Alt-Right News Website Breitbart Thinks Christians In Lebanon Are Persecuted

breitbart-lebanon-christians-persecutedApart from having her as their French presidential poster child, alt-right news website Breitbart, whose spread of fear, hate, xenophobia, and racism under the guise of “political-uncorectness” had a lot to do with the rise of Trump and friends, decided that Marine Le Pen is in Lebanon to meet the country’s persecuted Christians.

Of course, the purpose of this visit was always for the French far-right candidate to “express solidarity with Middle Eastern Christians.” As I said in my post on the matter, perhaps that purpose is better served in areas where Christians are actually persecuted?

Not according to Breitbart, of course. To them, what are countries over there *points disgustingly to the Middle East* but a pile of horrifying terrorist places feeding off Christian pure-blood and ruining the world for everything else?

So dear Breitbart, can you please point me – a Lebanese who was raised Maronite Christian – in the direction of this scary entity that is persecuting me, as I enjoy this fine Lebanese morning while Marine Le Pen enjoys her visit to the only country that’s accepted to host her so far, while I get nauseated reading your website?

I am sorry to inform you that your feisty title to get your Western Islamophobic readers up in arms and to portray Marine Le Pen as the Joan of Arc of France’s fight against the world will not come at the expense of my country or your dramatization of my situation in it.

You see, if you had any inkling about Lebanon or about the Middle East in general apart from it being one big blur in your eyes, you’d know that the political system in Lebanon allocates political power to Christians and Muslims equally. You’d have known that the president Marine Le Pen met has to be Maronite by law and that to be elected that persecuted Christian man held the entire country hostage for almost two years. But please, by all means, tell me more about how I’m persecuted.

I don’t feel unsafe in my country for being a Christian. I won’t get beheaded for going to Church. I won’t be shot down for reciting an “Our Father.” I won’t be knifed for crossing myself. Please, keep your disgusting concern to yourself and don’t reflect it on this country to try and pass on your agenda.

Are Christians persecuted in the Middle East? Sure, they are. But that persecution is happening in actual war zones, where everyone is getting killed regardless of how they pray. It’s sort of like the war zone in your minds where facts and common sense are getting massacred. Should we hold vigils for those? R.I.P. Logic. Waiting for their article about Marine Le Pen refusing to wear a veil to meet the mufti. That one should be exquisite.

Does Breitbart know what threatens Christians in the Middle East? It’s their constant advocacy – both Breitbart’s and those Christians – for far-right politics that only serve to fuel the hate in the poor minds of those who persecute those Christians in the first place. But I would assume that’s a lot of conjectures for them to wrap their heads around.

I daresay we can’t blame Breitbart for being this ignorant. It comes with the territory of being them. Even the comments on that Marine Le Pen article are horrendous, of which here’s a sample:

The more troubling part is that their sentiment is echoed by some Lebanese politicians and a lot of Lebanese-French (check the comments on these pictures 1234):

16830643_1447000935333123_1448010402072667004_n

The age of change and reform in Lebanon has begun with the election of General Michel Aoun, followed by Donald Trump. Will the triad be complete with the election of Marine Le Pen? God willing.

This is also not the first time that this level of misinformation and ignorance is spread about the situation of religious communities in Lebanon. During the American presidential campaign, Jeb Bush said: “if you’re a Christian in Lebanon, you’ll be beheaded.”

I suppose both Jeb and Breitbart would be disappointed to learn that I still have my head?

In Lebanon, everyone is screwed. The beauty of it is that it’s not the threat-to-their-lives kind and they are all screwed together, for better or for worse. Sorry to disappoint you Breitbart, but you’re barking up the wrong tree here.

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The People Of Al Qaa Were Victims Of Terrorism… While The Government Didn’t Provide Electricity

Qaa Beqaa Lebanon terrorism

The town of Al Qaa in the Beqaa was the scene of a true horror show yesterday as 8 suicide bombers took to its streets to wreck havoc and spread fear among its people.

The town is home for around 2500 Lebanese, mostly Christians, and currently inhabits around 25,000 Syrians who came there seeking refuge from the war taking place in their homes. A few days ago, many didn’t know what Qaa was. Today, it is forever etched in our collective memory as the kind of mayhem that we can easily slip through.

 

Five people died in Qaa yesterday. Learn their names. Look at their faces.

Faysal Aad.

Georges Fares.

Joseph Louis.

Boulos Al Ahmarm.

Majed Wehbe.

