Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Alex Rowell

Are Lebanese on the verge of committing Anti-Syrian pogroms?

(Note: The local news didn’t cover most of these stories and the government is’t coming foreward with news on what it is doing to liberate the over 40 Lebanese soldiers held by the Syrian insurgents)

Abu Gaby’s life (a pseudonym) hasn’t been the same since Saturday evening.

He’s not sleeping properly. He’s changed his daily routine – no longer using taxis after dark; “taking precautions,” as he puts it, “that I never thought about before.”

His work as a filmmaker has ground to a halt. “I’m unable to focus on anything,” he says. “I’m thinking only about how I can stay safe in this situation.”

Alex Rowell published this September 10, 2014 (Myra Abdallah contributed reporting).

Anti-Syrian pogroms point to darker future in Lebanon

With refugees now fearing for their lives, Lebanon is edging closer to breakdown

As NOW’s Rayan Majed reported Tuesday, Abu Gaby was one of dozens of Syrian refugees physically assaulted across Lebanon Saturday after news broke of the execution (slain and head detached) of a second Lebanese Army captive by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

Hearing his Syrian accent in a shared Beirut taxi, a passenger beside him asked him his name. He replied with a fake Armenian one, hoping it would spare him.

Brandishing a knife, the passenger then grabbed him by the collar and shook him, saying, “I’m letting you go [only] because you’re Armenian.”

Under the circumstances, Abu Gaby was fortunate: many Syrians suffered far worse in the ethno-sectarian pogroms that ensued from Beirut to the south coast to the eastern Beqaa Valley.

Pictures soon surfaced of Syrian refugees and laborers lying on the streets being kicked and beaten by mobs.

In one case, residents in Baalbek tied up two men and left them as human roadblocks facing the traffic at the town’s entrance.

Meanwhile, gunmen set up flying checkpoints on several Beqaa roads, checking motorists’ IDs and detaining Sunni Muslim passengers, leading one columnist to dub it another “Black Saturday,” in reference to an infamous 1975 massacre of motorists at militia checkpoints based on sectarian identity, (and perpetrated by Christian Phalangists and of current Samir Ja3ja3 Lebanese Front).

Notices appeared on walls in numerous neighborhoods demanding the departure of all Syrians within hours, with one in Beirut’s Zoqaq al-Blat threatening those not complying with “slaughter or torture until death.”

Tents in makeshift refugee camps were torched, prompting hundreds of families in Shiite-majority areas of the Beqaa to pack up their tents and flee to Sunni regions.

A sign of how frightened those doubly-displaced Syrian refugees are is the lengths they’ve gone to conceal themselves. I

n Al-Rahma Camp, the largest Syrian refugee settlement in the central Beqaa’s Bar Elias, a representative of the charity running the camp told NOW Tuesday there were no new arrivals as a result of Saturday’s attacks.

“I heard they went to Jeb Jenin,” he said. A half-hour drive later, a camp official in Jeb Jenin assured NOW they weren’t there, either.

“I have no information on their whereabouts,” he said, echoing what the UNHCR, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the municipalities of three major refugee-hosting towns in the Beqaa, and Human Rights Watch had all said as well. “You have to understand, they’re terrified,” said Nabil al-Halabi, a lawyer and activist who runs a local human rights NGO, LIFE, working with Syrian refugees.

“They’re not willing to work with the authorities. They’re not even telling us where they are.”


Indeed, with reports Wednesday that the Lebanese Army itself has begun dismantling camps in the southern Tyre region, refugees’ distrust of Lebanese state institutions may yet grow more pronounced.

“I never thought this could happen to me in Lebanon,” Abu Gaby told NOW of his Saturday evening experience. “I had the same feeling as when I was arrested by Syrian intelligence in Damascus. In Lebanon, I now have the same level of fear and worry as I had in Syria.”

Should these events lead to further and long-lasting deterioration in relations between Syrian refugees and their Lebanese hosts, there could be grave social and political repercussions, analysts told NOW.

“What happened on Saturday is a first sign potentially heralding the breakdown of Lebanese society,” said Hussam Itani, columnist at Al-Hayat newspaper. “It’s very dangerous. We’re in a situation of total disconnection between the government, civil society, and all the middle grounds that could unite the Lebanese people.”

The underlying cause of this crisis, argued Itani, was repeated sectarian and political incitement against Syrian refugees by Lebanese political parties.

“These incidents were not spontaneous. They are the result of 3-and-a-half years of a discourse opposing the Syrian uprising and the Syrian people’s right to decide their fate, and categorizing the Syrian people as supporters of the Islamic State and opponents of the so-called ‘resistance.’ This created a tense atmosphere that only needed one reason to explode.”

An especial concern for the longer run is the potential future militarization of some Syrian refugees, emulating the history of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees in the 1970s.

