Orientalism: Le Point cover depicts exotic Arabs in a colonialist painting.

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Take a good look at the picture and at the title, saying: “The Arabs. The little known story of a civilisation. To the Origins of today’s tragedy.” See something wrong?

Le Point, A french magazine, depicts the Arabs here with an “Orientalist” perspective. What is Orientalism?

“Orientalism” is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous. Edward W. Said, in his groundbreaking book, Orientalism, defined it as the acceptance in the West of “the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, ‘mind,’ destiny and so on.”

Orientalist artists depicts the “Arabian land” as an exotic and mysterious place, a place of high gardens, guards, inactive nobles in white robes. The guard here, has been identified as an ottoman janissary.
The picture couldn’t have existed because Janissaries weren’t present in Moroccan lands. Another mythification and historical misrepresentation of the painter.

Jean-Joseph Constant, known as Benjamin constant, is the painter. He lived from 1845 to 1902.

Le Figaro, last year, wrote an analysis on an exposition dedicated to him.

Personal translation: “They[the paintings] signal well the mirage. But they don’t remind of its dangerousness. With Benjamin-Constant, we are not anymore in the dreamed antiquity of Delacroix nor in the forbidden Hammam of the voyeur Ingres. The very big formats invite us to remove our shoes in private interiors. Or in exploring horizons considered virgin territories, fertile, savage, and therefore good to civilise.

“Therefore good to civilise”. This is here the main problem of orientalism. Not only it depicts the Arab world in a fantasy. It leads the viewers of this art to believe the Arab world is uncivilized, and therefore “civilizable”. No wonder Orientalism was very popular in the second half of the 19th century, the years of colonialism fast expansion.

Le Figaro continues.

Such is the talent, remaining active, of this propagandist painter before even being an artist. […]. this painting[or work] calls for conquest. Benjamin-Constant is one of the best falcons of the [French] Third Republic. 

The fact that such depictions of Arabs continue until today is alarming, it shows perceptions of some citizens in the Western World regarding the Arab world. This bigoted misperception is dangerous and is often the first step, I believe, towards racism.

“Arrêt sur Image”, a French website that analyses pictures, criticizes Le Point because it is unconsciously tying the Terrorist problem with Arabs. Le Point not only miscarry the wide, complex and rich image of Arabs, it also writes a dangerous title.

If we read the two sentences (of the title) as one sentence, it gives. “The unknown history of a civilisation inherent of today’s tragedy”. Perceived like that, the two sentences implies that the Arab civilisations carry in its genes, in its essence, the actual tragedy. The tragedy of Jihadist salafism, carrying the name of the Islamic state, Daesh. It is therefore enough to read a bit quickly [both sentences] to understand that the Arabs, are by definition, terrorists.

Le Point carries the bigotry of millions, that terrorism is uniquely found in the Arab world. 

Le Point has already done worse covers, often directly racist. (See right)

“This Islam without shame” depicts a woman wearing the Burqa, an illegal Hijab in France. In this country, only a very small minority of Muslim women wears the Burqa. This title is openly islamophobe, it describes Islam as invasive, an eater of French culture.

To conclude, imagine for a second if an Arab magazine studied today’s Frenchmen with a picture of Clovis, first French king, or a picture of a Frenchman holding French bread and a croissant. Imagine if an Arab magazine studied the American people with a picture of Cow boys. It would be insulting, bigoted, and not very bright.

Liberation Day: 15 years ago Israel fled Lebanon.

This day is an important day for the history of Lebanon and the region.

For the first time, an Arab country drove out effectively the IDF from its land, destroying the myth of Israel indestructibility.

I remember the day with some vivid pictures, even if I was a young kid back then. My family and I lived elsewhere, but Lebanese tv’s were available. My father announced to me with a lot of joy that Israel was out of Lebanon and that the “Muqawama” or militants drove them out.

2 or 3 years after that, I visited the Khiam prison, an Israeli prison that jailed resistants in the Khiam department of South Lebanon. Israel, in its rush to flee the country, let the prisoners in their cells. Families, citizens came to rescue and liberate them. This liberation was recorded on video.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported the use of torture and other serious human rights abuses in the facility. During summer 2006 aggression against Lebanon, Israel bombed the prison, almost like it wanted to remove the traces of its torture and the memory of its defeat.

