Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘biography

Typical modern Contractor class in Lebanon political/social structure

You may refer to a previous article on modern Neoliberal Expatriate Contractor class in Lebanon that added a new social/political divide in the community structure https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/complicating-the-class-divide-new-contractor-bourgeoisie-in-lebanon-politics/

The biography of how four of them have accumulated so much wealth is developed in this article:

1. Late Rafik Hariri PM left the city of Saida for Saudi Arabia in 1964. He suffered a few bankruptcies in his civil work contracts. During the oil boom that started in the early 70’s in the Arab Gulf Emirates, Hariri struck gold in 1976 by teaming up with Nasr al Rashid.

Nasr was a Saudi engineer from a prominent family. Al Rashid relied increasingly on Rafik’s ingenuity for fulfilling highly complex public civil work contracts in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi “rentier or renter State” was an important catalyst for quickly amassing wealth once the proper contacts and connections were established.

In early 1980,Rafik acquired a private plane and the fleet increased in varieties, cost, a luxury.

In 1982, Hariri connected directly with King Fahd after Israel preempted another war on Lebanon and entered the Capital Beirut. King Fahd took over the “cleaning-up” of Beirut city center (the demarcation line among the warring factions in the civil war) and extended to Rafik the necessary checkbook diplomacy to carry out reconciliation in the Chouf war of 1983.

The checkbook was ready in the Geneva and Lausanne (Switzerland) meetings in 1983 and 84. And the diplomacy disbursement resumed in the militia agreement in 1985, to be followed by the Taif agreement on a new Constitution for Lebanon in 1989.

In the early 1980, Rafik acquired Bank Mediterranean, and King Fahd disposed of $2 bn between 1983-96 for a student loan program so that strapped Lebanese could continue education overseas. Over 32, 000 students benefited from this program, and most of them were Sunni Moslems.

In 1991, Rafik Hariri was positioned to be assigned Prime Minister

As Rafik was assassinated in 2004, it turned out that his wealth amounted to $14 bn, and Seniora PM made sure to tax this fortune at $2 million, instead of the regulation 10%.

2. The wealth of the brothers Mikati (Taha and Najib) derives from the Arabian Construction Company, founded in 1967 in Abu Dhabi.

At some points, Taha subcontracted from Rafik Hariri.

In 1982, they founded a telecom company Investcom, which penetrated Sudan, Liberia, and Yemen. It ran an analogue mobile phone network during the civil war in Lebanon.

The Invest company M1 Group owns real estates in New York and London, and the French fashion Faconnable, and interests in oil explorations in Latin Columbia State.

In 1983, the Mikati brothers bought the licence for the British Bank of Lebanon.

In 1988, they created the Azm was Saade Foundation, which provided health and social services, mostly in Tripoli.

In 1994, the mobile Cellis had won a “Build-Operate-Transfer” (BOT) project and the brothers owned one third of the shares. The political gimmicks to extend the BOT from 10 to 20 years failed to materialize, as the President Lahoud was steadfast in retaining this State-controlled communication entity, and Najib Mikati PM allocated to himself $60 million in compensation.

3. Issam Fares, a Greek Orthodox from the district of Akkar, by the Syrian border, started as a merchant in the Lebanese-based Abela Group with vast food trading in Saudi Arabia.

Fares owned a controlling interest in Netherlands-based Balast Nedam and his civil work activities skyrocketed. This company secured lucrative contracts, such as building the bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.

Fares created the holding company Wedge Group and opened Wedge Bank in Lebanon in 1983.

The Issam Fares Foundation was established in 1987.

4. Muhammad Safadi (current minister of finance and deputy to the Parliament) hails from a Tripoli established trading family. He migrated to Saudi Arabia in 1975.

Safadi established close relations with the head of Saudi air force Prince Turk al Nasr. He became rich building residential compounds.

In 2000, Safadi was elected deputy and also instituted the Safadi Foundation that offers health, educational, and social services in Tripoli.

Consequently, as a new wealthy Contractor who struck gold in Saudi Arabia, he allied with the March 14 movement against Syria occupation of Lebanon, after the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Seniora PM appointed Safadi minister of public work in 2005.

