Hang That Man: The Minister of the Culture of Destruction.

[Please note that this is a diatribe and not an apology of the death penalty.]

De la disparition du passé, on se console facilement ; c’est de la disparition de l’avenir qu’on ne se remet pas. Le pays dont l’absence m’attriste et m’obsède, ce n’est pas celui que j’ai connu dans ma jeunesse, c’est celui dont j’ai rêvé, et qui n’a jamais pu voir le jour.

Amin Maalouf

Hang Gaby Layoun Minister of the Culture of Destruction Lebanon

First he facilitated the destruction of the Phoenician harbor of Beirut in June 2012 claiming the site had no archaeological value. So we laid the blame on those stupid Phoenicians for building their harbor on an estate worth tens of millions of dollars. Now the Medawar family is to blame for having erected, in the 1920s, a beautiful house on a piece of land now worth millions. Thanks to the Minister of the Culture of Destruction Gaby Layyoun, the “Villa Medawar” in Badaro, which was later inhabited by the family of Amin Maalouf, has been destroyed. True story.

Villa Medawar Maalouf Residence before destruction

Before (source: Libanews/ (c) Raja Noujeim)

The Daily Star, “Maalouf House yields to skyscraper plans“, Friday, January 4, 2013.

BEIRUT: Bulldozers began demolishing the three-story Medawar Building, also known as the Maalouf House, in Beirut’s Badaro neighborhood Thursday afternoon.

The demolition of the 80-year-old building comes less than three months after Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun approved the Kettaneh Group construction firm’s request to replace the building with a 22-story-high skyscraper.

Layyoun’s October decision came four months after he rejected the firm’s request to demolish the building, arguing that the structure adds unique architectural value to the city.

In a letter addressed to Kettaneh Group on June 22 of last year, Layyoun said: “The Culture Ministry does not approve the destruction of the building on plot 3696 in the Mazraa area [Badaro] since the building continues to represent a unique architectural pattern in the area.”

But on Oct. 23, Layyoun said: “The Culture Ministry approves the destruction of the building on plot 3696 in Mazraa since the building belongs to the transitional period of the French mandate and its architecture does not have any unique traditional techniques.” [I grant you that it’s not traditional, but it’s still original and beautiful.]

Although the precise date on which the building was built is unknown, architects say that its features embody the art deco style found in Italian and French architecture. Such architecture, adopted by Lebanon’s rising bourgeoisie, became famous in Lebanon in the 1930s and 1940s.

In the early 1960s, Amin Maalouf, Lebanon’s renowned writer and a member of France’s Academie Francaise, moved into the second floor of the building in Badaro with his family.

Maalouf’s mother was the last to leave the building in 2011 after the 1,600 square meters of land was purchased by the Kettaneh Group. Activists say that the judiciary should open an investigation to uncover the reasons behind the Culture Ministry’s two contradictory decisions. [Hint: look for a generous money transfer from Kettaneh to Layyoun’s bank account.]

While France has welcomed Maalouf in the Académie Française, raising him among the Nation’s greatest men, the Lebanese government razes his former residence to the ground. As Maalouf rightly said: “I have gone nowhere, it is my country that has gone.” A country not worthy of its heritage and of those who bear its name across the world.

Advertisements
Posted in Lebanon | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Les secrets des Secrets de la Guerre du Liban d’Alain Ménargues, tome II.

À part les systématiques remarques sur le taux scandaleux de coquilles parsemant le second tome du dernier ouvrage d’Alain Ménargues, Les secrets de la guerre du Liban, paru en novembre 2012 chez Librairie internationale (Beyrouth), je n’ai pas vraiment entendu de commentaires dignes de commentaire sur le fond de la très belle fresque historique reconstituée par cet ancien correspondant de Radio France qui a couvert les événements libanais à l’époque.

La raison pour laquelle les erreurs d’orthographe sont si nombreuses est très simple: le second tome des Secrets de la guerre du Liban n’a pas été édité chez Albin Michel — donc en France — comme c’était le cas du premier tome, mais chez un éditeur libanais de bien moindre calibre, domicilié rue Clémenceau.

La vraie question qui se pose est, à mon sens, la suivante: pourquoi le second tome de l’ouvrage n’a pas été publié chez le même éditeur (Albin Michel), comme cela est généralement le cas, d’autant plus qu’il s’agissait à la base d’un seul livre de quelque 1 600 pages dont l’éditeur a suggéré la publication en deux tomes.

Que s’est-il passé depuis? Et pourquoi le second tome est-il introuvable en France voire partout ailleurs en Europe et aux États-Unis? (Une recherche du livre sur Amazon.fr/.de/.co.uk/.com ne permet de trouver, par exemple, aucun résultat correspondant.)

