Dear Lebanon, Your Dignity Has More To Worry About Than a Facebook Status

A few days ago, a Lebanese journalist named Bassel Al Amin wrote a Facebook status that saw him thrown in jail. You’d never hear of such a sentence in any “civilized” country around the world, regardless of the content of said Facebook status, but here we are.

amin-1

It translates to:

“The shoe of the Syrian refugee and worker and citizen is worth more than your Republic, your cedar, your Lebanon, your right-wing, independence, your government, history, revolution, and presidents. Do you get it?”

Many journalists and activists have risen up to defend Al Amin with the hashtag: A status is not a crime. Of course, many others have also taken up the anti-Al-Amin camp with their proclamation, such as MTV in this piece of theirs, that – and I quote:

“We are faced with a segment of the population that wants to say what it pleases, whenever it pleases. It’s a segment that is completely in refusal of everything and doesn’t hesitate to insult our nation and express an opinion that should never ever transgress on the dignity of our country and our citizens. And even if what Al Amin wrote expresses the opinion of some people, then those should relinquish their Lebanese nationality.”

Let’s put it out there. What Al Amin said is nauseating. You can criticize anything you want about the country in any way that you like, and if you read my blog you’d know there’s nothing I like more than that, but I find that reverting to insults or derogatory rhetoric to get a point across takes away of the point you are making.

That said, let me put this out there as well: it is Bassel Al Amin’s right to say whatever he wants to say about anything that he wants, Lebanese Republic and presidents and politicians and botany, and still not be thrown in jail because of it.

The moment we start to limit what we are allowed and not allowed to say, we give our government and every censorship bureau out there a more than open occasion into further limiting the scope of what we can say in absolute terms. How long would it be, if we stay silent about the arrest of a Lebanese citizen because of a Facebook status, before our own statuses and tweets and even words on the street that we say to friends become the subject of lawsuits or arrests because someone with political or legal muscle decided they were “offensive” or “illegal?””

MTV may not like this, given their categorization of our segment of the population as one that wants to say “whatever it wants whenever it pleases,” but that is actually our right. I am supposed to be able to say whatever I want, whenever I want, and however I want, and you, MTV and those who believe in what it has said, are just supposed to deal with it in the multiple of ways that you can do so with, beginning with actually debating what I have to say and not stringing up poetic language to show people how my opinion or even my formulation of an opinion is a horrific act.

Lawyers across the country have agreed that Bassel Al Amin’s words are not, in fact, legal. However, a law existing does not mean the law is right. To note, Lebanon’s penal code has article 522 which allows a rapist to be absolved of his crime if he marries the woman he raped. The Lebanese penal code also has article 534 which bans “sexual acts contrary to nature,” an article that was used quite proficiently by Lebanon’s authorities on some occasions to arrest LGBT people.

The arrest of Al-Amin is also as hypocritical as it can get. A few years ago, Jean Assy, a prominent FPM supporter, went on a Twitter tirade against the former (then current) Lebanese president Michel Sleiman, leading to his arrest – albeit for very limited time. Gebran Bassil, son in law and politician galore of current Lebanese president, tweeted the following back then:

gerban-bassil-tweet

Perhaps tweeting and Facebooking is only a crime when it touches upon your president or your own political party?

This whole talk about national “dignity” being represented in the most mundane of things – tweets, statuses, what have you – reminds me of a debate the United States was having when I was there a few days ago.

When Donald Trump (cringes) tweeted (cringes again) that he was going to prosecute and/or take away the American nationality from everyone who burned the American flag, the US was divided. What was a fact, regardless of what Trump and his supporters wanted, was that the burning of the American flag was a protected act under the first amendment of the United States constitution, which guaranteers freedom of expression, therefore turning the burning of a flag – arguably one of the highest insults to a country – as an expression of freedom of speech.

Lebanon, we have a long way to go.

