A Letter To Zoï

Zoï, my little darling,

I write to you despite your eight years of age with a need so strong to speak to you from the bottom of my silence. Today, you only think of playing; you’re in bliss when you see a balloon or a pussy cat. In a few years, and God knows how swiftly they will come, new games will be part of you; new interests and new pursuits that will be the source of your joy, and also your tears.

Consider this letter as the shadow of a conversation that we might not have if you were an adult, keeping your secrets and your feelings away from me. These will be the words you would perhaps not let me tell you; written down, they are yours forever as I am with you and for you.

When I was about your age, I wanted to become a painter. Like you now, I loved to draw, I loved using colours, imagining forms unseen, giving life to characters born in a dream. In a dream, that’s where my desire to become a painter was born. In my sleep, I saw a dozen of aspiring painters encircling a young woman posing, nude, motionless, before a dozen pair of watching eyes, sitting in silence, to create her on paper.

The intensity of the scene, its intense stillness, struck me. In my sleep, I had experienced a discovery. In my unconscious, I learnt that every object has two authors: one who creates it, and another who recreates it. Like a book has two authors: one who writes it, and another who reads it.

I woke up that magical day with a clear, yet still hazy vision of the woman I would spend my life with, when I’m an adult. I did not remember her face, nor did I remember her body, or the colour of her skin; in fact, she did not have any. She was ‘only’ a form in my head, an idea of woman not defined.

Zoï, my little love, today, your dad doesn’t draw anymore, but the colours are still there, you see: on his jumpers, his trousers, his socks. When you asked your daddy why he wore colours, he would tell you he did to make you happy. Do my colours not make you smile in the morning and run at me when I come home in the evening? They do. And they make you giggle, too, like on that Sunday – remember? – when you whispered in my ear I was not like the other dads in church.

The forms your dad used to draw have gone abstract: today he draws ideas, complicated things, trying to write simple things as beautiful as you. With time, all has been transformed in a way or another, except my fascination for that imaginary woman who became my wife, and then your mother.

My love! I love you more than anything.

Like I love you, I have loved a woman who was the daughter of a father – like you. Her beauty had something to say. To me, she was a woman I could draw with words, a woman I felt I could write a story about, perhaps a book. She was at the centre, she was everything; she was all the women in the world turned into one. Just like this model I dreamt of when I was the child you are. Now she had a face, a smile, an existence, a beautiful name. In this past life, this woman, whom I loved, was the daughter of a father, like you. And you could have been her as she was, in that moment, all the women in the world in my eyes. But I let her go. It was in a past life, I was not a father yet.

You would be sad now if I told you that, during all our life, we hurt and we are hurt. We leave and we are left. But I trust that you will read these lines when you will able to understand. Relationships with humans, especially if you love them, are long to explain, and longer to understand.

Your father has chosen to leave, not because he did not love the daughter of that father but because, in this grey space between feelings and reason there was no universal answer to find but a choice to make. He made one he could not explain, one he was not even sure of, but without which nothing would have been the same, save for the silence that keeps and preserves the truth only he can understand.

By now, you should have known what it means to mourn. Part of life is to renounce to a big part of what we love. Curiously, loss and renouncement seem to be the price of the aggrandizement of life. It is also the source of our progress. Nietzsche, whose book you saw on my desk last week, said: ‘What kills you not, makes you stronger.’ I might add the following: It is up to us to honour our scars and wounds because they mean that we have survived and that they have made us stronger and much more lucid.

Therefore, my Zoï, my little daughter that I love, do not cry, do not be afraid of your failures. Most things do not matter, except the choices you make. You might, one day, love a man and not know what this love – or his love – means. I assure you, most of my friends, parents, and people I know today still don’t know what their love for their partner means, especially after 10, 20 years of marriage. But some of them love each other anyway, despite each other’s failings, no matter what. When in doubt, ask yourself: ‘What happened to the ‘I love you anyway, despite your flaws, and no matter what’?’ For, after a while, my little Zoï, it all disappears: the food shared, the gifts, the nights spent in hotel rooms, the games played, the dreams improvised, the kisses under the water, the smiles, the fun, the laugh, the bodies warm, the skin smelt, all the time elapsed. Even the sweetest memories, they fade away.

