Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Lebanese Army is Untouchable- Unless it is February 1984

Amin Gemayel, President of Lebanon, 1982-1988





The Lebanese Army is the national army of all Lebanese. Currently the army seems to be engaged in conflict with one segment of the population. In a country like Lebanon, with 18 confessional groups, using the army to confront groups that belong to one confessional group is fraught with dangers- especially when that group’s perceived adversaries enthusiastically support the use of force. The modern history of Lebanon shows that different groups have at times questioned the army’s actions. Prime Minister Saeb Salam one time demanded the resignation of the army commander and when it did not happen, he himself resigned.

 Below is a refresher course on the army, the use of force and confessional implications and consequences- an excerpt from Rosemary Sayigh’s Too many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon (1994):

The February 1984 uprising
All through the autumn and winter the Lebanese Army continued intermittently to shell the southern suburbs from positions both east and west of the ‘Green Line”. Displaced Shi’ites piled into beach huts along the sea and shacks around Shateela and the Sports City. More than once Amal leader Nabih Berri gave warning of his power to shake the regime if the army persisted in destroying Shi’ite-inhabited areas. Feelings came to a head when General Tannous insisted on moving into positions vacated by a French unit of the multinational Forces in Shiyah, right on the edge of the southern suburbs. This was a ‘red line’ for Berri. On 4 February he called on all Muslims in the Lebanese Army to lay down arms. Since at least 60 percent of ordinary soldiers, as well as many officers, were Shi’ite his call had a devastating effect. The army in West Beirut melted, leaving only hard-core Maronites to fight their way out in two days of the worst shelling the city had seen since 1982. As a result, Beirut was divided along sectarian line into Maronite, Shi’ite and Druze battalions. The uprising of 6 February effectively ended President Gemayel’s hopes of extending his authority beyond the ‘Maronite enclave’.

p. 138

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Lebanese Sunni Community: Bombed into Communal Consciousness









Much of the literature on Lebanon has focused on the Christian and Shiite communities. There is not much written on the Sunni community.  Today much of the attention to the Sunni Lebanese community is within the context of the “threat” of the so-called Sunni Muslim fundamentalism. One of the few books to focus on the Sunni Lebanese, albeit the Beiruti Sunni Lebanese is Michael Johnson’s Class and Client in Beirut (1986). Johnson’s is a thorough study of the Beiruti Sunnis, their zaims and the clientelist system of a bygone era. Johnson had access to the Sunni zaims, in his book thanking the father of the current Prime Minister Tamam Salam, Saeb Salam.

An interesting observation/conclusion that Johnson makes as to the Lebanese Sunnis is the following excerpt:
 “The Sunnis, by contrast, had not developed a communal consciousness comparable to that of the other major confessions. They had always tended to look to Arab nationalism for their political inspiration; and though this was still an essentially confessional orientation, the Arab community with which they identified was much larger, and therefore more nebulous, than the concentrated and parochial communities of the Maronites and Druze. Even the Shi’ites, who were fragmented spatially (the northern Bekaa, South Lebanon and Beirut) and also divided over their degree of commitment to the Iranian revolution, were mainly influenced by a parochial communalism which emphasized their grievances as a deprived and disinherited, specifically Lebanese community. The attachment of the Sunni menu peuple to the values of Arabism had meant that the divisions of the Arab world had become replicated in the damaging intra-confessional conflicts between their various militias, thus leaving them with a weak sense of communal solidarity at a time when a confessional balance of military forces seemed to be the most likely framework for an end to the civil war. Thus, in a political sense, the Sunnis were the war’s main casualty among the larger Lebanese confessions, and they had to accept a decline in power and status similar to the one they had suffered with the imposition of Greater Lebanon in 1920. But their political and socio-economic resources had been much stronger during the French Mandate than they were in 1985. With the rise of the Shi’ites to a position of prominence, it was likely that they rather than the Sunnis would be the major partners of the Maronites in any new Lebanon which might conceivably emerge from the long nightmare of civil war.”
Pg. 213-214
Communal Consciousness. Imposed.
The Sunni community, given the upheaval that started with the Hariri assassination, is a changed community. It is not a radicalized community. But there is definitely a growing communal consciousness that is the outcome of a series of setbacks and challenges that began with the assassination of PM Hariri and did not end with the October 2014 clashes in Tripoli.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jordanians, Palestinians & the Hashemite Kingdom

Adnan Abu Odeh



Jordanians, Palestinians & the Hashemite Kingdom in the Middle East Peace Process by Adnan Abu-Odeh (1999) is an excellent book on Jordan. Such an important book should have been translated and made required reading in Jordan, at least at the university level. Abu-Odeh makes an honest and frank assessment of the state of Jordan. However, unfortunately, the book has been treated as a divisive book. The book resulted in Abu odeh been ostracized by the Jordanian establishment for shedding light on inconvenient truths.


