For a country that prides itself with its religious diversity, branding it as a tourism slogan and all the cliche that comes with it, we sure are extremely ignorant when it comes to those who don’t belong to the sect we were born in.
I’ve been wondering lately about how it must be to a Lebanese Sunni in Lebanon today, to be a person who has to constantly wonder whether the person facing you is secretly wondering whether you are an ISIS member in disguise or whether your mother is sympathetic with the terrorists in Arsal or whether your entire existence is directed at implanting the Islamic State in our land.
I’ve been realizing, upon pondering over the issue, that if I were a Lebanese Sunni today, I’d be angry.
Somehow it is assumed that being a Sunni automatically means army hate and support of the murder or kidnapping of its members. Even the army’s blood is a matter of hypocrisy, or how could you explain how the murder of Samer Hanna was easily dismissed as an honest mistake for failure to inform?
When Lebanese army officers acted out against protesters in Mar Mkhayel, in Beirut’s southern suburb, those army personnel were reprimanded and put on trial. MP Hashem even went out to say that the incidents are a “massacre.” No one cared at the time. Few remember that now. Stances against the army are also a matter of hypocrisy and in the eye of the beholder.
Terrorists, Terrorists Everywhere:
When Charles Ayoub decided to bring some attention to himself and his “newspaper” by fabricating a story about the banning of Crosses in a Sunni Lebanese city, people were not quick to investigate but to judge. Those Sunnis are all terrorists. They want to eradicate us from our land à la نحن هنا وهنا سنبقى .
All hell broke loose, rightfully so, when the mayor of Tripoli banned beer ads in the city. But when this and this happened in Tyre a couple of years ago, before ISIS and all those Sunni terrorists, no one blinked an eye, because alcohol is haram, but when Tripoli did it, it was all about the Sunnis wanting to enforce the Sharia in Lebanon.
Ahrar Sunna Baalbek:
Lebanese Tweeps were also not only quick but exceedingly enthusiastic about a Twitter account proclaiming itself to represent the free Sunnis of Baalbek. No one had known who was operating the account at the time but everyone assumed the content must be real. Sunnis are all terrorists. When the operator of the account turned out to be a Hezbollah supporter, everyone who had quoted it feverishly to point fingers was quick to dismiss him as just “another lost youth.”
One Year Later:
One year ago today, Tripoli was blasted in two of its mosques. It was fated that both explosions wouldn’t work according to plan, which was to maximize casualties. The result, however, was almost 50 people dead, including many children, and a city that saw its biggest acts of terrorism since the Civil War. By all standards, the Tripoli explosions – the first aimed at such a massive agglomeration of civilians in the country – should have shocked Lebanon into a different state of being. Nobody, however, cared. The perpetrators were even identified. They were not Sunni extremists. They were, in fact, Syrian regime sympathizers, and still nobody cared. Few expressed anger, indignation, was appalled, offended, disgusted, scared and worried about themselves. I guess terrorism is only scary when it affects non-Sunnis and is perpetrated by Sunnis.
Hezbollah Hearts Syria:
Hezbollah decided to go to Syria to help its BFFs combat a rising mostly-Sunni opposition. The fights were hidden at first, denied, but widely known among anyone with a critical mind. Soon enough, Hezbollah was admitting to a growing list of casualties of young Lebanese men, at the prime of their lives, coming in from Syrian fights. Today, the list of Hezbollah militants who died in Syria is around 500. Today as well, if you dare speak out against what Hezbollah is doing in Syria, you are painted as an ISIS sympathizer who wants to bring them into the country – because somehow, a Shiite militant group fighting Sunnis does not put fuel on a centuries old fire between Shiites and Sunnis.
It all goes back to that day. The glorious day of May 7th as some would put it, when militants stormed Sunni areas of Beirut in retaliation of governmental decisions that affected their reach and power. The cover-up? Our government is working undercover for the Israelis in dismantling the opposition. The result? A complete disintegration of the fragile relations between Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite sects, reflected first and foremost in the political status quo that has been perpetuated since that day as Lebanon’s Shiites finally assumed the banner of the country’s strongest and most powerful sect. Tripoli, arguably Lebanon’s biggest Sunni agglomeration, started its spiral decline during that period as well. The rise of Lebanese Sunni extremism and the rise of Assir were a consequence of that day too.
