Elections, Lebanon, March 14

Saad al-Hariri Takes the Helm

Photo credit: adiamondinsunlight.wordpress.com

Photo: adiamondinsunlight

Four years after his father’s assassination, Saad al-Hariri has been nominated to the premiership. He received the votes of all  71 March 14 MP’s, plus another 12 MP’s from opposition leader Nabih Berri’s bloc (presumably as a quid-pro-quo for Berri’s re-nomination as speaker). While Hizbullah did not lend its support to Hariri’s nomination, one has to imagine that the party is comfortable with Saad as the next PM.

The news is full of hints and allegations regarding a Syrian-Saudi deal on Lebanon. Meanwhile Angry Arab suggests that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is going to absolve Syria and target its allies in Lebanon instead. It is also looking increasingly likely that the cabinet composition will hand President Suleiman the decisive votes to produce the “blocking third” veto.

How about a lively discussion in the comment section on Saad’s prospects as Lebanon’s next PM?
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Discussion

45 thoughts on “Saad al-Hariri Takes the Helm

  1. Sa’ad still has a long way to go…. Suffice it to remember Jumblat’s insinuations in that infamous video that Sa’ad is inexperienced…etc.

    Posted by offended | June 28, 2009, 12:54 am
  2. What does Lebanon need in order to prosper in the next few years:
    1) No war, internal or external
    2) Gulf money in the form of tourists and investments
    3) The ability to recycle its debt and even grow it if required.

    Saad Hariri as PM is a necessary condition for the 3 ingredients for success to materialize. However, Hariri as PM is not a sufficient condition. There are external and internal events that may occur and that may overturn the apple cart over which he has no control:
    1) Another Hizballah-Israeli war
    2) Hizballah being cornered by the tribunal
    3) Syria flexing its muscles in Lebanon
    4) etc. (in the middle east, one should expect the unexpected)

    All in all, I think he has a good chance of being a success and we should see a more prosperous Lebanon over the next few years. Regarding Hizballah’s weapons, all Hariri will do is kick the can down the road, but short term, things will get better.

    Posted by AIG | June 28, 2009, 1:01 am
  3. “How about a lively discussion in the comment section on Saad’s prospects as Lebanon’s next PM?”

    How about if we start by reading this lively analysis by Ghassan? He has some good insights on speaker, new PM and others at play here, i.e. the rule of the game in the center of the universe.

    Posted by majid | June 28, 2009, 1:07 am
  4. I am sitting a few blocks from Saad’s palace in West Beirut. I watched this Cat hold rally’s there before the election, and I can say with some confidence, that he seems to lack the skills to hold a gov together.

    I remember a “scenarios” post that you did Qifa on a March 14 victory a while ago that suggested that he wouldnt be able to hold it together and hence instability and the road to the 3rd republic. Still think so? I mean, he reminds me of a rich LAU kid who just fell into this… But great fireworks last night from the palace!

    Posted by Abu Guerrilla | June 28, 2009, 6:48 am
  5. Let’s ask what Khameini thinks first….

    Posted by danny | June 28, 2009, 7:55 am
  6. There are external and internal events that may occur and that may overturn the apple cart over which he has no control

    I hope he learned from his father’s mistakes.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 28, 2009, 8:58 am
  7. Sure he’s inexperienced, but give the guy a chance to prove himself. As the head of the largest sunni party, it is fitting that he will be a top contender for the job.

    Lots of people mature and learn on the job.

    Hopefully, he will exert lots of energy to improve the economic conditions.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | June 28, 2009, 11:07 am
  8. “I remember a “scenarios” post that you did Qifa on a March 14 victory a while ago that suggested that he wouldnt be able to hold it together and hence instability and the road to the 3rd republic. Still think so?”

    Yeah? And nobody thought he would win either!!! Some believed the Tashnags would make the ‘king’. Looks like they’re reduced to scrambling to salvage whatever they can get from a lost deal – finger biting just starting.

    Thanks for the laugh; i.e. your question.

    Posted by majid | June 28, 2009, 11:31 am
  9. Ras Beirut: “As the head of the largest sunni party, it is fitting that he will be a top contender for the job.”

