Back in the Saddle

A happy new year to all, and many apologies for my brief absence from the blogosphere. Judging from the lively discussion taking place in the last post, no one seemed to notice I was gone.

Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for continuing to read and participate over the past year. I’ve been amazed by the blog’s constantly growing readership, and by the wide-ranging discussions that have developed on a daily basis. According to WordPress, if this blog were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take 13 days of Louvre-esque traffic to generate the number of visitors that we had this past year. And it’s not a quiet crowd that comes shuffling through here each day; the average number of comments per blog post in 2010 was 70! Wow! May 2011 bring even more armchair general-ing and Monday morning quarterbacking. (How many visitors do we need to start selling t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags? Hmmm…)

Ok, back to business. I’ve just returned from three weeks in Beirut. What to report?

  • The traffic is awful. Gone are the days when one could exert some semblance of control over one’s comings and goings in Ras Beirut. I literally spent half an hour one day trying to get out of the ABC parking garage in Achrafieh. That’s right: there are even traffic jams underground.
  • Hamra is the new Gemmayzeh. Or maybe it’s the old Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhail is the new Hamra. What do I know?
  • The amount of construction going on is a little hard to believe. Walk around Hamra and count the number of luxury high-rises going up. Then leaf through a copy of Middle East Airlines’ in-flight magazine, Cedar Wings, and count the number of advertisements for luxury high-rises. Multiply those two numbers together and you get 10,452 (i.e. the exact number of square kilometers of Lebanese territory). Divide the larger one by the smaller one and you get 18 (i.e. the number of sects in Lebanon). Amazing.
  • All that anyone wanted to talk about was Wikileaks and the Hariri investigation. Particularly interesting to me was how jaded everyone I spoke to seemed to be about the Tribunal. For the most part, the pro-haqiqa types have largely lost interest in al-haqiqa and the anti-haqiqa types aren’t penciling in the dates of Nasrallah’s television addresses on their calendars. There is an air of general resignation and a sense that Lebanon is returning (or has already returned) to the state of Syrian-Saudi stewardship that was the rule in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. One minister expressed his doubts to me that Lebanon would even hold parliamentary elections on time in 2013… More on this later.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already read the International Crisis Group’s report on the STL and its potential implications, you can download a PDF copy here. Spoiler alert: according to Peter Harling and co., there are no good solutions to the current standoff. I will have more to say about this, perhaps tomorrow or later this week.


64 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle

  1. If my calculations are accurate then QN surpassed the 300,000 visitors mark in 2010. I think that 2011 can see the half a million mark surpassed.
    There is no doubt that Lebanon might have experiened that very elusive period of independence for a fleeting moment afright after the Syrian withdawl. But that was not to last. How can it if Lebanon is led by politicians similar to Beri, Frangieh, Hariri, Nasrallah…. In each case our political leaders look for their own personal interest first and foremost. Al Mouateniah Al Lubnaniah is an alien concept . Funny thing is that the leaders are not to blame for this, the blame , if any, lies squarely on our shoulders, the citizens who allow such incompetents to be in charge of the state.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 3, 2011, 5:58 pm
  2. “Its
    President and Chief Executive since July 2009 has been
    Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human
    Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal
    Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.”

    Above quote can be found on page 35 of the ICG report.

    During the preparation of this report Mrs. Arbour was residing in Damascus, Syria. Probably she only visited Beirut as a tourist. No wonder most of her recommendations coincide more or less with the Syrian official line of ‘reasoning’; i.e. Justice can best be served by sacrificing justice for the sake of ‘prudence’ so that the people of Lebanon will not suffer the consequences of being deprived of justice. It is convoluted logic as you can see but with the Syrian regime convoluted reasoning is one of the highest ‘human virtues’. Our ‘enlightened’ Canucks President of the Group has just learned her first lesson in Realpolitiks.

    I second Ghassan كما تكونوا يُولّى عليكم.

    Posted by anonymous | January 3, 2011, 6:52 pm
  3. All I want to know is where can I buy that T-shirt 😉 ?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | January 3, 2011, 7:21 pm
  4. Ghassan,
    Although you make a valid point in blaming the Lebanese people for allowing incompetent leaders to control their lives, you can’t simply blame people for something they never knew.
    National identity is supposed to be created through a system that binds people together. Political and national identity of a state is also created by people whose common identity creates a psychological bond and a political community. Their political identity should compromise such characteristics as language, ethnicity, and history.
    Lebanon has all of the elements required for a national identity, except for the system and the leadership to bind it together. Again, I go back to the basic here; Unless the Lebanese political system is reformed drastically, there will not be a national identity which can bind the people into one nation with common aspirations. That brings us back to the sad reality in which, Lebanon lacks the leadership that can reform and create a modern, and democratic state.
    The United States was able to create a national identity by binding people of different ethnicities, back grounds, and languages. Yet, our current Lebanese system can’t bind people of same ethnicity and language.

    Posted by PROPHET | January 3, 2011, 11:35 pm
  5. “you can’t simply blame people for something they never knew.”

    OK that is more than clear: we’ll wait for the INFALLIBLE Imam to appear to teach the people. People are inherently incapable and ignorant and have no means at their disposal to find their ways on their own.

