Saturday, October 14, 2006


Semaine du 16-22 octobre 2006

De Philippe Martin: 'Voici la onzième édition des portraits de blogueurs, avec Pamela Chrabieh Badine. Ceci est la version intégrale'.
On peut aussi trouver l'entrevue sur Dailymotion et Cent Papiers.
Merci Philippe! Merci aussi à Christian Aubry!

Retourner ou ne pas retourner?

Telle est la question que bien de jeunes émigrés Libanais-es se posent et peinent à y répondre d'une manière 'définitive'. Le 'non' est souvent hésitant, le 'oui' encore plus, accompagné d'un 'mais... pas maintenant, peut-être plus tard'. Dans quelques mois? Quelques années? Une fois que la situation devienne plus 'stable'? Une fois que la paix advienne? Qui va la faire advenir et comment? Pourquoi attendre si longtemps? Pourquoi avoir peur? De quoi avoir peur? Du lendemain incertain? De l'inconnu? De nouveaux combats?

Le cycle de la guerre continue et la vie est faite d'incertitudes... Si la paix devrait advenir, elle ne peut être implantée que par les Libanais-es, quels que soient les lieux dans lesquels ils se trouvent. Si la paix devrait advenir, le processus de son implantation a déjà commencé dans le passé et il commence-recommence certes à chaque tournant de l'histoire du Liban, mais surtout, à chaque moment de la vie quotidienne, au sein des familles, des communautés, de la société civile, de la diaspora...

Ce ne sont pas les leaders qui font la paix; du moins, pas les Seigneurs de la guerre qui détiennent le pouvoir au pays. Leur 'paix' n'est qu'une illusion, un mythe, une chimère... La paix, c'est le peuple qui l'édifie, jour après jour, pas à pas, transcendant la violence, l'horreur, la haine, le traumatisme et la souffrance. 'La paix, comme l'amitié, se fait par petits gestes' (P. Mansour Labaki). La paix, c'est toi et moi qui l'édifions... Chacun en soi, chez soi, mais surtout, ultimement, ensemble 'chez nous'. Ce 'chez nous' est aujourd'hui au Liban, miroir d'un ailleurs dans le monde, de tous ces lieux qui sont meurtris et qui ont besoin d'attention, d'espoir et d'amour. 'Le miroir n'est pas une exception (...), il est un raccourci de l'aventure humaine' (Amin Maalouf).

En ce moment, je me dois de retourner au Liban. Nous y retournons d'ici quelques jours Nicolas et moi pour entamer une nouvelle étape de notre vie laquelle depuis quelques années se résume à des départs et des arrivées, une vie entre deux rives, avec ses larmes et sourires, ses 'ici' et 'ailleurs', ses moments 'magiques' et ses moments 'dramatiques'...

Taxer notre 'retour' de 'risqué' et de 'dangereux' est certes compréhensible, mais en cette période-charnière de l'histoire du Liban, l'heure n'est pas à l'attente d'un meilleur lendemain afin qu'il advienne de lui-même. Si le Liban devrait ressusciter de ses cendres, si l'on voudrait que le phénix ne devienne pas un mythe, l'heure est au dur labeur sur le terrain des risques...




Monday 16 October, 2006.

Never before has the sky growled and spat so much on Lebanese soil. I could sense the fury and repulsion of Mother Nature as she struggled to purify and conquer back the lost soul of our nation. No matter how prevailing this October warning was, our foes’ laughs exposed their even more muscular reprimand the moment their rockets struck Downtown Beirut Sunday at 2h30 a.m. wounding 6 night goers and challenging the neighboring Lebanese army as well as the ESCWA and Parliament buildings. On that same day, I received my immigration visa to Canada; the “voucher” so many Lebanese will go into trance for while yearning for the improbable conquest of the rebirth of our phoenix. I am now flying over Dublin watching an Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman movie, which, for no obvious reason, propels me to the reverie of the pre-1975 Lebanon the older generation has always craved for…

Michele Chrabieh
Flight: AC 855
From CDG to Montreal Trudeau


Notes from a travelling grandmother

Lebanon, 10th October 2006

Flying into Beirut last week, just after sunset, for the first time since the war, it all looked so normal. The lights still shone, the sea looked shiny under the moon, the hills black against the sky. How odd it seemed not to be able to see into the hearts and minds of those below: hearts and minds that probably have been changed for ever. (And, of course, since I last landed here in June, tragically, many hundreds of hearts that no longer beat at all.)