Some loves will remain in suspense. Like them, unfinished symphonies are often the most beautiful and the most masterful of works, the most inspiring of legacies for the generations to come, for they leave us to ponder on what has been left to add, to perfect, and that what lies in the death of a relationship is perfectibility itself. The latter is what makes humanity so sublime.

Therefore, do not worry about ‘the one’, my little Zoï. Luckily, there is no such thing as ‘the one’ (but you’re my little one, my chérie whom I cherish!); luckily, it is not about searching and finding, just about knowing. This might take you long to accept. In true love, there are no explanations, and little to understand; for, in love, you simply know right from the start, until the end. A true love story is one that endures; it is often not a matter of one deserving the other or not; it is neither about ‘the one’ nor about ‘the other’, but about that ‘us’ you both give birth to and that you project, together, into the future. Enduring love is about: where does that thread of love lead us to?

Luckily, there is ‘just one’ love that you choose, one that you stick to, and that is the one choice you make on which the rest of your life will depend. This one choice will make all the difference in your life. Therefore, my love, my little one, the day you will be standing before a man who gives life to your imagination, do not ask yourself: ‘Is he good for me?’ for there is no answer to this question. There are only moral judgments; some will say yes, others will say no; he will say yes and, one day, you might think he is not. Love is not about being right, but about choosing.

Take a step back and think to yourself: will my commitment to this man liberate me? If we live together, will it make me feel free being myself? Will it let me walk the path of life still holding my most intimate values dear? Will it release my inner perfections and imperfections? Will it make me sing, draw, paint; will it make me creative, with him, knowing we are together? Or will it make of me an alien, taken to a planet I would not recognize myself on?

Choices are often seen as limitations, but in fact they are the only way to freedom for us humans. Life is about choices, ones that make you free.

When I took the hand of my wife, who would become your mother, and married her before the altar, I was asked to confirm my choice, and I did, we did, before God. By doing so, we made a promise and witnessed to it before Him: to be patient, to be kind, not to be envious or arrogant or rude; not to insist on our own way, not to be resentful, not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoice in the truth. We committed to bear all things, believe in all things, hope all things, endure all things. We promised that our love never end, that is, to give birth to life and make it grow until we depart from it.

Indeed, no other promise had ever made me feel freer. Your mother, my wife whom I love as much as you (but with a different love) was the only daughter I chose. With her I sing, I draw, I paint, I dream and I write. We play music together, rejoice in art together, we give life to life, we put it in a child and so were you born, my little.

My wife needed never to ask me about my past life. She wouldn’t let me say anything, made me keep everything, because, she always says, it belongs only me. By doing so, she made me free. When I talk to her I never hide, I share with someone who listens without uttering a word, especially that. Later, perhaps later, the time of remembrance will come.

As for the daughter not chosen I say: ‘So long, my love, it was a pleasure pronouncing your name, and think of it as mine.’ Had I seen her again, I would have hugged her and kissed her on the cheek, and solaced her with my tenderness. I would even drink her tears. I remain forever grateful for the parcel of life she gave me and that made me a better man. Not one for her, but one for you, my little Zoï that I love.

This is a letter to embrace new cycles, and follow a new thread, the one – the only one – that led me to you. And that is what the child in me, that you are, was curious to know.

Deeply, I love only life. And that is why I love you, my Zoï.

I love you deeply.

Your father

Inspired by Wajdi Mouawad’s letter to his daughter Aimée

(However, the author of the present letter has neither been married nor has he ever had children – at least none he knows of.)

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Taking A Swim on the Wild Side.

Don’t wait any longer. Dive in the ocean, leave, and let the sea be you. ~ Rumi

I did not wait. ~ A.S.