    “Political and national identity of a state is also created by people whose common identity creates a psychological bond and a political community.”

    That too is clear: we’ll adopt the politics of resistance after we pay allegiance to the proper authorities in Qom.

    “Unless the Lebanese political system is reformed drastically, there will not be a national identity which can bind the people into one nation with common aspirations.”

    That is genius!!! Why do we need a political system if we do not have the nation? Did any one hear of Lebanonistan?

    “That brings us back to the sad reality in which, Lebanon lacks the leadership that can reform and create a modern, and democratic state.”

    Very sad isn’t it? So, we kill them all because we are inherently ignorant and none of them satisfied our conditions that they should be INFALLIBLE or else.

    Posted by anonymous | January 4, 2011, 12:28 am
  6. on national identity: how can you construct a national identity when you know that children with dual nationality are exempted from learning arabic, the official language. you have a category of people, buying cheap passeports, and then snobbing their classmates who think it essential to learn arabic in lebanon… go figure…

    Posted by rachelle | January 4, 2011, 3:05 am
  7. QN’s remark on the building frenzy in Beirut is in interesting contrast to the political pessimism QN reports.

    Real estate markets are usually supposed to be a good indicator of people’s long range expectations, easpecially in a time of world economic slump.

    Suprisingly (?), I know of another counry’s currently gripped by unprecedented real estate demand and prices…


    Posted by G | January 4, 2011, 9:29 am
  8. anonymous,#5
    I was simply commenting on GK (#2), Statement that “Funny thing is that the leaders are not to blame for this, the blame, if any, lies squarely on our shoulders, the citizens who allow such incompetents to be in charge of the state.”
    I don’t understand how you came up with these interpretations.
    Where did I mention the “INFALLIBLE Imam”, resistance, or Qum? Where did that come from? How were you able to misread my intentions?
    I wish you would discuss the actual views I presented in my comments, without resorting to cynical interpretations. If your intentions are to score points, mine are not.
    I don’t know if it’s an obsession you have with the shiia symbols or it is your fears of them. Whatever it is, it neither makes this discussion useful in any way, nor necessary. I don’t intend to argue for the sake of argument with you.
    If you read my comment carefully, you should be able to see that what I’m calling for is ; system reform, responsible and qualified leaders, law and order ,and national identity in which all Lebanese are bonded by. I’m simply calling for a system that would eliminate the “need’ of some Lebanese for the things you fear.
    A democratic system with proper representation, along with justice system that is fair and firm is the only way to build a state where everyone can be part of.
    You keep your lovely sectarian system, and you will end up with 18 different minis –states with 18 different mini national /sectarian identities.

    Posted by PROPHETT | January 4, 2011, 2:48 pm
  9. I meant to say GK (#1) instead of (#2)

    Posted by PROPHETT | January 4, 2011, 3:01 pm
  10. Prophet 8,

    I found your comment 4 self contradictory, so I allowed myself the freedom of replying ‘cynically’ in order to highlight those contradictions.

    Your argument is a clear convoluted form of reasoning typical of individuals who are imprisoned by their patron regimes and organizations. You do have the potential to free yourself of this imprisonment, but you still do not have enough courage to swim in the world on your own with your free thoughts and will.

    No, I do not any obsession or fear with any Shia symbols. But I do have great reservations and rejection when I see the posters of Khomeini and other non-Lebanese figures on both sides of the Boulevard as you leave the Beirut Airport. If that is the kind of identity you are seeking for Lebanon, then I was simply saying do not bother to seek to create any political system. Unless and until you are willing to dissociate yourself publicly and privately from such behaviour and its implications, you are arguing with the wrong audience.

    Secondly, If you still do not see that the slogan of ‘resistance’ is a false idol, then may be you should reflect back into yourself before lecturing others on how to reform a dysfunctional political system. Once you go through this process then you would probably see it is a primary cause of this dysfunction. Once you discover this, it becomes incumbent upon you and your good conscience to step out courageously and call for its dismantlement before seeking the wholesale replacement of a political class. While doing so, you may also ask yourself should those who may turn out to be responsible for political assassinations, who themselves are members of this political class, should be among those incarcerated to satisfy your demand for the purge you have in mind. Shouldn’t in this case HNA and his like-minded group be sent to the land where their allegiances belong?

    Posted by anonymous | January 4, 2011, 3:21 pm
  11. anonymous,(#10)
    There you go again, giving yourself the right to be Mr. “knows it all”.
    I’m not here to defend myself against your judgmental characterizations. I know who I am and how free my thoughts are. I don’t feel the need to pass your litmus test of true nationalistic requirement or freedom of thought. I’m not running in a popularity contest, nor am I looking for any one’s approval. I realize and accept that we will disagree on many topics.
    Many of the things that bother you about the Lebanese political and social seen, bother me as well, but we may have different ideas to resolve them.
    Whether it’s the khaminai’s portrait at the airport route, or the Assad portrait some were else or the foreign involvement in Lebanese affairs. I can’t help you if some shiia looks up to khaminai as some Christians look up to the pope.
    But don’t expect me to denounce the whole resistance idea because of that.

