Lebanon: On Freedom, War and Olive Oil

The Lebanese bloggers wrote about a wide variety of topics this week making it difficult to cover them all in just one summary. This week’s weblog covers topics like the upcoming Lebanese presidential election, the Winograd Report regarding the Israeli July 2006 war on Lebanon, Lebanese agricultural products, Syrian workers, freedom of speech and freedom to blog in the Arab world, resistance to colonialism and the implications of being a leftist in Lebanon.

Although this summary attempts to cover as many interesting blog posts as possible, others are still left out because of lack of space and time. So always check back as more blogs and topics are surveyed each week.

On the Presidential Election:

Riemer Brouwer
reviewed some of the contradictory articles in the local newspapers and tried to make sense out of them:

Three interesting newspaper stories came out during the last few days regarding the next Lebanese president. As usual, they all contradict each other, so it’s up to the blogosphere to make sense out of them.

Blacksmith Jade set up a draft list of general questions which can be tailored to each presidential candidate and called on fellow bloggers to help finalize them with the purpose of directing them at prospective candidates to get their positions on topics like constitutional and institutional reform and outlook, a new electoral law, foreign and defense policies, economic and development policy etc.

R at Voices on the Wind contends that the current president is one of the factors causing the current political paralysis in the country:

While it may be true that there we will see some level of perpetuation of the political paralysis in Lebanon even after Lahoud's term is over, it is also true that Lahoud himself has been an exceptional obstruction. Moreover, it is true that with the coming end of his term, Lebanon has to potentially deal with a new crisis stemming from the very divisive issue of electing a new president.

On the Winograd Report:

The committee set up by Israel to investigate the war waged against Lebanon published its report or what was called the Winograd Report. Although parts of the report were not made public, this did not stop the Lebanese from analyzing and discussing its implications. Among them was MFL who wrote a lengthy analysis on the report and on the issues that lie behind the violent conditions in the Middle East as a whole:

But this situation is different, it took a Zionist commission to convince the Israelis they were wrong to attack Lebanon, not for “virtuous reasons” rather to avoid more military disasters. Israel, that claims Hezbollah caused the destruction of Lebanon, was in fact their troops shooting and bombing almost the whole of Lebanon. Israel could have resorted to diplomacy, and political pressures. Instead, they slaughtered 1300 Lebanese, and more are getting killed by the remaining horrific cluster bombs. Worse, the Red Cross confirmed that Israel was using banned weaponry, also to be denounced by Anan himself, but the US argued that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Angry Anarchist wrote that the issue of the ex-member of Knesset, Azmi Bishara is related to the Winograd report too:

The Azmi Bishara plot thickens… I have come to increasingly view the whole affair as one that is not unrelated to the Winograd commission and attempts to quell domestic dissatisfaction by busying the public with a case of treason, against an Arab citizen to make things marketable of course. This enables the authorities to play on the feelings of the Jewish citizens especially that the July war brought to the forefront fresh divides between the Arab and Jewish communities, along with accusations of mass-treason against Arab citizens, levelled by their Jewish counterparts. Azmi Bishara seems to be the scapegoat, and his framing not only serves a public opinion purpose, but also could be related to new policies to be adopted vis-a-vis the Arab community in light of the increasing strain it places on the authorities in the domain of demographic challenge (or perceptions thereof).

On Lentils and Olive Oil:

Diamond explains the relationship between the name of lentils (the ones we eat) lenses (the optical thing used to see):

Lenses are so named because they resemble lentils – not the other way round. English, French, and Spanish (lente/lenteja) all derive their lens/lentil words from the Latin.
What surprises me more is that Arabic, which has no Latin roots, also describes lenses as lentil-like.
In Arabic, the word for lentil/s is 3adas, عدس.
The word for lens is 3adasa, عدسة.

Olive trees are planted and cultivated in most parts of Lebanon. Olive oil enters into almost all of the recipes of the Lebanese cuisine. Rami Zurayk has a post on a new book on olive oil called “Green Gold”

It is a swift introduction to Lebanon geared toward a readership of outsiders and a counterweight to the country's international media profile as a war-torn basket-case. It is a story about farmers and rural food producers. It's a journalistic account of sustainable development and a personal narrative of discovery and deep affection. It is a cookbook, a beauty guide and a how-to reference on the process of harvesting olives from start to finish. It is a source book for those interesting in organic products…

On Syrian Workers in Lebanon:

Golaniya brings up the topic of the attacks carried out by some Lebanese against some of the Syrian workers in Lebanon as the result of the political tensions over the past few years.