Over and over again, the need to see these people as victims and not martyrs couldn’t be higher. These are men who had families they wanted to be there for. None of them wanted to die. The only cause they were partaking in was to live, let live and provide for their families in a town that is forgotten by the government, and by fellow Lebanese, at the outskirts of a country whose Northern border many believe is Kaslik.

Calling them martyrs absolves us of any guilt in their deaths, but we’re all guilty. We’re guilty of accepting areas like the North and the Beqaa to be as deprived as they are, and not bat an eye. We’re guilty of not demanding equality for every Lebanese, no matter how far from Beirut they are. We’re guilty of not demanding our own government take the security of its own people more seriously. We should do more than hashtag Je Suis Qaa or Je Suis Blom Bank and call it a day.

In a land of perpetual ironies, the biggest of those is definitely that Al Qaa was hit with terrorist attacks at night yesterday, four of them to be exact two of which were targeting the Church where many had gathered to plan the funeral of the victims, while the city was cut off the electrical grid.

Picture this: thousands of people in a small town that, a few hours prior, was witnessing the worst suicide bombing since the Civil War, not being able to see where the terrorists were coming from, who they were targeting or where they were fleeing to.

Picture this: thousands of innocent Lebanese, gathering in a town targeted by suicide bombers, who were not even given the prerogative of having their night of horror actually have a lamp light.

Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise from a governmental system that has failed over and over again and keeps excelling at failing, but let me ask this: if Qaa’s day had been in Beirut or Jounieh or any other “more important” place for the Lebanese collective, would that place go the night without electricity?

How do we go from here? We need to demand more out of our government. The Lebanese army is not supposed to use flare guns at night in order to see where the terrorists were coming from or fleeing to. Our people are not supposed to beg for light in order not to die in pitch darkness. The fact that after the day it had yesterday, the town of Al Qaa still had no electricity is disgraceful. The fact that after being the victim of 4 terrorist suicide attacks, and security officials asking the people of Al Qaa to remain indoors and vigilant, our government did not think that something might happen after sunset is horrifying.

This is not the time for hateful rhetoric. We should not, as a country, sink to the level they want us to, start pointing hands at people whose only fault was being a victim. This is not the refugees fault. They are not those to blame. This is not their attempt to “turn Lebanon Muslim” as I’ve seen many parade around. This is also not your chance to “bring the Crusaders back” as many seem intent on doing. This is precisely the kind of talk we should avoid.

Don’t blame the refugees. Blame those that made them as such. Blame those that maintain the status quo keeping them refugees. Blame those that made our country part of the Syrian war equation. Blame the government that can’t protect its own people.

Tripoli Is Not A Sectarian City, It’s The Only City To Be Respected These Elections 


Robert Fadel, you have failed your city. 
Lebanese media, you have failed Tripoli yet again and the country once more.

Lebanese people of all kinds, you have fallen once more to your preconceptions about Lebanon’s poorest city and turned it, once again, to a sectarian haven where those scary-Christian-hating Sunnis reign supreme.

On Sunday, May 29th, Tripoli entered the Lebanese history books by being the only major city this election cycle to deliver what everyone can’t but call the biggest democratic political upheaval in Lebanon.

With a dismal 26% voting rate, the people of that city shut down a list that included Hariri’s Future Movement, Miqati, Safadi, Karami, and other factions from the city, sending them to a deafening loss facing a list backed by Rifi.

Their list was running under the slogan of uniting the “Sunni ranks.” To do so, they were backed by the Mufti of Tripoli and had Islamists in their ranks. If Tripoli were sectarian, it would have voted for them. And yet it didn’t. 

Say what you want about Rifi, and I’m not a fan in the very least, but there is a special air to one man single handedly beating giants who thought they could get people to fall in line once more, vote them in once again, and watch them do as they please to the place they call home, which is ruin it and make sure it never amounts to its full potential, which is what they’ve been doing all together for the past 10 years.

It is also the epitome of irony that Rifi beat Hariri, with him being a man who embodies the values that Hariri used to stand for before selling out. It is the mother of failures to be beaten by a man who promises to be harsher on those who killed your father than you.

But that’s not the full story.

Tripoli voted for change. It did what no other major city in this country did. It refused its status quo. It told the country and its major politicians with all their billions and might to go screw themselves. You can’t but salute that.

In voting for change, though, Tripoli’s municipal council turned out to be purely constituted of Muslim Sunnis. The outcry from such a council was immense. How could they? Lebanon’s media cried. I am so upset I will quit, wept now-resigned MP Robert Fadel.