D’après ce que je sais, la Source de documentation principale de M. Ménargues sur les Forces libanaises lui a intenté un procès suite à la publication du premier tome en 2004, et ceci pour avoir contrevenu à certaines clauses de l’accord initial passé entre les deux hommes au sujet de l’usage des informations communiquées (procès-verbaux, cartes militaires, documents confidentiels, etc.). En effet, si M. Ménargues a pu avoir accès à la quasi intégralité des documents des Forces libanaises relatifs à la période qu’il couvre (septembre 1982-février 1984), c’est parce qu’un haut responsable des FL les lui a communiqués… Vous l’avez peut-être deviné, la Source en question est bien M. Fady Frem, chef des FL de septembre 1982 à octobre 1984.

Je tiens cette information d’un vétéran des Forces libanaises ayant un contact régulier avec M. Frem. Selon lui, Frem ne souhaitait la divulgation des informations communiquées à Ménargues qu’après la signature d’un traité de paix avec Israël, certaines d’entre elles étant susceptibles de compromettre ses prochaines visites au Liban. M. Frem tenait également à être mentionné comme le co-auteur de l’ouvrage, un engagement qu’Alain Ménargues n’a pas non plus respecté.

Sans en dire plus, par crainte d’en trop dire, précisons que, tant que le procès entre les deux hommes est en cours, le second tome sera interdit de publication en France et ailleurs. Ce qui a poussé M. Ménargues à le faire publier in situ.

imagerepositoryNotons qu’il ne s’agit pas ici du procès “manqué” mentionné dans une interview accordée au quotidien francophone libanais L’Orient-Le Jour du 12 septembre 2012, où M. Ménargues indique qu'”une seule personne a voulu [lui] intenter un procès [parce] qu’elle n’était pas citée dans le livre, pour une raison qui [lui] est personnelle. Or [cette personne] se vante d’avoir été l’auteure de telle ou telle action, ce qui est vrai par ailleurs”. Cette personne ne serait, d’après certaines supputations, autre que le tristement célèbre Robert Hatem dit “Cobra”, ancien sbire d’Élie Hobeika et auteur d’une confession dont on ne sait vraiment le degré de fiabilité (cf. Dans l’ombre d’Hobeika… En passant par Sabra et Chatila, Paris, Picollec, 2003).

Posted in Lebanon | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Type of Sex Scandal Your Lebanese TV Newscast Won’t Tell You About.

As usual, our Lebanese TV newscasts are full of inanities, covering superfluous visits, meaningless receptions, and prefabricated statements. All in all, the same vocabulary, the same accusations… the same story.

But here’s an interesting new one that French, US, and UK newspapers are talking about. It is the sentencing, by the French court on Tuesday, October 23, 2012, of Lebanese businessman Elie Nahas, 44, to 8 years in prison over a (very) high-end prostitution ring operating at the Cannes Film Festival. Nahas, who runs an international modeling agency (Style Modeling Agency) based in New York, Caracas, Beirut, and Dubai, was in fact employing prostitutes recruited in South America, France, eastern Europe, and the Middle East. He also happens to be the husband of Sabine Abdel Nour, former Miss Internet and sister of the famous Lebanese model, actress, and singer Sirine Abdel Nour. Nahas’s wife was also his partner in the venture.

Nahas’s luxury prostitution network supplied deluxe prostitutes and escorts to rich Middle Eastern clients during the Cannes film festival, among whom the slain son of Muammar Qaddafi and Libya’s former #1 playboy Mu’tassem Qaddafi. Clients would usually pay between 10,000 and 15,000 EUR to engage in sexual acts for one night with a woman of their choice.

If is funny how the Arab and the Lebanese press seem to care less about the identity of Nahas’s clients than about that of the prostitutes involved. Agence France Press has already indicated that Lamitta Frangieh, Miss Lebanon 2004 1st Runner Up, is one these deluxe prostitutes, an information that was republished in Le Monde and L’Orient-Le Jour but denied by Frangieh (obviously).

Lamitta Frangieh, 31, is reportedly linked to Nahas’s prostitution network involving Lebanese and Arab politicians.

So who are those clients? Mainly rich Lebanese businessmen, MPs, and ministers, but also businessmen and princes from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, U.A.E.. According to Ad-Diyar, the only Lebanese newspaper who has actually mentioned the involvement of prominent Lebanese politicians in these prostitution acts, a delegation of 40 among the wealthiest Lebanese businessmen and politicians got on a private jet headed to Paris on Friday, November 2nd, to talk the French media into not publishing their names (meaning: pay large sums of money for it). The same source mentions that 20 of them are from Beirut (Verdun, Hamra, etc.), 4 from Kesrouan, 6 from North- and South-Matn, 4 from “the Mountain”, 2 from Jbeil, 2 from the Beqaa, and 1 from Batroun, the relevance of which is, I suppose, to show that almost all political orientations and confessional affiliations are mixed up in the affair (but predominantly March 14, as one can infer).