But for those who are worried about their dignity as Lebanese because of a Facebook status, let me remind you of the following:

  1. You do not have 24/7 electricity,
  2. You do not have access to water all the time,
  3. Your internet sucks,
  4. Your security situation is as precarious as it can be,
  5. You need a visa to go to almost anywhere,
  6. Your passport is the most expensive around the world,
  7. You have not voted for parliament since 2009,
  8. You stayed without a president for more than 2 and a half years, after a president that needed more than 8 months of void to be elected,
  9. You literally live in garbage,
  10. Your women can – as of the writing of this post – be raped and then proposed to and everything becomes okay,
  11. Your women cannot pass on their citizenship to their children, something that many of you wholeheartedly agree with,
  12. Your women can be victims of domestic abuse without repercussions.
  13. Your LGBT population’s existence is considered “illegal,”
  14. Your roads are in disrepair,
  15. Your infrastructure is near non-existing,
  16. Many see the country’s worth as contingent upon the well being of their religious sect,
  17. Censorship bureaus decide what you get to be exposed to depending on their whims,
  18. Not having a national budget since 2005?
  19. Your politicians – read Wiam Wahhab – having militias,
  20. The country having militias to begin with,
  21. You getting “SSSS”‘ed at airports just because you’re Lebanese,
  22. You getting secondary interrogations before entering countries even after you’re given a visa because you’re Lebanese,
  23. Smugglers and criminals being arrested and then freed a short while later because you need them to buy cheap phones,
  24. Your very last public beach in Beirut will soon become a resort,
  25. Your entire coast – your public property – is something you need to pay to access (refer to this for comparison),
  26. Your forests are subject to “accidental” fires but their wood ends up in your fireplaces anyway,
  27. Your governmental facilities are among the world’s most corrupt,
  28. You consistently rank among the countries with the least faith in their politicians… but keep on voting for them anyway,
  29. You put curfews for foreigners depending on where they come from,
  30. Your political class is basically warlords.

But yes, please tell me more about how our dignity was irreparably insulted by a Facebook status?

When Gebran Bassil’s Goons Don’t Understand Freedom of Speech

Breaking news: Gebran Bassil turned out to be yet another racist Lebanese politician. I have no idea how this piece of news was in any way a surprise, but over the past few days it’s almost the only thing people are talking about, apart from the fact that our phones now need Maps updates in order to skip the roads where garbage bags have started to take up lanes.

The details are as follows:

A few days ago, Gebran Bassil’s twitter account was quoting a speech he was giving in the United States to an audience of Lebanese expats ($10 says they’re voting for Trump in 49 days). In that speech, Bassil dropped the following:

The speech excerpts translate to:

  • I support giving Lebanese women who marry foreigners the right to pass on their nationality to their children but our constitution and societal fabrics don’t allow to give the Lebanese nationality to 400,000 Palestinians.
  • I support the law that allows Lebanese women to pass on their nationality to their children, with the exception of Syrians and Palestinians to maintain our land.

Of course, it has probably escaped Bassil in that moment that St. Maroun, after whom his sect was named, was Syrian and Jesus, after whom he prays, was Palestinian, but that’s besides the point. Certainly, however, Bassil wouldn’t have had a problem if those Syrians and Palestinians weren’t mostly Muslim. I wonder, how different would his statement have been had those refugees been mostly Christian like him? I can imagine him now, à la Oprah, distributing nationalities left and right: YOU ARE LEBANESE, YOU ARE LEBANESE, YOU AAAAAALL ARE LEBANESE!

Context to Bassil’s tweets, however, remains important. His statements do not come from void. They emanate from a public sentiment that has only managed to gain popularity over the past few years with around 2 million Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon. Of course, as is the case with Lebanon’s statistics, numbers do not exist. But it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that Bassil’s speech is not at odds with what the prevalent majority of Christians believes to be true, and a sizable portion of Lebanon’s Muslim community.

Yet again, the sentiment in the aforementioned denominations arise from their incessant need for self-sectarian preservation and are devoid from any national affinity towards a more global Lebanese state. Either way, I digress.

The uproar towards Bassil’s statements has been deafening. Human Rights Watch issued a statement whereby they found what he said to be abhorrent, in contradiction to the international treaties that Lebanon has signed in regards to women rights, and shameful to come from the minister of foreign affairs who is, whether we like it or not, the face of Lebanon to the world. Sorry #LiveLoveBeirut, you’re not it.

A slew of tweets and Facebook posts criticizing Bassil were also widely circulated, of which the satirical Facebook page Adeela led the forefront with a bunch of posts addressing Bassil’s tweets:

Lebanese blogger Mahmoud Ghazayel had a tweet (now deleted) in which he corrected Bassil’s statement to this:

fullsizerender-4

So far so good, right? Except this didn’t remain as just a manifestation of Lebanese online degrees of freedom because before you knew it, the situation – thanks to massive reports by Bassil’s online henchmen – became as follows:

Every single post that criticized Bassil about his racist tweets was removed because of Facebook reports, while the social media platform never bothered to check for the background upon which those reports were being filed in the first place, or the statements being criticized to begin with.

