In the 3ahd of Business Deals: Money Can Get You A Lebanese Citizenship, But A Lebanese Mother Can’t

Can you hear that? The sound of every supporter to the current ruling Party in the country scrambling to find every excuse under the sun to justify the latest naturalization law that was passed by their president? It reeks of principles, I’d say.

A couple of days ago, news of a naturalization decree signed by the president surfaced. The decree gave 350+ people the Lebanese nationality. Many of those people happen to be Arab businessmen. A few of those who were given the Lebanese nationality belong to the Maronite Diaspora attempt at reclaiming it for those of Lebanese origins.

The backlash has been swift. As have been the abhorrent defense of the decree by blind supporters of the political parties that brokered it. It even got to the point of an OTV reporter saying that the Lebanese nationality isn’t “that important” so we shouldn’t care.

In a way, she’s right. We have one of the world’s worst passports, worst economies, highest corruption rates, and horrid policies. I would know, I’ve been an emigrant from that country for nearly a year now and I can feel – day by day – how lacking my country is in every facet that I appreciate in being away. But that’s not the point.

The point is that our nationality should not be a mere business deal, given to whoever pays most money. It should not be a back room deal coming right at the heel of parliamentary elections, and it should definitely not be an article 49 in disguise, essentially bypassing Lebanon’s Supreme Court annulling such a decree from our national budget.

What makes this decree even worse is the fact that it has not been published anywhere, it’s the fact that piecing together the names of those who have been given the Lebanese nationality is essentially a puzzle, and that requests to get the full decree from the president’s office are finding deaf ears. If they have nothing to hide, then why are they working so hard at hiding it?

Some of the names that have been naturalized, according to Facebook posts circulating around, are entities that have been essential to the Syrian regime over the years.

Yes, there should be a path to citizenship for non-Lebanese. It is silly that the only way people can become citizens in this country is for a president to decide to make them so, or for them to be married to a Lebanese man or have a Lebanese father. There should be a way for a people who contributed to Lebanese society in a substantial way to be granted to have a way to become more integral parts of this society.

What this new decree does is further solidify the injustice that is ingrained in Lebanese society when it comes to the very foundation of it.

Any person born to a Lebanese mother can’t become Lebanese, but a Syrian nationalist that is loved by some politician can. My cousin’s children, for example, can never become Lebanese even though their mother is, just because their father is American. Our country shows us once again that money trumps our women.

In a time when the mere thought of a Lebanese woman becoming equal in passing her nationality as a Lebanese man is met with racism, sectarianism, and endless backlash from the ruling class, we show our women again and again that they don’t matter.

Furthermore, a person born and raised all their life in Lebanon to non-Lebanese parents can never become a citizen. But a business man from Jordan who needs the citizenship for possibly some financial purposes can. But yes, it’s all fairness and unicorns and happy thoughts.

It’s not about demographics. It doesn’t even matter how many of those naturalized are Christians, that is not the point. 400 people won’t cause a population change. But it’s the principle behind laws that are passed in the dead of the night, without appropriate scrutiny, revision, and assessment.

I hope the MPs and politicians that are against such a decree work on at least trying to block it. I’m looking at you Lebanese Forces and Kataeb blocs – you have enough MPs now (or at least one of you does) to do so.

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Nadine Labaki’s “Capharnaüm” Wins The Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Festival

What an accomplishment.

Nadine Labaki just became the first Lebanese director to win such a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s the festival’s third highest prize.

After receiving a 15 minute standing ovation after its screening on Thursday, the film immediately became a front runner, at the heel of what some are calling “the best baby performance in the history of cinema.”

Capharnaüm, with its Lebanese and international release dates to be determined, tells the story of Zain, a 12 year old Lebanese child, who sues his parents for bringing him into the life they’ve given him: that of squalor, poverty, abuse, child brides, and lack of papers.

The reviewer for The Guardian called the middle section of the movie so ambitious that he doesn’t even know how Nadine Labaki pulled it off, calling the movie a favorite for the Best Foreign Feature Oscar as well for next year’s awards. Deadline, on the other hand, called the movie an instant foreign language Oscar front runner, believing the movie should even go beyond that category, the way Amour did in 2013.