We approached the airport from a different direction and landed on an older and shorter runway, and we juddered to a stop, as the longer runway had been bombed. The plane was full and all clapped as we landed.

Fadl, our driver was there to meet me and suddenly his gaunt (maybe partly Ramadan, partly war,) presence brought the war much closer. He had had 6 families, refugees from the South, with him and his own young wife and 2 small children – clustered into one small apartment- for over a month.

I went, along roads lined with victory posters of Nasrallah, to see Mimo, my amazing mother in law, aged 95-ish, to have dinner and await George, arriving on a later plane. She looked as elegant as ever and unchanged, though she had spent the war in Beirut without the support of her beloved sons, who were both caught out of Lebanon when the war started. She refused to admit that anything was wrong – why should it be, we have been through all this before – so many times……no, she had not been worried. Age and darkness seem to provide the same kind of blessings!

We came home to Bsous, our country house in the hills above Beirut – again in the dark it all looked normal and the smells of jasmin, daturas, gardenias and thyme soothed the night air.

We spent our first day hardly moving from our own terrace and pool – reassuringly back to normal after the slime, and sludge and frogs that had taken over during the abandoned war weeks. Later, we had the courage to wander further a field in the garden and to take stock of the trees and plants which had suffered having been left to their own devices and without water or attention for so long. We could only be thankful that we had had no fires after two rockets had fallen within a few hundred metres, that no one working here – either in our Silk Museum, the house or the garden had been hurt here, or trying to leave in a hurry to go somewhere safer.

When we had left the Silk Museum with our latest exhibition ‘Silk Road 11 - a rare collection of Chinese Minorities’ clothing and ‘Living Silk’ – displays of how silk is made from the silk worm to the woven piece, was daily full of visitors and schools. In a day of panic all this extraordinary collection was taken down, packed up and sent down to Beirut for greater safety – and it is now on its way back to China. Like so many other cultural events and programs which had been assiduously planned for months, with every detail in place, we were stopped in our tracks. We had been due to stay open until the end of September and cover the busy visitor season.

It feels good to be able to reconnect with colleagues and many friends who were scattered by the war to the far corners of Lebanon, or the World, rescued by different embassies or groups. Everyone has a tale to tell. The few lucky ones were gathered up by French helicopters, the less lucky by French or British, or other various war ships and ferries, with journeys up to 40 hours with hundreds of refugees often to one loo. And others who had endured endless road journeys to reach Syria and Jordan and a way out from Damascus, Aleppo or Amman airports, or so many more without the chance of leaving or who had made the choice to stay, remained, or fled to safer areas of Beirut and Lebanon if they could.

I started off with meetings at Solidere and a scramble on the half built pedestrian walkway around the Garden of Forgiveness with the project manager, Amer Arabi and the Engineer in charge to see the work in progress on the supporting walls. These are going ahead as the contract was already in progress when the war started. However, alas, the new contract for the completion of works inside the garden has been postponed, along with all public spaces in the Beirut Central District, even though the trees and plants have already been bought for the Garden.

Many other meetings have followed this one: meetings to check in and catch up with the latest activities to help refugees of some of the young Lebanese I was with in Kyoto for the Religions for Peace Conference on Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security. Yesterday, a meeting with a youth group from the Focolare movement, who want to do a ‘happening’ in the Garden of Forgiveness, followed by meeting with the British Embassy specialist on Post Conflict activity. Today a get together an ‘opening’ with Subud members, again scattered throughout the war and coming together again.

Amongst these attempts at so called ‘do-gooding’, is a lot of social getting together with friends and family, as well as putting my own house in order – in more ways than one. The Museum had been packed up in moments and so requires attention before being put to bed in good order for the winter.