But here am I, like millions of Lebanese, remembering its crimes and its defeat. Israel, we will never forget.

Beaufort IDF northern military post (1995) 

And yet, Israel hasn’t completely moved out, it still occupies a pice of Lebanon’s land that includes the Chebaa farms. Today, Lebanon reiterates its right to liberate those occupied lands.

A lot of Lebanese, I believe, think that Lebanon lost the war in 2006. Let me tell you this, a loss isn’t measured in destruction and death, it is not the most destructed country that looses, but it is the country that resists that wins. Israel destroyed Lebanon in 2006, and yet here we stand, defiant, resistant to its never-ending oppression. Israel didn’t bend Lebanon’s knee, but it will try again to do so, with all means possible. Recently Israel defence minister dared to threaten Lebanese civilians, including kids.

Today, it is the Hezbollah Flag that waves at the top of the Beaufort castle, not Israel’s.

I am grateful to all forms of rightful and legitimate resistant groups, whether leftists or religious, it is thanks to them that we live today in dignity and freedom, not in subjugation, in apartheid or in a blockade.

Qatar World Cup: Stadiums built with the blood of workers.

Qatar may be the richest country in the world, but it certainly isn’t an example to follow regarding general human rights.

Qatar will host the World Cup of 2022, and it is already building a titanic project. Qatari citizens won’t build themselves the stadiums but low-wage immigrants such as Bangladesh citizens, Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalese will.

These migrants are not treated as humans but as slaves.

Nepalese have died at a rate of one every two days due to the dire working conditions and the extreme heat they are exposed to.

This Indian man shares a room with seven other migrant labourers in Doha, Qatar. The housing facility has been cited for substandard conditions. Photograph: Maya Alleruzzo/AP

The Guardian in 2013 exposed the mistreatment of immigrants and called it modern-day slavery,as defined by the International Labour Organisation. They face exploitation and abuses.

The allegations suggest a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders. The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.

Ram Kumar Mahara, 27 at the time, revealed that they could go without eating a whole day. “When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

Migrants are dying in the hundreds but Qatar has been very slow to change the situation. An Amnesty International reported that Qatar was “dragging its feet”.

“Despite making repeated promises to clean up its act ahead of the World Cup, the government of Qatar still appears to be dragging its feet over some of the most fundamental changes needed, such as abolishing the exit permit and overhauling its abusive sponsorship system”

Recently, Damian Collins, an MP in the Conservative party in UK, has warned big sponsors that they should put pressure on Qatar regarding its mistreatment of migrants.

“If workers are dying Fifa has blood on its hands, as do these sponsors, for as long as they turn a blind eye to what’s going on there,” said Collins. “It’s time we raise our voices. People should demand more action is taken.”

Adidas, Gazprom, Hyundai, Kia, McDonalds, Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Visa should immediately condemn Qatar for the entire Kafala system and the horrible conditions of migrants. They have not yet answered to the MP’s call. It seems that business here is more important.

An exhausted migrant worker travels back to his labour camp at the end of the day in Qatar. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

Collins added that if the cows of McDonald’s were treated as bad as the immigrants in Qatar, people would have stopped eating McDonald’s.

Qatar is also a very bad pupil in press freedom, and it recently repressed and scared foreign reporters that were too curious according to their tastes. Authorities followed, spied on, and arrested a BBC team that were invited by the PM’s offic to see new flagship accommodation for low-paid migrant workers in early May.
“This could be a method to intimidate those who seek to expose labour abuse in Qatar”, Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Gulf migrant rights researcher said to BBC.

Fifa must be tougher on this and should suspend Qatar world cup construction unless Qatari authorities do the maximum to prevent all deaths and ameliorate the dire housing conditions.

I personally already made my choice months ago, if someone invited me to watch for free all the matches of the 2022 world cup in Qatar. I would gladly refused.

I won’t watch matches and applaud goals with the knowledge and consciousness that these stadiums were built with human rights abuses, mistreatment, slavery and blood.

Nakba Day and Palestine: 67 years later.

67 years later, the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Zionist entity of Israel hasn’t stopped, the displacement hasn’t stopped, the killings haven’t stopped, the massacres continue, human rights are violated. People watch the apartheid of Israel, the wall still stands, the “advanced” democracies of the world support it, they applaud the newly reelected Prime Minister, Netanyahu. They wish him good luck and congratulate him, good luck to a killer of more than 500 children in Gaza.

