Saad Hariri To Be On Kalam Ennas on January 31st

Saad Hariri

Lebanon’s most famous invisible/disappeared man is preparing a comeback. And it starts in 10 days.

Marcel Ghanem’s TV show on LBC will be the first political talk show in months (maybe even a year) to host the former prime minister of the country and the head of one of its largest parties who left the country soon after the January 2011 coup not to be heard of or seen again.

Don’t worry though – Saad Hariri wasn’t in grave danger in his self-exile in Paris, unless you count that broken leg skiing on the French (or was it Swiss?) Alps. Throughout the past two years, Hariri has gradually but surely decreased his presence all around even on Twitter following not one (click here) but two (click here) gaffs on social media.

Either way, the episode should be quite interesting. I, for one, hope it wasn’t part of an exclusive deal aiming to get viewers without tackling any serious questions. With the tricky situation the country is going through, Marcel Ghanem better be ready to grill Saad Hariri about what he has been up to these past two years and what he intends to do in the coming months.

I’m sure everyone wants to know.

Will you be watching? The whole country will.

Now Lebanon Censored… By Saad Hariri

Beirut Spring has just reported that a Now Lebanon article criticizing Saad Hariri and praising Najib Mikati has been pulled offline by the website. You can check out a screenshot of the article here.

If you’re interested in reading it, here’s a transcript (via Qifa Nabki):

The Baby and the Bathwater

If we are to believe a report in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Monday, French President François Hollande and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, in a meeting also attended by former Lebanese PM and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, will not back current Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati if a new government is formed.

Do the Lebanese not have a say in any of this? We should worry at the carefree way in which Lebanon’s future is always being decided by outside actors, no matter who they are. The region is already polarized between the Sunni and Shiite communities in a dangerous standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Such horse-trading will only serve to entrench further the sense that foreign powers control Lebanon’s destiny and that each side of the political divide is justified in having its regional backer.

Another worrying aspect was the presence of Hariri, a man who must surely concede that his role in Lebanese political life must now be confined to the margins of Sunni politics. He is living in LaLa Land if he still feels that the Lebanese public would welcome him back with open arms and see him as their salvation. In fact, it would be scandalous if he stood for parliament in the next general elections, let alone offer himself as a candidate for the premiership. (Ditto Nayla Tueni and the rest of the absentee MPs who, by their negligence, have done their best to snuff out the flame that was March 14 and insult the intelligence of the voters who sent them to Najmeh Square).

For it is not enough to simply oppose March 8’s fiendish agenda and make all the right noises about democracy, independence, sovereignty and the sanctity of the state. March 14 members must also take seriously their roles as public servants. The recent deterioration of infrastructure and the apparent collapse of law and order during August have woken up the public to the fact that if they want a functioning, safe, peaceful and prosperous country, and if they want laws enacted, it will not happen if the people they elect to achieve these ends are nowhere to be seen.

Which brings us back to the issue of Miqati and his suitability for the premiership. When he accepted to lead the Hezbollah-dominated government in the spring of 2011, many saw him as an opportunist who would trade what was left of Lebanon’s integrity for a place in the history books.

In reality and with hindsight, he has not done a terrible job. He has advanced the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (despite the Syrian dream of killing the process altogether) and spoken out against Syrian violations of Lebanese territorial integrity.Given the fact that he has had to work with a cabinet of which Hezbollah and its obstructionist allies in the FPM are a part, he has made a decent fist of holding things together.

Hollande and the rest of the international community are right to condemn the current government, which has set new standards in uselessness, but we should avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. With the exception of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Miqati is arguably the best candidate we have to lead this country in troubled times.In the meantime, the Lebanese must fight to wrestle their destiny from the hands of those who see Lebanon as a strategic asset instead of a sovereign nation, and all our MPs, without exception, should show up for work.

Saad Hariri, it seems, cannot take criticism. Especially when it’s coupled with praise to his political adversary, which is beyond disgraceful. It seems that Saad Hariri is so worried about his political tenure, all the way from his Parisian lala land (be careful of the cold dear MP, I heard it’s quite chilly this time of year) that he pulled his strings all the way to Lebanon in order to pull the article off a website in which he has influence.