Assir went to ski. Assir went to the beach. Assir took his four wives shopping. Assir took his three hundred children biking. Assir went to the bathroom. Assir made a speech. Assir belched. Assir did this or that. And it was all documented, like a bonafide Lebanese version of the Truman Show. Assir turned out to be irrelevant. His lasting effect on the perception of the Sunni sect and on the fabrics of Sunni society as well, with his fiery messages of hate, were not as irrelevant. The perception of the Lebanese Sunni sect, with the rise of Assir, became mostly seen through that lens.
Hariri & Co:
In a country where sects are bulked and extrapolated to the single political figure that represents them, Lebanon’s Sunnis have been stranded since 2011 when Hezbollah orchestrated the governmental coup that overtook Hariri and literally kicked him out of the country for a three year sabbatical between Paris, a broken leg in the Alps and occasional pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia. The effect of the Future Movement, Lebanon’s moderate Sunni political group, started dwindling to the pleasure of little Orangey Christian folks. Its ranks, with the absence of their unified leadership, began to crack both financially and politically. Dissidents began to show as its MPs started to stray from the moderate message that FM employed for its Lebanese politics, and the people followed.
The international tribunal for Lebanon, appointed by the United Nations to investigate the assassination of Rafic Hariri and a growing list of figures after him had come to the conclusion that Hezbollah was responsible for the assassination. Trusting the STL, however, meant you are a member of the imperialistic American controversy aimed at dismantling Lebanese society. Your only option in Lebanon today is to consider the STL a clear attempt at weakening Hezbollah in the face of Israel. There are no other variables allowed to you.
In a decent country, the above list wouldn’t matter. In fact, the above issues would be a matter of national debate – as they should – as to the best way to approach the divided fabrics in our society and assure social justice to all in a civil society, which we don’t have and probably never will. We cannot, however, keep ignoring that there is a grave injustice in the media, in our minds and in our daily lives towards each other, especially the Lebanese Sunni sect, portrayed today as the prime fighter for the rights of the Islamic State in Lebanon. Once upon a time, I overhead a Lebanese say that he believes all the people of Arsal should be killed, women, children, elderly and men – just because they harbored Syrian refugees. He then added that it’s what Lebanese Sunnis have always done. This is not normal nor is it acceptable.
In the sectarian Lebanon of today, if a Sunni had written this post that you’re reading now, you’d have dismissed him as another one of those extremist sympathizers who hate the army, want Israel to eradicate Hezbollah and are against the current of what is perceived to be the Lebanese way of life. There’s more to the Lebanese sectarian reality today than the last few years have brought to us with their actions, reactions and actions again. The culmination of those past few years, however, is a Lebanese society today that is in a silent war.
If I were a Lebanese Sunni, I’d find what’s happening to be unfair. I’d be horrified at the way Lebanese media is portraying me, at how other Lebanese people of other sects that aren’t much better – even today – think of me. I’d be appalled that most Lebanese Christians fear me when most of them are closeted extremists who’d pick up the nearest riffle and go to war if they had the chance. I’d be appalled that Lebanese Sunnis have the country’s poorest and most illiterate populations, out of which emanate the extremism attributed to the entire sect today, and still the brush paints the entire wall black.
If I were an uneducated Sunni with nothing in sight but religion and being too easily susceptible for brainwashing, it would be a sure slippery slope for me until I become a militia man who hates the army, becomes active against it and raises the لا اله الا الله flag on my balcony.
The Lebanese situation is almost textbook-like, but we are too blinded, too prejudiced and too politically non-neutral to have a sane discussion about what must be done. Extremist Lebanese Sunnis must be eradicated, it is said. The problem is that their eradication, as is presumed forcibly, will lead to other groups that are more extreme and that can do worse things. Know why we have extremists before lashing out at their existence. What we need today is to understand why radicalization is happening in our country, why we suddenly hear of Lebanese suicide bombers, of Lebanese who go to fight for greater causes, whatever it might be. Are we ready as a country for that? I guess the correct response to that is: are you fucking kidding me?
A couple years ago, we were being taught almost everything there is to know about neurology as part of our medical education. There are countless diseases to be feared and to hope the patients who wander our clinics don’t have, we were told. There’s one, however, that was so severe and yet had so little information known about it that it was simply brushed upon: you will rarely see this, they were told.
I saw it the following month.
