Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Brazil

Brazil fascist Jair Bolsonaro wants to bulldoze the Amazon and assassinate the left leaning citizens

Jair Bolsonaro is a former army officer and participated in the previous Brazil dictatorship. I saw him talking and he doesn’t sound right in the mind. No wonder why Trump and Israel Netanyahu love him.

And just months ago, almost nobody wanted to vote for him. How could this happen? A landslide of 58%?

By Ricken Patel – Avaaz 

The fascist Jair Bolsonaro wants to bulldoze the Amazon: He is is now Brazil’s President —

has threatened to kill 30,000 “leftists”, and praises dictatorships.

Rich companies illegally spent millions to flood WhatsApp with fake news supporting him. We can make sure this never happens again by coming together to demand Zuckerberg clean up social media before any more of these kinds of terrifying politicians gain power

Social media algorithms have vast power over our societies, and they’re force-feeding us poison right now.

In Brazil, it was only after millions of people had already been conned by fake news that journalists started to notice! But there is a way out: convince WhatsApp to introduce fake-news filters that can be activated by users that alert them to potential disinformation.

For this to work the platform may need to allow users to make encryption optional, a solution that would both protect our democracy and our privacy.

The amount of fake news currently spreading on all of our social networks is creating a vast and staggering global crisis. 

Facebook continues to have hundreds of millions of active fake accounts! YouTube has 2 billion (!) account-holders watching up to an hour a day, but researchers say its algorithms are driving people to watch extremist, racist, and malicious content.

That’s why our movement is fighting back — urging social media platforms, including WhatsApp, to stand up for citizens, democracies, and real information.

Note: Bolsonaro said he doesn’t see what is the fuss of moving Brazil embassy to Jerusalem: It is like deciding to move Brazil capital to Sao Paulo. He said that he is reconsidering his decision. Meanwhile, his 2 sons are exhibiting T-shirts for Israel Mossad and racism.

Election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil threatens the planet (The Guardian)


Brazil recalls Israel envoy to protest ‘disproportionate force’ in Gaza

Brazil follows Ecuador’s decision a day earlier, as well as the UN human rights council’s decision to open commission of inquiry into Israel’ ‘war crimes.’

An Israeli tank in the Gaza region, July 23, 2014.
An Israeli tank in the Gaza region, July 23, 2014. / Photo by Ilan Assayag
By Barak Ravid. Published 11:05 24.07.14
Brazil decided Thursday to recall its ambassador in Tel Aviv to protest what it has called “disproportionate use of force by Israel” in the Gaza Strip.”The Brazilian government considers unacceptable escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine. We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, from which large numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children resulted. The Brazilian Government reiterates his call for an immediate ceasefire between the parties.”

Brazilian Embassy in Israel
Brazilian Embassy in Israel. / Photo by google maps

“Given the seriousness of the situation, the Brazilian government voted for the resolution of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations on the subject In addition, the Ambassador of Brazil in Tel Aviv was called to Brasilia for consultations.”

Brazil is the second country to recall its envoy, following Ecuador’s move a day earlier.

The decision comes amid heightened tensions in the international community over Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday launched a commission of inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes in its current Gaza offensive, backing Palestinian efforts to have Israel held up to international scrutiny.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office fiercely condemned the UN council’s decision as a “travesty and should be rejected by decent people everywhere.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel was disappointed by the decision, saying “it does not reflect the level of relations between the countries and ignores Israel’s right to defend itself.”

“Such steps do not contribute to promote calm and stability in the region. Rather, they provide tailwind to terrorism, and naturally affect Brazil’s capacity to wield influence. Israel expects support from its friends in its struggle against Hamas, which is recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world,” he added.

Meeting in Geneva, the 46-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with supports from Arab and Muslim countries, China, Russia, Latin American and African nations.

The United States was the only member to vote against the resolution, while European countries abstained.

The last such investigation faced by Israel was the so-called Goldstone Committee, which harshly criticized Israel’s conduct during its 2008 hostilities with Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s office blasted the rights council for placing its criticism in the wrong place, investigating Israel rather than Hamas and “sending a message to Hamas” that the use of human shields is effective strategy.”

“Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the HRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages.”

Note 1: Israel start the conflict with jet fighters. Hamas respond by home-made missiles and Israel kills 1,400 Palestinian civilians, injures 4 times this number  and demolish all European infrastructure aids to Gaza

Vice President Michel Temer (of Lebanese origin) to be the next Brazil president?

The real plan behind Rousseff’s impeachment is to put an end to the ongoing investigation, thus protecting corruption, not punishing it.”

Michel Temer has officially become acting President in Brazil after the Senate suspended Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.

It’s not easy for outsiders to sort through all the competing claims about Brazil’s political crisis and the ongoing effort to oust its president, Dilma Rousseff, who won re-election a mere 18 months ago with 54 million votes.

But the most important means for understanding the truly anti-democratic nature of what’s taking place is to look at the person whom Brazilian oligarchs and their media organs are trying to install as president: the corruption-tainted, deeply unpopular, oligarch-serving Vice President Michel Temer (above).

Doing so shines a bright light on what’s really going on, and why the world should be deeply disturbed.

The New York Times’s Brazil bureau chief, Simon Romero, interviewed Temer this week, and this is how his excellent article begins:

RIO DE JANEIRO — One recent poll found that only 2 percent of Brazilians would vote for him. He is under scrutiny over testimony linking him to a colossal graft scandal. And a high court justice ruled that Congress should consider impeachment proceedings against him.

Michel Temer, Brazil’s vice president, is preparing to take the helm of Brazil next month if the Senate decides to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial.

How can anyone rational believe that anti-corruption anger is driving the elite effort to remove Dilma when they are now installing someone as president who is accused of corruption far more serious than she is? It’s an obvious farce.

But there’s something even worse

Asad Ghsoub shared and commented on this link by Glenn Greenwald, April 22, 2016|By Glenn Greenwald

The person who is third in line to the presidency, right behind Temer, has been exposed as shamelessly corrupt: the evangelical zealot and House speaker Eduardo Cunha (now set aside from his responsibility by the Parliament).

He’s the one who spearheaded the impeachment proceedings even though he got caught last year squirreling away millions of dollars in bribes in Swiss bank accounts, after having lied to Congress when falsely denying that he had any accounts in foreign banks. When Romero asked Temer about his posture toward Cunha once he takes power, this is how Temer responded:

Mr. Temer defended himself and top allies who are under a cloud of accusations in the scheme. He expressed support for Eduardo Cunha, the scandal-plagued speaker of the lower house who is leading the impeachment effort in Congress, saying he would not ask Mr. Cunha to resign. Mr. Cunha will be the next in line for the presidency if Mr. Temer takes over.

