Al Arz Tahini… Made in Israel

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An Israeli company is using the Lebanese Cedar to market the well-known Tahini, used to prepare dishes such as Hummus, in order to sell it in some major markets.

Check out the pictures of the item, taken by Twitter user @KhaladK:

Before you freak out, the pictures are not taken in Lebanon. Mr. Khalad is one of the many Lebanese who decided to seek a better life abroad. In his case, the country in question is Australia, which is where the pictures were taken.

According to @KhaladK, the Israeli product is of a better quality than its Lebanese counterpart, which leaks the oil it contains and isn’t as appealing. He didn’t purchase it of course. He sent me the pictures out of curiosity’s sake.

There’s nothing scandalous, in my opinion, about this. I just found it interesting and possibly conversation-worthy to point out the use of the Lebanese Cedar to sell a Lebanese paste by companies residing in non-other than Lebanon’s sworn enemy.

Globalization sure transcends blue lines. The tahini is also kosher.

Thoughts, if any?

AUB Returns to Lebanon

A couple of days ago, I blogged about a mistake on an American research symposium that listed the Lebanese university AUB as located in Israel.

Following the publication of that post, it got picked up by various news outlets, such as L’Orient Le Jour, Annahar, Kataeb and New TV who shed light on the matter as well.

Today, I checked the program of the symposium and it seems the mistake has been corrected: AUB is listed as in Lebanon.

AUB, Lebanon

I was told that such mistakes aren’t always a bad thing as they help shed light on the research they are part in. I personally believe, however, that research should be able to stand on its own merits and not employ such gimmicks in order to turn ears.

We’ll never know the details of how such a mistake remained in the program till a week before the symposium started. But I guess what matters is the bottom line: getting it fixed. Good luck to those who are presenting the research and I hope they do a good job.

Neshan and Jon Stewart, The Zionist

Is there anything better than your healthy dose of Zionism to kick off the day?

While hosting Bassem Youssef on his show yesterday, Neshan decided that Youssef’s friend, the infamous Jon Stewart, is nothing more than a Zionist. Just because he’s Jewish.

Bassem Youssef was polite enough to tell Neshan that, contrary to popular belief, Jon Stewart’s religion has nothing to do with his political mindset, that he is a defender of the Palestinian cause, etc.

Of course, you might as well have been talking to a wall.

Not to expect the mentality set forth by the likes of Neshan in this part of the world is absurd. But what’s shocking is that someone like Neshan – a self-proclaimed educated individual (you only need to listen to his degustation of every letter in an Arabic sentence) – doesn’t know the simple and yet very important fact that we all need to grasp: Jewish does not equate Zionist.

Instead of trying to stop the perpetuation of this blatant racism and incessant ignorance, Neshan not only fuels them but helps affirm them in the minds of the millions who already believe such ideologies.

In what world is Jon Stewart a Zionist? In the world of ignorant individuals who can’t get past their hate, their prejudices, their closed-mindedness, their ignorance, their racism.

There’s nothing different between what Neshan believes and between those who believe all Muslims are terrorists. Except maybe one generalization gives the people in this area some drive, some peace of mind while the other makes them rally in anger.

In the grand scheme of things, Neshan is irrelevant compared to Jon Stewart. I don’t even like his style of interviewing. But he apparently represents a mentality that people with the exposure he has should not possess. And that mentality is more dangerous than his presumed pretentiousness.

The Attack (2013) – Movie Review

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Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack might as well be considered as the most controversial “Lebanese” movie of recent times. But that’s not saying much. The hype surrounding the politics of the movie has been resounding. But does The Attack deliver on all the promises the director and the people who like him gave?

Amin (Ali Suliman) is an Arab-Israeli surgeon living and practicing medicine in Tel Aviv. While receiving some humanitarian award from the Israelis, Amin receives a call from his wife who sounds distressed. He doesn’t give it much attention, the focus is all on him. Soon enough, while having lunch at the rooftop of their Israeli hospital, the surgeons hear an explosion. 17 casualties ensue, 11 of which are children… And it’s Amin’s wife Siham (Raymond Amsalem) who committed the attack. Between the barrage of the Israelis who suddenly turn on the man they believe they sheltered into becoming one of them and the guard of the Arabs who believe Siham did a noble thing and are disgusted by the “bastard” who left his heritage and home to integrate in a place that is not his, Amin seeks out to find why his wife became a radical person who managed to get convinced to blow herself up for the Palestinian cause.

Sounds good, right? Well, in theory it does.

