Monday, December 04, 2006

Debka dancing, riots & the "dirty" demonstrators

Day 4 of the opposition’s sit-in in downtown Beirut; Day 14 of the ruling coalition’s slumber party at the Grand Serail. What are the sleeping arrangements? Perhaps the Mufti advised that prayer is better than sleep...

On sunday morning, helicopters hovered above my neighborhood for hours on end. After this summer war, my ears are tuned to the sky. A bird pooping on the roof is enough to wake me up. Then the marathon began and the relentless sectarian car anthems ensued. Boys on motorbikes waving the Hezbollah and Aounist flags zip through Achrafiye; late saturday night the army set up roadblocks to stop provacateurs from entering the Christian areas. My Aounist neighbor blasts Nasrallah's speeches, while the elderly shuffle to Sunday mass.

A friend's younger sister, a studious and polite student at LAU, is enraged by her fellow students' attitude towards the demonstrators. "I never cared about politics. Never. But I get so angry when I hear the way they talk about the demonstrators, as if they have no right to protest because they are Shia." She says her ex-boyfriend phoned her and complained about the "fucking Shia". Her sister adds, "And why does Hezbollah have to claim they speak for all the Shia? Both sides, push us into a position we are unwilling to take. I mean, this government can push you to prefer General Michel Aoun over them."

Indeed it's high time for a third front. Many people oppose this government, but refuse to align themselves with the opposition bloc, whose demands are not far-reaching enough. What if Siniora's government agrees to allow Aoun and Hezbollah due representation? What then? And if not? March 14th youth are itching to take to the streets. Over the weekend, they gathered in the hundreds in Tripoli to show support for the government.

The Shia presence in downtown is raising territorial fears amongst the city's more glamorous inhabitants. Didn't you know that downtown used to be bustling full with people from all sects and now the Shia have taken it for themselves? That's what I've been hearing from March 14th bloggers.

While the government warned of riots and a coup, the demonstration proceeds peacefully, albeit too peacefully for some people's taste. My landlord complains of the carnival-like atmosphere. "Why do they have to smoke narghileh and dance debka? Its not all fun and games." I don't see it ending anytime soon, with all the fun they're having. Jamal reports the rampant consumption of cotton candy and corn-on-the-cob; icecream trucks and fortune tellers line the streets, concerts and fiery speeches every evening. It's like a permanent fairground. They should re-name the area, Hezbollah Fun Park or Four-Flags Adventure Park.

Mr. Saniora yesterday concludes that, "protest is no solution." What he meant to say is, "protest is no solution... for them," least we forget that their coalition is named after the date of a choreographed demonstration. Can we all agree to abandon our infatuation with million-man marches?

Yesterday evening in Qasqas, supporters of Hariri's Future party tried to stop a bus full of protesters from the Dahiye who were returning from the demonstration. Fights ensued for three quarters of an hour; hundreds of young men joined in, wielding sticks, bottles and stones.

The army tried to intervene. A photographer for An-Nahar newspaper sustained broken facial bones. Ali Ahmad Mahmud, a 20-year old supporter of the Amal movement, was shot dead by supporters of Hariri's party.

Hariri supporters also set Syrian-owned shops on fire near Sabra. In Bourj Abi Haidar, a member of the Internal Security Forces was shot in the neck by men presumed to be Amal supporters. In Barboor, the head of Future party, Imad Fatha, for that area was arrested for a shooting incident. In total, at least fourteen were reported wounded in street clashes in Qasqas, Barboor, Sabra, Shatila, near the airport road, Corniche Mazraa, Salim Salam Bridge area and Basta. Rightwing Lebanese bloggers blame Syrian intelligence operatives -- not savage Haririites-- for the killing in Qasqas.

The international tribunal must investigate and prosecute the coldblooded cowardly murder of Ali Ahmad Mahmud. The local authorities cannot be trusted to carry out an investigation, as witnessed by their inability to solve not a single murder or assassination since they took power. I suspect Hariri's Future TV and a few other sectarian media outlets could be prosecuted for incitement to sectarian violence.

