I love life ... with dignity

Yet another set of slogans written also in red and white letters are being trumpeted on billboards around Lebanon. The slogans, written in French, English and Arabic, are installed side by side to the previous set of slogans: “We want to live,” and “I love life.” These new billboards are signed by the Lebanese opposition under a rainbow that includes the colors of all Lebanese parties, for the opposition as well as pro-government. “The campaign is a response to those who are accusing us that we do not want to live and that we do not love life,” say representatives of Hezbollah and Aoun Parties on a NTV television broadcast. 

Diverse allies in Lebanon

Ibtisam Jamaleddine stood in the room of her dead son, Maxim. Maxim was 18 years old when he was mistaken for a fighter and killed by an Israeli missile during this summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. Pictures of Che Guevara and soccer players as well as a plaque dedicated to Shiite Islam’s most revered imam, Ali, adorn the walls of his room. They tell a story unknown in the West, of the complex nature of forces that fought Israel last summer. 

We love life whenever we can

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

The cradle of revolution

Cradled in the beautiful southern mountains of Lebanon, a revolutionary impulse born of desparation created by Israeli terror and American oppression has turned into feverish nationalism. Here in Beirut yesterday, 10 December 2006, over a million people, perhaps two million, gathered in a historic first for Lebanon and possibly a historic percentage of any nation any one time any where. It was a crowd in motion, literally. I watched the rivers of people weaving through the masses and the islands of those who stood still. Their shifting patterns, a natural motion, is a rare experience. 

Sowing the seeds of tomorrow's violence

The atmosphere of the Lebanese opposition demonstrations, which began last Friday and were planned in large part by Hizballah, Amal, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and their allies, has been very calm and festive, betraying the underlying tensions and outbursts of political violence in the country. In many ways, they exude a similar spirit to last year’s months of demonstrating by the March 14 coalition, in which there was constant music interlaced with speeches, and people waving Lebanese flags and behaving as if they had just won a football game or were at a concert. 

Historic Days in Beirut and a White Rose

December 3: Today is the third day of the great events in Beirut. A congregation of people, a coming together of individuals from all over Lebanon from all religious groupings, all seeking to change the majority ruling government of the country. All this is happening under the leadership of Hezbollah, which is being cool, keeping its alliances strong and its supporters disciplined. On the first day there were approximately two million people. If you were part of it you would not have been able to tell how many people were there. In the front of the event, very near the speakers’ stand where I stood with friends, I could see and hear but only a fragment of the crowd. 

We, Nahnu

Beginning Thursday evening the streets of Beirut were filled with anticipation. As with the night before the March 14th Coalition’s rally in Martyr’s Square after Pierre Gemayel’s assassination, cars full of Lebanese people flying various flags (national and party) outside of their windows cruised through the streets of Beirut honking and blasting music. The feel, at least from where I listened to this from my apartment, was of a small American town after the big Friday night football game. The following morning was one of intense traffic, bottlenecked because people were trying to get home or to work and so many of the streets in downtown Beirut were closed off and military installations were all over the city, including in my neighborhood, Hamra. 

From Hamra to Dahye

Tonight I caught a tiny glimpse of the anger that the masses might express here in Lebanon. Tonight’s confluence of national forces in the main squares of downtown Beirut were complemented by spontaneous action in the neighborhoods. Gift in hand, a great dinner invitation from a host and hostess who live in Dahye, and looking foreward to a wonderful home cooked meal, I found myself in a taxi with a driver patiently, and kindly doing his utmost to maneuver the side streets of various neighborhoods to avoid a huge demonstration on one of the main highways between Dahye and downtown. Suddenly he pulled a political photo from under a pile of papers on the dash board and placed it on top, face-up, as we passed small cliques of men and teenagers, some holding wooden sticks as weapons. 

Gemayel's assassination: What do Lebanon's Shi'ite think?

In the wake of Lebanese anti-Syrian Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel’s assassination on Tuesday the debate is raging on who was behind the killing and why. Thursday saw hundreds of thousands of Lebanese from all sects on the streets turn out for his funeral. They were there in genuine sadness at the murder of an elected cabinet minister and to show their disgust at the continued way violent killings are being used to conduct politics in Lebanon. The protest also saw calls for pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud to resign and much anger directed against the also pro-Syrian Shi’ite group Hizbullah - whose supporters stayed away from the proceedings. 

Unity or Solidarity in Lebanon?

It was 4:30 PM when my students’ cell phones began receiving SMS messages. We had fifteen minutes left of class. They told me that Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel had been assassinated. One of my students fled the room in tears. I could hear students amassing outside in front of the AUB student union building just outside our window. The mood was tense. Students began with their theories of who was responsible: Mossad, Syria, the CIA. The usual suspects. The story was, of course, confirmed as I listened to the news reports in the office. Just a few hours before in front of AUB’s student union there was a display of national unity as people celebrated Lebanon’s Flag Day.