As a result, if you try and say something negative about Bassil’s statements, thousands will end up putting you in Facebook jail for at least 24 hours because you somehow violated the terms of being on that website, by simply expressing an opinion.

Maybe it’s fear of  exposing how ridiculous Bassil’s proposition – even if echoed by many – is. Maybe it’s wanting to keep his image pristine in their eyes, albeit it being irrevocably damaged in the minds of many others. Maybe it’s them wanting to keep a semblance of pride.

What Bassil’s goons seem to fail to grasp is that with every post they manage to bring down, ten more will spring up in their place. As it is their right to believe and want to defend what Bassil said, it is the right of every other Lebanese who categorically and irrevocably disagrees to not only criticize but mock those statements until kingdom come, whether they like it or not.

As the stench of garbage and filth overtakes their nares in every cubic meter of air in Beirut, as they spend countless hours without electricity, as they pray for the heavens for internet to be fast enough to load the images in this post, as they debate whether to flush or not because water is scarce, let them have all of that pride and the politicians whose image they want to keep. Let them have their “holy” land, their “better-than-thou” attitude towards anyone and anything they deem lesser. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many Facebook reports are issued, common sense will prevail.

PS: Dear Facebook, re-assess yourself, why don’t you? 

When The FPM Is In Full Blown Despair: Assaad Thebian Did Nothing Wrong

If you had any doubt that the FPM is a politically bankrupt party, now’s the time to be certain of it.

If you had any doubt that their website, Tayyar.org, was worse than the garbage filling our streets, today is the day when this becomes clearer than day.

Today, the FPM is in full blown crisis mode.

The Free Patriotic Oxymoron wants us to vote for a president. But they couldn’t even vote for their own one because their boss was too afraid his lovely son in law wouldn’t be their chosen one.

Today, the Free Patriotic Hypocrisy wants to reform and change the country, but they’ve been in power since 2005 and haven’t done any of that. 24/24 electricity in 2015? Wait while I go fix the generator.

Today, the Free Patriotic Whatever wants you to see how they’re secular, but their only rhetoric is about Christian rights, also known as the biggest load of bullshit of the year.

They want you to think they’re against the government, but they just happen to be part of it. They want you to think they’re against parliament’s mandate extension, but they just happen to have the biggest parliamentary bloc today.

*More orange applause here.*

And today, because the FPM is so scared of the #YouStink movement, because they’ve seen how a non-partisan, secular movement managed to get WAY more people than the 500 they got on their streets in their BIG revolt for Christian rights, they are after one of the organizers of the YouStink movement, Assaad Thebian.

For reference, this is Aoun’s latest excursion:

Aoun Protest

And this is the YouStink protest:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 1

How? By digging up old Facebook statuses of his in which he makes jokes about Christianity.

How? By doing what Aounists do best, look at other people’s “mistakes” while utterly and irrevocably ignoring exactly how demented their ranks have become.

How? By basking in the glories of hypocrisy under the veil of Christianity. Haven’t you heard? Aoun is the next coming of Jesus, y’all!

The following are the Facebook posts that offended the FPM so much:

And because there’s nothing more I’d love to do now than to figuratively bash their rhetoric into oblivion, let’s remind the Lebanese masses exactly how hypocritical, deluded and – forgive them Father for they have sinned – blasphemous they are.

1) #IlsSontCharlieWHeik:

Here is Gebran Bassil pretending that he’s the Foreign Affairs Minister of a First World Country, caring for Freedom of Speech and whatnot at the Charlie Hebdo rally to support the victims of the very horrendous crime that took place in Paris earlier this year:

Assaad Thebian FPM Gebran Bassil Charlie Hebdo

Except clearly freedom of speech is only allowed when it’s not practiced in Lebanon and where pretending we care about it gives our country a good name. All formalities, as you know, because as it is with the FPM words always speak louder than actions.

These are the covers that Gebran Bassil was defending while in Paris, note that they offend both Christianity and Islam, in a way much MUCH worse than Assaad Thebian ever did, but who cares, right?

2) I kneel in front of you, Oh General:

When Gebran Bassil was made president of the FPM, he started his new promotion with a very enticing speech addressing his father-in-law, mentor Michel Aoun. In it he said, and I translate loosely: “Oh general, you leader and mentor and companion, I kneel in front of you along with my compatriots so you could bless us.”