    My views of the resistance result from my own experience, which may have been different from yours. I lived under occupation, and suffered, you didn’t. I lived under threats of Israeli aggressions since child hood, but you didn’t. I supported the resistance before the birth of HA, because I believe it is the honorable thing to do, when many of my fellow Lebanese (from all sects) betrayed their country and collaborated with the Israelis. So please don’t lecture me on this topic.
    What you call “false idol” is what liberated most of the occupied territories; whether you admit that or not, it makes no difference. It wasn’t you or the Lebanese army or the united nation that liberated us. That being said, I differentiate between the role of the resistance, which is and should be a temporary tool, and the need for major reforms so that Lebanon will never need to have a resistance lead by one group .You can’t see that, too bad.
    In my earlier comment, I suggested some ideas so that EVERY Lebanese is bonded into one identity and one allegiance. We need no allegiance to Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, or any other foreign country.
    If you want us to try to score points, one could suggest that Bashir or Amin Gemayl or even Geagea should have been be sent to Israel, and Hariri should be sent to Saudi Arabia, others should be sent to Syria or to France or the United States.
    My point is; no need to try to score points here. Before you spot my window, you better clean your fingers.
    Once more, I say that there is a need to build one and only one national identity. There is a need to build a state where everyone feels its home.
    You keep your line of thinking, we won’t get any where.

    Posted by PROPHETT | January 4, 2011, 4:51 pm
  12. PROPHET 11,

    I am entitled, as is everyone else, to judge any argument when I find it contradictory. It is an open forum. You should have justified your contradictions and not come forward pretending to be complaining about personal grievances. I avoided mentioning your monikor and simply quoted your own words and commented on them on purpose. You could have done something similar. If you think you presented any basis for creating a national identity by simply purging a political class, or as it is becoming clear from your own words by adopting the politics of resistance you’re utterly mistaken. There is no basis whatsoever for such identity in what you say.

    Yet, you come back with more contradictions,

    ” I can’t help you if some shiia looks up to khaminai as some Christians look up to the pope.”

    I can hardly remember how the pope looks like, or if any of his posters are available for display anywhere in Lebanon. I still haven’t seen legions of Vatican trained RG’s parading anywhere in Lebanon with full military gear.

    “But don’t expect me to denounce the whole resistance idea because of that.”

    Legitimate resistance ended long ago. By your admission it should only be temporary. Then it is time to be courageous and call for its immediate dismantlement. Otherwise your ‘nationalistic’ lectures are the hallmarks of sheer hypocrisy.

    You easily accuse others of being ‘traitors’ while your own comrades received Israeli soldiers with open arms in S. Beirut in 82 and continued to cooperate with them for long time thereafter until interests diverged. Do you think we live on different planets?

    How do know what my background is, or whether I suffered or not or have not lived under occupation? And even if all that was the case, do you think I’ll be coming here asking the comment section to offer me special treatment just for that as form of repayment? This is exactly the idol of false ‘resistance’ that you should be reflecting upon and seek to dismantle. You do not have any special claim to patriotism more than any other Lebanese who was born or lived anywhere in Lebanon. So keep such crap away from our ears.

    AND NO it was NOT resistance which liberated Lebanon. It was pure geopolitical considerations. 2006 proved the failure of such false ‘resistance’ and had it not been for the UN and the GOL, we can only guess what the conditions would be at the moment.
    What about 2008? Do you call that resistance? What about the continuing infringement on people’s liberties committed by the same gangs you call members of ‘resistance’? I wonder when your leader will give the orders for his gangs to march south and act on his words and liberate the so-called Ghajjar and Shebaa.

    Finally, I do not care about popularity. I think I differed with more commentators than anyone else precisely because I like to express my own thoughts and not simply tailor may words as a member of an orchestra. What is the use in such case?

    Posted by anonymus | January 4, 2011, 5:56 pm
  13. Guys, for the sake of all that is holy, would you please settle on a single spelling of your monikers and stick with it? 🙂

    Otherwise your comments have to be released from moderation. Which is a pain.

    Carry on.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 4, 2011, 6:20 pm
  14. Or don’t carry on, please. That silly back and forth has gotten old. Let’s leave it to 2010 and try to make 2011 the year of civil debate.