    General Aoun is the head of the largest Christian party and the largest Christian bloc in the current and previous parliaments. Why was it not fitting that he be the “top contender” for the job of president? Why does the president have to be “consensual” but not the PM? Do I smell a double standard there?

    QN, I see no reason to be optimistic. How can anyone think four more years of Hariri economics will get us out of the deep ditch Hariri economics dug us into over the past two decades? An unchecked Hariri premiership means more public debt, more corruption, more sinister agitation of chauvinist and sectarian Sunni instincts to score cheap political points, more immigration by people who want some semblance of modernity, more deprivation and lack of development, more embezzlement of public funds, more co-opting of certain security agencies for Hariri goals, more control by the mafia (Hariri, Hamadeh, Murr et al) of government resources (telecoms etc), and above all more taxes!

    AIG raises the prospect of another Israeli war on Lebanon. How can we trust a Hariri-led government on this one? This is the man who, during the last war, took off on his private jet and left the Lebanese to fend for themselves. As the Angry Arab so often reminds his readers, Hariri’s jet took him to some exotic destinations, particularly Cyprus, whose president he supposedly asked for help in ending the conflict.

    And please let’s not think the president will play any role as counterweight. Michel Sleiman showed in these past elections that he is all too willing to be a pawn of Team Hariri to be used and cast aside.

    Posted by Bala Habal | June 28, 2009, 1:37 pm
  10. lets not forget that Saad is not alone, the Siniora, Jumblat and the whole team that has been waging the battle along with him for the past 4 years are still around and will be around for the coming years. unless Syria decides to resume the elimination process.

    Posted by V | June 28, 2009, 1:59 pm
  11. Yawn. Who else was it going to be? Karami? He’s been PM three times and never once completed a term.

    Does it really matter who heads the government? Economically and politically, the country has reached a stage where it doesn’t matter who heads it. We are deep in debt and the only way out is more taxes. As simple as that.

    Major sovereignty issues have been left to Dialogue Sessions (would someone please point out where in Constitution this special meeting of specific political parties to discuss Lebanon’s fate is mentioned). We might as well not elect a government or MPs and leave it all for the National Dialogue.

    Posted by Jad Aoun | June 28, 2009, 2:03 pm
  12. “Lots of people mature and learn on the job”

    Yeah, that’s exactly what we need.
    The government is not a college and the premiership is not Politics 101.

    We are supposed to have the best and the brightest to lead our government. What are his qualifications for this job other than being the son of Rafiq, born sunni, and super rich?

    Posted by babagannouj | June 28, 2009, 3:33 pm
  13. “As the head of the largest sunni party, it is fitting that he will be a top contender for the job.”

    Ras Beirut, please allow me with all due respect to make some observations.

    I believe that Saad Hariri understands the legacy that he has inherited in a different perspective than the narrow sectarian prism. Please listen to this candid conversation of his.

    Obviously, he is speaking in Lebanese terms and bemoaning the current state of sectarian polarization gripping the country. If he succeeds in defusing this state then he would have fulfilled some of the dream that seems to be so elusive to the people of Lebanon. It was of course the dream of his late father and many others, of course. FM is perhaps the only movement that has members that cross sectarian lines, and the membership in it does not require any credentials regarding sectarian allegiances. That was designed for a purpose. Please do not lose sight of that purpose.

    “We are supposed to have the best and the brightest to lead our government. What are his qualifications for this job other than being the son of Rafiq, born sunni, and super rich?”

    You are right; he is the son of Rafic Hariri, a Sunni and super rich. Do you have a problem with that? But he is also a graduate of George Town University, a successful businessman, a patriot of Lebanon and with a network of international connections that few have in Lebanon or anywhere else in the Middle East.

    By the way since when the people required that the best and the brightest should lead the government in Lebanon? Is it in the constitution? Personally, I am not against the idea. But there is something else behind your statement.

    Cheers and take care.

    Posted by majid | June 28, 2009, 4:49 pm
  14. Perhaps Kamal Shatila can do a better job hahaha.. i just hope the Lebanese would one day all agree on something!!

    Posted by V | June 28, 2009, 5:42 pm
  15. #9…”General Aoun is the head of the largest Christian party…”

    Please elaborate how FPM is a Christian party?