By itself, this demonstrates the massive scam taking place here. As my partner, David Miranda, wrote this morning in his Guardian op-ed: “It has now become clear that corruption is not the cause of the effort to oust Brazil’s twice-elected president; rather, corruption is merely the pretext.”

In response, Brazil’s media elites will claim (as Temer did) that once Dilma is impeached, then the other corrupt politicians will most certainly be held accountable, but they know this is false, and Temer’s shocking support for Cunha makes that clear.

Indeed, press reports show that Temer is planning to install as attorney general — the key government contact for the corruption investigation — a politician specifically urged for that position by Cunha.

As Miranda’s op-ed explains, “The real plan behind Rousseff’s impeachment is to put an end to the ongoing investigation, thus protecting corruption, not punishing it.”

But there’s one more vital motive driving all of this.

Look at who is going to take over Brazil’s economy and finances once Dilma’s election victory is nullified. Two weeks ago, Reuters reported that Temer’s leading choice to run the central bank is the chair of Goldman Sachs in Brazil, Paulo Leme.

Today, Reuters reported that “Murilo Portugal, the head of Brazil’s most powerful banking industry lobby” — and a long-time IMF official — “has emerged as a strong candidate to become finance minister if Temer takes power.” Temer also vowed that he would embrace austerity for Brazil’s already-suffering population: He “intends to downsize the government” and “slash spending.”

In an earning calls last Friday with JP Morgan, the celebratory CEO of Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior SA, Rubens Amaral, explicitly described Dilma’s impeachment as “one of the first steps to normalization in Brazil,” and said that if Temer’s new government implements the “structural reforms” that the financial community desires, then “definitely there will be opportunities.”

News of Temer’s preferred appointees strongly suggests Mr. Amaral — and his fellow plutocrats — will be pleased.

Meanwhile, the dominant Brazilian media organs of Globo, Abril (Veja), Estadão — which Miranda’s op-ed discusses at length — are virtually unified in support of impeachment, as in No Dissent Allowed, and have been inciting the street protests from the start.

Why is that revealing? Reporters Without Borders just yesterday released its 2016 Press Freedom Rankings, and ranked Brazil 103 in the world because of violence against journalists but also because of this key fact: “Media ownership continues to be very concentrated, especially in the hands of big industrial families that are often close to the political class.” Is it not crystal clear what’s going on here?

So to summarize: Brazilian financial and media elites are pretending that corruption is the reason for removing the twice-elected president of the country as they conspire to install and empower the country’s most corrupted political figures.

Brazilian oligarchs will have succeeded in removing from power a moderately left-wing government that won four straight elections in the name of representing the country’s poor, and are literally handing control over the Brazilian economy (the world’s seventh largest) to Goldman Sachs and bank industry lobbyists.

This fraud being perpetrated here is as blatant as it is devastating. But it’s the same pattern that has been repeatedly seen around the world, particularly in Latin America, when a tiny elite wages a self-protective, self-serving war on the fundamentals of democracy.

Brazil, the world’s fifth most populous country, has been an inspiring example of how a young democracy can mature and thrive. But now, those democratic institutions and principles are being fully assaulted by the very same financial and media factions that suppressed democracy and imposed tyranny in that country for decades.

Najat Rizk shared this link
After Two Years, We Finally Have a Lebanese President … in Brazil
Posted By : Najib Michel Temer has officially become acting President in Brazil after the…


How the Lebanese conquered Brazil

Success came through hard work and perseverance

This article is part of an in depth special report on the Lebanese in Brazil. Read more stories as they’re published here, or pick up July’s issue at newsstands in Lebanon.


Photo of Beirut Port with ships used for migration, LERC Archives

Photo of Beirut Port with ships used for migration (Credit: LERC Archives)

Two years ago, Amin Maalouf — perhaps the most famous Lebanese author in France and a social scientist — made a trip to São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city. Speaking at a prominent club for Lebanese expatriates, he declared that for many, Brazil was the materialization of the Lebanese dream.

It is hard to disagree with him.

Perhaps more so than any other country outside of their homeland, the Lebanese run Brazil. In virtually every sector of the economy, some of the most powerful individuals can trace their lineage back to the Cedar country.

Though the exact number is disputed (see box), it is clear that there are at least 6 million Brazilians of Lebanese origin. In business, economics, culture and many other fields, Lebanese people sit at the top of Brazilian society.

Despite making up less than 5% of the population, 10% of parliamentarians have Lebanese origins.

Yet these migrants were not always so successful.

Arriving in the late 1800s, much of the first generation brought with them nothing but the clothes on their backs. The story of how they came to make up the Brazilian elite is one of free markets, risky decisions, stigma, and above all, hard work.

What’s in a number

It is widely known that there are more people of Lebanese descent in Brazil than there are citizens of Lebanon itself. Yet how many more is a matter for ongoing debate in both countries. Some estimates have put the number as high as 12 million, while others are as low as four or five. That puts the Lebanese–Brazilian population somewhere between 3 and 6% of the country’s total population of 200 million. Trying to get a reliable estimate is a lot harder than it may initially appear.

The first issue is documentation. There are no reliable estimates for the number of Lebanese people that arrived in Brazil in the late 1800s and early 1900s. And when they were recorded, because their documents came from the Ottoman Empire, they were called turkos — making no distinction between Lebanese, Syrians and other groups.

As Oswaldo Truzzi writes in the book by Roberto Khatlab “Lebanese migrants to Brazil: An Annotated Bibliography,”

“For a long time, the data on immigration flows from the region was classified under one category ‘other nationalities’ in Brazil. Only in the state of São Paulo, where immigration services became more effective after 1908, were these immigrants registered as Turk, Turk-Asian, Lebanese, or Syrian. Between 1908 and 1941, these groups amounted to 4 percent (48,326 individuals) of the total of immigrants that entered the state.”

In 1920 and 1940 the national censuses offered the first official estimates of the numbers of Lebanese and Syrians in the country.

Strangely, despite ongoing immigration, there were officially fewer in 1940 (46,614) than in 1920 (50,246). (It is recorded that immediately after WWI, as the maritime routes were reopened, more than 250,000 Lebanese, out of less than half a million, immigrated in the early 1920’s. Lebanon suffered a famine hecatomb and diseases related to weak physical conditions)

In recent years that number has fallen still, “becoming statistically of little significance” according to Truzzi. Yet this is likely due to reporting methods — Brazil’s census does not differentiate between Brazilians whose parents or grandparents are of foreign origin. Lebanese have also intermarried with other Brazilian groups, with many losing their Arabic name in the process.

Guita Hourani, director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at the Notre Dame University near Beirut, says she believes the number is between 6 and 8 million, but certainly not higher.