    Ah who am I kidding? Lebanese have no idea what “civil debate” means…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 4, 2011, 7:02 pm
  15. QN, if you are referring to my spelling, I’m sorry that I sometimes use caps. I’ll try to be consistent. I use two different pc’s and it just happened that I used caps on one of them.
    anynomus, #12
    I was simply stating facts, and not complaining about personal grievances. The occupation of the country we both call home, is not a personal grievance, but it should be a national issue to all of us, but unfortunately, aggression and occupation against your country does not faze you. ”
    I didn’t Condon the raising of the Khaminai portrait on the side of the airport road, I clearly stated that it is one of the things that bother me as much as it bothers you. So read correctly before you throw accusations. I’ll show you exactly what I said: “Many of the things that bother you about the Lebanese political and social seen, bother me as well, but we may have different ideas to resolve them.
    Whether it’s the khaminai’s portrait at the airport route, or the Assad portrait some were else or the foreign involvement in Lebanese affairs”
    Again, you love to twist words around, I did say that resistance “which is and should be a temporary tool” I never said that it did ended, because the threat did not.
    I don’t know what background you came from or whether you suffered or not, but as you give yourself the right to judge, I made a judgment based on your argument. Your argument didn’t seem to care about occupation, or liberation. We do see both differently. If anything, this is a good example of the need for a national identity, where everyone can recognizes the enemy for friend.
    No body is my comrade, you and I went through this once before; Daoud Daoud is nothing but a traitor, and anyone who collaborated is a traitor. I don’t differentiate when it comes to traitors; shiia, Christians or atheists, are all the same when it comes to betraying the nation. Traitors have no religion or faith.
    I’m tired of your crap as well, but I’m not telling you to say or not to say them. I’ll say what ever I want, while marinating total respect to this forum, and too bad you do not want to hear it or read it. You can’t choose for people what they want to say either; you can choose what you want to read, and what (and who) to respond to. I didn’t ask you to respond to my comment, it was your choice, and that is ok with me.
    I will not waste my time going through the liberation or the 2006 war again, you and I discussed it more than once. We are in disagreement on both issues. .
    As for the 2008, it should not have happened, and the unconstitutional (and suspicious) government should not have passed those laws either. After the discovery of Israel’s violations, and total control of Lebanon’s communications systems, I can understand the resistance’s reaction more than I did back then. Don’t take that as an approval of what happened in 2008 though.

    Posted by prophett | January 4, 2011, 8:01 pm
  16. The long reach of the Zionist Entity now includes the animal kingdom…


    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 4, 2011, 10:44 pm
  17. A. Palace,

    What do you think of the QN tee design? I think it’s quite handsome.

    Were you surprised to read that the hizzies’ grinding “war of attrition” (as described by Israelis) had so little to do with future PM Barak’s popular campaign promise to finally comply with UNSCR 425 22 yrs after the fact?

    Perhaps his campaign advisor, “Democrat” James Carville, could expand on Ehud’s calculations.

    Perhaps his

    Posted by lally | January 5, 2011, 4:02 am
  18. …oh nevermind.

    Posted by lally | January 5, 2011, 4:09 am
  19. The Captive Arab Mind

    Such minds resort to conspiracy theory because it is the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world.

    Read here the full article.

    Posted by Badr | January 5, 2011, 6:16 am
  20. Lally,

    It’s a nice T-shirt, but I would have liked to see a funny quip along with it like:

    – “I’m with Abal” or

    – “My best friend went to Beirut, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”

    I didn’t read anything about the “hizzies”, but if you have a link, I’ll make sure to read it. Are you a fan of the “hizzies”? How popular are they in Lebanon these days?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 5, 2011, 8:36 am
  21. I love that quote in Badr’s post #19!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 5, 2011, 1:41 pm
  22. A.Palace.

    While your suggestions for tee quips are slightly superior to the renown T of “I’m with stupid–>” infamy, from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, they would mar the clean white-on-black graphic impact of the original design.

    However, if any verbiage were to be included on an official QN product, it would have to be on the reverse or back side and more directly relate to the spirit of the site.

    My personal favorite is the classic *koan* penned by your friend AIG:

    Lebanon is a strange place.
    The more you try to learn,
    The less you understand.

    Given that, for most potential buyers residing in the “civilized” West (DC & Paris possibly excluded) the likely reactions from observers would be along the lines of HUH? or WTF?.

    Confusion aside, the added costs of front-AND-back printing could mitigate against it’s inclusion. On the upside, the QN inspired *koan* could be perceived as a value-add to the intrinsic *in-club* mystique of the product line.

    Posted by lally | January 5, 2011, 4:16 pm
  23. When Ghassan and I talk about how the Lebanese people are to blame first and foremost….

    Here’s a good example:


    If more people took matters into their own hands and demanded an end to sectarianism, like the people in this story did, we wouldn’t have that ready-made excuse to blame every time.

    Sure, the system is shit as it is, but at least, the law does state that only the “category 1” jobs should be doled out based on sect. Yet sectarian allotments are still used through and through everywhere. And these people mentioned in the story demanded their rights and fought for said rights. It IS possible to move in the right direction of the PEOPLE stop complaining and acting like they are powerless. Stop blaming the politicians and start demanding your rights.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 5, 2011, 6:47 pm
  24. Lally,

    If it’s possible, I would like to order 2 T-shirts with AIG’s classic *koan*,

    Lebanon is a strange place.
    The more you try to learn,
    The less you understand.®

    One in the traditional “Islamic” Green and the second in Zionist blue and white.

    Thank you.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 5, 2011, 7:37 pm
  25. That’s good BV. But you and Ghassan are perhaps over stepping over a more essential first step.

    People must first believe this is the right thing to do before they can act and engage in the battle. Either they do not believe, or religous authorities are making them not believe, or a mixture of both.

    Posted by anonymous | January 5, 2011, 7:45 pm
  26. — QN, if you are referring to my spelling, I’m sorry that I sometimes use caps. I’ll try to be consistent. I use two different pc’s and it just happened that I used caps on one of them. —

    I think the reference was to the fact that there’s a Prophet (al-Nabi), and another Prophett (Jesus?), and yet another Prophettt (Moses?).

    Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and the best for 2011!