At times you long for the sea and long for its embrace. You decide to walk away on a sudden impulse, around sunset, when nothing counts for you but an irrepressible envie de mer. So you just walk away, avid to meet the sea, you drive away from home with a salty, frothy taste on the lips.

The road is long because you want to escape as far as you can – though never as far as you would like. You see the sun is almost gone, but the dusky red light is enough for you to spot a rocky cove unseen. It is time to stop and let everything go, run down a rough path; it’s only a short one to freedom, for once.

You hide your keys (the only technology you had to bring with you) under a pebble, toss everything on the ground, shoes first, everything, walk toward the sea.

The sea reacts like a wild horse at first, restive, snorting at your intrusive foot. But you let yourself in, you let yourself go, past the impeding rocks underlying the shore, stepping further and further.

That’s it, you’re in.

Now you dive. The water is warm despite the failing sun. You swim further away from the land to escape the warmth, entirely naked.

A while passes then you decide to return to the shore. There, you move slowly to feel the wind swirling on you and the water streaming down your thighs. You can’t remember the last time your body felt something, claimed something that belonged to it not you. So you let the wind flow on your skin and you don’t care.

You dive again with a new awareness, feeling the currents between your legs. This time you are free; you needn’t worry about clothes, decency, the look or the judgment of others. You feel perfect and complete. You could have almost said you were truly yourself.

Because of that, or not, you detest civilization in this very moment. You detest it forever, but you are lying to yourself and you know it. Do not philosophize in such moments unless you really want to seem ridiculous. Yet you argue in some sort of delusional aquatic monologue that you could not love something that diminishes Man so much, while claiming to find your perfection here. Does one element really achieve you so perfectly and so fully? So you say. And you say more than this. You say you can’t rely on anything that does not replenish your senses and awaken your belief. There, you couldn’t help being ridiculous.

Point being, you trust the sea.

A while passes; you don’t distinguish anything anymore. The darkness is full. You see half a moon, sleep on the water surface, scrutinize the stars, smile at them, utter a few words just for you that you wish they could hear, close your eyes, sleep, and you have never felt freer. You feel there is nothing more human than owning your full complete body and owing it to the sea.

From afar, you glance at the land, hear the rumbling of the cars passing you by. You contemplate the calm sea free of humans. It is somewhat reassuring. The last ones have left back to their homes. Eating, shouting, moving, making noises, leaving you alone.

You swim farther, farther away, until you don’t distinguish where you are anymore. Complete darkness has fallen and you see absolutely nothing, but the sea is your light. Or so you would like to believe. Could you lose yourself into the sea? How could you feel lost when you feel so warm and true in its arms? You embrace it again, forcefully. Why were you nervous this time? Your fear has betrayed your humanity. Suddenly, your tears add to its abundance. You are an island in the sea.

Then you stand, try to remain still, look again at the stars.

The sea is your peace. Now fresh, honest, pure.

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A Lebanese Senate? Who Will Pay For It?

According to the latest news, discussions should resume this week in order to reach consensus on a new electoral law. A “hybrid” electoral law (as the Lebanese jargon has it) submitted by Speaker Nabih Berri apparently stipulates the election of half of Parliament based on proportional representation and the other half under a winner-takes-all system. Berri’s proposal also calls for the creation of a Senate that would be elected according to the so-called “Orthodox Law”.

My argument is that the Lebanese state cannot afford to establish such a political institution, let alone the intricate task of defining its specific duties. Below my doubts:

