاميّة وشعراء الزجل ونابشي قبور أحيرام (مع احترامي لعلماء الآثار الجادّين)، وبأدب لا يرى أبعد من حاجز المدفون، وكنيسة تقيم الحجر والعزل على المطران غريغوار حدّاد.
ورغم انتهاء الحرب لا تزال عقدة الأقلية هي التي تحكم سلوكيات النخب المسيحية المسيطرة في لبنان، وتشكل عائقاً إضافياً امام دور رائد وطليعي كان يمكن لمسيحيي هذا البلد أن يلعبوه كما سبق وفعلوا في التاريخ الحديث.

*تحيّة إلى الوزير "المسيحي" زياد بارود الذي أعاد الاعتبار إلى علمانية انتمائنا للوطن.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Right of Return

By Dr Bassem Hassan

No, no, I am not referring to my right to return to writing articles for Arab Democracy. Speaking of which, I do want to apologize to my fans (all 3 of you, myself included!) for my prolonged absence. It was caused by shoulder surgery and too much work.

OK, back to the main topic. The right of return I am talking about is THE right of return. Yes, that one! The one enshrined in international law and UN security council resolutions. The right of expelled or escaped refugees to return to their homeland, hometowns, homes! The very right that Israel and the so-called “international community” insist on denying the Palestinian people. The right that even those who claim to represent the Palestinian people- and their backers in the hollow and defeated Arab officialdom- are willing to sign away from a fistful of dollars. The same dollars they get paid selling Israel cement to build its racist wall. The same dollars they count, with watering mouths, as they sell the Israeli army food supplies while closing the borders that would allow a besieged and bombed Palestinian population to get necessary food and medical supplies. The same dollars they then so generously announce as a donation to butchered Palestinian children having just made them selling Israel natural gas.

And so what of this right return? Well, the right of Palestinian refugees is perhaps the single most peculiar issue in the entire Palestinian question. It is used by friend and foe alike to exploit the Palestinian cause and people. Israel, of course, denies this right. It denies it not only because of its demographic implications, but for a much more fundamental reason. Accepting the right of Palestinian refugees is essentially an admission of its crime; of what Daniel Rubenstein, writing for Ha’aretz, called “the original sin”. Interestingly, Israel itself uses the concept of the right of return to populate its synthetic entity. Is not the whole idea of Israel based on “the right of the Jewish diaspora to return to the “promised land”? So, basically, a person who happens to be born into the Jewish faith in Brooklyn, New York has the “right of return” to Palestine, whereas the a person born and raised in Yafa who still holds on to her original house key, does not have the right to return to her place of birth? How does that work exactly? The Arab regimes, all Arab regimes “democratic Lebanon” included, use the right of return to deny Palestinian refugees basic human and civil rights. How do they do this? Well, you see, dear reader, the ridiculous “argument” goes as follows:
If Palestinians were to be treated as equal human beings with the right to jobs and education and health care, they might become too relaxed and happy. Too satisfied. Yes, human dignity has that downside, you see! When they become happy they risk forgetting about Palestine and their right to return to it! So, in order to make sure that Palestinian children never forget their right to return to Palestine and never lose that desire, let us lock them up in shanty towns, subject them to miserable living standards, force their children to go to pathetic makeshift schools and play in sewage water. Its for their own good really!

Yet the sadest element of the tragedy of Palestinian children is that they have been let down, not only by the “international community” and Arab regimes and societies, but by their own leadership. At least they still have their right of return to dream of, on those nights when the American made F-16’s decide to give them a nights sleep.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Dependency Indoctrination of Arab Girls

By Dr Numan Gharaibeh*

Empowering Arab civil societies is doomed to fail without empowering 50% of the Arab societies (girls and women). Concepts such as empowerment, dependence, independence, autonomy, self-reliance, etc are tricky. They lend themselves of over-simplification and over-generalization and other black and white and extreme interpretation. Most humans don’t deal well with vague, slippery, and unclearly defined, or clearly undefined concepts. There is no absolute dependence or absolute independence, only a mix of different proportions of the two. Social and moral judgment—not known for its sophistication—has it that independence is “good,” and dependence is “bad.” Or to put it in relative terms, independence is better than dependence. However, a close examination of an average day reveals the depth of the problem of separating dependence from independence. We no longer hunt and gather our food; we simply go to the supermarket to buy it. After all we are not interested in going back to becoming hunters and gatherers. We are dependent on the supermarket, the gas company, the electric company, the phone company, endless manufacturers and so on.