So let me get this, Aoun was giving up on becoming president so he decided to become Jesus? In the name of the Father, His Son in Law, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Yes, that sounds about right.

This wasn’t the first time Aounists turned their leader into God.

3) Aoun in the Heart of Mary:

A few weeks ago, MP Nabil Nicolas, who was the first to rush down to Martyrs’ Square a few weeks ago and support the #YouStink movement, posted a picture on his Facebook account of his leader, Aoun, in the heart of the Virgin Mary. No further comment needed:

Nabil Nicolas Michel Aoun

4) They Tried to Hijack #YouStink, But Then Changed Their Mind:

If you also needed more examples on how hypocritical these FPM leaders are, only look at their attempts to hijack the #YouStink movements under the guise that it’s echoing their demands. Yes, right.

First was this tweet by Gebran Bassil:

Gebran Bassil Tweet August 22 Protest YouStink

Then Nabil Nicolas tried to join the protests. Then minister Elias Abi Saab tried to join the protests as well. The nerve that these people have.

Then Gebran tweeted again:

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 8.34.10 PM

Then they decided the movement was not something they wanted to get involved in. I guess they realized, about a month later, that the movement was against them too.

5) Attacking The Patriarch:

And because we’re digging up stuff from a past long-gone by now, why not dig up something from the FPM’s past? Something like video footage of them attacking the Maronite Patriarch and Bkerki simply because they didn’t agree with Bkerki’s stances?

People in glass houses should not throw stones.

The FPM Doesn’t Just Stink, It Reeks:

Attacking Assaad Thebian is the FPM’s desperate attempt at getting whatever supporters it has left to rally behind the only thing they can use: religion. When your political message fails, when you become so desperate, when you become absolutely dumb-founded by a reality in which you do not matter, you go back to what you know, and the only thing the FPM knows is hate, hypocrisy, and enticing religious tension.

This party’s people saw fitting to scroll down a person’s PERSONAL Facebook page and dig up posts from over a year ago in order to score a few points on a non-partisan and secular movement simply because they felt threatened. Stalkers much?

What’s outrageous here isn’t Assaad Thebian’s personal opinion on religion, which he is 100% entitled to have, on his personal Facebook page, to his friends, but the fact that someone took the effort to make sure and invade his privacy, post these opinions for everyone to see and then have a lawsuit filed against him.

If only I had the financial resources to sue Nabil Nicolas or Gebran Bassil for blasphemy.

Christianity By Name, Never By Action:

This new breed of Christians, as exemplified by those outraged by Assaad Thebian’s Facebook statuses, are exactly what is wrong with Christianity today. They are those people who proclaim to be Christian just for the fun of it, but when it comes to practice, they are as far from it as it can be. Christianity is not only an ID categorization, but a way of life. Don’t tell them I told you this, though.

In between the “bedde nik kess emmo la Assaad Thebian” comments (what did his mother every do to you?), and the various responses that don’t only verge on hate, but fall precariously into the sectarian trash talk that the FPM has long been practicing, this is “Christianity” exemplified:

What would Jesus do? He’d slap them across the face, that’s what he’d do.

The Difference Between Us And You:

And here lies the biggest difference between us, those supporting the #YouStink movement in all our forms and colors and religious affiliation or lack thereof, and you. We do not follow a leader, we follow a cause. We are not protesting for someone. We are protesting because this country needs us to protest, because it is our national duty to stand up to the shit that your leader and his friends have gotten us into over the past 10 years.

Assaad Thebian is not a figure that defines the #YouStink movement, he is a figure of the movement. He is entitled to his opinion, and I will defend his right to that opinion in the face of hypocrites and anyone who thinks he should not have an opinion that trespasses on their belief system.

You? Well, you are people who are called after a person’s last name. You are people who are now wondering if your name should be changed to your new leader’s last name. You are followers not to a cause, but to a figure. You move the way that figure sways. You don’t have an ideology, you have a new god to worship.

Between us an you, the only people committing blasphemy are you.

Why #ThankBassil Backfired

Yesterday night, Nicolas Sehanoui decided to take his twitter presence and use it in support of another minister in his now-defunct cabinet. The minister he decided to support was Gebran Bassil, one of the FPM’s more polarizing figures. Mr. Sehanoui figured that tweeting some of Bassil’s “achievements” in the ministry of energy and water with the hashtag #ThankBassil would get people talking.