To be sure, 80% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are women and children. But the worse the situation becomes, the greater is the chance of a fringe minority developing a desire to take up arms, says Itani.

“This is an important question that very few are thinking of,” he told NOW. “If things get worse, the refugees’ reaction could turn dangerous, and it could turn uncontrollable. The lack of organization of the refugees makes them vulnerable to political manipulation.”

“They might today be occupied with their daily life problems, but this doesn’t mean they might not one day join the political battlefield and defend their interests.”

Note: Lebanon political system is at a standstill for over 3 months. No president to the republic has been selected and the parliament is no longer legitimate since it has extended its tenure for 2 years and expecting to re-extend its stay without election the coming month. Only the army with scarce weapons and ammunition and Hezbollah can keep security for a while.

Can good events take place in Lebanon?

Alex  Rowell  posted this December 18, 2013 in NOW

10. Beirut ranked among world’s top 25 cities by Condé Nast
Residents of the city might find it hard to believe (including me, especially that Paris came next), what with the multiple car bombs, rocket attacks, manic traffic, and perennial power and water shortages…
But Condé Nast’s readers voted it the 20th best city in the world in 2013, citing its “tapestry of sects, religions, and lifestyles that provide a feast for the mind of the intellectual.” (If they ever meet and communicate face to face…)

9. 4G Internet

Both of Lebanon’s service providers launched 4G Internet for the first time in 2013, ostensibly alleviating the country’s notoriously sluggish connection speeds.

However, at present the service is limited to specific areas in and around Beirut, and experts say Lebanon’s infrastructure is inadequate to make fully efficient use of the technology. (The funding are available and the necessary equipment also are ready for the remote districts, but Ogero is dragging its feet for political reasons to tarnish the great image of Sahnawe, the Communication minister))

8. Public sector workers win pay increase after weeks of strikes and demonstrations, public sector workers – whose wages have only seen two minor increases since 1997 – persuaded the cabinet to refer a bill that would increase their pay to parliament.

However, parliament has yet to actually approve the bill, and many economists argue incurring the additional expenditure during the present economic downturn could have dire repercussions. (We have no Parliament who extended its tenure for another 2 years, and we have no government for the last 7 months…)

7. General price levels unchanged

According to an October 2013 report from the Ministry of Economy, prices increased by just 0.5% in the 12 months since September 2012, compared to increases of 10% and 5% in the previous two years.

However, this is about the only good news for Lebanon’s economy, which has otherwise taken a dramatic hit from the neighboring Syrian crisis and the associated refugee influx. (Visit the supermarkets and you won’t be able to believe the government statistics)

6. Culture continues to flourish

While security fears did prompt the unprecedented relocation of the Baalbek International Festival, cultural events continued to thrive across the country, with several new street fairs, exhibition spaces, and literary publications, inter alia, being added to the annual itinerary.

A Syrian Contemporary Art Fair showcased the talents of those forced to leave the war at home. And even Tripoli, now the site of almost weekly gun battles, successfully launched its first film festival

5. Secularists win big at AUB student elections It is often said that elections at the country’s preeminent university indicate the political sentiments prevailing in the wider nation at large. If so, then Lebanon’s sectarian order may be facing growing resentment, given that secular students made unprecedented advances at the polls in November.

As an added bonus, the two secular candidates who went on to fill the powerful Vice President and Treasurer seats are both women, as is the Amal candidate who will assume the role of Secretary.

4. Oil and gas sector launches Lebanon’s nascent oil and gas sector began to take firm shape in 2013, with the new Petroleum Administration granting approval to 46 local and international companies to bid for exploration rights.

However, owing to the present lack of a government, two decrees necessary to get the bidding process underway have yet to be signed, and so progress to date has chiefly been symbolic.

3. Return of kidnapped pilgrims

Very rare indeed is it for something to go right in Syria these days. Yet 2013 did bring one silver lining to the nine Lebanese pilgrims held captive in Azaz, near Aleppo, whose 17-month-long ordeal was finally brought to an end in October.

Unfortunately, a number of other Lebanese are still being held in Syria, among them several nuns and the journalist Samir Kassab.

(And the swap deal was not fulfilled by the Lebanese government who is prosecuting those who kidnapped the Turkish pilots…)

2. Progress on domestic violence law

Following the harrowing murder of a 31-year-old mother, Roula Yaacoub, by her abusive husband in July, a long-awaited draft law criminalizing domestic violence was approved by a parliamentary committee.

Much like the public sector wage bill, however, parliament itself has not yet voted on the law, and feminist activists have further concerns that the draft doesn’t go far enough (it does not, for example, clearly recognize marital rape as a form of assault or the abuses done on foreign maids).

1. First civil marriage and birth
On April 25th, 2013, Nidal Darwish and Kholoud Succariyeh made Lebanese history when the interior ministry officially registered their civil marriage, the first ever carried out inside the country.