I come from a family where ALS is present. I’ve had two family members die in the past few years because of it, the last of whom passed away two years ago. I saw him waste away in front of his family and children, eventually becoming unable to move. Death came upon him before he couldn’t breathe without assistance. At his funeral, his sister told me his fate was kind. Others were not as lucky. He left behind a boy at the brink of graduation and a girl at the bring of school age.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been inundated – literally and figuratively – with videos of people dumping ice water on their heads. The cataclysmic shift from complete obscurity when it comes to ALS to having the disease front and center in the spotlight has caused donations for research purposes to jump several folds. Latest estimates have donations at $4 million in July, up from $1.2 million in the same period last year.
I’ve also seen people complain about how that water can be used in Africa, going about those typical monologues that we hear so often. I’ve seen people complain about how some are doing the ice bucket challenge more for fun than for donations, but does it even matter? The more people dump ice water on themselves, the more people become aware of a disease that has been so rarely spoken about and has had so little research done about it compared to other neurological diseases. You’ve all heard of MS, which stands for multiple sclerosis. MS has J.K. Rowling in the forefront of those donating its research since her mother had it. The most famous person with something similar to ALS is Stephen Hawking.
With videos from a whole lot of celebrities, the ice bucket challenge fever is beginning to come into Lebanon. Tripoli’s Hallab were the first to undergo the challenge, in a YouTube video that they just published for everyone to see. They subsequently challenged Roadster Diner, Zaatar w Zeit, and Crepaway to undergo the same thing.
Almaza has also done their own ice bucket challenge, in a different from than what’s being thrown around:
I give it a couple of days before people start complaining about those dumping ice water on their heads with the water shortage Lebanon is going through this summer, but that didn’t stop a group of Lebanese from already making fun of the lack of water this summer:
Either way, I hope this also serves as a way for Lebanese society to become more acquainted with ALS, and to become engaged – even if in a little way – in the global move to make it known and actively fought.
I hope both Hallab and Almaza donated money as well to the research process. In case you want to donate, click here.
The best ice bucket challenge you will watch, however, isn’t that of Carrie Underwood, Oprah, Tim Cook or whatever other celebrity you’ve seen around. It’s the following one. Watch it until the very end.
It must be tough being from Tripoli lately, or at least tougher than average for the people of a city long forgotten by successive governments, left to its own accord to make do with the little it has.
It wasn’t enough for people from Tripoli to have to deal with the fact that the other Lebanese, quick as they are to judge and believe their views are scripture, believe them all to be undercover members of ISIS or ISIS members to be.
It wasn’t enough as well for those unfazed by the ISIS threat (yet) to deal with the fact that their city has become synonymous with mayhem, sporadic fights, mini wars and hating the Lebanese army. No amount of tweets, Facebook posts or mini gatherings on the street and billboards in support of the army or in condoning the behavior of some of the city’s men would change that perception
It also wasn’t enough for those living in lala land, adorable as they are, to have to deal with the fact that being from Tripoli has also become synonymous with them having people like Kabbara, Khaled el Daher and Mer’ebi as their representatives. Granted, the latter two are not from Tripoli per so but who’s really looking at specific representation districts these days?
Keep in mind that all of this is to the background of destitute living conditions, severe social inequality, horribly poor development, high illiteracy rates and Lebanon’s highest poverty rates, just to name a few.
No, today the people of Tripoli have to deal with yet another facet to the growing saga of their city: their very own mayor being hellbent on turning the city into what it proclaims to be: Lebanon’s prime Muslim city.
When Ramadan rolled around, that mayor decided that breakfasts in the city should not be allowed. People tried to defy that order for a while but it only took him igniting the fire for the dormant Islamists, few as they are, to act on poor elderly having breakfast at one of Tebbane’s cafes, probably out of necessity to take medications. Soon enough, if you happened to be in Tripoli before iftar during Ramadan, you’d see most cafes closed to customers, afraid to make what little money they make with the circumstances reigning over their city currently.
No, banning breakfast was not enough.
Today, Mr. Ghazal is back with a vengeance. It wasn’t enough for most of Tripoli’s restaurants not to serve alcohol for customers, understandable as it is given the city’s demographics. However, the new rule of law in Tripoli is to forbid alcohol ads as well to be spread around the city, starting with beer. اجتنبوه has been modified by Mr. Ghazal’s fatwa-prone mind to include media items as well. Who knew one’s morality can be ruined by a picture of Almaza’s new low-end lager tier?
