LBC and the LF: Don’t Celebrate Just Yet

There was a news item which overtook Friday’s Achrafieh bombing today and that’s the judge ruling in the lawsuit between the Lebanese Forces and Pierre Daher, the head of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, who was accused by the LF of abusing the trust they put in him when they handed him the TV station which was founded by their founder more than two decades ago.

A similar ruling had been given last year but Pierre Daher chose to take it to higher courts. LF supporters seem to think that today’s ruling is the final one in the case. Simply put, it is not. According to Agnes Sema’an, a good friend of mine who recently graduated from law school, there are more details about the ruling which seem to have escaped most people.

This is apparently an indictment which came out from the criminal division of the court of cassation (temyiz). It declares the previous case, whose ruling turned out to be in favor of the LF, valid. The argument presented by Daher  at this court was that time had passed on the events that were being argued which makes the initial case invalid; LF argued that Daher should be arrested for fraud and embezzlement.

This opens the way to the ownership trial which means that the case will now be forwarded to the single criminal judge of Beirut and he will look into it. That judge will listen to witnesses and he’ll be given documents by both sides to prove their points and he will give a ruling which might go either way – however, his ruling can go to the appeals court.
The appeals court, also, has way too many ways with which it could advance. So the LF have won a fight in a battle that has not ended yet and will keep going for months to come. Headlines that say “LBC is owned by the LF” are erroneous. LF supporters should not pop champagne bottles all over Facebook just yet. There’s still a long way to go.

But the real question is: what will this mean to LBC as a TV station if it returned to the Lebanese Forces?

If we go by other Lebanese TV stations which are handled by political parties (Future, NBN, Al Manar, OTV), this means that the quality of LBC as a TV station will degrade rapidly. Most of these TV stations are unwatchable due to their extreme bias and ridiculous one-sidedness so even if the TV shows that are offered remain at a certain relatively high standard, the news won’t be. I expect the viewership of the TV station to decrease the more biased its news service becomes.

I also expect a lot of political hiring and firing to happen. Many LF-supporters searching for jobs will suddenly find a spot for them in the midst of LBC. It has already started with my Facebook timeline filled with excited mass communication majors who also happen to be LF supporters and for their supporters to be hired, others have got to go. How disappointed will those people be when they find out that it won’t be that imminent.

All in all, while it is perhaps the Lebanese Forces’ right to own LBC, I have to wonder if it’s the best thing for Lebanon’s leading TV station to become deeply and politically involved? One thing is for sure though: even if the LF end up winning the whole thing, it will not be an easy walk in the park for them to run a station.

The Hypocrisy of the Lebanese Forces

Some LF supporters protesting against the visit in Elige yesterday

Michel Aoun is visiting Elige. A headline that, in any normal setting, would just be that: something to get the press to talk.

But this is Lebanon and Michel Aoun visiting Elige, a convent in Jbeil where many Lebanese Forces martyrs are buried, sparked immense controversy among Christians first and foremost.

He is not allowed to visit and desecrate the place VS he’s going there ghasb 3annkon.

Mante2 bila33e men l meyltein.

My readers already know that when it comes to how I lean, Michel Aoun doesn’t get my vote. And I’m definitely not voting for his party next year. But regardless of me preferring the Lebanese Forces over his party, there’s something that I felt gnawing at me yesterday as I contemplated the Elige dilemma. And it is hypocrisy.

The Lebanese Forces are hypocrites when they ask everyone to put their war crimes where they belong – in the past – but they cannot do the same for the war crimes of others. I, for one, am sure Michel Aoun did not kill most the martyrs buried in Elige and I’m also sure he wasn’t a civil war saint either as his supporters would love to potray him. Michel Aoun may have spoken harshly against those martyrs before. He may have humiliated their memory and he may have been a “Michel Aoun” about them. But that’s on him. And if he wanted to visit their graves to pay tribute and maybe – just maybe – apologize for what was said against them (you know that would work well with his electoral plan), then what’s the harm in that?

Lebanese Forces supporters should know how well Samir Geagea’s apology played out. He’s the only politician so far to have spoken in such a way about the civil war.