For the sake of economy, I am focusing I this essay on the negative aspects of dependency when Arab girls are indoctrinated with it from a very early age. Indoctrination is another word that lends itself to misuse and misunderstanding as there is a fine line—very fine—between education and indoctrination. To reduce vagueness and be more illustrative, I shall use indoctrination to refer to dogmatic teaching that does not induce free thinking or skepticism in the learner; rather it induces obedience to the teacher’s scripture in the broadest sense of the word “scripture.” My intended focus is on indoctrinating Arab girls with passivity, helplessness, “being at the mercy of,” or dependent on males, teaching them to have no say and disempowering them by painting a future that is plagued with unhealthy dependence, and teaching them acceptance of the tremendous power differential that exists between male and female. 

It is unfortunate that even in the West (broadly defined), the female “role models” are presented in the children’s programs such as Cinderella, Snow White, Pocahontas, Tarzan, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, Rapunzel, Thumbelina, The Nutcracker, and others is the that of the passive/dependent role. Girls are taught through these Disney characters that the heroine gets rescued by a handsome prince. All that she has to do is sit there and look pretty. Is this what we want to teach our daughters? Not only these heroines/role models are teaching passivity and dependence to young girls (west and east), but also they are sending them a clear message that they, independent of a male savior, are not worthy on their own, and that their biggest asset is their beauty. The female role model is frequently just a “model” and her prince is a male “model.” 

Movies and cartoons (including the supposedly family-friendly Disney ones) may be excused as entertainment. However, children’s books teach reading while sending an almost a constant message about the female roles that girls learning to read absorb the role of the passive beauty waiting for the knight with the shining armor on his white horse to save her (and don’t forget the sexualized overtones). Where are the female role models whom Arab girls can model themselves after; an independent, self-sufficient, ambitious woman who depends on her wits and hard work more than on her beauty? 

Another dimension to this male-dominant indoctrination is religious instruction. The three patriarchal religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam more or less share this male domineering indoctrination giving it the divine stamp of approval. These three monotheistic, Abrahamic, patriarchal religions all teach obedience and submission to the sill of the ultimate male, God himself. There is not a single doubt the God is a male. Not only that, but the talk of the lip service that this religion or that gives women equal rights and respect etc. is disingenuous. In Islam, just for example, the female gets from her parents half the inheritance that her brother is entitled to, the same thing in court, her testimony does not equal that of a man, she is to obey her husband, she is to accept being one of four wives etc. 

The message is loud and clear, you, the Arab girl, is inferior to your brother. What does that do to self-esteem on the long, one can only imagine.

*Numan Gharaibeh is the proud father of two daughters. He was born in Jordan, graduated from Jordan University of Science and Technology, in Irbid Jordan. He was trained in psychiatry at New York Medical College and forensic psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center/Harvard Medical School in Boston. He is currently working for the public sector in Danbury, Connecticut.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Next Israeli War on Lebanon

By Bachir Habib

Israel bombing the surroundings of Beirut International Airport
during 2006 war. (Source: National Geographics).

It seems that time is ripe for the next Israeli war on Lebanon. It might not take place within the next few days or months, but it is definitely on the horizon.
On the eve of two major events; the Israeli elections taking place on the 10th of February and the first commemoration of the assassination of Hezbollah’s “commander in chief” Imad Mughnieh, the situation is worrying, dangerous and more volatile than ever.

The pieces of the puzzle start with the declarations coming from Teheran last week. Meeting with Iranian Air Force commanders, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that “Iran's Islamic Revolution has been the source of great political changes”. He added that the "The popularity of the message of the Revolution can be clearly witnessed in what happened in Gaza, and before that in the 33-day war in Lebanon. The well-equipped Israeli army backed by the US was incapable of defeating a handful of besieged youth who had nothing but their faith in God."
When Ayatollah Khamenei mentions the popularity of the Islamic Revolution outside the Iranian borders, we are automatically redirected to the classical Iranian dogma of "Exporting the Revolution". The Iranian establishment seems satisfied with the spread of its doctrine abroad, specifically in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories.