Well, people got talking alright. But it wasn’t good at all. Instead of the hashtag turning into something positive to light Gebran Bassil’s future electoral days, no pun, it became a space for people across the twitter spectrum to express their true sentiment regarding the minister. Saying those sentiments weren’t nice would be an understatement: people are still making fun of that hashtag today, almost 24 hours later.

Many FPM supporters cannot fathom how people can’t get past their prejudice agains this man and look at his achievements. But the reasons for that are actually quite simple. Let me try to list them:

1) Gebran Bassil is simply unlikeable. This is common knowledge among Batrounis, even those in the FPM circle. Many of the level-headed FPMers I’ve spoken to admit that any other “choice” for a battle-candidate in the region would get more votes. Why’s that? Because Gebran Bassil isn’t held in the best regards among those in the FPM, despite what they try to show, and he is not liked enough to get the votes of those who are politically “independent” in the region. Case in point? He lost twice. Another case in point? Even in Michel Aoun’s Christian hayday, he barely managed to get a majority in the caza. Nicolas Sehanoui, for instance, shares Gebran Bassil’s views. But he is likeable enough to get me to maybe consider voting for him. I don’t vote in Achrafieh so there’s that.

2) What is the source of said-achievements? It’s easy to categorize everyone on Twitter as a blind supporter of political parties here and there. Many actually are. But you know what’s also interesting about Twitter? It’s a space for many Lebanese who are fed up to express that sentiment. I am one of those people. I have no problem acknowledging when someone has done a good job. What I have a hard time doing, however, is to believe rhetoric that comes from political sources that have an agenda behind each word they blurt out: every number, every syllable, every point.

3) Have you seen some of those “achievements?” One example that comes to mind is the oil achievement. Am I supposed to be grateful and eternally thankful to Gebran Bassil that Lebanon has oil, something which many of us have known for years and years now? For reference, digging sites were set up in my Batrouni hometown in the 1970s for that matter. Or how about all those dams whose projects have been around since 1960? Are all the achievements non-sensical? Perhaps not. But I don’t trust any Lebanese politician enough to give them blind thumps up.

4) Why should I be thankful to anyone again? I’ve said it before in this article (link) but I don’t want to ever be thankful to any politician whatsoever for doing what they are theoretically required to do, regardless of how well they do their job. If I see tangible improvement in a certain area, which I’m not seeing with Bassil so far, I point it out. If them doing their job is absolutely horrendous, Gaby Layoun comes to mind, then I’ll point it out as well. It is our duty as aware Lebanese people not to get carried away with political hype, especially if it comes pre-electorally, and be critical of what we hear and what politicians do. But never, ever, be eternally grateful for something someone should be doing regardless of what his or her predecessors did. Meaning: when I start practicing medicine, please don’t be eternally grateful for me curing you when you are paying me to do it.

5) Does it even make sense for politicians of the same political party to start thanking each other for their accomplishments on social media? What’s next, have Gaby Layoun thank Minister Sehanoui next week and have minister Bassil thank Layoun the week after that? How is ministerial twitter love-fest remotely acceptable?

6) If you’re from Batroun, you’d know that Gebran Bassil is being paraded around these days almost everywhere. Thank you Gebran Bassil posters are literally everywhere across my region (pictures). Why’s that? Because the man is going around the country, to every single place his ministry has started a project, to make sure the project gets affixed to his name forever. Why is he doing that in the first place? Because he knows he won’t be going back to the ministry next time and he doesn’t want his “achievements” to be affixed to anyone else’s name. Two questions can be asked here: Did he take “accomplishments” from previous ministers? And isn’t #thankbassil another extension of the media frenzy?

7) Last but not least, if you’re from Batroun as well, you’d remember a little book that was also distributed across the region in 2009 ahead of the parliamentary elections to list Gebran Bassil’s achievements. Sounds familiar, right? Well, that little book was not only trashed, it was torn apart by criticism because it was so bloated and full of achievements that were not simply true. That little book was one of the reasons Gebran Bassil lost the elections in 2009. If you’re not from Batroun, now you know.

I met Gebran Bassil a while back at my hometown’s local church hall as he paid his respect to a deceased relative. He is very good friends with my aunt who was his classmates all through school days. He was more receptive to me than I was to him. He even joked that I wasn’t “apparently with them.” I laughed as he tapped me on the shoulder to tell me it’s okay.