It is also immensely ironic that an MP who was probably spotted in his home city around 5 times in the past 7 years resigns from a parliament in protest of Christians not breaking into that city’s municipal council, but not because he has utterly and irrevocably failed his city in his entire parliamentary tenure. Where was Mr. Fadel’s outrage when the people of Tripoli spent sleepless nights under the barrage of mortar missiles? Where was the outrage when his city’s reputation became that of a place only known for terrorism? Where was the outrage when his city became the Mediterranean’s poorest city? 

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Fadel is a continuation of the horrific Lebanese mentality that an MP is only a representative of their sect, and not as the constitution says, of the entire country. Mr. Fadel, that Sunni you’re upset has taken the spot of a Christian in a municipal board is as much as your constituency as that Christian. 

You can’t blame Robert Fadel much, however. He did something that 126 of his colleagues should have done years ago. It’s a shame he’s doing it under the pretext of setting himself as a Christian figure for the context of an electoral law that might see him need the votes of Christians outside of Tripoli.

But I digress. The fact of the matter is that the Sunnis of Tripoli voted for Christians and Alawite municipal members in droves. Those candidates simply did not win.

On Sunday, May 29, 700 Christians voted in Tripoli out of tens of thousands of registered voters. Christian candidates got over 15763 votes total result. The last winning candidate got 15914. That’s a 150 vote difference only that’s getting everyone to panic. Yes, those 15,763 votes are mostly Sunnis. But never mind, they’re scary.


Tripoli has sectarian people, like any other Lebanese city or town, but it’s not a sectarian city. No city with its history of diversity can be as such. 

How can we cry sectarianism in Tripoli when property sale ads in Christian areas in the country specify the buyer needs to be a Christian? 

How can we cry sectarianism in Tripoli for fear of the fate of the city’s Christians when they didn’t even bother to vote? Also please note that Tripoli’s Christians probably couldn’t care less and have more faith in their Muslim neighbor and friends than someone like Robert Fadel who is supposed to represent them but couldn’t even manage them to get them to vote? 

How can we cry sectarianism when another major city had the list that won wage the following campaign: 


A municipal council should not be defined by the religion of its members. I’m sure the new municipal council in Tripoli will work for the whole city.

Tripoli, you may not have voted the way I wanted on Sunday, but you should be immensely proud in you saying no to your reality and seeking out change. Beirut Madinati tried in Beirut. It did well but did not succeed. Other alternatives to the political hegemony tried in other places and did not succeed as well. Political hegemony was brought to its knees on your streets. Respect. 

What Beirut’s Election Results Tell: Lebanon Can Hope For Change

Beirut Madinati - bIERTE list 2016 2

This post was written with Ramez Dagher from Moulahazat

As promised earlier, this is the more detailed look at how Beirut voted, beyond the surprisingly great outing of the civil movement Beirut Madinati’s list, which even though it didn’t get actual seats, still has plenty to celebrate.

It is important to note that in the most optimistic of cases, the chances for any list other than the list of the political parties to win was next to zero. No this isn’t retrospective analysis. 

Despite the context of the trash crisis, rising corruption, overall voter discontentment, parliament extending its mandate twice, etc… the math of the Beirut electoral equation was never in favor of any non-political movement: the division of districts, the system, demographics, the sectarian propaganda – The Bierteh list had tried to attract voters – especially Christian ones – by proposing a 50-50 Christian/Muslim list, although Beirut Madinati had also kept the same quota.

So no, the cards were not the best that could be given for Beirut Madinati, or any other movement for that matter, simply because those cards were being played on a table that served only one side: the political establishment.

As a result of all of the above, the loudest of voters on Sunday was the low turnout.

20% Voted:

This is not a historically low number. In 2010, 18% of Beirutis voted. Beirutis simply do not vote in Municipal elections, and only do so at slightly higher numbers in parliamentary ones: 33% in 2009.

This is due to many factors. Voter learned helplessness is an important one, but so is the feel that there really isn’t a contest to begin with further increasing the sense of voter apathy. 

33% voted in 1998, the first election since the Civil War, and the lower turnout since should be enough to tell you how much people lost faith.

Many partisan voters were also not willing to vote for the “zayy ma hiye” list but did not want to break lines.

Achrafieh El Bidayi:

Beirut Madinati won the Beirut 1 district with around 60% of the vote, a blow to the rallying calls of Christian parties in the area for their supporters to vote for the Bierti’s list. The 60% figure is not only exclusive to the mostly-Christian Beirut 1, but is also applicable to the Christian vote in the rest of Beirut.

