Adonis Diaries

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

In two parts: biographies and speeches 

Posted on June 3, 2009

Hezbollah and Nasrallah

Hassan Nasr Allah (Nasrallah) is currently the Secretary General of Hezbollah.  He was born in August 31, 1960 in the poorest section of East Beirut called Nabaa

Hassan was the eldest among 9 offspring and his father supported this vast family selling vegetable. Hassan refrained from playing soccer with the neighboring kids or joining them for a swim; he was deeply religious and admired greatly Imam Moussa Sadr who gave the Muslim Shia sect sense of their pride and potentials in the Lebanese fabrics. 

The regions of predominantly Shias in south Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley were neglected in the budgets for infrastructure by the central government since the independence in 1943.  

The Imam of the Mosque where Hassan prayed in Nabaa was Mohammad Fadlallah who is presently the highest Imam of the Shia in Lebanon.

At the age of 14, Hassan moved with his family to their home village Bazourieh in south Lebanon. He aided Sheikh Ali Shams el Deen opening a small library of religious manuscripts and Hassan started teaching religion in the village and then finished his high school in Tyr.  

By the age of 15 Hassan joined the “AMAL” movement of Imam Moussa Sadr and was quickly appointed officer of the Bekaa district and then a member of the politburo. 

Sheikh Muhammad Ghrawi facilitated to Nasrallah higher religious learning in Najaf (Iraq). 

Nasrallah met in Najaf with Abbas Moussawi (later the first Secretary General of Hezbollah).  By 1978, and after two years spent in Najaf, Nasrallah returned to Lebanon. 

A couple of months later Imam Moussa Sadr disappeared after a visit to Libya in August 1978 (Believed assassinated by Gaddafi?).

In 1979, Khomeini came to power in Iran and the Shah went to exile. 

The geopolitical condition in the Middle East changed drastically. Iran was now against the USA interests in the region, supported the Palestinian cause, and was the first State to officially allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to open and embassy in Tehran.  

Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982; the operation was baptized “Peace in Galilee”. 

Israel put siege to Beirut for two months and Yasser Arafat and 11,000 Palestinian fighters left to Tunisia. 

The Lebanese President of the Republic Elias Sarkis invited Nabih Berri (leader of AMAL) to join Walid Jumblatt (Druze leader) and Bashir Gemayel (leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces) to form a national rescue team.

Many AMAL cadres quit Nabih Berri such as Abbas Moussawi, Sobhi Toufaily, Hussein Moussawi, Ibraheem Amin Sayyed, Naeem Qassem, and Nasrallah. 

They created Hezbollah and blew up the US Marines and French barracks in Beirut in 1983. Nasrallah had said that Hezbollah was the consequence of Israel entering Beirut in 1982.

Hezbollah postponed declaring its formation until 1985 after Israel assassinated one of Hezbollah’s leaders Sheikh Ragheb Harb. The Iranian leaders Ali Mohtashami was then the spiritual father of the Party and Muhammad Akhtari the military father.

Hassan Nasr Allah learned from Ragheb Harb the famous dictum “The word is taking a stand and shaking hands is acknowledgement of assent” and thus Harb never shook hands with any Israeli army officers who were trying hard to win Ragheb over to supporting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.

In 1987, Nasrallah was appointed member of the highest legislative order in Hezbollah and chairman of the executive branch.  I

n 1989, Nasrallah resumed his religious studies in Qom (Iran) and returned in a hurry to Lebanon when military skirmishes with the AMAL movement spread. 

The AMAL party was executing the orders of the Syrian regime to entering the Palestinian camps and disarming the Palestinians of any heavy arsenal. 

Hezbollah followed the policies of Iran to leave the Palestinian out of harm.  After many months of fighting both parties settled out their differences as Syria and Iran reached a compromise.

Israel assassinated Hezbollah leader Abbas Moussawi in 1992.  

Nasrallah was the closest aid to Moussawi and had extensive contacts with the base, and studied in Qom. 

Hassan Nasrallah replaced Moussawi as Secretary General; he was only 32 of age.  Nasr Allah said: “A movement that witnesses its leader falling martyr can never be defeated”. Hezbollah evolved into a qualitative phase in organization and political acumen.

Israel invaded Lebanon in July 1993 for 7 days under the code name “Settling Accounts” and then re-invaded in 1996 under Shimon Peres (Nobel Peace prize winner! Go figure, he and Menachem Begin the terrorist with Egypt Sadat before him)

This operation of total destruction lasted for 17 days under the name “Grapes of Wrath” and shelled a UN compound in Qana where civilians had taken refuge and over 100 died and 300 were gravely injured.  

Hadi, the eldest son of Nasrallah, fell martyr during a resistance operation in September 1997; twas the night before Nasrallah was to deliver a major speech and he insisted on speaking and said: “In Hezbollah we do not save our children for the future; we honor them when they fight in the front lines against our enemy Israel; we stand tall when they fall martyrs”

Israel had to retreat from all of Lebanon, with the exception of Shebaa Farms and the hills of Kfarshouba in May 24, 2000 without pre-conditions or negotiations. 

The “Arabs” recognized Hezbollah as the main resistance movement that vanquished Israel and acclaimed Nasrallah as the Hero of liberation. 

In the large town of Bint Jbeil Nasrallah delivered the Victory Speech and offered the liberation in the name of all the Lebanese.  Nasr Allah said: “Israel has nuclear arsenals and owns the most lethal air force in the region.  Israel is still much weaker than the spider web” (It was a reference of a spider web on a cave that saved the Prophet Muhammad from being caught by the Quraish tribe of Mecca persecutors while fleeing to Yathreb)

Israel bombarded the villages in south Lebanon in 2003 and then raided Beirut in 2005. 

Israel re-invaded Lebanon in July 2006 for 33 days and failed to achieve any of its proclaimed objectives.  

Nasrallah was recognized as the most charismatic and powerful resistance leader in the Arab and Muslim World.  Nasr Allah played the catalyst for the Shia in Lebanon to participate in projecting the living messages in the symbolism of the Koran verses, and thus be capable of assimilating and accepting changing social and environmental conditions.