The couple exploited an obscure law dating back to 1936 that circumvented the traditional sect-based marital system. They then made further history when they left the “sect” field blank on their newborn son’s birth certificate, thus giving birth to Lebanon’s first “civil baby.”

Earlier this month, the Justice Ministry announced it would prepare a draft law to replace the 1936 article and formally recognize the legality of civil marriage in the Lebanese legal code.

top 10 2013

The  “Liberation of Qusayr” was good: Regardless of what Israel is insinuating…

When it comes to Syria, the number one question on the Israeli hawk’s mind today, anxiously debated on the opinion pages of establishment papers, goes something like this:

Everybody knows that both the Free Syrian Army rebels and their Hezbollah antagonists are abominable terrorists, the very antithesis of civilization as we understand it.

And what is a “respectable non-terrorist actor” like Israel to do when these two groups of terrorists are battling one another on their doorstep?

Are all Muslims carrying guns equally considered terrorists, or are there varying degrees of terrorism to be assessed?

Alex  Rowell posted this May 21, 2013 on Now: “Israel: Against Hezbollah in Lebanon, with them in Syria”

A cartoon showing a Hezbollah rocket passing Haifa before turning around to Qusayr in Syria

This cartoon is showing Hezbollah’s missiles targeting Haifa are making a long detour toward the city of Qusayr in Syria first

Terrorism can be so complicated sometimes.

Judging by the reactions of Saudi Arabia absolute monarchy, the totally non-democratic Arab Gulf states and the Mursi of Egypt and…they are pipping the Party of God to the pinnacle of the terrorist pyramid. Take, for instance, Friday’s article in the London Times,

”Islamist fears drive Israel to support Assad survival,”

“Senior Israeli intelligence officials” presented the following argument for the Baath regime’s survival: “Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there.” The best-case scenario, the officials further opined, was (in Haaretz’ summary) “a weakened but stable Syria under Assad.”

That report prompted a carefully-worded half-denial from Israel Netanyahu PM, who asserted it did “not represent the Israeli government’s position,” but only on the technical grounds that Israel did not in fact have a position on who should govern Syria – hardly an endorsement of the opposition, and indeed an implied suggestion that Assad – along with his Lebanese Islamist allies – were no less preferable candidates than any of the alternatives.

Not that this was the only conciliatory signal Tel Aviv has sent in Assad’s direction of late.

صورة أطفال و نساء قرية حطلة بدير الزور الذين جمعهم إرهابيي جبهة النصرة بالساحة و أعدموهم لأنهم ينتمون للطائفة الشيعية
The extremist Takfir insurgents of Nusra Front executed the inhabitants of the town of Hatla in Deir Zur region. The massacred people were Shiaa…

Following the most recent air strike on an alleged Hezbollah weapons convoy near Damascus at the start of this month, Israeli officials rushed to assure Assad they meant no harm to his regime per se. They were just there to prevent terror – if Assad chose to SCUD-missile, cluster-bomb, and air-strike Syrian civilians, well, that was another matter entirely.

Nor does the de facto support for Assad end with merely enabling his war crimes to continue.

Last month, Netanyahu announced Israel reserved the right to physically obstruct the opposition’s armed struggle against the dictatorship by blocking weapons transfers to rebel brigades.

Incompatible as all this may seem with Assad and Hezbollah’s bellowing about confronting the grand Zionist conspiracy, Tel Aviv’s under-the-table camaraderie with Damascus has long been the Middle East’s worst-kept secret.

An excellent explanation of this decades-long relationship appeared recently in Foreign Affairs under the candid title, ‘Israel’s Man in Damascus: Why Jerusalem [sic] Doesn’t Want the Assad Regime to Fall.

The author, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, runs down the key bullet points: 40 years of calm on the border, fears of Islamism among the opposition, and enduring hopes for a peace treaty that has been on the table since the 1990s. This article concluded that “[Israel] ultimately has little interest in actively hastening the fall of Bashar al-Assad.”

In other words, Israel watches – presumably with some satisfaction – as a kind of umpire in the sky, as Assad and his proxy militias (foremost among them Hezbollah) rain rockets upon rebel “terrorists” just kilometers from Lebanese territory, only stepping in to interrupt the fun when those rockets venture west of the border.

So long as Hezbollah plays by the rules – keeping the guns pointed east rather than south – they’re doing more good than harm in Israel’s eyes, and so they can even be given indirect nudges of assistance.

It’s tough to say which is the greater of the ironies – that Israel is making common cause of a kind with the chief proxies of its supposed arch-enemy Iran, or that so many ground troops of the ‘Islamic Resistance’ are giving their lives to facilitate precisely the Zionist “project” they set out to thwart.

Note 1: Israel and the former colonial powers have wide latitudes and powerful media to distort and interpret current event as they wish the world community to believe. Lebanon is safer as the takfir rebels are kicked out of Qusayr, regardless of the many attempts for the extremist Moslems to ignite a civil war in Lebanon.