The fact that Saad Hariri cannot take criticism is beyond worrying. It’s also very childish. It’s akin to one of those impertinent children who run to their mothers whenever those “bad kids” on the playground don’t let them play. And this type of behavior is certainly not acceptable from the proclaimed political leader of one of Lebanon’s main parties.

The sad thing though is that this doesn’t only apply to Saad Hariri. Each and every Lebanese politician is off limits by some platform or the other – and what remains, at the end of the day, is an electorate who’s limited by the narrow political opinion it gets from websites that are censored by the politicians it thinks are the best of the best.

And they all run to their mothers crying. They seem to be missing one key element though: good luck silencing the internet.

Update:

The article is back up (here) with the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: NOW Lebanon has intentionally removed this article from the site. It was not removed because of censorship, but rather because of the lack of proper arguments. We would like to repeat, again, that NOW is not owned, in whole or in part, by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, nor any other political party or figure.

Yeah, right. Such “justifications” are an insult to Now Lebanon’s reader’s intelligence.

Saad Hariri and Twitter: A Story Filled With Mistakes

When Saad Hariri first went on Twitter, many were hoping he’d use the platform productively to enhance his political career, which has been sitting on the back burner for the past few months as he globe-trotted his away around everywhere except Lebanon.

But a series of mistakes, the last two of which are only a few of days apart, have gotten many – myself included – to wonder whether it was really wise for Mr. Hariri to join the social networking platform.

In January, Hariri said good morning to an Israeli government spokesperson. Either he didn’t know who that person is or he knew and still said good morning, which in both cases is worrying: the former because it shows a certain political ignorance; the latter because it would open a Pandora’s box that Lebanon is obviously not ready for.

On May 10th, Hariri got into a useless Twitter debacle with a brainwashed pro-FPM twitter user who has been constantly barraging him. The aim of the anti-Hariri person was clear: to provoke the former prime minister. Hariri caved in. However, instead of replying in a way that a former prime minster should, Hariri’s reply was straight out of a teenager’s handbook. Of course, Tayyar.org were more than happy to flaunt this around, useless as they may be as a news-website.

On May 13th, soon after the Tripoli events erupted, a Twitter user had the following conversation with Saad Hariri:

Not only is Mr. Hariri’s argument non-sensical, but it’s also offensive to every single Lebanese who has been killed or assassinated before his father and after him. I wrote on February 14th about how the memory of that day is being milked into nothingness. This only supports my idea.

Does Rafic Hariri’s murder have anything to do with the events taking place in Tripoli? Absolutely not. Is it honorable to bring in Rafic Hariri’s memory – regardless of what you thought of him – into this debate? Of course not. Does it make up a remotely acceptable argument or reply? Definitely not.

I know many people who are disappointed by the way Hariri is handling things on the ground and more tangibly on Twitter. This only serves to reinforce that. Some have even said they’ve lost their respect for the man. While I haven’t reached that extent yet, Saad Hariri is getting dangerously close. Whenever he pretends as if Rafic Hariri is the only person to be assassinated in Lebanon, I boil on the inside. I think about the many people who have died before him, starting with presidents to students, and the many journalists and politicians that died after him, leading up to the many that lost their lives in various Tripoli-related events, culminating in today’s turmoils. Then I ask myself: if a politician thinks the blood of his father is more precious than the collective of lives that have been lost in the same fight his father died for, how can I trust such a politician to run my country? How can I trust him to keep a level-head, even if it’s just a twitter conversation?

I believe Mr. Hariri’s stay outside the country has gotten very out of sync with Lebanon and it shows on Twitter not only through his replies but through his stances. Tripoli is a city where Hariri has many voters, most of whom he will need in a year to win, and he is supporting the people who are wrecking the city just to free up one man. By not condemning the salafists, the head of the moderate Sunni party in Lebanon is supporting them. If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

Perhaps Hariri should hire a PR team to run his social media presence. It would save both himself and his supporters some trouble by doing what other Lebanese politicians do. However, if he insits he wants to keep his interaction with the people going he needs to learn to double check any response he sends out on various levels: political correctness, appropriateness and most importantly whether it befits someone of his status.