“Lebanon’s population in 1900 is estimated to have been 380,000. Hence, it is scientifically impossible that the emigrant population would increase to 12 or more million, while the remaining population in Lebanon would increase to 3.8 million.”

Hourani points out that some of the overestimates have come from the prominent role of Lebanese in Brazilian society. Some, for example, have extrapolated that because around 10% of Brazilian parliamentarians have Lebanese roots, they make up 10 percent of the population, a point she says is unfounded since “parliamentarians are elected by everyone regardless of their origins.”

There is also the problem of self-identification — many who are perhaps just one-eighth Lebanese will often feel proud of their roots, yet they have little realistic claim to Lebanese nationality.

Hourani believes that the Lebanese successes in Brazil are even more impressive when put into the context of their relative size. “Exaggerating the numbers eclipses the success of this small population … that has a high level of exposure in their immigration countries.”

Humble beginnings

Cheap Chinese goods flooding the market, undermining profits and forcing businesses into bankruptcy — it may sound a distinctly modern story, borne of an era of rapid globalization. Yet for those with knowledge of Lebanese history, today’s crisis in the West is merely an echo of the events that helped provoke the first wave of mass emigration in the late nineteenth century.

Eliane Fersan, a researcher on the history of Lebanese migration, has documented a number of factors that led to a huge wave of migration in that period. Among these was, perhaps unsurprisingly for a fragmented region, violence.

In 1860, a war between Maronite Christians and Druze communities led to the deaths of thousands of people. The lack of Ottoman protection for the Christian community, coupled with the fear of conscription into the Turkish armies, convinced the first few pioneers to seek safer shores.

But the exodus was really accelerated, not due to politics, but to economics — in particular the collapse of the Levant’s economy.

From the late 1870s onwards, the silk trade — the most common export of the predominantly Christian regions of Mount Lebanon — collapsed as European consumers took advantage of cheaper transport to buy Chinese and other East Asian goods instead.

As the academic John Tofik Karam noted in a paper on the period, the Chinese takeover left Lebanese exporters with no market. “Reaching its zenith in the early 1870s, the price of silk spiraled downward to nearly half its value in the 1890s,” he wrote.

The cumulative effect of a collapse of business, worsening security and few job prospects was the start of a rush for the nearest exit.

From 1860 to 1914, between a third and a half of Mount Lebanon’s population is believed to have emigrated — while well over 90% of all emigrants from Lebanese territory are thought to have been Christian. They fled across the world looking for a better life, becoming the first generation of the Lebanese diaspora.

A new start

Of these emigrants, around a third are estimated to have reached the Brazilian coast. Quite how so many ended up making the country their new home is a matter of debate.

The popular story, particularly among the Lebanese–Brazilian community, is one of divine providence. In this particular version of history, Brazil’s last emperor Dom Pedro II plays a sort of Cyrus the Great, the hero to an embattled community — offering them the chance to start again in a new land.

The reason for Pedro’s hallowed status is two trips he made to the Middle East in the 1870s, the latter of which involved an extensive tour of Lebanon. An enlightened and kind man, legend has it that on the road to the ruins of Baalbeck he stopped at the side of the road to talk to some peasants. After hearing of their woes, he implored them to abandon the Bekaa’s arid ground in favor of more luscious climes in Latin America.

Lody Brais, president of the Lebanese–Brazilian Cultural Association, believes Pedro’s actions provoked the rush to Brazil. Three years ago, she organized an exhibition to mark 135 years since the emperor’s visit. “We are here thanks to Dom Pedro II, because when he went he encouraged people to come to Brazil,” she says. “There was already a small working community and he was pleased with them so when he went he invited [the Lebanese] with open arms.”

Yet the truth may have been less clear-cut. Information traveled slowly in that period and it is unlikely that Dom Pedro’s call would have had a profound effect across the country. In fact, far from being pre-determined to reach Brazil, it seems that most Lebanese were more concerned about leaving than selecting their destination.

Fersan, the researcher on Lebanese migration, points out that many of the first generation had little idea where they were going.

“Most emigrants wanted to reach Amerka wherever this might turn out to be, before actually choosing their specific destination,” she says. “When they were refused entry to the United States (for health or legal reasons) they used to travel down south instead of returning home, and landed mostly in Brazil or Argentina.”

(It is reported that captain of ships would drop the passengers in any country that optimized the turnover of his shipment, like in Africa or Latin America)

Lebanese peddlers on bicycles in Sao Paulo, Brazil 1960 LERC Archives, Roberto Khatlab Collection

Lebanese peddlers in São Paulo, 1960

Peddle me this

Those that arrived in Brazil found a country reaching out to the world. The rubber industry was booming and Brazil’s leaders realized that the population of only a few million people meant a need for new manpower.

In the latter period of the 19th century they invited people from across the world to help build this new nation. Swathes of migrants from Germany, Italy, Japan and other nations flocked to Brazil to help make it the array of nationalities it is today. Among these were tens of thousands of Arabs, mostly Lebanese but also Syrians and Palestinians.

Yet the Arabs distinguished themselves in one key way from the other new arrivals — they shunned agriculture in favor of trade.

This was partly because they faced higher barriers to entering the sector. Due to agreements between the Brazilian rulers and their European counterparts, those who emigrated from Europe often had prearranged work in Brazil, with the vast majority going to work on farms.

Yet the Ottoman Empire had no such agreement, making access to the agricultural sector more challenging for Lebanese immigrants.

Elsa El Hachem-Kirby, an academic who wrote her PhD on the Lebanese community in Brazil, stresses that this lack of support was both a curse and a blessing. “Lebanese emigration was spontaneous, and there was no state behind them. This was initially negative as it meant they had little protection but it also allowed them freedom to work however they liked — rather than being forced to be farmhands like some of the European immigrants.”

Non-Christian migration

While the vast majority of Lebanese emigration to Brazil has been from the country’s Christian population, a smaller percentage of the population came from the Muslim and Jewish communities. Reliable numbers are unfortunately unavailable, but estimates suggest that between 10 and 15% of Lebanese–Brazilians are of non-Christian descent.

The Muslim community
Hussein Kalout, a Lebanese–Brazilian academic who is currently a visiting professor at Harvard’s political science department, comes from a Shia family. His father emigrated to Brazil in the 1960s but he speaks Arabic and has lived part of his life in Lebanon.

He describes 4 main waves of Lebanese emigration:

The first of wave— from the 1870s until the mid 20th century — was overwhelmingly Christian. Muslim immigration, he says, really began during World War II and picked up during a third wave in the Lebanese Civil War of 1975–90. The final wave, he says, started after the war as Israel’s 1982–2000 occupation of southern Lebanon grated on the local population — with many from the Shia population moving for economic reasons.