The Attack is divided into two parts. The first one is what can be called the Hebrew segment in which Tel Aviv is shown as a bustling cosmopolitan city whose people are as disassociated with the conflict raging outside their city’s confines while the other half is the Arab part, situated in Nablos, whose people struggle in their everyday life and revel in the idea of martyrdom, turning Siham into a local heroin. In a way, each part serves to pitch each side’s case.

I found the take on the issue, which the movie tries to do, shallow and borderline grating at times, even in its tackling of Siham’s radicalization which The Attack finds even more astonishing due to the fact she’s Christian. The Attack doesn’t go as deep as it should. it remains up there, flapping around the stereotypical stories of both sides – the action/reaction scenario that never ends. It never asks the tough questions: are the reactions warranted? Are they the best way to tackle the actions that led to them?

And I, for one, am glad and fully supportive of not choosing The Attack as Lebanon’s Oscar submission last year because there’s nothing Lebanese about the movie at all. In fact, the Lebanese elements of the movie are a mention of Hassan Nasrallah and Beirut – separately.

As a movie, The Attack works. It’s a decent thriller. There isn’t a dull moment, constantly keeping up the pace it sets from the get-go. The camera work, cinematography and locations are all well-done. But don’t expect it to blow you away. The acting, however, is superb. Both lead actors do a great job in their roles. Amsalem’s portrayal of Siham is gut-wrenching at times as is the life Ali Suliman gives her husband.

What The Attack manages to do, which might be the most important thing, is create a discussion. I watched the movie with 4 other Lebanese while on a stay in Paris – the movie will not be released in Lebanon – and we spent almost 40 minutes huddled outside the cinema center discussing what we had just seen. As a nation, though, Lebanon is possibly nowhere near ready for such a movie to be screened although the current state of Israel is eye-opening to what we, as a country, are so desperately lacking.

3/5

The Conclusion of Dahye’s Missiles: Tripoli Is Not a Lebanese City

2 missiles fell in Beirut today, targeting Hezbollah’s stronghold Dahyeh. Nobody knows why the missiles were fired.
They could be to serve as further proof for the need to extend parliament’s mandate. They could be to show that Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is not inhumane but very needed.
They could have a multitude of reasons. But I don’t really care.

Minutes after Dahyeh was hit with the two missiles, the level of panic rose to enormous levels. Lebanese media was all over it with live coverage from the sites of the missile launch, conspiracy theories along the lines of المؤامرة على سوريا were being thrown around, to name a few.

Our minister of interior Marwan Charbel was the first Lebanese official to visit the site in question. More will soon follow because can you imagine them not visiting an area that was just targeted with two missiles?

Guess again.

Over the past week, the capital of North Lebanon was hit with thousands of missiles and mortars, 1200 of which fell in one single night.

How many official visits happened to the city? Zero.

How extensive was the media coverage for the battles? Let me quote a friend of mine who has been following the news very closely: “I was honestly convinced the electoral law was the most important thing taking place today.”

Did you know that snipers are still shooting aplenty across the city?

Even the politicians of Tripoli were quicker to condemn the missiles of Beirut than the missiles of their own city.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the realization we’ve all been pondering over for a long time now. It may be within the confines of our beloved and much-spoke about 10452km2 but the Northern city of Tripoli might not be effectively part of this country at all. And we never had such temporally close examples to back that claim up.

We complain about some media’s hypocrisy in the way they talk of the region’s conflicts. And yet we do it, and we keep doing it. The missiles that hit Tripoli are not as important. The latest toll of 31 dead which fell in the recent battles is not important. The reasons why Tripoli is being victim for repeated battles are never spoken about. The citizens of the city who live in terror for days and nights are never really cared about. They are as irrelevant as the city they call home.

What is this Lebanon you speak to me about? Hold on while I push the snooze button on Dahye’s missiles and the 3 injured Syrians who are on their way to rehabilitation.

The Israeli Aircrafts Invading Lebanon’s Airspace

Israeli warplanes have been invading Lebanon’s airspace ever since I can remember. Most of us are used to them and their sound. Many get angry when they see them patrolling our skies. Others have simply grown accustomed to tuning them out.

What do our governments do regarding those aircrafts? They complain to the U.N. Because that’s the only thing we can do.

Over the past few days, the frequency of the breaches of Lebanon’s airspace by our Southern enemy has been dramatically increasing. The jets have been flying at a lower altitude than usual. And still our country hasn’t done anything. I guess addressing the issue is redundant at this point.

We send out drones. They send out jets. Tit-for-tat.

I have to wonder: how many more breaches of Lebanon’s airspace should happen before our country decides to invest in some anti-aircraft weaponry? Are we waiting till we start digging into our oil and gas reserves for that?