This doesn’t mean the weight of the LF and FPM combined is 40%. Many LF and FPM leaning voters voted for Beirut Madinati more against Hariri, but it sets the precedence that politically affiliated people can go beyond their affiliations and vote in a way that breaks what they were instructed to do.

Boycotts from the bases of the FPM, LF, and Kataeb were also there on election day, as a sign of disagreement with the recent choices of their parties: The FPM electorate isn’t a fan of Hariri; the LF base isn’t a fan of an alliance with the FPM, and the Kataeb aren’t fans of anything.

This lack of enthusiasm was probably one of the causes of the lower turnout in Christian polling stations.

The context of such a vote, however, is probably not sectarian as is circulating. Achrafieh is one of Beirut’s higher socioeconomic areas, with higher income and education rates. You’ll probably see a similar phenomenon in the higher socio-economic districts of Beirut III. Those residents are more likely to vote for issues such as reform, transportation and trash sorting. Those are also the voters that are the less afraid of change.

Many if not all of Lebanon’s parties count on clientelism to widen their electoral base. In higher socio-economic echelons, the reliance of the electorate on the mainstream parties is less.  Those voters don’t need their political parties in the neo-socialist way that most parties in Lebanon function. In Achrafieh, for example, the LF and FPM do not provide medical services, free education, job opportunities for Achrafieh voters as much as other parties in other districts, so throughout the years, the electorate managed to develop an independence from traditional Christian parties.

The Example Of Tariq El Jdide: Anyone Can Be Reached

Sectarian talk is terrible, but is a necessary evil until the political system is not one where people go and vote in segregation based on how they pray. If you crunch Beirut’s numbers, you will end up with a rough figure of around 30% of the Sunni vote not going to Hariri.

This is probably as important, if not more, than BM winning 60% of the vote in Beirut 1.

I don’t believe we can call this a dissent from the Future Movement yet, but it is a continuation of the gradual and progressive Sunni dislike of the way Saad Hariri is running things, even with his rise of popularity after his return.

The reason the Future Movement won is not because voters are “sheep.” It’s because the Future Movement, through various governmental policies, has forced the people of many Sunni areas to always remain in need for their intervention to get the basic necessities that should be a right for every Lebanese citizen, which many in other areas have access to without needing their political parties: do not cut the hand that feeds you.

The political framework of the elections is important. They come at a time when Sunnis in Lebanon feel increasingly threatened by being categorized as potential-Islamists, to the background of a party in power fighting for a regime they do not approve of in Syria.

The need to not break rank was never greater. They may not approve of Hariri, but this was not the time to show it, and yet 30% did. The situation in the country is not one where sects have the prerogative to show cracks in their facade, or have we forgotten how Christians have also forced a seemingly unbreakable veneer over the past few months as well?

All of this makes the 30% figure of Sunnis who did not vote for Hariri all the more impressive and courageous. It’s the kind of percentage that breaks taboos.

Moving Forward:

The election’s overall results are telling. In Beirut I, the LF representative Elie Yahchouchi and the FPM’s Traboulsi lead their allies in the FM by around 800 votes (of around 6500 the list got). In Beirut II, with its important Shia and Armenian electorate, almost all of the winning candidates from LB are in the 9000 votes region. One candidate however, Amal’s representative, stands out as having 10000 votes. In the third district, Yahchouchi and Traboulsi are 5000 votes behind the FM’s candidates.

The difference between the first and the last of list is around 8000 votes for LB, and 3000 votes for BM. In other words, most of those who voted BM did not make major changes to their lists (“tochtib”) and were convinced with almost all of BM’s candidates, while the base of every single party in power was modifying the names.

That is the biggest proof that the ruling coalition is unstable, and that in 2017, even a minor split between the parties in power can lower that 60% and give way to an independent breakthrough. Check the results here.

But now is time to look ahead.

Our voting process needs to be modernized. 36 hours to go through Beirut’s voting results is a disgrace. There are no excuses.

The rhetoric we need to adopt should never call those who do not vote the way we want sheep or other varieties of animals. It is demeaning, and not any different than the system we want to change. Such horrific name-calling only alienates voters from your platform. The core of democracy is one where many will not vote the way you find is best.