Tayyar.org, Are You Seriously Proud Of This?

Tayyar.org thinks the discourse in the screenshot below is honorable and high-level enough for them to flaunt it on their website. As I said before, that website is to me akin to a tabloid. This only reinforces that. How is this reporting news? How is this reporting anything meaningful? How is this in any way useful?

This goes to the website that published it and both participants in the conversation. Did the so-called activist make a dent? Of course not. Does he think he’s more relevant now? Of course yes. Did Saad Hariri accomplish anything from this? Definitely not. Is he still bothered by it? Of course not.

How about we take all our “activism” regardless of political affiliation, pull it together in one nice basket, and cast it in a ballot 12 months from now?

It is here that I address Saad Hariri directly. You want to reply to snarky tweeps? How about you go all the way through? Some person is harassing you with his/her version of “facts” and commentary you can prove is unfounded? As BeirutSpring said – “let them have it.” On the other hand, you can be the better man and simply not reply. But please, if you choose to reply, draw a boundary where a person can’t call you a “retard” and end up becoming a hero for doing so.

For a country with a multitude of problems some people sure like to be amazed at what’s irrelevant.

There are other tweets as well that go along this way:

I find this too silly to be taken seriously. But I’m not running a political website for a political party gearing up for elections so what do I know?

The Lebanese Version of Benetton’s “Unhate” Campaign

Leave it to the Lebanese to spoof controversial ad campaigns. Soon after Benetton’s “unhate” campaign basically went viral, online pictures of rival politicians making out surfaced on line and have been already shared a gazillion times on Facebook.

In case some of you wanted to see Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea kissing Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun or Saad Hariri kissing Hassan Nasrallah (to be honest, I really hope none of you wanted to see either of those), these pictures are for you:

Hariri & Nasrallah

Geagea & Aoun

The “United Colors of Benetton” logo has been changed to “United Colors of Lebanon” to show that Benetton has nothing to do with these. I’m pretty sure Benetton wouldn’t dare to do anything of the sort with Lebanese politicians. Can you imagine the black shirts that would pop up around Achrafieh because, you know, Benetton is Italian and Italians somehow have roots in Achrafieh.

But no matter, the fact that I think ads like this are pointless aside (check my opinion here), I really hope we get to a day where rival politicians can actually find themselves in a room without wanting to kill each other.

Stillborn Nation?

You’re Lebanese. You wake up every day and, wherever you are, your mind revolves around the same thing: what’s happening in your country. If things are going well, you worry they’d go bad. If they’re bad, you worry they go even worse. We always worry. We always try to imagine we can get things to change. We try to make things change. We have tried. We felt we succeeded at one point. And then everything came crumbling apart.

Life in Lebanon is like a chess game. Those who stick it out till the end mentally are those who triumph. I’d like to think this is not the end. I’d like to think that everything all the thousands of martyrs died for is not going down the drain. I’d like to think the people we looked up to did not lose their lives for a country that was always stillborn.

I mean, who are we kidding? Have we ever been truly a nation? We, Christians, ruled for a while. We did not rule fairly. So the civil war erupted. You can believe the cause of the civil war to be whatever you like. But what is definitely sure is that conflict is rooted in injustice. People who feel they are equal do not need to revolt. Then began the Sunni rule of the country. And soon enough, other people “felt” they were subject to injustice, issuing a cascade of events leading to what’s happening today. Have we ever been truly united? Ever since I can remember, I’ve never heard of my country other than being a division of camps. You remember those movies about rival summer camps across the river competing for a certain prize? that’s how things have always been. That’s how things will always be.

I’d like to imagine that a radical change in the “operating system” of this nation is enough to kick it into high-gear. But then we can’t even agree on what type of alternate nation we want.

I know many people who feel sad today. They feel sad because they see their country crumbling and they can’t do anything about it. I am one of those people. You put up a face through the mess. But deep down, you don’t remotely feel well. You feel as if your vote has been taken away. You feel as if all your work in the past five years is suddenly worthless. And because of what? because a certain group felt “as subject to injustice”?

You – we – are now the Opposition again. I believe we always were the Opposition. We excel at being the Opposition. There is nothing we do better than being the Opposition that inspires people’s need to change, instilling in them the will to fight for their country, for their rights, for their every being.