    37…” As the head of the largest sunni party…”

    Please elaborate on how the FM is a Sunni paty?

    Guys please make sure you read what you write before submitting!!

    Posted by danny | June 28, 2009, 6:15 pm
  16. Danny are you under the illusion that the FPM isnt a christian party and FM isnt a Sunni party ? and Amal and Hizballah arent Shia parties? there are no political parties in Lebanon these are all religious secterian tribes with decorative party names.

    Posted by V | June 28, 2009, 7:50 pm
  17. “Danny are you under the illusion that the FPM isnt a christian party and FM isnt a Sunni party ? and Amal and Hizballah arent Shia parties?”

    I’ll take permission from Danny and provide some answer. These individuals, mostly current MP’s, are not Sunnis and are active members of FM:

    Michel Faraon,
    Farid Mekarry,
    Nabil de Freige,
    Atef Majdalani,
    Bassem el-Sabaa’

    I’m sure there are others that are also MP’s or prominent figures. With this number of non-Sunni MP’s and other prominent personalities within FM, there must be a sizeable non-Sunni cadre within the movement. You could still argue and say it is predominantly Sunni. But I know for a fact Amal and Hezb require Shiism as a prerequisite. As for FPM, it is secular in theory but I haven’t heard of non-Christians joining yet.

    Does anyone know of other non-Sunni prominent FMer’s?

    Posted by majid | June 28, 2009, 8:39 pm
  18. Naming a few none Sunni members of FM does not make the argument that FM isn’t a Sunni party and by the way none of the Lebanese parties including Amal and Hezbollah require you to be of a certain sect to join, having such pre requisite is not necessary to maintain the sectarian color of any party, the Lebanese naturally gravitate and separate according to sect. It’s a genetic disorder!

    Posted by V | June 28, 2009, 9:32 pm
  19. The latest in Lebanese none secterianism and unity.

    Sunday June 28 2009 From Naharnet:
    “Armed Clashes Erupt in Beirut, 1 Killed, Several Wounded.At least one woman was killed and several other people were wounded Sunday when fighting broke out in Beirut between supporters of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Mustaqbal Movement.

    Posted by V | June 28, 2009, 9:45 pm
  20. “Naming a few none Sunni members of FM does not make the argument that FM isn’t a Sunni party and by the way none of the Lebanese parties including Amal and Hezbollah require you to be of a certain sect to join,”

    You’re absolutely wrong on this. These are only the names that I could verify as active members with the resources I have at my disposal wherever I am. These MP’s would represent more than 15% of FM MP’s currently elected. That is quite a bit of non-Sunni MP’s for a party you want to call Sunni. I have more than 7 other MP names but I couldn’t verify if they are active FM members. So I didn’t list them. The movement defines itself as secular.

    You’re right about AMAL and Hezb. They don’t spell it out in their charters. But try to join if you are not Shiite.

    Posted by majid | June 28, 2009, 10:00 pm
  21. V,

    Respectfully please check the constitution of both movements; then the MPs…

    What are your basis for your conclusion?

    Posted by danny | June 28, 2009, 11:59 pm
  22. Hi QN,

    Considering that the bar has not been set so high in terms of expectations, I’d say that the unexperienced young Hariri might end up surprising many of us in managing the role of PM as long as he does not appoint someone like Jad (post#11) as Minister of Finance. So, mabrouk and best wishes. For Lebanon’s sake, I hope he succeeds.

    Jad,

    “Who else was it going to be? Karami?”

    There is no lack of Sunni talent in Lebanon for you to make such a claim that the only viable options would have been either MP Hariri or Mr. Karami.

    Majid,

    Am neither a fan of Mr. Ghassan Charbel nor of Al-arabiya, yet thanks for sending the link (post #3). It was an interesting read and some of the readers’comments were quite amusing.

    Besides, you can add MP Hadi Hbeish to your list and you may want to check w.r.t. MP Michel Feraoun (my understanding is that he is a close associate of FM, but not officially a member in it). Having said that, there was really no need for the list since the secular or non-secular nature of a party is mostly determined by its policies and more importantly how it dictates them. When the FM tunes down on its heavy Sunni rhetoric during election campaigns of any sort (municipalities to parliament), then you’ll convince me that it is secular indeed.