Our rhetoric should also be more inclusive, and less elitist. Our bubble in which we believe our paradigm of Lebanese politics is scripture is exclusive to the people that are reached by our message, but the bulk of voters exist outside of that bubble. We need to be aware that what we know and believe is true doesn’t translate to others and work on reforming our message to make it holistic.

This means that calls to divide Beirut into smaller districts just because Achrafieh voted one way and Tariq el Jdide voted another are horrifyingly xenophobic. Beirut is a city that is 18 km2 with 500,000 voters only. It is too small to be divided. We need policies to bring people together, not segregate them into separate cantons.

Accomplishing so starts by championing policies to better the conditions of all Beirutis, especially those that exist in impoverished areas. Beirut Madinati did not, for instance, campaign as much as it should have in Tariq el Jdide.

Political parties in the country keep people at bay by keeping them afraid and hungry. Keep them as such, and they remain at their mercy. The first step in breaking this political hegemony is to make them need their political parties less: advocate for better schools, better and more comprehensive healthcare, fight economic inflation, raise the minimum wage, adopt a better taxing scheme, etc…

Such measures, however, cannot be done by simply complaining on Facebook. Modernizing our elections isn’t only about getting electronic voting machines, but also about having an electoral law that is fitting of the year 2016. The only law that can work to represent all different sections of Lebanon’s society is a law based on proportional representation. If such a law were adopted, for example, Beirut Madinati would have obtained 9 seats out of the available 24 on Sunday.

Proportional representation, as proposed during a cabinet meeting in 2010 tackling the municipal electoral law, is one of many reforms, such as electing the mayor directly from the people, and a 30% women quota, that are napping in parliament. The establishment is making it harder, but that shouldn’t mean that pressure should stop.

We also need to realize that, despite disagreeing with them, political parties are not going away. If we are to leave a mark, we have to find a framework in which we organize into a party that can compete better in elections, in politics and do so in unity: one of our biggest failings in this election was having like-minded people run on two different lists.

Today, we should be cautiously optimistic at what the future holds. Change in Lebanon is not a sudden process. It’s a tedious affair that needs planning over many years. Start planning for 2017’s parliamentary elections today and 2022’s municipal elections yesterday. Do not despair, and most importantly, always challenge the status quo regardless of how comfortable you are in it.

 

Geagea and Aoun’s New Love Fest: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun

In a widely predicted move, LF leader Samir Geagea and FPM leader Michel Aoun came out with a political understanding yesterday that saw the former supporting the latter for Lebanon’s presidency, after about 33 failed attempts at electing a president and 30 years of the same practiced politics.

Lebanon’s Christian field was predominantly supportive. After all, the whole burying the hatchet fest that we saw on TV was done because Christianity, and Christians sure love seeing #TeamJesus in all its glory on Lebanese TV.

The Good:

We can now say that on January 18th, 2016, after around 30 years of feud, Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun finally saw eye to eye in something. A more zealous response would be: LET THEM KNOW NOW THAT CHRISTIANS WILL NEVER BE PUT ASIDE AGAIN, etc. But that’s not really the case.

It’s good to see a semblance of unity occur regardless of what that unity might mean. It’s good to see Geagea and Aoun talk things out.

But.

The Bad:

Many think that this move was visionary. The fact of the matter is it’s nothing other than reactionary to Saad Hariri nominating Sleiman Frangieh for president a few weeks ago. The only disturbance in the presidential race, protracted and dull as it was, was Saad Hariri’s deal back in November-December. That disturbance became the catalyst behind both the FPM and the LF’s deal today in order to “reclaim” their constitution-given Christian right.

How good can a move made in reaction and spite be, rather than it being foreseeing and contemplative, especially in the grand picture of Lebanese politics that not only requires foresight to navigate its murky waters? Why don’t you refer to Jumblat for that?

What this move does is not elevate the level of politics that Geagea and Aoun are practicing. It’s not a good thing that Lebanon’s Christian community is now practicing the same kind of tribal politics that the country’s other factions do. By “uniting,” Geagea and Aoun moved from their failed politics on a national level to failed politics on a sectarian level.

Yes, they were Christian leaders first and foremost, many of their policies had inter-sectarian tendencies. How will they move from here? Not in that way, clearly.

The move also comes to the backdrop of a 10 point agreement that the two forged over the past 6 months. It reads as follows:

Geagea Aoun Agreement

The agreement’s key points then are the following:

  • No use of weapons in case of conflict,
  • Supporting the Lebanese army in governing the entirety of Lebanon’s territories alone,
  • A Switzerland-esque foreign policy to get the country to avoid struggles,
  • Supporting UN resolutions,
  • A new electoral law.