According to the famous journalist Seymour Hersh, these “leaders” of Cheney, Elliott Abrams, and Bandar Bin Sultan conspired to finance and whisk the members of Fatah El Islam (Qaeda affiliated) into the refugee camp of Nahr Al Bared with the purpose of destabilizing Lebanon and starting civil war between the Muslim Shias and Sunnis, and thus immersing Hezbollah into a potential civil war.

It didn’t work because the Lebanese army was hurt in its pride after many soldiers were executed by severing their heads in the summer of 2007. 

The Lebanese army lost over 160 soldiers and many hundreds were severely injured but the Muslim extremism objectives were defeated after 6 months of engagement in the camp. 

Deputy Bahiya Hariri (sister of late Rafic Hariri) acknowledged that she contributed substantially in financing extremist Palestinian groups in the refugee camps.

 The Israelis take very seriously Nasrallah promises and threats. 

The Lebanese Government of Seniora PM failed to understand that “A word is a commitment”

Nasrallah had said that Hezbollah will never turn its arms internally except when coerced to relinquish its arms; especially its secured communication lines, the most potent arm it had during the war in 2006. 

In May 5, 2008 Seniora PM Government, with No Shia minister representatives in the cabinet, executed a plan to dismantle Hezbollah secure communication network. 

Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech demanding the government to retract its decision. 

By May 7, the AMAL militias confronted the security forces of the Mustaqbal (Hariri clan) movement in Beirut and quickly closed down those arm caches intended to start civil disturbances.

The AMAL forces were controlled by cadres of Hezbollah in order for the confrontation not to degenerate into sectarian infighting. For example, the rioters saved the huge pictures of late Rafic Hariri PM and removed the pictures of Saad Hariri and Seniora PM. 

Israel admitted that its patient work of infiltrating Hezbollah for two years vanished within a couple of hours. Over 20 Lebanese agents spying for Israel have been apprehended.   Nasrallah is demanding that the traitors be hanged. Israel spy bunkers in Beirut were closed

 Hezbollah has joined the Parliament since 1992 and has increased the number of its Deputies; it has cabinet ministers since the year 2000.  

Lebanon is getting ready for Parliamentary election in June 7, 2009 and all the indications point to victory of the opposition headed by Hezbollah, AMAL, and the movement (Tayyar) of Change and Reforms of current President General Michel Aoun. 

Note:  The biographical sections were extracted from the recent Arabic/Lebanese book “Shock and Steadfastness” (Sadmah wa Sumoud”) by Karim Bakradounyi

Extracted from my diary, and written on November 24, 2006

Posted on October 23, 2008

It is a sunny and clear day. I think that it is important to first review the study prepared by Mark Perry and Alistair Crook for the British Forum of Confrontations on the July war between Israel and the Lebanese Resistance of Hezbollah.

(Actually, the main objective of Israel was to completely destroy all Lebanon infrastructure, bridges, “refineries”, highways, and Dahiyat in south Beirut. That’s what Israel did)

The bogus study came to the conclusion that Hezbollah won the war and was successful in penetrating the Israeli strategy, its cycle of decision making in the chain of command, intelligence gathering, and military maneuvering.

Though Hassan Nasrallah, (General Secretary of Hezbollah), warned Israel in many public speeches that Hezbollah is about to capture Israeli soldiers in exchange of the release of the Lebanese prisoners, still Israel was taken by complete surprise at the bold attack: mainly Israel supposed that this maneuver will not take place during summer when the “Arab” States from the Gulf and the Muslim Lebanese Shia emigrants flock to Lebanon for vacation.

The Hezbollah operation was easily carried out, and the later videos demonstrated that fact.

The incompetence of the Israeli commander, who failed to follow the military procedures, resulted in two tanks being destroyed in a minefield and many Israeli soldiers died. This unwarranted Israeli military error forced Olmert PM to escalate the confrontation into a full-fledged war, ahead of schedule set by the USA Bush Jr. for late autumn.

Though the vicious surprised escalation by Israel took Hezbollah by surprise it managed within minutes to mobilize its forces and the rocket officers.  The study estimated that Hezbollah has 600 rocket depots hidden 40 meters deep in mountains south of the Litany River.

The Hezbollah political officers had no knowledge of the locations of the depots for security reasons, even a field commander knew about the location of only three depots within his field of operation.

All the varied Israeli sources of military intelligence failed to accurately locate the rocket sites, as well as locating the leaders of Hezbollah, since Not a single one was killed; even Abu Jaafar, the southern military commander of Hezbollah did not die as Israel proclaimed on June 28.

Israel was flabbergasted by the total adherence of the Hezbollah militants by the war truth, 33 days later, a fact that confirmed the effective communication among Hezbollah bases after the methodical Israeli aerial bombardments for over 30 days and nights.

Hezbollah was also very successful in counter thwarting the Israeli espionage operations in Lebanon: it captured 16 spies before the war, many more during the war, and leaked erroneous information to the Israelis about the rocket sites which resulted in civilian casualties and worldwide uproar for the Qana massacre.

(The same town that witnessed the massacre of 110 civilians massed in the UN compound in 1996)

Israel lost as many soldiers and officers as Hezbollah did, or about 180.

The Hezbollah Nasr brigade in the south, strong of 3,000 fighters, did not need to be replenished neither in fighters or supplies during the whole period of the war.

The cause of continuous wavering of the Israeli military command to start the land invasion was due mainly to the disastrous previous small skirmishes that proved that the Hezbollah fighters were steadfast in holding on to their towns and villages and will not retreat.

When Israel called up the reserves sooner than expected on June 21, the US military strategist surmised that the Israeli army is in great trouble and is no longer doing well as hoped.

On June 21, Ehud Olmert PM urgently demanded from the US ammunition supplies which confirmed that Israel’s air depots have been depleted within the first week of its air strikes, and that Israel is in deep trouble.

The environs of the towns of Maroun El Ras and Bent Jbeil, by the border, did not fall in the hands of Israel for the duration of the war, even after Israel called up an additional 15,000 soldiers and the Golani brigade to dislodge the tenacious fighters.

The Merkava tank was defenseless against the second generation of anti tank missiles used by Hezbollah and which were fabricated in 1973.

At the same time, the “Khyber One” rockets which targeted the airbase in Afula, deep inside Israel, could not be intercepted.

