Adonis Diaries

Archive for May 9th, 2012

When the US meddle in France Judicial system: Georges Ibrahim Abdallah

France has a Lebanese prisoner since October 1984, and who already spent 27 years in jail and was eligible to be set free a decade ago. What’s happening?

Since 1999,  Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was eligible to be set free, and every year the US intervened to pressure France to keeping Abdallah in prison.

Seven times France was about to liberate Abdallah and the jurisdiction of Pau had authorized Abdallah freedom in 2003, the latest was in 2009, and the “US would exert an intolerable veto to Abdallah”s freedom” according to his lawyer Jacque Verges.

Lebanon Mikati PM and the foreign affairs minister have called upon France to let Abdallah free and be returned to Lebanon. The US,  pressured by the Zionist lobby, refuses not to meddle in this legal case.

Georges Ibrahim Abdallah was born in the village of Kobayat in the northern district of Akkar (Lebanon) in 1951.

He adhered to the Lebanese party of the Syrian National Social Party and then joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (George Habbash) before settling in Paris in 1981. during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

As the Palestinian fighters were forced to vacate Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Abdallah joined the Revolutionary Lebanese Armed Faction.

Abdallah was condemned for life in prison on account of assassinating the US Lieutnent- Colonel Charles Robert Ray (assistant to the military attaché of the US embassy in Paris), and of Yacov Barsimentov (second counselor to the Israeli embassy in Paris)

It is to be noted that Israel incursion into Lebanon has left over 20,000 killed and 60,000 injured and handicapped in 6 months of a bloody war. Israel stayed until the year 2000, and was forced to withdraw unconditionally from occupied south Lebanon.

The US Reagan government had given Menuhin Began PM and Ariel Sharon the green light to enter Lebanon and could not prevent the many genocides perpetrated in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila...

It was frustrating to learn that the lawyer Jean-Paul Mazurier, appointed to defend Abdallah, was an agent to France foreign secret intelligence services.

Between December 1985 and March 1986, many persons were assassinated by the Committee of Solidarity with Near East political prisoners. This Committee demanded the liberation of Abdallah and of Anis Naccache (condemned for his failed attempt to assassinate Iranian Chapour Bahktiar PM, in exile in France).

Naccache and four of his group were set free in 1990 and dispatched to Iran.  George is still serving a term that is no longer pertinent since 1999.

Yves Bonnet, former French chief of internal intelligence services (1982-85) declared in an interview on December 2011:

“Abdallah was to be swapped with a French hostage in Lebanon: Gilles Sidney Peyroles was the French cultural counsellor in Libya. Gilles was released but France reneged on the deal.  This injustice has dragged on for too long and has crossed the limit of what is reasonable.  I have a conscience problem with the way France failed to keep its word…

Do you recall the name of this Zionist assassin Amir, the body-guard who killed Rabin, Israel PM in 1994, because this radical extremist Jews loathed the Oslo deal for a peaceful transition to the Palestinian cause? His brother was a conspirator too, and Israel released the brother last week. And these two brothers are still very proud and boastful of their achievement…

Do you recall Nelson Mandela, the long-time prisoner of the former apartheid South Africa? Georges Ibrahim Abdallah has been far longer in jail than Mandela….

There are very few political prisoners serving as long terms as Abdallah: Like the Palestinian Karim Younes in apartheid Israel, the Black Panthers militant Munia Abu Jamal, and the Amerindian Leonard Peltier.  I have no news of Sirhan Sirhan who assassinated Robert Kennedy: Is he still alive?

Note: This post was inspired from a report by Marina da Silva and Alain Gresh in the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatic.

Secularism Without Politics? On Civic (Laic) Pride

There is a need to evaluate the “Laic Pride” or civic movement in Lebanon.  There is a need to discuss and offer some constructive criticism to this third attempt at advancing a secular agenda in the sectarian Lebanese system. How to move forward from a yearly march to a political movement?

An example of a positive criticism was posted by Walid el Houri on May 3, 2012 (with slight editing):

“The Laic Pride march was held on the May 6, and the marchers gathered at the Sanaye3 Park (where the ministry of the interior is located) to a rather peripheral space (Ain el Mreisseh) deprived of any political symbolism, at 4 pm. The group is composed of “Lebanese citizens who wish to live in dignity and equality with other co-citizens.” It aims to mobilize “for a secular civil State founded on citizenship, that guarantees the expression of the country’s diversity, and secures social justice – one of the main foundations of civil peace.”