  1. Not sure the Treasury has enough money to fund a Senate. I don’t only mean the building. I mean the wages of the Senators, their convoys, their security, their pensions, their privileges. Not only do the Lebanese MPs demonstrate poor legislating performance, but also they cost too much in comparison with other countries. Moreover, I doubt the taxpayers (= us) are ready to pay more taxes to sustain a Senate whereas (1) the whole taxation system is antiquated and no serious reform seems to be in view; and (2) the current government contends that there is no cash in order to update the salary scales.
  2. Creating a Senate will create a new form of social distinction. We already refer to our politicians as sa’âdat an-nâ’ebma’âlî al-wazîrfakhâmat ar-ra’îs; we already have beyks and shaykhs and zu’amâs… all of whom are Roi fainéants (I wanted to write “wankers”). So do we really want to add another nobility of shaykhs bearing self-important titles and performing vain tasks?
  3. Not sure our legislators will be able to delineate the duties of each Assembly clearly and unequivocally without having one encroaching on the attributions of the other. Determining accurately the role and responsibilities of the Senate in a bicameral democracy is a very demanding endeavor that requires much meticulousness. We do not seem to be fully aware of how sensitive the shift from a unicameral democracy to a bicameral one is; we take the whole issue so lightly as if it were a mere change of protocol. It is not.
  4. In a bicameral system, the legislating process will be even slower and more inefficient than it already is. That means: more foot-dragging, more compromise, less work done, therefore a doomed governance.

For the record, Lebanon has already had a Senate alongside Parliament for a year and a half upon the promulgation of the Constitution on May 23, 1926. It was abolished on October 17, 1927 precisely because the governors realized it was too expensive, too slow, and too weak.

It is such a pity that we keep discussing issues that were resolved 85 years ago.

Rest In Peace, Beirut, Mother of Laws

Rest In Peace, Beirut, Mother of Laws

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Thinking Lebanese Citizenship Beyond the Narrow Feminist Discourse.

Currently, Lebanese citizenship can only be acquired by birth or marriage. In the first case (birth), it follows the right of blood (jus sanguinis) according to the principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined by having a Lebanese father. In the second case (marriage), it is granted to the wive(s) of Lebanese citizens and their children.

As one observes, women are denied their right to nationality: if a Lebanese woman marries a foreign national she is not entitled to pass her nationality to her husband and children, whereas Lebanese men are allowed by law to pass their nationality to their spouse(s) and their children.

This situation has triggered a feminist campaign nationwide in favor of gender equality on the citizenship issue.

My Nationality is A Right for Me and My Family Nationality campaign in Lebanon Jinsiyati

“My Nationality is A Right for Me and My Family”: Nationality campaign in Lebanon “Jinsiyati”
http://nationalitycampaign.wordpress.com/

Although I theoretically support this initiative, I would like to argue here that Lebanese citizenship should be addressed as a whole and from a comprehensive legal angle, not only from a feminist perspective.

Therefore, the first step is to consider the other eligibility requirements that the current citizenship law rules out, namely:

  1. The right of soil (jus solis), by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the territory of the relevant state.
  2. Naturalization, which requires that the applicant hold a legal status as a full-time resident for a minimum period of time (during which he should exercise a remunerated professional activity) and promise to obey and uphold the country’s laws. (Note that the massive naturalizations that took place in the 1990s were the result of discretionary measures taken in the form of a decree.)

Based on the above, here are some questions that should be resolved:

  1. Should Lebanese citizenship be acquired by naturalization? If not, why? Demographics? Why would demographics vindicate such a restriction in this case and not in other ones?
  2. May those who attest their Lebanese origin be granted Lebanese citizenship? If yes, why is it so difficult for the members of the Lebanese diaspora to obtain it? If not, why? Demographics? Again, why would demographics vindicate such a restriction in this case and not in other ones?
  3. If Lebanese women are entitled to give their nationality to their children, will they benefit from a preferential treatment compared to the Lebanese diaspora? If yes, why? Demographics? Why would demographics vindicate such a restriction in this case and not in other ones?
  4. Finally, when are we going to address the excruciating issue of mass naturalizations that occurred in the 1990s like a full-fledged national one?
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Recognizing the State of Israel in the Age of Nations: Some Considerations.

The “Palestinian-Only” buses in the West Bank are truly an appalling thing, however such a measure should not come as a surprise since it has been long and widely attested Israel is a state erected on the principle of apartheid (no judgments in this statement intended).