Apart from the fact that it’s probably illegal to ban such ads in his city when there are no regulations pertaining to it on a national level, Tripoli remains, even today, a city that is not actually demographically unicolor, where one of Lebanon’s biggest Christian orthodox communities resides and where the majority of the Sunni population is actually moderate, not ISIS-prone as they are portrayed by everyone.
What Mr. Ghazal seems to be entirely unaware of is the fact that his regulations are putting his city on an even faster track of regression to stone-aged times that make it incompatible with the vision most of its inhabitants want for it: a modern city with a sustainable economy, not a fertile terrain for the Islamic State. He also seems to have forgotten that his city has existed for a very long time with beer ads spread around its billboards without any sort of problems whatsoever. What gives in August 2014? Is the rise of the angry Sunni getting to his head as well?
Some people of the city decided to take their anger on social media, setting up a “Tripoli Loves Beer” Facebook page, posting pictures of them holding or drinking different kinds of beer to counteract Ghazal’s decision. However, is it enough?
The problem with Lebanon’s Tripoli goes beyond the repercussions of it being poor, left alone by governments as is the case with the entire North, ruled by factions that belong to borderline illiterate politicians, as is the case elsewhere in the region too. There’s a tangible PR problem with how the city is presenting itself, at times like these, to the rest of a country that is beginning to freak out from calls to ban alcohol, stop breakfasts and rising army hate, over-exaggerated as it is.
Tripoli’s downtown, for instance, is centered around a roundabout with the word “Allah.” Underneath Allah is a slogan proclaiming the city to be the citadel of Muslims. All around the roundabout are black لا اله الا الله flags. Welcome to Tripoli indeed.
The entirety of the coverage over Tripoli, when it actually happens, is centered around the “Allah” roundabout aspect, the ISIS flags on some sporadic balconies in destitute neighborhoods, serving as a magnifying glass on the illiterate brain-washed militants ruining their city’s reputation with each passing day. The details of how that reality came to be are irrelevant at this point. What Tripoli needs today is a gigantic shift: will it remain the city that surrenders to extremism again and again despite most of its inhabitants being against it? Or will it be the city to make sure that “the citadel of Muslims Tripoli” rhetoric exists no more?
With people like Ghazal as its mayor, with people like Kabbara as its parliament representatives, I don’t see the former happening anytime soon – even with its people fighting as hard as they can to try and change perspectives and with people on Tripoli’s side who advocate again and again to give the city a chance. We are all aware that this isn’t how the city truly is, that a couple minutes away from the “Nour” roundabout are numerous bars in Al-Mina that would readily serve you alcohol, that parties flourish and that women can dress scantily too. We are aware as well that the majority of the people in Tripoli are more terrified by what’s happening to their city and the possible repercussions than everyone else.
But all of that is put on hold with those looming ISIS flags beginning to prop around the city with politicians who are probably happy about that, and I have to wonder: till what ends can I tell people there’s nothing to worry about in Tripoli when I’m the one finding the current scene to be foreign in a place I’ve known since I was a child?
Until then, Tripoli likes beer, and the people who like Tripoli do too.
Behold the greatness of Lebanese media. All eight of our TV stations decided to unite yesterday for Gaza in one news broadcast that has people talking about it today still, beating the typical Lebanese news cycle lifespan of a few seconds. Talk about influence.
About 24 hours later, I am here wondering if the dust has settled enough for us to look objectively at what was accomplished yesterday or if it’s too early for us to question the actual point of yesterday’s broadcast, at the cost of being branded unpatriotic Lebanese who don’t care about Gaza, although many of the kind do exist.
It goes to say that the only oddity about yesterday’s united news broadcast was seeing MTV’s news anchor with Al Manar’s logo above her head, or Al Manar’s news anchor on MTV. It was a chuckle worthy moment as they went on and on about Gaza, expressing their utmost sadness at the situation there with heartbreaking pictures of people that are dying too soon in a culture that is, maybe just maybe, beginning to value the importance of a life – but I could be foolishly optimistic here.
The news broadcast, cute and fluffy as it may have been, was akin to yet another Arab League meeting: full of promises, and as hollow as an empty barrel. It was us preaching to the choir, in one perfect news circle jerk, to people who are already troubled by the Gaza conflict, to people who already care about Gaza, telling them that we should care more somehow.
