Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘Lebanon/Middle East/Near East/Levant’ Category

Notes and tidbits posted on FB and Twitter. Part 170

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory.

La survie est une affaire personnelle. Les grandes souffrances et douleurs ne resserrent pas necessairement les liens dans une famille. On souffre pour l’illusion d’un amour a venir.
Mike Pence the idiot (Vice my ass) is a “Christian” Fundamentalist who believe the next coming will arrive as Jerusalem is converted to Judaism
Artificial intelligence is helping police combat gang violence in London. By applying predictive analytics in collaboration with Accenture, London police were able to turn raw data into risk scores that guide safety efforts and resource allocation.
Bolstered further by drones and bio-metrics, smart policing programs are growing worldwide—from San Francisco to Singapore—and have become a proving point for institutions and companies looking to invest in intelligent innovation.
Christine Lagarde (IMF chief) quoted Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in.” referring to women rights. She then asked each panelist to identify the cracks they see, to an engrossed audience.
“Whoever controls the data, controls the world.” Everyone from Modi to bankers to law enforcement officials at cyber-security events kept repeating that phrase at Davos 2018
The village of Souwayri in central Bekaa3, close to the border with Syria, is daily experiencing dozen of frozen dead Syrian refugees trying to flee  into Lebanon. The extremist factions in south-west Syria, close to the Lebanese border, have been vanquished and no food supply is reaching the people from Israel, as during the past 4 years. 

According to a global survey of more than 30,000 people, government officials are now less credible than journalists, for goodness’ sakes.

Alfo lejnat lel nazar fi ma3ayeer moukata3at Israel, kabel ma al siyassiyeen yedlo bi mawakefhom
Nifayaat 3ala shate2 Sami ejet min nifayaat Beit Chabab, Cornet al Hamra wa Mazra3at Yachou3. Hal baladiyyat bit kebb nifayatouha 3ala majra Nahr al Kalb wa al shetteh al ghazeer  bit jamme3a bil nahr



Heaven Without People (Ghada’a El Eid)


(2017) Drama (MC Distributors) Samira Sarkis, Farah Shaer, Nadim Abou Samra, Laeticia Semaan, Hussein Hijazi, Ghassan Chemali, Wissam Boutros, Toni Habib, Jenny Gebara, Jean Paul Hage,  Mohamed Abbass, Etafar Aweke, Nancy Karam, Ivy Helou, Ziad Majdara, Maria Ziad Jabra. Directed by Lucien Bourjeily

Everyone loves a family gathering – in theory. What could be better than seeing all your loved ones in one place at the same time? Plenty, as it turns out.

Josephine (Sarkis) is the matriarch of a Lebanese Orthodox Christian family. Getting her family together is like pulling teeth; they haven’t been in the same room for a meal for more than two years.

It’s Easter Sunday and she has prepared a feast for her children and their spouses (and two grandchildren, one too young to do anything but sleep).

The children are in various stages of functionalily; Serge (Samra) seems to be the most level-headed but he has been dating his girlfriend Rita (Shaer) for three years without any sign of commitment; she is concerned that she might be pregnant which Serge is very much against.

Leila (Semaan) is a strident political firebrand who is very critical about the government for which her father (Boutros) was once employed with.

Christine (Karam) is closest to Josephine but is having big problems with her teenage son Sami (Habib). Elias (Hage) is married to Noha (Gebara) and is more than a little bit of a bully; the family treats him with contempt most of the time. Josephine’s maid (Helou) tries to be in the background but she is treated with love by the family.

The conversation turns from politics to religion and tension soon begins to make things a little bit frayed at the table.

Josephine then discovers that a large sum of money is missing, money that she and her husband – who despite his apparent vigor is actually in a fragile state of health – desperately need.

There’s no way to know who took it other than that it is someone at the dining table. By the end of the meal all of the skeletons will come out of the closet and the things bubbling under the surface will grow into a full-on boil

I liked this movie very much. I believe the great Gene Siskel would have too; movies that are a slice of life, particularly in other cultures, were essentially his favorite kind of films.

I love learning about different cultures – the foods they eat, the traditions they hold to, the rituals that a meal brings with it I also enjoy the dynamics of a family (which generally speaking are pretty much the same everywhere) particularly when there is discord.

Few families love each other universally all the time. There are always squabbles.

The performances are pretty natural. I don’t know whether the performers are professional actors or amateurs; either way the dynamics in this family are very believable and none of the performers seem to be wooden or stiff; they’re all comfortable in front of the camera which can be a big deal in movies like this one.

The one thing that I had real problems with was the camera movement.

Cinematographer Ahmad Al Trabolsi utilizes a hand-held camera and circles the table constantly; while it does add an air of tension to the story it also serves to be distracting and downright annoying.

Some fixed camera angles would have benefited the film and relieved the constant camera movement. I will say that both cinematographer and director did a good job despite the confined and somewhat claustrophobic set (nearly all the movie takes place inside the small apartment of Josephine and her husband).

Sometimes directors and cinematographers will make a film look more like a stage play in these kinds of conditions but that didn’t happen here.

The film moves at  slow but steady pace, the tension increasing as the meal progresses and eventually the situation of the missing money is revealed to the rest of the family.

The climax is handled very nicely and left me wondering how the family would survive what happened; a great film will leave you concerned for the welfare of its characters and that’s precisely what happened here.

The build-up may be a little too long for attention-challenged viewers but those with the patience to stick with the film will be richly rewarded – the final few scenes are truly amazing.

Bourjeily is certainly someone to keep an eye on. If you’re heading down to Miami to catch this festival, this is one you should put on your list. Tickets can be ordered here.