Visualizing Palestine Palestinians Only Buses

Anti-“Palestinian-Only Buses” poster (c) Visualizing Palestine

Indeed, it is a matter of fact that Israel is a racist and a discriminatory state from the mere observation that it serves as a national home for one religious group, a state in which one ethnicity is favored over the other ones (Jews vs. the rest, regardless of that fact that Jews do not, in fact, represent a single ethnicity). To the founders of Zionism, Jews were a nation before being a religion. Accordingly, the state of Israel is a religious state created for the “Jewish nation”. Let me add here that, as in Lebanon, all matters of personal status, which includes marriage, are determined by religious authorities (the rabbinical courts). Like us also, civil marriages entered into outside of Israel are recognized.

However, beyond the vain issue of recognizing, or not, Israel’s right to exist, here are some disturbing historical facts we should recognize, pointing toward the fact that the conflict opposing Israel to its neighboring Arab countries is not a first-timer in history: similar types of conflict have existed throughout history and they have all ended in the recognition of the invader’s sovereignty. (Assuredly, this is not necessarily to push toward an Arab recognition of the state of Israel.)

Not so many centuries ago, Europeans have established colonies in America, exterminating hundreds of millions of Native Americans, displacing some other hundreds of millions, reducing them to slavery, etc. And yet, the world today recognizes the states of Northern, Central, and Latin America. Furthermore, it is completely oblivious to those “remote” atrocities.

Not so many century ago too, the Seljuks (Turks) invaded the Byzantine empire, putting an end to Anatolia’s multi-secular Hellenic culture. Yet Greece later recognized the Ottoman empire and today recognizes Turkey.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Ottomans slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians and caused the exodus of millions of them. Despite that, both countries recognize each other nowadays, although things remain  “complicated” between them (the same applies to Greece as well).

Forced exodus, genocide, occupation, colonization, crimes against humanity of all kinds are, in Durkheimian vocabulary, “normal phenomena”:  they exist in all civilizations and have been since the birth of humanity. The 1948 Arab-Israeli war is no exception.

Millions of Native Americans have suffered throughout history, millions of Armenians, many millions more in different regions and different times. Many Native Americans are now confined within approx. 310 “reservations” (i.e., an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs).

However, there is a small difference between this conflict and the earlier ones: back then, the world was living in the age of empires, conquests, and colonization; today, we live in an age of nations.

In the age of empires, new populations emerged, existing ones migrated; to remain, they evolved, if they did not, they disappeared.

As for empires, their frontiers fluctuated to the rhythm of wars between neighboring enemies (pleonasm? neighbor has long been a synonym for enemy), invasions, conquests… populations were forces to follow different lords, kings, emperors, and to adopt new languages, new religions…

In short, in the age of empires, partition and annexation were common and even accepted phenomena: through violence, empires “quite simply” emerged, others disappeared, “quite simply” again.

In the age of nations, however, things became different. Nationalism’s major consequence was to solidify the population’s link to one territory and language, making it “theirs forever”, holding it as permanent, giving the illusion it was eternal. Therefore, any change of frontiers between nation-states is deemed utterly unacceptable by international standards.

I am not trying to say that Arabs should recognize Israel because the course of history shows that the sovereignty of the victor were eventually recognized and established as final. I am only trying to say that this is the course of history. But again, that was in the age of empires, not that of nations.

As for the path to choose, I don’t really have anything to say. Of course, one can choose to fight Israel, resist against Israel, refuse Israel’s right to exist… Will it cease to exist? The Arab armies could not succeed in this endeavor at a time when they were much stronger than they are today, and when Israel was much weaker than it is now.

Anyhow, history is unpredictable. After all, Israel has never been — nor currently is — a great, vast empire. The hegemony of the US will, one day, wither and fade away, leaving “old Europe” unable to sustain the tiny state anymore. And, who knows, perhaps the radicalism of both Israelis and Arabs will be slowly eased with time, allowing old nations to mix and new identities to emerge.