Nakba day last year resulted with the killing of two teenagers, their crimes? Being Palestinians that dared to stand up against the Zionist regime of Israel.

The Palestinians of Gaza are collectively punished in the worst blockade. Palestinians of West Bank are oppressed with raids to arrest children that threw rocks. Rocks are scary, rocks are far more dangerous than “intelligent” missiles according to the most moral army of the world, the “IDF”.

Palestinian refugees leaving the Galilee in October–November 1948

The land is being stolen, colonies are decided and built, illegally of course, despite the condemnations of nations. These nations are very good at condemning Israel and then saluting it.

And yet Palestine will remain, it remains in the hearts of Palestinians and in every conscious heart. The conscious knows the crimes of Israel, shouts at Israel, denounces Israel and does what he can to fight Israel. The conscious knows that injustice will end one day. He knows that the walls of oppression will be destroyed. He knows that the men and women behind the apartheid will face Justice, not amnesty. He knows that peace between Jews and Muslims in Palestine-Israel can exist without racism and hatred.

The resistant fights Israel with arms or peacefully. He Boycotts, Divests and Sanctions Israel. The moment money flows into the apartheid system of Israel, it hurts Palestinians. Every artist that plays in Israel normalise Israel. Every item sold outside Israel normalise its child labor use. Every time someone buys an Israeli product from an Israel company, he says yes to its crimes, especially when the product has been made illegally inside the West Bank.

Knesset, Netanyahu, his predecessors, his racist government, those who threaten to kill children and who already did, will have to face justice.

Al Jazeera host debates about revenge against Alawites of Syria.

Faisal al Qassem is a host in Al Jazeera, a well-known Arabic channel based in Doha, Qatar. He hosts the show “The Opposite Direction” and has lately made hateful comments against Alawites of Syria. Qassem has demonized ALL Alawites when one of his guests denounced his hatred introduction.

Prior to the show, al Qassem has tweeted a disturbing question for the “debate” he was going to host. ” Isn’t the right of the Syrian people to revenge against the Alawites that destroyed Syria and displaced its people to keep their interests?”

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Al Qassem just rendered all the war in Syria as a “Alawite Vs Sunni Sect” war. It is true that Assad has wide support among Alawites, but he has also support among the Sunni Majority, but here’s not the issue. Al Qassem just blamed ALL Alawites in the war as coupable because Assad is an Alawite. When you open this door, you open the door of revenge and you open the door to genocide.

To have a debate on wether there’s a need to wipe out Alawites is absolutely mad. The question shouldn’t even be asked. The fact that it is asked on a channel viewed by millions renders all the madness and hatred worse. Al Qassem has a “debate” on whether even the CHILDREN should be killed. Worse, one of his guests Shereifidine reinforce the hateful introduction of al Qassem by claiming that Alawites “won’t let go of their power except over their dead bodies”. Shereifidine, a so called intellectual, suggests that you need to kill Alawites if Syria has to change leadership and Alawites should leave Syria if they don’t want to be massacred. He said that he didn’t want to demonise the Alawites, but that the Alawites are bringing the demonisation to themselves. Shereifidine is of course justifying his hateful thoughts.

I honestly didn’t want to continue the nauseous “debate” so I stopped.

Al Jazeera is a widely popular channel in the Arab world. It has millions of viewers and it must influences many of them. Al Jazeera and all popular channels have therefore responsibilities, the core responsibility is to tell the truth. Al Jazeera is a partisan channel, when it openly shows its political preferences, it must does so with minimal ethics, rationality, and most importantly respect. It cannot oversimplify a complex situation and put the blame on one sect or another. When doing so, it almost gives incentives for some people to kill more, and to kill systematically.

Assad isn’t an angel and he is certainly one of the most responsible man in Syria’s destruction. He therefore must be condemned, just like every other group in Syria that kill civilians. Those who support one group or another must certainly be questioned and thoughtful debates should follow, but they should never be held responsible for what their leaders has done, unless they are themselves leaders of hatred groups that act upon their thoughts. It is like punishing the Germans after WW2, because so many of them supported Hitler. Nuremberg trials didn’t hold responsible all the German people, but the leaders of Nazism and the perpetrators of massacres.