With this movie, it seems Nadine Labaki has upped her game from the already high bar she set with her previous two features, and at this point it seems the sky is her limit. I cannot wait to see what this ingenious Lebanese director, the best in her generation, has to keep offering.

If anything, I hope that with movies like Capharnaüm, Lebanese moviemakers realize the importance of telling the stories that Lebanese society entails. Those are the kind of movies we should be making, as we touch on the wounds that plague our communities in our attempt to heal them.

Furthermore, the movie even features an Ethiopian refugee named Yordanos Shifera who’s been living in Lebanon without proper documents. That same actress has now been given the chance to walk the red carpet of an award winning movie in which she had a vital role. That’s amazing.

There’s already a scene circulating online from the movie, which you can watch here:

This is reportedly the opening scene of the movie.

Congrats Nadine Labaki. You made all of us proud, and I hope you keep receiving the accolades for your new masterpiece.

Kollouna Watani’s Joumana Haddad & Paula Yacoubian Are Now Parliament Members

Update: Somehow, since the writing of this post Joumana Haddad ended up losing. No comment.

On a more than depressing electoral day, a glimmer of hope that started two years ago with Beirut Madinati in Beirut –  1 translated into both Joumana Haddad and Paula Yacoubian becoming parliament members tonight, the first two ever civil society candidates to enter Lebanese parliament.

Joumana Haddad’s win for the minorities seat also makes her the first openly atheist member of Lebanese parliament, and possibly the entire Middle East, where atheism is still considered a crime in many countries.

The win of Kollouna Watani in Beirut – 1 comes at the heel of very poor turn out almost uniformly throughout the country. In fact, depressingly enough, the win of Kollouna Watani is because turnout in Beirut – 1 was the poorest in the entire country, a shame when you take in consideration that the last time we voted was 2009.

Both Joumana and Paula deserve their win. They worked tremendously over the past several months to raise their profile, scream for the change they want, and they did not take any vote for granted as many political parties seem to have done.

Change for the country started in Achrafieh, even if on the overall this election leaves me with a tinge of disappointment.

What I discovered today, after voting for Kollouna Watani last week in North 3, and then having all the Civil Society lists not even make the count on TVs because they were thrown into irrelevant is that 1) we live in a bubble, and 2) I don’t think our fellow Lebanese really want the change that we want this country to have.

To be sitting in front of my computer thousands of miles away and be utterly flabbergasted at how people just didn’t care was mind-boggling. Why was I, the Lebanese who already left, more interested in how things went than those who stayed? This sense of apathy, this mind-numbness that we’ve all exhibited is just sad, and it’s quite literally across the board, across all parties, across all regions.

And yet, I was proud of my hometown giving nearly as many votes for Layal Bou Moussa as they did to the Kataeb candidate, and proud that my candidate was the top candidate on the Kollouna Watani list in North 3. Those 90 votes in Ebrine are worth hundreds in my eyes.

Today, the Lebanese people are tired everyone and everything, that’s what these elections have shown. From the poor performance of El 3ahd’s lists, to even the performance of civil society lists outside of Beirut 1. Today showed that even our pleas for change were not enough for most of the Lebanese population to go and do something about it.

Some had their reasons, I bet. But others just sank in the complacency of thinking things will always be the same. This abhorrent freak of an electoral law, whose sole purpose it seems is to have Gebran Bassil become a representative for Batroun, didn’t help either. For the record, #NotMyNeyeb.

Instead, we settle for cheering for the least of evils. We go back to basics, but I did what I can.

A bunch of good people made it to parliament today, as well. Of those, I mention Ziad Hawat – the former Mayor of Jbeil who turned his city into a top Lebanese destination. I also mention Antoine Habchi whose victory in Baalbak-Hermel was truly the other highlight of these elections. A lot of women made it to parliament today as well, other than Paula and Joumana. The list includes Sethrida, Bahia el Hariri, and Inaya Ezzedine in the South. Hopefully even more female candidates will end up as winners once the tally is done.