Note 2: The liberation of Qusayr from the Nusra Front insurgents closed the supply lines from Lebanon to reef Damascus (suburbs of Damascus), where the insurgents wanted to focus their attacks. The shortest supply line, far shorter than from Daraya on the Jordanian borders, was  to move supplies, including weapons, from the Akkar province in north Lebanon, on to Qusayr, down to Ersal in Lebanon (less than 10 km away) and directly to reef of Damascus.

“The weathervane” Jumblatt discusses current politics of Lebanon. Or maybe Not

Walid Jumblatt is the Druze warlord during Lebanon civil war that lasted 14 years. After his father Kamal was assassinated by the Syrian President Hafez Assad in 1976, Walid naturally inherited the traditional coat of leadership of his tribe.

Walid is a graduate of the American University of Beirut (AUB).  As the US began its preemptive war on Iraq, Walid sided with the US invading forces saying: “I’d rather be a street sweeper in New York than a leader in Lebanon”.

Somehow, Walid believed that the wind was strongly shifting on the US side and that it is urgent to ally with Bush Jr. against the Syrians and the Iranian… and the countless imaginary enemies that he think are vying for the leadership of the districts of Chouf, Alley, and Rashaya

Alex Rowell posted in Lebanon Now, on Nov.20, 2012: “Uncertain breeze in Moukhtara. Talking to Walid Jumblatt”

“As we shuffled into a lavish sitting room in his Ottoman-era mansion in Moukhtara first thing Tuesday morning, Walid Jumblatt’s day job was already underway. We joined what soon became a line of people waiting, for whatever purpose—requesting tuition fees for children, resolving a dispute with the neighbors in Clemenceau—to meet the Druze chieftain.

When Jumblatt entered, his tall, lanky frame stooped as he walked, his facial expression half-annoyed and half-amused, as though incredulous at having to deal with such banality.

After speedily acceding to a few requests, he ushered us into another sitting room, adorned with a floor-to-ceiling portrait of slain Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

The following interview was done with Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon Progressive Socialist Party (PSP):

In general, walking through the house feels like touring Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace. “But I don’t have the Bosphorus outside. Istanbul is a beautiful city. The only other city as beautiful, until they destroyed it, was Aleppo.” he replied (Referring to the latest round of fighting in Aleppo between the Syria regular army and the rebels)

Such was the tone for much of our conversation with the enigmatic Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader. His reputed political acumen—along with his less-flattering notoriety for abruptly switching allegiances—have earned him the nickname “the weathervane” .

The nickname as Michael Young explained: “a local leader whose every premonitory move is dissected by those trying to get a sense of Lebanon’s political winds.”

If that is so, there appears to be an uncertain breeze in Moukhtara today. For though Jumblatt tells NOW that he is “not March 8 coalition” (the current power) those in the March 14 coalition hoping for Jumblatt jumping ship once again to their side may well be in for disappointment.

There were reports over the weekend that the PSP is planning an initiative to ease internal strife and promote dialogue. Why did you decide to do this?

Jumblatt: We have an initiative parallel to the efforts of the President Suleiman who is calling for dialogue. We just want to help President Suleiman. At the same time we have consulted with Prime Minister Miqati and [Parliament Speaker] Nabih Berri.

We have to find a way to get out of this blockade where nobody is speaking with anybody, and the only way to reach that is launching an initiative. I hope it will succeed, I don’t know. I have charged my comrades in the party to go and visit all the political parties and actors possible, starting tomorrow, from March 14 to March 8 to independents.

Why did you not join March 14’s recent boycott of the cabinet?

Jumblatt: Why should I join them? I’m not March 14!

But you openly blamed Syria for the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan.

Jumblatt: Yes, and March 14 are blaming Miqati. Miqati did not kill Wissam al-Hassan. I’m sorry, I refuse categorically all the accusations of March 14 against Miqati.

The day after Hassan’s death, we saw PSP flags at the March 14 Youth rally.

Jumblatt: They have removed those flags. This is a small trap fixed by some idiots. We are not March 14. And I’m not March 8. I’m just in this coalition trying to fix up things as much as I can, taking into account the environment which is terribly sectarian, and some people don’t care, it seems. They’re just attacking here and there; they don’t care about the possible sectarian strife that could engulf Lebanon.

Which people are you referring to?

Jumblatt: Some high-ranking leaders. Because in this country everyone is becoming high-ranking, nobody is low-ranking.

What do you think of the Ahmad al-Assir movement?

Jumblatt: When the moderate Future Movement is absent, any vacuum is filled, so this is why Sheikh Saad [Hariri] should come back and lead what his father did: the moderate Sunni trend.

How are your relations with Hariri?