Mass media such as TV’s and Radio’s has played a role with massacres and genocides. It is by a book that Hitler spread his hatred against the Jewish, and later by radio and newspapers. It is with a s radio that Hutus demonised the Tutsis of Rwanda and called for their massacres during the war. Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines filled some Hutus with hatred and worse, justifications to kill. Watch this short HRW documentary if you’re interested about the implications of the radio.

Al Jazeera must not take this step and justify the killings of Alawites by demonising them.

If one day a genocide against Alawites happens, as a revenge of Assad wrongdoings, and if Al Jazeera continues with this stance, it will have to bear responsibilities.

Israel’s minister of defence threatens to kill Lebanese children, yes, children.

If you wanted a proof that Israel doesn’t really care about killing children, you have it here.

The Israeli defence minister said the following in a conference in Jerusalem :

“we are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion … we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.”

In the last onslaught on Gaza, the so called IDF “managed” to kill 2257 Palestinians. OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairsclaimed that 70% were civilians, including more than 500 Palestinian children. Today, more than 370,000 children in Gaza requires psychological support. Many of them, not 10 years old, have already witnessed three devastating wars, in 2009-2010, in 2012 and in 2014.

Israel ministers have never been so open about killing civilians. Moshe Yaalon, the defence minister, admits that Israel purposely target civilians. Is it to “defend” themselves? Defence, it seems, is about the extermination of whole families. The “IDF” killed 25 members of the same family Abu Jamaa in a single strike last summer.

To put the cherry on the cake, Netanyahu, Israel’s PM, appointed Ayelet Shaked to be the next Minister of Justice. Shaked infamously called for a genocide against Palestinians, including mothers and children, whom she portrayed as “little snakes”. What a team.

To systematically kill children or to call for a genocide are war crimes, you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand that. Moshe Yaalon must be tried and condemned in front of the International Criminal Court, just like Netanyahu, Olmert and all their teams.

Many Israeli soldiers testified and implied that civilians were considered as legitimate targets  in the operation “Protective Edge”. Here’s one of the testimonies.

“If you spot someone, shoot.”

“They told us: ‘There aren’t supposed to be any civilians there’.”

“If you shoot someone in Gaza it’s cool, no big deal. First of all, because it’s Gaza, and second, because that’s warfare.”

Every time Israel boasts about its army being the most “moral” in the world, remember those words.
Every time countries and Israel cry about the “right to defend itself”, ask yourself: “from whom? Children?”

Unemployment and emigration, a logical union for Lebanese youth.

If you live in Lebanon, you have surely heard how the young adults of the country want to leave it for other better economies. You probably know someone, a member of your family, a friend, that decided to leave the country because of its bad economic and political situation. But how bad is the economical situation for the young Lebanese?

Looking at this simple data from a tweet of UN Lebanon, one can quickly conclude that it’s pretty bad.

Unemployment in : 34% of youth, 14% of college graduates, 23,000 young people enter workforce yearly vs. only 3400 new jobs.

The data mentioned above come from the World Bank.

34% of youth are unemployed, for a young country like Lebanon, this represents a huge number. 1/3 of every young adult is jobless! Here’s the age structure of Lebanon. 15-24 years: 17.2% (male 515,591/female 493,879)
25-54 years: 44.1% (male 1,309,544/female 1,283,074).

Not surprisingly, those who have graduate are less likely to be jobless. But I believe the time to find a job is pretty long because of the huge workforce that enter yearly the economy.

The government is of course aware of the really bad numbers. It is time for it to act upon this data if it doesn’t want the Lebanese youth to be completely drained out. It must create jobs, not just talk about it.

It is time for the government to look upon this rates and postpone their geopolitical questions and matters to look at the INSIDE issues of Lebanon.

Photos: Cloud iridescence phenomenon above Beirut.

What a magnificent thing to see.

Maybe you have seen it and wondered what a rainbow that high in the sky was doing. It’s not a rainbow, and it’s neither a rainbow cloud. It’s a phenomenon called “Cloud Iridescence” than happens in different types of high altitude clouds. Let Wikipedia super contributors explain it to you.

If parts of clouds have small droplets or crystals of similar size, their cumulative effect is seen as colors. The cloud must be optically thin, so that most rays encounter only a single droplet. Iridescence is therefore mostly seen at cloud edges or in semi-transparent clouds, and newly forming clouds produce the brightest and most colorful iridescence.