REASONS TO GO: It’s a slow build to a fast boil. A lovely slice of life with a little bit of rot below the surface.
REASONS TO STAY: The handheld camera becomes quite annoying after awhile.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some violence and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Bourjeily, who got his MFA in film from Loyola Marymount University (my alma mater), is making his feature film debut.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/10/18: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
 Call Me By Your Name

Towards a City-zenship Approach to Urban Refugees 

A neighborhood upgrading approach would begin with a participatory assessment of living conditions in areas of high density that bring together, in addition to representative members of multiple vulnerable groups, municipal authorities, public service and planning agencies, local associations, international donors and relief agencies, and other actors involved in supporting directly or indirectly the dwellers of a neighborhood to form local neighborhood committees and establish an inclusive planning process under which agencies have some leeway to engage in “developmental activities” as a form of “crisis response”.
Mona Fawaz, professor in Urban Studies and Planning at the American University of Beirut, member of Beirut Madinati, and LCPS research fellow
March 2018
There is growing evidence that the distinction between individuals tagged with the “refugee” label and other vulnerable groups is often slim, particularly in urban contexts.
Most urban refugees live in dilapidated and precarious urban neighborhoods that they share with impoverished nationals, migrant workers, and other vulnerable population groups.[1]
As conflicts extend, many of these refugees do not benefit from substantive assistance.[2] Instead, they share the “stigma” of the “outsider” with other international migrants who reside in the same neighborhoods.
Worse, both are frequently competing over the same employment opportunities while suffering from similar legal discrimination that stigmatizes their presence and/or work as “illegal” and consequently exposes them to higher risks.
Meanwhile, the dismantlement of the welfare state and consequent withdrawal of public services that could privilege nationals also reduces differences between those who benefit from a legal citizenship status and those who are treated as “outsiders”, eventually lumping all these vulnerable population groups into the category of “residents of dilapidated urban areas.” 
These observations raise important questions for those interested in contemporary refugee responses. Is it time to reconsider the dominant nationalist fiction that has guided targeted humanitarian refugee responses on the basis of citizenship?
Can we instead adopt the premise that large-scale forced population movements such as those witnessed recently in Syria and neighboring countries are generating a challenge that is better answered through the language of urban city-zenship that disregards national belonging and instead favors responses targeting particular urban quarters?

Should refugee responses at least partially be focused on the revision of urban policymaking and support for a targeted “neighborhood-based” approach that seeks to upgrade dilapidated neighborhoods instead of targeting vulnerable individuals?[3]

I argue that in Lebanon, particularly in the 5 large-scale urban centers where the majority of Syrian refugees—and, more generally, the majority of vulnerable urban populations—dwell, a neighborhood-based approach that pulls together scattered, piecemeal interventions into a holistic, multi-sectoral neighborhood upgrading strategy, has the potential to bring about positive economic, social, and political outcomes for multiple vulnerable population groups and the cities where they dwell.

Such an approach would integrate the efforts of the assemblage of local and international actors who currently conduct refugee response projects as part of coordinated interventions that shift ongoing support from individuals or buildings to dilapidated neighborhoods through participatory strategies that prioritize local livability and employment generation.

Building on earlier informal settlement upgrading strategies, these projects could help patch up the main fractures between refugees and local populations.

Why is a neighborhood-based approach that responds to the “refugee crisis” by upgrading degraded neighborhood an adequate response? Consider the following.

First, Lebanon’s patterns of refugee settlement resemble in every aspect the global trend of refugees settling in urban areas rather than in camps. In fact, five years into the crisis, funding has considerably dwindled and most refugees are forced to rely on their labor to survive, precipitating their movement to cities where they rent rooms, makeshift spaces, or apartments in so-called “urban slums” they share with other vulnerable social groups (e.g. Palestinian refugees, foreign migrant workers, and low-income Lebanese).[4] Hence, it is possible to target refugees in well-identified, precarious neighborhoods.
Second, a neighborhood-upgrading approach empirically recognizes the absence of sound national housing policies and compensates by investing in better livelihoods for vulnerable social groups, including refugees. Given that the Lebanese economy is heavily invested in real estate speculation, provides only marginal safety nets for vulnerable families, and depends heavily on cheap, unprotected labor, it is likely that precarious settlements will continue to form the only affordable housing option for most vulnerable groups.

These neighborhoods have, however, suffered disproportionately negative consequences in the ongoing refugee crisis.

In the absence of mechanisms of land acquisition that could horizontally increase the supply of housing, accommodations are being provided by vertical building densification: Dividing existing apartments, adding floors, sharing spaces in higher levels of crowding.

Predictably, the consequences are individual hardship for households in these neighborhoods as building services crumble. Also, there is a downward spiraling trend for entire neighborhoods where failing infrastructure has constituted a challenge, even prior to the refugee crisis.

In Lebanon, where neighborhood upgrading interventions in the forms articulated in most other countries of the Global South have never been introduced, the effects of the densification are even more severe than described elsewhere.

In this context, a neighborhood upgrading approach that improves collective infrastructure and invests in shared facilities has a good chance of significantly improving the health and living conditions of all neighborhood dwellers.

Third, a neighborhood-upgrading approach is expected to bring positive economic benefits to vulnerable communities. Physical upgrading entails investments in individual apartments, buildings, and neighborhood projects, all of which create work opportunities within the sectors where Syrian refugees (and other vulnerable social groups) have traditionally worked.[5]

There is again evidence that in addition to Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees and the poorest Lebanese groups have suffered disproportionately from the refugee crisis, particularly in the loss of employment on which they survive. A well formulated, neighborhood-upgrading approach may also provide incentives for the formation of local small-scale rehabilitation enterprises by neighborhood dwellers who would undertake upgrading projects.

Within this framework, it will be important to introduce regulations to encourage the recirculation of wage money in a specific area by incentivizing local businesses and preventing further transformations of the housing stock into assets owned by outsiders. Ultimately, if neighborhood upgrading approaches integrate with these physical interventions and other social programs (e.g. training, schooling, healthcare), they are likely to set in motion positive economic cycles with positive, long-term benefits for refugees.

Finally, a neighborhood upgrading approach has the potential to reduce heightened tensions between vulnerable social groups exposed to severe hardship and competing over mere survival. In the past two years, targeted interventions from international organizations have left those without such support (e.g. migrant workers, unsupported refugees, poor Lebanese) bitter at perceived discrimination against themselves, namely that refugees are receiving support they are denied.

Targeted interventions further fostered an environment of competition and abuse under which landlords have demanded higher rents (exposing everyone to higher vulnerability) and ultimately fostered negative tensions among groups.

Investments that instead address neighborhoods holistically and create work opportunities in recognition of a shared hardship have the potential to use spatial planning as an opportunity to create a shared sense of a common good among dwellers, more relation/attachment to place, and other proved positive factors.

What would a neighborhood upgrading approach entail?