It is an act of solidarity, sure, for Lebanese media to stand the way it did with Palestine. What it is not, however, is groundbreaking: our news stations already have enough common ground amongst each other regarding the Palestinian matter to be able to agree to such a broadcast. The result was an empty broadcast that was full of sensationalism but low on depth, as is the typical Arab handling of the Palestinian matter. It is 2014 and they still have not learned that just saying Israel is a big bad monster doesn’t cut it anymore. We all know Israel is bad, now what will you do about it?
24 hours after the LB4Gaza news telecast is done, what was accomplished apart from a sporadic increase in discourse about the issue among a Lebanese populace that is already knee-deep in its own problems as it is and a quirky Exotica ad just to jump on the bandwagon? Wouldn’t it have been better for Gaza if, instead of failing to have a high-level discourse about the issue, all 8 stations organized a telethon that helped raise money and resources to actually help the people of Gaza beyond empty words?
It is hypocritical for Lebanese TV stations to look at Gaza in solidarity when Palestinians in our own country live without rights, without safety and in living conditions that are detrimental to their well-being, with their voices squashed beyond measure. It’s also easy to assume greatness in such a broadcast, but it is also telling that such a broadcast can only happen towards Gaza and Palestine. Could it be because having a differing opinion on the matter is illegal?
It’s been three years since the Syrian war, whose effects have been much more catastrophic to Lebanon, and we didn’t just not have a unified news broadcast, the entire country doesn’t even have a unified foreign affairs stance regarding the Syrian war. While our news anchors wept their fake tears over their Arab brethren, Bashar el Assad and the Islamic extremists were still killing innocent people who probably warranted such a broadcast to talk about their strife.
It’s been also several days since the Christians in Iraq were evicted from their homes, had their property taken from them, had their homes branded with a derogatory ‘N’ for ‘Nasrani’ to denote their blasphemous religion in a country where they’ve become, in 2014, people of Dhumma again. Isn’t the destruction of millennial communities and eradicating them from their own country also worth a discussion?
What’s even more heartbreaking is that after all this time, the only hashtag – gasp – that wasn’t used is #LB4LB. Out of all the countries at hand, the only country that can actually benefit from a unified news cast is our very own Lebanon, with the level of discourse in media and among our officials sinking to new lows every other day, akin to the times when the country was in an actual full blown war, at times of theoretical peace, in a country at the brink of disintegration.
Such a broadcast, however, will never be used. Explosions are in the eye of the beholder. Assassinations are up for interpretation. The worth of our lives is not uniform but is a variable affair that fluctuates in quantity across regions, sects and differing TV stations. Hezbollah is the antichrist on MTV. Sunnis are the big bad evil coming to eradicate those who are different on Al Manar. This is the rhetoric that will be resumed a few hours from now on those same TV stations that, a few hours ago, had been so unified in a cause that is, whether we like it or not, alien to them and of a lesser importance than what’s taking place in their own backyards. #LB4LB will never be used because it’s always [insert your favorite party/sect/whatever]4LB. And that’s how it will always be.
Either way, what our media did is commendable in its own rights. If only evil and crimes against humanity had not been, to them, only clear when they involve Israel only.
Disclaimer: I was provided with concert tickets by MixFM for my personal use; this, however, came after a friend and I had already purchased tickets for the concert, albeit lower-priced ones.
The “it” concert of the summer, which was almost threatened to be canceled at some point as our security situation degenerated, is Ellie Goulding coming for her Halcyon Days tour. Personal taste in music aside, the concert is to be a summer highlight, with it generally being an oddity for someone who’s actually “in” right now to come to Lebanon for a concert.
The ads promoting the event have been extremely tacky so far, however. Between telling us that Ellie is brave for venturing here and asking us to show the world how Beirut is truly like, I don’t know what’s sadder: the fact that coming to Lebanon is now an achievement in itself or that that rhetoric has become advertising prone or that the entire joie de vivre in Lebanon point of pride is actually still used.
In spite of that, I figured I’d come up with a few reasons why I want to go to Ellie Goulding’s concert.
1) The song “My Blood” is gorgeous, and the acoustic live version is even better than the recorded version.
2) Goulding’s song “I Know You Care” was used as the UK’s Song for Syria in order to raise money to help the children of the war-torn country.
3) She covers indie acts often and does a good job at it. Her cover of Kodaline’s “All I Want” is brilliant, as is her cover of Alt-J’s “Tessellate.”
4) Goulding writes most of her songs and with several hits under her belt, many of which were unexpected given them being an oddity with the sounds popular at radio, she has proven not to be a one hit wonder. Her album, Halcyon, cannot be summarized by “Burn,” but has many great songs on it.