    Posted by Gabriel | January 5, 2011, 7:47 pm
  27. A. Palace.

    It’s the contrast that provides the strength of the design. So, while green and/or blue could be suitable base colors, black w/ the white graphic manages to be classic and hip @ the same time.

    You’re welcome.

    Posted by lally | January 5, 2011, 8:04 pm
  28. Gabriel ,
    I think you are just jealous that you are not a NABI ,LOL
    Happy new year to you as well.

    Posted by prophett | January 5, 2011, 8:06 pm
  29. anonymous #25:

    “People must first believe this is the right thing to do before they can act and engage in the battle. Either they do not believe, or religous authorities are making them not believe, or a mixture of both.”

    On the contrary. I am saying exactly what you just said. GK and myself (and others) have often argued that the problem with Lebanon is primarily the apathy and ignorance of its people, not the Zionist conspiracies or whathaveyou. People are also fond of blaming the politicians and religious leaders for our various predicaments.

    What you just said goes hand in hand with my point of view. It is the Lebanese people who, through their insistence on clinging to sectarianism, perpetuate the problem and enable the politicians to take advantage of the situation.

    I am simply sick and tired of people complaining that “It’s all the fault of our corrupt politicians. If they all went away, we’d be fine.”

    The truth is, if they all went away, the Lebanese people would simply find new sectarian and corrupt leaders, because to put it simply, the leadership is simply a reflection of the populace’s entrenched sectarianism.

    The story I linked to above simply shows that when a few brave souls dare to actually stand up to the sectarian system, and the corrupt politicians, they can actually attain some of their rights to a secular existence.

    Let me put it very simply using an example from the story above: Apparently the ISF enrolls applicants based on sectarian quotas (and is often accused, btw, of being a militia for a certain side, etc). Apparently this practice is not even legal or in law, even in our existing crappy system. And it took a few young men challenging this practice, and applying with no sect listed on their IDs to get the ball rolling.

    Now why is it that ALL applicants to the ISF don’t follow that example? If the Lebanese people are so tired of sectarianism, and of the corrupt politicians; if the Lebanese people are so tired of the religious leaders, then why can’t they all do something as simple as striking sect from their ID card? The mechanism is there. There’s your opportunity to tell off these leaders your claim to despise so much. There’s your chance to tell off this system you claim to hate. Yet only a HANDFUL of people get their sect stricken from their ID. Why?

    Time to take a candid look at ourselves and stop being hypocrites. Stop blaming the politicians for keeping us in this sectarian system we claim to hate…The truth is, it seems a large segment of Lebanese are fully on board with this sectarian system.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 5, 2011, 8:27 pm
  30. “The truth is, if they all went away, the Lebanese people would simply find new sectarian and corrupt leaders….

    BV, I said exactly the same thing in the previous thread when someone raised the argument of corrupt politicians – not in defence of any politician but, a simple statement of basic truth.

    I am also sick and tired of this hypocrisy of demanding change while not making the least effort to be candid and honest with oneself. Quite often the demand is accompanied by slick attempts to establish false premises designed perhaps specifically, and on purpose to maintain the status quo. It is the most demeaning and repulsive argument to put forward as it presupposes gullibility across the board.

    This ISF issue is interesting indeed. I am not sure if you read last week’s Nahranet report quoting an Israeli newspaper regarding a possible deal brokered by the two S’s. I referred to that story in the previous thread as well. I believe the story is speculative, but it is something to ponder upon.

    Posted by anonymous | January 5, 2011, 9:45 pm
  31. QN,

    Oh, my! E. Abrams DID start his own blog, but sadly did not call it “If I were a Lebanese Christian …”

    I think if you send him your ode to a Syrian pear, he just might add you to his blogroll …

    Worth a try, non?


    Posted by david | January 5, 2011, 11:34 pm
  32. BV #29,
    I am assuming that you have been out of Lebanon for a while and so you do believe in the Lebanese myth that removal of the entry: religion from the new ID cards is a serious step towards de confessionalism. Nothing can be farther away from the truth:-)
    When I was growing up ( many moons ago) only very specific official transactions required what we call “Ikhraj Kaid” which is an official transcript of the family records. Yes each family in Lebanon has a number under which the government maintains meticulous personal records. The only use of these records as far as I am concerned is to reconstruct ones family tree:-)
    Anyway, ever since the new ID cards were issued there is hardly anything that one can do in Lebanon that does not require an “Ikhraj Kaid”. This is simply to find the religion of the applicant based on the official records , an entry that supposedly is no longer important since it has been removed from the ID cards.