Last Friday I went down South to visit the villages along the Israeli border with two friends and accompanied by Haj and a General from the Lebanese Army, newly based in Tyre, just near the entrance to the Roman ruins. (The gate, normally tightly manned, swung open at a rakish angle, with no one in sight.) At Tyre we were shown the posters and information that the army and UNICEF are handing out to the returning population about the cluster bombs (CBUs) and how to recognise them. It was hard to stomach seeing Israeli/US bombs designed as chocolate, games and simple stones, wickedly destined to kill and maim children. What kind of ‘defensive’ war is this? Who is terrorising whom? During the last two days I believe hundreds of thousands of bombs were dropped – over a million during the whole war. There are still 35,000 unexploded ones (known as UXOs) lying in the fields and paths of the entire Southern area. This means that those who have returned cannot rescue their withering crops, pick their fruit or olives, and graze their sheep or goats until they have been cleared.- but HOW? And this is not counting the mines, which were lain by the Israelis since their first invasion in 1978, then 1982 and during their 18 year occupation. (Until yesterday they have always refused to give any maps of these mines.) The on going daily danger of being blown to bits by invisible bombs, or UXOs, (I’m getting a hang of the terminology, for simple folk it means Unexploded Ordinance) also meant that we didn’t dare eat our picnic off the road, nor go for a pee behind a tree. Instead, we sat on an old Israeli helicopter landing pad, within metres of the frontier fence, over-looking Israel, chatting to a guy, on a motor bike with a walkie talkie, who had come to check us out. We gazed across the neat, red roofed villages on the ‘other side’, for whom, I suppose, we appeared ‘terrorists’.) It all had an eerie and very unreal feel to it. Two countries divided by a simple fence and a chasm of tragic history, mountains of grievances and rivers of blood.

Getting to Tyre these days and beyond is one long zig zag along the old coast road - avoiding broken bridges, vast holes and rubble, though much has already been cleared and various countries are helping re-construct temporary bridges. There seemed no rhyme or reason about which bridge and which road had been hit. Nor which house, or building reduced to rubble. . We zoomed along battered roads in a huge jeep, competing with UN jeeps, International Red Cross ambulances, the odd tank, lorries carrying water barrels, though there was otherwise surprisingly little sign of aid arriving that day, nor of any concerted re-construction.

Some small villages were almost entirely reduced to rubble – and seemed to have been ‘erased’ from the map. I had seen this same terrible phenomena during the 1978 invasion, visiting the South with UNDP and the UNIFIL troops of that day, as co-ordinator of International Aid. . I had also seen similar fragmentation bombs lying in the rubble, surrounded by small children, labelled ‘for use of US army only’ .I had witnessed civilian cars crushed by tanks with all the occupants within. I never could have believed that these inhuman invasions would be repeated time and again. What peace have these invasions brought to Israel, what security? Maybe those same little children of ’78 are today’s tough Hezbollah warriors, for Hezbollah did not exist then, but was born of the violent invasions and occupations. As indeed the Palestinian ‘terrorists’ and fighters were created by years of exile and humiliation by the Israelis. And let us remember that some of the best terrorist techniques were created by Zionist terrorists in Irgun and Haganah (the Israeli equivalents of Hezbollah or Hamas of that time) and were born of the pogroms and hundreds of years of humiliation and massacre in Europe, not the Middle East, where Jews and Arabs lived alongside and at ease with each other.

How come Israel/US still believes it can find a solution in the destruction of Gaza or Lebanon, and elsewhere in the ME, the taking of more land, the building of more walls (called fences) and the bullying and subjugation of anyone it deems may perhaps become powerful one day and fight back. Where does rage go? It goes like a river finding a way out – and flows into a larger sea of rage and terror, of 9/11s and 7/7s and, many more to come, until some solution is found to the great injustice to the Palestinian people, which cannot be resolved by over-coming our guilt for the great injustices to the Jewish people by allowing them land which does not belong to them and a holy city, which they refuse to share, even though it belongs to Jews, Christians and Moslems alike.