A neighborhood upgrading approach would begin with a participatory assessment of living conditions in areas of high density that bring together, in addition to representative members of multiple vulnerable groups, municipal authorities, public service and planning agencies, local associations, international donors and relief agencies, and other actors involved in supporting directly or indirectly the dwellers of a neighborhood to form local neighborhood committees and establish an inclusive planning process under which agencies have some leeway to engage in “developmental activities” as a form of “crisis response”.

A neighborhood upgrading approach should aim for the improvement of shared/common spaces and the reorganization of regulatory frameworks through which access to basic needs (e.g. access to housing, work, school) is occurring. In this context, it is imperative to favor direct investments in shared infrastructure (e.g. water, electricity, sewer, public spaces) through projects that generate employment opportunities for workers while upgrading living conditions.

In addition, a neighborhood upgrading approach will require the establishment of a local legal official and representation of public agencies (e.g. municipalities) to enforce a locally-designed regulatory framework that organizes contractual agreements (e.g. rental agreements, work agreements) to reduce abuses and injustices.

Finally, recent research has shown that an area-based approach can only be successful if linked to wider city or regional plans and policies, by expanding the role of municipalities and regional authorities in conceptualizing linkages and relations between precarious neighborhoods and other areas of cities.

In closing, an area-based approach may turn the ongoing challenge of refugee housing and ensuing crises into an opportunity to address long-term, endemic challenges in Lebanese cities by embracing the urban planning framework direly missing in our country.

This is not a given, particularly as considerations of national citizenship assumed in the introduction of this approach are far from accepted in Lebanon but it nonetheless offers an opportunity for a more informed, hopeful urban refugee and urban politics.

[1] Fawaz, M. 2017. “Planning and the refugee crisis: Informality as a framework of analysis and reflection.” Planning Theory 16(1): 99-115.
[2] UNHCR estimates that about half refugees live in protracted conditions
[3] This approach has emerged recently among UNHCR and other agencies under the label of an “Area-based approach”. I chose to retain “urban upgrading” to explicitly link the proposal to the long tradition in planning practice of intervening in so-called informal settlements to improve livability and sometimes clarify and regularize tenure.
[4] UNHCR and UN-Habitat. 2014.
[5] Dahdah, A. 2015. “Habiter la Ville Sans Droits: Les Travailleurs Migrants dans les Marges de Beyrouth.” PhD dissertation at Aix-Marseille Université.

Lebanese Elections: Clientelism as a Strategy to Garner Votes

Sami Atallah and Zeina El-Helou, respectively LCPS executive director and researcher and development consultant. March 2018

Lebanon’s adoption of a proportional representation (PR) system is seen by many as a step in the direction of fostering a more representative system to select some of the most important decision makers in the country.

Members of parliament (MP) are constitutionally endowed with the authority to collectively elect a president, issue a vote of confidence to new governments, set national policies including the budget, and hold the government accountable using its oversight function, among other duties.

Yet, the new electoral law is being undermined by some of its most central tenets, which preserve clientielistic networks through, among other factors, requiring that a preferential vote be cast and the redrawing of districts in concert with the parliament’s confessional quota.

Taking all this into consideration, it behooves us to consider those power structures and tactics that underlie our elections.

It should also be recognized that as much as the electoral law is crucial to determining the outcome of an election, electoral behavior will have an equal say on the outcome, if not more.

More to the point, how parties and candidates manage their campaigns, mobilize and persuade voters, manipulate the media, shape opinions, and buy votes are largely ignored. (The law was delayed an entire year to include a few reforms, but no reforms were discussed or considered on the law)

Many of these tricks are unknown by the wider public. (For example, a candidate must be able to deposit $100,000 in a bank: a condition that excludes most of the people in this poor economy, and this requirement was never made public)

While this article will not highlight all the methods that parties and politicians employ to win elections, it does look into the clientelistic relationship that links parties and candidates to voters whereby parties or politicians provide services or jobs to voters in return for their political loyalty.

While some people vote based on their sectarian beliefs or ideological convictions, many others support one party or candidate over another based on the services provided to constituents or the cash handed out on election day.

In fact, this provision of services and even outright vote buying goes hand in hand with the majoritarian electoral system that was in place. That is, once parties agree on how to gerrymander electoral districts to their own liking under a majoritarian system, they only need to mobilize a certain number of voters from within these districts to be elected.

PR should in theory make gerrymandering harder, particularly with large districts in which every vote counts.

Such a system would make vote buying and the provision of services much more expensive, meaning political parties would be forced to develop new strategies to mobilize voters.

However, the new Lebanese electoral law has managed to sustain some key facets of clientelism, namely the preferential vote, relaxing electoral spending limits, inflating the number of registered election delegates, and permitting charitable organizations to offer quid pro quo services during elections.

With the support of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, LCPS conducted focus groups with voters in regions across the country, taking into account gender, age group, sect, income level, and the competitiveness of the district.

Some of the key findings are synthesized here.

For one, while most participants would like to vote for parties and candidates with national political visions, most opt for existing sectarian parties out of fear of other groups.

Hence, many participants made their electoral decision out of a perceived need to protect their own community based on the myth of being threatened as a confessional group— in terms of both physical and resource-based security—by other groups.

Two, citizens expect their MPs to provide them with targeted services, jobs, and other favors, especially since state institutions have failed in designing and implementing policies that make public goods available for everyone, such as jobs opportunities, free and quality education, and universal health coverage.

MPs, on the other hand, prefer to provide targeted goods to individuals and families rather than design policies that serve those communities and regions which are most in need.

According to focus group participants, politicians give high-value goods as rewards for active, long-term support from dedicated partisans, especially those who have leverage over large groups of voters. In some instances, politicians provide services to voters with influence, even if they are not party loyalists.

High-value goods mainly include jobs and scholarships, and to a lesser extent, payments for medical care.

Political parties also threaten to deny or withdraw these services from voters who fail or cease to support the candidate or party in question, especially in areas where residents are highly dependent on one powerful party to provide employment and educational or health services.

By comparison, low-value goods such as food and petty cash are distributed to weakly affiliated and persuadable voters with limited resources and significant material needs. These goods are sometimes provided on a regular basis, particularly if the party has a strong distribution system, but appear more frequently and in greater quantity in the months leading up to elections, as a form of vote buying.