5) She’s a great live performer with a voice that stands out among her peers, as well as an awesome accent to boot.
The concert is on Wednesday July 23rd, at Biel.
“Faith in humanity abolished” is what everyone’s been speaking about today as they circulate a video of a Lebanese child beating another Syrian child at the request of the Lebanese’s parents. The video is the following:
Certainly, the above is an abomination, a disgrace and whatever word can be inserted to describe the horror of the event at hand. But I have to wonder: why is anyone remotely shocked or even surprised?
We are a country to be pitied. Our houses are filled with maids, all of whom are Sri Lankans despite the fact that most are not, who clean after us in miserable working conditions and for minimal pay. If they ask for a raise, we ridicule them for wanting too much, but who of us would work more than 12 hour days, every day, for $100 a month?
Our injustice does not stop there. We beat those women whenever they try and speak up. We ridicule them in media if they dare to stray from the well-defined line that we’ve set up for them, and our kids observe as we bully them into mental oblivion, every single day until their contract is over and they’re free to go back to their families, mere shells of their former selves.
We are a country of hypocrisy. We’ve been ridiculing Syrian refugees for the past year, calling for them to be sent back home or to have their already miserable living conditions over here demoted even further. Multiple arguments are used and regardless of whether those arguments are correct or not, one thing is clear: when it comes to the Syrian refugees, humane we are not.
We teach our children to stay away from the Syrians around us. We tell them they are filthy. We tell them they are disgusting. We tell them they are to be feared. We tell them they are thieves. And somehow, we pretend not to be doing anything wrong about those people… until there’s a video, of course.
Many of those Syrian refugees do not get the “privilege” that the boy in that video got: to have their struggles recorded. Most of them do not get to be seen getting beaten by Lebanese who use the only superiority they get in their own country: to overpower powerless people who just want to survive.
Only yesterday, Ziad Fares – a twitter user who goes by the handle @ZiadFares1 – witnessed a similar act in a much more public location. At Sassine’s Starbucks shop, he saw a male teenage employee kick a young Syrian girl just because she was selling chocolate in the vicinity. The girl wasn’t bothering people nor was she insiting they buy her unica bars when they decline. The girls stood there, asking the employee why he hit her with him only barking at her to leave. Of course, no one caught it on video for it to become the next “it” viral sensation that Lebanese will use to absolve their conscience regarding their many shortcomings towards all those “lessers.”
Before you begin to be outraged just because it’s what everyone else is doing, take a moment and think: when was the last time you were the bully to a Syrian, to an Ethiopian or any other nationality we’ve come to associate with our unfounded arrogance as of a “lesser” breed? When was the last time you failed to stand up to an injustice to those people taking place around you, forbidding them from having your voice speak up to them when it was the only voice they could have possibly had?
We teach our children to be hateful, to despise those who are different, to feel superior to those we tell them are less important, to beat those who are weak, to take what is “rightfully” theirs by their own hand because no one’s there to fight for their “rights.” We teach our children that it’s okay for their fathers to beat their mothers when they misbehave, fully knowing that they’ll get away with it every single time, and somehow we’re shocked that those children end up becoming parents who teach their own children to beat up unsuspecting children, who can take pleasure in filming such acts on video and who laugh as those children weep in front of them? What a load of bullshit.
That Syrian kid will get justice thanks to that video. I hope for that typical Lebanese man to be thrown in the deepest pits of any given Lebanese jail for his actions, and by the looks of it he might. But I also wish the same for countless other Lebanese who have done even worse to other foreigners here and who have gotten away unscathed.
Your faith in the Lebanese humanity should have been abolished a long time ago.
Update: the father of the child named Abbas in the above video has been reportedly apprehended by the police.