However, I may have found the key element into getting our government up in a fit regarding the breaches. Dear Marwan Charbel, the pilot driving that airplane is gay. Are you sure you want to let him in?

Until then, perhaps we should start advertising our airspace as another touristic attraction? It sure sounds like one.

 

Remembering The Little Children Terrorists of Qana

Because not remembering the woes and wounds of this nation is part of why we are where are today, I present to you a guest post by my good friend Hala Hassan.

Qana Lebanon Massacre 1996

It was April of 1996. I was a 6 year old girl, growing increasingly scared of a month where I’d wake up to rockets getting fired every single day from the neighboring tanks over the hill and warplanes constantly raping the sky above my house.

Operation Grapes of Wrath was getting scarier, deadlier, more ominous by the minute. Just another regular day of a Southerner back then.

Random memory #1: Zaven, who currently runs a TV show on Future TV, was a news anchor then who, along with his co-anchor short haired Zahira Harb (I don’t know where she is now or what she does), were distinctive figures in my 6 year old memory.

Random memory #2: a man sitting on a plastic chair, head dangling to one side, blood and broken glass everywhere.

My memory of that spring is as vivid as if it were happening now. I can still remember all details of Thursday April 18th and the crystal clear images showing death and horror at every turn.

I remember the faces of UNIFIL soldiers crying and shouting, overwhelmed with the shock, ramble and fire.

The news was shocking. An Israeli raid targeted without any hesitation whatsoever a compound of UNIFIL forces in the Sourthern village of Qana where families had sought refuge, most of which were elderly, kids and women.

Yes it was a massacre, a crime against humanity: flesh and blood melting into the steel, splashed body tissues and fluids on the walls, dismantled and disfigured corpses, beheaded babies, pools of flesh merging into impossibly differentiated individuals.

The Cruelty was caught on tape and registered in minds, reinforced by the sorrow of those who survived and shock.

The whole country was in shock. No excuse could have been given, no excuse would have been accepted and will ever be.

I haven’t seen bigger funerals than the one carrying the victims of Qana to their final resting place. A sea of black, of arms swaying in sorrow under coffins each of which held entire families, their bodies burned together. More than a hundred souls were taken in fraction of seconds. Dreams were blown into little pieces lying together in common graves.

It took me 9 years to make peace with newspapers. My older sister used the idea of Qana newspaper pictures as a way to scare me for years. That’s how childhood in South Lebanon went. I envy the kids who grew up scared of boogeyman.

I know that massacres take place every day around the world, today more than ever, neighboring countries more than distant ones. Civil wars or terrorist attacks, respect goes to every innocent soul in this world that is lost intentionally or as collateral damage in conflicts they may not want to be part of.

Everything feels more intense and more important when it’s personal, which Qana – to me – undoubtedly is, but the point behind all of this is that terrorism has no nationality, no color and no ethnicity.

Recognize the terrorists. It is never too late to be fair.

The Lebanon-Israel Battle We’re Losing

We have oil… we will strengthen our army.

We have oil… we will upgrade our transportation system.

We have oil… we will have universal healthcare, retirement systems, etc…

Our highway is flooded with pictures from Lebanon’s ministry of energy to “celebrate” the presence of copious amounts of natural gas and oil under Lebanese waters. Of course, any talk about potential economic benefits for such wealth is still purely theoretical because we won’t know the extent of our reserves until we start digging.

The best and most optimistic estimates as to when Lebanon starts capitalizing on its natural reserves is 2017-2018. Such estimates assume the following:

  1. A smooth security situation,
  2. No bureaucratic hassle that would pose delays,
  3. A decent political environment with no dead-locks on the matter
  4. International cooperation with the upcoming venture,
  5. No drastic governmental changes that could affect the bidding process which is essential in early stages.

I don’t know about you but those 2017-2018 hopes are looking to be more and more far-fetched to me. The government already collapsed. We need to wait on a new one to form in order to proceed with the bidding on whoever’s going to get drilling rights in our waters. That’s not to mention any near-certain precipitations of the Syrian war over here or, as usual, political blocks that lead to a handful of laws being passed in any parliament’s given lifetime or even the sectarian calculations that have to go in with every single oil-related decision. You can call that the “Orthodox Oil Law.”

These oil reserves were discovered back in 2009 across three countries in the region: Lebanon, Cyprus and Israel. I don’t know about Cyprus – they might be too busy with their credit problems at the moment – but when it comes to Lebanon and Israel, we are at the losing end of this economic battle in our ongoing conflict with our most hated enemy.