On the other hand, Jamil el Sayyed who was the right hand of Syria’s occupation of the country, and whose real place is in jail, also gained a parliament seat thanks to the Shiite duo whose electoral performances truly strengthened the nature of the thoughts they’re perpetuating in the country. Their “either you’re with us or you’re a traitor” mantra, their “it’s your religious duty to vote for us” slogans are cancerous.

Another thing that today showed is that, when you try to have “modern” laws the least you can do is provide a modern voting experience. Everyone was complaining about how slow the process was, something I had spoken about last week here:

And yet, despite that no measures were made to make sure that people didn’t stand in lines for hours to cast a vote. We needed more booths at each polling place, the process has to be streamlined, and more importantly the law had to be explained to the average voter much more efficiency. But then again, it’s been nearly 8 hours that they’ve closed the polls and we don’t even have results yet.

Setting aside the romance, today Lebanon’s civil society has managed to get only about 20-30,000 votes across the entire country. This is not enough. And I frankly don’t know where to go from here. Perhaps the work of Joumana and Paula will get people to wake up to what they should be demanding of traditional parties, which puts more pressure on them.

Or perhaps we’re just too far gone as people, too entrenched in our ways to really learn that this candidate who’s providing us with a job today only does so because their policies deprived us of jobs for years, or that this candidate giving us food or money today is doing that because they made sure we were poor and starving leading up to that point.

Today, I’m proud of the choice I made. I don’t regret it at all, even if it’s going to be taken out of their equations, thrown into a bin never to be looked at again. And I hope that me going beyond my traditional party lines is proof that we can all do it if we believe that we deserve the changed country that befits us.

Tousbi7oun 3ala watan. Or not.

Hollywood’s Upcoming Movie “Beirut” Checks Off Every American Stereotype About Lebanon

The trailer for Jon Hamm’s latest movie, titled Beirut, and produced by Bleeker Street, was released yesterday. The movie, set in 1982, tells the story of an American officer who finds himself back in Beirut 10 years after his family was killed there to save a friend of his who works in the CIA after he was kidnapped by some Islamic terrorist organization.

In theory, and the fact that the movie is written by the same people behind The Bourne trilogy, this sounds like something that could be fun. Except, once again, an American Hollywood studio decides to whitewash the civil war of a city, and turn its entire struggles about the past and hardships of a white man, who is out of place among the savages he’s forced to exist with.

Here is the trailer:

A Qandahar-esque city ravaged by war: check.

Oriental music with no clear of origin: check.

English spoken like only Americans think terrorists speak English: check.

Mosques on the silhouette of every city shot: check.

Brown kids running around with guns: check.

A terrorist Islamic organization that doesn’t actually exist: check.

The movie not only omits any Lebanese presence in it, but bends the history of the country and of the era that it portrays to make it conform with exactly what Americans think of the city and of the political factors at play. Suddenly, the Israelis are the knights in shining armor trying to save Beirut from its own people, while white Americans roll in to save the day once more.

Those Arabs in the movie? Barbaric savages. Their cities and where they live? Hellholes. Their entire lives? Reduced to kids running around cars with plastic guns.

A movie filmed in Morocco, with no Lebanese cast, with no Lebanese input, with no Lebanese insight – and named after the capital city of a country, while it makes sure to perpetuate the exact notion believed by the people in the country where this movie will most advertise itself.

Representation matters. And this is most important at a time when some creature like Trump is president, a creature that believes any country that is not European is a shithole, and every immigrant from a country that isn’t Norway and friends is a disgrace to his country. In the movie, Beirut, the notion that Arabs are people that exist in an endless circle of violence is perpetuated once more, whilst ticking off every white American’s notion of orientalist Middle Eastern realities. Even the tag line of the movie is “2000 years of revenge, vendetta, murder. Welcome to Beirut.”

Did anyone tell these people that revenge and vendetta are the same thing? Or that the 2000+ year history of Beirut is not about revenge, vendetta and murder, but that a city older than the oldest entity in their country is not summarized by what they think is true of it.