Parties enlist community leaders such as mayors and mukhtars as brokers (who happen to be tribal elders in most of the cases, especially in rural and periphery areas) to identify and approach persuadable voters in their communities for the purposes of vote buying.

It is important to note that in most cases, services are not supplied voluntarily by parties, but are demanded by citizens themselves. Parties also target large families as they have more votes to deliver than smaller ones.

The former electoral law 25/2008 made these abuses ‘legitimate’ as it stipulates under article 59 that ‘financial donations including service provision or payment of money to voters such as in-kind and cash donations and support to individuals, charity, social, cultural, family, religious organizations or other, or sports clubs and all non-public institutions shall be prohibited during the campaign period, except for those granted by candidates or institutions owned or run by candidates who have been doing so on a regular basis for not less than three years prior to the commencement of the electoral campaign.

This counter-intuitive law not only legitimizes clientelism, but also provides an advantage to long-term clientelistic-based parties and candidates over newcomers to the system.

While some contend that clientelism does provide services to citizens when the state falls short in doing so, it is argued that the state—managed by the same governing elite—is prevented from doing so, giving political parties the opportunity to manipulate the election in their favor by effectively holding voters hostage. In this way, clientelism undermines both democracy and development.

For one, the notion that citizens are able to elect their representative or hold them accountable has been undermined as a result of this clientelistic network, where now it is parties that reward or punish voters for their vote choice.

This behavior has impacted development as the political elite have no incentives to provide or ensure development for the country since they managed to be elected by buying votes and providing some services to specific groups of people in their districts under a majoritarian system.

Clientelism cannot actually improve voters’ socio-economic condition beyond dolling out some cash or favors to voters, which provides only a temporary boost in income. In fact, we argue and it should be recognized that the opposite is true, namely that these campaign strategies impoverish people by denying them services that they ought to have access to as a right.

Note: I contend that we have No political parties in tiny Lebanon: they are all funded and directed by foreign State governments. The same goes to local news media.

Since 1993, Lebanon Militia institutions robbed $200 billions from the State

Lebanon is Not in deficit, it was plundered by the militia leaders who ruled after the civil war

علام يختلفون وبماذا نختلف عنهم؟

الاموال المنهوبة من اللبنانيين: 200 مليار دولار

هل نسي أحد الـ11 ملياراً التي تمثل الإنفاق الذي فاق سقف «القاعدة الاثني عشرية»؟ (هيثم الموسوي)
شربل نحاس

«أي تقاعس من مجلس النواب أو أي مخالفة يرتكبها في مناقشة الموازنة وبتّها ضمن المهل الدستوريّة، يُخضعه لمساءلة دستوريّة، أول مظاهرها المساءلة أمام الشعب الذي جعله الدستور مصدر السلطات بحيث يمارس رقابته في الانتخابات العامّة النيابيّة. أما ثاني مظاهرها، فيتجسّد بصلاحية رئيس الجمهورية في الطلب من مجلس الوزراء حلّ مجلس النواب وفقاً للمادتين 55 و65 من الدستور».

هذه خلاصة القرار الرقم 106/2017 الصادر عن مجلس شورى الدولة في تشرين الأول الماضي، رداً على مراجعة تمّ التقدّم بها مرّتين، لفرض رقابة قضائيّة على التصرّف غير الدستوري وغير القانوني للسلطة بالمال العام، وكي لا يجاز للدولة صرف أي مبلغ لا يتعلق مباشرة بتأمين الخدمات الأساسية إلى حين عودة السلطة، بشقيها الإجرائي والتشريعي، إلى احترام الدستور والقانون.
المرّة الأولى كانت في أيار 2015. حينها اعتذر مجلس الشورى عن عدم اتخاذ أي إجراء، بحجّة أن المستدعين تقدّموا بمطلب يعني جميع اللبنانيين، لا أشخاصهم بالتحديد.

أمّا المرّة الثانية، فكانت بعد صدور حكم المجلس الدستوري في أيلول الماضي الذي أكّد أن «عدم إقرار موازنة عامّة سنويّة للدولة وعدم وضع قطع حساب لكل سنة يشكّلان انتهاكاً فاضحاً للدستور»، وبالتالي «لا يجوز للدولة الجباية والإنفاق إلّا بصكّ تشريعي يتجدّد سنوياً وهو بالتحديد الموازنة».

إذاً، قرار مجلس شورى الدولة الرقم 106 يقرّ بأن تخطّي السلطتين الإجرائيّة والتشريعيّة للدستور حاصل، لكن محاسبتهما ليست بيد القضاء، بل بيد الشعب.

بمعنى أوضح، يقول القضاء إن الناس إذا ارتضوا أن يكونوا ضحايا نهب متمادٍ، فليتحملوا نتائجه. لديهم الخيار بين أن يكونوا حكماً أو أن يبقوا ضحايا.
ومن هذه الزاوية تماماً، نقارب الانتخابات النيابية.

حصيلة عقد من نهب المال العام

منذ نهاية سنة 2005 حتى اليوم، كلّ الموارد التي حصّلتها السلطة كانت من دون أي سند قانوني، أيضاً كلّ الإنفاق الذي قامت به، وكلّ الاستدانة التي رتبتها كانت من دون سند شرعي.

هذا لا يعني بتاتاً أن ما حصل قبل نهاية سنة 2005 كان شرعياً، لكن الموضوع يحتمل أخذاً ورداً، إذ كانت الموازنات تأتي ناقصة وبعد أوانها الدستوري. أما بدءاً من 1 شباط 2006، فقد أتى القرار الرقم 5/2017 الصادر عن المجلس الدستوري ــ أعضاؤه معيّنون من أركان سلطة الأمر الواقع ــ نهائياً، وملزماً لجميع السلطات العامّة، وحاسماً لكلّ النقاش الذي لم يكن له مبرر أصلاً كون النص الدستوري واضحاً وضوح الشمس.
قد يقول قائل إن هذه مسائل نظريّة وإن أموراً مماثلة تحصل في بلدان أخرى. لكن ذلك غير صحيح.في الولايات المتحدة الأميركيّة مثلاً، تتوقف الإدارات

عن الجباية والإنفاق إذا لم يتم إقرار الموازنة في موعدها، فيضطر السياسيون، أمام ضغط الواقع الناجم عن خلافاتهم، إلى تخطي هذه الخلافات وإقرار الموازنة. وهذا ما حصل منذ بضعة أيام، إذ توقّفت الإدارة لبضع ساعات. وقبلها في تشرين الأول 2017 توقّفت لسبعة عشر يوماً، ومكث أكثر من 800 ألف موظف في بيوتهم، واستمرّ نحو 1.5 مليون آخرين في عملهم من دون قبض أجورهم، فيما توقف دفع الفوائد على الدين العام.