Finally, the US hurriedly worked out a UN truth, at the instigation of Israel on August 10, because the Zionist soldiers, deep in south Lebanon, feared encirclement, total defeat, and surrender.

The consequences of this defeat, as stated by the study, were disastrous to both Israeli image of an undefeated State and the US foreign policies.

First, when US diplomats and politicians tried to be in touch with Jordan, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia after the war they realized that nobody in these pro American States dared respond to their calls;

Second, the US realized that its air superiority in a war against Iran is susceptible to be a failure in order to snatch any quick victory;

Third, the popularity of Hassan Nasrallah has become overwhelming in all the Arab and Muslim World, a fact that pursuing the accusations of terrorism will ridicule the US administration and sap any remnants of its credibility;

Fourth, the strategy adopted by Hezbollah discredited the complete political affiliation of the Arab regimes with the US policies in order to gain a few irrelevant advantages;

Fifth, the US is already unable to contemplate a coalition of the Arab and Muslim States in anticipation of an invasion of Iran, simply because these States can no longer afford to look as US stooges toward their people;

Sixth, any attempt by Israel to disable the Iranian nuclear plants will instigate a retaliation toward Israel nuclear plants and further weakening of the American presence in the Arab Gulf States as well as the fall of many pro American Arab States in a domino fashion. (A few days ago, an air-air missile fell by Israel Nuclear site of Dimona, and the Dome of patriotes failed to intercept it.)

Seventh, Israel is going to need, at least 15 years, to rebuild its military and intelligence capabilities in order to regain the image of undefeated army. Israel lost all its spying bunkers (labelled security services in Beirut) in 2008 by a 3-day cleaning up by Hezbollah.

Eight, the position of Iran in Iraq has drastically increased and the Shiaa might soon start an offensive against the US and British troops, their previous allies;

Ninth, the position of Syria in Lebanon has strengthened which is a defeat to the French program since it would be impossible from now on to form a government in Lebanon that antagonizes Syria.

The previous consequences of the study are conjectures so far.

Let us review what happened since after the July war.

First, George W. Bush administration was defeated grandly in the House and the Senate.

This administration has voiced readiness to consider alternative solutions to the Iraqi quagmire.  This administration will view world politics from a different perspective, except in the Greater Middle East. 

It seems that the Bush government is expressing its bitterness in our region. The Bush administration is the cause that the unity governments in Palestine and Lebanon are being postponed weeks after weeks at the detriment of our security and economic development.

Second, Britain has already decided to hand over the civil administration in Basra by the end of the year and has plans to retreat from Iraq altogether: Britain and the European States are vigorously seeking open and direct negotiations with Iran and Syria for a political resolution in Iraq

Third, Pakistan has reached a truth in the provinces bordering Afghanistan and is no longer willing to pursue the US maddening demands to fighting terrorism.

Fourth, Bush is facing serious hurdles meeting with “Arab” leaders. The Iraqi Prime Minister Maleki is not sincerely willing to meet Bush for the time being after Moqtada Sadr threatened to quit the government and the Chamber of deputies if he did, because the recent onslaught of the US forces in Sadr City in Baghdad.

Fifth, Saudi Kingdom is diversifying its military hardware by purchasing for over $1, 5 billions from Britain and Europe. Vice President Cheney visited Saudi Arabia to pressure it to purchase military hardware from the US.

Sixth, the US is about to transfer its major military bases from Qatar to another Gulf State after Qatar was actively flaunting the US plans in the region and openly voicing its concerns in the UN.

Seven, China has publicly announced that it will continue to aid Pakistan with its nuclear programs; China is implicitly behind the Iranian peaceful nuclear program and that is why the US is feeling impotent in setting up an economic effective embargo or contemplating any military alternative.

Eight, a recent survey by a European agency showed that Israel is considered the worst racist and apartheid State.

Nine, the US and Israel are trying hopelessly to start a civil war in Lebanon by effectively assassinating the Maronite Minister Pierre Gemayel Jr. Jordan King Abdullah is warning of imminent civil wars in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Bush is coming to Amman to meet Iraq Maliki PM and, most probably, to put the final touches to the execution of the civil war in Lebanon.

Ten, the foreign visitors to Lebanon are flocking to the south to witness the complete destruction of 30 towns and villages; they are carrying back video, pictures and interviews with the southern residents after shedding bitter tears at the view of these cataclysmic scenes. Hopefully a renewed awareness in the US and Europe of the main task of this mercenary State of Israel will expand.

Eleven, the parliamentary election in Bahrain, 70% of the population being of Shia sect, allowed the Shia and leftist movement to win big.

Twelve, Israel Olmert PM has finally agreed to a truth with Hamas in order to put a stop to the “Al Qassam” rockets directed to the kibbutz Sderot closest to Gaza.

Thirteen, Iranian Prime Minister has promised to help the US in Iraq if the US forces vacate completely this country.

Note: With the advent of Donald Trump, many “Arabic” States, especially those pseudo-State in the Gulf have officially recognized Israel.

Syrian Women battle continues: Euripides’ “Trojan Women”

Posted on May 30, 2014

Syria Trojan Women: the battle continues. BEIRUT, by Élodie Morel | – May 18, 2014, 14h46<!––><!–
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 In December 2013, around 40 Syrian women performed Euripides’ “Trojan Women” on stage in Amman, Jordan.
All of the actresses were refugees that had fled their country to escape the war that began three years ago.

Euripides wrote the Trojan Women in 415 BC. However, the tragedy could have been written yesterday, or these Syrian refugees. Just like the Trojan Women, they lost everything when they left Syria: their homes, their jobs, their possessions and in many cases, their loved ones.

The co-founders of the project now want to portray this experience through a documentary entitled Queens of Syria.
In a large, bright room, somewhere in Amman, Syrian women, all refugees living in the Jordan capital, are playing Musical Chairs.

All of them are running and laughing like children.One woman slips and falls on her bottom, trying to sit down, she bursts out laughing with her friends.

This surprising and heart-warming scene was filmed during the Syria Trojan Women project, launched in October 2013, where 40 Syrian refugees participating in drama therapy workshops worked together to perform Euripides Trojan Women tragedy on stage in December.Those images are striking and truly moving. They will be used to create a documentary entitled Queens of Syria, dedicated to the two-month long process of the project.

