la calle, esta semana

noviembre 19, 2007

En dos días el parliamento libanés se reune para elegir un ‘candidato de consenso’ y de este modo, en principio, romper el impase político que se lleva viviendo en el Líbano desde hace dos años. O desde hace 30, según como lo mires. Todos andan tensados, esperando lo peor y imaginando lo que podría desencadenarse a partir de esta semana (vease por ejemplo http://www.aboujahjah.com/?p=57#more-57 , en ingles)

aquí he un mini ensayo de una amiga, que transmite el ambiente en las calles de beirut en estos días:

A scene of pedestrians walking quickly through out the streets of Beirut
to their preset destination is a warning sign. As if the arriving horizon
is covering the city with dark promises, bringing back a nightmare that
lasted 35 years.

Their destinations are their homes of safe spaces, but soon when the
flying bullets and the snipers deadly jokes performing a symphony of
sporadic noise to the silent city outside, then these homes will turn into
graveyards, of living bodies waiting in despair.

This is the tension of uncertain memories. In a present resembling stories
told by a former militia soldier, once, while finishing his fourth beer
bottle, in an epiphany of regret, that tragically fades in the next

What Lebanon is currently undergoing is not limited only to the
presidential elections; it would be foolish to pretend that. An
existential and spatial crisis that generations of the Lebanese people
have been going through cannot be limited and solved only by finding a
suitable president.

Portraying the presidential election as the key knot of all these
never-ending conflicts, means that we are procrastinating again the
inevitable tasks of naming the factual reasons of these conflicts as they
truly are. Thus, we again are creating an imaginary setting to hide the
real reasons that would explain the logic of this steadfastness and
yearning to war.

If some Lebanese believe that the Syrian regime is the foe, and some
others believe it is Israel. How would the presidential election be a step
towards bridging this difference? Could the president determine who is the
vital other for the Lebanese, and by identifying this other the Lebanese
would be able to understand the true meaning of sovereignty. Such a
president must be an instant messenger from god and with holy powers, the
kind of leader that the Lebanese people fall for head over heels.

The vacancy of the presidential seat fools no one; this sort of vacancy
becomes an embarrassment in front of international diplomatic presence. A
president needed for a country’s prestige. As unacceptable as this idea
might be for some, it remains a popular perspective that Lebanese share
among them selves. The Lebanese president has no say in war, or in peace,
the Lebanese president decides no allies or foes. A candidate for the
presidency should be neutral; he must be objective to the extent of
detachment. Who will be seated on the chair in Baabda place? Who will be
representing the dominatrix of the Lebanese inter relationships? Questions
that can be avoided at no cost if we would replace them with different
questions, what should a Lebanese president stand for? How close should
this position be to the actual Lebanese politics?

A magnet is pulling people to war. A magnet of sectarian insecurities and
international loyalties, a broken bridge with the past keeps manifesting
it self in the so-called arbitrary acts of violence. If we have never
admitted that we have killed each other for reasons of antagonism, then we
cannot say we might repeat these killing. All records have been cleared,
and rewritten. A new Lebanese identity created in the post Rafik Al Hariri
Lebanon; pre-produced identities sold through Image consumption.

If this war breaks through, we should not complain. We should not run
around and blame people or increase our xenophobia by enslaving more
Syrian workers, Africans, Asians and Palestinians. This time if the war
breaks through we should accept that this is who we are. A group of lost
zealots with self-hatred issues committing crimes in the name of freedom,
resistance and enlightenment. We are our own fear.

If this war must break through, let it be out in the area of Solidere and
let be destroyed again. Let this war if it must break through; erase all
false visions of any future we fool our self to embrace. If this war must
break through then surely, the resistance true face will fall down, and
the men of god could fight openly the men of capitalism.

Sara Abou Ghazal
November 16th, 2007, Beirut


nahr al bared

mayo 28, 2007

como habreís visto, una mini-guerra sigue dandose entre militantes islamistas y el ejercito libanés en el campo de refugiados palestinos de nahr al bared en el norte del libano, ocasionando una fuga de civiles palestinos de este campo a otros en todo el país, además de muchos muertos y muchísimos heridos en una situación de abandono total. la situación amanaza con encender todo el polvorín del líbano de nuevo, y mientras todos se fijan en las posibles consequencias políticas, no hay ningun respaldo humanitario para los civiles palestinos, ya doble y triplemente castigados y exiliados.