Psalm 137

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W halla2 la weyn? The Intellectual Anemia of the Opponents of the Orthodox Law.

I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of the “Orthodox Law” (OL). I am simply asking for an adult discussion about this highly interesting phenomenon in the history of contemporary Lebanon.

I am asking for an intelligent national debate as I haven’t read a single comment with a relevant point so far. Most of us is lost in emotional clap-trap. Can we please stop venting and try to think a bit more analytically? Let’s have a constructive debate; let’s criticize OL and any other law, but please: let’s use real arguments.

I would like to play the devil’s advocate here and review, quickly, some major absurd comments I have read, and then suggest broader interpretation.

Absurd comment #1: “I am happy that some politicians voted in favor of the OL. Now I know for whom I will not vote”.

So you will vote for those who boycotted the meeting? The Future Movement and the PSP are truly secular parties that do not reject OL on sectarian grounds. Absolutely.

Absurd comment #2: “In case OL is put into effect, Michel Aoun’s Greek-Catholic wife will not be able to vote for him.”

Reality: She would otherwise vote in Haret Hreik (Baabda district) whereas her husband would again run for the elections in Kesrouan. But with the OL, she will vote for a Greek-Catholic Aounist MP. Same result.

Absurd comment #3: “OL is a racist law”.

And the 1943 National Pact is not? Having a Maronite President, a Sunni Premier and a Shi’i Speaker is not a racist arrangement? Well, there is a great deal of ethnic/sectarian discrimination in power-sharing democracy paradigm. It seems like some of us just realized this country is all about ta’ifiyye. Duh.

Absurd comment #4: “With OL: Sunni Beiruti ‘elites’ will be at the mercy of the radical & ignorant Sunnis of Saida & the North; The Greek-Orthodox, Armenian, & Shi’i communities will be entirely taken over by the SSNP, the Tachnag, & Hizbullah; Super-parties will wipe away independent leaders; The end of Junblat’s supremacy within the Druze community will be a source of civil and sectarian unrest [?]; In short, OL consecrates the rule of rural populations over the urban ‘elites.'”

1) On the rural/urban divide: this is a bleak and not-so-true portrayal of Lebanese rural populations. But regardless, doesn’t that mean that previous electoral laws have consecrated the opposite hegemony, i.e., that of urban “elites” (not sure this is a valid depiction) over the “poor, radical, illiterate” rural populations?

2) This comment actually confirms the arguments of OL’s proponents. It clearly implies that the country’s political structure is inexorably sectarian.

3) Independent leaders will disappear. I tend to believe that OL will shift the power struggles from between the sects (inter-sectarian) to within the sects (intra-sectarian), which will contribute to the weakening of existing leaderships/za’amat. In short: new leaders will emerge who will challenge the hegemony of existing super-parties/zu’ama’.

Absurd comment #5: “OL will take us back to Prehistorical times.”

Consider this post by Take Back Parliament, for instance:

207319_217149281757930_1938150425_nThis is prejudicial and truly offensive to cavemen. Cavemen were never sectarian, we are. They were tribal, yes, but hey, so are we still (remember the Municipal elections?). Did you know that our forebears were far less sectarian than we are today, 200, 300, 400 years ago? Did you know that the culture of sectarianism in Lebanon is a purely modern phenomenon dating back to the 19th century?

This kind of comment is typical of the evolutionist stance, according to which “primitive cultures are backward” and “modern cultures are developed”. This paradigm is also called the modernist paradigm, which was also an established analytical grid for Marxist/leftist authors. Well, things are a little bit more complicated than that since we observe nowadays that tribalism and confessionalism are often a byproduct of modernity.

But, you know, let’s forget about all the above. What really strikes me is that none of the hysterical critiques of OL — especially from the so-called “Civil Society” — has actually proposed a realistic alternative. Let’s not impose secularism on our sectarian compatriots, and vice versa; let’s make up a mixed antidote (secular and sectarian) that would be deemed acceptable by both.

Onwards.