The echo of such perturbing declarations is heard in Beirut, where the Iranian fist is strongest. On the 16th of February, Hezbollah is organizing a massive rally to commemorate Mughnieh. Leaked information already suggests that "There is no other way but a revenge equal in its magnitude to scale and meaning of Haj Raduan’s (aka Mughnieh) assassination". Hezbollah officials have been reported saying in private circles that "The planned reprisal act will surprise Israel on many levels, and that Israelis should pay in order to refrain from assassinating other leaders".
Hezbollah is indeed an expert at surprising the public opinion and Israel. The party promised and delivered on many occasions. However, Israel’s reaction will not come as a a surprise to anyone this time, and the Party of God knows it well. This time, Hassan Nasrallah cannot tell us what should not have been said after the 2006 war, when he declared: "If I only knew the scale of the Israeli retaliation I would not have ordered the capture of the two Israeli soldiers (operation Honest Promise)".

Since Lebanon is officially at war with Israel, and since the military balance of power is in Israel’s favor in terms of fire power, the Israeli Ministry of defense has always handy in its drawers a draft plan for an eventual war on Lebanon.
If we go back in time, a dangerous precedent shows how Israel can use any pretext to start a war when it needs it. For example, in 1982, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon started "in response" to the assassination attempt against Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Shlomo Argov.
After it failed in achieving its goals in the 2006 war; after the Vinograd commission report and its impact on troops morale, Israel is in desperate need for a war that will restore its lost supremacy. Such would be the plan of a future Likud government.

Hezbollah, from his part, appears ready to fulfill the promise by inflicting a painful revenge on Israel no matter what the result is, even if the price of Mughnieh’s blood will end up being paid by thousands of Lebanese lives. Finally, and by giving the order for the so called spectacular revenge, Hassan Nasrallah will give Tel Aviv a rare opportunity, while the best strategy would be to leave it stuck in the post Lebanon 2006, and Gaza 2009 era of failed wars.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

May Chidiac or the Curse of the Living Martyr

By Joseph El-Khoury

May Chidiac crowned herself the ultimate drama queen last Monday in a country where drama queens, and they are mostly of the male sex, dominate the political and media horizon. Her impromptu resignation speech at the end of her weekly debate show on LBC made me cringe in my seat. It was intimate, personal, raw; incoherent...basically it made for painful watching. The speculations are rife over May’s true intentions, and many have extended the cynical analysis to predict that her performance was a platform to launch her political career with the upcoming elections or a less radical move to the relaunched MTV (for Murr TV) in March. The new station is likely to be better anchored in the March 14th camp, unlike LBC which has been living a state of schizophrenic schism for many months. Obviously May had to invoke Jesus and a number of foreign and local saints to justify her behaviour. For those who have had any contact on a personal level with May Chidiac, it will be no secret that her personal views are those of the traditional Christian Right that dominated the landscape in the ‘Christian Ghetto’ of the 1980s. Her allegiance to the Samir Geagea of the ‘Lebanese Resistance’ era is unshakable. As the war ended the LBC and her staff underwent an intensely challenging ‘rehabilitation’ to allow them to function in this reunited Lebanon, where others had opinions that sounded repulsive and worthy of sniper fire only a few years earlier. The LBC was under pressure to succeed because they were by far the best placed, technically and professionally, to dominate the televised landscape in the post civil war era. They succeeded at a high cost, principally because of the astute maneuvring of Pierre Daher and the circumstances that surrounded the demise of the Lebanese Forces in the 1990s. May Chidiac’s public but skin deep conversion to the values of this multifaith/multiideological Lebanon served her image as a presenter well until the Cedar revolution. It did not resist the flames that engulfed her car on the 25th September 2005, the result of a bomb planted by professionals that remain unidentified nearly 4 years later. I will not linger on the psychological impact that such event can have on the life of any individual, even less on that of a successful reasonably attractive lady in the prime of her life. Reactions to trauma are difficult to gage form a distance, without falling in the trap of cheap psychobabble. However a reassessement of priorities and attitudes, however temporary, is to be expected, especially when the physical injuries act a s a permanent reminder of the event.

