February 8/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 7,14-23. He summoned the crowd again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile." When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, "Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,  since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.
From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."

Free Opinions
The Saudi Impetus in the Pursuit of Peace-Dar Al-Hayat
The Colors of
The 'Jesus Manifesto' for

Measuring the importance of being Arab -By Rami G. Khouri

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources For 8/02/07
Syria waging war against us-Ynetnews
Amr Moussa's assistance expresses worries over future of Lebanon-Kuwait News Agency
Lebanon PM: US should press Israel to get out of Shebaa-Ya Libnan

Israel may be weighing force against Hezbollah-AP
Israel Warns Hezbollah Regaining Strength In Southern Lebanon-All Headline News
Maronite Bishops Say Lebanon Situation 'Not Assuring'-Naharnet
Police Hunt Assailants who Tried to Attack Geagea's Residence-Naharnet
U.N. Snubs Lahoud, Signs International Tribunal-Naharnet
Saniora Boycotts Munich Conference Because Israel Attending-Naharnet
U.S. Slams Syria for 'Negative' Role in Lebanon-Naharnet

Hizbullah Denies Planting Bombs at Border-Naharnet

UN: Moussa Efforts to Settle Lebanon Crisis of 'Utmost Importance'-Naharnet
USAID to Help Lebanon's Accession to WTO-Naharnet
Germany Provides Lebanon with Border-Control Technology-Naharnet
Kidnapped Lebanese Citizen in Nigeria Feels Deserted-Naharnet

UNIFIL Plants New Border Marks Between Lebanon and Israel-Naharnet
Hizbullah's Visible Return to the Border With Israel-Naharnet

Saudi Arabia plays peacemaker role-Toronto Star

UN Signs International Tribunal Treaty to Try Hariri's Assassins-Naharnet
Cluster bombs: a war's perilous aftermath-Christian Science Monitor
Hezbollah: Explosives near Israeli border with Lebanon not new-Ha'aretz
US: Syria a negative force in Mideast-Meadow Free Press
Who holds the keys to stability in Lebanon?The News - International
Lindenstrauss completes report on Lebanon war-Jerusalem Post
Israeli Official: Foreign Sources Arming Hezbollah, Hamas at ...FOX News
Defiant Hezbollah returns to Israel border with flags and bikes-France24
Syria gave Hizbullah antitank missiles-Israel Insider
Lebanon leader puts onus on US-Los Angeles Times
'Lebanon war failures reminiscent of 1973'-Jerusalem Post

Latest News Reports From the Daily Star For 7/02/07
Envoy promises Moussa will be back to help lead Lebanese out of impasse
UN signs deal on Hariri court, raising pressure for ratification
Aoun suggests new name for pact with Hizbullah
Hawi's stepson says March 14 'betrayed' youth
Bombs found by Israel were laid before war - Hizbullah
Feltman, Hamadeh discuss application of Paris III funds
March 14 delegation briefs Sfeir on 'code of honor' pact
Germans deliver special immigration devices
THG boss vows to spill beans about cartoon riots
Foreign insurer weathers Lebanese turmoil
Weather office says worst will be over soon
Organizers expand scope of 'I Love Life' campaign
EDL ties blackout woes to plant crippled in war
Lions Clubs mount campaign to recycle used eyewear
Chouf residents chop down precious forests to cope with high heating costs
Paramedic maimed in Israeli air strike vows to keep helping others
Traditional architecture loses ground to modern projects

Israel weighing force against Hezbollah
 By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM - Israel's defense minister on Wednesday accused Syria of allowing the rearmament of Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and said Israel has the right to act "forcefully" against the Shiite militia to counter the threat.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz's comments came days after Israel said it discovered four bombs in northern Israel recently planted by Hezbollah guerrillas. The Israeli claim, denied by Hezbollah, immediately raised tensions along the volatile border.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war last summer before a U.N.-brokered cease-fire took hold. Under the truce, thousands of Lebanese government troops and international peacekeepers patrol the border to maintain calm. The cease-fire also bars armed Hezbollah fighters from the border area and calls for a halt in unauthorized weapons transfers to the guerrilla group.
Speaking to visiting U.S. Jewish leaders, Peretz said Syria, Hezbollah's main ally, is continuing to allow weapons shipments to the group to cross its border with Lebanon. "We can't under any circumstances ignore the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Hezbollah," Peretz said. While Israel remains committed to the cease-fire, he said, "we reserve the right to protect the citizens of the state of Israel and we will do this forcefully without any compromises." In Beirut, a Hezbollah official declined comment.
Syria is Hezbollah's closest ally, and Israel accuses the Damascus government of providing weapons to the group and allowing arms from the guerrillas' other main supplier, Iran, to pass through its territory to Lebanon.
The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on Wednesday said Syria recently transferred Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles to Hezbollah in violation of the cease-fire agreement. The report cited unidentified "senior political sources."
During a trip to Moscow in October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed concern that Russian missiles were reaching Hezbollah through third parties. At the time, Russia's defense minister said his government had settled the matter with Israel.
Peretz gave no firm evidence of the weapons transfers and did not specify what would provoke Israeli military action in Lebanon. But he said this week's discovery of the bombs along the border showed how critical the situation has become.
Israeli military officials said the bombs were planted in recent days, under the cover of bad weather. If true, it would mark a violation of the cease-fire and indicate a failure by the international peacekeepers to prevent new attacks on Israel.
Hezbollah denied the allegation, saying the explosives were planted months ago before the war. U.N. officials are looking into the Israeli report.
Peretz has come under heavy criticism for his handling of the war, which has widely been perceived as a failure by the Israeli public. Israel attacked Hezbollah on July 12 after the group infiltrated Israel, killing three soldiers and capturing two others.
Despite an advantage in firepower, the army failed to accomplish the two main goals set by Israeli leaders — destruction of Hezbollah and rescuing the two captured soldiers. It also was unable to prevent Hezbollah from raining thousands of rockets onto northern Israel.
A total of 159 Israelis were killed, including 39 civilians killed by Hezbollah rockets. More than 1,000 people were killed on the Lebanese side, according to tallies by government agencies, humanitarian groups and The Associated Press.
The count includes 250 Hezbollah fighters that the group's leaders now say died during Israel's intense air, ground and sea bombardments in Lebanon. Israel has estimated its forces have killed 600 Hezbollah fighters.

Maronite Bishops Say Lebanon Situation 'Not Assuring'
Naharnet: The Council of Maronite Bishops on Wednesday said the ongoing Lebanon crisis was "not assuring," labeling "unusual" the latest street fighting that left nine people killed in Beirut. "The general situation in Lebanon is not assuring, and what happened on (December) 23 and 25 from protests and burning tires to blocking roads … was not a usual demonstration, but rather, a coup attempt, as seen by some, aiming to shift the course of the country," said a statement by the Bishops."This is unusual for a country like Lebanon," said the statement at the end of the bishops' monthly meeting at Bkirki under Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir. "The Paris III conference, which (recent) riots and turmoil aimed at foiling, has shown where our country stands amidst the donors' nations and institutions," added the statement read by monsignor Youssif Tauq.
The bishops thanked the states which granted aid to Lebanon at the January 25 Paris III conference, particularly France whose president Jacques Chirac "did all he could to help Lebanon."The statement also criticized as "disgraceful" the ongoing bickering between pro- and anti-government political leaders, accusing them of "doing all they can to sink" Lebanon in their feuds Beirut, 07 Feb 07, 13:33

Police Hunt Assailants who Tried to Attack Geagea's Residence

Naharnet: Lebanese internal security forces have thwarted an attempt by unidentified assailants to open fire on the residence of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, the LF said in a statement Wednesday. It said that while Geagea was appearing on LBCI's "Bi Koul Jour'a" talk show broadcast live from his Bzemmar residence Tuesday night, a vehicle approached the security dragnet and a gunman tried to open fire in the direction of the LF leader's house. The LF said security forces immediately opened fire at the red 'VW-Golf' which sped away to an undisclosed destination.
It said police launched a search for the culprits, who remain at large. Beirut, 07 Feb 07, 13:06

U.N.: Moussa Efforts to Settle Lebanon Crisis of 'Utmost Importance'
Naharnet: The United Nations considers mediation efforts led by Arab League chief Amr Moussa to settle the ongoing Lebanon crisis between Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government and the Hizbullah-led Opposition of "utmost importance," a U.N. official has said. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said on Tuesday the main stumbling block is the absence of a dialogue. He said one idea the mediators are considering is the creation of a working group where the parties could talk about the U.N.-Lebanon agreement and the stature for the international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Primer Minister Rafik Hariri.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 07 Feb 07, 09:37

Saniora Boycotts Munich Conference Because Israel Attending
Naharnet: Premier Fouad Saniora has declined to attend a major security conference in Germany this weekend because Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be there, An Nahar said Wednesday. "Saniora has apologized for declining an invitation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to attend the conference on security policy," the newspaper said. "The reason is that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will participate in the conference," the daily added. Often dubbed the "Davos of the security world," the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy will be held in Munich from Friday through Sunday. Beirut has vowed to be the last Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel, which led a massive military offensive on Lebanon last summer after Hizbullah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 07 Feb 07, 10:49

Hizbullah Denies Planting Bombs at Border
Naharnet: Hizbullah said Tuesday the four roadside bombs that have been discovered in northern Israel were planted before outbreak of the 34-day war on July 12. Hizbullah, in a statement distributed by its press office, said the four bombs were planted "before the recent July war as part of the defense procedures to prevent the enemy from penetrating Lebanese territory." Israel said Monday that the four bombs were planted recently which constituted a violation to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the war on Aug. 14. Hizbullah statement said the Israeli statement was "meaningless" and reiterated that its fighters will always "defend" the homeland. Beirut, 06 Feb 07, 19:56

Germany Provides Lebanon with Border-Control Technology
Naharnet: Germany on Tuesday handed over to Lebanon sophisticated equipment to facilitate control of border crossings. The German donation would help immigration and customs officials at border crossings, sea and air ports control the illegal trafficking of humans, check authenticity of passports and entry permits, the state-run National news Agency reported. The German donation was handed over to Lebanese officials at Beirut International Airport, the report added. The new system would also help in detecting forged bank notes, the report said without further elaboration.
Beirut, 06 Feb 07, 19:13

Kidnapped Lebanese Citizen in Nigeria Feels Deserted
Lebanese oil worker Imad Saliba, kidnapped in Nigeria along with two Italian colleagues, has complained that the Beirut government is probably not aware of his ordeal. The three, kidnapped since December, said in an interview published Tuesday they felt abandoned by their employer and the government in Rome. "We are disappointed. Disappointed by the Italian government which is doing nothing to get us out of here," Francesco Arena, one of the Italians, told a reporter from the Italian communist party newspaper Il Manifesto. "Disappointed by our company (Agip) which is leaving us to rot in the jungle." The reporter met Arena on a boat on the river Niger an hour upstream from the major oil city of Port Harcourt. The three oil workers -- Arena, Cosma Russo and Lebanese Imad Saliba were seized on December 7. "I don't even know if the Lebanese government is aware that one of its nationals is a hostage in Nigeria," said Saliba. "They probably have other priorities."
Il Manifesto printed a picture of the three, seemingly in good health and wearing life jackets aboard a motorboat accompanied by their hooded kidnappers. "Our government and Agip have put themselves in the hands of the government of Nigeria which will never be able to yield to the demands of the kidnappers," Arena said.  In Rome the foreign ministry insisted in a statement it was "not overlooking any lead or any element that can lead to the freedom" of the men "as soon as possible".
The hostages were in good health, it said, and "at present it is the authorities in Nigeria" that are "playing a basic role". A spokesman for Eni, which owns Agip, said the company was continuing its efforts to negotiate.
"We are working and will continue to work in close collaboration with the Italian foreign ministry's crisis cell and the authorities of Nigeria," he told the ANSA news agency. The three men were seized by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which wants, among other things, the release of the former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, jailed for corruption.
It also calls for the freeing of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and other detainees from the delta region.
It also wants a bigger share of oil revenues for local communities. "What is Italy doing?" the three hostages asked reporter Stefano Liberti.
"We have had enough. What are the Italian government and Agip and the (Nigerian) government doing? They have abandoned us," said Arena.
A fourth hostage Italian Roberto Dieghi, kidnapped at the same time, was freed on January 18 because of blood pressure problems and had become a "drag" on the kidnappers.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 06 Feb 07, 19:01

Hizbullah's Visible Return to the Border With Israel
Naharnet: Six months after the end of the war with Israel, Hizbullah fighters have defiantly returned to Lebanon's border with the Jewish state, riding around on motorbikes waving the Shiite party's flag and pictures of their leader Hassan Nasrallah. "During the war, enemy chiefs said they would not allow Hizbullah to raise its banners along the border," the party spokesman Haidar Daqmaq said. "We have returned to put up our banners and even bigger posters of martyrs. We have added the martyrs who fell in the July-August war," he told Agence France Presse. A beefed-up U.N. peacekeeping force is patrolling the volatile border area along with Lebanese soldiers under the terms of a U.N.-brokered ceasefire that ended the 34-day war and was meant to keep Hizbullah away from the frontier. But in the last few days, apparently unarmed black-clad and bearded guerrillas have been riding motorbikes along the border area that had been under Hizbullah control for years. Militants have raised Hizbullah flags along the border fence, as well as banners and pictures of "martyrs" killed in combat, an AFP correspondent said. Hizbullah continues to have a strong presence in the area, but no arms or military equipment are visible. French General Alain Pellegrini, who headed the U.N. force until last Friday, said peacekeepers had no evidence that Hizbullah still had an armed presence in the area but said security remained "fragile." On Monday, the Israeli army said it had discovered and disabled four roadside bombs along its border, accusing Hizbullah of planting them in the last few days. The guerrillas used small tractors to raise about 300 flags -- a yellow banner showing a hand clutching a Kalashnikov rifle -- from the coastal town of Naqura toward the mountainous area of Shebaa inland. They also erected cement blocks with large posters of "martyrs" showing the place and date of their death. "This martyr fell while defending his land," said one. "Hero of the battle of the tanks," read another in reference to the Israeli tanks destroyed during their incursion into south Lebanon in the summer war. Daqmaq said Hizbullah had hoisted large banners "so that enemy soldiers and residents of the border settlements can see them clearly." Hizbullah claims it achieved a "divine victory" in the war, which was launched after Shiite guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a raid in mid-July, triggering blistering Israeli reprisals. The war left more than 1,200 dead in Lebanon, and 160 fatalities in Israel. Near the port city of Tyre, Hizbullah has also put up pictures of Israeli tanks destroyed by guerrillas near the border village of Khiam, once notorious for a prison run by an Israel-allied militia in Lebanon. In Aita Shaab, which suffered near-total destruction by Israeli bombardment, Hizbullah guerrillas erected a poster of the two soldiers captured by the group in a raid near the village.(AFP) Beirut, 06 Feb 07, 16:23

Lahoud Asks Ban to Disregard Saniora's Letters
Naharnet: President Emile Lahoud on Tuesday sent a message to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking him to "disregard" letters allegedly sent to him earlier by Premier Fouad Saniora on the creation of the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes. Lahoud said Saniora's letters, allegedly sent to Ban on Jan. 8 and Jan. 30, were issued by a side that does not have "representation authority and were based on erroneous constitutional" concepts. Saniora was reported to have sent the two messages to Ban asking him that the U.N. Security Council adopt a resolution setting up the international tribunal under chapter seven of the organization's charter.
Saniora, according to the reports, told Ban that ratifying the tribunal's treaty by parliament has not been achieved due to opposition by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Lahoud to the new body. Berri, who also heads the Amal movement, is allied with the Hizbullah-led opposition that has been trying for more than two months to topple the Saniora majority government.
Lahoud told Ban that Saniora's letters were issued by "the head of a failed government."
The March 14 majority alliance, which backs the Saniora government, maintains that Lahoud's six-year term expired in 2004, but the Syrian-dominated Parliament at that time amended the nation's constitution to give him three more years in office to defend the Damascus regime's interest after U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 demanded the withdrawal of Syria's army from Lebanon. Beirut, 06 Feb 07, 14:53
UNIFIL Plants New Border Marks Between Lebanon and Israel Chinese Surveying experts of the U.N. peacekeeping Force on Tuesday started demarcating the Blue Line separating south Lebanon from northern Israel after the border marks were destroyed during last summer's 34-day war between Hizbullah and the Jewish state. The state-run National News Agency said the demarcation would follow the old Blue Line set by the U.N. in the year 2000 after Israel withdrew from south Lebanon. The effort, according to the report, would cover the Blue Line track from the southern coastal town of Naqoura to the inland village of Adaiysseh. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would hold a meeting with the Liaison office of the Lebanese army on Friday to assess the demarcation effort. Border marks were destroyed when Israeli vehicles moved into Lebanon after Hizbullah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on July 12.(AFP file photo shows Chinese UNIFIL peacekeepers searching for cluster in a field in the southern Lebanese village of Qlaileh) Beirut, 06 Feb 07, 15:14

The U.N. Snubs Lahoud, Signs International Tribunal
The United Nations has signed an agreement for creating an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, ignoring a letter sent to the U.N. hours earlier by President Emile Lahoud in which he asked the international body to disregard government letters on the court. A U.N. statement released Tuesday said however that before the treaty can enter into force it must be in accordance with Lebanon's constitutional process, meaning it must be ratified by the country's divided parliament. "It is up to the competent Lebanese authorities to take the steps necessary under the Lebanese Constitution for the approval and ratification of the agreement, to allow it to enter into force," said the U.N. statement. "The Tribunal could then be made operational with the full support of the United Nations," it added.
Lahoud has said that his rival, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, violated the constitution by sending to the United Nations an approval of the Special International Tribunal for Lebanon to prosecute Hariri's suspected killers. The tribunal has become a major controversial issue in Lebanon's power struggle between the Saniora government, which supports the formation of the U.N.-backed court, and the Hizbullah-led Opposition which is seeking to topple the prime minister. Hariri was killed along with 22 other people in a massive bombing in downtown Beirut Feb. 14, 2005. Many in Lebanon suspect Syria was behind the slaying. Syria has denied involvement. Last week, Saniora sent a signed copy of the agreement for creating the court to the United Nations. U.N. Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel signed the agreement in New York on Tuesday and returned it to Lebanon for ratification.
"We hope that the Lebanese government will take the necessary measures to able to ratify this process, in accordance with their constitutional requirement," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated Tuesday. Just hours before the U.N. signed the court accord, Lahoud, a top Syrian ally, sent a letter to Ban saying the contents of Saniora's letter were "misleading and sidestepped reality and the rules of the constitution, conventions and national unity." "The purpose of (Saniora's message) is to generate confusion and suspicion and to create an atmosphere for the Security Council to take over the subject and establish the tribunal," Lahoud said.
According to U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas, the accord was signed by the director-general of the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Lebanese Republic -- not by Saniora. Saniora hit back at Lahoud, accusing the president of "harming Lebanon's image as an independent state" and acting under outside orders to block the international tribunal. In the statement issued by his office later Tuesday, Saniora reiterated his position that the government is constitutional as long as it enjoyed a parliamentary majority. In mid-November, Hizbullah and its allies quit the cabinet as it was moving to approve the tribunal. Saniora still has just enough members in his cabinet for a quorum to approve the tribunal, but his opponents -- including Lahoud -- argue his government is no longer constitutional because it does not represent all sectors of Lebanese society.
The Opposition, spearheaded by Hizbullah, has been protesting outside government headquarters in downtown Beirut for more than two months in a bid to bring down Saniora's government and replace it with one in which they would hold one-third plus one of the seats, allowing them to veto major decisions. Hizbullah, which is worried the tribunal will be politicized and used against it, says the government should not consider the tribunal until such a government is formed. The protests turned violent in January when nine people were killed in clashes between opposition and government supporters.(Naharnet-AP-AFP)(AFP photo shows a huge billboard carrying Hariris' picture in downtown Beirut) Beirut, 07 Feb 07, 08:2

Measuring the importance of being Arab
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The one photograph that hangs in my office is that of the late Lebanese writer Samir Kassir. He was assassinated in June 2005, but his ideas are more relevant than ever as Lebanon, Palestine and the entire Arab world, which defined his life, embrace greater tension and violence practiced simultaneously by the state, opposition groups and foreign armies. The British publisher Verso has just put out an English translation of an essay he wrote titled "Being Arab."
Kassir's enduring power reflects two core aspects of his life and work: his insistence on challenging the oppression and indignities that many Arabs suffered at the hands of their own regimes or foreign powers, while at the same time rejecting the tendency to wallow in a sense of victimization. Instead, he affirms faith in the modern Arab world's capacity for national rejuvenation, cultural affirmation and humanistic progress.
Kassir touches many people because these sentiments are not the lone thoughts of a maverick Arab writer. Rather, this conviction of one's worth and potential is a prevalent attitude in the heart of hundreds of millions of ordinary Arab men and women who, like he did, refuse to submit to humiliation and powerlessness, and instead affirm their humanity and their rights as citizens.
Arabs are "haunted by a sense of powerlessness" and widespread malaise, which he succinctly surveyed in the sad condition of most Arab countries. He concluded that "the real crisis in the Arab world is the crisis of the state," whose institutions lack credibility and whose internal unity is routinely challenged. Autocratic and vulnerable, Arab states offer their people cosmetic reforms and liberalization without any real change in government or policies, while relinquishing economic sovereignty and thus perpetuating foreign hegemony. The Arab world, Kassir lamented, is the only place where "lack of democracy is allied to a foreign hegemony."
The prevalent, almost reflexive, response in the Middle East has come from local Islamist movements that were born "in response to what were considered to be inefficient, iniquitous, or impious, governments, rather than a reaction to the culture of modernism." Kassir pointed out that Arab and Islamic cultures repeatedly generated, absorbed and accommodated a diversity of divergent systems of thought and identity. During the Renaissance, the Muslim world "more than held its own against Europe," until a technological gap opened up between the two societies in the second half of the 18th century. The urban centers of the Arab and Middle Eastern Islamic world relentlessly copied and emulated many aspects of Europe, spurring the modernizing revolution the Arabs called the Nahda.
That revolution failed for various reasons: superpower domination, the burden of Israel, the emergence of Arab police states, and other maladies. For Kassir, the Arabs had to restore this era to its proper place in their own history, allowing them to reinterpret their current profound malaise as merely a momentary happening that could be overcome and left behind. His writing and heart were full of hope, and riddled with pride, in the capacity of Arab-Islamic culture to revitalize its modernistic impulses with proven Western norms. He personally embodied that rich synthesis of Levantine and European identities and values, with his mixture of Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian and French identities and legacies.
Kassir also reviewed how the impulses for regeneration during the Nahda comprised a beacon for progress that failed on the political-national level shortly after World War I; but "lived on as an attitude and an outlook on the world," manifested in art, poetry, theater, music, cinema, the role of women and other dimensions of life and culture. Yet this was all crushed by the onset of the Arab malaise in the last third of the 20th century, when Israel defeated the Arabs, oil wealth prompted a new American hegemony and reinforced the backwardness of the energy-rich states, and new Arab regimes "wasted no time putting their societies behind bars."
Radical Islamism or "Islamic nationalism" would not solve this dilemma, he boldly wrote, if it perpetuated a sense of Arab victimhood or explicitly set out to differentiate itself from the universal. Arabs had to avoid the danger of wallowing so deeply in their own malaise that they would replace it with something similar, namely a "culture of death which the union of fossilized Arab nationalism and political Islam calls resistance." Kassir concluded: "We must replace Arabs' customary assumption of victim status not by cultivating a logic of power or a spirit of revenge, but by recognizing the fact that, despite bringing defeats, the 20th century has also brought benefits that can enable Arabs to participate in progress."
Samir Kassir, even in death, radiates hope and self-confidence, anchored in that powerful, rich, irresistible combination of Arab-Islamic, Western and universalist values that still define most people in the Middle East. If you are perplexed by the turbulence of the Arab and Islamic Middle East, and seek signs of hope amidst the bombs, read this little book of big ideas.
**Rami G. Khouri writes a regular commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Newsgroups: soc.culture.lebanon
Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2007 4:00 AM
Subject: Blitzer Gemayel interview
BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. There are fears that Lebanon right now may, may be on the brink of civil
war. Joining us now to discuss that and more, the former president of  Lebanon, Amine Gemayel.
He's here in Washington for meetings this week with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others. Mr.
President, thanks very much for coming in. AMINE GEMAYEL, FORMER PRESIDENT OF LEBANON: My pleasure.
BLITZER: First of all, my deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your son, Pierre Gemayel, who was killed last November in a brutal gunfire, a gun battle. He was in a motorcade. Who do you believe was responsible for the killing of your son?

GEMAYEL: Really, we don't know yet. But we are doing our best to discover the truth. But for the time being, we have no new elements on that issue.
BLITZER: He has a member of the cabinet, a cabinet minister, up and coming, rising star, like you, obviously, a Lebanese Christian, who had a strong
following. Immediately, there was suspicions that Syria may have played a role. Do you believe Syria played a role?

GEMAYEL: You know, they don't have a very clear record in Syria. And we know very well that there were rewards in the killing of my brother Bachir in 1982.
BLITZER: Bachir Gemayel?
GEMAYEL: Bachir Gemayel, the former elected president of the republic in 1982. But for the time being, we can't really say who killed Pierre. We
have to wait for the inquiry.
BLITZER: But do you believe the same people who may have killed Pierre were responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the prime minister of
GEMAYEL: As the Mr. Brammertz, the head of the investigation committee, said, all those assassinations are related to each other. So most probably
there is a link between all those assassinations.
BLITZER: Here's what the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, said about this assassination, this killing of your son. Listen
to this.
BASHAR JA'AFRI, SYRIA REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This kind of accusation is really unfounded and sarcastic in my opinion. Why? Let me explain to you that Syria has been working very hard for the last four decades for the Lebanese stability, for the stability in Lebanon, the unity of Lebanon and for stopping the civil war in Lebanon.
BLITZER: All right, I want you to respond to what Ambassador Ja'afari said. GEMAYEL: The only way to take those words seriously is for Syria, for
Damascus to really help the investigation committee to discover the truth. And not to obstruct the inquiry in the meantime, to help the building of
the international tribunal to also judge the assassins of all those killings. The only way for Syria to prove its innocence is to help within the international inquiry committee and to form the international tribunal, which is a -- actually an important issue for the Lebanese.
BLITZER: Because we've seen the pictures in recent weeks of the fighting, the demonstrations going on in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon. And the
numbers have been huge, the people who have come outside to protest either in favor of Hezbollah, against Hezbollah, for the Lebanese government,
against the Lebanese government. Syria's role right now in this internal struggle that's going on in Lebanon, what is it? Is it positive or negative?
GEMAYEL: In my opinion, what's going on in Lebanon is really a coup d'etat. It's a coup d'etat, because you have, as you know, Lebanon is one of the very real democratic country in the Middle East. And we have tradition of a rotation...
BLITZER: A coup d'etat against the prime minister, Fouad Siniora?
BLITZER: By whom? Who's in charge of...
GEMAYEL: Not only against Mr. Siniora, against the government. It's a coup d'etat against the Lebanese constitution. It's a coup d'etat...
BLITZER: Who's doing this coup d'etat?
GEMAYEL: Also, there are some -- I suppose that it's -- this coup d'etat is to block the constitution process to adopt the -- to endorse the
international tribunal. Because Syria is really afraid, because it's the first suspect in the endorsed crimes. That's why they want to avoid the constitution, the building of this international tribunal. They're doing what they can through the coup d'etat or some other maneuvers. And the diplomatic maneuvers in the meantime to block the constitution of the international tribunal, which is actually the concern of the security council in New York.
BLITZER: Let me read to you what Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, said on January 24. He said, "The opposition has the political, popular and organizational strength to bring down the unconstitutional government today or tomorrow. What has so far prevented the fall of the government that is clinging to power is not international support, but the patriotic feelings of the opposition and its desire to preserve civil peace."
Do you believe Hassan Nasrallah?
GEMAYEL: Hassan Nasrallah is the head of the Lebanese party. And our wish is that the Hezbollah join the political establishment and to abide by the
democratic system in Lebanon, to respect the rule of the constitution. As I said, there are traditions in Lebanon, democratic traditions for a
constitutional and democratic rotation in the government and the presidency and the parliament. They have to respect those rules, those traditions, the
constitutional process, and to abide by it.
BLITZER: Does Hezbollah respect those traditions right now?
GEMAYEL: In fact, no. What the Hezbollah is, actually, is a state within a state. They have their own army, their own financial system, with the huge
and generous financial support from outside. And in the meantime, Hezbollah is actually and what is very, very dangerous for us, is, they're confiscating the right of the government to take some sovereign decisions like the declared war.
BLITZER: Who from, who...
GEMAYEL; And Hezbollah, like last summer, he, by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers in Israel, he declared kind of force to Israel, and you have to
support the consequences of this behavior.
BLITZER: Who, from the outside is funding, supporting Hezbollah?
GEMAYEL: It's not a secret. Hezbollah enjoyed the full support of Syria and Iran. It's not a secret.
BLITZER: How worried are you that Lebanon -- we all remember the civil war in the '70s and '80s -- how worried are you that Lebanon, which in recent years had become peaceful and democratic and flourishing, could collapse into civil war?
GEMAYEL: There is one positive element, is that neither the opposition nor the allies of the government want really civil war in Lebanon. We are trying to do our utmost to prevent, to avoid such kind of a disaster in Lebanon. We can't afford at all having a new civil war in Lebanon. We're trying now
to find a political solution to this crisis. I am, myself, also in touch with the Hezbollah and many other parties, trying to avoid the civil war and to find a political solution to the prevailing crisis.
BLITZER: We have to leave it there. Mr. President, I'll end this interview the way I started it. My deepest condolences to you on the loss of your
son, Pierre Gemayel. I see the little pin...
GEMAYEL: That button, yes.
BLITZER: ... the button that you have on your lapel with a picture of him. Once again, we're so sorry for that.
GEMAYEL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Pierre Gemayel was a good man. Amine Gemayel, his father,