    Please do not forget that the individual does not have a say in his/her classification by religion. It is assumed that if one is born to Christian parents then one is a Christian. It is very difficult to have the official records changed. You cannot claim to be an atheist forexample or to have the record change as you change your religious affiliation. If one is registered as a Maronite , then becoming disenchanted with the Maronite customs in favour of say the Greek Orthodox Church liturgy or possibly Islamic traditions is not taken into consideration.This religious classification based on the religion of the parents is a reflection of a very stratified social structure.
    Then there is the matter of names, both first names and family names. Both are usedas code words for ones religion. Very rarely is a Moroun a Greek Orthodox or Omar a Christian. There are a few names , besides western names, that are used by both Moslems and Christians ., Ghassan is one of them. But as soon as it is known that I am a Karam then I cannot hide any longer. Almost everyone assumes that I am from Zgharta and that I am related to Youssef Bey.
    As you can see the removal of the entry for religion on the ID cards was not resisted by Bkirki and other religious leaders simply because it is innocuous. It is very ineefective. We will always know ones religion in lebanon either based on first name, family name, place of birth or even place of residence . We find a way of telling who is what simply becasue it is important for us. A good step by the government would be to stop keeping such meaningless records. Maybe we should classify people by the colour of their eyes instead.
    A good challenge , on a wide scale, would be for non Maronites to challenge the constitutionality of presidential elections and for Maronites to run for Speaker and say a major bloc of MP’s nominate a Druze for PM…

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 6, 2011, 1:34 am
  33. Dave,
    I have not been able to find the new EA blog. Can you provide a link . Tnx.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 6, 2011, 11:06 am
  34. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by Harb’s proposal, the more I think about it the more the law makes sense for such a dysfunctional and corrupt country like Lebanon. In a land where jobs, schools, marriage, and whatever else are dictated by one’s sectarian identity then why not have the government decide where we can buy property. I propose an amendment, I think that the law should also prevent people from Sunni, Shia, Maronite, Greek Orthodox sects from selling to each other. But gulf arabs should be free to buy winter chalets in the Christian areas around Faraya, summer escapes in the Druze areas around Aley, and investment property in DT.

    Posted by tamer k. | January 6, 2011, 11:50 am
  35. GK,


    Apparently, his blog is being hosted by his current employer: this after talks broke down with the MeowLebanon for a weekly column: “If I were a Lebanese Christian …”

    yuk-yuk-yuk …

    Posted by david | January 6, 2011, 12:17 pm
  36. “If I were a Lebanese Christian…”

    Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
    All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.
    If I were a… you get the idea…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 6, 2011, 1:36 pm
  37. If Harb’s “justification” for such a segregationist bill, which calls for the banning of real estate sales between people of different faith, is to prevent the exodus of Christians of Lebanon, and to preserve the number of Christians in Lebanon ; Would any one be surprised if other Lebanese politicians called for banning marriages between people of different faiths or sects, in order to preserve the number of any particular faith or sect?
    What would happen to Lebanese couples who are from different faiths, or to their children if they were not raised to believe in two different faiths? How would this bill treat them? Can a Christian wife of a Muslim husband (or visa versa) buy land at her husband’s town or neighborhood? Can that same Muslim husband buy land at his wife’s town?

    Posted by prophett | January 6, 2011, 1:38 pm
  38. This sentence should have said:”or to their children if ONE OR MORE WERE raised to believe in two different faiths?”

    Posted by prophett | January 6, 2011, 1:42 pm
  39. Dave,
    I would hesitate to call the last two entries a blog. I was tempted to use the term compendium until it hit me that would be totally wrong since compendium implies comprehensive:-) I wonder how much he is paid to put together twice a day snippets of news items about the Middle East:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 6, 2011, 1:49 pm
  40. Ghassan,

    In response to your above statement. Yes, I have been away from Lebanon (although my immediate family still lives there).

    The point of my above rant had nothing to do about whether removing sect from ID card was effective or not. The point I was trying to illustrate via that story I linked to, was that there are a few people (VERY VERY FEW) who actually even bother to pursue legal options (or really any kind of initiative) towards removing sectarian thinking. It didn’t quite matter to my point whether removing the sect off the ID card was effective or not. That’s not the point. The point was that you CAN. Yet very very few choose to do so or to take matters to court (as in the case of those ISF applicants).
    This highlights what you and I have said time and again: It is the Lebanese people as a whole who are to blame. They seem perfectly satisfied with sectarianism. But oftentimes, when you talk to the average lebanese, they blame their predicament on everyone from Washington to Tel Aviv and the corruption of our own leaders.
    These same people show absolutely NO INTEREST in even taking a SYMBOLIC step (effective or not) at saying no to sectarianism.
    These same people, as you so well pointed out, are the first to make assumptions about you based on your last name.

    So once again: My point is this: Lebanon’s biggest ill is sectarianism. And sectarianism is NOT (as often claimed) a result of corrupt politicians and religious leaders imposing some kind of idea on us. It is the result of our own ignorance and obscurantism. WE the people have created this monster. WE the people have continued to put this system in place and maintain it in place. And WE the people have provided the platform for these politicians and religious leaders.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 6, 2011, 1:51 pm
  41. Anyone here have a Facebook account? If so, the little About me section graciously allows members to describe their political and religious affiliation.

    It is remarkable how many people fill those in.

    BV. I’m an atheist, and I suppose I could go to the courts in Lebanon and insist that my “faith” be represented in this document or that document. But I don’t go about my day to day life obsessing over such details.

    Some people will feel very strongly about something and pursue legal actions. For those who don’t, it’s not a testament of alterior motives. Just indifference or laziness.

    The paper itself is not the problem. That religious affiliation box is just ink. The problem is deeper and more profound.

    QN: LMAO.