ذلك أن الحكّام في الولايات المتحدة، على الرغم من جبروتهم، لا يجرؤون على التصرف بمال الناس من دون سند شرعي.
في المقابل، قد يقول آخر إن التشبيه والمقارنة لا يفيدان، ويسأل ما تأثير التصرّف غير الشرعي بالمال العام عليه؟

لنوضح عن أيّ مبالغ نتكلم.
وفقاً لمنشورات وزارة المال، وخلال 12 سنة، بين أول 2006 ونهاية 2017، تم وضع اليد على 157 ألف مليار ليرة (104 مليارات دولار أميركي)، وتم إنفاق 230 ألف مليار ليرة من أموال الناس (153 مليار دولار)، هذا من دون احتساب إنفاق مصرف لبنان وهندساته، منها 70 ألف مليار ليرة على الفوائد (47 مليار دولار أميركي) و156 ألف مليار ليرة (106 مليارات دولار أميركي) على الخدمات النافعة والتنفيعات.

فيكون الإنفاق على بشاعة علله وتشوّهاته أقل مما تم وضع اليد عليه. وإذا اعتبرنا أن التنفيعات تمثل 35% من الإنفاق، وهو الحد الأدنى، يكون اللبنانيون واللبنانيات قد دفعوا إلى السلطة من أموالهم مرّة ونصف مرّة ما قدّمته لهم من خدمات عامّة.

والواقع أن تخلّف الخدمات العامة، كمّاً ونوعاً، من كهرباء وماء واتصالات ونقل وتعليم… يجبرهم على التعويض عن نقصها بشراء بدائل منها من القطاع الخاص. وقد بلغت قيمة هذه المدفوعات «التعويضيّة» عن رداءة الخدمات العامّة، بحسب الحسابات الوطنيّة 41 مليار دولار.

لكن ما يدفعه اللبنانيون لا يقتصر على ما يدفعونه للدولة وما يدفعون تعويضاً عن تقصير خدماتها، بل هم يتحمّلون أيضاً ما أضيف على الدين العام، لأن الدين العام ليس سوى مبالغ سوف يدفعونها في شكل مؤجّل، هم وأولادهم، معزّزة بما يضاف إليها من فوائد.
فيكون مجمل ما تكبده اللبنانيون، أفراداً وأسراً ومؤسسات 290 ألف مليار ليرة (194 مليار دولار)،

أي ما يمثل، لكلّ أسرة لبنانية مقيمة، نحو 16 ألف دولار عن كلّ سنة، أو 1350 دولاراً شهرياً، ربعها فقط يترجم خدمات عامّة نافعة.

ألا يعنيهم ذلك؟

ألا يعنيهم أن السلطة تحصّل وارداتها منهم، بالنهب والسلب، ولا تقدم حساباً عن إنفاقها، وأنهم يرضخون أمام القوة أو التهديد بها، بينما هي تستخدم المال المسلوب لتعزيز قوتها ولجعلهم يرتضونها لخوفهم منها، وهم في أحسن الأحوال رعايا لدى السلطان؟
أما الدولة فهي تجبي وارداتها منهم عبر ضرائب يوافق على جبايتها ممثلوهم المنتخبون سنة فسنة بعد أن يتحقّقوا من أن إنفاق المال العام خلال السنة المنقضية قد حصل وفق الأنظمة وعلى الأغراض التي وافقوا عليها، ولهذا السبب أنشئت المجالس التمثيلية وأصبح الناس مواطنين ومواطنات.

بماذا نختلف عنهم؟

في وقت ينشغل فيه زعماء الأمر الواقع بالانتخابات وباستعادة ثقة فقدوها، ويسعون إلى إشغال البلد والناس عن همومهم، لا ننسى أننا مسؤولون عن دولة شوّهوا كل مقوماتها، ونخوض الانتخابات لبنائها واستعادة الناس شعورهم بشرعيتها وفاعليتها.
نعرف جيداً أن زعماء الأمر الواقع لا يكترثون بدستور ولا بقوانين، ولا يستذكرونها إلا إذا احتاجوا الى استخدام تفسيراتهم الملتوية لبعض مقاطعها لتزيين نزاعاتهم العنترية.

هذا معلوم ومفهوم، لأن سلطة الأمر الواقع تقوم أصلاً على بث القلق وادعاء احتوائه في الوقت ذاته، وباستمرار.
لكن المؤسف أن الناس هم أيضاً لا يثقون بدستور ولا بقوانين، ولا يعتبرون بالتالي أن لهم حقوقاً كمواطنين ومواطنات في دولة، فيعيشون في قلق دائم، قلق على أمنهم ودخلهم وصحتهم وأولادهم وحاضرهم ومستقبلهم، فيهاجرون أو يبيعون ولاءهم لزعيم من هنا أو من هناك لتحصيل ما بات يعتبر مكسباً ومنفعة وخدمة عوضاً عن أن يكون حقاً.
حتى اليوم، لم ترسل الحكومة مشروع موازنة سنة 2018 إلى مجلس النواب ولا ناقشته أصلاً، ولا رئيس الجمهورية ألزم الحكومة بإرسال مشروع الموازنة وفقاً للدستور الذي يحدًد وظيفة الرئيس «بالسهر على حمايته»، ولا مجلس النواب حاسب الحكومة.

عوضاً عن ذلك، «درس» مجلس الوزراء وأقرّ، في جلسته المنعقدة في 5 شباط 2018، «مشروع قانون مقدّماً من وزير المال علي حسن خليل، يرمي إلى توسيع مهلة تطبيق القاعدة الاثنتي عشرية وربطها بإقرار موازنة عام 2018 بدلاً من أن تكون محصورة بشهر كانون الثاني فقط، كما تنص عليها المادة 86 من الدستور». أمّا الغاية من إصدار هذا القانون فهي تعطيل الدستور، علماً بأن خرق الدستور بدأ منذ 12 سنة وهو مستمر كل يوم حتى من دون صدور هذا القانون العجيبة.
شرح وزير المال موقفه ونفى لجريدة «الأخبار» أن يكون المرسوم دليلاً على تأخير صدور الموازنة، مؤكداً أن الاتفاق بين الرؤساء الثلاثة حسم ضرورة الإسراع بإصدار الموازنة.