What’s worse is that you’d never find a Hollywood movie, say, that is set in New York portray nothing relevant to the city and be named after it. You’d never find a movie set in any “white” European city negatively portray that city as a terrorist infected haven. Instead, all portrayal tries to stay as respectful as possible to the history of the place they’re showing on screen.

We do not get that courtesy.

I don’t know how Beirut looked in 1982. I was not born back then. But my parents were alive and well back then, and this is not the city they knew. Even in its war-torn buildings, and its own struggles. Even our airport back in the 80’s didn’t look the way it was portrayed in that movie’s trailer. They can’t even afford us historical accuracy – but what do you expect from producers who think all Middle Eastern countries are the same, and that filming a movie in Morocco to portray a city thousands of miles away is fair enough and accurate.

The worst part about the movie is that this is an American take on the Lebanese Civil War – to a certain extent at least – while the war itself had nothing to do with them. And then the release date of the movie is set to coincide with the 43rd anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War, on April 13th.

Dear Hollywood, I understand you have a growing need to be “woke” these days, but being “woke” also involves being aware that other people’s countries and cities are not free reign for you to appropriate into movies whose only purpose is to further perpetuate what you believe is true about those places and those people, as well as fill your pockets with money at their expense.

I, for one, will be boycotting this movie when it’s released, and I invite every Lebanese to do the same. Using our capital but filming somewhere else, using our people but using other nationalities, using our heritage but using other languages, accents and music, and white-washing our entire struggles to fit into the cute boxes that would never oppose the notions of the typical American movie goer, while reinforcing what they think of us, is not okay.

Beirut: A Major Hollywood Movie With Jon Hamm & Rosamund Pike Will Be Released in 2018

Cringe moment incoming, or at least I hope it’s not.

Coming in April 2018 is a major Hollywood movie from director Brad Anderson who’s known for movies such as The Machinist, The Call, and Transsiberian is going to be releasing a new movie featuring Rosamund Pike and Jon Hamm titled “Beirut.”

Rosamund Pike’s breakthrough role was most recently in “Gone Girl” for which she received an Oscar nomination, whereas Jon Hamm is known for his role in Mad Men and most recently in the great “Baby Driver.”

Jon Hamm is Mason Skiles, a former U.S. diplomat who returns to service to save a former colleague, whereas Rosamund Pike’s role will be a CIA field agent working undercover at the American embassy who’s tasked with keeping Mason alive and ensuring the mission is a success, as per Wikipedia.

The movie is also written by Tony Gilroy who’s responsible for movies such as The Bourne Trilogy, Star Wars: Rogue One, Nightcrawler and a lot of episodes of House of Cards.

There’s not much information available about the movie as of now except that it’s about a former U.S. diplomat who returns to service in order to save a former colleague of theirs who happens to be in Beirut from the group responsible for the death of his family.

The project has been in the works since 2015, and was filmed during 2016 in Tangier, Morocco, which has me assuming their portrayal of Beirut is going to be less of how the city actually is and more like a Qandahar war-torn desert city, far from its current reality, especially if the movie is another perpetuation of the civil war reputation surrounding the city.

Ironically, the movie is set for release on April 13th – the memorial day of Lebanon’s Civil War. Coincidence is probably not the case here.

Regardless, I hope the movie ends up entertaining and thought provoking enough. Given the people behind it, I am hopeful it will be the case though it being released so early in the year next year means it’s not really geared towards awards consideration, as much as they want it to be a money grabber.

I bet this movie will also be a hit in Lebanon as people flock to theaters to watch their own capital memorialized in film. I just hope whatever product Hollywood ends up giving does it justice, albeit doubtful.

No trailers for the movie have been released yet.

How A Tweet Launched A Mini Regional Crisis: Mossad Launches #TelAvivLovesBeirut, and Beirut Responds

As part of an article on rising travel destinations, Forbes Magazine listed both Tel Aviv and Beirut as some of the locations that Americans are becoming increasingly interested in visiting. As such, an Israeli investment manager called Mark Leibowitz tweeted in celebrating, inadvertently tagging Beirut.com’s twitter account thinking they were the official representatives of the city.