This film still needs financing to see the light. You can watch more of the footage in this video, where filmmaker Yasmin Fedaa explains why it is crucial to finalize the production of the documentary:
Journalist and award-winning former foreign correspondent, Charlotte Eagar is one of the co-founders of the Syria Trojan Women project.Months ago, she got the idea of having Syrian refugees perform in Euripides’ tragedy on stage.

Charlotte had been familiar with this mythical play since reading it during her time at university: And in 1992, while covering the conflict in Bosnia, she heard it on the BBC World Service.The words echoed with the reality she was living at that time.

This play is a universal, timeless tale about war and its victims.Charlotte is also an award-winning filmmaker. The year before the Syria Trojan Women project was born, she co-directed and co-wrote a mini soap in Kenya entitled “Something’s Got to Change”, with young amateur actors, in a Nairobi slum for the NGO Emerging Leaders.“

I realized that through this project, the children became confident, proud of what they had done,.When this project was completed, I was looking for another idea. I discussed with Oxfam about useful initiatives to launch. They suggested that we address the situation of the Syrian refugees in different countries neighboring Syria. The story of the Syrian women made me think of Euripides’ tragedy.”Just like the Trojan Women, the Syrian women lost everything when they fled their country.

From Lebanon to Jordan

The project was supposed to take place in Lebanon, the country hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees.There are more than one million officially registered refugees there. “We wanted to do it in Lebanon, but we had to change our plans for security purposes,” Charlotte told us as we contacted her from Beirut.

She explained that, as a former war correspondent, she was not really worried about the security situation in Lebanon, but insurance companies most certainly were.

“Not a single one accepted to insure the project.” So the organizers decided to do it in Amman, the capital of Jordan, a much more stable country.The objective of the Syria Trojan Women project was to help refugees through drama-therapy, but also to publicize this crisis and to raise the audience’s awareness about the humanitarian situation in Syria.

The drama-therapy was really effective.Charlotte Eagar explained to us that the play “gave a voice to 
those women. It gave them a feeling of achievement and dignity; it was also a way for them to escape their daily ‘routine’. They were not living in refugee camps; they had found homes around Amman.

They had at one point felt isolated and lonely, but coming to the drama-therapy sessions was a way to build new relationships.A kindergarten was also set up to take care of the children of the participants. Just like their mothers, the children made new friends as well. This project was great for everyone!”

Two performances took place at the National Centre for Culture and Performing Arts in Amman on December 17 and 18, 2013.After performing on stage, the women said they felt that people listened to their story. For once, they were directly speaking to the public, without any media between them and the audience.

The audience was composed of the refugees’ families, and also of Jordanian locals and expatriates.“After the play, people said: ‘now I really feel like I understand what it is like to be a refugee’”, stated Georgina Paget, a London-based film producer.

Georgina is also a co-founder of the Syria Trojan Women project.Paget told us, “After watching and listening to these women, the people in the audience understood what life could be like in such a situation. They understood that these refugees were people just like them. One of the women used to work in her town’s administration services, you know. She could be anyone of us.”

Fighting compassion fatigue

This play is also a way to fight compassion fatigue, which is one of the biggest challenges of the project. “People are tired of caring,” Georgina explained. “There is a compassion fatigue in general and especially regarding Syria. We feel it every day. For example, the amount of money collected by NGOs for Syria is much smaller than the amount collected after the Philippines’ hurricane.”

The Syria Trojan Women performance in December was also a success from an artistic point of view. They have been invited to perform in places such as the UK, the US and Switzerland.

But getting visas for Syrian refugees to certain countries is difficult. So, to reach as many people as possible, the organizers are now trying to finalize the documentary, “Queens of Syria”.“The objective of the documentary is to reach more people, to let as many people as possible hear the story of these women.

We filmed the drama-therapy sessions, the rehearsals and the performances, thanks to a grant from the Asfari Foundation and private donations,” Georgina Paget said. “We have 88 hours of footage and we need money to make a documentary out of them”.

A 3’30 trailer for the documentary was released online. It shows the refugees, passionate about what they do, about the play and about being together. It is truly moving. You can watch it here:

To finance the production of the documentary, the Syria Trojan Women Project launched a crowdfounding campaign on Indiegogo, a crowdfounding digital platform.“

We hope that by watching this documentary, just like by watching the performance in Amman, people will begin to understand what is really happening. They will see Syrian refugees as real persons and not only as statistics delivered by the media.

They will see individuals telling their stories,” Georgina said, while adding that, “to make the people care, we need to give them something personal and beautiful as well. Out of their own tragedy, the women created something beautiful. They created art.”

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Sustainable agriculture in the Middle East: Environmental emergency and food security challenge

Fabienne Durand , Political scientist consultant on sustainable development and global warming.

The Covid crisis has highlighted the need to relocate what is essential, such as food and drug production.

In the Middle East, it is clear that the supply of basic foodstuffs depends heavily, and increasingly so, on international markets, as arable land and water resources are becoming increasingly scarce.

Policies support the production and consumption of cereals, with the result that these water-demanding products, especially wheat, which is a major component of the calorie intake, take up 65% of the cultivated area.

Food consumption is projected to grow in the region, with a gradual shift in diet towards animal products.

And when we talk about animals, we are talking about livestock farming, and therefore about agricultural areas dedicated to food production to feed farm animals, which are voracious for water.

Water use is expected to remain at unsustainable levels and dependence on global markets is expected to increase, if nothing changes.

A sustainable turnaround is needed more than ever in the world, and even more so in this environmentally fragile and geopolitically unstable part of the world.

As one of the world’s largest importers of food products, the Middle East faces many uncertainties on both the supply and demand sides.

Uncertainty regarding the supply side is particularly linked to the limits and sustainability of the spaces that lend themselves to production.

On the demand side, the uncertainties are the result of the repercussions of conflicts on the geopolitical level and the instability of the world markets for hydrocarbons, which constitute the first of the region’s sources of economic wealth, which are not sustainable.

This poses increasing food and nutritional problems. A major concern is that the region’s supply of key food products is highly, and increasingly, dependent on international markets.

This situation has led to the adoption of measures that seem inappropriate in view of the resources available in the region. For example, the region is among the poorest in terms of water and arable land in the world, but water prices are among the lowest in the world and the region heavily subsidised water consumption up to about 2% of its GDP.