In 2008, Mikati PM extended to Safadi he portfolio of minister of economy and trade, and then minister of finance in 2011.

“These are my memories at the University of Oklahoma…”: From another person recollection…

I wrote extensively in my autobiography on the city of Norman and the University of Oklahoma during two periods of higher education. And here I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and am taken aback that Iranian author Azar Nafisi also studied and lived many years there, and may have joined the same demonstrations that I participated in…

Azar started her studies in English literature early in the 1970’s, when the US students were demonstrating against the war in Vietnam.

I arrived in the summer of 1975, and the Vietnam war had ended, and the demonstrations were headed by the Iranian student movements against the Shah of Iran, and I had started my MS degree in Industrial engineering…

What follows is Nafisi’s recollection (and whatever comments I might butt in are in parenthesis).

“Red earth and fireflies, singing and demonstrating on South Oval lawn, reading Melville, Poe, Lenin and Mao, reading Ovid and Shakespeare on warm spring mornings, singing revolutionary songs…

(I read all of Lenin, Mao, and even the North KoreanKim Il Sung in Lebanon before I left to the USA. The civl war in Lebanon had just started. On several occasions, I had to rely on the Red Cross for news on my family safety status, and mails were dispatched via Paris where I had relatives…)

At night watching new films by Bergman, Fellini, Godard, and Pasolini… (I watched their movies in Beirut, and kept watching all the European movies on Friday evening, organized by the film student association, usually in the microbiology department by the main library. It is in one of these Fridays that I saw what I thought was the most beautiful girl in the wide world…)

One of my radical professor David singing on his guitar:

“Long-haired preachers come out every night

And they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right

And when you ask them for something to eat…

Work and pray, live on hay, you will get pie

In the sky when you die.

That’s a lie!”

Four of my favorite English professors were of different political leaning. Dr. Yoch was conservative, Dr. Gross was a revolutionary, and the two liberal Dr. Veile and Dr. Elconin.

Taking over the administration building, occasional streakers running across the green toward the redbrick main library…

The suffering ROTC students trying to ignore our presence, while we were protesting against the Vietnam war. (After 1975, our demonstrations were mainly against the Shah of Iran, since most of the radical students were Iranians of the two Marxist factions of Mujahideen Khalk and Fedayeen Khalk…)

Later, I would go to parties with my true love Ted, who introduced me to Nabokov, and gave me “Ada”, writing on the flyleaf “To Azar, my Ada”

I reluctantly joined the Iranian Students movement: I was more of a rebel than a politics activist, and I never fully integrated into the movement…

In the Univ. of Oklahoma at Norman, the Iranian movement was a chapter of the World Confederation of Iranian Students. The militant branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party RSB and the Third World Committee Against Imperialism were created later on.

The Marxist elements in the movement came to dominate the group and the male members wore Che Guevara sports jackets and boots. The women cropped their hair short, no makeup, and wore Mao jackets and khaki pants… I insisted on wearing long dresses, I didn’t cut my hair, and loved reading “counterrevolutionary” authors such as TS Eliot, Austen, Plath, Fitzgerald, Nabovov…and occasionally delivered speeches in rallies.

The Iranian students held study groups, reading Engels‘s “Origin of the family, Private Properties, and the State“, and Marx’s “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”.

The mood was revolutionary and the romantic atmosphere infectious, and the Iranian students were at the forefront of the struggle…(Eventually bringing Ayatollah Khomeini to power, who ultimately instituted a theocratic system… I was there as a few secular and radical factions supported the return of Khomeini, and I attended a few of their meetings)

In the fall of 1977, I got married with Bijan Nadiri, whom I met 2 years earlier at a meeting at Berkeley.

I felt nostalgic about places in Iran and famiyl, but the meetings mostly tried to reconstruct another Iran.

The movement started discouraging alcoholic beverages, dancing or playing “decadent” music during Iranian celebrations: They wanted us to avoid the “bourgeois” habits of studying

The most radical faction “The Confederation of Iranian Students” convened a conference in Oklahoma City. One of the members, a former running champion, was suspected of being a SAVAK agent (the Shah’s secret services).  This suspect war lured into a room at the Holiday Inn and tortured to “extract” the truth… He manged to escape.