For Kalout, Lebanese–Brazilian Muslims remain more connected to Lebanon and particularly to the Arabic language than their Christian counterparts. “The Lebanese Muslims are more connected to the land, to the religion and to the language,” he says. “If you ask how many Lebanese–Brazilian Christians speak Arabic, compared to the Lebanese–Brazilian Muslims, the difference is huge.”

This is partly due to chronology, as they emigrated later. Yet Kalout also thinks the connection to the region is greater. “I don’t think the third generation Shia will become equal to the third generation Christians [in their connection with Lebanon] because they are more linked with the country, more linked to the situation,” he says.

While Kalout thinks that many, like himself, have become largely irreligious in Brazil’s more secular society, Lebanese–Brazilian Muslims remain politically aware of events in the Middle East.

Lebanese–Brazilian Muslims are prominent in many areas of Brazilian society — in particular academia and medicine. Kalout adds that the distinction between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam has not historically replicated itself in Brazil, with shared mosques and a unified Muslim federation.

Underscoring the importance of language, there are a growing number of Arabic-language educational bodies in the country. “In some cities in southern Brazil they have started to create Arab schools — not just a school to teach Arabic but a school to put your children to learn in Arabic.”

The Jewish community
The Lebanese Jewish emigration to Brazil was predominantly in the latter half of the 20th century. Since the Nakba and concomitant birth of Israel in 1948, Arab Jews across the Middle East have often faced animosity and violence.

Sheila Mann was just 13 in 1967. Her family had been in Lebanon for “generations and generations,” but when the preemptive Six Day War started between Israel and Jordan, Syria and Egypt, hostility grew toward the Lebanese Jewish community. “When we found out Israel had won the war, the Lebanese army was worried the people would attack the Jewish district [of central Beirut] so they closed it off. We had blackouts at night so nobody knew we were in.”

“One day they had a demonstration near my home. From my veranda I could see one protester putting a photo of [Egyptian leader] Gamal Abdel Nasser on the barricades to provoke us,” she says. Scared for their children, her parents decided to leave the country — initially for Israel. Within a decade, she says, all the Lebanese Jews she knew had left the country.

Yet her parents never liked Israel and would constantly bemoan their refugee status, longing for a return to Beirut. Mann, too, was never happy in Israel and at age 18 moved to Brazil with her new husband. “For me Lebanon is part of my life, my being. I cannot imagine not thinking about Lebanon. It was a happy time, my childhood,” she says.

Lebanese–Brazilian Jews are relatively few but very successful. Perhaps foremost among them is the Safra family — owners of the Safra Group. The head of the family, Joseph Safra, is estimated by Forbes to be the second richest person in Brazil, with a personal fortune of $15.9 billion. (Executive contacted the family for an interview but they were in mourning over the death of Safra’s brother, Moise.)

Mann says she thinks that the forced nature of their emigration has made many members of the Lebanese–Brazilian Jewish community skeptical of other Lebanese–Brazilians. “I have a lot of difficulties to convince them to be more open and they consider me a fool.” She now runs an organization called Peace on the Table, which brings together Muslim and Jewish women of Middle Eastern descent to break down barriers over food.

The vast majority of these new immigrants began to work as mascates — peddlers. As Kirby explains in an article on the topic, this typically involved travelling the country carrying a crate of goods for sale. “The mascate would replenish his stocks in the city, in this case São Paulo, but he would sell his products in the [rural] interior of the country.”

The conditions for these workers were extremely tough — they often worked 20–hour days, travelling with cases on their backs in the most inhospitable of climates. Yet the rewards were potentially large and, unlike those in agriculture, went into their pockets rather than those of agrarian landlords.

Carlos Eddé is now head of the Lebanese National Bloc party but he lived in Brazil until 14 years ago. He says the Lebanese emigrants like his grandfather actually felt something of a release on arrival in Brazil — leaving Lebanon’s rather stifling feudal economy for the frontier markets of Latin America.

“A fresh immigrant once said to me: ‘When we leave Lebanon and we come to this country we feel no tiredness, no cold, no heat, no thirst, no hunger — we just do it. And principally we feel no shame — in Lebanon we live in shame of not having the right house, the right clothes, not speaking the right way, not having the right education. This makes Lebanese in Lebanon ashamed of trying new things.’”

This work ethic and new found sense of freedom enabled the first generation to succeed quickly. Within two generations, peddling would be synonymous with Arabs — in 1895, Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians made up 90% of the official register of peddlers in the city of São Paulo.

The Arabs quickly gained a reputation for travelling to places that most other Brazilians wouldn’t go to — often trekking through the Amazon carrying goods for sale.

Alfredo Cotait, a former senator and the president of the Lebanese–Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, points out that this type of work means the Lebanese community is found all over the country — though perhaps over 50 percent are found in São Paulo. “You will find Lebanese in all domains. There are 5,300 cities in Brazil and in each one you will find Lebanese businessmen.”

That initial generation of peddlers often succeeded within one generation. Among them was Jorge Maalouf, who would later become head of the Lebanese community in São Paulo. His grandson Jorge Takla, one of Brazil’s most important theater directors, believes that the Lebanese succeeded due to a combination of an impressive work rate and natural salesmanship. “[The Maaloufs] came from a very important family in Lebanon but when they came to Brazil they had no money and there was hunger here. They all started as mascates, yet they made money very quickly,” he says.

Back in Lebanon this exodus was becoming a source of alarm for some in the Christian community. One Presbyterian church leader is quoted in the book “Lebanese migrants to Brazil” as saying:

“The emigration fever doesn’t appear to show any signs of decreasing … It’s become an obsession. It took from our churches some of its most useful members; many of the teachers are upset.” Yet in the same breath he reveals why attempts to hold them back failed. “An illiterate emigrant goes to America and after six months sends back a check for 300 or 400 dollars, more than a teacher’s salary or two years’ work of a shepherd.”

Crucially, Lebanese families also had a high propensity to save the profits and reinvest them in businesses. By 1907, not peddling, but wholesale clothes and dry goods accounted for 80% of the 315 Arab-owned businesses in the city of São Paulo. 

Nowadays, wandering down Rua 25 de Marco you are perhaps as likely to meet Koreans as Arabs — hundreds of stalls selling knock-off Brazil memorabilia, painting the street yellow and green.

Yet look closely and the major São Paulo thoroughfare still shows signs of its Lebanese history — the odd street name or remaining Arabic shop name. For the first part of the 20th century, the street was the trading quarter for the Lebanese diaspora — where they both produced and sold a range of goods, with textiles the primary lure.

Jorge Maalouf’s family was among the pioneers, quickly switching from peddling to textiles and establishing a major factory near Rua 25 de Marco. Within a few decades, Maalouf had become such a success he was making trips back to the motherland for philanthropy, being received lavishly by Lebanese politicians.