For the record, I don’t think he’s a bad man. On the contrary, he seemed quite friendly and I wouldn’t mind having a chit-chat with him sometimes away from all the townspeople who couldn’t wait to touch his holy suit. We might end up at each other’s throat but that’s fine.

However, I do think he is a grating politician. Is he corrupt? Perhaps he is. I can tell you about the old houses being traded around Batroun or  the aquifer water well permits being handed out to people as easy as saying A. But he is definitely not the worst and most corrupt of politicians to roam this country. Batroun has better examples to give to that. Kolestone, anyone?

It all boils down to what Twitter user @MWNader said yesterday: You can buy ministries but you cannot buy chemistry.

Refer to Fouad Sanioura for further details.

Batroun & Keserwan Fighting Over Gebran Bassil

Let’s call it the war of pre-electoral billboards like you’ve never seen before: two regions, many kilometers apart, fighting over the same man with fiery reformative, empowering, pride-filled slogans.

As I was driving back home to Batroun last Saturday, I was surprised to see a Keserwani-centric propaganda for Gebran Bassil all over the bridges stretching across the highway.

Gebran Bassil Batroun Keserwan - 1

Thank you Ismail Sakalaki for the picture

The question couldn’t not ask itself in my head: Is Gebran Bassil running in Keserwan this time around?

It made electoral sense for him to do so seeing as his chances in our home district are next to nil, something even people from his entourage agree on.

But something didn’t add up. Why would I have to answer several polls over the past few months about elections in Batroun in which he was presented as the main candidate for the March 8 side of Lebanon’s political spectrum? Aren’t those polls run by political groups who want to test out how the wind in a certain region is blowing?
And why would Gebran Bassil be doing electoral visits across Batroun to many households and villages over the past few months if he doesn’t intend to run there?

The Keserwani posters seem to have a deeper rumor around them. Let’s call it schmoozing galore. According to this article (link), the posters are the attempt of a Keserwani MP to kiss up to the FPM’s leader in order not to kick him off his prospective list in the region. And you thought our politicians couldn’t be that desperate?

Batroun, however, wouldn’t accept this Keserwani schmoozing, regardless of who did it or why it was being done in the first place. So à la “bring it, b*tch,” we started our own gebranophile campaign across our highway.

Batroun is proud of its son’s energy:

Batroun Gebran Bassil Keserwan - 6

Whenever you land, your ministries become essential:

Gebran Bassil Batroun Keserwan - 3

Electricity, oil, water, dams… energy without limit:

Gebran Bassil Batroun Keserwan - 2

We’ve lived and seen the dams in Batroun:

Gebran Bassil Batroun Keserwan -

Gebran Bassil is a red line. Point à la ligne:

Gebran Bassil Batroun Keserwan - 5

If only billboards translated to ministerial actions or governmental projects, we’d be one first-world country by now. If political marketing blitz translated into votes, Gebran Bassil would have been in parliament now.

But as it goes in this country, the supplies of any kiss-up material, especially leading up to elections, begin to run dangerously low due to the huge demand. Who’s willing to bet that a counter campaign will be run to discredit any possible accomplishments advocated by this campaign? You know it will only be a matter of time.

So where will Gebran Bassil run? I guess the answer is quite simple: who cares about Batroun when Keserwan, the self-proclaimed heart of Lebanon’s Maronitestan, is vying for you?

As for me, I’m enjoying the billboard cat-fight. Sorry Keserwan, I’m going to side with my home-turf on this. I’m biased like that. Batroun FTW.

Gebran, why don’t you stay?

Let’s Talk About Al Ebra2 El Mousta7il (الإبراء المستحيل)

“Have you read Al Ebra2 el Mousta7il?” One of my FPM relatives asked me a few days ago, a smile spreading across her face like a three year old on Christmas Eve.
“Nope. Have you?” I replied.
“Not yet. But man, I can’t believe how anyone would fathom being with Hariri after it!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll read it when part 2 is released.”

Part 2 is currently in the works as a reply to part 1.

FPMers are having a field day with a recently released book from their MPs, mainly Ibrahim Kenaan which revealed “for the first time ever” some secrets about the Hariri era in Lebanese politics. You can buy the book for $8 at any bookstore. It has more tables in it than a Certified Public Accountant would like to handle and its purpose is more than clear: serve as pre-electoral political propaganda, as is their right.