The problem with many Lebanese Forces supporters is that when you speak out the words Michel Aoun to them, their blood pressure starts to rise. It’s the same with those who support Aoun when you say those two syllables… Geagea. You see them throw a fit even worse than that of an Lebanese Forces supporter. You see them shiver and inundate his supporters with all kinds of stereotypes. According to them, I am an illiterate high school dropout .

The divide between the supporters of both groups is way too great and it has never been more obvious than with Aoun’s “planned” visit to Elige. However, the Lebanese Forces cannot simply ask everyone to get over the “Geagea is a murderer” stereotype (one that I, for the record, do not agree with) while they have no problem hanging the dirty laundry of others for everyone to see if it serves some purpose that they think they have.

He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The Lebanese Forces are also hypocrites on another front: had one of their allies, say Walid Jumblat, decided to visit the martyrs at Elige, would they have reacted in the same way? One would say Jumblat’s party has killed way more Christians than Aoun. But I’m not a civil war expert so take that with a grain of salt. And for the record as well, I want to keep my civil war knowledge as limited as possible for the time being. Odds are the Lebanese Forces would have saw Jumblat’s visit as a great step towards national unity. But not Aoun’s.

And let’s assume in a hypothetical scenario that in the coming few months Samir Geagea decided to have an electoral tour in Zgharta. The Lebanese Forces supporters there, fewer than those who support Sleiman Frangieh, would want that visit to happen. And yet the same outrage that was sparked with Aoun’s planned visit to Elige would happen. The Lebanese Forces supporters would be on the other side of the debate right now. Now, ponder on this: would you have wanted Geagea to go there or not? If yes, why can’t you extend the courtesy to someone else?

The Lebanese Forces are proud of going “7asyou la yajro2 l akharoun.” They should have done that regarding Elige and actually did what others wouldn’t do unto them: let it pass and let the people judge.

It is sad that in 2012, almost all parties are still ready to use up civil war arguments to prove a point to their supporters. The Lebanese Forces supporters are now proud that they stopped Aoun’s visit. The Aounists now hate those war criminals even more. The idea that those “ze3ran” are the reason the country is ruined is at all time high in their minds. It is said the civil war has become in the past. Elige would most definitely disagree with those who say so.

The Christian Delusion of Hezbollah

It is the time of electoral calculations. Parties plan out their moves depending on the yield of votes those moves could get them in 2013’s parliamentary elections or according to the extent that those moves can help their allies.

With this point of view, many (click here) saw Hezbollah’s “peaceful” demonstration against the anti-Islam movie as a calculated strategical move to show Lebanese Christians that their alternative is better: i.e. the Islam they have to offer is superior to that of those who burn down fast food restaurants and, in a more global sense, attack embassies.

During the protest, several TV stations interviewed Hezbollah members who answered Hassan Nasrallah’s call. They all had one common thing to say: “This is our leader. We will not let anyone make fun of him and when it happens, we will answer.”
The leader they were referring to was obviously Mohammad. The leader that sentence also applies to is Hassan Nasrallah – the declaration can go both ways depending on who’s in a tough spot, so to speak.

And it is here that Hezbollah’s main Christian problem lies. Regardless of all the “peace” they advocate and promote, the mentality that they are ready to do anything for either their prophet or their leader puts off the majority of Christians in droves and equates them with the bad clumsy Sunnis who see in KFC a sign of the devil. I mean, have you seen those chickens?

The Christian side is divided into two main players. One tries to explain the rising Sunni extremism while attacking the hidden extremism of the Shiites. The other player totally forgets about the extremism that’s harbored with a signed document and flaunts what those other Muslims. The Christian supporters of each player will eat the rhetoric up. They will get into endless quarrels about those other bad Muslims. No one will convince the other.
So who’s at play? The “independent” Christian vote, little as that may be, who sees in both Hezbollah and the Sunnis that Hezbollah is trying to come off as different from as evils that need to be eradicated. It is the “independent” Christian vote that’s feeling increasingly threatened as a minority and is seeking reassurance.
His reassurance will not come at the hands of Hassan Nasrallah, regardless of what some politicians want you to believe. It comes at the hand of Christian leaders who have their most basic ideologies at war: we are not in danger vs we need a minority alliance to be safe.