Let’s keep our normative thinking away for once and ponder on the significance of OL. I think “March 14 coalition” is now dead. What happened on Tuesday is perhaps the Christian revenge against the 2005 Quadripartite Alliance; against the passive adoption of Ghazi Kanaan’s Law in 2005; against the adoption “by default” of the 1960 Law in 2009.

The unanimity of “Christian” parties about OL, cutting across the March 14/8 divide is a major indicator of common “feelings,” “representations,” “interests” or whatever you may want to call it. Why did this convergence happen?

No matter which Electoral Law we discuss, we will end up in the situation that La Fontaine describes in “The miller, his son and the donkey.” So let’s think in sociological terms why we reached this situation, and ask: w halla2 la weyn?

Mazen Kerbaj La nouvelle loi électorale proposition orthodoxe 2013

(c) Mazen Kerbaj “Voting Time / La nouvelle loi électorale” (2013)

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An Unorthodox Proposal (or how to get it over with the usual self-labeled “secularist” blabla).

To all the self-righteous and hypocritical, holier-than-thou moralizers who say the “Orthodox Proposal” is sectarian, here are some points to reflect on.

Does the Orthodox Proposal contradict the Lebanese Constitution?

Some claim it contradicts Article 27 of the Constitution which stipulates that the elected deputies represent the whole Lebanese Nation. However, this article, which rather seems to be a mere verbal artifact, fundamentally contradicts Article 95 of the Constitution and the National Pact.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Lebanese Constitution itself is a contradictory text.

Is the Orthodox Proposal a sectarian Law Proposal?

Of course it is, but so were all the previous electoral laws, namely those of 1960, 1992, 1996, and that of Ghazi Kanaan (2000 and 2005). Even the projects involving a proportional representation are essentially sectarian.

MP Boutros Harb is opposed to it, claiming it is a sectarian Law. But Boutros Harb himself is sectarian, let alone he is the product of sectarian politics. Have we already forgotten about his sectarian law project of December 2010, when he proposed a draft bill to prohibit land selling operations “between individuals of different confessions not belonging to the same religion” for a period of 15 years? (See my earlier post on that matter.)

President Michel Sleiman claims the “Orthodox Proposal” is a sectarian project that contradicts the precepts of Muslim-Christian coexistence and the spirit of the National Pact. Ladies and Gentlemen, the very concept of “coexistence” (ta’âyush‘aysh mushtarak) as well as the “1943 Pact” are sectarian concepts par excellence. When you are in a secular political system, there would be no need to talk about Muslims or Christians, nor about “coexistence” since citizenship alone would serve as common ground. Hasn’t the President been elected on purely sectarian considerations, just like his Sunni Premier and Shi’i Speaker?

Finally, it is very easy to label yourself as “secularist” and criticize endlessly whatever appears to be politically incorrect to you. Enough wishful thinking. What have the secularists proposed? Nothing, as usual. Come on, we all know a “100% secular electoral law” would be rejected by the Lebanese.

So let’s try to be solution-oriented instead nit-picking for once. I think there is a way to bridge both arguments, by adding a “secular community” which would hold a 15% share in the Lebanese Parliament, as I suggest it. This rate would be kept flexible to match the proportion of secularist voters at each election. So if, for instance, 20% of the votes go to secularist candidates in 2013, the rate would be increased to 20% in 2017. And if 40% of the votes are secular in 2017, 40% of parliamentary seats would be reserved for secular candidates in 2021, and so on.

And this is how you can satisfy those who wish to remain sectarian and those who are longing to set the ground for a truly secular and pluralistic Lebanon.

Alright now, this was a good release. Needless to say, there is no point in dwelling on a proposal dead at arrival. At the end of the day we will all raise our glasses to 1960 bis. Cheers!

P.S.: I highly recommend reading Jean-Pierre Katrib’s article on the matter: “Realities of the Orthodox Proposal“, Now Lebanon, January 15, 2013. Also check the interview with Wa’il Kheir in An-Nahâr, January 16, 2103.

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