    Regarding FPM, you “haven’t heard of non-Christians joining yet”! Alright, we should plan for a joint vacation in the homeland and you’ll be introduced to some of FPM’s most dynamic supporters and activists; non-Christian, and I don’t mean MP Abbas Hashem by the way. Yallah , coffee on me. Who knows, you may even end up joining the ranks of FPM 🙂

    V,

    “i just hope the Lebanese would one day all agree on something!!”

    Please, inta shou hasharak. Majid and I happen to disagree on 1/2 of QN’s posts and are in full agreement on the other 1/2 (there is a chance we may even become friends if he accepts my invitation). Isn’t that what the “West” calls democracy; embracing your differences. The Lebanese just happen to embrace and celebrate them in a different way; as nicely elaborated in Ghassan’s piece.

    Best.

    Posted by PN | June 29, 2009, 12:05 am
  23. With debt, what is important is its percentage of GDP, not its absolute value. What Hariri MUST do is grow the debt while growing GDP even faster, thus reducing the debt as percentage of GDP. Raising taxes is not the solution. Taking more debt is more growth conducive. Furthermore, it will not be the end of the world if Lebanon has to default on its debt. This has happened to many countries and they have survived such occurrences. It is better to make the debtor nations poorer by defaulting than to make Lebanese poorer by taxing them.

    Posted by AIG | June 29, 2009, 12:06 am
  24. “Having said that, there was really no need for the list since the secular or non-secular nature of a party is mostly determined by its policies and more importantly how it dictates them.”

    Cannot disagree, PN. Hence, the need to defuse the current state of polarization is of utmost importance in order to provide the grounds for policies de-emphasizing sectarianism, and that applies to all the players, of course.

    Thanks for corrections on those names.

    I also have no problem with Abbas Hashem or anyone else. I am half and half.

    “(there is a chance we may even become friends if he accepts my invitation).”

    Time permitting, never know. Thanks, I’ll be honored.

    Posted by majid | June 29, 2009, 2:44 am
  25. In Hariri’s remarks the other day, after Suleiman designated him Premier and asked that he form a government, he deliberately emphasized two themes. Hariri commented that voters elected March 14 to preserve the constitution, sovereignty, independence, etc. and also to build and develop the state, civil society, economy, etc.. He then said that it was on the basis of those two pillars that he would reach out to his March 8 rivals to participate in the government. A cynical reading would either view the above as empty rhetoric or a just a reiteration of campaign talking points. However, the ordering of Hariri’s remarks suggests that he feels that he has a popular mandate of sorts and that participation in the government ought to be substantively on the basis of the March 14 program and their terms rather than the other way around. In some sense this can be read as a rebuke to Nasrallah and others who have mentioned the popular vote as a way of insinuating that March 14’s win is a result of deficiencies in Lebanese democracy rather than popular support for the Majority’s candidates and ideas.

    Posted by Al | June 29, 2009, 3:27 am
  26. Isn’t it obvious to everyone that he is just a puppet… He barely spoke Arabic four years ago when he cam back from abroad… how could he know what is best for Lebanon and how to choose his allies… Really he has given his fatehr a bad name

    Posted by Darine | June 29, 2009, 3:41 am
  27. taxes in lebanon as so low, they might just not exist,

    people in lebanon might not get it, but or someone who live in socialist france, i tell you with great confidence, that there is no way for the governement to provide people with health care, good roads, retirenement, etc. with the low tax rates that exist in lebanon,

    i have a friend who makes 4000 dollars in lebanon and he is taxed 200 dollars a month (5%)

    i make about 4000 euros in france and i pay about 1200 in taxes (sometimes even more)

    Posted by LF_france | June 29, 2009, 4:02 am
  28. Danny #5,

    Notable contribution … only in its irrelevance.

    V #10,

    I believe that the jury is still out on whether Jumblat would offer Hariri the type of advice you seem to be intimating.

    Back to the thread:

    I agree with some of the contributions about Hariri’s lack of experience. I also agree with those who feel that there is really no one else to name as Prime Minister. This is no reflection on the existence of a few capable Sunnis in Lebanon, rather it is a direct result of the political expediencies that prevail and govern current political attitudes.