The pursuit of Christian votes by Hezbollah for his sake and the sake of his main Christian ally is futile. Why? Because it plays on two fronts. One, the Lebanese voter – for anything non civil war related (because you know they all remember everything there is to remember about that event) – has a memory that spans a few seconds. By the time next June rolls by, no one, apart from the highly politicized individuals, would remember what the Sunnis did to KFC or the sublime demonstration of Hezbollah. The second front is for those who remember and they are not irrelevant few.

There are those who remember how a few years ago when Basmet Watan had a Hassan Nasrallah dummy on their show, all hell broke loose as riots started and subsequently the show was stopped for a month. There are those who remember how the May 2008 events went along. There are those who remember how Samer Hanna got killed and how powers shifted in 2011. And regardless of where those people stand politically from those events, they will always play into them being so cautious from Hezbollah that the fake smiles they give the party of god are just that: fake. Yes, even those who theoretically support said party.

The fact of the matter is the Christians in Lebanon are wary of its Muslims. They are wary of both of their short fuses when it comes to the matters that touch each sect. The staunchest FPM supporter despises Hezbollah as much as they dislike Hariri. The staunchest LF supporter will tell you in secret how he doesn’t like Hariri as well. The common thing among both teams? They go with the flow and hope that one day the side they put their money on turns out to be the better side. But deep down they both know that in the game of thrones in Lebanon, the Christian vote is a Christian matter and what other sects do will hold little to no significance.

So why did Hezbollah hold a protest against the anti-Islam movie so late in the anti-Islam auction game? It’s quite easy actually. Have you heard anything Syria related when the movie protests were taking place? And herein lies your answer.

The Kourah July 2012 By-elections: What It Is & What It Isn’t

In about 7 hours, the citizens of the Northern caza “El Kourah” will head to the polls to choose between basically two candidates: Walid el Azar (SSNP) and Fadi Karam (LF) to replace Farid Habib (LF) who died back in May.

This isn’t the first time I write about this issue. A previous post of mine dealt with the SSNP’s serious lack of understanding of the basic elements of the democratic game with them turning the whole elections into a matter of life and death only because the LF nominated someone from a place they consider as their “fortress.”

Check out that post here.

On Friday, LF leader Samir Geagea held a press conference during which he declared that voting for his candidate means voting:

– For the Lebanese state.

– For the improvement of Kourah as a caza.

– Against Bashar el Assad and his regime.

– To overthrow the Syrian regime.

And the list goes on.

Sorry Mr. Geagea but your electoral rhetoric, while enticing, is simply full of it. A person casting a ballot for Fadi Karam won’t lead to the Syrian regime crumbling. An extra MP for the LF won’t change the balance of powers in the country. It won’t lead to a brilliant future nor will it change the fortunes of the Koura Caza.

It’s understandable that political leaders need to charge up people before heading to the polls for maximum results. The sad thing is people believe this.

On the other hand, the SSNP is still beating around the same old story: the LF are threatening our existence in an area that we’ve historically been the strongest in, etc…. That is also useless.

The fact remains that the Kourah elections will not change things. It will not do anything worth mentioning except have the party that wins celebrate for a few days, declaring how the tides have “turned.”

However, the Kourah elections is an indicator of what we could expect in 2013 especially if the results are read from sect to sect. It will be an indicator for the Future Movement to see exactly how much popular support they still have and how much they have lost. It will be an indicator for Christian parties to check their popular tracking with different sects. It will serve as a platform to base 2013 electoral hopes upon.

The clearest proof to that is both Farid Mekari and Nqoula Ghosn (the caza’s other two MPs) maximizing their electoral machine’s yield to help the LF candidate. They want to prove that they exist, that they can bring out the vote and that they should have a say in what happens in 2013.

How many people will vote tomorrow fully thinking it’s a vote against the killers of Bachir Gemayel, against the allies of Bashar, against the allies of America and for their own view of the Lebanese “state”? I would assume the absolute majority. Will anything change come 2013? I hardly think so. I can imagine the slogans from now. Depending on whether the Syrian regime falls or not, they will range from votes against Bashar and the Islamic state in Lebanon to votes against the zionist agenda and against corruption.