    Prophet: Well ok. Maybe I’m a little jealous ;). But I’m an angel. Doesn’t that mean I at least have wings :D.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 6, 2011, 2:08 pm
  42. Gabriel, of course the problem is deeper and more profound. That was exactly my point.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 6, 2011, 2:24 pm
  43. The biggest ill of Lebanon is corruption on all levels and in massive scale. Even children are corrupt just look at how parents there teach their young ones to be a bully and a thief, they call it “Shatara”!
    Sectarianism is just used as an enabler and a vehicle for corruption.

    Posted by V | January 6, 2011, 3:02 pm
  44. Gabriel,41
    Angels are very unique; each one has its own distinguished wings. lol

    BV, 40
    People share some of the blame for the sectarianism in Lebanese society, yet it is the responsibility of the leadership to create a democratic, nonsectarian, and transparent system, where everyone shares same responsibilities and duties.
    Nonsectarian Laws and regulations, if enforced on everyone, would change behavior and habits of people.
    Separation of politics and religious institutions is a must, for any changes to take place.
    Unless a new enlightened secular leadership emerges, don’t expect this current gang of leaders to abolish the system that serves their interests.
    It would take a miracle (if one ever existed) for the current leadership to realize that the current system is tearing the whole nation apart, and that it has been nothing but a total failure.
    The way the system works now; even secular Lebanese are being forced to dependent on those sectarian leaders. If you are secular Lebanese who is in need for any government work or contract, you must rely on some sectarian lord to obtain such work.
    Religious and political leaders speak against the sectarian system on a daily bases, yet they do everything possible to maintain the status quo, and prevent any nonsectarian voices to be heard, or effective.

    Posted by prophett | January 6, 2011, 3:08 pm
  45. BV:

    I wasn’t suggesting you didn’t think the problem is deeper. I think everyone recognizes the problem is deeper.

    But in the spirit of what I wrote, I think most people are at the very least lazy. I agree with the Nabi, that sometimes, change has to come Top-Down, because not everyone will take matters in their own hands as in the example you cited with the ISF.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 6, 2011, 4:07 pm
  46. GK,

    Did you read his wife’s blog?

    Posted by david | January 6, 2011, 4:08 pm
  47. BV #40,
    I do understand the gist of what you are getting to, afterall we have been on the same page 99.9% of the time :-); but I just wanted to add that the new ID card that does not list religion is a sham and that is why all agreed to it. All the concerned have found a new round about way of finding ones “official” religion.
    So to disappoint you , but in Lebanon you cannot claim atheism as a religion because just like all countries in the Middle East a religion needs to be officially recognized.

    Sorry to disagree again but no Top down movement ever succeeds in the long run.I agree that laws must be passed and vigorously enforced but laws in a democratic society will pass only if they represent the thinking of a majority of the people.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 6, 2011, 4:34 pm
  48. Ghassan, Gabriel,

    See Prophett’s comment above?

    That is precisely what I was ranting about.

    There are many like Prophet who seem to think that they don’t need to do any of the work. That some new leadership will magically “appear” out of the sky someday and fix the problems.

    Leaders do not magically appear with agendas like that. Leaders are 99.9% of the time a reflection of the populace. They are “created” by the populace. A Leader, no matter how enlightened, would have ZERO weight and ZERO followers if he didn’t somehow channel the thinking and mentality of his people.

    If I were to land in Beirut tomorrow and start making speeches about concepts that are completely foreign to Lebanon, no one would care. No matter how smart, personable I was. Or how much merit my ideas had.

    This concept that leaders somehow appear out of thin air needs to be exposed for the fallacy it is. Leaders are projections of their surroundings. Sectarian leaders and corrupt leaders are a result of a sectarian and corrupt society, who after all these years of death and war, still continue to cling to their ways.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 6, 2011, 5:14 pm
  49. GK:

    I’m not disappointed :). Although either way, maybe that’s a good place to start!

    Also, I don’t think you need to apologize for disagreements. I don’t agree with the point you made on Top Down.

    Case in point:


    The death penalty was abolished in Canada even when the “majority” was supportive of it.

    I think it’s quite silly to think that laws can be passed or not passed only when the “democratic majority” wills it so.

    As I said a few posts ago, unless the issue is a burning one, most people tend to be complacent, and there are enough Civil laws that can be easily enacted in Lebanon that are will ease off the sectarian mindset. I doubt very much the population at large would stand up and cause a raucus over them.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 6, 2011, 5:15 pm
  50. Ghassan,
    Best example of top down movement is the Turkish example. Ataturk’s reform movement began with the modernization of the constitution and adaptation of European laws to the needs of the new republic. This was followed by a thorough secularization and modernization of the administration, with particular focus on the education system.
    These reforms helped Turkish society to westernize itself politically and culturally.

    Posted by prophett | January 6, 2011, 5:30 pm
  51. Yet Turkish society, over the past 20-30 years has slowly moved itself slowly further and further away from secularism to the point where *surprise surprise*, the new batch of leaders to emerge in the past 20 years are less and less secular (and the current party in power is outright “Islamist”).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 6, 2011, 5:33 pm
  52. AV,48 and 51
    I think you misunderstood my intentions there. I never meant to imply that people have no responsibility in any reforms.
    I think that, unless you mean a revolution, the people of Lebanon will not be able to elect the desired leadership to carry any reforms. The sectarian system in place, does not allow for such a movement to appear.
    As for the new leadership in turkey; it was elected through the same modern system, and they have not touched the democratic principles of the Turkish republic. Being an Islamite party isn’t the issue here. The issue is whether this party is abiding by the democratic principles of the nation or not. I think they are, and they have reduced the undemocratic influence of the army .