وأقرّ خليل بأن مشروع المرسوم غير دستوري، «لكن في ظل عدم صدور الموازنة، عليّ أن أغطّي قانوناً الإنفاق والجباية، بهدف استمرار المرفق العام، لأن إجازة الإنفاق وفق القاعدة الاثنتي عشرية، انتهت يوم 31 كانون الثاني».
واللافت أن نص مشروع القانون العجيبة مطابق حرفياً للقانون العجيبة الآخر الذي صوّت عليه مجلس النواب تحت الرقم 717 في 3 شباط 2006 أيام الحكومة التي رئسها فؤاد السنيورة، و«أجاز إقرار الجباية والإنفاق لغاية صدور موازنة 2006».
هذا التلاقي يستأهل بضع ملاحظات:

في سياق المنطق الشكلي الذي يدّعي أركان سلطة الأمر الواقع اتباعه للالتفاف على الدستور، يجدر لفت نظرهم إلى أنه لا داعي لإصدار قانون جديد يطيح الدستور لكون القانون الرقم 717 ما زال يقوم بالواجب باعتبار أن موازنة سنة 2006 لم تصدر حتى اليوم، وهي لن تصدر أبداً.
يتبين أيضاً في هذا المجال، حيث يبرّر الإنفاق غير الدستوري بقانون، كما في موضوع «قانون الشراكة بين القطاعين العام والخاص» حيث يجري طمس كلف المشاريع ومعدلات الفوائد على الدين، أن وزيراً من حركة أمل يطرح النص نفسه الذي سبق أن طرحه وزراء حكومة فؤاد السنيورة في مرحلة الاحتدام الظاهري بين فريقي 8 و14 آذار، ووقفت حركة أمل في حينه ضده ورفعت الصوت عالياً.
هل نسي أحد الـ 11 ملياراً التي لفتنا النظر إليها سنة 2008 لكونها تمثل الإنفاق خلال فترة 2006 إلى 2008 الذي فاق سقف «القاعدة الاثنتي عشرية»

المزعومة الواردة في القانون 717 والتي حوّلها نبيه بري إلى فضيحة العصر بعدما صوّت وكتلته في مجلس النواب على هذا القانون، وقبل أن يقوم وزير المال من كتلته بالإنفاق سنداً إلى تلك القاعدة الواهية وبما يفوق سقفها؟
لكن المفارقة الأبرز تكمن في تغطية رئيس الجمهورية ميشال عون كل ما يجري، منذ توليه رئاسة الجمهورية، ليس فقط خلافاً لمسؤولية رئيس الجمهورية عن «احترام الدستور»، بل أيضاً قياساً على تركيزه وأنصاره وكتلته خلال عشرين سنة على محاسبة ما سموه «الحريرية السياسية»،

وصولا إلى إطلاق شعار «الإبراء المستحيل». هذا من دون إغفال أدوار جماعات الاعتدال والمقاومة في تغطية ما يجري.
فما كان معنى هذا الخلاف؟

هل انطلق من اعتبار السياسات المالية التي اتبعت منذ مطلع التسعينيات خاطئة لأنها أدت إلى تراكم الدين العام وإلى تشوهات عميقة في الاقتصاد وفي المجتمع وفي الإطار المؤسسي للدولة؟ أم أن هذه المسائل الخطيرة لم تكن سوى حجة استخدمت لحشد تأييد الأنصار مقابل منافس سياسي ممسك بالسلطة توصلاً إلى المشاركة في تلك السلطة والدخول في النادي، ومن ثم اتباع السياسات نفسها التي كان يجري انتقادها؟

عندها يصبح قول فؤاد السنيورة إن الانتقادات الموجهة إلى السياسات التي كان يتبعها كانت انتقادات «كيدية» قولاً صحيحاً.
إنما الأهم أن ما يسمى سياسة في لبنان لا يعدو كونه تنافساً على أدوار في أداء المسرحية البشعة نفسها، من دون أي إطلال على السياسات،

وبالتالي على مصالح الناس وهمومهم. هذا ما عبّر عنه وزير المال عندما قال إن «الاتفاق بين الرؤساء الثلاثة حسم ضرورة الإسراع بإصدار الموازنة»، وكأن ثمة هيئة دستوريّة اسمها الرؤساء الثلاثة، أو كأنما عدم اتفاق هؤلاء الأشخاص يبرّر عدم وضع موازنة، أي الاستمرار بنهب مال الناس والتصرّف به من دون شكليات، بينما اتفاقهم يبرّر أيضاً الاستمرار بنهب مال الناس والتصرّف به، إنما مع موازنة لا تعدو كونها إجراء شكلياً، لأنها غير شاملة، وآتية من بعد حصول الإنفاق وغير مترافقة مع حسابات السنة السابقة.
في الختام، وسواء من خلال مشاهدة المسرحية السياسية أو من خلال الأحكام القضائية للمجلس الدستوري ولمجلس شورى الدولة، فإن اللبنانيين واللبنانيات مخيّرون بين أن يظلوا الضحية، فيُسلبوا أموالهم وحقوقهم، فيما يتلهون بالمسرحية المملّة الجارية بمناسبة الانتخابات، أو أن يصبحوا الحكم ويحوّلوا الانتخابات إلى مناسبة لبناء دولة وليتحوّلوا إلى مواطنين ومواطنات في دولة.

* الأمين العام لحركة مواطنون ومواطنات في دولة

للصورة المكبرة انقر هنا

البنية التحتية الأميركية!

في خطة الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب لإعادة تكوين البنى التحتية في الولايات المتحدة على مدى 10 سنوات مقبلة، رُصدت مساهمة مباشرة من الخزينة الأميركية (وغير مساهمة القطاع الخاص في هذه الخطة)، قيمتها 200 مليار دولار أميركي، أي المبلغ نفسه الذي سُلِب من اللبنانيين في السنوات العشر الماضية.