This interaction with Lebanon also went the other way — as stories of success fed back to those in the Middle East, thousands more packed up and left. LebaneseBrazilian companies at that time also tended to prefer to employ from within the community — when they needed a new peddler, they more often went back to Lebanon rather than employing a Brazilian. Sons, nephews, or cousins would be summoned — thus encouraging yet more emigration from the home country.

Stop sign

Yet the worldwide financial crisis started by the 1929 Wall Street Crash put a halt to Brazil’s growth. Demand for exports collapsed and thousands went out of business. Among those forced out of business was the grandfather of Francisco Rezek, later the head of Brazil’s Supreme Court.

“When the American crisis produced its effects in this country in 1929–1930, many of the businesses collapsed. Some of the most fortunate families required an arrangement with creditors in order to pay part of the debt,” he says. “My grandfather didn’t want to do it — he paid all the debts on his firms, closed up and moved to the countryside to live his last years modestly but very proud of his attitude.”

The 1929 crash and the destitution it created fed extremism across the world — not least in Germany where it led to the rise of fascism that would indirectly reshape the Middle East forever — and Brazil was no exception. As people struggled to feed their families, it became increasingly common to lash out at immigrants — with Arabs bearing the brunt of many attacks. 

Herbert Levy, one of the country’s most powerful newspaper figures at the time, was among the most vocal critics. In one editorial he wrote that “the type of immigration required by the country’s needs is that of agricultural workers and the [Arabs] are not classified in this category,” being rather “dedicated to commerce and speculative activities.”

At other times, this hostility slid into all-out racism, with Edgar Roquette-Pinto, often considered the father of Brazilian radio, accusing Arabs of being a secretive and segregated group. “Although … they are obligated to enter into relations with the Brazilians, they live perfectly segregated in their race, in their norms, in their way of doing things.”

A land of dialogue?

At the end of May a rather extraordinary event occurred: Hundreds of Lebanese people flocked to a conference in Beirut. While that may sound far from unusual, for some of the attendees it was their first steps on Lebanese soil. For these were the diaspora, drawn from around the world in recognition of their shared roots — though some had little previous interaction with the physical state of Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil opened the event, which had been organized by his ministry, with an ode to the powers of the Lebanese emigrant. “My dear friends,” he said, “you are the second wing of Lebanon, you are the wealth of Lebanon, you are the energy of Lebanon … you are the pride of Lebanon.”

Bassil stressed that he was seeking to engage more deeply with the Lebanese diaspora and that he was looking not merely for empty words of solidarity but for concrete measures to improve links.

“We did not organize this meeting just to hold an event or highlight an achievement. We want to start a collective journey together because each one of you has a success story,” he said. “This partnership means that we will have a dialogue, we will have an exchange and sharing. This is why we want to listen to you and draw on your experiences of success and rich experiences abroad.

One concrete step forward is the Land of Dialogue among Civilizations (LDC) initiative. Launched by President Michel Sleiman in 2013, the LDC aims to encourage the United Nations to formally recognize Lebanon as a country of dialogue and coexistence, where those from many religions, sects and beliefs coexist.

Edward Alam, a professor at the Notre Dame University near Beirut and one of the organizers of the LDC initiative, says that the next step will include “an electronic petition addressed to the UN Secretary that will be signed by Lebanese, people of Lebanese descent, friends and people who believe in dialogue as a tool to nonviolent transformation,” as well as a “tour to promote the initiative in the main countries that have sizable Lebanese diasporas.”

Alam admitted that critics could find the idea of Lebanon’s deeply divided society being a model for dialogue strange considering ongoing tensions. “We are not denying that Lebanon continues to struggle for peace, but Lebanon continues to also see dialogue as an indispensable tool. Even in the midst of active warfare, there were efforts for dialogue inside and outside Lebanon … We feel that Lebanon is positioned historically, geopolitically, culturally to be that land [of dialogue] especially in our part of the world.”

So far, among other moves, a Brazilian branch of the LDC has been launched under the leadership of Denise Milan, one of Brazil’s top artists. She organized a conference last year — backed by the Brazilian government — that aimed to highlight the Lebanese diaspora and encourage dialogue.

“We didn’t want to talk about conflict, we wanted to talk about coexistence. [We aim to] highlight Lebanon in the Middle East as a place where coexistence exists — even with all the problems they have. If we can pass this message strongly, it can be very important for the Middle East.

Victors of fortune

Yet the changing shape of both Brazil and the world was about to transform the Lebanese community from successful but stigmatized merchants into key pillars of Brazil’s society.

In 1930, Getulio Vargas rose to power. Recognizing Brazil’s predominantly agricultural economy was ill-suited to the modern world, the dictator set a course for rapid industrialization. In 1919, industrial production accounted for just 21 percent of gross national product, but by 1939 that figure was 43 percent, while the number of factory workers in São Paulo trebled. 

No group was as well placed to take advantage of this as the Lebanese. They had by this time established themselves as the merchant class in São Paulo, the country’s economic hub. Small textile businesses were transformed into major factories, while national giants rose up in construction and other sectors. 

By the early 1950s, the Lebanese diaspora had succeeded in becoming some of the country’s top industrialists.

In 1954 Lebanese President Camille Chamoun visited Brazil and was received in lavish fashion by a diaspora community that was both proud of its roots but also starting to grow beyond them. More importantly, there was recognition from the rest of the Brazilian society of their importance. No longer trading in the backwaters, the Lebanese integrated more, with intermarriage on the rise.

Yet while they were among the most powerful business powers of the time, those Lebanese were still far from the country’s elite; few Lebanese–Brazilians were in parliament or had reached the top of the professions. This was to change with the later generations.

For far from encouraging their children to take over their hand-built empires, many of these pioneers prioritized, above all else, the education of their children.

Antonio Chacra, a top Brazilian endocrinologist and former vice president of the International Diabetes Federation, is perhaps emblematic of this shift. “At the age of four or five my mother said ‘you are going to be a doctor,’” he says. “My father had a store selling clothes and his great dream was for his children to study. They worked and we studied.”

While the second and third generations of those original expats were now firmly embedded and moving into the professions, the continued struggles in Lebanon caused yet more waves of emigrants — with many following family members to Brazil. Yet this generation was no longer painting on an empty canvas — Brazil had grown and opportunities were sparser than a few decades previous.

While some more recent immigrants have managed to build empires, more often they have found themselves frustrated. The parents of Samir Yazbek, one of the country’s top playwrights, were deeply disappointed shortly after arriving in the 1950s.