    Posted by prophett | January 6, 2011, 5:46 pm
  53. Turkey was a failed state for over 70 years after ataturk imposed secularism.

    I disagre with you as well. The death penalty abolition was passed in parliament in the 50s. The article you quoted does not show popular sentiment at that time. It shows it 40 years later. You wouldn’t expect people to march into the streets demanding reintroduction because of that. Perhaps if some drastic events take place that may happen.

    The symbolic act of those few in Lebanon who strike out the sect entry from their ID cards, ineffective as it may be, represents the awarness of those few of the importance of the issue based on firm beliefs and consciousness. Therefore they act and express a statement. This awareness is in general non-existent in a proportion large enough to effect a meaningful change.

    Here’s my two cents why. We are tribes nicely classified into sectarian groups. The individual must melt in the tribe as he or she has no separate existence outside his tribe.

    Why do you think we keep commenting on QN? Too bad elias you chose a name for your blog from a quote of someone who represented the tribal establishment of his time. Couldn’t you have thought of someone else? There’s at least one (Tarfa) who rebelled and was equally if not more talented. But still it (the blog) turned out successful (300000 visitors and rising!) because it represented our deep past, projected into our present, and we cannot free ourselves from such past easily. This is another conspiracy theory you guys may take into consideration when you seek to absolve yourselves of guilt – now you can also blame it on QN.

    Posted by anonymous | January 6, 2011, 6:00 pm
  54. Anonymous, I’m gonna copy and paste this quote from your post as this is precisely what I was attempting to say. You said it in a far more concise and clear way.

    The symbolic act of those few in Lebanon who strike out the sect entry from their ID cards, ineffective as it may be, represents the awarness of those few of the importance of the issue based on firm beliefs and consciousness. Therefore they act and express a statement. This awareness is in general non-existent in a proportion large enough to effect a meaningful change.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 6, 2011, 6:22 pm
  55. I just love your blog and read it every day …

    Posted by fallaha | January 6, 2011, 6:26 pm
  56. Anon:

    At the time of abolishment, a strong majority of Canadians,were supportive of the death penalty.

    Since you want to be scientific about it:


    • The national poll results were: 23.3 per cent retention, 36.8 per cent retention for special crimes, 33 per cent abolition, 7 per cent undecided.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 6, 2011, 6:28 pm
  57. Gabriel #49,
    “Sorry that you misunderstood the use of the term “sorry to disappoint you” 🙂 That was no apology but an expression of regret. lol.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 6, 2011, 6:39 pm
  58. GK:

    LoL. You should never be personally “regretful” then to disappoint.

    Either way, I most certainly hope you’re not gleefully strutting at my disappointment, and that any expression of regret you may have is as sincere as they get! 😀

    Posted by Gabriel | January 6, 2011, 6:53 pm
  59. Gaby 55,

    Regardless. The issue of the death penaly is not an existential issue that would threaten a whole nation. I could be supportive of the death penalty but at the same time I can see the merits of magnanimity. So, there is not a strong incentive to actively oppose a government measure that is unpopular. That happens all the time in democratic states.

    Lebanon has a national crisis combined with lack of activism on the popular level.

    Think more in terms of Trudeaux’ constitutional reforms.

    Posted by anonymous | January 6, 2011, 8:00 pm
  60. Here’s a new development on current issues. Looks like Hariri finally broke his silence and provided answers to the many speculations that were raging for the last two months,


    There is also a link to the question and answer dialog within the article if you like to be thorough with details.

    Posted by anonymous | January 6, 2011, 8:27 pm
  61. Here’s another one worth reading related to our discussion,


    Some may come back and say Hanin is working in tandem with Harb for ulterior motives. So what, if the end result is raising awareness? Some one has to speak.

    Posted by anonymous | January 6, 2011, 8:44 pm
  62. There’s a new post up, ladies and gents. It deals w/ some of the stuff in that Hayat piece.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 6, 2011, 9:13 pm
  63. I still stand unconvinced that the Syrian-saudi machinations will achieve their goal in the long run 9 read 3-4 years) Hezbollah and its allies might feel like the cat who ate the mouse Saad Hariri who has failed to show any statesmanship or ability to govern. His first mistake was to accept a national unity government.
    If there is a Lebanon, a free and independent Lebanon in four years from now then my crystal ball shows a country without an illegal militia that takes orders from Qom. Hezbollah, the political wing will be a large bloc but not an overwhelming power. Simply stated my vision rests on the simple premise that history does not move backward, it just cannot do that in the long run.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 6, 2011, 9:53 pm
  64. My crystal ball shows NO free and independent Lebanon in 3-4 years.
    In fact, my crystal ball shows a Lebanon that looks pretty much exactly the same as it does now.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 7, 2011, 2:20 pm

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