The next day, several FBI agents barged into the conference. As the suspect reached the “culprit” or the leader, he broke down and cried and asked in Persian “Why did you treat me so cruelly?”, but he refrained to expose his tormentors, and left with the FBI agents.

The news were reported in the Univ. “Oklahoma Daily” and there were heated discussions engaged in coffee shops and the Student Union…Many boasted of the “power of the masses“. Many others quoted Stalin on the need to “destroy once and for all the Trotskyites, the White Guards, the termites, and poisonous rats…” Many defended the right of the masses to torture and physically eliminate their oppressors…

Azar warned: “Be careful what you wish for. The Islamic revolution will answer the wishes of the radical students and destroy the left-leaning and westernized citizens…Could my former comrades have predicted that one day they would be tried in a revolutionary Islamic court? Tortured, humiliated, put in jail, and executed as traitors and spies? They could not have predicted these outcomes, Not in their wildest dreams…”

I wanted to do comparative study of the American literature of the 20’s and 30’s.  I thought Fitzgerald represented the 20’s generations, but I had difficulty selecting a counterpoint in the 30’s, like Steinbeck, Farrell or Dos Passos..

And here I come across the real proletarians, whose spirit was best captured by Mike Gold, the radical editor of the popular literary journal “New Masses“. Gold was a big shot in his day: Even Hemingway took notice. Gold had called Thornton Wilder “the Emily Post of culture

Guevara the Arab: Al Kassam (1871-1935)

Have you heard of these homemade missiles Al Kassam that the resistance in Gaza launch on the nearest Israeli colonies? Particularly when Israel kill leaders using drones or fighter jets to bomb public institutions, schools, hospitals…?

Have you heard of the military wing of Hamas in Gaza called Al Kassam Brigade?

Ezzeldin Al Kassam was born in this small Syrian village of Jabli in the district of Lattakieh. In the last 20 years of his life, Al Kassam was leading groups of fighters against the colonial powers of France (in Syria), England (in Palestine) and Italy (in Libya) during the Omar Al Mokhtar mass uprising that started in 1911.

At the age of 14, Ak Kassam was sent by his father to Egypt to study at the famous religious university of Al Azhar. He witnessed the mass uprising lead by Arabi Pasha against the military occupation of the British of Egypt, and was immersed in the liberal interpretation of the Islam religion at that period.

He returned to his hometown a religious sheikh and Imam of the Mosque Al Mansouri and confronted the feudal landlords.

In 1912, Ezzeldin established a school, teaching kids in the morning and the adults late in the afternoon.

He assembled a  group ofSyrian revolutiopnaries, trained them and led them to fight the Italian occupiers in Lybia, alongside the national leader Omar Al Mokhtar.

When the French troops, mandated to occupy Syria and Lebanon, landed in 1918, Ak Kassam was ready to to engage in guerrila operations. He took refuge with his insurgents in the forteress of Zion in the Lattakieh district.

Between 1919 and 1920, Al Kassam allied with the resistance heros of Ibrahim Hanano, Saleh Ali, and Omar Bitar…The small Syrian army was defeated by the French troops at the battle of Maysaloun in 1920, and the Independence of Syria was shelved for over 15 years.

Al Kassam was sentenced to be executed in absentia, and he fled to Haifa in Palestine.

By 1925, Al Kassam became chairman of the Islamic Youth Association and the Imam of the Mosque Al Istiklal (independence) in Haifa.

In 1929, the Zionist jews were planning to burn down the Mosque, and Ezzeldin refused to demand from the British protection, stating: “This Mosque will be protected by our blood...”

The mass desobediance movement of Al Kassam was waged in two fronts: First, against the British occupiers, and second, against the increased immigration of the Jews into Palestine.

In August 1929, the Zionists tried to occupy the western wall (the lamentation wall) of the Mosque Al Aqsa in Jerusalem, called the Al Brak Wall (in honor of the name of the horse of Prophet Muhammad). This incident led to many casualties and more violent activities began at a wider scales.