    This will be perhaps the first occasion in Lebanon’s history that the Premiership would be run by a ‘committee of advisors’ rather than the personality of the Prime Minister himself. The late Hariri managed to surround himself with more ’advisors’ that the US president, but when push came to shove, he was his own man. That said, perhaps a change away from individuality towards ’collective’ reasoning could be a good thing!

    I believe that Hariri would be “given a chance” as one contribution suggested he should, and will form a government by listening more attentively to the voices across the political divide. All concerned parties, in Lebanon at least, assert publicly and otherwise, that anything else would not be conducive to immediate stability. This leaves us with long term stability, and here lies the real concern.

    It is a concern born out of Hariri’s character and the political baggage he brings with him, as opposed to his late father.

    While the first element can be attributed in part to his inexperience in public life and lack of real first hand awareness and appreciation of what allowed the Lebanese entity to sustain itself in its present form since the forties in terms of sectarian co-existence, as unpalatable as it is (please, I am not suggesting he is not a patriot), the second has a lot to do with the ‘political debts’ that Hariri junior collected along the way in his short domestic political journey in his desire to prevail. It could be that these domestic debts will come to haunt him in his endeavours to form a workable government more than the opposition would.

    There is also the issue of Hariri’s regional and international ’alliances’, especially the former, that put him in an unenviable position particularly that personal economies can have a bearing.

    Hariri junior is no Hariri senior. Agree with his policies or not, the later has proved over and over again his talent at navigating mine fields and charter turbulent waters with an uncanny ability based on strength of character and political intuitiveness that is the domain of talented statesmen. Unfortunately for Lebanon, Hariri junior is yet to be blessed by those virtues.

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | June 29, 2009, 5:39 am
  29. Question Marks,

    Quite an impressive articulation. However, if you think Iran’s “opinion” is not important (Khameini)or irrelevant then my friend you must be living in a vacuum or a book…

    For Hariri Jr. to succeed the right climate has to be present. HA (Iran/Syria) has to agree to co operate in creating those conditions.

    As for your glowing praise of Hariri Sr.; I guess all is a matter of opinion. He failed somewhere big time!! He was assasinated because of his inability to recognize or do the exact things you are praising him for…

    Respectfully

    Posted by danny | June 29, 2009, 7:05 am
  30. Lebanon is doomed regardless of who the Prime Minister is so long Hizbalah are armed and more powerful than the army. A militia begets another militia that begets another civil war.
    An Iranian revolution has some hope for a better Lebanon.

    Posted by MM | June 29, 2009, 4:42 pm
  31. Hey QN,
    You wanted a lively discussion on the prospects of Hariri Jr as P.M., well you got it.
    I noticed that most people are arguing about Saad Hariri’s capacities or his legitimacy or the economic policies he is likely to implement. I personally don’t find the first two subjects very enthralling. As for the third argument, let’s get realistic here. Economical policies are not likely to change with Hariri as Prime Minister or any other bloke.
    The Hariris have been calling the cards in economical affairs since 1992. And their dominant position, especially in the banking sector and investments hasn’t wavered even in the face of fierce opposition (by Lahoud in 1998–2000 or by Bashar 2004-2005).

    So what change can we expect with him as Prime Minister? He’s been an Overlord ever since he entered politics. And Fuad Siniora has been Hariri’s appointee, and the representative of the parliamentary bloc Hariri presides (and in which Siniora is now a member). So let’s not expect any change in “substance”.

    On the other hand, we should expect changes in the interactions between Lebanon’s overlords, barons and clients.
    For the past 6 years, they have all kept away from direct involvement in government. However, they were all represented by several ministers. This kind of complicated the interactions between them and probably encouraged the formation of a constitutional heresy: “the Dialogue Table”. Now this was the only “institution” in which they were all present, and could deliberate.
    Now that Saad Hariri has been appointed Prime Minister, several dynamics might actually change:
    – The interactions with the President. Michel Suleiman has announced on several occasions that he will be assuming a more pro-active role and will work on increasing his constitutional powers. Now this would have certainly been easier with a Nagib Mikati or a Fuad Siniora as Prime Minister. But with Saad Hariri as P.M. ego trips are likely to be more dramatic. And competition between the two is likely if the President Suleiman doesn’t water down his ambitions.
    – The interactions with the other overlords (Nabih Berri, Walid Jumblatt, Hassan Nasrallah, Michel Aoun) and barons (Samir Geagea, Amin Gemayel, Suleiman Frangieh) are also likely to be perturbed.