They have begun to use the term “ebra2ihom al mousta7il” to categorize the Future Movement on their Facebook pages and political websites.

My premise isn’t about the book’s content. It’s about the point behind the book. Who among us does not know that the Hariri era of politics was riddled with corruption? Well, if you don’t now you do. And if you don’t think it did, then your conviction borders on the delusional.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Hariri was the only person running the show from the 1990 to 2005, his government not having any other participant, and ask the following: don’t FPM ministers have their own “ebra2 l mousta7il” from 2005 onwards?

A Western company is suing Gebran Bassil for the way he handled one of the many bids that pass under his ministry. Isn’t that corruption?
The following link portrays severe transgressions of Minister Bassil and Layoun (minister of culture) in Batroun, which MTV is currently investigating, whereby the ministry of culture takes over old Lebanese houses for a very cheap amount of money, gets Gebran to renovate them and sell them for massive amounts. Or how about the diesel scandal that took place last year?

We can also talk about minister Layoun’s disgusting practices in the minister of culture, from allowing the demolishing of the Roman hippodrome to the Phoenician port to many of Beirut’s old houses, including Amin Maalouf’s. How about we look at Layoun’s wealth before and after him taking on the mantle of the ministry?

The aforementioned transgressions are based on a few minutes of research here and there that I, a blogger who doesn’t register on our politicians’ radar, was able to pull off.

FPMers will dismiss this previous link immediately based on its source, as will those who are against the FPM will dismiss their book because their source is very political.

Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il is not a book for the Lebanese masses because you can’t offer one side of the corruption story in Lebanese politics and expect people who differ from you politically to take you seriously. I will not read Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il because, despite keeping an open mind (most of the time) to different scenarios in the country, I know for a fact that the other side which the book doesn’t portray, obviously, committed transgressions that may or may not be as severe as the side the book does, in fact, portray. But that’s not the point.

The point is that every single political party in this country has, upon reaching power committed corrupt acts. The point is that blaming the entire country’s financial and economic problems, through a book such as Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il on one single politician and his party, however corrupt that politician was, is illogical and non-sensical.

Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il is a book that will get those who support the FPM to support the party even further without even reading the book. Let’s be honest, most FPMers won’t read it and will count on their politicians telling them what the book contains. Those who are against the FPM will dismiss it as nonsense. And come election time, no one will really remember it.

And the merry goes round.

Hariri was corrupt, sure. But Hariri was not the only one who’s corrupt. People with glass houses should not throw stones. Everyone has their own ebra2 al mousta7il.

A Lebanese Christian Family’s Sunday Lunch Discussion

The following dialogue is an almost verbatim excerpt of what has been going on lately at the Sunday lunch table of the Christian families I’m associated with. The names have been altered – albeit they still retain a “Christian” flavor but I promise it’s not for Sectarian reasons – except my own.

Georges: You know, they said they might postpone the elections.

Mary: Better. Nothing good can come out of it.

Elie: Makes sense seeing as we don’t have a law yet.

Joseph: There is one. The Orthodox Law.

Elie: What about the Orthodox Law?

Joseph: It’s supposed to make our votes weightier. How the hell does Hariri get a parliament member in Achrafieh and the LF don’t? Or how can’t the LF choose MPs across Lebanon like Aoun does without Hariri hoarding their backs?

Georges: Yes. And those imbeciles with the Future Movement have the decency to call us unpatriotic. As if they are the patriotic ones for not supporting the Orthodox law only because their man Hariri doesn’t.

Joseph: Yeah and they’ve always been in bed with the Syrians screwing us. They’re ones to talk about patriotism. Their leader got blown up? Have we had a leader who hasn’t been threatened in this country?

Georges: Hariri doesn’t even have the decency to stand up against Al Assir. And he has the nerves to call on the LF for trying to distance themselves from his sinking ship.

Joseph: He doesn’t even have the money anymore. Looks like Saudi Arabia may not be in with him on this one.

Georges: Saudi Arabia is busy drawing caricatures about the patriarch while they go fuck Christians every day. What a country of retards. Fuck them and their prophet.

Elie: Enough with religious crap. How would you feel if someone insulted your Christ?

Joseph: Whatever. Anyway, I’m with the Orthodox Law. It allows us to stick it to Aoun.

Elie: There are other laws which do that and allow the LF to have more weight without being this crappy. Besides, why would you want to vote for the MP of Keserwan or anywhere else exactly? Betdallak ghrib. 