In ‘The Cedar Leaves,’ one of his most famous works, Yazbek recalls how his father’s desperate dreams of making a fortune ripped the family apart. “He traveled all over the country looking for work, starting in São Paulo in textiles, then moving to the northeast to work in construction. In the end he went looking for gold in the north, leaving us behind in São Paulo.” Did he find any? “No,” he smiles, “he ended up working in a hydroelectric dam.”

Even if Yazbek succeeded, his father’s story of frustration and failure was typical of the later generation of immigrants. Relatively few that arrived in that period have risen to the upper echelons of society.

A new identity

Nowadays, the extent of Lebanese influence in Brazil is also matched by their integration. Far from being the closed community that critics called their forefathers, the Lebanese community is now highly mixed into society, intermarriage is incredibly common, while few speak even the basics of Arabic.

Kirby puts this transformation down to a process of emigration into an open society such as Brazil’s. She stresses that now Lebanese–Brazilian identity is more of a form of recognition that can help open doors with other members of the community but little more than that.

At the start they organized as a community, as did the Italians, the Japanese and other groups. Over time they integrated into the economic and social fabric. Because they were successful, what was a community transformed into a network.”

In economics, politics, the arts and many other fields, those of Lebanese origin now occupy some of the top rungs of the ladder. Yet their primary identity is now that of Brazilian, with their family origins a secondary factor.

Ramiro Fajuri, sales director of Chams magazine that focuses on the Arab diaspora in Brazil, puts it another way. He says that while Lebanese–Brazilians are usually incredibly proud of their heritage, these roots are now only a small part of their identity.

Fajuri, who points out that his wife is Brazilian of Japanese descent, thinks this confidence in themselves makes them happy in their identities. “We couldn’t keep the language but we kept some culture, the traditions, the social clubs,” he says. “I guess this is what [Amin] Maalouf meant.”

Joe is a veteran journalist with extensive experience covering the Syrian crisis, oil and gas, and Lebanese government and regulatory authorities, among other topics. He was Executive’s online editor from 2012 to 2014, and led the Economics & Policy section from 2013 to 2014.

Are in love with the World Cup? Why the Lebanese should be in sync with most of the world?

Why is Lebanon so in love with the World Cup?

Sophie Spencer posted on this June 12, 2014,


As the world cup starts tonight with the Brazil – Croatia game at 11pm, attempts to understand Lebanon’s love for the tournament and the logic (if any) behind the teams the Lebanese are supporting.

Lebanon loves the world cup. Actually, that is an understatement. Lebanon adores the world cup and it doesn’t make sense because Lebanon is not even in it, and never has been! (And this is an excellent reason for going crazy, when not actually participating?)World cup fever has been heating up in the streets of Beirut for a while now.

You see the flags dominating shop displays, hanging from windows and covering various parts of cars. It is really going to shake up Lebanon. (You find dozens of different flags hanging from the same building)

Because of the time difference between Lebanon and Brazil, where the tournament is taking place, some games will finish at around 3 in the morning and speculators are already discussing how this, coupled with Ramadan, will affect productivity in the Middle East.

So what is it about the World Cup that has people so excited? Let’s consult the man (and woman!) on the street.

1. ‘will you be watching the world cup?’

A definit ‘akeed’ (of course) was the overwhelming response from men.

Most women too, affirmed their enthusiasm for the competition, although a few flatly refused to discuss the subject.

For many, the event represents a welcome distraction and change from daily life and as Johnny, 42, put it bluntly, ‘It’s better than watching the government.’ (As if they ever watched the government or cared what the government is doing)

The two clear favourite teams are Brazil and Germany.

People tried to assure me that their support for Brazil was not a passing fancy but in fact goes back a long way. For most it was due to their admiration of the skills of the team, others mentioned the diaspora ties between Lebanon and Brazil.

Until the conclusion of the championship on 13th July, Brazil will be the adopted (football) homeland. Muhammad, 35, said he would watch only as long as Brazil stays in.

Love for Germany also seems to have deep roots. The third most successful team in the history of the cup (after Brazil and Italy) is a reliable bet, sure to provide some quality football. For some, however, admiration for the team is only skin deep. 18-year old Rita told me she was supporting Germany because ‘Germans are hot’!

Of course peer pressure plays its role. Madeleine, 45, revealed to me that her first choice team was Italy but there is less hassle for her at home if she supports Brazil.

However, as most people prefer to watch matches at home with all the family, there are worries about whether this will be possible.

Despite efforts by Tele Liban and the Emir of Qatar to offer the world cup on state TV, exclusive broadcasting rights have gone to cable TV company Sama who are planning to charge $110 for the complete world cup package. (Most people goes to restaurants to watch the games)

Perhaps this means cafes screening the matches will over flow with customers or perhaps people will find legally questionable ways to keep up with their favourite teams at home.

One thing is for sure, Lebanon with its diverse allegiances will be transformed, for one month, into a feverish microcosm of the football-crazy world.

Note: If Lebanese have sense, they should support the State contingents in the UN peace keeping force who are offering great services and facilities to the people in the south.

– See more at:


Emerging nations is becoming a catch all expression that is diluting its meaning and its proper definition.  For example, should we include China among the emerging nations, when the US admits that China is already at a par as an economic and political heavy weight?  Should we include Russia as an emerging nation when Russia was the first State to putting man in orbit, launching satellites, and establishing a permanent sky station?

Can we lump together nations with vast lands and large populations with smaller nations in lands and populations, even substantial progress have been made in global trade share?  The club of the G20 gathered the 20 nations whose combined world trade represents 80% of commerce in import and export of goods and services.  You find small nations with corresponding small populations such as the Netherlands, Denmark, and South Korea siding along India, Brazil, Russia, and China.

Shouldn’t we consider the most critical criteria of sustainable long-term potentials as a delimiting factor among economic clubs?  For example, first, let us list nations with vast lands and large populations such as the USA, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Pakistan.  Obviously, the political structure and proven stability for demonstrating viable sustainability is a discriminating variable among those behemoths.

Second, let us list nations with vast lands and sparse populations such as Canada, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Libya, Chad, Niger, Kazakhstan, Mali, Sudan, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia…Obviously, the ratio of fertile lands to the mostly desolate and desert areas is a variable, along with literacy ratio of the small population.

Third, let us list nations with vast lands and moderately populated such as Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Vietnam, Turkey, Iran, and Thailand.

Fourth, let’s list nations with smaller lands and over populated such as Bangladesh, Japan, France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, and Iraq.

Fifth, let us list smaller nations with comparatively small populations such as The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Syria, South Korea, Taiwan…

The remaining nations are in fact no nations, if we consider the potential impact for making a dent in world trades, and political weight.