    Nevertheless, we can always count on our political class’ imagination to create anti-constitutional institutions to support their informal arrangements (such as the Troika or the Dialogue Table). God knows what their creativity will spawn in the coming year.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | June 29, 2009, 6:39 pm
  32. Until the Lebanese people push the dinosaurs out of politics, nothing is going to change. Everyone in charge has the same name, and I don’t see anyone outside of Ziad Baroud who is willing to try to change things. Lebanese are all too concerned with iPhones and gadgets and superficiality to do anything about it. Those with the brains to make things different just leave the country. Bunch of cowards. Change only comes if you get off the couch and push for it.

    Hariri is no different than anyone else in the history of Lebanon.

    Posted by Ziadfan#1 | June 29, 2009, 11:12 pm
  33. MM,

    I share your real concern about the possibility unrest in Lebanon. I do not, however anticipate another civil war ala 1975; it takes another equal and comparative military power to ‘insure’ that, and currently, indeed for the foreseeable this is not on the horizon.

    The only potential unrest would ensue as a result of crude outside military or even quasi-military intervention from south of the border. Even then, the prevailing strategic balance indicates that firepower by itself is no determinate of the outcome. I believe that the domestic scene bodes ill for a possibility of domestic forces having an impact similar to 1982.

    I do not share your ‘prophecy’ that Lebanon is doomed. It might have a dramatic change of stance, yes, but doomed, the nation has been through a lot already to know better. That said, who knows, a clear and dramatic change of direction might be Lebanon’s blessing in disguise!

    Regards

    Posted by Question Marks | June 30, 2009, 9:10 am
  34. I have found the views of many people very interesting.

    I think, from what I read as I’ve been away from Libnan since 2005, but what I read indicates that the Prime Minister-designate is doing well, reaching out and that we will have another broad-based coalition government.

    Lebanon works when it is not fighting itself – 1958, 1975-1989, briefly in 2008 – those are the periods when one or more of the parts forget that Lebanon is not a normal State, it is a kind of mini-European Union, a shared ‘sphere’ or common market inclusive of a very diverse range of quite separate cultures.

    And because it is the most open society in the region – Yes much more free and open than the Land of Israel which denies rights by race/religion in the WestBank/Gaza part of the Land – then of course Lebanon is more vulnerable to periodic instability than its neighbours.

    The big thing to remember: there are 3 neighbours. Cyprus (divided by a permanent Wall); Syria (like all other Arab states, a tyranny); Land of Israel (a totally racialist rubbish society where people in TelAviv live an hour from abject suffering in Gaza and their only complaint is their government isn’t being “tough enough”.

    Lebanon is the shinning star in the region. And now we have a PM reaching out – reaching out to Shiia in Amal and Hizb,, reaching out to Free Patriotic Movement which has the biggest number of Maronite M.P.s, reaching out and hopefully ensuring Lebanon’s future remains the best in the region.

    Posted by Jean C Z Estephan | June 30, 2009, 11:04 pm
  35. Estephan,

    How far do the Lebanese live from the Palestinian camps in Lebanon in which the Palestinians are treated like third class citizens? The only complaint of the Lebanese is that the Palestinians were not thrown out earlier. How far do the Lebanese live from their domestic help that they treat like cattle? And what about the blatant antisemitism in Lebanon? Why was Elmaleh threatened and harassed?

    People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. As for which country is more poised for success, Israel or Lebanon, that could be an interesting topic if QN decides to pursue it. The truth is that it would be best for both countries if the other is successful too.

    Posted by AIG | July 1, 2009, 12:55 am
  36. AIG: I have lived and worked in both Lebanon and Israel and in my view I think Lebanon has a brighter future for its people, so long it sticks reasonably close to “consensus based” politics.