Below are excerpts:


On Communal relations:

"A survey conducted in September 1994 by the Center for Strategic Studies of Jordan University indicated that strong affinities still exist between Palestinian-Jordanians and Transjordanians. Among a nationwide sample, 64.9% of Transjordanians and 72.3 percent of Palestinian-Jordanians believed that the interaction between the two communities had molded them into one people. Interestingly, while the division of opinion among Palestinian-Jordanian opinion makers closely mirrored the opinions of Palestinian-Jordanian as a whole (62.5 percent of opinion makers considered the two groups to have been molded into one people), opinion makers in the Transjordanian community were significantly less likely than other Transjordanians to subscribe to this view (the figure for Transjordanian opinion makers was only 47.8%). This finding is not surprising when we consider that a large section of the Transjordanian elite has been involved for more than two decades in encouraging exclusivist attitudes toward Palestinian Jordanians." P. 274

De-Palestinianization of the public sector


"Trans-Jordanianization of the public sector developed in the late 1970s into de-Palestinianization- a process defended on the grounds that it constituted no more than an equitable division of labor, given Palestinian dominance of the private sector. The Transjordanian elite did not seem concerned about the long term ramifications of this unwritten policy- namely that it would aggravate and institutionalize the communal rupture.  Nor did they expect that they would lose control of Transjordanian nationalism." P. 276  


On Confederation between Palestine and Jordan:


"The confederal formula, which allows both Jordanians and Palestinians to maintain their identities, seems an ideal means of promoting mutual confidence and healing the rupture between Transjordanians and Palestinian-Jordanians.  Confederation would make it possible for a large number of Palestinian-Jordanians to vote for a Palestinian parliament while they are still residents of Jordan. Though each country would have its own head of state, the presidency of the confederation could alternate between the king of Jordan and the president of Palestine. (Should the king find such an arrangement unacceptable, the Hashemite supraregional monarch might assume the role of reigning head of the confederation.)" P. 281

Thursday, October 2, 2014

AHRC Expresses Concern Regarding the State of Human Rights in Egypt:








AHRC Expresses concern regarding the state of Human Rights in Egypt:
[Michigan, October 2, 2014]: The American Human Rights Council (AHRC) joins the US and international human rights groups expressing serious concerns regarding the state of human rights and the ongoing violations of basic rights for Egyptian citizens, visitors, journalists, NGOs, international human rights aid missions and groups compromising the basic foundation of democracy. In Egypt there is a pattern of ongoing violations of people's basic rights to live and function normally without fear, censorship, arrests, detentions and intimidation.

In a report published by Amnesty International on September 29, 2014, it noted, that   "According to official statistics, the Egyptian authorities continue to hold at least 16,000 detainees, in prisons and police stations since the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi. Their conditions of detention frequently fall far short of international human rights standards and may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Often the detainees face trumped up or politically motivated charges and trials that fall far short of international standards". 

According to media reports and several human rights groups as well as the US State Department and the European Union, the Egyptian government executed mass arrests against those who practiced their right of association and assembly.   The vast majority of these arrests involved peaceful citizens and activists.  Most of these detainees are being held against their will without any form or shape of due process and without any adequate legal assistant or facing any formal charges. Among the several human rights violation is the continued arrest of Mr. Mahmoud Abu Zied, A free-lancer journalist who has been held without any process for over a year.  The rise of mass arrests including children and torture is a growing challenge in Egypt. Thousands of detainees are still pending any formal process and face nothing but continued renewal of their detentions without any evidence of any crime or violation.

AHRC is deeply concerned with the situation in Egypt as to the rights of perceived opponents of the regime and the rights of Egyptian women. The Egyptian government continues its incessant campaign of persecution of peaceful protesters through the use harassment, violence and discredited military tribunals. As to women, the Egyptian government is failing at its obligation to counter the harassment of women and girls in public places.  Egypt still lacks laws that deal with the serious issue of domestic violence. This situation is intolerable.