I wonder also if in an enlightened age, those who design, build and export arms and live off the rewards of each shell, each mine, each ‘disguised chocolate’ each ‘smart bomb’ could be held individually responsible for the deaths and wounds inflicted by each one. Be held responsible for the family who no longer have a child, a father, a mother to love and care for, or be cared by. We are so taken up by hypocrisies and entangled by slogans ‘war on terror’, ‘weapons of mass destruction’, ‘sanctions against Iran’ and the ‘fight for democracy’ etc .etc That we fail to realise the true horrors being created by the so called civilised World- in the shape of these ‘defensive and demonic’ weapons, which are being consistently ‘tried out’ on unsuspecting populations under some pretext or another and which create tragedy and then rage and revenge, leading to yet more violence. .

Amongst the rubble in some villages there were some touching signs of life: a butcher hanging his ware in a space between broken walls, a barber shaving a client in his windowless patch. Three piles of bread laid carefully for sale on the crumbling remains of ruined wall. A few pieces of fruit lay in boxes here and there. Some young women walked proudly and resolutely amongst the ruins, as though nothing was amiss.. The Christian villages and the Christian parts of mixed villages, in huge contrast, were largely undamaged. Apparently they had received Shiite neighbours with open arms, a reflection of what had happened in the Beirut Southern districts and in other areas of Lebanon.

I felt uneasy being a ’tourist of the war on terror’. I would have preferred to feel more like an active participant of the reconstruction. I consoled my conscience with the resolve that I would find ways and means to help as a result of our journey.

The villages we visited were Rachidiya, Ras el Ain, Chamaa, Chihine, Marouahine ( the site of massacre of women and children) Ramiye, Kawza, Aita es Chaab (almost entirely destroyed) Rmaich, Debel, Ein Ebel, Bint Jbail ( a large town- unrecognisable), Maroun el Ras, Aataroun, Blida, Meiss el Jabal Houla Markaba,Aadaisse, Jamaq, Aichiyye, Rihane, Aaramta, Kfar Houne, where we stopped to talk to two young women who wanted help to create some small industry to help the young (half Christian, half muslim), in their village to stay to work. From Jezzine we returned to Saida and Beirut in darkness.

In central Beirut – as a casual visitor, you might never be able to imagine that the country had been so devastated elsewhere. On Saturday night, the young swingers, arrived in shiny 4x4 s dressed in the snappiest clothes and en route to the latest night club in droves. The restaurants still have clients, the shops less so, but the glamour is still visible. It should be mandatory for all Lebanese (and Israelis) to witness what can happen to others who may live a few kilometres away.. Fortunately, there are many young people who are working night and day to help the refugees, to re-build, to get children back to school. . They are inspiring. Other young, and old, have become weary of the eternal, suicidal political bickering of politicians – whose sell bye date has long expired- They appear to have lost hope of being able to make their pre-war dreams come true in a country, now yet again pulling itself apart by so many conflicting fears, interests and powers. There is a general sense of gloom in spite of all the German war ships and the shiny young faces of UN troops, Ghanaians, Italians, French, Chinese and Turkish. (Today, the Chinese Unifil contingent has proudly announced that they have found 1,800 unexploded fragmentation bombs.)

In our own village ( 98% Christian maronite, 2% Greek Orthodox ) above Beirut, our municipality has managed to argue itself to extinction, through each member refusing to compromise or cooperate with the other. Now all decisions will be made in Aley, a mainly Druze town far above us, who are hardly expected to understand the very local needs of our small village.. For some reason in spite of the brilliance and charisma of the Lebanese people, there is so much suspicion of the motives of others and so little trust - that we appear to prefer to go into auto-destruct mode, and hand over authority to some larger entity, which we then can all fight together, rather than take responsibility for our own trials and tribulations and sort out our differences on the ground, without looking to some greater power.

Now it is too sunny and beautiful for political reflections and I shall enjoy the beauty of our little patch of heaven – before I allow myself to think further a field again. I also look forward to being entirely taken up as a mother and grandmother, by having three children and six (of 10) amazing grandchildren to stay next week!

I hope all is well wherever you may be.

I send you all my love and prayers for a more peaceful and caring World.