    To me, Israel is on a tragic road because this idea of having a State for one ethnic/religious sect in a geographic area that is claimed by more than one ethnic/sect is a recipe for literally endless conflict – by design and by definition.

    The Chrisian Palestinians in Ramallah and Jerusalem that even as we speak are having their houses destroyed and their land stolen by a State which is by definition at its core a remnant of 19th century central european racialist ideology. The Israeli navy such stopped a ship full of medicines getting into Gaza – blockaded just because they are Muslim and Christian, they are allowed to be suffer on the express order of people in Tel Aviv: We are not talking about indifference here but specific, government policies against entire civilian populations as one might expect in a totalitarian society like Sudan or Iran or Syria – but in this case it is Israel.

    Terrible crimes have happened in the past to Palestinians inside of Lebanon –
    Tel al Zaataar, Jisr el Pasha, Sabra, Shatilla) and God help us for these crimes.

    Lebanon – like Israel and Cyrpus – has a big job ahead of it for domestic workers’ rights.

    As for the 400,000 Palestinians inside of Lebanon – it is tragic how they are, because of their race, not allowed to live in the Land of Israel. But they’ll never stop fighting for the right to live in the Land of Israel. At the moment, Hizbullah has them under control but if Hizbullah is ever weakened, the Palestinians will no doubt start fighting again in that endless Israeli-Palestinian cycle …

    So I think that over the long term Lebanon has a better future than Israel because Lebanon attempts to be a place which is shared amongst its 18 officially recognised communities, including the Jewish community which is re-building its Beirut prayer house damaged by the Israeli army in 1982.

    http://www.thejewsoflebanonproject.org/

    Posted by Sofia al-Riachy (nee) | July 1, 2009, 1:44 am
  37. Sofia,

    Gaza is blockaded because Hamas is at war with Israel, not because the Palestinians are Muslim or Christian. In the West Bank things are improving because Abbas is serious about security.

    About your views, what can I say except that this is what Arabs have been saying for the last 60 years over which Israel has only grown stronger considerably relative to the Arabs. Maybe it is time to re-examine it?

    I will leave you with a simple thought. An Arab has no problem performing a stand up comedy show in Israel and talking about whatever he likes. A Jew cannot do that in Lebanon or any other Arab country. Thereby lies the whole difference.

    Posted by AIG | July 1, 2009, 10:16 am
  38. Thereby lies the whole difference.

    AIG,

    I have to agree with Sofia al-Riachy, and moreover, I think every other country in the Middle East “has a brighter future for its people” too including Eygpt, Syria, Jordan, and Iran.

    http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2006/01/18/Arab-Israeli-comedians-offer-dark-humor/UPI-32521137633714/

    http://www.themediaoasis.com/humor/humor.htm

    http://www.myspace.com/ipcomedytour

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 1, 2009, 8:53 pm
  39. AIG:

    I am sorry but I am not familiar with what you are talking about in regards to a comedian blocked from performing – if it is true then that is terrible but I do know there are of course very many Jewish people who visit, work and live in Lebanon – famous Jewish contemporary thinkers like Noam Chomsky have had very highly-attended public meetings in Beirut – other great intellectuals like Hersh, Avenry, Finkelstein – they have all been warmly received.

    And there Jewish people of Lebanese descent in Brazil, Canada and the U.S. do business and spend parts of their time in Lebanon.

    Lebanon is different from Israel, and Lebanon is different from other Arab states as well.

    The comparision is for me is not between Israel versus the Arab states, but between Lebanon and all of the states in the region that confer legal and constitutional privileges (i.e. Sunni in Saudi Arabia, Jewish in the Land of Israel, Alawi in Syria etc.)

    To me the fundamental difference about Lebanon is that it tries to balance all officially resident sects.

    And a fundamental difference between Israel and Lebanon is that whereas Israel has a “Right of Return” based on sect/race/ethnicity or whatever you want to call it that by definition excludes those from a sect/race/ethnicity that have an equal claim to live in the Land of Israel. They have no right of return, their property expropriated.

    In Lebanon, all 18 officially recognised sects have a right of return – that some left during the civil war doesn’t mean they are never allowed to return, and their property rights are 100 per cent protected.