Visite de Tillerson à Beyrouth : ce qu’en dit la presse libanaise

(See notes at the end of the article)

Fermeté à l’égard du Hezbollah, écarts protocolaires : la visite, la veille, du secrétaire d’Etat américain, Rex Tillerson, à Beyrouth a été abondamment commentée vendredi dans les grands titres de la presse libanaise.

“Tillerson depuis Beyrouth : inquiétez-vous du Hezbollah”, titre le quotidien de référence an-Nahar, en référence aux propos tenus par le chef de la diplomatie américaine, lors de son escale à Beyrouth, selon lesquels l’engagement du Hezbollah “dans les conflits régionaux” menace “la sécurité du Liban” et a des “effets déstabilisateurs sur la région”.

Dans son article, l’éditorialiste Rosana Bou Monsef a vu dans les déclarations de M. Tillerson un “message adressé à l’Iran”, notant qu’elles tranchent avec celles qu’il avait tenues la veille, à Amman, lorsqu’il a reconnu que le parti chiite faisait partie du “processus politique” au Liban.

De son côté, le quotidien al-Joumhouria est revenu, dans l’un de ses articles, sur les écarts protocolaires qui ont marqué l’escale beyrouthine du secrétaire d’État, qui ont provoqué le “mécontentement” de la part des Américains.

A l’aéroport de Beyrouth, M. Tillerson n’a pas été accueilli à sa descente d’avion par son homologue libanais, Gebran Bassil, mais le directeur du protocole par intérim du ministère des Affaires étrangères. (Les coutumes de faiblesse d’antan n’oblige pas a perpetuer ce qui n’est pas du protocole international)

Et à son arrivée au palais de Baabda, un peu en avance, le responsable américain a trouvé le fauteuil présidentiel vide et a attendu quelques minutes l’arrivée de M. Bassil et du président Michel Aoun.

Le journal relate également les sujets de discussion qui étaient au menu des entretiens de M. Tillerson avec le chef de l’Etat et le Premier ministre Saad Hariri, notamment sur les dossiers du mur israélien à la frontière avec le Liban et l’exploitation des ressources offshores au large des côtés libanaises près d’Israël.

Al-Joumhouria publie par ailleurs un entretien avec le ministre de la Jeunesse et des sports, Mohammad Fneich, membre du Hezbollah, qui affirme que “les prises de position de Tillerson sur le Hezbollah ne nous concernent pas”.

Pour sa part, le quotidien al-Moustaqbal, propriété de M. Hariri, titre “Tillerson à Beyrouth : partenariat ‘stratégique’ et ‘médiation’ frontalière”, notant que les responsables libanais ont réitéré leur engagement envers la politique de distanciation des conflits régionaux et la résolution 1701.

Dans son article, Thouraya Chahine souligne que “le message de Washington est clair : la stabilité et l’armée libanaise sont des lignes rouges”.

Le journal al-Akhbar, très proche du Hezbollah, indique dans un article que “M. Tillerson a répété la même chanson américaine classique : désarmement du Hezbollah, assèchement des sources de financement du Hezbollah, retrait du Hezbollah de Syrie, préservation du calme au Liban-Sud et soutien à l’armée libanaise”.

“Le Liban refuse les diktats américains concernant la frontière”, titre le quotidien selon lequel les  Etats-Unis ont recommandé aux responsables libanais d’accepter les propositions au sujet de la frontière de l’émissaire du département d’État, David Satterfield, qui doit s’entretenir dans la journée avec Gebran Bassil.

Selon notre correspondant diplomatique Khalil Fleyhane, M. Satterfield a proposé une formule de compromis au sujet du bloc 9, prévoyant que la compagnie chargée de l’exploration des hydrocarbures offshore verse au Liban les deux tiers de ses ventes et le tiers à Israël, en attendant que le conflit frontalier soit réglé. Une proposition sur laquelle les dirigeants libanais ont exprimé des réserves.

(Pourquoi Israel ne verserapas le tier de ses ventes en attendant que les zones maritimes soient regle’?)

Note 1: After the visit of Tillerson on Thursday, Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech on Friday. He bolstered the position of the Government by assuring them that Hezbollah can counter any Israeli land or sea encroachment on Lebanon. “Lebanon army is denied adequate weapons, but Hezbollah has all the necessary means to defend Lebanon’s rights”

Note 2: President Aoun responded to Tillerson that the military readiness of Hezbollah cannot be negotiated before a lasting peace on Lebanon borders and the return of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

Note 3: Any negotiation on borders land swapping is meant to erect a Wall of Shame along our border with Israel

Lire aussi

Face au secrétaire d’État, le Liban campe sur ses positions de principe, le décryptage de Scarlett HADDAD

Aoun : Tillerson était « à l’écoute et compréhensif »

The Insult: Six points toward clarification

Note: I watched the talk of Ziad Doueiri on ARTE, but didn’t have the opportunity to see the movie


Controversy has arisen in recent weeks over the 2017 film, The Insult [Qadiat raqm 23(Case #23)], Lebanon’s submission to the 2018 Academy Awards.

The film’s director, Ziad Doueiri, who also directed West Beirut [À l’abri les enfants] (Sheltered Children)] (1998), is a proponent of Israeli normalization, a political strategy by and large rejected by Palestinians and their allies because its position concerning the Israeli occupation of historic Palestine entails an unacceptable compromise with Zionism.

(Israel is a colonial State, created by our existential enemy the US Evangelical Zionists)

Normalization not only accepts a Jewish presence in the region–something to which most proponents of either the one- or two-state solution would agree–but consents to its continuation in the form of Zionist hegemony.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporters, who reject normalization, are calling for a boycott of The Insult, not only because, in line with normalization tactics, it was made with Zionist funding, but because Doueiri “previously lived and worked with Zionists while making [his 2012 film] The Attack (Mada Masr, 1 Feb. 2018), a pro-Israeli take on suicide bombers, and used an Israeli production company to help fund it (Dina Abumaria, 29 Oct. 2017).

For these activists, boycotting The Insult is consistent with the divestment aspect of the BDS Call.

The Insult presents us with a sophistical narrative structure.

Its story is self-consciously organized into multiple allegorical layers, the meaning and significance of which are intentionally obscured and bound up with specious reasoning that distorts and exploits the historical record.