People protesting against the sectarian rule in Lebanon. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

This group’s demands are political in nature (gender equality, legal respect of human rights, civil code, the abolition of institutional sectarianism and so on), but the group has been very adamant in asserting its refusal to be associated with any political party or movement.  It is striking that no economic demands are set forth…

This year’s march has a number of specific demands consistent with its overall message:

1. A unified civil code,

2. The adoption of the “Law for the Protection of Women from Family Violence” submitted by KAFA to the Lebanese parliament,

3. Abolition of article 522 of the penal law, “which drops charges against a rapist if he marries his victim,”

4. “amending the nationality law for the full right of Lebanese women to grant their nationality to their children and spouses,”

5. “passing the Draft Law Prohibiting the Pre-Censorship on Cinema and Theatre launched by Maharat Foundation and Marsad Al-Raqaba,”

6. The withdrawal of the Lebanese Internet Regulation Act (LIRA).

While Laic Pride is neither a political organization nor pretends to strive to be one, one criticism of its activities is its failure to reach a wider audience beyond the niche of activists and NGO workers. An evaluation of the achievements of this movement offers a good starting point for re-envisioning the strategies and approaches undertaken to promote and instigate change in Lebanon.

In three years of activity, Laic Pride is still far from being the agent of mobilization in this country. In fact, one of the essential reasons for this group’s failure to achieve palpable popularity (such as attract new blood, change the perception of secularism as anti-religious among a large number of Lebanese people…), is its failure to reach out to the groups and classes most affected by the country’s corrupt sectarian system.

The group, like most of civil society movements in the country, addresses and is also composed of middle and upper middle classes (mostly university students and graduates). This fundamental shortfall can explain the group’s failure to incorporate economic demands and an alternative political and economic project that would put forth the interests and speak to the needs of the large segment of Lebanese workers, peasants and unemployed.

Mobilization requires reaching out to people whose economic situation does not allow them to see secularism as a valid demand. After all,this kind of  secularism is a vague and meaningless demand, if it is not coupled with a clear-cut position in regards to the economy and the organization of the state.

A secular State can have all the same inequalities and preserve the dominance of the same political, religious and economic elite as the present sectarian one.

I propose that secularism without a political project that advances alternative economic policies is meaningless and will remain a social demand of a privileged class in Lebanon.

While this criticism is not meant to undermine the importance and urgency of the demands to be raised in this year’s march, it does emphasize the nature and limitations of such demands and it should be carried out with the mobilization in the social groups where awareness about these issues is much-needed.

Sectarianism should be understood as both a social issue and an economic one as well.  Sectarianism is both a product and a source of the economic system and policies in the country.

Achieving a secular State is not a demand that you nicely asks for from the very people who profit from the sectarian system. It is a political project that requires more than civil marriage, inter-religious love, or a society where people do not ask each other about their religious identities.

The Laic Pride is a march and not a protest. It will take place on a Sunday and head to a place that is designed for Sunday strolls. In this sense, it is a march that presents no threat nor disruption, neither economic nor social, to the institution being asked to give up its sectarian privileges.

There is no shortage of cross-sectarian issues in Lebanon (bread, electricity, labor laws, election laws, tax regulations…), but there is a shortage of political projects that present an alternative way of managing this country and include the concerns and needs of those who are truly marginalized.

Like the Occupy movement, Laic Pride is in essence and in form a movement of the privileged. They have both failed to leave their comfort zone (whether it be the internet or their class boundaries), and learn to speak to a public that has different concerns even if it sometimes has similar interests.