AHRC calls upon the Egyptian government to respect human rights. As a UN member, Egypt has the legal obligation to respect the UN charter and the united declaration of human rights among other of Egypt's international obligations.  AHRC demands that the Egyptian government respect the Egyptian people's basic human rights.

"Egypt is the biggest Arab country and arguably the most important. The abuses the Egyptian government is inflicting on the Egyptian people, regardless of the pretexts, are inexcusable and should shock the conscience of the world, "said Imad Hamad AHRC acting director. "We call upon the Egyptian government to respect human rights and to obey international law and for the human rights community to engage in a sustained campaign to defend the victims of human rights violations in Egypt" continued Hamad.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Imam Musa Sadr in the Good Spy by Kai Bird

Imam Musa Sadr

Force 17 leader Abu Hasan Salameh

CIA agent RoberAmes



In 1978 the Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi invited the Lebanese Muslim leader Musa Sadr to visit Libya. As the late Fouad Ajami put it, the imam vanished on that trip. There were many theories put forth on what has actually happened. The Libyans claimed that the imam and his companions left Libya for Italy. This turned out to be a blatant lie. The fact remains that the imam entered Libya and never left. The Libyan regime and its successor regime never presented a convincing explanation to provide closure.

The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird provides another story of what happened to the imam. Kai presents the findings of the CIA via the Palestinian leader of Force 17 leader Abu Hasan Salameh.  The CIA did not seem to have questioned the story as conveyed by Salameh to the CIA’s Ames. Below are excerpts from Kai’s excellent book, pages 204-206, the subheadings are mine:

Ames seeks Salameh for information regarding Sadr

Two weeks after Musa Sadr’s disappearance, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – then still in exile in Iraq- sent a message to Yasir Arafat asking him to help “clarify the mystery.” At the same time, Ames decided to take an interest in the case. He did so for two reasons. First, he understood that Musa Sadr’s disappearance could exacerbate Lebanon’s smoldering civil war. And second, he knew the imam’s fate was of intense interest to millions of Shi’as not only in Lebanon but also in Iran, a country that was beginning to show signs of revolutionary turmoil in the streets of Tehran. Ames sent a message to Ali Hassan Salameh about the case and asked if he had any intelligence on the imam’s whereabouts. Salameh eventually replied with a detailed account.

Sadr and Beheshti
Arafat had learned that Qaddafi had agreed to host a meeting between Musa Sadr and one of his theological rivals, the imam Mohammed Beheshti. For some years, the latter had led in exile a Shi’a mosque in Hamburg, Germany. But Beheshti was also a close political ally of Ayatollah Khomeini. Like Musa Sadr, Beheshti was a scholar of some repute. But unlike Imam Sadr, Beheshti was an intellectual proponent of a theocratic Shi’ite state. Sadr disagreed, arguing that Shi’a theology prohibited clerics from directly exercising political power.
Both Sadr and Beheshti were recipients of Qaddafi’s largesse, and the Libyan dictator wanted the two men to set aside their theological disputes and cooperate on a common, anti-Western political agenda. (The eccentric Qaddafi was himself a Sunni Muslim and had no interest in the arcane merits of what was essentially a Shi’a theological dispute.)

Sadr in Libya: No meeting with Qaddafi or Beheshti
In any case, Musa Sadr and Beheshti were supposed to meet in Tripoli and iron out political differences under Qaddafi’s auspices. Musa Sadr arrived – but Beheshti and his delegation never came to Tripoli. Musa Sadr was an impatient man, and after several days of waiting in his hotel for a meeting with Qaddafi that never materialized, he announced that he was packing his bags and leaving Libya. Arriving at the Tripoli airport, Musa Sadr was escorted to the VIP departure lounge. In the meantime, Beheshti told Qaddafi over the phone to detain Musa Sadr by all means necessary. Beheshti assured Qaddafi that Imam Sadr was a Western agent. Qaddafi ordered his security force to delay Musa Sadr’s departure. Qaddafi instructed that the imam should just be persuaded to go back to his hotel. But Qaddafi’s security officers accosted Imam Sadr in the VIP lounge and addressed him disrespectfully. An argument ensued, and the imam was roughed up and thrown into a car. Things had gotten so out of hand that the imam was taken to a prison.

Sadr: Imprisoned in Libya
Qaddafi was angered when he discovered what had happened, but he felt he couldn’t release Imam Sadr without embarrassing himself politically. So Musa Sadr sat a Tripoli prison for many months. Finally, Arafat directly asked Qaddafi for his release. By this time, Ayatollah Khomeini had returned to Tehran, where he and Beheshti were writing postrevolutionary Iran’s Islamic constitution. When pressed by Arafat, Qaddafi reportedly said he had to make a phone call. He called Beheshti, who told him Musa Sadr was a threat to Khomeini.