Will the Lebanese media make the names public? I can only hope so. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on whores whereas most Lebanese are struggling to make a living. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are also being spent right now to dissuade the French media to publish the names of the clients.

But why do our local TV newscasts never bring up such stories? Why does the local press hardly give such information the attention it deserves? So far, I have only read four articles addressing it in the Lebanese press: one in L’Orient-Le Jour, one in The Daily Star, one on the Naharnet website (i.e., not in the printed edition of An-Nahar), and one in Ad-Diyar. This is truly appalling.

I think the press as well the TV newscasts have become too comfortable in covering the usual, traditional, boring political news. It is also because most of them belong to political parties, and are funded by the countries these Arab businessmen come from…

This is the type of information the public would need in order to discredit and get it over with a political class that has been humiliating us for the past two decades.

Posted in Lebanon | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

“Keep Calm”: Lebanese Version.

Keep Cal, Lebanese version - by André Sleiman

“Keep Calm”, Lebanese version (October 2012)

R.I.P. Wissam el-Hassan

 

 

Posted in Lebanon | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

On the Regeneration/Degeneration of the Lebanese Species.

Since posting wisecracks is most people’s raison d’être on Facebook (beside showcasing the awesomeness of one’s life), I thought I would go with the flow and post my own; one that I could claim ownership of. So I wrote:

I think the next generation of Lebanese babies is going to have built-in night vision, if you see what I mean.

…with reference to the protracted/frequent power cuts.

I noticed last night that I had an increased ability to see in very low light conditions, that’s why. Then I wondered if I were the only mutant in my entourage.

Anyway, a good friend of mine commented on the post, saying “we should consider if we should have a next Lebanese generation,” wondering about the legacy of past generations. “Nothing much to offer, she added, at least nothing much positive.”

I connected this reaction to a notion I had learned about a few days earlier, namely the mélancolie génésique or “reproductive melancholy,” an expression coined by Yves Paccalet, a French philosopher and long-time companion of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Paccalet talked about mélancolie génésique or “reproductive melancholy” to explain the declining reproduction rate of cod-fish and whales. According to him, the mélancolie génésique is the psychological consequence of human aggression on marine ecosystems (industrial overfishing, pollution, etc.), which causes the species to lose their appetite for life (yes, animals also have it, sometimes more than humans), their will to procreate, their desire to perpetuate their species.

I think this is a fascinating idea. It would be interesting to extend it to humans. I totally understand this “reproductive depression” in a time of political and socio-economic depression, a time of moral degeneration. Our society is fairly degenerate (I like this word, it suits us, I mean: il nous ressemble), so whence our surprise to see our “regeneration rate” dropping?

Posted in Lebanon | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Teaching Hebrew in Lebanese Schools Could Be Such A Good Idea.

The other day, a Facebook friend of mine posted a warning against a “pretty young girl” using several fake accounts under Lebanese and (Lebanese-)Armenian names/nicknames to add random Lebanese people on Facebook. The friend requests were naturally easily accepted given the obvious sex-appeal of the needy 23 year-old. The guys “Liked” and “Shared” much of the flaunted flesh. I was  surprised to see that this was also the case with the girls.

I wondered why my friend would do the Facebook police when such a phenomenon has become increasingly common in social media. Common phenomenon, indeed, except that an array of almost invisible clues drive us to a different observation this time.

There are several little elements indicating that the account is fake. But there are also subtler ones that lead us to the source and identity of the scam artist. Take a look at the picture below, do you notice the handwriting in Hebrew on the bench (circled in red)?

Also, check this one. Do you see that little star of David hanging on the bottom of her earring?

This is another picture detail where you can see a small inscription in Hebrew on a dark blue slinky top:

Finally, check the urban landscape in the background of the picture below. There is something about the disposition of those palm trees, roof antennas/dishes, white concrete around the red roofs that does not look like Lebanon. Of course, that does not mean we do not have palm trees, red roofs et cetera in Lebanon. But there is something about the landscape that looks not in its place. Anyway, there are other clues in the other pictures.

Okay. We have a fake Israeli Lolita who is compulsively adding young Lebanese men and women on Facebook. Why would someone do that?

Well, social media — Facebook in particular — is a major mine of information. Israeli soldiers are often warned/reminded by their superiors of being careful not to disclose confidential military information on-line. Israeli intelligence officials often say that “Facebook is a major resource for terrorists, seeking to gather information on soldiers and IDF units”, fearing that “soldiers might even unknowingly arrange to meet an Internet companion who in reality is a terrorist.” Hezbollah has frequently used fake accounts of pretty young girls to lure Israeli soldiers into giving them bits of information on Israel’s military units. Israel, too, has developed a special military unit to fight its enemies on-line. These things are very serious. In March 2010,  the Israeli military canceled a planned raid on a Palestinian village after one of its soldiers posted details of the operation on Facebook. The poor soldier was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 days in prison. He was also ousted from his battalion and relieved of combat duties.