The Occupy movement managed at least to disrupt the daily routine and exercise pressure by occupying physical and symbolic spaces. This year Sunday walk, even with an open microphone on the Cornish, cannot achieve more than what it already has: Institute a yearly tradition where a small group of people express their thoughts and dreams of a country better suited to their desires. This in itself is certainly a good effort, but cannot further much progress in terms of producing actual change in the system nor does it come close to realizing the stated goals of the group”. End of Walid quote

I think that Laic Pride is following a good strategy by not coming out of the closet and stating outright: “We, the initial organizers of Laic Pride, are communists and of leftist leaning, and we are proud of our great patience for not coming forth as a traditional political parties, demanding everything and meaning never to deliver…”

This civic movement has three main tasks to pursue:

1. Communicate with All the secular political parties, and engage in serious dialogue for a common secular program as secular  opposition alliance to confront the traditional sectarian parties running this  pseudo-State

2. Keep marching and sounding the civic demands, in every district in Lebanon, in order to keep the human rights of citizens alive and urgent…

3. Reminding the traditional political and militia leaders that the youth is not about to let go this time around, and reform of the system has to start now…

Note: Walid el Houri is a Lebanese journalist and filmmaker who recently earned a PhD from the University of Amsterdam.

“You have the right to make errors and not to understand in school”, and you are intelligent too

You have this math teacher who addresses his class: “I adore students who can’t comprehend math.  This is great: I will be of service. Together, we’ll do some progress…”  This teacher never gives up and keeps repeating and trying different approaches until the topic is understood and the students feel “good in math”

An experiment was conducted and the only variation between the experimental and the control groups of students was this priming warning: “Learning is not easy. It is very normal that you’ll make mistakes. With practice, you’ll invariably succeed...”  The experimental group outperformed the control group.

This type of experiment was done in many different kinds of mental tasks and learning fields, and the results are very consistent: Let the student know that it is normal to make mistakes and not understand…

Apparently, in most countries, the school systems do not prompt students that failure to understand is part of the learning process.

Students are not initiated to manage difficulties in learning. When a student does an error, he feels paralyzed by a sense of incompetence.

The traditional message in school systems, transmitted by teachers, is that “Generating mistakes and errors is a bad tendency. Only result counts…”

Experiments are demonstrating that failure to succeed in school has little to do with intelligence deficiency or lack of good will to learn. It is the competitive climate that is doing most of the ravages in students’ failure to doing well in school.

What are these  competitive gimmicks that tie students in knots?
1. Teacher asks students to raise hands when solving a problem or answering a question.  You could have an answer, but you need extra time to think it out. The consequence is that you feel totally incompetent relative to other students, and you feel bogged down for the “slowness of your mind”

2. Students are ranked every month for performance. Even those students in the 10th percentile feel not suited enough for learning or going to graduate schools.

Can you tell me the kinds of competitions you had to be submitted to in your school?

Do you feel that having to constantly compare your performance with the other students is pretty depressing and not conducive to good learning habits?

In Finland’s school system, student of less than 13-year do not submit to exams, rating, ranking, or any kinds of competitive gimmicks. And Finland ranks the highest among the western school systems in student performance. Still, Asian students do better in math and sciences (China, South Korea…). Why?

First,  Asians are good at math because their language allows them to count faster. For western language the numbers “four” and “seven” takes way longer to pronounce than “si” and “qi” in Chinese. Particularly when we deal with longer numbers like 389, or 10,932…

Chinese number system is very logical for adding and subtracting and for easy memorization and mental calculations. Chinese can associate numbers better and have more time to think in solving a math problem instead of spending four years (as with western languages) to learn how to count and spell correctly numbers.

Not all Chinese will have this advantage if they were brought to America at a very young age and learned English in kindergarten. The Chinese that are born in America are taught English when they start school and so have hard time learning to count numbers in English. At home, the Chinese kids learn to count in the simple Chinese number system.

Second:  Growing rice is an extremely hard and complex work, waking up at 5 am and caring for the rice paddy all year round.  And this habit comes with a reward. Rice is life to a Chinese farmer and rice is needed to run a family business as well as food throughout the year. Their thought is that if a farmer does not work hard, they will starve to death and the land becomes lazy.

Chinese have acquired a reputation for being hard workers and handed down from their ancestors. Asian kids are most probably raised at home to become hard workers and those are the Asian students who get higher scores in math and sciences tests in comparison to other ethnicity.

The Asians kids gain a “built in advantage” of several years over the western kids. It is not just a matter of acquiring mental agility as it is practicing doing real math, instead of practicing how to count and spell numbers for years. Read link in note 2.

Note 1: Post inspired from a piece by Jacqueline de Linares in the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur

Note 2: Gladwell’s chapter in “Outliers”  on Rice Paddies and Math Tests




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