May Chidiac chose to use her scars and her recovery to advance her cause, and she was encouraged in this by her political sponsors, who also incidentally contributed to her medical bills. The climax came when, pointing at herself with her index finger she reiterated that she was a ‘living martyr’. The problem with this concept is that, while dead martyrs are generally placed on a pedestal, their qualities highlighted and their weaknesses ignored, it is partly out of the respect extended to every deceased. This is because the dead are unable to take or give criticism. May’s public performance proves that the living version still enjoys this function. As others who belong to this category (Marwan Hamade, Elias El Murr) will tell you, the ‘privileged’ status of having survived an assassination attempt cannot be abused in a country where blood is cheap and martyrs count in the tens of thousands since 1975. The harsh reminder came from the usual suspects, the masters of sarcasms at the Al-Akhbar newspaper in the pen of Mr Pierre Abi Saab. In his enthusiasm to chastise May Chidiac’s psychodramatic performance he neglected to mention that the blood of sacrifice has been waved unashamedly at the masses and in the face of opposition for many years. Ironically it is elements within his camp that have long been promoting psychodrama as a political tool, and that ‘Living martyr’ was the name of a Hezbollah operation against Israel in 1994, incidentally the subject of an upcoming movie directed by the Syrian Najda Anzour. From 2005, The Hariri media machine did not hesitate to recycle martyrdom, aggressively and visually instilling guilt in the hearts and minds of the population. The ‘Truth’ (Hakika) placards spread across Beirut are still a witness to their tactics. In my opinion, May’s public display of distress was unprofessional and of bad taste but she was only applying the lessons from years of experience debating our political leaders