Regenerating the soil is a real problem, as the region’s crop rotation is difficult to reconcile with the scarcity of water. For example, water-hungry cereals still account for 60% of the harvested area, even though most countries in the region have a comparative advantage in the export of fruit and vegetables.

One of the main reasons for the apparent inconsistency between policy and water scarcity is a vision of food security that aims to reduce dependence on imports, especially of cereals. Yet many countries subsidise the consumption of staple foods and this policy, combined with rising incomes, encourages excessive consumption of starchy foods and sugars, leading to nutritional and health problems such as obesity and diabetes, according to the latest FAO reports.

Food security is affected by conflicts and agricultural choices in this fragile region. It affects 30 million people, particularly in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Sudan. This food security is more than ever a challenge. The support of public authorities is not enough. We need to put in place strategies and a more virtuous agriculture as in the time of the physiocrats.

The Middle East is a difficult environment for agriculture. Water and soil resources are scarce and land, both irrigated and non-irrigated, is constantly suffering degradation caused by wind and water erosion and unsustainable agricultural practices.

In most countries in the region, farms are quite small and their owners therefore face the same difficulties as small-scale producers around the world.

Climate change in the region is resulting in a warmer and drier climate and increasing water stress.

In addition to the lack of arable land, the cultivated soils are severely degraded, to the extent that they have lost 30-35% of their potential productivity.

Ploughing depletes the soil, causing harmful effects such as a decrease in water and organic matter content, making the soil more vulnerable to wind and water erosion.

Land productivity is low in the region.

It is also very uneven and can only aggravate tensions between states, but also generate problems of political stability in the region.

Let us not forget that the drought in Syria caused a massive rural exodus of the population to Damascus, which contributed to the destabilisation of the regime in 2011.

And Egypt, with its rich soils, irrigated cereal production and almost no grazing land, is clearing more than $6,000 per hectare from its agricultural land, while Bahrain, which is content to grow horticultural and livestock crops, is clearing more than $4,000 per hectare.

Similarly, in Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the value of production per hectare amounts to more than $1,000, with a very small area under cereals.

Finally, water is a real issue in the Middle East, beyond conflicts.

The problem stems from the scarcity of the resource, but also from the unsustainable use of surface and underground water, which is causing the depletion of the aquifers on which the Middle East is highly dependent. The unsustainable use of water is encouraged by the policies pursued and by poor governance of the resource, irresponsible as in Iran.

Water prices in the region are, of course, the lowest in the world, as water consumption is subsidised (around 2% of GDP). However, the majority of countries in the region are below the generally acceptable “water scarcity threshold” of 1,000 m3 per capita per year of renewable water resources.

Agriculture is the sector that uses the most water in each country. In addition, improved water management in the agricultural sector is essential to halt land degradation and enable adaptation to climate change.

What would be the medium-term solutions for the agricultural, fisheries and aquaculture sectors? Awareness of environmental problems is fundamental.

This will require the use of the media to enlighten and influence public opinion. Education and training in sustainable problems and solutions are also essential to reverse the trend.

We know that regenerative agriculture is the main way to contribute to the reduction of temperatures by capturing CO2. It is important to better manage water resources and to save and regenerate the soil, through no tillage (ploughing) or minimal tillage, and to ban the use of plant protection products.

The roots remaining from the previous crop stabilise the soil, protecting it from erosion, and the organic matter on the surface improves the fertility and water-holding capacity of the soil.

Seed drills (machines) can be used to insert seeds and fertilisers directly into the soil without ploughing. Admittedly, seed drills are expensive (about $30,000) and the majority of smallholders cannot afford to buy one.

For example, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas and the Australian government have encouraged the collaboration of local farmers and artisans to produce and sell at an affordable cost nearly 200 seed drills that are now being used in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

Moreover, the size of farms in the Middle East is one of the most unequal in the world.

In some countries in the region (Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and Iran), the majority of farms are smaller than one hectare.

At the other end of the spectrum are a relatively small number of large farms owned by a small number of landowners or the state. Because of their size, small farms do not qualify for public support or bank loans.

Sectoral ‘modernisation’ measures have largely excluded small farms from public support: as a result, they are not expanding, are technologically backward and remain poor. There is an urgent need to subsidise these small farms to start the transition.

Soil data are important for farmers and decision-makers. Faced with the outdated soil maps available in the countries of the region, the Institute of Digital Soil Mapping in Amman serves as a regional platform for a global consortium of scientists and researchers.

Thus, on you will find data from several sources for all audiences. The data can indicate soil pH, volume of water stored, electrical conductivity and carbon content. They are obtained by remote sensing, near and mid-infrared spectroscopy and field sampling.

The Global Soil Partnership system of the International Network of Soil Information Institutes can also be used.

On this topic as on others, whether it is the urban or rural universe, which says “sustainable” says “green” and “smart”.

It is too often forgotten that the sustainable future depends on this and on the development of another cognitive matrix.

* Political scientist consultant on sustainable development and global warming.

Road map of a civil war: (June 1982-1985)

Posted on October 22, 2008

The third phase (June 1982-1985) started with the invasion of Israel to Lebanon and entering its capital Beirut for two weeks. It ended by the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Sidon and East Sidon to Jezzine in the South.

Israel withdrew its forces in phases from various parts of the lands it occupied. 

The tactics of Israel were to allow the Christian “Lebanese Forcesto infiltrate into mixed regions and let the factions fight it out among themselves when Israel withdraws.

These tactics started a civil war in the Chouf (Druze district) that ended with the evacuation of all Christian villages, and the follow-up civil war in the region of East Sidon that ended with the evacuation of all Christian towns toward Jezzine (under Israel occupation) or East Beirut.

Israel continued its occupation of a major part of South Lebanon until its total defeat in year 2000 (over 20 years of occupation) and the withdrawal of its forces without negotiation or conditions.

This phase witnessed the evacuation of the armed Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Beirut to Tunisia, the landing of UN troops constituted from US, France, and Italy into Beirut, the assassination of elected President Bashir Gemayel (before his official inauguration), and the gruesome slaughter of the Palestinian refugees in the camps of Sabra and Shatila in West Beirut , contrary to the guarantees for their safety offered by the USA, France and Israel.  

