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Tuesday, August 15, 2006 

Fireworks in Beirut

The sky above Beirut has been lit up with explosions again tonight.

But these were colourful and exciting - Lebanon celebrates its first day of peace.

Congratulations Lebanon.

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CONGRATULATIONS LEBANON!! Lebanon will raise up again, there's no doubt in my mind and the Lebanese people proved beyond any shadow of a doubt how great they are, how resiliant ... they will pull through! They have my HIGHEST respect!!

It's time to open your eyes


By Riad Ali


In February 2005, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated. He was among the leading opponents of Syria and its tentacles in Lebanon, including Hezbollah. Hariri was a multimillionaire and served as prime minister for many years. Unlike any other Arab or Muslim leader, Hariri offered his fellow Lebanese a secular alternative. Under his baton, a different Lebanon arose among the ruins that were left behind by the civil war and the war with Israel. A different, colorful, vibrant, ambitious and politically and culturally pluralistic Lebanon was resurrected. A Lebanon whose daughters could paddle in bathing suits at Beirut's beaches. A Lebanon where the media spoke openly about corruption, incest and homosexuality. A Lebanon that encouraged open creativity, self-criticism and freedom of thought and expression.

And then came the assassination, which more than murdering an individual wanted to slay the alternative he had offered to his people. The assassination, to the grief and dismay of the assassins, brought hundreds of thousands of Lebanese hungry for life into the streets, and at the end of the day, they expelled the Syrian army from their country.

I know that many people in the Arab and Muslim world, including Arab citizens of Israel, believe with every fiber of their being in the conspiracy theory. According to them, the hand of Israel and the West is everywhere. Israel is the mother of all evil and the root of all the problems in our region. I am not among those who say that Israel and the West are as pure as the driven snow, but I ask "the blind by choice" in the Muslim world: Who had an interest in destroying Hariri's vision? Who was threatened by the rays of light that came from Lebanon? Who did not want Lebanon to be an oasis in the heart of the dictatorships, most of which had begun to be moldy and malodorous? Israel, the United States, France, Britain? Or rather Syria, Iran and Hezbollah?





It takes intellectual and moral courage to point to the thick line connecting the assassination of Hariri to the war in southern Lebanon. I know that the fact of the word "Israel" is enough to cloud the analytical abilities of many in the Arab and Muslim world. To them, I suggest trying to take the Israeli factor out of the arena and examining the situation in Lebanon on the eve of Hariri's assassination.

A vehement debate was going on at the time in the country between Syria's opponents and supporters. It was clear as day to many Lebanese that after Israel's withdrawal from the south in May 2000 - apart from the Shaba Farms, assuming they do belong to Lebanon - the time had come to eject the Syrian occupier from there. Yes, it is necessary to call a spade a spade: "the Syrian occupier." Hariri's assassination engendered the expulsion of the Syrian army from Lebanon, but not Syrian influence. Within this puzzle, Hezbollah supported Syria and "the covenant of February 14, 2005," and Hariri's supporters demanded the dismissal of President Emile Lahoud, a supporter of Syria, and the disarming of the Hezbollah. They wanted to continue on Hariri's secular path and build a Lebanon free of foreign influence, a Lebanon in which there is freedom of religion but which is free of the cult of religion and parochialism. In short, a democratic, liberal and enlightened Lebanon.

In the eyes of "the blind by choice," Israel is always to blame. If they were to open their eyes for just a moment, they would discover that in the eyes of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, the democracy that Hariri proposed is the mother of all evil, and not Israel. As far as they are concerned, it is better that Lebanon be bombarded with thousands of smart bombs rather than be bombed by one smart bomb of democracy. It does not take especially sensitive eyes and ears to determine that the first bullet that was fired in this war was fired on February 14, 2005, the day of Hariri's assassination.

The time has come to admit that the mother of all ills in the Arab world is the absence of a secular alternative that has the power to offer people a different way of thinking. An option that is an alternative to the one offered by political Islam. It is not the Israeli occupation that needs to be ended, but rather the fanatic religious occupation of the Arab-Muslim intellect, which is blocking the masses from the pleasure of thinking.

This is an occupation that makes astonishingly effective use of the term "Israel" as a wonder nostrum to neutralize the capacity for critical vision among the many who have frozen the clock of history at the picture of Kfar Kana, and pointed without thinking in the direction of Israel. The cancerous tumor from which the Islamic world is suffering must be initially sought in the bunkers of Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and not in the maw of the cannon on the Israeli tank. And no - I'm still not saying that Israel is as pure as the driven snow.

In one of his brilliant comments, Ra'am-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi said that Israel is a country that is "democratic for its Jews and Jewish for it Arabs." You know what? My life's dream is to see one Arab country that is at least "democratic for its Muslims, and Muslim toward its minorities." Amen.

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