Friday, February 6, 2009

دانا الزعبي vs إسرائيل

وائل عبد الرحيم
كتب يهوشع سوبل في صحيفة "إسرائيل اليوم" (ترجمات من الصحافة العربية) أنه في "الأسبوع الذي سبق الحملة في غزة، طُردت الطفلة الإسرائيلية، دانا الزعبي، من روضة أطفال، والسبب: لأنها عربية. ستة من الأهالي اليهود الذين لهم أبناء في تلك الروضة هددوا بإخراج أطفالهم من تلك الروضة إذا لم يتم طرد دانا الصغيرة منها. الحضانة خضعت للابتزاز العنصري من قِبَل الأهالي اليهود معلّلة قرارها بأن الروضة ستجد صعوبة في تحمّل الخسائر المالية التي ستلحق بها لو نفّذ الأهالي اليهود تهديدهم. أمُّ دانا الصغيرة وقفت أمام عدسات القناة العاشرة وقالت إنها تختنق".
تستحقّ دانا الصغيرة، مثلها مثل غيرها من أطفال "السكّان الأصليين"، أن تُحكى لها الحكايات الجميلة في مدرستها من معلمين ومعلمات يهتمون بها ويشعرونها وأطفال الروضة بالأمان والاحتضان والتشجيع. لا أعرف ماذا قالت أمّ دانا لها لكي تبرّر نقلها من الروضة، ربما كذبت عليها تلك الكذبة الصغيرة وهو ما يفعله المحبّون أحياناً، أو غنّت لها قصّة ما قبل النوم وفيها من الصور والموسيقى والألوان ما يبهج. القصة التي لم تروٍها الأم الحزينة المختنقة لابنتها هي ما ستكتشفه دانا حينما تكبر قليلاً عن وطن ضائع داخل وطن، وعن هوية محاصرة في أكبر نظام عنصري باق في القرن الواحد والعشرين.
ومهما فعل السيّد اوفير غندلمان مدير قسم الصحافة العربية في وزارة الخارجية الإسرائيلية والمشرف على موقع "التواصل" الالكتروني لتحسين صورة اسرائيل عند العرب، فإن جهده سيذهب هباء لأنه إذا اعتمد على افتراض باهت بأن المواطنين العرب العاديين لا يفقهون بالسياسة حتى لا يستنتجوا أن برامج الأحزاب الصهيونية في إسرائيل كلّها لا تقدّم سلاماً لهم ولا شيئاً من حقّ للفلسطينيين، فإنه لن يستطيع شرح قصّة دانا الزعبي، ولن يُتاح له المجال لأن يقول إن إسرائيل دولة قانون وواحة للديمقراطية في وسط غابة من الوحوش، كما أن المحكمة العليا الإسرائيلية لن تنظر في قضية روضة أطفال.
يمكن لمن يرغب بالاطّلاع على ملامح من أزمة الديناصور العنصري الباقي في "العصور الحديثة" أن يتابع قراءة مقال السيد سوبل الذي يشرح بشكل أدقّ عن صلات القرابة بين يورغ هايدر العنصري النمساوي المتوفي في حادث سير، وبين أترابه في الدولة اليهودية.
التشديد على موضوعة الدولة اليهودية أصبح اليوم في صلب البرامج الانتخابية للأحزاب الإسرائيلية كافة، بيسارها (ميرتس) وبقيّة يمينها (كاديما، ليكود، العمل، إسرائيل بيتنا، حزب الاتحاد القومي..الخ). فكلّ هذه الأحزاب متفقة على ضرورة أن تكون يهودية إسرائيل هي الشعار الأبرز للمرحلة التاريخية المقبلة، بعدما كان إنشاؤها على يد الروّاد الأوائل للحركة الصهيونية تحت شعار "الوطن القومي" لليهود.
وثمّة فرق بين "الوطن القومي" و"يهودية الدولة"، فالوطن القومي يعني بأفضل الأحوال "حق الشعب اليهودي في تقرير مصيره" على أراضي فلسطين التاريخية وحقه بـ"العيش بسلام" بمعزل عن الحقوق التاريخية لمن اقتُلعوا من أراضيهم قسراً.
أمّا يهودية الدولة، التي تكرّسها القوانين الأساسية في إسرائيل، فتتطلب حتى بالنسبة للأحزاب العلمانية مزيداً من الاعتماد على النص التوراتي في فلسفة القيادة السياسية، وهي إن لم تعن طبعا لعمير بيريتس وغيره من "عمّالويي" حزب العمل ونشطاء ميريتس تطبيق شريعة موسى، حيث أن في اليسار الصهيوني من يؤيد حقوق مثيلي الجنس ويدافع عن البيئة، (ويؤيّد الحرب على غزة "اضطراراً")، إلا أن نتيجته الطبيعية مزيد من القوانين والتشريعات التي تجعل التخطيط السياسي العام للدولة يهدف إلى نقائها القومي على المدى المنظور، وضمان ذوبان الأقلية العربية إن لم يكن تهجيرها عبر شطب الحقوق الوطنية والثقافية لهذه الأقلية باسم الاندماج تماماً كما شُطب قسم كبير من التاريخ والجغرافيا من مناهج الدراسة، وكما غُيّرت أسماء القرى والشوارع العربية واستُبدلت بأسماء عبرية.
أيضاً ما سيجعل مهمة السيد غندلمان صعبة قليلاً، الصور التي بثتها بعض محطات التلفزة العالمية عن تلة العار المشرفة على غزة من الجانب الإسرائيلي حيث فتح الشبّان والشابات الإسرائيليات قناني الشامبانيا مع كلّ قنبلة قاتلة كانت تلقيها المقاتلات الإسرائيلية على غزة.