Alexandra Asseily

Bsous, Lebanon


Le mythe de l’éternel départ

Longtemps sur une muraille du « ring » Fouad Chéhab, un graffiti désabusé soupirait : « Partir, revenir, c’est le destin des hirondelles. » Hirondelles nous sommes. L’hiver nous vole dans les plumes et le printemps nous ramène épuisés. Paris, Londres, Sydney, Montréal, New York, Rome, Rio, Helsinki, Le Caire, il y a toujours un Libanais quelque part, qui attend un autre Libanais. Qu’une tempête s’annonce, et parfois déjà par gros temps, invariablement nous partons. La paix, la sérénité, la fortune forcément sont ailleurs. Chez nous, c’est tout petit. Si petit que la moindre secousse y est un séisme. Que dire quand c’est la guerre ?La guerre, nous sommes nés avec. Nos enfants n’y ont pas échappé. Comme les marins le temps, nous savons la renifler. Nous n’attendons plus que ses grondements se rapprochent pour plier bagage. Ce n’est pas malin, la guerre tue toujours plus de civils que de combattants. On ne nous reprendra plus à jouer les otages, les gages, les images, les ardoises à statistiques, les remparts humains, « le pauvre peuple ». Au loin nous refaisons nos nids. Parfois avec trois brins de paille, il faut ce qu’il faut, à la guerre comme à la guerre. Quand on sort d’un abri, un studio vous semble un palace. Et puis la vie s’installe, des habitudes viennent en remplacer d’autres. L’école dès l’aube, la fac, le boulot, les courses, ciné, télé, et le soir, quelques amis qui auront eu le courage de « bouger ». Ce que l’on vit d’extraordinaire, en somme, c’est la normalité. Sauf que tout cela ne sera jamais normal tant qu’il y manquera l’odeur et la chaleur de chez nous. Alors de Sydney à Paris nous comptons sur nos doigts le décalage horaire et nous vivons pendus au téléphone. Et nos rhumes, nos migraines, nos rages de dents, nos soucis professionnels, nos succès, nos bulletins scolaires prennent au pays une ampleur d’événements. Condamnés à ce grand écart, certains ont choisi de vivre deux vies. Moitié ici, moitié ailleurs, ils fuient de l’une à l’autre comme on traverse un miroir. Ici ou là, réduits à une part de soi-même qui s’attache à ignorer l’autre part.Y a-t-il dans le mot « dé/part » l’idée terrifiante de se couper en deux ?Ceux qui restent envient parfois ceux qui sont partis. Plus qu’à n’importe qui au monde, « ailleurs » nous est magique. Ailleurs, c’est la stabilité, la possibilité d’entrevoir l’avenir, de ne pas être l’unique objet d’acharnement du sort. Mais pour peu que l’on s’éloigne, une autre malédiction nous rattrape. Nos pas sont lourds de la terre qui nous colle aux souliers, nos contours se languissent du moule qui les a formés, et bien vite le vol de l’aigle est lesté d’une pensée d’hirondelle.

Fifi ABOU DIB (L'Orient-le-Jour, Beyrouth, 14 octobre 2006)



Une conférence extrêmement réussie sur la mise en oeuvre d'une campagne deboycott, de désinvestissement et de sanctions (BDS) contre l'Apartheidisraélien en Amérique du nord a eu lieu à Toronto la fin de semaine dernière. Le communiqué de presse final de la conférence est inclus à lafin de ce message - un rapport sera bientôt disponible. Des membres de Tadamon! Montréal ont participé et mobilisé d'autres montréalais-e-s qui ont été présent-e-s à la conférence. Tadamon! a également été l'hôte d'une série d'événements et de rencontres avec Jamal Juma, à Montréal. M. Juma est porte-parole de la campagne « Stop theWall » (Contre le mur de l'Apartheid), basée dans le territoires occupés de la Cisjordanie, et a été parmi les principaux conférenciers de la conférence novatrice de Toronto.

Pour écouter une entrevue radio avec Jamal Juma enregistrée à CKUT, àMontréal.

