Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Wise

This is probably one of the strongest messages I have seen so far. Large video, but much worth the wait. This is how all Lebanese have to think. Dont follow your leaders, follow your nation.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Perfect Day

This is a fantastic animation about the current situation in Lebanon and a plea for peace. This was created by Grey Worldwide office in Beirut.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

November 23, 2006: Lebanon's Day

Picture taken on November 23, 2006 from the An-Nahar offices.

This is our day. Not that of the March 14 coalition, nor that of the March 8 coalition! This is the day when Lebanon shouts to the criminals:
"Enough. Lebanon will not die today, it will not die tomorrow. No bombs or bullets from Israeli, Syrian or Iranian regimes will ever bring us down."
It is time for all Lebanese, from all religions and all sides to join hands to uphold and save our bleeding Lebanon.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The "real" fighting begins

This article by the NYT highlights probably Lebanon's most crucial moment in recent times. It is the fight between Iran and the USA over who controls the smallest country in the area. And we stand smack in the middle...still emotionally recuperating from the summer 'heat'.

By Michael Slackman
The New York Times
November 5, 2006

BEIRUT: Not long before the 34-day war with Israel, political groups in Lebanon aligned with the United States sat at a table with Hezbollah and tried to get it to give up its weapons and to help remove the pro-Syrian president from office.
On Monday, most of those same political leaders will sit down again, but this time the issues of Hezbollah's weapons and the president's tenure are not even on the agenda.
Instead, having proclaimed itself the victor in the summer war with Israel, the tables have turned. Hezbollah is pressing its case for effective control of the government and a new election law - warning that if it does not have its way, it will move to bring down the government and force a new parliamentary election.
On one level, this is a parochial fight over who runs a Mediterranean nation of four million people. But Lebanon has long been a proxy chessboard in the great global game of geopolitics, its people often finding their own interests subjugated to the interests of more powerful foreign nations.
Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Syria, has been emboldened. The U.S.-backed coalition in control of the government is on the defensive. The outcome of the tug- of-war could have lasting impact on the international order - boosting or slowing Iran's ascent in the region, buttressing or undermining Syria's leadership.
"We are now calling for unity and accord, not for score-settling and vengefulness," Hezbollah's general secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a recent appearance on his party's Al Manar television. "We are suggesting a national unity government in a positive spirit."
But his call has not been received that way. It has been described by the governing coalition as a "coup d'├ętat" and has raised fears of possible violence.
"They are making a profit from the strength of their guerrilla force to come into the capital and to pressure the political apparatus, to impose their will on the government," said Amine Gemayel, a former president and leader of the small Christian Phalange party, part of the governing coalition. "I am quite anxious about this meeting."
Hezbollah's demands, including veto power over cabinet decisions, are the latest development in a constant jockeying for power between political groups organized along religious lines. While over the generations, power has essentially shifted from Sunni Muslims, to Christians, and now, perhaps to the long-neglected Shiite Muslims - often with political alliances between the different factions - the conflict has underscored the combustible nature of a system that demands allegiance to sects and promises each of Lebanon's 18 sects an equal say in decision-making.
"In many ways it is a system of coexistence, of compromise," said Walid Sharara, an opinion writer with the newspaper Al Akhbar. "But it is also, in a way, a cold civil war. In order for sectarian elites to maintain their power, they have to incite sectarianism."
The political fight has complicated efforts at rebuilding, a task already complicated by its balkanized population. There are effectively no true political parties in Lebanon. Sunni Muslims belong to a Sunni Muslim party. Shiites to a Shiite party. Druse to a Druse party. Christians to a Christian party.
Lebanon is a state built on a promise that all sects will share power, that Muslims and Christians will each control half the Parliament. The president must be a Christian. The prime minister a Sunni. The speaker of the parliament a Shiite. Public loyalty is to sect leaders - and not the state.
Khaled Arab, 53, a Sunni Muslim, lives in the largely Druse and Christian village of Choueifat, about 45 minutes outside of Beirut. The village square and shops sport pictures of Druse leaders, such as Walid Jumblatt. But when Arab's father had a heart attack, he turned for help to Saad Hariri, the leader of the largest party representing Sunni Muslims. "The leader of my sect looks after my interests," he said. "This applies to all other sects, too. This is how the country is and there is nothing we can do about it."
There is fear now that the latest fight will spill into the streets, that Hezbollah will hold true to its threat and call its supporters to demonstrate if it does not get its way. Many fear that could spark violence.
"The reality is the country is not changeable," said Timur Goeksel, the former long-time spokesman for UN forces in Lebanon. "If you push too hard, it will collapse. Let's keep what we have and not shoot at each other."
Hezbollah says it wants a national unity government that would drain power from the so-called March 14th coalition, which is backed by the United States. Nasrallah has been forceful and threatening in making his demands.
"We can instigate civil disobedience, topple the government, and bring about early elections," he said in his television appearance. "But we are not threatening to do this, so don't scare us with talk of civil strife or civil war, since neither of these is a possibility."
In concrete terms, it is impossible to say if Hezbollah has emerged stronger or weaker from the war with Israel. Polls show it has the most public support, but even political analysts here acknowledge it is impossible to truly trust any assessment in a country where it appears no one is a neutral observer.
Hezbollah has gained strength from its alliance with General Michel Aoun, leader of a large Christian party. But it is impossible to know if General Aoun has maintained or lost support of his followers for having forged an alliance with Hezbollah.
"Hezbollah is now drawing support from Christians," said Abdo Saad, director of the Beirut Center for Research and Information. "That was not thinkable before the war."
But Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at American University in Beirut said, "Hezbollah thinks if there is an election now, they will win a majority. Absolutely not."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