Georges: How does the Orthodox Law work exactly? We vote for the Maronites of Batroun only?

Mary: I don’t understand why you must have this discussion every week. Is it gonna be this way until election day?

Elie: You go into the voting place. The person in charge gives you a ballot paper with all the lists running for your sect’s MPs. You choose one of the lists then you pick an MP to give him or her your preferential vote. So we vote for the Maronites of Lebanon. All 34 of them.

Peter: How will I explain this process to my mother exactly? I’m not sure if I understand it.

Mary: the more complex these laws become, the more I think all these elections are useless. The same people are gonna win any way.

Joseph: I know how I’m voting.

Georges: Yeah, me too.

Elie: If the law stays the same and we remain a one district place, I’m most probably not voting for Antoine Zahra. I’m sure as hell not voting for Boutros Harb and definitely not for Gebran Bassil.

Georges: Are you fucking serious? Please tell me you’re joking.

Elie: Not at all.

Joseph: Leave him be. He’ll change his mind soon. Elie not voting for Antoine Zahra? And pigs fly.

Elie: Why would I vote for Antoine Zahra exactly? What has he done that should make me eternally grateful for him that he should get my vote and stay and MP for the 3rd time?

Georges: He’s not Gebran Bassil!

Elie: I’m not voting for Gebran Bassil.

Joseph: Not voting for Zahra is you not caring enough. If other people thought like you, Bassil would win.

Peter: Why would anyone give a shit? My family has been supportive of Boutros Harb ever since he entered parliament in 1972. And what good did that do us? I never asked anything of him. Never. Except when I wanted to provide my son who studied law with a job. I begged him and he promised he’d help but he didn’t. I held it in and I voted for him in 2009 because I couldn’t stand the idea of Bassil winning. I was happy when Harb won because Bassil didn’t win. But my son is now working a dead-end job with no prospects. I would never admit this to a Aounist of course. Screw them.

Elie: I understand but an MP’s job isn’t exactly to provide jobs for those who ask for it. He should have helped. But what has he done in the past 23 years that should get me to vote for him? Nothing!

Georges: the highway!

Joseph: Yes, the highway.

Elie: the highway that has been in the works for 40 years? The one which was started near Tannourine because that makes perfect sense? No, thanks.

Georges: As long as there’s something called Michel Aoun roaming the Earth, I will vote against him.

Elie: What about the economy? The roads? Electricity? Telecom?

Joseph: Oh shut up. You’re almost becoming Aounist these days with liking Sehanoui. Do you fancy that unibrow?

Elie: The man does a good job. I cannot not acknowledge it. Besides, why would you not care about the economy and security in voting? Do you fancy almost every one my age leaving the country or considering leaving it?

Georges: Really? Assume I won’t be voting for the LF because you don’t like them these days. Mesh 3ejebne bel marra 3a fekra. Who am I supposed to vote for? Those third party leftists who have no chance of winning?

Elie: I don’t know. But voting for someone because you want the other to lose doesn’t work for me.

Joseph: It does for me. As long as Gebran Bassil never ever becomes a parliament member, I’m happy.

Georges: I concur. I couldn’t have been happier when he lost in 2009.

Elie: Gebran Bassil isn’t winning in Batroun no matter how I vote. At least I’d rather vote in a way that doesn’t make me feel disgusted with myself for the years afterwards.

Joseph: What if he wins?

Elie: Really? How is that possible exactly? Where will he get his votes? Do you want me to get you the 2009 results for you to see how impossible that is? Let’s not pretend that a lot of people in the district are thinking like me at the moment. Kellna 3ashra.

Georges: Yeah, 10 is more than enough of your kind for now. We can’t let them win and run the country. We can’t allow it. Michel Aoun wants to get that Orthodox Law to pass so he becomes president next year, you know that?

Joseph: Yes, that’s true. He wants to become president.

Peter: Michel Aoun president? Hell no. If that law passes, I’m voting for the LF without blinking. I can’t allow it!

I expect this discussion or some variants of it to be taking place every Sunday when the family is gathered for lunch or any other festivity for that matter until elections are over. I’m sure that the same discussion is taking place in other households which are different from mine politically in more or less the same way. Everyone is talking elections these days. So why not make what people say behind closed doors public? It beats beating around the bush in pretending as if things will change.

I only had to see a pollster in action in my hometown to see exactly how few things have really changed and how much the circumstances had.