لفت انتباهي تعليق لأحد الكتّاب داخل إسرائيل يستغرب فيه كيف أن الشباب في العالم في زمننا هذا يميلون أكثر نحو اليسار سواء بأفكاره الاجتماعية أو السياسية والاقتصادية التغييرية فيما شباب إسرائيل يزدادون عنصرية وتقوقعاً.
وهذه المقارنة البليغة في التعبير ليست اتهاماً باطلاً، ذلك لأن اتجاه التصويت في إسرائيل حتى على مستوى الأحزاب الصهيونية ينحو أكثر فأكثر إلى اليمين. فمهما كان الحزب الفائز بأكبر عدد من المقاعد في الكنيست الجديد فإن اليمين سيستطيع بسهولة تشكيل ائتلاف يجمع من الليكود إلى "الاتحاد القومي" (
الذي طرح ترحيل عرب 48 إلى فنزويلا) مروراً ببقية الأحزاب القومية والدينية.
وربما نجمُ الانتخابات الحالية، العضو السابق في حركة كاخ الإرهابية كما كشفت
هآرتس الثلاثاء الماضي، هو زعيم حزب "إسرائيل بيتنا" أفيغدور ليبرمان.
يشغل هذا الحزب في الكنيست الحالي 11 مقعداً، وترشّحه استطلاعات الرأي للفوز بستة أو سبعة مقاعد إضافية.
وليبرمان المولود في الاتحاد السوفياتي السابق، والذي يتحدث العبرية بلسان ثقيل، مصنّف في خانة اليمين المتشدد. وربما عُرف أكثر بدعواته الصريحة إلى طرد الفلسطينيين العرب، السكان الأصليين للبلاد، ضمن ما يسميه بـ"تبادل السكان" عانياً بذلك طبعاً تهجير مليون ومئتي ألف عربي في إسرائيل مقابل سحب آلاف قليلة من بعض المستوطنات في أجزاء من الضفة الغربية لا تشمل طبعاً "القدس الكبرى" الشرقية ولا المستوطنات الرئيسية التي تقطّع أوصال الضفّة. وحتى يتحقق حلم ذلك المهاجر الآتي من مولدوفيا فإنه يطالب بفحص ولاء دائم لعرب إسرائيل رافعاً شعاره "لا مواطنية لمن ليس له ولاء" ومركّزاً هجومه على النواب العرب في الكنيست وداعياً إلى معاملتهم كما يعامل العملاء والخونة.
ويحوز ليبرمان على إعجاب في الشارع الإسرائيلي الذي يقول إنه "يتحدث العربية" أي يتحدث اللغة التي يفهمها العرب! وسيتفوّق ليبرمان على ما يبدو على حزب العمل بعدد المقاعد التي سيحوزها في الكنيست رغم كل جهود الجنرال ايهودا باراك في غزة.
لن أصل من خلال كلّ هذا إلى استنتاج أن إسرائيل لا تريد السلام. فقد يجد البعض في هذا شعاراً تقليدياً بعض الشيء وتخطاه الزمن، حيث أن إسرائيل لم تعد مجتمع الروّاد الاشتراكيين الأوائل أو موطن الكيبوتز والتعاونيات. فصحيح أن إسرائيل تغيّرت وان مجتمعها تبدّل وطرأت عليه مستجدات.
وربما صحيح أن الإسرائيليين يريدون السلام والعيش بأمان. لكنهم ببساطة يريدون سلامهم هم الذي لن يتحقق، ومن المستحيل أن يتحقّق مهما خاضت إسرائيل من حروب وانتصرت فيها. لأن سلاماً غير مبني على تسوية تاريخية تحفظ الحقوق لأصحابها مقابل السلام نفسه، ليس سلاماً. ولأن بقاء نظام عنصري على هذا الكوكب هو امر مخالف للطبيعة، وبكل المعايير الأخلاقية والقانونية والعلمية، فإما أن يدفع باتجاه انفجار كبير يوماً ما ستكون ويلاته مرعبة، وإما ان تكون الأساطير الدينية على حقّ وتنتصر الغيبيات على الواقع، وفي الحالتين المأساة حاضرة.
والتسوية السياسية التي طرحها الفلسطينيون منذ الثمانينيات على الأقلّ واضحة ولا تنازل عنها لأن أحداً لا يستطيع أن يتنازل بعد. دولتان وحق اللاجئين. ومع ذلك ترفضها إسرائيل بوقاحة.
أمّا التسوية التاريخية التي على يهود إسرائيل التفكير جدياً بها بالنسبة للمستقبل، فتتخطى التسوية السياسية، وهي أكثر من تسوية، هي حلّ تاريخي ينسف شعار يهودية الدولة ليستبدله بدولة لجميع مواطنيها، ويُعلي سيادة القانون ويفصل الدين عن الدولة وينهي مأساة عنصرية مستمرة منذ عقود.
وإلا هل انتبه يهود إسرائيل إلى أنهم وباسم إسرائيل يخرقون القانون الدولي باستمرار منذ العام 1947 على الأقلّ؟ هل يتحمّل الضمير اليهودي في العالم ، بل والتراث اليهودي الذي قدّم للبشرية إسهامات جليلة، أن يسجّل عليه أنه خارج على كل القوانين والمواثيق المكتوبة وغير المكتوبة منذ 60 عاماً واكثر؟ إسرائيل فكرة أوروبية معادية للسامية خطفت اليهود من قلب الحضارة ورمتهم في غيتو قذر يقتلون شعباً آخر من شعوب العالم. وباسم اليهود تُرتكب المذابح.
لا تكملوا مئة عام خارج الضمير الإنساني، لأن تراثكم الغنيّ سيندثر بعدها، وأعيدوا دانا الزعبي إلى روضتها، جنباً إلى جنب مع أطفالكم، والمنازل إلى من لا يزال يحتفظ بمفاتيحها.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