From 1929 to 1935, Ak Kassam organized his insurgents into 5 secret branches: 1. The religious leaders with the task of connecting with the masses and peasants, 2. the branch for supplying arms and ammunition, 3. the branch for military training, 4. the branch for gathering intelligence on the movement of the british and the Zionists, and 5. the Foreign political communication branch…

On a December night of 1935, Al Kassam lead 25 of his fighters to the hills of Yo3bod in order to disseminate the spirit of mass uprising. The British were in waiting and ambushed the guerrilas and assassinated them. Al Kassam had warned the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Husseini of his intention and the reply was that “the conditions are not ripe for a mass disobedience uprising…”

After the killing of Al Kassam, a monster mass disobedience uprising engulfed all of Palestine against the British for 3 full years, from 1936-to 1939. The British Empire had to dispatch 100, 000 soldiers to quell this uprising, committing all kinds of atrocities and applying new torture methods that the Nazi in Germany emulated unchanged…

Simone Weil: No credible philosophy without active field engagement…

Simone Weil was concerned to find links between the state of Gravity (miseries, injustices, brute force, subjugation…) and the state of Grace (Justice, equitable treatment, civil rights, political rights…)  in this century of global turmoil and global wars.

How can people balance the repeated society massive submission to the power-to-be (following orders that are terribly evil) and the individual tendency to avoid harming innocent people?

Are the systematic coercive structure and violent acts of totalitarianism behind this recurring mass subjugation phenomena throughout history?

Desiring to know the truth is a yearning to be in direct touch with reality, no matter how cruel and brutal it might be. For example, if you claim to describe the conditions and represent the working class, you must be engaged in the daily work activities of the worker, and be connected to the actual working people in specific domain of productions…

Weil visited Germany in 1932 and experienced the incapacity of the German communist party to be freed from the Soviet dictate and Soviet bureaucracy.  Consequently, faced this rude reality, Weil dropped her previous revolutionary positions due to the total passive behavior of the communists in Germany.

In 1934-35, Weil took a sabbatical from teaching, and worked at the factories of Alsthom and Renault as a daily worker. She kept a diary, and she had to share the workers daily conditions and feelings on the floor-shop, if she had to talk of the working class…

In 1936, Weil was side by side with the Spanish anarchists during the civil war…

Simone Weil proclaimed to study the ancient mythologies, the metaphysical texts, the universal folkloric stories…with the same intellectual probity of attitude.  She was opposed to apartheid Zionist ideology and had harsh critics of the radical Hebraic practiced religion:

1. All that is inspired from the Old Testament by Christianity is bad…

2. The concept of Sanctity in the Church was emulated from the Sanctity notion of Israel…

3. Up until the Israelite were exiled to Babylon, not a single character in the Bible was not soiled by horrible acts…

4. Daniel was initiated to the Chaldean wise culture in captivity…

5. The Genesis is a compendium of all the Egyptian stories, transported and adapted… (including the Near-East culture)

6. Weil cannot comprehend how a reasonable mind can see similarity between Jehovah and the Father of the New Testament…

7. The mission of Israel was to acknowledge the unity of a God, without discriminating among people, culture, and the principles of Good and Evil…

8. The Hebrew attributed to God all that is considered supernatural, what is divine and what is demonic: Simply because they view their God in the angle of Power and not in the approach of what is Good and what is Evil…Viewing God of Power denies any intermediary between the believer and God, although there is no alternative to an Mediator.  Otherwise, God is emptied of divinity and is reduced to a racial and national entity that is directly accessible to anyone (with evil intentions)…

9. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks had this recognition that God is The Good. The God of the Hebrew was carnal, collective, heavy…who engaged in temporal promises.

10. Weil rejects “National God” and refuses the notion of a “Promised Land“…

Note: Simone Weil published “Gravity and Grace”, “The rooting” (L’enracinement)

“Library Antoine, Lebanon”, Antoine Naufal, Kamal Ataturk, French mandate over Lebanon (1919-1946)

A biographical book, published in French, was undertaken by Nayla, one of the 4 daughters of late Antoine Nawfal (father of the Girls) who died of cancer in 1981. The book was written by Nadia Anid.