    That is a fundamental difference between these two neighbouring States and makes me more optimistic for the future of the northern state (but this isn’t to say anything against Israelis, just the tragic constitutional framework they are burdened with which commits them to an endless war with the other sects which has an equal claim to the same piece of land, the Land of Israel).

    Posted by Sofia al-Riachy | July 1, 2009, 10:40 pm
  40. Sofia,
    Yes, anybody who talks against Israel is warmly received in Lebanon. But anybody else, who might voice an opinion supporting Israel, will be threatened.

    As we know from the Lebanese civil war, it is not the right of return that destabilizes a country, it is the power plays of the sects in it. Why are the Lebanese afraid to have a census? Why is the Christian power artificially propped up? Why are only the Shia allowed to have a militia?

    Israel is stable because each person has one vote and all votes are equal. You cannot say that yet for Lebanon. The longer the Christians insist on being dis- proportionally represented, the more destabilized Lebanon will be.

    As the last 60 years have shown, it is INTERNAL strife that brings down countries and makes them weak. External enemies only help unite a country. Through its ultra-fair proportional voting system, freedom of speech and consistent economic growth, Israel has managed to keep very united internally while other countries have faltered.

    Posted by AIG | July 2, 2009, 10:58 am
  41. AIG:

    In Lebanon, every one no matter which of the 18 sects is able to vote – including those whose parents left from Australia, Brazil, U.S. – that right is guaranteed.

    In Israel, millions are denied the right to either vote or to return – because Israeli “stability” is ensured by defining those millions as “stateless persons” scattered around the place – from the Iraq/Jordan border, to Gaza, to WestBank to Lebanon.

    How on Earth any one could compare Lebanon’s democracy to the nonsense “Israeli democracy” which denies around 50 per cent of its legitimate people a vote – or the right of residence – is beyond me.

    It is like the nonsense we used to hear from South African whites in the 1980s – “South Africa isn’t a perfect democracy, but it is the best in Africa (except Botswana)…”

    It was pretty silly to call apartheid S.A. an “imperfect democracy” – it is silly to call Israel an imperfect democracy – it just isn’t, it denies around four million legitimate citizens the right to vote or residence.

    Posted by Sofia al-Riachy | July 2, 2009, 5:35 pm
  42. How on Earth any one could compare Lebanon’s democracy to the nonsense “Israeli democracy” which denies around 50 per cent of its legitimate people a vote – or the right of residence – is beyond me.

    Sofia al-Riachy,

    Which Arab-Israeli citizens are unable to vote? How many Arab-Israelis representatives sit in the Knesset?

    Perhaps your dislike of Israel has played havoc with your objectivity.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 2, 2009, 8:43 pm
  43. Looks like the Obama Administration has reached a dead end.

    Meanwhile, where are the screams about the “Endless War”?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090702/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_9

    The Land of Hopenchange marches on…

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1097224.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 2, 2009, 8:48 pm
  44. Akbar Palace:

    Just go read what is happening in the big concentration camp of the “Land of Israel” – daily destruction of civilians on the sole basis of their ethnicity.race.religion.

    There is no comparison between Lebanon – which strives to have a place for all of its 18 communities – and the racist rubbish society of the “Land of Israel” – a collection of concentration camps, divided one from the other by barbed wires, tanks, walls, mad fully armed nazi settlers and an army and constitution to back it all up.

    http://www.maannews.net/en/

    Posted by Jean C Z Khoury | July 6, 2009, 7:59 am
  45. …daily destruction of civilians on the sole basis of their ethnicity.race.religion.

    Jean C Z Khoury,

    Wow, that sounds really bad. Do me a favor. Since my internet access is controlled by the Zionist Media and the Mossad, can you post a few links showing the “daily destruction of civilians” … “in the big concentration camp of the ‘Land of Israel'” (aka Zionist Entity)?

    Thanks.

    There is no comparison between Lebanon – which strives to have a place for all of its 18 communities

    Really? When is the last time Israel had a civil war whereby Jews killed tens of thousands of Jews?

    Yes Jean, there really is “no comparison”.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 7, 2009, 8:30 pm

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