And honestly, even though the previous opposition called itself that way, I believe it did not even deserve the title. An opposition is basically in power when it was the power to crumble a government, which it did.  An opposition does not use the street in an abusive manner via a fully conscious decision, which they did. An opposition does not cry wolf every time it thinks something might possibly happen if a certain scenario were to unfold, possibly damaging its status – and with crying wolf we mean making everyone freak out. An opposition does not really get to choose who runs what in the country. But they did. An opposition should not get a choice in who takes on certain legislative positions, but they were given a choice and their choice was acted upon because, as I’ve said many times before, March 14 felt that certain rights of certain parties need to be respected – like deciding who gets to represent them.

So for all matters and purposes, Hezbollah and Co were not an opposition. They were as much in power as the March 14 movement was. Following Newton’s third law of motion, they were the action and March 14 were the reaction. March 14 couldn’t act because anything they did meant an implicit threat using an arsenal of weapons that’s all too frightening – even for a military power, such as our neighboring state. Hezbollah and Co were not oppressed. They were actually enjoying a stay in power since the early 1990s, even calling for a demonstration on March 8, 2005, to thank Syria for its work in the country – a work that left at least a major sect of the country, Maronites, in ruins after years of political persecution. Hezbollah and Co even lost a general election, even after being shown as frontrunners in many polls.  This means the majority of the Lebanese people didn’t want them to rule. And that was not respected as well.

So for those who are pissed, let me say this… I understand you. And I feel you. But don’t be. We, as people and movement, will be triumphant. Because at the end of the day, what is right and correct will be triumphant. And we are the only ones who, in time, can bring out this country from its everlasting stillbirth.

Borderline Sectarianism

It seems that, as I’m posting this, the figure who’s going to become our next Prime Minister is being formulated. The choice is not one that represents the majority of the sect from which the prime minister is usually chosen. This has given rise to this post.

After the 2009 parliamentary elections, which produced a clear majority for the March 14 movement, this majority chose to go by the choice of the sect from which Speaker of the House is chosen and they voted for Berri. He returned, once again, as Speaker – even though he had a big hand in the political deadlock that preceded those elections. I personally would have preferred a more moderate Shiite figure to take that position. But you have to respect the choice most Shiites in the country have taken and Berri represents that.

Onwards with the PM choice for that year. It was clear Saad Hariri would be chosen and that happened. What was Hariri faced with? months of another deadlock by the opposition, just because they wanted a share in the government that does not conform with the results of the elections. And another figure wanted his son-in-law who lost in my own district to become minister again, having previously agreed that losers in the parliamentary race are not allowed to seek a minister position.  In all decent democratic societies, the opposition is rarely given the opportunity to basically stop democratic rule. It just waits its turn till the next election cycle, hoping those in power messed up enough to let the voters have another opinion.

But of course, nothing in Lebanon works as it should. And after months of rope-tugging, a government was formed.

Flash-forward a year later… this government has collapsed. And now the opposition, represented by Hezbollah (the definite master-head), FPM, Amal Movement and the newly joined Jumblat, want to force upon the Sunnis of the country one of three possible Prime Ministers: Omar Karami, Mohammad Safadi and Najib Mikati.

The question is this: what gives the Shiites the right to choose the highest political Sunni figure when there’s a clear choice for the sect at hand? didn’t they overwhelmingly choose the Future Movement as their representatives in parliament?

For the record, Omar Karami actually ran for parliament in his district of Tripoli – an overwhelmingly Sunni city. He lost. By a huge margin. If that’s not a clear enough choice, then what is?

I guess you can’t expect the opposition to give you the courtesy of a choice when they don’t even believe that you are entitled to one. They are taking power by force and there’s nothing we can do about that. We like our country too much to let it go on a path of destruction we all know they are capable of doing.

To end this… Hasan Nasrallah referenced, in his conference today, the constitution to justify overthrowing Saad Hariri’s government. He then referenced his sect’s rights in choosing Berri as speaker of the house. That’s duality right there. Would people see it? No. His supporters will just keep on chanting… and the country will be screwed more and more and more.