Hariri’s Future TV runs an ad mocking the opposition’s demands for a “clean government”. They show garbage from the protest accumulating in downtown Beirut under the headline, “They say they want a clean government. But are they clean enough?” While the pro-government media increasingly employs classist arguments against the (Shia) demonstrators, the protesters chant, "We are fed up with lies; fed up with tears; we want a government that ends hunger."

Naharnet now refers to Hezbollah as "the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite" group. No mention of Lebanese there.

Meanwhile the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Aharan Zeevi Farkash, warned that a summer war with Hezbollah would be increasingly likely if Siniora resigns. He however discourages Israeli intervention, because Israeli support for the Lebanese Prime Minister would encourage Syria and Iran to assassinate Siniora.

Fijian soldiers stationed in southern Lebanon are missing out on their very own army coup back home in the south pacific.

Lebanese billionaire and Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mohamed Safadi, is under investigation by the British Serious Fraud Office for involvement in the Saudi arms deal inquiry. That's "serious" fraud, folks. Thank God they can still get away with it in Lebanon. Perhaps the reconstruction funds to rebuild southern Lebanon will cover his legal expenses.


just me said...

he he great post!

bech said...

very good post. I learned also about the Fijians! Hope things are fine for them too...

La Lebanessa said...

you have proof "savage Haririites-- for the killing in Qasqas".

but no proof here the "presumed" amal supporters shooting the ISF officer!

Also no mention of the three syrians arrested for throwing rocks from rooftops and insulting nasrallah as the protesters passed.

EDB you used to be ceneterd, I told everybody to read your blog because you dished it out to all sides and therefore "satisfied" everybody.

Ofcourse you have every right to pick a side, it's your own choice, but you act as if all who support the government are a bunch of maniacs and all who support Hizballah/Aoun are angels. Even you must admit that this cannot be true. There is good and bad on both sides, you only pick to highlight the bad on the one. You used to be alot more balanced than that.

I am giving you a challenge, in the name of fairness, pick one truely good pro-government action, and one truely bad hizballah action.

As I want to be fair I will do the same (the other way round ofcourse): one crap government action-Blair should not have been allowed to set foot in Lebanon, let alone recieved by Sanioura, one good hizballah fact: they truely seem to be not corrupted financially speaking, which is amazing in a country like lebanon.

Your turn...

Oberon Brown said...

"The Shia presence in downtown is raising territorial fears amongst the city's more glamorous inhabitants. Didn't you know that downtown used to be bustling full with people from all sects and now the Shia have taken it for themselves? That's what I've been hearing from March 14th bloggers."
The problem is not their presence: they're blocking the heart of the city, that's the problem! Business, trade, tourism, everything is on hold... And then they complain about the public debt...
But what do they care? Their "friends" are sending them all the funds they need (with a special bonus for every veil), economic life in Dahiyé is not affected by the strike, they don't pay electricity anyway, they don't pay taxes, they have a free salary from Middle East airlines... what do they care? Let them dance, party and smoke narguile all they want!!!

EDB said...

Dear la Lebanessa,

First all, do not seek a centered view on these pages. I do not claim to be center anything; Michael Totten does and he's a rightwing nutbag who advocates the bombing of "Hezbollah villages", but looooves the Saniora government. Nor do I think you ought to feel deceived that I don't strive to satisfy everyone; I am not a politician. This is my personal blog.

I mentioned who March 14th bloggers blame for the killing of Mr. Mahmud, as an example of the moral highground and nonsense about being "civilized", and how they blame Syrians instantaneously for everything.

You are right though that I wrote that the gunmen who shot the ISF guy were “presumed” to be Amal supporters. This was straight from the Daily Star -- "suspected Amal supporters" according to witnesses. I should have put "presumed" or "suspected" in quotes! Mind you, I have no love for the Amal militia. In my old neighborhood, during the war, they behaved like thugs, taking advantage of the lax security situation. We are not talking about Hezbollah though, right? Can we agree that Amal, despite its alliance with Hezbollah, still has its own supporters and infrastructure?