Jumblatt: We are friends on personal terms but we differ on political issues. We speak occasionally.

Regarding Hassan’s assassination, do you think any Lebanese parties were also involved?

Jumblatt: I just accused the Syrian intelligence. Of course they have partners and agents here. But I’m not going to accuse a political party, like others did, because they don’t care if there is sectarian strife.

And I was very clear, just as with the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, that if Hezbollah has enough evidence that Hariri was killed by the Israelis, as Sayyed Hassan claimed at one point, then let him present this evidence to the international tribunal. I’m not going to accuse any party because my concern is that civil strife must stop.

So even if you have suspicions, you’re not going to voice them so as to maintain stability?

Jumblatt: I do not have suspicions. I am not a lawyer or a prosecutor. You have an international tribunal where people can go and present evidence.

If you believe the Syrian regime is killing senior Lebanese officials, then why do you support the “dissociation” policy (al na2e bel nafss)? Shouldn’t Syria be considered an enemy state, like Israel?

Jumblatt: Syria being an enemy state? Not at all, I’m sorry. This is a monstrosity.

We are accusing the regime, but Syria is Syria, Syria is our background, Syria helped us during the civil war, it fixed the balance inside Lebanon, it helped create the Taif Agreement, it supported the resistance. We have to distinguish between the regime and the people. And the army, which fought very bravely against Israelis during the 1982 invasion.

So the regime itself should not be considered an enemy?

Jumblatt: OK, if it is, then what? Tell me what can we do? This is the 19th month of the Syrian revolt and the whole international community is just doing nothing. They are watching Syria being systematically destroyed. It seems the “Friends of Syria” don’t care about Syria.

How can the Syrian conflict be ended?

Jumblatt: Well, if you have a solution, tell me. Just after the battle of Baba Amr (a quarter in south Homs), I called everybody in the West that I know—the British, the French—to help the rebels to get adequate weapons to shoot down helicopters. They said, “We can’t do it because it will end up in civil war.” And at that time, the civil war began.

How do you feel about the Druze in Syria?

Jumblatt: I’m concerned about Syria. The Druze are Syrian people. I don’t look at the sectarian aspect.

If there is no intervention in Syria, what happens?

Jumblatt: Nobody asked for intervention in Syria; just helping the Syrian rebels. Now it’s chaotic, because everybody is intervening in his own way, from the Arab world and from individuals, and now we have the situation whereby yesterday in Aleppo some so-called free brigades announced they don’t want to be part of the Doha Agreement, they have announced the “Islamic Emirates” in Aleppo.

This is the disorganized help of the Arab and Western world because everybody is sponsoring somebody else. And what’s the result? Total chaos.

Do you worry about a Sunni-Shiite war in Lebanon?

Jumblatt: When I say sectarian strife I’m speaking about some Sunnis and some Shiites. This cannot be solved except by sitting at a table and talking to each other. That’s it.

And if some in March 14 still insist that the weapons of Hezbollah can be delivered at any price? No. The weapons are a very sensitive issue, and these weapons should be part of the defensive strategy that is being elaborated by President Suleiman.

One day these weapons could be part of the Lebanese army, but that cannot be at the push of a button, we have to wait. I mean it took the Irish 20 years to decommission the weapons between Protestants and Catholics. Now, it’s a much more difficult issue in Lebanon.

You said recently that it will take a new Taif Agreement to resolve Hezbollah’s weapons. What did you mean by that?

Jumblatt: I was assaulted, directly by everybody, by all the excited people of March 14. I did not say that. Even if I said that, it was a slip of the tongue. [Laughs] (See note 1)

In that case, how do you advocate resolving the issue?

Jumblatt: You have to adequately address the Shiite community. You have to speak to them. But at the same time, some have committed a big error, because they have been ordered, by the Iranians, I don’t know, to go and fight inside Syria for the regime. But this is not their policy, this is the policy of Iran.

I hope that one day the Iranians will change and address the Syrian people and not the regime, because they are losing a lot of support for their stance. At the same time, some parties of March 14 also are arming the rebels, so the policy of [dissociation] should be addressed to both parties; to Hezbollah and March 14.

Regarding elections, is there an electoral law you favor?

Jumblatt: I’ve not been consulted by anybody. I just hear rumors that some high-ranking people want 50 districts, and others want proportional representation. I have not been consulted. I am ready to discuss to see. Because some people have already started fixing their Armani dresses to become president.

Do you feel the law needs to be changed?

Jumblatt: Of course, one day we have to fix up a modern law, but to do that you have to fix up a modern Lebanon, and to fix up a modern Lebanon, my father spent 19 years trying to do it, and he failed to deconfessionalize the system. I mean we are not even able to fix the civil marriage issue, which is stupid. We oblige the young Lebanese people to go to Cyprus, to Istanbul, to Paris, but here we don’t allow it because the clerics, Muslim and Christian, are against it. They have privileges; they get money to separate the people.