By Dr Bassem Hassan**

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is undoubtedly the man of the moment. Headline grabber par excellence. I think the man is a very good strategist and knows exactly what he is doing.

Erdogan’s public political behavior is probably motivated by three issues. First he has more "eastern" leaning tendencies than the traditional political establishment in Turkey. Second, he, like most Turks by the way, is frustrated- more like sick and tired- of the constant delays and obstacles that the EU keeps erecting in the face of Turkish accession to the union. One should note here that Erdogan has done more than any other Turkish politician in terms of economic, democratic and human rights reforms in Turkey in order to meet EU standards. Third, Erdogan- in fact like most Turks also, except he has the courage to say it- has this deep gut feeling that he is the heir to an Empire that used to rule half the world and he believes that Turkey's current position as a "bridge between east and west" does not do justice to its size and its history, especially, when one understands this "bridge" from a political (as opposed to cultural) perspective. A bridge, after all, is something you just step on and go through to get somewhere! And that is exactly how the west and more particularly the US see Turkey. From an American perspective Turkey has- like Israel- for a long time been a great stick used to keep the region under control and ensure access to the region's (the near and middle east) natural resources. The loss of Iran from this western alliance after 1978, gave even greater importance to Turkey's role as a US ally.

So, the bottom line is that Erdogan has apparently decided, for a while now probably, that Turkey should wield its power in the region in a way more consistent with its own national interests, and his party’s Islamic ideology. In other words, why be the small (economically and culturally) fish in the big EU pond (especially that that pond keeps getting more and more difficult to jump into) when you can be the big fish in the considerably smaller middle eastern pond, which is your natural habitat to begin with.

This policy began openly in earnest when Turkey in the person of Erdogan, started mediating the peace negotiations between Syria and Israel and- if the man is to be believed- a deal was really close to being struck. And what does Israel do? Launch a cowardly, savage and barbaric attack on Gaza killing more than 1500 people in 3 weeks and injuring over 5000 with 1/3 of the dead and injured under the age of 12! Erdogan saw this as not only a crime against fellow Muslims and a personal insult but also, simultaneously, an opportunity. Notice that his outrage was delayed by about a week, and his government had sent mixed signals calling on Hamas, for example, to lay down its arms. Erdogan knows full well that his verbal onslaught against Israel is a winning strategy both abroad, and more importantly, at home. Israel's savagery has been met with world-wide popular condemnation and- aside from the cowardly Europeans- to quote Karel De Gucht, the Belgian foreign minister- who don't matter anyway, also world-wide official condemnation. Coming out as its most ardent and passionate critic makes him look like a decent, moral and courageous politician from a country whose population has a deep rooted and historical sympathy with the Palestinian cause. Israel today is politically weak and divided, and it certainly cannot afford to displease its largest and strongest regional friend. Erdogan’s verbal assault also positions Turkey- in the eyes of the fabled Arab street- firmly as a fair mediator for Arab-Israeli peace and fills a gaping political void that the Arab regimes actively created and that Iran is actively trying to occupy. On this point, the Sunni-Shiaa issue in the Arab world is important, by the way, but I will not get into it. Of course the new US administration would be happy with that, because Turkey after all is an ally, a member of NATO and a secular quasi-democracy.

Now, on the domestic front, the timing of the Gaza onslaught could not have been better for Erdogan. Mired in corruption allegations by several members of his party, and facing a looming economic crisis, the upcoming municipal elections could not have come at a worst time. Enter Israel's newest foray into war criminality, while Turkey is trying to mediate peace! Suddenly Erdogan has a very crystallized focus for his message of moderate Islamization mixed with Turkish nationalism and- for lack of a better term- imperial pride! If you cannot win elections on factual issues, then by god, win them on emotional ones!! Note, by the way, that the corruption issue is not a distinguishing factor for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. Turkey's entire political establishment, starting with the army, is corrupt and the traditional political parties are weak and fragmented. Turkish parties depend on municipalities for political fund raising. A probable calculation by Erdogan is that a landslide win in the municipal elections will ensure the flow of much needed funds to the party and ensures that his people are in the right places throughout the country. By the time the general elections come, the economy would have turned around, Turkey would have become a stronger regional player and Erdogan gets four more years!