The cloud in question is (I believe) a Cirrus Cloud.

This is a rare phenomenon. Enjoy the pictures. IMG_0270 IMG_0273

Lebanon ranks 98th out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index of 2015.

Today’s the World Press Freedom day, here’s the data for Lebanon.

Out of 180 countries in the world, Lebanon ranks 98th in the press freedom index (1st being the most free). This index in done yearly by the Reporters Without Borders.

Understandably, Lebanon is considered to be a country with “Noticeable problems” by the index and as “Partly free” from the Freedom House. In 2014, no Journalists or “Net-Person” were killed because of their activities. The good news is that the score of 2015 improved by 8 place. Lebanon ranked 106th in 2014, 101st in 2013 and 2012 (out of 178 countries for 2012 and 2013).

Lebanon is still very far from the good scores of 2008 and 2009. It ranked respectably 66th and 61st (out of 168 and 170 countries). We can see that the press freedom has fell down well before the war in Syria, so my theory is that the collapse of Hariri’s government might explain the fall of our rank.

Lebanon is well placed in the MENA region, placed 2nd behind Kuwait with a worldwide rank of 90th and before our not-so friendly neighbour Israel with a rank of 101. Lebanon is also the MENA country that made the biggest jump with 8 places, Tunisia jumped 7 places. Syria our other not-so friendly neighbour, ranks 177th, and is the least free country of the MENA region; an effect, of course of the war and the Assad regime censorship.

We are maybe well placed in the region, but the region is very badly placed in the world with a best rank of 90. The press isn’t only repressed from within or from conscious self-censorship, but from outside. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, (STL), accuses the journalist Kharma Khayat and the channel al Jadeed of endangering supposed confidential witnesses by filming them for a report after learning of their identity from an anonymous leak. This is the first time that a TV station has been the subject of a prosecution by an international court.

Beirut: Policemen destroy fishermen’s homes to build luxurious business.

Dalieh is a waterfront area in Beirut and is one of the last public places that grant you direct access to the sea for free. Some businessmen, often very known politicians, don’t want it to be this way. They made sure that the fishermen living there for decades, will go away. Policemen raided the houses during last night, hitting persons, and eventually destroyed the small houses. Watch Al Jadeed report:

Solidere and Hariri’s family are behind the project of Dalieh and the destruction of the fishermen houses. Solidere is Lebanon’s largest developper and real estate company, founded by the deceased Rafiq al Hariri, ex-PM and the father of Saad al Hariri, also the ex-prime minister. Solidere is behind a lot of gargantuesque projects, including the scandalous Zaytuna bay, a resort with high-end restaurants and big yachts.

Publiée par Beirut Report sur Samedi 2 mai 2015

Habib Battah, a journalist, showed the dire situation of one these fishermen, Ali Itani, in this article.

He says some of the other fisherman have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to leave without a fuss. It’s a lucrative offer for those with so little, but Itani says he would be happy to stay, if someone would at least provide them with bare plumbing and tiled bathrooms. He flips through a stack of faded Polaroids from his youth: family gatherings from the 1970s before the towers went up, his boys catching fish, a younger version of himself leaping toward the Mediterranean with a Lebanese flag in his hand. At 50, he claims he can still do a forward flip dive.

Solidere has been controversial since its creation and it often crosses the boundaries of private companies. Human rights lawyer Muhamad Mugraby has described their behaviour as a “form of vigilantism under colour of the law”.

Former residents and business owners were compensated with shares in Solidere, rather than cash, at what many claim was well below the true value. Owners had the option to keep their property and return the shares, but only if they had sufficient funds to restore their buildings in line with Solidere’s strict preservation brief – which set high standards, too onerous for most to muster.

The Dalieh project will just be another lifeless elite program, just like the Beirut “Souks” (that doesn’t look like a Souk), Downtown Beirut and the Zaytunah Bay.

The chaotic post war context in Lebanon gave the legal context to Solidere to act and transform the city for its own profits, but here’s what says the Lebanese constitution about land expropriation. “Rights of ownership shall be protected by law. No one’s property may be expropriated except for reasons of public utility, in the cases established by law and after fair compensation has been paid beforehand”.

I don’t believe that “public utility” is the reason behind the Dalieh expropriation.