But the truth remains that those claiming change and reform haven’t done that one bit. And those claiming fighting for freedom are as powerless as the poor Syrian children getting massacred in their homes. Who cares, though. Let’s go vote. And win. And celebrate. And live in bliss. And then realize that we’ve accomplished nothing.

Did I mention you should vote for Fadi Karam? Yeah, I get to bring out the vote as well. Shou we2fet 3laye? 

The July 2012 Kourah By-Elections: When the Concept of Democracy Escapes the SSNP

Fadi Karam posters are everywhere on the North Lebanon highway

12 days from now, the northern caza “Al Kourah” is going to have a round of elections to elect an MP to replace Farid Habib, who passed away from cancer back in May.
The build up to the elections was interesting to watch. The first question that came up on the political scene soon after the parliementary seat became vacant: would elections take place?

The LF, who had previously won the seat, decided that their party will proceed with the elections. Therefore, based on their new internal laws, consultations took place with high ranking officials of their base in Kourah and they chose Fadi Karam, a dentist and former head of the Order of dentists in North Lebanon.

Soon after Karam was chosen, the SSNP decided that this is a direct confrontation for them. Why’s that? Because Karam is from their base town Amyoun. They considered it as a direct challenge from the LF for them to nominate someone from Amioun. They, therefore, decided to have a candidate run for the Kourah elections. Not because they wanted to. But because they were “forced” to by a blatant act of defiance.

What the SSNP seems to have totally evaded is the concept of democracy. The notion that in an election people who meet certain legal criteria can run regardless of where they are from is not in the SSNP directory. I guess Antoun Saadeh missed that part in whatever party principles they are obviously not following.

I wonder, had the LF nominated someone from Dhour el Shweir, wouldn’t they have considered it an act of defiance as well? Better yet, had the LF nominated someone from Bterram, another town in Kourah where the SSNP have great influence, wouldn’t they have considered it an act of defiance too?

Why hide behind lame excuses when you want to test the ground for the 2013 elections as much as your opponent?

The SSNP also declared that they would have had no problem letting the elections go for a win by default for a lone candidate  had the LF kept their candidate in MP Farid Habib’s family by either nominating his wife or son. Apparently they believe the seat “belongs” to that family since it was only taken from them by death.

Now I have to ask the SSNP, where was this “we respect the dead” attitude when Amin Gemayel was running against an unknown FPM candidate for the seat vacated by the assassination of his son in Metn? Or does it only apply in places where the chance of the SSNP winning are next to none?

Yes, their candidate has no chance of winning in Kourah.

Moreover, why should the concept of a seat belonging to a “family” be even a part of the discussion to begin with? The seat belongs to the citizens of Kourah. It would be a grave insult to their rights not to have the correct path of electoral democracy take place and have one candidate thrown on them forcibly just because some parties are too afraid to lose inexistant momentum a year before the 2013 parliemntary elections.

As part of their campaign, the SSNP are also busy reminding the voters of el Kourah about the LF’s militia past – about how the LF (and the LF alone) killed their sons and children way back when. Let alone the fact that this is nowhere near true (the SSNP had its fair share of atrocities done all across Lebanon and them pretending otherwise would be an a insult to voters’ intelligence), but what good does it do to bring forth into the conversation a civil war people shouldn’t even take into consideration with their votes anymore?

Does the SSNP even know that Fadi Karam was not a militant with the LF during the civil war? Do they know he rose among the ranks of the party after Samir Geagea was released from prison in 2005? Do they know he represents a rising class of LF politicians and enthusiasts who absolutely have nothing to do with the war?

Yet the SSNP is throwing a war Karam had nothing to do with on his shoulders. If you can’t beat them at the polls, beat their reputation with lies, obviously.

In a democratic country like Lebanon – regardless of what you think about this type of democracy – making a big deal out of the village a candidate was born in is unacceptable. Making a big deal of having been “forced” into elections is unacceptable. Making a big deal out of everything but the issues at hand is unacceptable.

You don’t want to run for elections? Then don’t. Don’t whine endlessly about irrelevant reasons for you deciding to run.

Come July 15th, the citizens of Kourah have such a clear choice in front of them it’s even silly to point it out. But regardless, what July 15th should and will be is a triumph for democracy and freedom over the concept of hate and cowardice.