Gaza for Erdogan is an issue that he both genuinely believes in and can exploit electorally. For a politician, this is exactly what you call the best of both worlds!

*N.B. Ragab is the Egyptian pronunciation of the Arabic Rajab, and also the title of a song by Lebanese pop super star and sex idol and bombshell Hayfa Wehbe.

P.S. here’s the newest Hayfa joke (I just made it up)
What did Hayfa Wehbe say to Erdogan when Shimon Peres tried to make a pass at her?
She said: “Ragab, 7oush sa7bak 3anni!”

P.P.S. Yes, yes, I confess, I love Hayfa!

**Dr Bassem Hassan is Lebanese and holds a PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of Ohio,USA He is currently based at the University of Leuven in Belgium where he works as a Professor and Researcher.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Cedar Island: A Lebanese "Truman Show"

By Bachir Habib

It has been confirmed. Noor International Holding unveiled last week its plan to build an artificial "Cedar Island" off the Lebanese coast, in the Damour area. The Cedar Island has even a website, with pictures strongly reminding us of Dubai’s "Palm Island".

Noor International Holding presents itself on the website as a company "specialized in real estate development, who acquired experience after developing since 1994 more than 12 projects in the Middle East and the Gulf region". But their "vision" goes even further as it aims to "(…)transform the virgin land into a blossoming productive community scoring a distinctive benchmark". This sentence is in my opinion more important than the project itself. It is the best starting point to think about the project before looking at how it has been perceived by the public so far.

Transforming the virgin land may be an accurate terminology to describe the process that has been taking place on the sands of the Emirates to boost development and employment. It has been equally accurate on other occasions throughout History. In the United States for example, large arid areas were transformed in the late 19th and early 20th century with the expansion of the industrial revolution to the rural and impoverished regions. This is how many American cities developed and flourished: First with the expansion of the railway network, then around industrial metallurgic factories, and later on around oil fields. In these two examples, it is relevant to talk about virgin undeveloped areas where big investments and projects are the only way to prosperity. But Lebanon unfortunately lost its virginity a long time ago, and there are no more virgin areas in the land of the cedars.

Lebanon can be described today as the anti-model of good urbanism. The construction process was extremely chaotic even before the civil war (1975-1990), only getting worse during the years of conflict and has never really recovered since. The law in Lebanon is often a tool in the hands of the entrepreneurs, who are usually well connected to the circles of power, when they are not already in it. It is useful here to remind ourselves that in the mid nineties, MP Michel Murr changed the law for just 24 hours in order to issue a clearance for his company to build two residential towers named "Cap sur Ville". This was in an area where building was and now is again limited to five-storey.

Lebanon is a country experiencing an advanced stage of clientelism. In that sense, building the Cedar Island will set a dangerous judicial precedent and pave the way to other similar grand projects. It somehow looks there is a trend to build ghettos for rich people, while the need is to invest in the organization of the human, environmental and urban Lebanese chaos. However, mainstream Lebanese opinion seem uninterested in the latter, as is revealed from a quick search on Facebook, the pro cedar island groups exceed 13 thousand supporters, while the anti barely reach 3 thousand. These figures are very revealing of the current Lebanese mentality and the direction in which the country might be heading in the near future. Of course, Noor’s project will need to pass the parliamentary, governmental and presidential test to become a reality, but the Island, according to Noor Intl, has already received the blessing of Lebanese Tourism Mnister Elie Marouni.

It will only be a matter of time before the creation of the Lebanese “Truman Show” begins: An unnecessary excess built on the ruins of our natural environment, and surrounded by rings of chaos and poverty. In the age of the Resistance, this visionary project will still be exposed to the madness of the Israeli Air Force. If and when D day strikes again, the F-16s will destroy our fake cedar after allowing its A-List population to flee in luxurious yachts.