Tadamon Montréal sera actif dans l'organisation à Montréal de la campagne émergente contre l'Apartheid israélien avec des activités d'éducation populaire, des actions politiques et de l'organisation communautaire. Sivous souhaitez vous impliquer, contactez-nous S.V.P. Solidairement -


The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that ‘since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed'.
With this in mind, Nahwa al Muwatiniya is organizing this month a series of Hiwar sessions under the theme “Collective memory”

During this Monday session, Zeina Sfeir –a Lebanese film maker- will be presenting a documentary titled “In spite of the War”. This 30minutes documentary talks about how the war remains on going in the head of the Lebanese, mainly because of the confessional mindset. A discussion with Sfeir will follow the screening.

Date & Time: Monday 16 October, 2006 at 8:00pm
Place: Club 43, Gemayzé, facing Doculand (Lebanon)


Faire-penser/Food for Thought

Pour Gandhi, le développement à l'Occidentale n'était pas une fatalité !

"Des années avant que l'Inde ne devienne indépendante, on posa une question simple au Mahatma Gandhi : souhaiterait-il que l'Inde, une fois libre, soit aussi "développée" que le pays de ses maîtres coloniaux, la Grande-Bretagne ? "Non", répondit Gandhi à un interlocuteur sidéré pour qui l'Angleterre était sans conteste le modèle à copier. Il précisa : "S'il a fallu à la Grande-Bretagne violer la moitié du monde pour être là où elle est, de combien de mondes l'Inde aurait-elle besoin ?"" - Sunita Narain, l'Etat de la planète 2006, Worldwatch Institute (Pascal - -), Fw. by Khal Torabully)

Pascal: L'idée est d'associer le plus grand nombre de citoyen(ne)s à la circulation d'informations souvent peu ou mal diffusées par les médias de masse. Et ainsi de constituer un réseau informel capable de fédérer nos ressources en tout genre afin d'améliorer sur un mode unitaire notre capacité d'action et de réaction. Aussi, n'hésitez pas à faire suivre ces messages le cas échéant. De même, je suis preneur de vos informations.

"La seule chose qui permet au mal de triompher, c'est l'inaction des êtres de bien" (Edmund Burke, (1729 -1797), homme politique et philosophe irlandais).


shrrr said...

quitter le liban, rentrer au liban...c'est exactement la meme chose malheuresement!!
si on quitte, on pleur le liban, et si on reste c'est idem... c'est donc une decision tres personnelle, il faut etre lå ou tu serai moins trist et c'est tout :)

Pamela Chrabieh Badine said...

Tout à fait d'accord pour l'aspect personnalisé de la décision...
Le nomadisme entre deux pays ne se fait pas sans un lot de souffrance, tristesse, nostalgie etc., même s'il est enrichissant. Être au Liban, être ailleurs, dans les deux cas, il y a un déchirement. Peut-être qu'en fin de compte, on choisit celui qui fait moins mal ou qui sied plus nos besoins et intérêts. Mais, est-ce que ce 'moins mal' restera tel quel dans l'avenir? Tel est le risque à prendre, du moins en ce qui me concerne...

Anonymous said...

Je viens de découvrir ce blog par hasard et je trouve ca magnifique mais j'aimerai qu'on interroge plus souvent des libanais de l'étranger (qui n'ont pas vécu au liban) qui ont une vision complètement différente des choses surtout concernant les réligions (sujet tabous au liban) moi je cherche pas a savoir si tels libanais est chrétiens ou musulmans pour lui parler ou pas et ca existe au liban ce truc et c grave je me dis qui si on ne cesse de différencier les gens par leurs obédiances réligieuses deja on est loin d'arriver à une paix durable car comme tu l'a dis le problème de base est intérieur avant tout. Ca été un choc pour moi de voir ca au liban et aujourd'hui j'ai vraiment de la haine contre ces gens qui empêchent les nouvelles générations de cohabiter car ils vivent encore dans le passé et ils veulent a tout prix que leurs enfants leurs ressemble mais tu la bien dit on veut agir librement, penser librement et juger en bien ou en mal les personnes comme bon nous semble et pas comme les autres veulent nous faire croire. sur ceux je lance un message a toute les nouvelles générations il ne faut pas voir la réalité des choses a travers 2 ou 3 personnes mais a travers le dialogues des cultures, la cohabitation et surtout la compréhension d'autrui..