In an attempt to counter the resulting confusion, I supply below six straightforward, interconnected analytic points regarding the film. 

These points are meant to underscore, through clarification, the dual fact that The Insult is a vehicle of Zionist propaganda (hasbara) and that director Doueiri has collaborated with Zionists in its making, in an effort to forward the normalization agenda which he evidently supports.

1) Although The Insult is structured as an allegory, the moral of its story turns on the Damour massacre of 1976, the film’s attribution of which to Palestinian forces, who were in fact operating in concert with the Lebanese left during an active military conflict–the Lebanese Civil War–is presented completely out of historical context.

In turn, the massive Israeli bombing of Palestinian-controlled Damour in 1982, eight months prior to the genocidal Sabra and Shatila massacre perpetrated by ultra-nationalist Maronites with Israeli approval and support, is never mentioned.

As a result, the Sabra and Shatila massacre implicitly becomes an understandable act of Maronite revenge for the Damour massacre, while Maronite collaboration with Zionism in this crucial context is downplayed.

By this tack, Palestinian refugees and ultra-nationalist Maronites are positioned as moral equivalents, while the right-wing view is retained of Palestinians as foreigners who are prone to instigate violence and who should therefore be deported from (or at least not permitted socio-economic integration into) Lebanon–rather than as loyal opponents of fascism who in fact struggled historically in solidarity with the Lebanese left against the disproportionately overwhelming violence perpetrated by Maronite ultra-nationalists and their Israeli allies during the period in question.

2) This positioning of the two main parties to the film’s narrative conflict as morally equivalent is easily belied by the film’s own dramatic structure, in which the right-wing Maronite character, protagonist Tony Hanna (Adel Karam), is portrayed as three-dimensional and psychologically complex, his personal struggle positioned at the film’s dramatic center, while the Palestinian character, antagonist Yasser Abdallah Salameh (Kamal El Basha), serves basically as his foil and as such is portrayed in a more simplified manner.

3) Likewise in typical hasbara fashion, The Insult reinforces the stereotypical view of excessive violence as somehow inherent to Arab men, and of an exotic passivity as inherent to Arab women.

Both Yasser and Tony are portrayed, albeit in differing ways, as irrational and unable to control their tempers, whereas their wives, Manal Salameh (Christine Choueiri) and Shirine Hanna (Rita Hayek), are portrayed as sympathetic and emotionally intuitive.

Likewise, the female attorney, Nadine Wehbe (Diamand Bou Abboud), who defends Yasser in a lawsuit brought against him by Tony, is portrayed as calm and receptive, while Tony’s male attorney, Wajdi Wehbe (Camille Salameh), is portrayed as verbally abusive and interruptive.

Similarly, a group of Palestinian males depicted protesting the trial outside the courthouse are depicted as immature and thuggish–in this instance as no better than the Maronite ultra-nationalist males with whom they spar; moreover, women play no role in such apparent political spectacles.

Together, these tactics serve to reinforce the moral equivalency discourse, in this instance along conventional gender lines, while naturalizing the film’s core conflict through racist ideology.

4) The Insult nonetheless purports a feminist sensibility, in that Nadine ultimately wins her legal case.  Yet the film’s feminism is  contradicted not only by the elements in point #3 above.

Nadine wins her case with the surreptitious help of Wajdi, who early on is revealed to be her father.  Wajdi’s male pride will not permit him to lose his case, so he decides to manipulate the proceedings, at once bringing about the “realization” of moral equivalence and the acquittal of his daughter’s client.

His paternalism not only reinforces patriarchy but a sense that the moral high ground belongs to the political Right:  Wajdi is a well-known litigator on behalf of the Maronite ultra-nationalist cause.

5) In line with this right-wing slant, when political-economic factors in The Insult‘s narrative conflict are raised, they serve merely as background for dissimulating the film’s Zionist undercurrents rather than for genuinely analyzing the situation in Lebanon. 

For example, we are given to know superficially that Tony is unemployed and cannot find affordable housing under neo-liberal conditions of urban gentrification, whereas Yasser works for a construction company that is actively facilitating that gentrification–a symptomatically unexplored allegorical reference to the situation of economically challenged Israeli settlers, on the one hand, and the Palestinians whom they are displacing, and who are often compelled, under such conditions, to work for Israeli construction companies, on the other hand, that is never made explicit in the context of the trial which comprises the film’s central drama.

 In effect, The Insult projects an Israeli predicament onto Lebanon–and resolves it ideologically in a direction amenable to Zionism and condescending, damaging–insulting–to Arabs.

6) None of the above is surprising.  At least two of The Insult‘s production companies, Cohen Media Group and Ezekiel Film Productions, are of dubious ideological-political origin. 

Both produce slick “world cinema” fare intended primarily for international film festival and art house audiences and not for populations indigenous to third and fourth world countries in which many of their films’ narratives are set.

Making films for distribution on the world cinema circuit is a common tactic of hasbara tactic, the aim of which is to persuade international audiences of the correctness of Zionist perspectives.

Cohen Media Group is a New York-based company whose founder, real estate magnate Charles S. Cohen, was awarded the 2002 Israel Peace Medal for having raised an all-time record $52.4 million in donations to the State of Israel Bonds, and was also honored for his “humanitarian” and community service by the pro-Zionist organization, B’nai Brith International.

Ezekiel Film Production’s main website is devoid of transparency, and its secondary website lists it as yet another U.S. company based in Los Angeles, where Cohen Media Group also has offices.

Another of the film’s production companies, Rouge International, is based in France and produces world cinema fare, as does Tessalit Films, which is listed as both based in France and as a Weinstein company with offices in New York City, as well as Scope Pictures, which is based in Brussels.

Insofar as the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rarely honors films from the Arab world on (prejudicial) account of their presumed anti-Zionism or that of their makers, it is little wonder that The Insult was selected for submission to this year’s competition. 

One wonders who will fund Doueiri’s next film project, which is rumored to be an all-out condemnation of BDS.

Comment:  Why Doueiri believed he needed to shoot a short section in Israel? Because in bad times, al tatbee3 shi thanaweh wa ma bte7rez al tafkeer? The fact that Israel (our existential enemy) allowed Ziad to shoot there means that he and the film serve its propaganda interests




March 2018
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