Sure, those headlines are all wonderful, and looking at them with no critical thought warrants giving their alliance a second thought. But you can’t not be critical of Lebanese political talk, and the question therefore becomes: how will they do them?

The difference in ideology between Geagea and Aoun is not only related to their Civil War days: the two were supremely divergent even in times of “peace.” They have not agreed on an electoral law other than the Orthodox Law, and even that agreement was more about whose balls are bigger rather than it being done with political wisdom. They have not agreed on which kind of foreign policy they see best for the country. They have not agreed on which way is best to actually get the army to be the only rightful security force in the country, and how to implement all kinds of UN resolutions (hinting at ridding Hezbollah of its weapons).

Alliances need to have a minimum of common ideology. Establishing them just for the sake of common interests in the short run will prove, in the long run, to be detrimental, especially when it affects an entire community (in this case Lebanon’s Christians).

Is this how Christian rights are restored? By making Lebanon’s Christians more exclusive rather than inclusive? By making them more sequestered? By thirding the country instead of keeping it halved? By turning Christians from the entity that governed Lebanon’s dichotomy to another destabilizing agent in an unstable country?

Ignoring the differences that these two presented to Lebanon’s Christian community is the first step towards removing any semblance of democracy from that community. Difference is not to be feared in political contexts. Disregarding it is what’s scary.

The Ugly:

Geagea and Aoun made peace. But I have to wonder: what kind of peace?

They’re making the kind of peace that requires us to bury our heads in the sand, like the perpetual ostriches that our Lebanese existence has made us into; the kind of peace that does not deal with the past requiring such a peace to be made in the first place, effectively making it a recipe for impeding disaster.

The argument goes: other factions have done these peace making deals before, and as such Christians doing it should be celebrated. Making peace is good. But is it?

Is the peace made by Lebanon’s other war factions actual peace? The idea of making peace invokes stability. Is the country stable? Is making peace in spite of history not through it, as all those other factions have done, putting the country on the right path towards healing post our civil war?

I look around and see people from different sects still hating each other, still worried about the intentions of one another. I look around and see a political discourse that still gets those who have supposedly made up after our civil war to fear each other.

What kind of peace are they talking about then?

There are things that are a little too late, and this is one of them. Where was the common interest of Lebanon’s Christian community 30 years ago when these two were actively working on canceling each other out, when their wars tore apart Christian communities and left thousands of victims in their wake?

Yes, this is not the time to bring up war-time memories, but healing only starts with remembering.  Would there have been a need for such a “deal” to be made in 2016 had those two actually cared about the community they’re panicking about today back in the 1980s?

Peace cannot be made by those who only know war.

The Uglier:

I’m afraid to inform you my fellow Lebanese that this “alliance” does not, in any way, affect your life as a Lebanese in the ways that actually matter.

It will not bring you electricity.

It will not fix your garbage crisis.

It will not make your internet faster so you can stream Netflix.

It will not increase your minimum wage.

It will not make your passport worthwhile.

It will not stop the “SSSS” checks on your boarding passes and “random” checkups in airports.

It will not stop ISIS.

It will not extract the oil from our fields.

And, ironically, it does not even guarantee that a president be elected.

Our Lebanese reality cannot be changed when the same people who have been practicing their failed politics over us for 30 years start practicing their politics together.

The Funny:

To end this on a happier note, I can’t but share a few of the lighter tones with which some Lebanese handled the news, in the joke that this actually is:

US Presidential Nominee Jeb Bush on Lebanon: “If You’re A Christian, You’ll Be Beheaded”

Jeb Bush

The joy of Republican primaries unfolds as their latest took place yesterday, right on their safe haven Fox, in yet another scene of Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, his friends making fools out of themselves for everyone except their base, much to the shock of the entire world and the dismay of the intellect of a few billion people around the World. Yet again, what’s new.

Their discussions veered from building walls to stop Mexicans from entering the United States, to throwing a few million immigrants out of the country and back where they came from, along with a few pinches of homo and xenophobia before going on about how comprehensive healthcare and equality are the satanic manifestations of the coming of the anti-Christ.

Sure, such topics are interesting to discuss in times when you’re just bored out of your mind with Lebanon’s stagnant politics that you feel like talking about something that’s stimulating to a certain extent. Did you know politics can be more than just the whole “to be or not to be” mantra? For years, I had no idea.