Sadr: Imprisoned then executed

Ames was told by his Palestinian sources that eventually Imam Sadr and his two traveling companions had been summarily executed and buried at an unmarked desert grave. Ames was shocked by Qaddafi’s wanton ruthlessness but also by Beheshti’s behavior. It gave him the first insight into the cruel character of the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

AHRC: Defending the Human Rights of Arab and Muslim Americans









There are a number Arab and Muslim community organizations. They do good work for the community. Some of these organizations provide services such as ACCESS, or defend civil rights and civil liberties such as ADC. There are still unmet needs, an example is the issue is the human rights of Muslim prisoners. Many people are confused about human rights and prisoners and their rights. To educate and advocate for prisoners, as well as defend human rights generally, a number of Arab American and Muslim American leaders formed AHRC, the American Human Rights Council (http://ahrcusa.org, https://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Human-Rights-Council/267926763396587).

Human rights are inclusive of civil rights and liberties but of bigger scope. It is great to finally have an organization that advocates for human rights in general and focuses on the forgotten segment of the Arab and Muslim community, the prisoners.
This is the information about AHRC from its webpage:

The American Human Rights Council (AHRC) was created as a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting, promoting, and defending human rights, as defined by the US Constitution and outlined in the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr. To that end, AHRC will serve the needs of all people whose rights are being denied or violated.

AHRC will collaborate with other civil and human rights organizations and maintain positive relationships with courts, social service agencies, and various governmental agencies. We intend to combine high-level legislative work, media outreach, and grassroots mobilization to shape and promote legislation to advance human rights and protect individuals who are at risk.

THE PRIMARY FUNCTION OF THE AHRC

AHRC will be seeking out and intervening in situations where human rights are being violated or denied. We will provide advocacy and other related services wherever the restoration of human rights is essential to peoples’ well-being. Our primary focus will be on prisoners’ rights. The AHRC will work to ensure that the rights of prisoners, and their families, are recognized and defended. In doing so, we will also encourage cooperation between similar organizations in Michigan, and other states, as well as other co3284untries. We will collaborate to implement projects, programs, and activities for the benefit of our intended beneficiaries, utilizing all available synergies in order to maximize the benefits of our service. Although the AHRC will primarily focus on the United States, we will work in conjunction with any organization which can help us achieve our mission of protecting human rights around the world, regardless of geographical or other boundaries.



Friday, May 2, 2014

The Forum and Link of Michigan Honors Veteran Community Activist and Leader Imad Hamad








Mr. Imad Hamad in the middle to his left is the former US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and former judge Honorable Jeff Collins



The Forum and Link of Michigan Honors Veteran Community Activist and Leader Imad Hamad
The Legend of Imad Hamad: Decades of Service

Imad Hamad is a legend.  It is not possible to meet anyone who is active in the Arab- American community or is connected to the Arab- American community who does not know Imad Hamad, the former Michigan director of the American Arab anti- Discrimination Committee. For decades Imad Hamad was a fixture at events, conferences and in the media. Over the years he helped so many people that it is not possible to meet anyone in Dearborn who does not know of someone who was helped by Imad. He helped individuals in need, Arab- Americans suffering from discrimination, reporters working on stories, scholars writing books, etc. This is Imad Hamad the legend.

The Forum and Link Honors Imad

The Forum and Link is a Michigan community newspaper that is published by Dr. Asad Dandashli, a tireless man who considers journalism a sacred mission, in the secular sense of the sacred, and not a business enterprise. During the banquet for the tenth anniversary of the Forum and Link, Dr. Dandashli honored Imad Hamad. The award read:

Dr. Assad Aldandachli
Editor in chief
Recognizes
Mr. Imad Hamad

For many years of selfless service of the Arab- American community- It is not possible to compile an exhaustive list of the achievements of Mr. Hamad in almost two decades.  This list includes starting enduring programs, helping individuals and creating a vision of a better community. The brightest light of his achievements remains the founding of BRIDGES, the law enforcement- community forum, which serves as a national and international model of community-law enforcement relations.


Congratulations Mr. Hamad. Well deserved.


The Forum and Link banquet coverage of the banquet can be accessed at  www.forumandlink.com