unas tres amigas muy cercanas se han juntado para organizar dineros y materiales básicos (colchones, mantas, comida, etc) de apoyo a los palestinos fugados. parten de cierta experiencia – también participaron en la red ‘samidoun’ el verano pasado, un grupo que se formó para prestar ayuda de urgencia a los que huyeron las bombas en el sur que algunas conoceís (la cena de apoyo que se hizo en el solar era para mandarles dinero…). despues de la crisis del verano samidoun colapsó bajo los desacuerdos políticos de sus participantes, y ahora estas amigas, de modo autonómo, recuperan su modelo organizativo para intervenir en la crisis actual.

una pasada como éstas, tan parecidas a nosotras (en su formación y preocupaciones políticas, en sus experiencias organizativas, en sus críticas tanto a las políticas institucionales como las ONGistas…) se encuentran ahora una y otra vez en la encrucijada en la que la única intervención que tiene sentido (en un ambiente tremendamente crispada y cada vez más sectaria) es apostar por la vida humana, la acogida de cuerpos, la sostenibilidad de la vida en su sentido más inmediato por encima de las posiciones políticas y las reivindicaciones. (y esto a pesar del gran esfuerzo que se ha hecho desde EEUU/gobierno libanés a recuperar y adueñarse del eslogan “amo a la vida” – esto lo explico en otro momento, es muy fuerte).

están solicitando donaciones. luego traduzco su hoja de información y os lo mando en castellano. por el momento propongo que pensamos – o individual o colectivamente – en aportar algo. por si acaso, os pego su información bancaria.

BLOM Bank – Raouche branch
Numero de Cuenta: 003.02.300.1121472.1.9
Titular: Rasha Ibrahim Moumneh


amamos la vida cuando podemos

enero 23, 2007

un analisis muy acertado de la actual campaña pública – y batalla símbolica – en el líbano, que empezó con el lema ‘amo la vida’…

We love life whenever we can
Mayssoun Sukarieh writing from Beirut, Live from Lebanon, 8 January 2007

We love life whenever we can.
We dance and throw up a minaret or raise palm trees for the violets growing between two martyrs.
We love life whenever we can.
We steal a thread from a silk-worm to weave a sky and a fence for our journey.
We open the garden gate for the jasmine to walk into the street as a beautiful day.
We love life whenever we can.
Wherever we settle we grow fast-growing plants, wherever we settle we harvest a murdered man.
We blow into the flute the color of far away, of far away, we draw on the dust in the passage the neighing of a horse.
And we write our names in the form of stones. Lightning brighten the night for us, brighten the night a little.
We love life whenever we can.

Unconsciously, I started to recite this poem, written by Mahmoud Darwish in the eighties, as I first came across the “I love life” and “J’aime la vie” slogans written in red and white letters and carried on billboards around Lebanon. Even before I knew the story of the slogans, the poem came to mind, because the slogans felt cut: We love life whenever we can! But there is so much anger from occupation, imperialism, and injustice around us. The omitted part from the slogan gives a fantasy of a choice of being able to live a life we want in the current state of the world.

The image of the “I Love Life” campaign.
Investigating the meaning of the slogan, written in Arabic, French and English, I learned that “I love life” is a private sector campaign in cooperation with USAID aiming at spreading a “culture of life”, against the “culture of death”, as stated in the website of the campaign. Some Cedar Revolution activists are attempting to counter the current political crisis in Lebanon with this campaign. Elie Khoury, the ad executive and campaign leader, says: “We want to tell the world that, regardless of whatever they see on their TV screens, the Lebanese want to live and move ahead.” By “what the world sees on the TV screen” is meant the ongoing demonstrations against the government in Lebanon.

“Culture of life” against the “culture of death” is another manifestation of the binary thinking through which the imperial war of the Bush administration is being waged. Either you are with us or against us, and if you are against us, an Iraq is your only option. We who represent the culture of life – after we are rid of any sort of resistance – against them – any group trying to resist us – who spread a culture of death. However, the “we” in the Bush administration discourse is inclusive not only of Americans but also of moderate Arab leaders and the new Arab business class, whose interests put them in the same camp with those who love life in the US against their fellow backward traditional citizens who embrace death.