Consequently, we have potential emerging nations is sustainable economy with comparatively stable political structures that convey a viable trend in the medium term.  Among the truly current emerging nations that have no political clout in the UN or in international institutions and have legitimacy in demanding to be included as full members in the G-Clubs are South Africa, Brazil, India, Turkey, Indonesia, and Mexico.  For example, between 2004 and 2008, South Africa witnessed a steady increase in trade averaging 16.5% per year.  Turkey doubled its trade and so did the other emerging nations.  The six emerging nations are acquiring substantial economic weight and will be displacing many established developed nations in the coming decade.

During the reign of the Soviet Union, the US administrations would select the main dish to cook and prepare the ingredients; Russia would then set the fire under the pan; Europe would cool off  the plate; Israel would eat the main course.  The Arab States had the role of washing the dishes for the next feast of horrors and defeats.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is China selecting the strategic regions to exploit; then it is the turn of the US to bring in the matches; the European Union reaps the problems and extends grants to developing States and sends in the Blue Helmets to keeping the peace. India, Brazil, Russia , and Turkey wait to capture the investments of surplus money.  This time around, Israel is teaming up with Moderate Arab States to washing dishes.  Iran refuses to wash dishes: it contributes soap and detergents to whom is willing to washing and cleaning the mess.

After WW2, the US was master of seas and oceans; it nuked Japan twice to accelerate Japan’s surrender: Stalin of the Soviet Union had already entered Mantchouria and was progressing to conquer all of Korea. The US got hold of Japan and South Korea; Russia got North Korea.  In 1949, Mao of China conquered Tibet (source of all major rivers in India, China, and South East Asia); the US failed to obstruct China’s expansion.  Stalin got upset: He decided to capture all of Korea.  The US resisted and paid the tab in soldiers, weapons, and money for many years to save south Korea.  Finally, China is controlling North Korea via figure heads.

After WW2, the US launched many pre-emptive wars around the globe under the pretext of “containing the spread of communism” and grabbed all the European colonies.  The Soviet Union backed “national resistance” to imperialism with inexpensive weapons.  The third world States got independence and Russia won their hearts and mind but not their stomachs:  Russia was unable to extend finances to these famished new independent States; the US made it a policy to destabilize all these new States with military coups and braking any economic and social development.

During the reign of the Soviet Union, there were many “progressist” movements siding with either Russia, China, or other communist systems against the common enemy “emperialist capitalist America”.  The US and Russia divided the spoil of the world after burning lands, forests, and people of the third world States.

After the fall of Berlin Wall, China is masterfully juggling with capitalism, socialism, and communism ideologies as tools for economic hegemony.   The US is impotent regulating and controlling the havoc resulting from the unruly multinational financial institutions.  The EU is paying the tabs as usual.  India, Brazil, Russia, and Turkey are enjoying the roles of mediators, negotiators, and recipients in the G20 group.  All other states are paid minimum wages for cleaning up this global mess.

Africa is targeted to be exclusively the world’s food basket; (Nov. 11, 2009)

If you have lands with no water,

If you have water and no fertile land,

If you have accumulated enough in your Sovereign Fund…

The way to go for States is to invest in foreign fertile lands for agricultural “self-sufficiency”, which means import food at much lower prices. 

Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Saudi Arabia are leading these kinds of joint ventures. For example:

South Korea has acquired a total of 3 millions hectares (three times the superficies of the State of Lebanon); it is growing fields in Russia (500,000 ha), Sudan (700,000 ha), Madagascar (1.3 million ha), Mongolia (300,000 ha), Philippines (100,000 ha), and Indonesia (25, 000 ha).  The Korean agency for international cooperation (State owned) is creating private and public enterprises to invest into agribusinesses by loans or direct governmental investments. Leases of fertile lands are for 60 years and an extension of another 40 years. In return, Korea will extend technologies and development planning.  It appears that South Korea is projecting unification with North Korea and the flooding of North Korean refugees soon.

China has invested for a total of 2 millions hectares.  It has 1.25 millions in South East Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Laos), in Mozambique (800,000 ha), in Russia (80,000 ha), in Australia (45,000), and in Cuba (5,000 ha).

Japan has acquired a total of one million hectares in Philippines (600,000 ha), USA (225,000 ha), and Brazil (100,000 ha).

India has acquired a total of 1.7 millions hectares in Argentina (600,000 ha), Ethiopia (370,000 ha), Malaysia (300,000 ha), Madagascar (250,000 ha), Indonesia (70,000 ha), and in Laos (50,000 ha). 

The Indian government has extended loans to 80 agribusinesses to purchase 350,000 ha in Africa.  Ramakrishna Karuturi (the king of rose production in 4 millions hectares) is leasing the hectare for two dollars a year in Ethiopia!

Saudi Arabia has invested in Indonesia (one million ha), Senegal (500,000 ha), and in Mali (200,000 ha). 

The Arab Gulf Emirates has invested in Pakistan (325,000 ha), and in Sudan (400,000 ha).

Egypt has invested in Uganda (850,000 ha). 

Libya has invested in Ukraine (250,000 ha), and Liberia (5,000 ha). 

Qatar invested in the Philippines (100,000 ha).

Africa is the remaining poorest continent with vast fertile lands and plenty of manpower to exploit for agribusiness enterprises. Africa is targeted to be exclusively the world’s food basket in this century.

We hope that the world community will pressure these investors to grow food slowly and not ruin the remaining land with fertilizers and pesticides.

We hope that the African can enjoy what the lands are producing for their daily staples…

We hope the African people get first cut at the distribution of food produced and receive first priority to ward off recurring famine…

Note: You may read the follow-up post

The European Union (EU): Modern Europe leading human rights; (Nov. 10, 2009)


The previous post “European Union (EU) describes Modern Europe” covered a few statistics and then a short description of the EU administrative and legislative institutions. This follow up post will cover what is working, then analyzing what need to be ironed out, and then how the world community is expecting modern Europe to lead.

The 27 European States forming the EU counts 6 States among the twenty leading economy in the world.  By deceasing rank we have USA, China, Japan, India, Germany, Russia, Britain, France, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Spain, South Korea, Canada, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, Australia, Taiwan, and the Netherlands. Actually, those six European economies constitute about 90% of the EU in economy and in populations.

As a block, the economy of the EU may surpass the USA with a twist: the three largest industrial multinationals in every sector are US.  For example, in aeronautics we have United Technology, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin; in medical materials we have Medtronic, United Health, and Alcon; in Medias we have Walt Disney, News Corporation, and Comcast; in pharmaceutical/biotechnology we have Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer; in informatics we have Microsoft, IBM, and Google.  Besides, the US is the first military power in technology, Navy, Bombers, and aircraft carriers.  The EU is totally dependent on oil and gas energies imported from Russia and elsewhere.  France has adopted a policy of being sufficient in electricity via nuclear energy (60% of the total of France production of energy).  Denmark is 25% sufficient in Aeolian technology and Germany about 15%.