U.N.: Israel Should Face War Crimes Probe Over Lebanon

Israel should be held to account for possible war crimes during its offensive in Lebanon, the United Nations' food rights expert said in a report obtained on Tuesday. Jean Ziegler, who reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council, called for an international probe to determine whether Israel was responsible for "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions and "possibly, war crimes" under the rules of the International Criminal Court. The controversial Swiss sociologist, who has regularly crossed swords with Israel in the past, visited Lebanon from September 11-16. He is due on Wednesday to present his findings to the 47-nation Council, which is currently in session. In his report, which was obtained by AFP, Ziegler said that during its July 12 to August 14 offensive Israel appeared to have forgotten that the Geneva Conventions which govern conflicts bar warring parties from attacking food and water supplies. "According to international jurisprudence, the government of Israel should be held responsible under international law for any violation of the right to food of the Lebanese civilian population," he said. He said that victims of such breaches should receive compensation for the losses suffered during the conflict as well as the post-war impact of the disruption of livelihoods. During its campaign to dislodge and destroy Hizbullah, the Israeli military destroyed roads and barred aid convoys, hampering efforts to supply the population of southern Lebanon, which bore the brunt of the offensive, Ziegler said. The immediate destruction of the war is set to have a longer-term effect because of the unexploded cluster bombs that litter farmland, he said. In addition, the Lebanese fishing industry has been hit by an oil spill sparked by Israel's bombardment of fuel depots. Israel should pay the Lebanese government for the clean up and compensate fishermen for their economic losses, said Ziegler. He also called on the Lebanese government and aid organizations to ensure that the post-war effort to rebuild the country includes programs to help farmers, agricultural laborers and fishermen. "The right to food and water must be a central part of the reconstruction effort," he said. He said that the Lebanese authorities should institute a moratorium on debt for small-scale farmers to reverse the cycle of poverty that is set to be caused by the loss of this year's harvest. The Lebanese government, with support from donors, should also accelerate efforts to clear cluster bombs from farmland, and Israel should provide full details of where it used such munitions, Ziegler said.(AFP)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

U.S. Congress okays $500m for defense projects with Israel

Another donation to Israel from the US taxpayers - more than double the US$240 million donation to Lebanon.

The United States Congress on Friday approved an additional $500 million for developing joint defense projects with Israel. The funds will be allocated between many different projects, including the development of a short-range missile interception system, navigation systems for missiles and combat aircraft, and aerial drones.The money is not part of the regular military aid to Israel, which currently stands at over $2 billion.
The Senate authorized the funding after it was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday. The amount approved by Congress is well in excess of the $270 million submitted for approval by the U.S. Government.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lebanon hopes UN force can boost tourism

Fascinating to see the little economy that the UNIFIL has created in Lebanon. A total of $120 million a year at least for south Lebanon.

By Yara Bayoumy
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon will lose about $2 billion in tourism revenues this year due to a month-long war but the tourism minister is hoping a 15,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force will help revitalise the industry.
A U.N. resolution that ended 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah last month called for beefing up UNIFIL, a 2,000-strong U.N. force in south Lebanon, with up to 13,000 extra peacekeepers from various countries.
Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis is counting on parents, other relatives and friends of the troops to boost visitor numbers.
"We are now preparing a sort of campaign in these countries, to show that Lebanon, the country where their children have come for a peaceful mission, is also a beautiful country, it has an image that is not only war and destruction," he told Reuters.
Sarkis, who said he expects around $10 million a month in revenues from UNIFIL soldiers' personal expenditure in southern Lebanon, was already receiving requests for license permits to open restaurants, clubs and coffee shops in the area.
"When they have their leave, they go to enjoy a glass of beer or lunch or dinner," Sarkis said, adding that the figure did not include army expenditure on rent or fuel.
Sarkis had been expecting $4 billion in revenues from tourists' expenditure and investment in tourism projects but said "we will probably lose around $2 billion because of ... war in Lebanon".
Sarkis said he had been expecting over 1.6 million tourists to visit Lebanon this year and on the eve of July 12, around 730,000 tourists had already come to the country.
But Hizbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12 sparked a war in which Israeli air strikes caused $3.6 billion in damage to bricks and mortar. It came at the height of Lebanon's summer tourist season.
"The tourists came and on the 12th of July, they received bombs on their heads and they were obliged to escape in a very humiliating way," he said.
Sarkis said he expected 300,000-350,000 tourists in the four months to December, providing stability continues and improves.
In 2005, tourism was hit by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and other high-profile political killings. With arrivals to Lebanon 24 percent higher in the first half of 2006 than even in 2004, Lebanese foresaw a major recovery but the war made it impossible.
"I would say the main thing that has been damaged is confidence in the country. I say it's easier to rebuild a bridge than to rebuild confidence in a country," Sarkis said. "Tourism needs stability, if there is no stability there is no tourism."
But seasonal festivities, including the Eid al-Fitr Muslim feast in late October, should help the recovery, he said.
Forty percent of tourists to Lebanon are Arabs and Sarkis said "many hotels, travel agencies and car rentals are informing us they've started receiving bookings from now for the Eid period which shows it's a good thing".