Going back to elections, if we assume the 2009 law is used again, you will likely win in Shouf and Aley, so the question on many minds is whether you will align with March 8 or 14?

Jumblatt: I will align with myself for the time being. I stick to my own belief that we have to fix up a kind of middle ground to avoid this terrible division between 14 and 8.

Do you foresee any changes in Christian districts?

Jumblatt: I have no idea, I don’t work on statistics. They work, they are obsessed with statistics. Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea are obsessed, I really don’t care. My concern is how to deal peacefully with each other.

After Hassan’s assassination, do you fear assassination yourself?

Jumblatt: I have never spoken about myself, like others, who like to speak about themselves, and to have bodyguards and huge convoys. Like my father, I have relied on destiny. I am here just because I like it.

So you’re not more or less afraid than before?

Jumblatt: I was never afraid. When you get afraid like others you get paralyzed mentally.

Do you think the Gaza conflict might affect Lebanon?

Jumblatt: No, Gaza just proved once again that the arrogance of Israelis can just be destroyed, [like] when the Israelis invaded Beirut in 1982. This myth of Israeli superiority is again buried by the rockets of Hamas, by the people of Lebanon, seven times. So it’s a myth, but what can we do, this state is based on a big fallacy supported by the West.

One day, the West will discover that the huge amount of money they spend on Israel is just a catastrophe. Because only a peaceful solution based on two states can—maybe—reach some stability.

I think maybe it’s too late, because now with the settlers there’s no space for two states.

So you prefer a one-state solution?

Jumblatt: Well this was an intellectual approach by people like Edward Said, but consider now the right-wing tendency of most Israeli society and the absence of the peace movement, except one wise guy, he’s a friend of mine and we correspond with each other, Uri Avnery, and I always read his articles and send comments. Amos Oz too, and Amira Hass, she’s excellent. But Israel peace movement, which demonstrated in Tel Aviv after Sabra and Shatila genocide and which caused Sharon’s downfall, is no more.

You wrote this week that Gaza could lead to a “new status quo.” What did you mean?

Jumblatt: After the 1973 war, came the Camp David agreement, which separated Egypt from the Arabs. But now Gaza is fixing up a new formula. The inner land of Egypt is Gaza, and the Egyptians are always concerned about the fate of Palestine. So Gaza is defying the old order.

Same thing in Golan, one day the ceasefire agreement of 1973 will be changed by [whoever] comes in control of the Golan Heights. Lebanon will also have a new status quo [once] we get back the Lebanese occupied territories of Shebaa. Israel is no more safe from its surroundings. Later on, I hope that King Abdullah will fix up reforms. But the surroundings of Israel have changed. Fortunately that’s good.

Are you worried about the rise of Islamists across the region?

Jumblatt: No, not at all. We cannot change the Arab world. Do you want somebody to convert them? To what?

We have to take into account the rise of Islam, be it Shiite or Sunni, and try to see the future and develop, not only culturally but economically.

We have so much wealth in this Arab world spent stupidly on buying weapons or treasury bonds.
We can have our own development in all the Arab world.

This interview has been condensed and edited. Justin Salhani contributed in the questioning.

Read more:

Note 1: The weathervane is famous for his “strategic slip of tongues” that he terms as “La7zat takhali“, a way of asking forgiveness for wrong and faulty political directions. Walid Jumblatt changes his political positions as he feels that his local hold on power is threatened. For example:

1. After the Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon in 2005, Jumblatt named the Assad regime with all kinds of monstrous fish and recanted a few years later as he found out that Syria is still the most influential regional power in Lebanon.

2. When Bush Jr. invaded Iraq in 2003, Jumblatt claimed that “I’d rather be a street sweeper in New York than being a leader in Lebanon…” . Jumblatt thought that the winning power in the Middle-East was definitely the US, and then recanted when Israel was defeated in the preemptive war of July 2006.

3. Jumblatt excited the government to crack down on Hezbollah’s ground communication lines in 2007 and demanded peace and forgiveness as Hezbollah invaded the branches and arm safe-houses of his party and the Hariri clan movement (The Future) in Beirut…

The only other warlord that displaces Jumblatt in faulty strategic political decision is Samir Geaja, whose decision brought calamities and disaster to the Christian communities…

Vast reserve of oil in Palestinian West Bank? And Israel want’s it all…

Apparently, Israel persistence in laying mythical religious claims on the Palestinian West Bank as “Not being under occupation”, but an integral part of Israel is due to vast reserve of oil in the West Bank.

Alex Rowell published on the BBC News this July 10, 2012, under “Does Israel walk a thin line with West Bank oil drill?“:

: Meged-5 oil field

It is not known how much commercially viable oil lies under Israel and the West Bank, but the Palestinian Authority has shown little interest in laying claim to it

“While the search for oil beneath Israel has been going on for years, the most recently drilled well in the Meged oil field, on the edge of the West Bank, is raising concern that it might draw from untapped Palestinian reserves.

