25 April 2009

Lebanon: Beirut World Book Capital 2009

Beirut's status as World Book Capital was officially hailed today in a ceremony held at the UNESCO building. President Sleiman spoke today praising UNESCO for their choice adding that this title is a challenge to improve literacy and encourage reading. The ceremony was attended by Speaker Berri and Prime Minister Siniora.

Beirut is the ninth city designated as World Book Capital, following Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Anterp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007) and Amsterdam (2008).

According to the selection committee, Beirut was selected “in the light of its focus on cultural diversity, dialogue and tolerance, and of its diverse and stimulating program.”

Lebanon boasts of having hundreds of publishing houses.
But Lebanon is also a country where the most sold books, in any book fair that Beirut hosts, are cook and horoscope books.
And Beirut is a city where the coffee shops, that once accommodated intellectuals from around the world, are being transformed into fashion outlets.
And where the environment, politics, economy, intellectualism, arts, etc, has reached a very low level by all standards.
A city where even selecting it as World Book Capital created petty squabbles among the officials regarding the funding (reported by BBC).
Where even the facebook group for this event has only 133 fans (when last checked).

And yes, despite all that, I will take part, plan and share responsibility in some of the activities to commemorate Beirut as World Book Capital.
Never despairing that transformations and imprints can always be made.

Beirut World Book Capital 2009 - Official Site

Beirut World Book Capital 2009 - Blog
Pierre Tristam's article on UNESCO's declaration

24 April 2009

Lebanon: Poverty and "Faith of our Fathers"

"Chicken a la Carte" a short film by Ferdinand Dimadura (2005).
Showing a portion of society actually living on the refuse of others to survive. Simple yet moving.

On the other hand, (the right one), in this our Lebanon, 28.5 per cent of the population are below the upper poverty line (US$4 per capita per day).
That's more than a million out the almost 4 million Lebanese.
8 per cent of the Lebanese population live in conditions of extreme poverty.

But did anyone hear any of the upcoming election candidates address this issue?
Is anyone of them saying anything better than just trying to prove their birth-right to be in the parliament? Some only because they were transformed from that one lucky sperm coming out of their father.. (pun intended)?
What a miracle? Only possible in Lebanon.
Or am I missing something?

But then, the Hymnal goes:
"Faith of our fathers, holy Faith, we will be true to Thee till death"
and who am I to disagree.

More on poverty in Lebanon

18 April 2009

"Geagea wanted us to fight the Shia" says Jumblat in this Video [updated]

Despite the poor quality of this video (taken by cell phone), Walid Jumblat can be heard accusing the Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and "some of the Sunnis" of wishing for a Druze-Shia conflict. He can also be heard saying "we saw the Sunni in Beirut, they brought 1000 fighters from Akkar and did not last 15 min [during the mini-civil-war of May 7, 2008]. "They wanted us [Druze and Shia] to fight each other and then they would just sit and watch", he said. He stressed that the Druze dignity is preserved [despite not being dragged into a full fledged war]. At the end of the video, while talking about the elections in the Mountain, he accuses his Maronite allies of going back to "Isolationism", describing them as "once of bad quality, always of bad quality." Saad Hariri is a novice, he adds. This video ends with, "as for the Shia, England is holding dialogue with Hezbollah, [United States of] America is opening up to Iran...

I think sectarianism, feudalism, sheepism, isolationism and all their isms cousins should be eradicated before rabies spread out of control in this Lebanon.

Update: excerpts of Jumblat's clarification :

"The video was part of a long discussion which talked about the isolationist trend in the country," Jumblat said about a mobile phone video in which the Druze leader criticized Maronites and some March 14 leaders.

"I wish that (Maronite) Patriarch (Nasrallah) Sfeir and all Maronites would take the bad and insulting word I used – and which was taken out of context from a long discussion about isolation – as a mere description of the situation that caused isolationism" in Lebanese sects,

"I was expressing (my point of view on) choosing candidates particularly by the March 14 alliance. The latest victim was Nassib Lahoud who decided to withdraw his candidacy. This attitude doesn't only exist among March 14 but also rests with the other party."

12 April 2009

Lebanese Campaign for the Boycott of Zionism

In this latest onslaught against Palestinians, Israel has attacked a university, the Ministry of Education, schools across the Gaza Strip, and several UNRWA schools. Such attacks against learning centers are not unique for Israel. Most particularly since 1975, Israel has infringed upon the right of education for Palestinians by closing universities, schools and kindergartens, and by shelling, shooting at, and raiding hundreds of schools and several universities throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

Nor have these attacks been limited against Palestinians. As academics in Lebanon, we are all too familiar with Israeli onslaughts against educational centers. In its latest assault, in 2006, for example, Israel destroyed over 50 schools throughout Lebanon, and particularly schools designed for the economically disadvantaged in the South.

We thus stand, as academics in Lebanon, in urging our colleagues, regionally and internationally, to oppose this ongoing scholasticide and to support the just demand for academic boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel >>> the rest is here ...


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