With all the difficulties I am facing right now in at the time being as a Syrian who proudly speaks her Syrian dialect, Syrian workers’ misery is tragical. Their lives are in danger each time Lebanon loses one of its personals. Cowardly enough, it is not the Syrian with deep pockets, students and business men, whom are subjective to this form of racism but it is those who are poor and also victim of its own government, Syrian government; the Syrian workers.[…]
There is no committee, international or local, that follows the Syrian workers’ special politicized case in Lebanon. While there is an international tribunal that investigates the murder of one man, 20 Syrian workers were reported dead and no human rights organization has broken the silence and speak of the violations of both Syrian and Lebanese regimes.

On the Freedom to Blog:

Bloggers in some Arab countries, supposedly friends of the west and the USA, are being jailed and silenced by their governments. Jeha discusses this phenomenon in this blog post:

Spare a prayer for Alaa Abd El-Fatah, Zouhair Yahyaoui, and countless other Arab bloggers who were trying to inform the world as to the true nature of our countries. It is not over, even when they’re out of jail; Zouhair paid his courage with his life, released from prison after much mistreatments, and Tunezine is now silent. Countless others have risen and will continue to rise.
Before the leaders of the “Free World” go on to meet those “leaders” of ours, spare a few thoughts for those of us who try and exercise that most basic of human rights; staying safe while trying to taste the fruits of freedom.
Should the “Free World” forget them and continue to sustain or harbour the enemies of our freedom, then the “Free World” better change its name…
… And the “Free World” can then learn to accept its sorry fate, as more 9/11’s are visited upon them; the more you give in to authoritarian fanatics, the more they want. Those who need to be convinced of this truth will never understand it.
For them, an Ostrich might as well replace that American bald eagle.
For Arab bloggers who try to remain anonymous, it is getting harder to do so by the day. In Lebanon, some subtle changes appeared lately; it may be that the leash is getting ever tighter, and would have been more so were it not for the diverging agendas of the country's rival services.
The “New Middle East” looks eerily familiar, far too much like the old; Condy Rice's “birth pangs” may actually prove to be the pains that herald the agony of a dream as history's second chance fades away…

On Resilience and Anti–Imperialism:

explains why what she calls the colonial occupation of the Arab world is a bad idea:

But walk in the Arab world, and you will see, that though we are tired, we are not down. And we won't be any time soon. It just doesn't work that way.
That is the way that all areas of the world, all peoples strive, to overcome colonisation. And colonisation, like everything else, dies. People, the very essence of what it is to be human, conspire to find hope in some way or another, and you can see that struggle, written in the faces of millions.
For God's sake – just listen to dabke. Just watch it. Dance it – try it – and then face oppression.
The imperialists chose a bad spot to try and occupy – as imperialists most always do.
It's a moment, and though the fight is for the most part invisible, it is there. Meanwhile, in other places, it really is quite visible, but the media works very very hard to cover it up, even, by simply being a part of those benefiting from empire, unwittingly.

On being a Lebanese Leftist:

Finally, Bech explains are the implications of being a leftist in the confessional Lebanese

Being a leftist, is engaging above all in cultural issues. It is through the creation of meaning that oppression manifest itself. Paradoxically enough, although being a leftist is often equated with being a materialist and being concerned with the modes of production, social inequalities, etc. I think nothing of that can be understood without taking a close look at what bars some people to rise up and change the status quo, or to just follow different identification processes to arrive at new social realities. What better example to take here than Confessional Lebanon where specific ways of defining one's self along a sect has tamed a truly popular uprising. Of course, sectarian divisions exists because it pays to be sectarian, meaning that clientelistic ties makes it easy for various players to keep constituencies happy (by bribing them). And vice versa, any individual who needs something is much better going to the local sectarian leader in order for it to be done.


  • Lebanon allowed Iran to use her proxy Hezbollah to attack. Killing IDF soldiers kidnapping others and shelling Israeli citizens are acts of war.
    Any nation in the world would have attempted to protect her citizens. If negotiation or diplomacy were viable options, they should have happened before the war obviating it.
    A basic Arab problem is they want to destroy us, but lack the means to do so. We are tired from the wrangling threats and bloodshed.
    We want nothing to do with these terrorists.
    Short of killing all the hostiles, there was nothing we could do to conclude the bombing of our cities.
    The Winograd Report made critical errors.
    1.It assumes violence can crush terrorism.
    2. It assumes terrorists can destroy a nuclear power.

  • sure, we forget the fact that Israel is a terrorist nation, that kicked out a whole race (Palestinians) expect everything go fine, triggered a whole chain of events, and then believe you are lovers of peace who treat non-Jews as second class citizens. Zionist brought bad reputation to Judaism.

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