The “I love life” campaign is still in its inception stage. However, it is intended to develop into a grassroots movement – funded by USAID! – aiming at taking actions to fight the culture of death and defeat those “who want us to live in the past!” The campaign started a month ago, when the opposition took to the streets to topple down the pro-US government. But the roots of the campaign go back to this past summer. Under Israeli aerial, marine and land-based shelling, “We want to live” and “Enough wars” were outcries that pro-government and pro-US Lebanese were sending not just against Israel and the US, but also against the Resistance that “ruined their summer, and destroyed Lebanon”. Again, insinuated in these outcries is an illusion of choice, a choice of a life we can live if only we want to. Insinuated in these outcries is a fantasy of an option of a life with Israel, a colonial state with expansionist dreams and an army equipped with the most advanced weapons in the world, right on our borders.

How the campaign will develop, and what life – or whose life – we will be taught to love and embrace is still not clear in Lebanon. However, a look at a similar campaign in Jordan, the “culture of hope” campaign, can shed light on the kind of life these Lebanese campaigners are promising us.

In an attempt to bridge the “Hope Gap” between the West and East, Queen Rania has called for World Economic Forum leaders to work on building a new “culture of hope” in the Middle East. The hope gap is being bridged in Jordan by USAID funds too. Save the Children USA-Jordan, has launched four USAID funded programs which director MacCormack says “are designed to help create the ‘Culture of Hope’ that King Abdullah and Queen Rania are working so hard to realize.”

Najah, Injaz, and School to Career are three of these Save the Children/USAID funded programs, and are designed to help Jordanian youth “become positive, active participants in a civil society and the economy through enhancing their knowledge and skills about the world of work.” This is done through teaching them employability skills in order to prepare them for work in the private sector, and bridge the gap between educational outcomes and market needs. Employability skills, dubbed also soft skills, include “accepting the other”, writing CVs, communication skills, and the culture of Entrepreneurship and “flexibility.” Youth are taught that success is not related to social position, and that work should be respected for its own sake. In other words, the program aims to spread a culture of responsibilization among youth. The market is open, and it is there for everybody, and it is up to you to take the responsibility for yourself. If you can’t make it in the market, it means you lack the skills of employability and you should work on yourself in order to make it in the system. This is the “culture of hope.” This is also quite likely the “culture of life.”

As the 9/11 events were solely caused by the culture of terrorism inherent in Islam, as the Bush administration convinced Americans, the “culture of desperation” and “culture of death” spread among youth in the region has nothing to do with the injustice of the global economy and the relentless greed of the private sector, those who love to live tell us. In other words, the role of these programs that are promoting positive thinking among youth, and spreading a culture of life, is to turn the insecurities of the neoliberal system to the individual himself or herself to be pacified and controlled.

“The US has not done anything abroad without trying it on the Americans themselves first,” I thought of my mentor’s words when thinking of “I love life” and “Bridging the gap of hope”. After all, is not the slogan “don’t worry, be happy”, that the corporations spread in the US, another face of our life and hope slogans? “Do not worry” is another way to tell people not to think of the injustices around, because there is someone thinking for them, as now there is someone who will live for us too! And all are an attempt to depoliticize the masses and indulge them in struggle within themselves.

Tomorrow we will love life,
When tomorrow comes, life will be something to adore,
just as it is, ordinary or tricky
gray or colorful, stripped of judgment day and purgatory

Says also Mahmoud Darwish, in his “State of Siege,” the poem he wrote under siege in Ramallah in 2000 debunking the illusion of a life under occupation and siege.

When tomorrow comes, the tomorrow of freedom from occupation, colonialism, injustice and humiliation, we will love our life – that we will create for ourselves – because unlike what the new elites with USAID money are trying to tell us, we have no choice at the moment. Tomorrow we will love life, because “we love life whenever we can afford it.”

Mayssoun Sukarieh, a native of Beirut, is a frequent contributor to Electronic Lebanon.


to the ends of the earth

noviembre 12, 2006

of all the things I have read on the July seige, this is the one which rings most true to me. It is a text written by Beirut artist Tony Chakar, excusing himself from the Documenta12 festival in Hong Kong.

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On war, seige and Lebanon: women talk

noviembre 4, 2006

Here is a document compiled by various women under the aegis of “Women for Womens Human Rights,” posing diverse and conversational array of responses to the July war. In pdf format: On war, seige and Lebanon


rasha speaks

octubre 24, 2006

una radio entrevista en inglés con rasha, de helem (la organización gai y lesbiana de beirut)

no one is illegal – montreal – radio


lebanese liberals

octubre 10, 2006

un articulo de una amiga periodista sobre los liberales y sociodemocratas libaneses, y seguido por una respuesta de un amigo profesor sobre la composición de clase/política en el líbano. todo en inglés, me temo…

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