After a 10-minute uphill hike through the rocky fields of the West Bank village of Rantis, we reach a summit where we rest, panting in the 40-degree heat.

A hundred metres in front of us lie the wired fence and gravel track of the Green Line – the perimeter of the West Bank and Israel.

To our left lies Ben Gurion airport; beyond that, Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean. But it is for a different view that we have come here.

Bilal, a Rantis local and student at Bir Zeit University, said: “It hasn’t been on for the last few days. And you can’t see too much in the daytime anyway. But at night – boof!” He gestures as though throwing a fistful of confetti into the air.

“Start Quote

Looking at the site of the flare, and the shape of the overall field, it’s clear that this extends into the West Bank”

Samer Naboulsi/veteran petroleum engineer at a leading oil firm in Dubai.

Samer is referring to the large black pipe inserted vertically into the earth, not more than 500 metres away, out of which a steady, blazing flame has been periodically sighted for about a year now.

It is in fact a gas flare, part of the Meged-5 oil well, owned and operated by Givot Olam Oil Ltd, currently the sole player in Israel’s tiny onshore oil and gas production sector.

Hafez Barghouti, editor of the Palestinian al-Hayat al-Jadeedah, who first broke the story in Ramallah recalls: “I happened to be driving past when all of a sudden I saw this huge flare on the Green Line. I was sure it must be gas. So I called the mayor of Rantis and he said, ‘Yes, the Israelis are drilling oil and gas.'”

‘No man’s land’

While this may seem uncontroversial on the face of it- the flare is, after all, within Israel proper – its proximity to the Green Line raises ethical questions.

Dr Samer Naboulsi resumes: “Geology doesn’t follow geography…Looking at the site of the flare, and the shape of the overall field, it’s clear that this extends into the West Bank. And even when extracting from the Israeli side, it’ll be draining Palestinian reserves.”


“This is why the international convention is to establish a ‘no man’s land’ – typically many kilometres wide – along national borders in which neither party may extract without the other’s consent.”

Dr Walid Khadduri, a former director at the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) and editor-in-chief of the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), had this to say on Israel’s unilateral approach:

“Ordinarily in such a situation, both parties would reach a mutual agreement to divide the field and the associated revenues and costs in an equitable manner. “This was the case between the UK and Norway, for example. Without such an agreement, things can get messy – look at Iraq and Kuwait,” he says, referring to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of its southern neighbour following a dispute over the transnational Rumaila field.

Moreover, the drilling would seem to contravene the Oslo Accords, which call for “co-operation in the field of energy, including an energy development programme, which will provide for the exploitation of oil and gas [and] will encourage further joint exploration of other energy resources”.

Green Line dividing Israel and the West BankThe oil field’s proximity to the Green Line dividing Israel (right of the path) and the West Bank has raised concerns

Givot Olam refused to comment, but an Israeli government official dismissed the claims as “yet another attempt to politicise everything”.

“We are engaging in exploratory digging within Israel. While we are hopeful, there is at present no conclusive indication as to whether commercially viable quantities will be found, or precisely where,” the unnamed official told the BBC.

“The commercial implications, including over the Green Line, are unknown. It is surprising that a Petroleum Engineer in Dubai already knows more than the people on the ground at this early stage.”

‘Highly profitable’

The Palestinian Authority (PA) meanwhile has shown little interest in pursuing what is potentially a substantial strategic and economic opportunity for the West Bank.

“Start Quote

Historically, there has never been a Palestinian oil industry. This is all very new”

Walid Khadduri, Ex-OAPEC director

A technical report issued by the UK-based consultant Greens and Associates in 2010 concluded that “the Meged Core Area has robust economics… and could be a highly profitable venture if the predicted well production volumes prove to be achievable and sustainable.”

The reserves of the Meged-5 well alone have been estimated by Givot Olam at over 1.5bn barrels – not a huge find but certainly enough to make a difference for the chronically energy-poor West Bankers (the UK, by comparison, has around 3bn barrels of proven reserves). The company says it extracted 800 barrels a day during a test period last year.

Yet there appears to be neither the will nor the ability on the Palestinian side to take action.

Mr Barghouti recalls: “I met [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas shortly after discovering the flare and told him about it. He shrugged. He wasn’t interested at all.”

A report in the Chinese state media, however, quoted PA official Abdullah Abdullah as condemning the drilling, saying the organisation “will not stay cross-handed. We will take urgent procedures that may include suing Israel in international courts.”

Even so, Mr Khadduri points out the considerable practical obstacles to an effective Palestinian initiative. “An obvious problem is that they simply don’t have the expertise. Historically, there has never been a Palestinian oil industry. This is all very new.”