Except yesterday, while trying to score a few points in a growingly depressing campaign, Jeb Bush – the brother of infamous previous American president George W. Bush – decided to score a few points on our behalf by flexing his muscles and pretending that he, out of all people, cared for those Christians of the East, notably Lebanese Christians, who are getting beheaded in their own country. And no, he is not smart enough to mean that in the sense of Christians not having a president and thus having their figurative political head absent.

The exchange went as follows:

Trump was going on about how Putin “going in and we can go in and everybody should go in,” presumably to Syria, Fox cut to Bush on the split screen, shaking his head, waiting to tell people how Trump was wrong. Brace yourselves for his big moment.

“Donald is wrong on this,” Bush said. “He is absolutely wrong on this. We are not going to be the world’s policeman, but we sure as heck better be the world’s leader. There’s a huge difference.”

Hurray! Big words. World’s leader and not its policeman, whatever it means, serves as a helluva good sentence for future America, don’t you think?

The audience applauded. Could Jeb Bush use this moment to turn the tides?

Of course not. He then used the next few moments to talk about Syria being a board game akin to monopoly, unless you count the few hundred thousand people dying in the process, before moving on to his magnum opus as it pertains to us: “If you’re a Christian, increasingly, in Lebanon…you’re going to be beheaded.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Lebanese Christians have something more to fear than red Starbucks cups. Someone is out there to behead us, if only I knew who. Care to enlighten me Mr. Bush?

This post won’t be about how Jeb Bush is wrong. Any person with a sane mind who is willing to go beyond what is being told on a biased, xenophobic and Islamophobic TV station will probably know that Christians are not – contrary to popular opinion – currently walking around Lebanon, like Nearly Headless Nick, with their heads propped on their shoulders.

Any person with an inkling on foreign affairs would know that Lebanon is such a big fat religious cliché it’s become not only nauseating to tell, but a huge hurdle to overcome when it comes to making things in governance work. But that’s another topic for another day. The biggest threat to Christians in Lebanon today, Mr. Bush, is probably the fact that there’s no way to get their garbage picked up.

The truly horrifying aspect of Mr. Bush’s statement is not only in its ignorance, but in its repercussions. It shows how this man, who really, really wants to be president just like his brother and father, knows next to nothing about a very important facet of ruling a country that wants to become/remain? the world’s leader as he so eloquently said. If Jeb Bush thinks Lebanese Christians are dropping dead on their country’s street, what has he left to the people of the Middle East whose suffering actually extends beyond not being able to party at SkyBar this summer or pretending that their political rights are being eaten away while they discuss the best way to buy a $700 Balmain dress (whatever that is) at H&M.

Dear Mr. Bush, my parents are not afraid of being beheaded. They’re afraid of how the long-standing repercussions of the instability your country helped incur on their region will affect their children’s stability, their job prospects, their ability to make ends meet and to live life and have it abundantly. And yes, that’s a Bible verse paraphrased in case you didn’t know.

Dear Mr. Bush, my parents are not the only ones afraid in this country. Everyone is in danger. We’re all victims of a government that has no idea how to govern. We’re all victims of your own country’s blind policies that only sees the region as “Israel and Others.” We’re all victims, Muslims and Christians of being constantly lumped as those beheading and those beheaded by those who have no idea how it is to live in a country teetering at the age of chaos.

Dear Mr. Bush, sometimes the best thing to do is to stay quiet. I suggest you do this sometimes and find other ways to beat Donald Trump than to let people think I’m writing this from beyond the grave.

Dear MTV Lebanon, Lebanese ARE Racist

There’s plenty that MTV could have covered in their news: A failed 25th attempt at electing a president, more debate and analysis over the Roumieh torture videos, SaudiLeaks cables, etc… The same applies to any Lebanese TV station, clearly.

Instead of covering what actually matters, however, MTV decides to be offended by a Ramadan series aired on its rival LBC. Why? Because, and I quote MTV, “it’s showing Lebanese in a wrong light by portraying them as racist towards Syrians.”

I’ve watched the video over and over again. I honestly have no idea what that TV station is smoking or what that reporter is drinking or what country Naccache is located in because it sure doesn’t feel like the country I’m in.

This is the report currently making rounds, and which will make your blood boil for its sheer narrow-mindedness, lala landness and utter ridiculousness:

I don’t know about MTV, but let me talk about the Lebanon I come from.