From 2009 till 2013, we managed to ratify one law and form a committee regarding the oil matter. The committee took a long time to be formed because we had to find the proper sectarian balance. The law took an almost equally long time as well to be ratified by parliament.

Meanwhile, our neighbor to the South had started drilling and as of March 31st, 2013 has actually started storing the natural gas being extracted in its quest to reach energy independence. It has already started making billions off its reserves with deals surpassing $20 billion.

Many seem to disregard the fact that there are more aspects to our conflict with Israel than military gains or losses here and there. The economical aspect of the conflict, which is one of the main motives behind certain Israeli policies, is more dangerous and far more reaching.

The economic aspect of these natural reserves isn’t restricted to who gets there first. As of now, Lebanon doesn’t have a strategy to how our oil money will be used: are we going to use it to lessen the national debt? Are we going to use it for some much-needed developments that go beyond Beirut? How will we use the fund that will be set up for profits from these sources?

Our politicians believe it’s too early to discuss such things. We, as a nation, never plan ahead. We rarely try to build towards the future as opposed to things that bring profit here and now because it’s always too early for us to plan. Instead of forming a road-map to clearly illustrate how the benefits from Lebanon’s natural resources will be used, we go by the common Lebanese saying “bass neje 3laya, mensalle 3laya.” (We’ll see once we get there) .The problem is that we will eventually “neje 3laya” and history has taught us that dead-ends is all we’ll manage to build.

Instead of being one of the more pressing matters facing this country, Lebanon’s oil reserves have been dropped down to something second-rate. Our political class is keeping its head firmly stuck in sand, with hopes of a better future years from now, ignoring how an economically-growing Israel with clear plans for its development and sustainability will negatively affect any Lebanese attempt at growth of an economy that is in dire need of any form of extra income it can find.

But doesn’t that train look absolutely beautiful on those billboards?

Lebanese Lina Makhoul Wins The Voice Israel

Lina Makhoul The Voice Israel

The myth goes that Lina Makhoul is a 19 year old Israeli-Palestinian Christian from Acre.

She participated in the second season of Israel’s version of The Voice. I had blogged about her before (here) when she performed one of Fairuz’s songs and gained the judges’ approval.

The reality, at least according to several readers who messaged me privately regarding the matter, some of whom are are related to her, is that Lina Makhoul is not Palestinian. She is Lebanese from one of South Lebanon’s many Christian towns.

Well, Lina Makhoul – a Lebanese (or at least of Lebanese origins) – has won the Israeli version of The Voice after beating out two other contestants in the finale.

As her last performance of the night, Makhoul sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

She said that she was the victim of racism on the show. I’m not sure where that racism came from – be it from other Lebanese or Arab Israelis who may not have wanted her to participate in such things or from Israelis who are not too keen on her heritage or from the show’s producers and staff. But at least she managed to win.

Either way, now we know at least one person who isn’t included in the current debate in Lebanon, which has obviously taken a backseat now, about the possibility of return of the Lebanese who flew to Israel around the time of the South’s liberation.

Lebanon is not allowed to access The Voice Israel’s Youtube page so I have yet to find a version of her performance of “Hallelujah” but I have found this dating back to 2011:

You can watch Makhoul’s initial audition here in which she also sings a Fairuz song. The Israeli judges refer to Fairuz as the queen and one of them had apparently worked with her before many years earlier:

Update: I’m getting reports that she may be Palestinian as her mother is apparently as such from the town of Al Bokay’a.

Update: check out her winning performance of Hallelujah:

A Blast From The Distant Lebanese Past

We have locusts! At least that’s what news agencies are saying because I haven’t seen any nor do I want to see any.

For the first time in a long time Lebanon is being hit by “el jarad” being brought up our way from the Southern neighbor we love to hate. Cue in the theories of this being a zionist agenda.

And with that, memories of a not-as-distant past popped in my head again. In case you didn’t pick up on it yet, those memories are from 9th and 12th grade when we were taught the exact same history of our country, three years apart.

Locust Lebanon JaradAll we need to recreate a WWI scenario in 2013 is the following:

  1. Outbreaks of typhoid and malaria,
  2. The Turks invading Syria,
  3. Englishmen arriving to our shores,
  4. Locusts eradicating our crops,
  5. A third of the Lebanese population dying.

That’s a little difficult to do seeing as those pesky insects are invading areas which have more buildings than crops and Englishmen are busy drinking tea. Locusts are in for one major disappointment this time around.

But students who have their official exams this year are lucky. For the first time ever, the history they are being taught is, at least partially, witnessing some practical applications in our daily lives. Shame on any of them who doesn’t get 27/30 on their exams.