I did not write that Syrians were throwing stones, nor do I mention every time Syrian workers are attacked and killed, their cars torched by March 14th supporters. And this incident was reported solely by Future TV, to whom I do not wish to extend legitimacy because I find their reporting appalling and dangerous.

But I will respond to your request for a bad Hezbollah action. In fact, here’s a few:
- their relationship to Al-Assad's government. Even if they "require" the cooperation of Syria for arms shipments and the likes, I don't like their kind words for the regime, nor do I find that-- out of all the reasons to oppose the international tribunal, as is, and under the ulterior motives that it is being pursued-- covering for the Syrian regime or the Lebanese perpetrators would be acceptable.
- not a big fan of the "divine victory”. I find it a bit grotesque given the horrendous loss of life and destruction, even if I understand that many people who believe in God desire explanations for their suffering. And it was a victory of sorts, given the disproportionate strength of the Israeli army and its destructive capabilities. So I guess I object to the divine victory because it excludes other people at a time when they might have extended a hand to other constituents.
- not a big fan of weapons on the internal front as a means of potential blackmail. But that hasn't happened yet.
-not a big fan of appointing ministers through the Shura council who are obliged to stick with the party line under any and all circumstances. But then again the whole electoral system is sectarian and encourages corruption/wasta’ism, and is rotten from the core, so…
-cooperating with the March 14th warlords and embezzlers in last year's elections, for the short-sighted sake of protecting their own narrow interests.
- Hezbollah doesn’t do enough for the Palestinians while they claim concern for their national struggle. They don’t even pick up the garbage in Shatila, which is part of the Hezbollah-controlled Ghobairy municipality.

Now for something "truly good" the Siniora government has done:
I thought long and hard. Really I did. I even did research. I thought perhaps last year’s referendum, which eased restrictions on the professions Palestinian refugees are prohibited from exericising, might have involved the Siniora cabinet.

But alas, I learned that Hezbollah Labor minister Trad Hamade authored a lone memorandum to bypass this cabinet, because they wouldn’t have passed an actual bill or decree. And needless to say, the memorandum is not as far-reaching or extensive as it ought to be, and Palestinians are still banned from 17 professions due to the syndicate laws, which prohibit membership by non-nationals.

So, la lebanessa, tell me please one good thing this government has done. Oh right, they installed a lone traffic radar camera in front of the Phoenecia hotel. Yes, that was truly commendable work. I wonder how they ever agreed on that one. As for receiving Tony Blair after the war: how about receiving Anaconda Rice the day after she rejected calls for a ceasefire and a day after the US expedited bomb shipments to Israel?

apokraphyte said...

I may be confus-ed, but I think the PSP was also supportive of the labor minister's decree ... So there might be one feather for an otherwise bare cap ...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed grand Mufti telling them "As salat o Khair um min naom"
good humour in hopeless/hopefull situation.


La Lebanessa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Walid said...

Wow. You just keep speaking your mind, and we'll keep reading. Cheers. If I htinkn of somethign good teh Siniora government did I will let you know. But maybe when bad things happen later (the Lebanese currency slips, the Saudis sell off their $4,000,000 apartments) we might conceivably miss the good old days...

Guthman Bey said...

good point: noone in Lebanon will be able to successfully run a government opposed by the Gulf and especially the Saudis. Just like noone will be able to successfully run a government opposed by March 8. I think that's why Aoun was so moderate last Friday. Because he knows that. And I think that's why Hezbollah keeps stubbornly pretending all is for the best in its relations with Saudi Arabia.Since the early 1990s the Khalijis have replaced drugs as Lebanon's primary source of income, and I can't imagine what economic activity but drug producing could replace them.
The Gulf lent the money, owns the land, and is the final buyer. The Gulf also has the most to lose, if it all goes up in smoke. All this suggests a deal rather than a descent to the circle of hell known as "les evenments", no?