1) A few months ago, my hometown decided to enforce a curfew on Syrians. Because that wasn’t enough, some men decided they wanted to form night guard duties, weapons and all, against those Syrians. It wasn’t even a hidden thing. It was a Ebrine normality. In between their “guard” duties, some of those men physically assaulted many Syrians simply because they existed outside of their rooms beyond their forced curfew. A pregnant Syrian woman had to take permission to go out of her house to the hospital to give birth. And the examples are ever-flowing. You can read this article for more info (link).

2) A couple of years ago, Annahar decided to go around Beirut and ask a few Lebanese what they thought of the Syrian refugee presence in their countries. The result was the following video:

I’m particularly interested how someone saying, and I quote, “there are so many Syrians here we might as well call it Syria,” qualifies as tolerance. Or how “I’m afraid of walking on the streets now because there are more Syrians than Lebanese” is a sign of progressiveness. I digress. Let’s proceed.

3) Since MTV was beyond pissed about how that TV show portrayed Achrafieh, let’s see what was all around Achrafieh just a year ago. Luckily, the internet is a beautiful thing, so pictures are aplenty and here are pictures to you:

Again, I’m trying to see how such signs, years after the withdrawal of Syrian troops and a clear manifestation of Christian xenophobia in a heavily Christian region are an indication of how tolerant and open minded we are as Lebanese.

4) With the influx of Syrians into the country, many municipalities, like mine, decided to start curfews for Syrians. Many took this a step further as well. Some places had political parties also come up with posters for the purpose of doubling down on the increasing Syrian presence in Lebanon:

The posters translate into the following: “No Syrian is allowed in this area starting this date or they’ll be insulted, beaten along with whoever’s helping them.” Another one says: “Boycott illegal labor. Hire Lebanese.”

Nothing was done about this back then. Few were the voices that called these as they were, racist and degrading. But we went about our days normally. Have a TV series give the narrative to a Syrian FICTIVE character? Oh Lord no, our Lebanese oversensitive pride won’t have that.

5) It’s been only two days that the following picture made the rounds on social media. An AUB student took a picture of Syrians and captioned it, on Instagram with filters and all: “Many heads, but no brains. #Syrians.” The outrage at that student was entirely political. I’m willing to bet most of those outraged at him were so simply because his political background serves as fuel to their own political hatred, more so than for them being caring about Syrians per se. But still, it clearly shows that such mentalities exist today and are aplenty.

Syrians Racism Lebanon

6) Now that we’ve established that MTV lives in a separate realm of existence (let them talk to Stephen Hawking, he’d be interested), let’s go over a quick survey of the many things we’ve all heard about Syrians and Syria, among people that we all know: Oh look, a Syrian. Oh, there are too many Syrians, be careful. The best thing to come out of Syria is “el festo2 el 7alabi.” And let’s not start with all the homsi jokes, which is when we are taught to be racist towards Syrians the moment we become aware.

But dear MTV, many Lebanese are not racist towards Syrians only. They’re also racist to those of nationalities they deem lesser.

Don’t you remember the guy who wouldn’t shake hands with people who are black?

Don’t you remember that Mothers’ Day ad about special offers on maids?

Don’t you remember the countless MEA reports about racism aboard their airlines? 

Don’t you remember the many maids that lost their lives to abusive employers and have no laws to protect them?

Don’t you remember that picture of the purse getting a seat while the maid remains standing as her family has lunch? 

We’re not only racist towards other nationalities. We’re also racist to each other. If you walk around MTV’s beloved Achrafieh, you are bound to find plenty of “Ra7 Tdall Jrasna Tde2” graffiti plastered around red crosses. Those newly coated with paint to keep their memory as fresh as their color. Who do you think they’re targeted to? Let’s just say it’s not someone who worships the Cross. For reference, I also have this to look at every morning:

 

 

People in Keserwan have endless stories about them chastising “el gharib.” The people of Tripoli are ridiculed by many because of the situation in their city. I have friends from Tripoli who changed their city on their CV because they know it decreases their chances to get hired. But please, tell me more about how we are not racist.

This isn’t to say that every single Lebanese is racist. There are many movements across the country to combat such mentalities. There are many people who are as far from racism as MTV is from being an objective and decent news outlet. The inherent problem isn’t only racism, it’s us pretending that there isn’t such a problem to begin with, it’s outlets like MTV – with substantial power and reach – engorging the ever-growing Lebanese ego, tapping it on the back, and telling it that there’s nothing wrong with you.

Fixing the problem starts with acknowledging it, not being offended by its existence. This is just shameful.