More than two thousands civilians (Palestinians and Lebanese) were killed within two days and nights, the nights of the camps fully lighted by Israel to resume the slaughter hood.

The multinational forces composed of mainly French and American forces vacated Lebanon after two successful suicide car bomb attacks on their headquarters., leaving hundreds of soldiers from the US and France dead.  

The Shiaa party “Amal” was split, and Hezbollah was created

Battles between these two factions will intensify with Hezbollah taking over the control of Dahieh (South Beirut) and “Amal” (lead by current head of the Parliament Nabih Berri) retaining the administration of what is left of South Lebanon.

Amine Gemmayel was elected President of the Republic with Israel backing. 

The peace treaty with Israel that President Gemayel was negotiating failed miserably in May 17, 1983 and the Lebanese army successfully checked the advances of the Syrian forces in Souk Gharb in the Aley region and which could have left the Presidential Palace exposed at the mercy of direct artillery fires.

The relocation movements within Beirut were the consequences of Syria’s supported militias like “Amal” attacking the Palestinian camps in and around Beirut.

This war against the remaining Palestinian strongholds in West Beirut started in the summer of 1985 and lasted for 5 years, which enfeebled “Amal” (the main Syrian supporter) militias militarily and politically.

Hezbollah was set to broaden its base in the Shia population and become the sole resistance power against Israeli occupation of part of Lebanon, after Syria Hafez Assad prohibited the leftist Lebanese forces to participate in that national and legitimate resistance.

Beirut: Wet Nurse of laws during Roman Empire. Part 1

Posted on  August 4, 2010

A brief history:  Between 150 and 551 AC, the city of Beirut (Beryte) was the official Roman State law center and this recognition extended to the Byzantine Empire.

Beirut had the preferred law school for law students and the professors flocked from the four corners of the Empire.  

There were 6 other law centers such as the ones in Rome, Constantinople, Athens, Alexandria, Caesar of Cappadocia, and Caesar of Palestine, but Beirut kept her highest standing over four centuries as the main official law center.

Beirut was called “Mother of laws” and “The most magnificent city” during the Roman Empire.  Emperor Justinian I (527-566) attributed to Beirut the title of “wet-nurse of laws

Between 150 and 551, Beirut was the official location for posting law articles and saving the Constitutions and compilations of laws.

Comparative law studies is the immediate successor of the roman laws that was initiated and updated in Beirut.  In the 5th century, Beirut law school started to teach in both languages of Latin and Greek.

Paradoxically, the main language of the common people was the written language Syriac (Aramaic,  the language spoken by Jesus).  

Another demonstration that written languages are the domain of the elite classes, and used as coded language for administrations and government of people.

The Common people had to suffer the consequences of not knowing the language of their dominating Masters; in this case either Latin or Greek.

Rome fell in 476 and Western Europe had to wait until the Crusader’s campaigns (1096-1291) for the Justinian civil code of laws the “Digeste” to be rediscovered and then applied in Europe starting in the 12th century.

In 551, an earthquake demolished the city of Beirut.  T

he law school was temporarily moved to Sidon. In 560, as the professors returned to Beirut then a huge fire burned the city again.  Beirut was still in ruin by 600.

As Islamic “Arabs” conquered the Near-East region in 635 (through the strong backing and support of the Syrian people), Beirut recaptured its previous status as a law center but without the brilliance of previous periods.

Beirut was compiling Islamic laws according to “Charia”.

During the last 7 Omayyad caliphs and the first two Abbasid caliphs (690 to 770) the Lebanese theologians (ulema) and judges (fakihs and cadis) were the cornerstones for the nascent Islamic jurisprudence.  

Imam El Uzahi (707-774) from Baalbek and who studied in Beirut and lived was the most brilliant and most sought after fakih in his life.  His doctrine was applied in Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria for 200 years.

Then, the doctrines of Hanafi (Syria), the Chafii (Egypt), the Maliki (Andalusia and Northern Africa  took the ascendency.

Note 1: The next chapters will give details on the most famous law professors in ancient Beirut and a few current updates.

Note 2: Review of the book of Joy Tabet

Mar Sassine is depicted in pictures as a long white bearded angry specimen, holding a broad sharp sword, slaying a “heretic infidel”. An early version of Christian Daeshis?

Posted on September 3, 2018

Mon cher Ado,( Part 9)

Autrefois, à Mar Sassine, (Saint Sassine church) les femmes occupaient les rangées de gauche et les hommes ceux de droite. Aujourd’hui on se mélange , tout est embrouillé .

Le dimanche et les jours de fête , tout le monde était joliment habillé . Les femmes et les jeunes filles étaient chapeautées ou bien se couvraient la tête avec de belles écharpes .

Les hommes quant à eux ils devaient se décoiffer dès qu’ils franchissaient le porche de l’église . La plupart étaient costumés avec des chemises blanches. Certains d’entre eux s’habillaient encore à l’ancienne avec une chemise blanche sans col , et un serwal (sherwal), et un fez indispensable (tarboush) qui les rehaussait de quelques centimètres et leur donnait l’air vainqueurs .

J’ai toujours en mémoire quelques uns de la génération de mon grand-père qui n’arrivaient pas à se débarrasser de leurs habits folkloriques .

Le temps s’est chargé de les retirer , les uns après les autres , du tableau de mon enfance .

A l’église, ma grand-mère , Farfoura, et ses copines , Olga Boudalha et Marie Farah , occupaient les premiers rangs de gauche . La messe finie, et après avoir offert leurs prières à Mar Sessine afin qu’il intercède pour elles auprès de Dieu qui devrait exaucer leurs vœux , elles se retrouvaient chez l’une ou l’autre pour siroter un de ces bons café qu’elle savaient si bien préparer à feu doux .

Marie Farah était d’une gentillesse à nulle autre pareille ! Quand j’arrivais parfois chez elle pour voir mon copain Charlot, elle m’accueillait avec son sourire Angélique et tenait toujours à m’ offrir une douceur qu’elle avait préparée et qu’elle gardait dans une boîte au fond du buffet .