And there is also the more fundamental question of whether Israel would recognise the Palestinians’ right to any part of the field in the first place.

“They regard that entire section of the West Bank as Israeli territory,” says Mr Barghouti. “Including Rantis. They refer to it as the ‘Kfar Sava area’.”

Mr Khadduri also says Israel has repeatedly derailed Palestinian efforts to extract gas from the sizeable fields off the coast of Gaza.

All of which suggests that a rare opportunity for mutually beneficial Israeli-Palestinian cooperation is likely to be missed.

Continue reading the main story

Still Marching for secular reforms? What distance the Lebanese have to travel for civil rights?

It is no longer this game of replacing a dictator here and an absolute monarch there:  The youth in Lebanon want to change the sectarian political and social structure.

It is no longer replacing a feudal leader here or a warlord there: The youth in Lebanon want to change the archaic and medieval system in Lebanon that used and abused the Lebanese since independence in 1943.

It is no longer substituting a sectarian political party in this government with another one in the Parliament:  The youth in Lebanon want to step forward vigorously into the modern age.

Alex Rowell posted on April 20 “Lebanese march for secularism

“In two weeks and two days, the Lebanese Laïque (secular) Pride activist group will hold its third annual Seculars March Towards Citizenship, a 3-hour procession from Sanayeh to Ain el-Mraisseh (in Beirut), calling for “a secular civil state founded on citizenship” and “the abolition of institutional sectarianism”.

Demonstrators carry placards at a previous Lebanese Laïque Pride march (Photo courtesy of Lebanese Laïque Pride Facebook group)

The six key demands of the Laique Pride are:

1. Enacting a unified Civil Code for the Personal Status Law (Personal Status is identified by each of the 18 officially recognized religious sect)
2. Passing the Law for Protection of Women from Family Violence submitted by KAFA to the Lebanese parliament
3. Abolishing article 522 of the penal law, which drops charges against a rapist if he marries his victim
4. Amending the nationality law for the right of Lebanese women to grant their nationality to their family members
5. Passing the Draft Law Prohibiting the Pre-Censorship [of] Cinema and Theatre
6. Withdrawing the Lebanese Internet Regulation Act (LIRA) draft law

I’m aware that some Lebanese think that it is a rather good thing that, in their country, wives may be legally raped and beaten; marital and inheritance disputes are settled by theologians; films and plays are routinely censored; and a child born to the wrong faith can’t become president.

For those who feel otherwise, however, the march starts at 16:00 at Sanayeh Gardens, May 6th.” End of Rowell post.

Long and uninterrupted waves of protests and uprising are invading the streets of this dormant lake in the “Arab” world.  It has been two months that raging and determined upheavals have been buffeting the lax and antiquated “Arab” regimes.

The youth in Lebanon have been calling for mass demonstrations to rebuilding a governing system based on citizenship vital rights for equality, fairness, and justice to all; regardless of religious affiliation, feudal mentality, genders differentiation in the public service jobs and the voting rights under a fair and equitable representation of all classes and strata in society.

The youth in Lebanon are calling to march for a modern Lebanon and the youth have been delivering under heavy rain.

This time around, it is no longer sectarian and feudal political parties calling for mass demonstrations for a political sectarian gain, for a feudal equilibrium political sharing gimmick, for oligarchic domination of one sect or one foreign influence policy.

If the old guards of the political system want to maintain a sectarian structure, the youth want nothing to do with it.

If the old guards of clerics, feudal, and comprador monopolist merchants are very satisfied with an archaic system, the youth in Lebanon want this structure down and done with.

This is a genuine uprising of a new Lebanon, tired and exhausted, buffeted for 6 decades by comfortably established sectarian and feudal “leaders’.  The old system has been relegating the Lebanese to medieval ages.

Do we have 19 recognized sects?  So what!  Do we have to be governed by the religious clerics backing feudal leaders and overseas princes and emirs?

No, the youth in Lebanon don’t have to abide by the ridiculous dictates of dinosaurs of older times.

I suggest that this determined movement be organized in every town and village.

It is not necessary to have mass gathering in the Capital Beirut:  A few supporters for secular reforms everywhere in Lebanon, marching with banners and calling for discussion on the ways to instituting such a society is far more effective to dislodge a rooted system.

Lebanon is not its Capital:  The movement has to be disseminated in rural and far distant districts that constitute the backbone of the current decrepit political system.

Lebanon has been plagued by sectarian regimes since its inception. If we cannot surmount this calamity now, should we wait another half a century on feasibility study?

This is as good a time as any other periods to raise our head as viable citizens and not chattel, to be bought and sold by feudal and religious clerics.

Youth in Lebanon are trying to displace the sectarian and feudal political parties and reclaiming the streets.  A modern Lebanon is on the rise: Archaic power composition has got to make room for new blood and determination.




June 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,522,510 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 770 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: