#YouStink Grows To Pose Real Challenge to Lebanese State

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Lebanese activists hold up a makeshift shield as they are sprayed by riot police using water cannons during a protest against the Lebanese government and an ongoing trash crisis in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, on August 23, 2015. Photo: Hassan Ammar / AP

Over the past few weeks protesters in Lebanon have reemerged after a slumber in great numbers, talking over downtown Beirut. “You Stink” protests, which started as a result of a “garbage crisis” and government incompetence have been met with severe repression leading to one death and hundreds of injuries. Bay Area Intifada reached out to a comrade on the ground who has been engaged in the demonstrations. Lara is an anti-authoritarian media worker from Beirut. The following interview was conducted on Monday August 30th – Thursday Sept 3rd. No changes or edits have been to the text.

Beirut, Lebanon

*Q: Can you talk about what ignited the current protests taking place in Lebanon? It’s hard to believe it’s just about the garbage crisis.*

*A:* The easy answer would be to say they were ignited after July 17 when access to the Naameh landfill was forcefully sealed off and people started drowning in garbage. This landfill, which has been in use since 1997 and absorbs most of Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s trash, was successfully shut down by environmental activists and residents living near the dump. Or, you could trace them back to January when the same scenario took place but was resolved relatively quickly after promises were made to permanently shut down the Naameh landfill in July. Or, maybe to 2004 when the plan to use Naameh expired but was renewed (the 6-year arrangement has lasted 17 years turning the agreed-upon 2 million tons of trash into 15). Alternatively, you could go further back to 1995 when the Hariri-connected Averda company was awarded a secret contract to manage garbage in the two aforementioned governorates. At the time, Rafiq Hariri (the assassinated former prime minister notorious for displacing thousands of Beirutis) privatized waste management and allowed Sukleen and Sukomi to monopolize it and turn it into a profitable industry without any accountability or transparency. Averda charges taxpayers three to four times the regional average per ton while arrogantly ignoring the terms of its contract, namely when it comes to recycling and composting.

I think it’s important to trace the garbage situation back to its roots because it illustrates the level of ineptitude, corruption, and brazen incompetence of the successive Lebanese governments.

The more complex answer would be to trace them back to the foundation of the modern Lebanese nation-state, that is on political sectarianism.

But as you rightly point out, garbage is not the crisis, it is a mere symptom, a very visible and smelly one of a much larger crisis. Trash only exposed the filthy face of this regime. It was the catalyst and dealing with it was the main demand. But government repression and brewing anger toward the ruling elite led what was a mere “anti-garbage” mobilization to quickly become an anti-government movement.

Finally, bear in mind that this trash situation comes in the midst of decades-old shortages in water, electricity and all basic services and some months after learning that there is, quite literally, shit in the food we consume. Continue reading


On the Issue of Israel’s Radicals [PART TWO: Exposing the Israeli Left]

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Originally Posted on State Of Hawiya
While it’s necessary and urgent to delegitimize liberal Zionists, less clear is the position we should take from the anti-Zionist left. And although anti-Zionist Israelis are so few and far between and can hardly be considered a significant segment of the political or social sphere in Israel, they receive disproportionate coverage especially in progressive media outlets. We are aware, however, that this debate remains an elitist one centered on social media and the blogosphere and does not really preoccupy most Palestinians on the ground because they don’t even know about the anti-Zionist minority. And frankly, they are not supposed to care either.
During the last month, anti-Zionists have organized several small vigils against the aggression on Gaza in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. Those protests were often attacked by right-wing mob, as were individual and human rights organizations that are outspoken against Israeli crimes in Gaza. Veteran Israeli activists would quickly point out that this level of incitement against them is unprecedented and would go on to say something to the effect: “Leftists are the new Palestinians,” or “Palestinians and Israeli leftists are the victims of this new wave of Israeli racism.” The common theme in all that they say and write is the portrayal of Israeli leftists as victims.
No, dear Israeli radical leftists, you are not victims. You are part of the problem. You are part of the reason why our people continue to suffer. Your very existence at the moment comes at the expense of the refugees who were ethnically cleansed from Palestine and who continue to be bombed by Israel in Gaza. Just because you are beginning to experience a tiny fraction of what Palestinians face on a daily basis doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to play the victim role or even imagine the possibility of equating your “suffering” to that of the Palestinians.

Continue reading

The “cottage-cheese warriors” [PART ONE of “Exposing the Israeli left”]

photo by AFP

photo by AFP

Originally Posted on State Of Hawiya

Written by Linah Alsaafin and Budour Hassan

When Israel launched its most recent aggression on the Gaza Strip, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public supported the aggression. Support for the massacre was by no means limited to right-wingers and blatant fascists; the cheerleaders also included Israeli Labor party (the largest “opposition” party in the Knesset), liberal minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, and Meretz, the self-proclaimed social democrats and “only Zionist leftist party”. The latter would eventually backtrack just like they did in the 2008- 2009 massacre, even claiming that they never actually supported the war from the get-go.

“Peace Rally”

On 16 August, Meretz, along with Hadash, Peace Now and other “peace-loving” movements, organized a “peace rally” in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, attended by thousands of Israelis. Organizers of the rally described the turnout as a victory for the peaceful solution. Some went as far as to declare that the rally is a testament to the strength of the left and working-class in Israel.

Israeli Jahan M. gushed about the protest on his Facebook by writing: “Probably the largest Gaza anti-war protest in the world happening inside Israel itself, signs of the potential of workers and left activists in Israel, yet so much of the left across the world still doesn’t see this. Israel, like every other country in the world has a working class and like other workers and oppressed it is their fundamental interest to overthrow the rich who exploit their labour.” Continue reading