In a move ingeniously designed and no doubt aimed at bringing the feuding Lebanese sects closer together, Lebanon's Minister of Labor, Boutros Harb, has tabled a draft law that bans for 15 years the sale of real estate between Lebanese of different religions.
The proposal, according to Harb, aims to protect coexistence in the country.
The background to all of this is that the Christians in Lebanon feel that they are being out-bought and pushed out of their traditional areas of the country.
The member of the cabinet (who is also a perennial candidate/nominee for president) makes it clear that it would be fine to sell land to a (foreign) Muslim or a Christian as long as they are not Lebanese.
Perhaps Harb is well-intentioned. Maybe he does have Lebanon's and the Lebanese' best interests at heart. I don't know. But Harb is very shortsighted if he thinks such a measure is going to help coexistence.
Say a Lebanese Christian sells a piece of land to a Muslim from Arab country Z who turns around and sells it to a Lebanese Muslim. Now where does this leave us?
The way things are in Lebanon why not just contract the whole country on a B.O.T. basis?
An interesting report on corruption in Syria by Lina Sinjab. Of course all you have to do is change the word Syria for just about any other Arab country (except for the Gulf states) and the report would still hold true.
A court in Israel has convicted former president Moshe Katsav of rape. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is facing coruption charges. Former president Ezer Weizman was forced by public pressure to resign in 2000 over hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from businessmen before becoming president.
Somehow this reminds me of a letter sent to prime minister Menachem Begin by the father of an Israeli soldier killed during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
Strong words which no Arab would dare aim at his or her leader. Just like no Arab leader has ever been brought to trial over any of the issues that the multitudes of Arabs always complain about. This, of course, does not include Saddam Hussein who was put on trial under exceptional circumstances. Naturally, no Arab leader or government would even accept being spoken to or treated in such a manner. Maybe America and Israel are to blame for that state of affairs too...
Qatar Airways which sponsors the weather on both Sky and BBC World doesn't seem to get it.
I would've thought that after paying X amount of money for the sponsorship deal Qatar's national carrier would manage to include the country's capital in the weather forecast. Not. Seems the only D on the forecast is Dubai. Here's another D: Doesn't. Doesn't make sense to me.
"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime." Potter Stewart
Iran has sentenced film director Jafar Panahi to a 6-year prison sentence and banned him from making films for 20 years!
I met Jafar a few years ago and he struck me as a very open-minded, down-to-earth guy who was very interested in the world around him and intent on pursuing his career as a form of creative expression as well as service to society.
So to hear that in addition to jail time "he is banned for 20 years from making any films, writing any scripts, traveling abroad and also giving any interviews to the media including foreign and domestic news organizations," makes me wonder if Jafar was in some way unbeknownst to me some agent provocateur supremo!
Of course this is an age-old conundrum, what to do with those who upset the system? The answer is inevitably always: Vilify , harass and persecute them. But that is never a solution and is only detrimental to the progress that the naysayers claim they are pursuing.
Maybe Jafar will be imprisoned or boxed in, but his mind will always be free. I know.
UPDATE: The hotel has now backtracked. Unfortunately it seems that the blame for this expensive exercise in bad taste is being placed on the jeweler's shoulders.
The Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE, has put up an $11.5 million Christmas tree. Well the tree cost around $10,000 but the various decorations and ornaments cost over $11 million. So if you're thinking that a Rolex under your tree is expensive consider that the Emirates Palace's tree has millions and millions of dollars worth of jewelry on it, including a $1 million necklace. [Source: The National]
Meanwhile, the online Arabic daily Elaph ran an interesting story about the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Gaza. I didn't know that there was a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Gaza, which goes to show how much I know.
Apparently it has become a favorite leisure and study location for Gazans looking for peace and quiet.
Elaph's report speaks of "delightful scenery" which probably goes to explain why Gazans have chosen it as a favorite park of sorts.
The cemetery occupies 40,000 sq. meters and contains the graves of 3691 Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in World War I. The cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. [Source: Elaph]
So how did Qatar get the 2022 World Cup? There's been an explosion of anger and criticism; I'll leave it to you to read the diatribe spewing out on the web.
But I will say this: 2022 is not just about football; it's a great incentive for openness, understanding and change in the region and the world. That an Arab and Muslim country now has the opportunity to organize the ultimate tournament of the world's most popular sport is no small thing.
I am grateful that there are reasonable writers and commentators like Patrick Barclay who wrote this article, whose title I borrowed for my post.
I've been in Qatar for 14 years and have seen huge transformations over the past decade plus.
The Arab world isn't just about bombs and dictatorships and terrorist threats and human rights abuses. There are millions and millions of Arabs who sharthe same decent human values that bind humanity in general. So do give Qatar a chance. I am hopeful.
And thank you Google for marking this monumental occasion.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the views of any of my employers, past, present or future.