Antoine Naufal established in 1933 the first branch of “Library Antoine” in Bab Idriss (Beirut) during the French mandate. This branch was demolished during the civil war. Another branch was opened in Hamra,  and lately in Ashrafieh.

The Library initially catered for school books, and focused mainly on French publications during and after the French mandate.

Antoine had a tough upbringing: The family had to flee from Turkey (the city of Mersin) during the dictatorship of Kamal Ataturk and relocated several times before settling in Lebanon.

After WWI, Ataturk started his antics and forced the settled Levantines to immigrate, by burning the Christian houses…The father Selim of the Naufal family (three boys and two girls) grabbed the few gold coins they had and waited for the train (run by the Germans) to take them to Alexandretta (Alexandrina).

Alexandretta was part of Syria and under the French mandated power. The Levantines thought that they were finally at peace, but France reneged on its responsibility and handed over Ataturk the region of Alexandretta in 1936.

The Naufal family had relocated to Lebanon in 1930, under duress from the nationalist Turks, and settled in the town of Baabdat (north Metn district).  Baabdat had many families who lived in Mersin and had returned to Lebanon.

Selim, father of Antoine, was a master tailor who practised in Marseille for a couple of years, and the family owned factories for weaving cottons and other kinds of cloths, and were living the grand bourgeois life-style.

Selim could never adapt to his Lebanese surrounding and kept repeating: “These cucumbers are no match to the ones in Misrine…while sipping on arak and nibbling on the mezze of vegetable on the table”

It happened that both major relocations took place during Christmas nights, as the turkey was readied to be served, before the fires started in the neighboring houses and in the house proper. Selim vowed: “From now on, I don’t want to see any turkey in the house...”

Kamal Ataturk had declared that “Turkey is for the Turks” and conducted campaigns to kick out from Turkey the Levantines (people from Syria and Lebanon), the Greeks, the Armenians, and basically anyone who was not a Moslem…

And who are the Turks?

They are nomads from the current State of Turkmenistan and its neighboring countries (Central Asia). These nomadic tribes coalesced under the leadership of a Seljuk Khan and defeated a large Byzantine army around the end of the 11th century and settled in the more fertile land of eastern Turkey.

The Seljuk opted for Konia as Capital and conquered Syria, Lebanon, and part of Palestine. They were the main forces who battled with the crusaders for two centuries.

Before and during the WWI, many families from Lebanon had settled in Turkey, and mainly in the prosperous city of Mersin and in Adana. Families like Khawli, Lahoud, Sayegh, Khalil, Saad (Habib Basha Saad was the first president of Lebanon during the mandate)…

Antoine once said: “I was never a child. I never had an anniversary or received any gift on special occasions. I was never called Tony. I was always Antoine, the elder son with the responsibility of taking care of the family…”

Antoine started working very early on and couldn’t finish his high school. He found a job at a library in Beirut (Librarie du Foyer) owned by Ernest Chehab who wouldn’t sell book banned by the Catholic Church, the old and the current ones…

One day, he discovered that shops in Bab Idriss,  on Patriarch Hoyek Street, were for rent at modicum prices: The street was plagued with a taboo of unlucky stories of chain bankruptcies…Antoine mother handed him the 250 pounds from her secret savings, unknown to the family…

Antoine used to bike to the nearest library competitors (like Bsalti, Bugnard…) to buy the unavailable books ordered by clients, and would return while the clients are perusing the books and the magazines…

(I recall many such zeal from Lebanese overseas: Hopping to get the required spare parts from competitors not available in their initial store…)

Antoine received the French medal of Legion d’Honneur in 1964: only 20 of his family members were to be invited, and the family counted 21 members…

His mother-in-law Nazha separated from her husband after Antoine married her daughter Della (for Adel). Consequently, Nazha cut-off the head of her husband from all the picture and would never mention his name, saying only: “He was a woolf

Note 1: You think that this book is a biography of Antoine Naufal, and it turned out to be the story of Nayla… Too many tangent stories about Samir Jaber, Georginia, Rashid Khoury, George Khoury…, just to describe the life-style in Lebanon and who frequented the library.