The EU is facing problems. First, the “community vision” is eroding: the decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall and disintegration of the Soviet Union sent the wrong message of jumping in the band wagon of US globalization; thus, the well to do citizens wanted to get rich fast by emulating liberal capitalism. Individualism overshadowed the need to resume a common culture of developing institutions that are trained to work toward the common interest and be reformed to keeping the EU spirit intact in human rights and human dignity.

Second, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 took Europe by surprise.  The euphoric undertaking of uniting East Germany quickly exhausted West Germany with the multitude of social, economic and political problems of this unification and captured most of Germany’s resources and time and prevented it to ponder on the EU necessities.  The opportunity to deepen European consciousness for reformed institutions to expanding eastward was missed.

Third, the EU was discussing the two possibilities: either the strengthening the current union for the longer term expansion or hastily absorbing the many eastern European newly independent States.  The political decision was to go ahead and allowing these tiny states to adhere to the union.  I think that this was the appropriate decision because new States had to root their future into a tangible alliance or fall back into past habit, inclinations, and culture; thus, forming close alliances with Russia. The EU was the appropriate framework for ethnic communication and more democratic realization of social aspirations.  The problem is that these tiny States feel that they should aspire to the same standard of living in no times.  The latest financial crash has left al these States in bankrupt conditions and it is up to the rich EU States to salvage this predicament.  Maybe this fact should remind the EU that not all States should enjoy the same rights until they can show the same capability to shouldering responsibilities.


The actual challenges are many. First, there is a political space to reconstruct:  The budget of the EU institutions is merely 1% of the gross GNP while States allocate over 30% to re-distribute to collectivities, social protection, and welfare. The richer States are not that inclined to contribute heavily to the social stability of the poorer EU State members. Second, the EU has unified its currency (it overcame the States’ monopolies to issuing paper money) but is lacking a unified economic government.  For example, the EU lacks common public spaces, no political party or organization has been created or formed to focus on specific EU interests, and the EU Parliament has no power to raise taxes to finance common policies.  So far, the government chiefs are wary of relinquishing their interstates legitimacy and power.

As a block, the EU is still unable to challenge the US on crimes against humanity committed by the US and Israel;  it is fully cooperating with the US on taking Israel off the hook in the UN for daily crimes against human dignity, rights, and apartheid policies in the West bank and Gaza. There are a few States in the EU that are showing trends to opposing Israel’s apartheid practices and boycotting its products grown and manufactured in the occupied West Bank; it is the people in these States who have set the stage for human rights and dignity reversal toward the Palestinian endemic plight since 1948.


The world community is on its toes: will the EU refresh its initial objective of “community vision” or will it relapse in petty interstates interest of monopolies and idiosyncrasies?  We need the EU to be the caldron of community communication among ethnicities, languages, and cultures. We need the EU to be the social and political testing ground for viable alternatives in vision, institutions, ecological human survival, human rights and dignity. We need the EU to invent new reasons to living together and reducing man inequality.

The European Union is the most striking political and social achievement in the 20th century.  The backbones of most of the UN peace keeping forces around the world are European contingents; the EU is the highest contributor in humanitarian budgets and for reforming obsolete public institutions in the under-developed States. The EU needs a refresher community vision and the world community should raise its voices and aid Europe in its endeavors.

Panting for a miracle (August 8, 2009)


            Samara was barely 16 when Soraya Angela was born.  Samara got pregnant and she never divulged the name of the father; she may have not known his name.  As her pregnancy was evident then her parents confined her to her bedroom till she gave birth. Samara had to stay confined for another year in her bedroom for shaming the family honor.  Her three other brothers forgot that there were two persons in a bedroom; her father was invisible to Samara, especially for the new born.

            By the age of two Soraya’s world extended to a tiny court with a water fountain and four stone angels. Soraya lay on her back and focused her attention on the palm of a specific angel at the exclusion of everything else.  Soraya Angela could look at the stony palm for hours; Samara would take the opportunity to carry Soraya inside as the attention broke for less than seconds.  The bedroom of the two creatures was quiet most of the time. I could hear Samara softly crying at night since my bedroom was the closest to her.

            By the age of three, a three years old relative tried to talk to Soraya and then he broke in tears. The kid asked the adults around “I talk to her. Why she does not talk to me?”  It finally dawned on Samara that Soraya is mute and deaf and she had to accept this new reality.  Soraya Angela realized that she is different from other kids: kids could move their lips to express their dislike for dishes while she had to slide then on the side.  Kids adored Soraya and followed her in the garden and did anything she did. Soraya was best getting on all four and approaching toddler, cajoling them, and mimicking them and make them laugh again.

            I once tried to approach Soraya and she growled with wild large black eyes; there was no perceptible distance between her eyes which made her face look smaller; Soraya Angela looked stunned when I instantly retreated, wondering about by crowdedness.

            Samara didn’t allow anyone to approach Soraya so that by the age of four Soraya had only seen her mother and grandmother Emilie.  All the while, Samara tried hard to find common physical traits with her child; she only managed to learn to focus on objects as Soraya did.  Soraya grabbed the attention of the household solely by fidgeting on objects for hours, acts that could never leave anyone indifferent; thus Soraya got larger than the entire household and filled the house with her presence. I am confident that later on Soraya learned to increase these fidgeting just to attract attention.

            By the age of six Soraya enjoyed the entire garden.  She would drive the chicken crazy, ride on the back of sheep and goats, tie the monkey’s tail, and harass all animals around until she was exhausted. Soraya would then state at me with wild large eyes panting for a miracle; like something must happen now, shouldn’t it? Nothing new would take place.  Soraya would follow the ants’ trials to their holes and then burry her face inside the sand; she would then run like the devil to the fountain and dip her face.  Soraya would emerge from the fountain all puffed up and her eyes swollen and grinning broadly; kind of hysteric laugh; a movie paused on mute.

            By the by I managed to surreptitiously take Soraya to walking trips to the market; Samara knew but faked ignorance.  At dinner Soraya would mimic every one she saw on the trip and people laughed recognizing the individuals.  Granddad got fond of Soraya who brought him his slippers and tried to cajole him “She is not that bad after all” he would say to his wife.

            Samara took Soraya out once; they walked hand in hand and hidden by a red umbrella; Samara refused to look up or around in order not to answer to people. That was the only and last trip for Soraya: she was overrun by a vehicle. Soraya died at age of eight.




Note: This topic was extracted from “Recit d’un certain Orient” by Milton Hatoum; the book was translated from Portuguese to French in 1993 by Edition du Seuil.  As usual, I use the first person for effect.




March 2023

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