Fine, but that does not explain why Israeli intelligence units would compulsively add average Lebanese citizens with no apparent military or political credentials. Well, sometimes, public opinions are far more precious than confidential military information. Facebook and other social media platforms are an excellent way to pick up moods. Collective moods, I mean. Infiltrating a social network nowadays is like infiltrating a whole society. You can hear what’s going on; read people’s comments about day-to-day life in Lebanon; read what they say about ordinary and extraordinary things; see them react to “normal” as much as “abnormal” events; be in the know of almost everything: social, cultural, political, and so on.

Sometimes, one can learn far more from observing the fluctuations of social moods and attitudes than from a leaked secret d’État. Especially if you’re planning for something, or, say, waiting for the right timing to… God forbid.

Posted in Lebanon | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Nothing Has Changed Since 1949.

It is common to quote Lebanese journalist Georges Naccache’s famous word: “Deux négations ne font pas une nation” (“Two negations do not form a nation”) as criticism to Lebanon’s 1943 National Pact, which inter alia consisted in saying “No” to Western and Eastern tutelage over Lebanon. The quote was since then reused in a broader sense to blame or at least bring into question the Lebanese political order.

Naccache (1904-1972) was the founder, in 1924, of the French-speaking Lebanese daily L’Orient. He was also a founding member, along with Pierre Gemayel (1905-1984) of the Kataeb party in 1936.

Georges Naccache (1904-1972)

Georges Naccache

L’Orient‘s arch-rival was the other French-speaking daily Le Jour, founded in 1935 by Michel Chiha (1891-1956), a prominent banker, businessman, jurist, politician, writer, and poet. He is mostly known to have contributed in drafting the Lebanese Constitution of 1926; and also to have laid the foundations of the Lebanist ideology.

L’Orient was pro-Destour, the party of President Bshara el-Khuri; in fact, the latter was Chiha’s brother-in-law. Typical: behind most political affinities are family ties and business interests. Le Jour was pro-National Bloc (the party of the francophile Émile Eddé, also a former President under the French Mandate).

Beyond the mere cliché it has become, what’s the story behind Naccache’s famous phrase? Let’s read some extracts of the original article, originally an editorial published on March 10, 1949, entitled “Deux négations ne font pas une nation !”:

Que voyons-nous ? Un peuple, à travers tous les désordres et tous les scandales, ingénieux à se reconstruire ; un État obstiné à se défaire.

J’ai failli ne pas reconnaître mon Liban ! […]

C’est bien cette précarité extrême de l’équilibre libanais qui produit le désarroi de l’opinion – l’impuissance et la démoralisation de ceux qui, menant l’opposition, sont paralysés par la peur de détruire le Liban en même temps que le Sérail. […]

Une constatation domine tout : Né dans la violence – né de la violence – le régime actuel de l’Indépendance est condamné, pour se maintenir, à une perpétuelle violence. […]

Le fameux Pacte de novembre – qui est le pacte fondateur de l’indépendance nationale – porte en lui les contradictions qui rendent tout gouvernement impossible. L’expérience nous l’a montré assez cruellement.

« Ni Occident, ni arabisation » : c’est sur un double refus que la chrétienté et l’Islam ont conclu leur alliance. Quelle sorte d’unité peut être tirée d’une telle formule ?

Ce qu’une moitié des Libanais ne veut pas, on le voit très bien.

Ce que ne veut pas l’autre moitié, on le voit également très bien.

Mais ce que les deux moitiés veulent en commun, c’est ce qu’on ne voit pas !

Telle est l’indécente gageure dans laquelle nous vivons.
Le Liban qu’on nous a fait est une patrie composée de deux cinquièmes colonnes. […]

La folie est d’avoir élevé un compromis à la hauteur d’une doctrine d’État – d’avoir traité l’accident comme une chose stable –, d’avoir cru, enfin, que deux « non » pouvaient, en politique, produire un « oui ».

Le Liban, par peur d’être simplement ce qu’il est, et à force de ne vouloir être ni ceci ni cela, s’aperçoit qu’il risque maintenant de n’être plus rien du tout. […]

Un État n’est pas la somme de deux impuissances – et deux négations ne feront jamais une nation.

If I hadn’t known the story, I would have thought it was written today, not 63 years ago.

What is less known, however, (or not known at all,) is that Naccache paid a very high price for publishing a leading article criticizing the Power-Sharing Pact: he earned a prison term for a period of 3 months, plus a 6-month “administrative suspension” of his newspaper. He had simply said something that felt right.

Posted in Lebanon | Tagged , | 1 Comment