Friday 30 May 2008


Tadamon has posted two photo essays on the May events.

Carole Kerbage (above) has some striking images of the struggle as expressed by empty streets, while Farah Kobaissy (top) has captured the scrawls of pro-government graffiti.

The view from the Vatican

According to Zenit the Catholic church was central to the outbreak of brotherly love:

Bishop Bechara Rai of Jbeil told Vatican Radio, "Of course, he must not be the only one to carry this cross, but all the Lebanese. Likewise the Church has a great role to play in continuing the effort of reconciliation in Lebanon. […] We must work a lot to complete this political reconciliation and go forward with a new country that is able to take up its role again."

What Britian thinks

Meanwhile Britian's Economist magazine is hedging its bets:

Given the fragility of Israel's government, the reluctance of Israelis to surrender territory in exchange for peace with Syria, and Syria's refusal so far to meet Israeli demands that it drop its alliance with Iran and end support for groups such as Hizbullah, a regional deal looks hard to strike in the near future. But at least its outline looks clearer.

What Russia thinks

Maria Appakova writes in Novosti:

Paris has declared that after Suleiman's inauguration, it may step up contacts with Damascus, which it froze last December because of disagreements over Lebanon. Restoration of French-Syrian contacts may considerably improve the regional situation. France has always carried weight in the Arab world.

As for the Arab countries, they are now content with each other — after all, they have proved their ability to resolve their problems without outside, Western, aid.

They have improved their attitude to Iran and Syria, which has lately been something of a pariah in the Arab world. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa, and Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Bin Jabir Al-Thani, the main mediator in the Lebanese talks, complimented Damascus and Tehran, and thanked them for their role in achieving the domestic Lebanese settlement.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Dramatic and sober

Osama Al Sharif of Arab News looks at the Lebanese prism from a different angle:

In the aftermath of Hezbollah’s military stunt in Beirut a couple of weeks ago, pro-Washington Lebanese factions discovered to their chagrin that the US cavalry was not coming to their aid.

It was this dramatic change in US policy that prepared the scene for a more sober dialogue among the warring factions.

But it also hinted that the Bush administration had played most of its cards, or, more importantly, was now ready to adopt new strategies.

Whether Washington and Tehran were getting close to striking a deal on Iraq and Iran’s nuclear program remains to be seen. But the unveiling of new Syria-Israel negotiations, through Turkey, was an important development that could not be ignored.

What Germany thinks

Germany's Spiegel magazine gives the euro-view of the "May events":

Various intelligence services have long been warning of Hezbollah's regaining strength. Intelligence experts believe that the militia replenished, and even doubled, its arsenal after the summer war against Israel in 2006. Hezbollah is now believed to have 27,000 medium-range missiles, some of which could even reach Tel Aviv.

The weapons were purchased with the help of funds from Iran and Syria. In 2007 alone, Hezbollah is believed to have received anti-tank weapons and rocket launchers worth $800 million (€516 million) from Tehran. The weapons were delivered overland through Syria.

Wednesday 28 May 2008

He's back

While acknowledging that the Doha deal is a setback for US control over Lebanon, it has fallen well short of solving the underlying causes of instability in the country.

Nothing shows this more than the return of Fuad Siniora (pictured above) and the March 14 cabal.

The problem with Doha is that as part of the compromise the opposition has accepted the gerrymandered electoral constituencies. This move confirms the rule of a small clique of families who owe their power to the sectarian division of the country.

Missing from the negotiations is any discussion of the harsh neo-liberal policies imposed on Lebanon by western powers—known as the Paris I, II and III.

As it joins the new government, the opposition is in danger of becoming closely associated with these unpopular economic policies, and losing the widespread sympathy among ordinary people.

The truth is that Hizbollah and its allies have made peace with the sectarian system, in doing so it has undermined its credibility. Sursock always stands by the principle of the right of nations to self determination, and will back all genuine anti-imperialist movements.

But what we have here is Hizbollah falling into the same trap made by every other Arab national liberation movement... leading a struggle, then making peace with a dangerous enemy — in this case the sectarian system and neo-liberalism.

Sectarian clashes*2

And in the mountains

"A verbal altercation began on Tuesday evening in Dohet Aramoun, a town south of Choueifat, and soon degenerated into armed clashes that wounded several people and killed Hussein Mohammad Janbeh, a Lebanese soldier who was deployed with his unit to control the violence."

According to the Star the sitution is becoming so bad that the "Central Security Council announced an indefinite ban on motorbikes, provocative convoys, slogans or flag waving in Beirut."

Included in the ban are the bikes used to deliver food — a huge industry in the capital. The opposition parties have also warned their supporters that they will not support them if they violate the ban.

Menawhile the Khiam Centre for Rehabilitation is warning: “There is a severe psychological crisis within the citizens, as well as a serious sectarian rift that will have devastating consequences, especially in Beirut, due to abuses against citizens.”

Mohammad Safa, general-secretary of the Khiam Centre, told the UN news agency: “Last week’s events didn’t fall from the sky, they’re a result of this sectarian structure. If we don’t change it, we’ll find that this was just the latest chapter of a civil war.”

Monday 26 May 2008

Sectarian clashes*1

Lebanon's Daily Star reports that Shias and Sunnis clashed in west Beirut following the speech by Hassan Nasrallah:

The fight broke out when supporters of Hizbullah and Amal paraded in the streets of Corniche al-Mazraa, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood, shortly after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah concluded his speech to mark Liberation Day.

Sources added that after verbal insults were traded, the fight degenerated and the two groups exchanged gunfire.

Voices from Home

The International Labour Organization Regional Office for Arab States presents:

Maid in Lebanon II: Voices from Home
A documentary by Carol Mansour

This second documentary film targets the Lebanese public to generate a debate on the role that women migrant domestic workers play in Lebanese households.

The film poses questions and suggests answers on workers' rights, employment contracts and everyday terms and conditions of work. This documentary picks up from where the first Maid in Lebanon left off, showcasing four stories of Lebanese employers and their maids.

Babel Theater, Thursday, 29 May 2008, 8:00 pm
Marinian Center, next to AUB hospital
Hamra, Beirut (01) 744-033/4

The picture is of a Sri Lankan domestic worker who was savagely beaten by her employer.

Change of face

Lebanon's Daily Star reports on the election of Michel Suleiman as president:

After Suleiman was sworn in, the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora resigned in line with the Constitution but will stay on in a caretaker capacity.

Suleiman arrived at Parliament shortly after the election accompanied by Speaker Nabih Berri, who left the Parliament building after the vote and returned with the newly elected president in line with protocol.

After taking the presidential oath, Suleiman delivered an inaugural address that dealth with several contentious issues, including Lebanese-Syrian ties and the deadly clashes that struck Lebanon earlier this month. He called for good and balanced relations with Damascus - whose foreign minister, Walid Moallem, was in attendance - based on mutual respect.

"Both Lebanon and Syria should also respect each other's borders," the president added.

In an indirect reference to the recent clashes between opposition and pro-government supporters, Suleiman said Lebanon's weapons should only be directed at the Israeli enemy.