Tout cela est du passé, même la maison a changé de look , ce n’est plus la belle maison de mon enfance avec son jardin fleuri et le néflier qui nous accueillait à bras ouvert quand il était chargé de ses fruits succulents .
Il faut savoir que l’église de Mar Sassine est celle de la famille Bejjani, car chaque famille dans notre village à son église , de la sorte qu’on a à Beit-Chabab 16 églises .

Les branches de notre famille sont nombreuses : il y a les Boudebs , les Farah, les Bou-Hanna, les Gebraiel , les Jabr , les Tohme , (les Bouhatab?) et d’autres encore …

A l’église, tout en écoutant la messe, nous observions les jeunes filles aussi belles les unes que les autres!

De ma vie , mon cher Ado, je n’ai rencontré d’aussi belles ! (Miopia might have set in, or definitely I was indifferent then).

Serait ce le fait de l’adolescence ? Ne tarde pas à me rassurer que je ne divague pas ? (Que sais-je? Peut-etre les deux?)

Ce qui m’impressionnait au cours de la messe, c’était lorsque bouna Liés  (Elias), le père de celui qui officie aujourd’hui , car bouna Liés , l’ancien , était marié et avait plus de 10 enfants . (Elias I, Elias II, Elias III…?)

Et bien c’était lorsqu’il entonnait ses prières avec sa voix de ténor , une voix filtrée par barbe blanche qui lui couvrait toute la poitrine et même une partie du ventre , alors que Fares Boudebs faisait la quête avec son panier à la main, précédé de son ventre qu’il avait développé aux cours de ses années passées en Afrique .

Aujourd’hui , c’est son neveu , Josèphe Boudebs qui se charge de faire la quête , à croire que cette charge est allouée aux Boudebs , demain ce sera un des enfants de ma tante Rose qui a eu la belle idée d’épouser un jeune homme de la famille Boudebs. J’attends de voir qui sera le suivant?

Ça m’étonne que Said se charge de cette besogne , encore moins Jean-Pierre , il est donc fort probable que ce sera Farouk ! (Or the wife of one of them?)

(Probablement ce sera une fille des Boudebs? Ca vaudra le sacrifice pour agrandir la quete pour les expenses récente de l’amélioration de l’église. Bernard Gsoub a contribué’ à l’embellissement).

Note: Aunt Marie Farah was the sister of my grandfather Tanios (Antony). Her husband was an elected Mokhtar, someone who knows all the citizens in his quarter and signs on many official transactions. Marie would prohibit her husband to pocket his money dues on the transactions I submitted to him.

A friend passed away: Maitre Farès Zoghbi (with 50,000 manuscripts private library, opened to all)

Posted on August 12, 2015

He passed away, Maitre Phares Zoghby. He owned the private library in Kornet Chehwan that I patronized in the last 10 years.

The burial ceremony is today Monday at 4:30 at the Church of St. Paul and Pierre.
I posted extensive reviews of his 2 published books and a couple of articles on the library and how it was run.

Maitre Zoghbi was handicapped in the last 4 years and could not come down to the lower level of his library to meet with the readers.

When Maitre Zoghby could come down to the lower floor of the library, he would ask Rita Zoghbi (manager of the library) to call me up when I failed to show up and check if I was sick…

Nada CORBANI AKL (she represented the Jesuit university to care for the library before her retirement) wrote in the French daily:

C’était un humaniste doublé d’un philanthrope, un ami de la culture, un homme qui avait trouvé pour l’un de ses ouvrages ce titre admirable : Le salut par la culture. Il y croyait.

Né en 1918 au Brezil, transfere au Liban a l’ age de 13 ans,  licencié en droit de l’USJ en 1943, Farès Zoghbi fut longtemps l’avocat du Nahar et du Casino du Liban. Lié d’amitié à Ghassan Tuéni, il avait notamment joué un rôle-clé dans la jonction entre L’Orient et Le Jour.

Propriétaire d’une impressionnante collection de livres, Farès Zoghbi avait fini par en faire don à l’Université Saint-Joseph, à condition qu’elle demeure sur son site, à Kornet Chehwan, où il résidait, et qu’elle soit transformée en bibliothèque publique. Ce qui fut généreusement fait en 2002.
La santé de Farès avait décliné petit à petit, ces dernières années. Il est décédé hier matin des suites de complications pulmonaires. Seul survivant de sa fratrie, expatriée au Brésil, ce sont quelques proches, et surtout la grande famille de ses amis, qui lui feront ses adieux cet après-midi, en l’église Saints-Pierre-et-Paul, à Kornet Chehwan.


Une bibliothèque vivante s’est éteinte

Il est parti sans bruit, comme il avait vécu ces dernières années, entre ses réflexions, ses livres, ses écrits secrets, et quelques amis.
Il est parti sans savoir qu’on continue de violer les livres et de brûler les bibliothèques !

Pharès, toi dont le prénom signifie chevalier dans cette langue que tu chéris, tu as été chevalier par la noblesse de tes dons et la discrétion de tes gestes, par l’attention la plus généreuse et par le don d’une vie entière dédiée aux autres !
Tu fais partie de ces hommes en voie de disparition, ces hommes cultivés, généreux, simples, attentionnés, humains, à l’écoute des autres, toujours disponibles.
Tu as consacré l’essentiel de tes forces pour aider et surtout pour lutter en vue d’un dialogue des cultures, avec un humanisme et une tolérance reconnus de tous.

Cher Pharès, par ces multiples actions, par ta bibliothèque, par tes écrits, par ta lutte pour un Liban réunifié, tu as éveillé les consciences, tu as tracé les routes, et, après toi, plus rien ne sera comme avant !
Ton départ est une perte considérable pour le monde juridique, pour l’Université Saint-Joseph, pour le monde de la culture et des bibliothèques, pour la francophonie, pour ton pays et ta contrée, Kornet Chehwan, et surtout pour nous, tes amis.
Pars en paix Pharès !

Nada CORBANI AKL Rita Zoghbi shared a link.

Note: This library was definitely closed, even before the Covid-19 pandemics, on account that the St. Joseph University wanted to cut down on “irrelevant” expenditure, and most probably to sell the Real Estate.

Farès Zoghbi : un ami nous a quittés Farès Zoghbi : C’était un humaniste doublé d’un philanthrope, un ami de la culture, un homme qui avait trouvé pour l’un de ses ouvrages ce titre…

Bi-Weekly Report (#20) on Lebanon and the Middle East (May 3, 2009)

Israel would like to play games with the US Administration in order to delay tough decisions for the establishment of a Palestinian State that everyone has been yearning for.