This book could be separated into three volumes: one on Antoine Naufal,  the second tome on the many stories related to the library and what took place within the library…and the third called “The story of Nayla“…I expected more pictures of the family, the house, the celebrations, the garden… and less about the devastation of the civil war: We have too many of these kinds of sorry pictures…

Note 2: The Seljuk dynasty was demolished by the Mogul Genghis Khan in 1220 after he entered the richest city of Bukhara on the silk road and continued his progress to conquer Turkey.  Mogul Genghis Khan established the vastest empire in the world stretching from China to Turkey, including all central Asia.

The grand son of Genghis Khan, Hulago, descended toward Iraq and burned Baghdad, killing the last Abbassid Calif, and putting an end to the Arabic empire in the east. The Arabic empire of the west, mainly in southern Spain and northern Africa was thriving and producing the best scientific research in all fields.

In 1097, the Spanish King Alphonse entered Toledo (in central Spain) and acquired about 60,000 Arabic volumes and hundreds of highly literate people who translated the Arabic culture into Latin. At that period, the largest library in Europe contained at best 100 books, mostly of no interest whatsoever.

“Trip to the End of the Night” by Ferdinand Celine

This French book, published in the early 1930’s, is basically a collection of authobiographical stories of a freshly graduating physician who established his “clinic” in a poor working neighborhood in the suburb of Paris.

Celine (pen name) used to be called to pay visit to patients after sundown, and his medical tour will last till dawn, from a poor patient to another avorting dying girl because the parents refused to send her to the hospital for face saving…

Celine volunteered in WWI and was caught in the machinery and could no longer escape this infernal absurdity.  He was able to flee to the USA and worked at Ford factories in Detroit. He returned to France and studied medicine.

The followings are excerpts, not of the stories, but of the kind of statements that the living among miseries bring up in our mind and emotions.

It is imperative to comprehend why we are so stubborn to refuse a cure for our solitude…We keep hiding from acquaintances. I recall the words of this young corporal, hospitalized during the war. He confided: “Earth is sick and dead, and we are fat decaying worms…All rotten since birth…” He was good enough to be carried by two soldiers to be executed by a firing squad: He was an anarchist as the War council decided…I didn’t know better at the time to take time and listen to these soldiers: I wouldn’t know how to ask the right questions anyway…

The old patient was saying: “I can’t feel my feet, I feel cold up to my knees. I can’t drink anything…I want to touch my feet but I can’t…” He was kind of half out of life, he couldn’t get rid of his lungs…He exhaled but air would come in anyway. Kind of his lungs relentlessly making him suffer to the very end. That’s a harsh job staying alive…He struggled as harder to stay alive as to die

Life is a special class of boredom and annoyances, and they are the eternal pions. Boredom is here all the time, spying on you, and you have to frequently look occupied, at any price…Masturbating is an excellent pass time: You are occupied and getting some pleasure.  Mostly, we would like to have an endless series of pleasure-like activities to survive the long 24-hour day. A day is really very long to surmount and suffer the ever ready presence of boredom…Even in our continuous boredom, we refuse to reflect on ourselves…Nothing very pleasurable here, self-reflection.

It is impossible to swallow truth, like the death of your lover, or the death of your kid…The more distant the lover, literally, the more you cannot communicate face to face, and smell the rotten flesh…You keep adding and heaping values, good traits and lies to the reality of love…It’s natural and regular this tendency, loving from afar…

The little people can claim to have lived, only if the manage to overcome this habit of blind obedience, inculcated in the brain since childhood, and they should vomit obeying the rich and the authority figures once for al.

The balanced youth is who can respect everyone with no discrimination whatsoever…How come we cannot find these kind of youth?

It is not relentlessness that we ever lacked, but how to be on the proper road that lead to a tranquil death. The worst case scenario is when death takes us by surprise, in between two hesitations…

War is ever ready to wake up and grumble, due mainly to the criminal boredom that gets the little people out of their confined caves…How many of the poor people should be sacrificed before they comprehend the humour of it?

Note: Read part 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/part-2-trip-to-the-end-of-the-night/


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