Those worthless people of Gaza. How many have died since Tuesday? It doesn’t even matter but I’ll list the number anyway: 154, and those 154 people don’t matter. Some will chant praises to their martyrdom and others will lament how their lives were lost, but they are but a number in a conflict that won’t end, a number to be buried deep in the Arab subconscious between seasons of Arab Idol, Ahla Sot and Elissa’s albums. Gaza was still an open air prison a few years ago and it will remain an open air prison a few years from now. It’s just only remembered at specific instants when their going gets slightly tougher. We get infuriated at the hypocrisy that Israel killing Arabs includes when its entire existence can be taken back, in one way or another, to Western guilt over the Jewish holocaust. But when you come to think of it, are Arabs even entitled to be sad for the people of Gaza who are dying, whose homes are being demolished just so muscles can be flexed and whose deaths are being ridiculed on certain TV channels just because they don’t fit with the rhetoric of the axis currently ruling the world? How are the people of Gaza dying exactly? Is it Israeli planes? Or is it the Arab oil fueling those planes? Or is it the Arab silent towards Israeli plans? Or is it those Arabs making sure their borders with Gaza stay closed, securing that open air prison until who knows when? Or is it the Arab slumber that only finds mild wakefulness sporadically, in Twitter or Facebook hashtags, never trying to speak out against their own regimes, in bed with those killing the people of Gaza, because they are providing them with the biggest mall on Earth and a great shopping experience to boot?
Those worthless people of Syria. How many Syrians have died in the past 3 or so years? How many digits has that number reached by now? As is the case with Gaza, this too doesn’t even matter, but I’ll list it anyway: 170,000. That six digit figure comprises entire families, men, women, children who will never have the future that a few years back was rightfully theirs. The biggest injustice, however, towards those Syrians isn’t just that their death, in the grand scheme of things, might not actually matter, but the fact that their deaths are also not an absolute truth among the Arabs infuriated by Israel’s actions. How many of those crying over Gaza now actually cared as the toll in Syria rose from one digit to the next? How many of those crying wolf over ABC, BBC, CNN or MTV Lebanon actually watch TV stations that do the exact same thing to those people of Syria? Those six digit lives are nothing more than a bargaining chip in a conflict that is greater than they’ll ever be individually. Those lives don’t fit with their grand political scheme of choice and are a mere tool in the attempt to stop the big bad Sunni monster.
Those worthless people of Lebanon. There’s no estimate of those that died between 1975 and 2014. Our parents had hoped way back when they decided to stay in this country that things would get better for us, with all the lives lost to fight for causes that they believed in. But things are still the same. Young men and women fought for causes and died only to have the people they fought for forget them the moment a glimpse of power flashed in front of their eyes. And things are still the same today. From one explosion to the next, from burned flesh on Beirut’s asphalt to spoiled breakfasts in Tripoli, to acts defending the country against armies now killing innocents in Gaza, the lives of our countrymen being lost are also simple digits that will keep on adding up until who knows when because we never learn.
The causes are not similar, and the conflicts are not the same. But the people involved are dying with one thing in common: their deaths only serve to escalate numbers without changing anything. How many had to die in Gaza before the collective Arab consciousness decided to budge, before the Arab league figured it should convene or before Egypt figured it should come up with a ceasefire plan with their BFFs? How many more have to die until it is realized that the current status quo regarding the region’s countries and regarding the attitude towards Israel does not simply work? When will Arabs learn that building the world’s tallest structure, biggest artificial island and hosting the World Cup aren’t what really matter when their own people are being slaughtered like sheep right on their doorstep as they sit around and eat their fancy iftars on this bloody Ramadan?
I am a 24 year old Lebanese who lives in a country of violence in a sea of even more violence, and I do not know how to be violent. I do not believe violence is the key to any solution for this region, but I am one of very few voices in a culture that sings weapons in song, brands them on flags and salutes the world with them as they chant takbirs for everyone to hear, a culture that, for instance, doesn’t really want to see Palestine free as much as go to heaven as martyrs for that purpose.
There are a lot of things that we are not allowed to do towards those countries. We can’t do like that Norwegian doctor and visit Gaza to help in whatever way we can. Protesting the regimes of the countries filling this region has also become a dangerous matter even though those tyrant regimes do much worse to their own people than possibly even Israel, regardless of whether such a notion is even entertained by people of the region or not. The only thing we are left with is our voices and platforms to express those voices and try to change perspectives, but does the region even have a clear plan towards using modern day media in order to fight the Israeli rampage? Is there a way for us to get a clear message across when we can’t even agree on what that message should be? Are we not also losing the war of information and misinformation that, in this day and age, has become as tactically important as rockets and blasts and tanks especially with the looming threat of treason over our heads when the message we need to get across is to those whose existence we are not allowed to acknowledge? Is there a way for us to make the lives lost in the countries of the region slightly less worthless than they are as we remain completely and irrevocably lost, unable to do anything about it but be angry about biased media reporting, portrayals of the people dying as terrorists and the blindness of a world that never really had sight to begin with?
May all those people’s pieces rest in peace.