Israel is trying to focus the attention on Iran but there are no takers. 

The US Administration knows that there are No peace treaties with the Palestinians or Syria unless the regional powers are satisfied and consenting; mainly Iran, Egypt, Saudi Kingdom, and Turkey.

Iran is the easiest of the roadblocks among the four major regional powers because Iran would rather focus its investment on the social and economical issues in Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.

The most difficult power to satisfy would be Egypt because it lost all credibilities for making any difference in the Arab World and in Africa after Gamal Abdel Nasser: Egypt is holding staunchly to its last Palestinian cards, since the huge weight in the Arab World that Gamal Abdel Nasser created for Egypt was dilapidated and used up since Sadate in 1970.

In fact, if a Palestinian State is voted on in the UN, then Egypt would have to turn to its main responsibility that is Sudan. Sudan is a real hot potato and an international focus: Egypt has neglected Sudan for so long that it has no real leverage over there.

Saudi Kingdom comprehends that exporting and proselytizing its Wahhabi sect will come to an abrupt stop if peace and stability reign in the States of the Sunni Muslims:  The Wahhabi salafist sect relies mainly on religious extremism in the Arab World which is fueled by considering Israel and Iran as nemesis to the Muslims.

Turkey is enjoying its new found role of mediator and would rather that this exercise last longer to convince France that Turkey is a critical factor for the European Union political effectiveness in the Middle East.

The triangle of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan is a very hot potato for Turkey to focus its attention on: Turkey would rather not alienate Russia at this junction before it secures a place in the EU.

Israel has been trying since the coming of Barack Obama to immerse the new US Administration in the recurring troubles between India and Pakistan and comploting terrorists attack in both States: the purpose was to divert the US from pressuring Israel to deliver on its promises for facilitating the establishment of a recognized Palestinian State.

With spring season, the Pakistani Army is making good progress inside the rebellious extremist Taliban type districts within Pakistan such as the Valley of Sawat and with the support of US military shipments.

I was having a nap around 4 p.m. this Wednesday when I overheard that the four military officers, Jamil Al Sayyed (former Security Director), Raymond Azar (military intelligence), Mustafa Hamdan (Presidential guard), and Ali Haj (director of the internal forces) will be released this afternoon after the special International Court of Justice for former late Rafic Hariri realized that it had no legal indictments on any one of the Generals.

There will be strong pressures for four judges to resign because they covered up information and detained the officers for 44 months without any kinds of indictments for political reasons; mainly the focus will be on the judges Said Mirza and Sakr Sakr.

Many heads will fall and the government is in hot water, especially Seniora PM, Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, Samir Geagea, and particularly deputy Marwan Hamady for fabricating false testimonies by false witnesses.

After four years of investigation into the assassination of Rafic Hariri the International Court has nothing in its file for indicting anyone. 

Nasr Allah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah has suggested that a new venue be focused on; mainly the Israeli connection because they had the interest and the means for this major upheaval in Lebanon.  Nasr Allah proclaimed that no more indictments or imprisonment would be facilitated before thorough analysis of the proofs with the UN Court.

Jamil Al Sayyed had explained that their political indictment was a routine behavior of every government since the Independence of Lebanon.

The security responsibility of any government starts with the president of the Republic, then the Prime Minister, then the Head of the Parliament, then the ministers, then the deputies and lastly the security forces. 

All the massacres, treasury stealing, financial black boxes, and insecurity of the State are done by the politicians and based on their policies. 

Once the politicians find it convenient to reconcile their differences it is the officers of the security and military forces that are targeted as scapegoats.

Next Tuesday the highest court of judges of Lebanon will meet and come up with a credible explanation for shirking its independence as the third authority and hopefully major heads should pay the price for ruining the credibility of our justice system.

Are you Dating an “ARAB” GIRL? From where is she exactly and how “Arabic” is she?

Posted  on March 1, 2014

Is she harder to convince and more complex to understand than the ones on the big screen?

Pictures, photo-shoot, videos that have convinced you of her delicate and timid nature?

Thaqafa Magazine  published this Feb. 5, 2014 (selected as one of the top posts today)



Don’t date an Arab girl

She is not oppressed, like those caricatures on the news

Her long, flowing hair has not grown dark and strong to guide your eyes

To her curved figure, which exists not to twirl into shapes

That she may enchant you to the beat of the group vigorous Dabke dance.

The Arab girl is born

With a fire in her belly and

Has inherited the strength of her fore-mothers.

Don’t date an Arab girl for she carries the Middle East on her shoulders

Every war and every invasion pushes her to tears

And she fights those tears back

To be replaced with a brave face for her brothers and sisters;

Starving, homeless and grieving.

Don’t date an Arab girl, she inspires revolutions with her passions and her protests

She will come home late: she stays amongst the dissenters until

She can feel the winds of change.

Don’t fret, the Arab girl is protected from the cold

By the Keffiyeh around her neck; she is the one sharing her last droplets of water

To quench the parched mouths, dried shouting for freedom in the midday sun.

Don’t date an Arab girl, she will fill your shelves and your mind with poets

Qabbani, Said and Mahfouz.

The rivers Euphrates, the Jordan and the Nile run through her veins.

The spirit of Cairo, Algiers and the West Bank satiate her heart.

Don’t date an Arab girl, you will too often hear her sigh in longing

For the sound of the Muezzin in the morning, the taste of ‘real’ olives,

The smell of freshly baked bread and

For the feel of the sun’s rays biting the nape of her neck in the late afternoon.

Do date her because you believe in her struggle, when you can match her passion

And feel her pain.

Date her because you can hold her as she wavers

Under the load she carries, as the strength of her mother may fail

For a short moment.


This poem was inspired by the Arab women I know and the Arab women I don’t know but still look up to.

Cover art is by Lalla Essaydi and the poem’s form was inspired by Charles Warnke and Adi Zarsadias

Note: Women all over the words are the main sustainable demonstrators, the hardest to dissuade from when undertaken, the source of the support mechanism and logistics. Tough when she make up her mind to recover her rights.




May 2021

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