As such, Beirut.com replied from their twitter account that they wanted to be “excluded from the narrative” echoing the ever wise Taylor Swift circa 2016 with her reply to the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian drama. It’s also a narrative they did not choose to partake in in the first place. What they meant was that they wanted their official twitter account not to be associated with such a thing given they’re not representatives of the city in any way. What Mark Leibowitz understood of it was an act of aggression over the statement he made.

Of course, Beirut.com’s reply was not taken on too kindly by the Israeli twitterverse that responded aplenty:

And, naturally, the Mossad intervened.

Of course, such silly hashtag by one of the world’s leading intelligence agencies regarding a country they’re at war with and have been in active conflict with nearly 11 years ago did not sit well with the Lebanese populace on in Twitter.

It hasn’t been a year yet since these threats were made by Israeli politicians against the Lebanese people:

Some of the Lebanese replies though are as follows:

Another day, another drama.

It’s fortunate that hashtags and Twitter wars remain as online media through which people can vent without actual damage being done, or at least damage in the literal sense of the word of what usually takes place when Lebanon and Israel clash.

It’s immensely silly that the Israeli Mossad tried to brush away years of conflict between the two countries with a hashtag as silly as the one they came up with, or that some of the Israelis responding were not aware there’s more to the conflict between the two countries than what began 71 years ago when their country was founded.

If Tel Aviv truly “loved” Beirut, they would refrain their politicians from launching threats at Beirut whenever they want to give a boost to their political credentials, and own up to their own record of attacking Lebanese civilians, admit to the countless war crimes they’ve committed in Lebanon – and that’s for starters. But of course, watch them blurt out Hezbollah as a response.

I may not support all facets of Lebanese censorship or prosecution when it comes to Israel-related entities, but I cannot also stand and watch my country’s own destruction be washed off under a meme.

 

Beirut To Break The Record For World’s Longest Continuing Party At 56 Hours

At a time when the biggest plates of hummus and biggest lemonade reserves aren’t enough, Beirut seems set to do what Beirut does best, and that’s throw the biggest party out there – literally this time.

In 2 weeks, between August 28th at 7PM and the dawn of August 30th, and under the patronage of Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism, Lebanon will try to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous party, at 56 hours. The previous record was held by Dublin, Ireland and was set at 54 hours.

The attempt to break the world record will take place at Nurai, which is located in Monot. In order to accomplish this task, Guinness will be monitoring the place for the set duration of time to make sure it’s continuously in “party” mode.

To help accomplish the task at hand, a bunch of artists, live bands, singers and DJs will be continuously performing for the duration of the party. The Ministry of Tourism will also be providing transportation to and from the site of the event.

I may not be there to participate and I sure am not the go-to person for any partying-related advice (God forbid), and I may also hate the notion of Beirut being synonymous with parties all the time but that has become as part of the city’s identity as its other more traditional landmarks. Is it a bad thing? Perhaps when it’s blinding the Lebanese masses from further critical thought of their own societies as long as Beirut is featured on some list somewhere as a Phoenix rising from the ashes party town.

The world record breaking attempt may not fix the horribly broken sectors that are maiming this country, but it is a good step from the Ministry of Tourism to further boost Beirut’s image as a go-to destination for party goers of the world, especially given that Lebanon hosted one of Tomorrowland’s live events a few weeks ago in July.

It’s especially beneficial at a time when Lebanon’s summer tourism season is seeing a boost with the political calm the country is experiencing and with Arab Gulf citizens slowly but surely returning to their habits of visiting the country to spend their summer vacations. Such an event will also contribute to setting Beirut apart from other cities in the Middle East when it comes to such lifestyle aspects, and – at least momentarily – help airbrush the country’s image, if only for those who are still susceptible to that.

Either way, I hope the event is a success. I hope those who do attend have a good time, and I sure hope the event’s organization is at the needed level for such a massive undertaking.

H/t Adeela.