Aoun suggests new name for pact with Hizbullah
Daily Star/Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said Tuesday that he would like to rename the memorandum of understanding signed with Hizbullah on February 6, 2006, the "Peace Project." In comments published in L'Orient Le Jour on Tuesday, Aoun said the agreement - reached a day after riots in Achrafieh over cartoons published in Europe depicting the Prophet Mohammad - was a "divine coincidence" that came as a "peaceful" response to the violence the day before. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Aoun issued a joint statement on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of their agreement. "The agreement is no longer an accord between two popular movements but a social approach that promotes confidence and hopes to build a prosperous and indivisible Lebanon, which cannot be occupied or monopolized," the statement said.

Waiting for the end of Maronite bishops’ monthly meeting
by Youssef Hourany
The bishops are expected to release a statement about the “Bkerke Pact” signed by Christians from both sides of the political divide. United Nations approves the agreement with Lebanon to set up an international tribunal, but its ratification by Lebanon’s parliament is still pending. Meanwhile Arab League secretary general is in Moscow to get Russia to lean on Iran and Syria in favour of a solution to the political crisis.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon’s crisis saw more action today. At the international level, the United Nations and Lebanon signed an agreement to set up the international tribunal to prosecute the political murders that occurred place in the country in the last few years. In Russia the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa met Russian officials to urge them to put pressure on Iran and Syria. At the domestic level, people are waiting for an announcement from Maronite bishops as they end their monthly meeting.
UN sources announced last night that an agreement on the creation of an international tribunal had been reached with the backing of all five permanent members of the Security Council (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France).
The agreement, which was signed by the director general of Lebanon’s Justice Ministry, now must be ratified by the Lebanese National Assembly. However, Lebanese President Émile Lahoud has repeatedly attacked such an agreement, saying that the current government lacked the legitimacy to make any international commitment.
The Siniora government needs to present the issue to parliament, where it has a majority, but its speaker, Nabih Berri (who heads the Shia Amal movement), has so far refused to convene it.
Unofficially, the international tribunal was perhaps the spark for the current crisis. When the government approved it Shia cabinet members quit and Lahoud objected to the continued existence of the executive.
The UN inquiry into the wave of political murders, starting with that of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has pointed the finger at high officials in the secret services of Lebanon and Syria. At the time Syria was still occupying its neighbour.
As part of this effort at finding a solution, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa traveled to Moscow. His unstated goal is to get Russia to lean on Syria and Iran to sway their proxies in Lebanon’s opposition in favour of greater flexibility in finding a way out to the current situation.
In the country meanwhile, a statement by Maronite bishops is expected at the end of their monthly meeting. Sources close to the Patriarchate told AsiaNews that an important announcement is expected. This is three days before the celebration of the Maronite Patron Saint, Saint Maron (350-415), founder of the Maronite Church, a special moment for all Lebanese at home as well as abroad.
The same sources expect the bishops to take a position vis-à-vis the “Bkerke Pact” which was signed by Christian political leaders from both sides of the political divide.
As part of their reflection, the Maronite bishops are analysing the inter-Christian situation in light of the violence of Black Tuesday that left a trail of dead and injured people. Their decision will be informed by the report that they and Patriarch Sfeir will receive from the three-member commission set up on December 6 of last year which includes bishops Samir Mazloum, Yousef Bechara and Paul Matar.
The three prelates have met five Maronite leaders (Aoun, Frangieh, Mouawad, Geagea and Gemayel) in order to find the basis of an inter-Maronite reconciliation.
But for many people today’s monthly meeting constitutes the country’s last chance. For them the Maronite Patriarchate remains a bulwark protecting the country from plunging into further violence and stopping the renewed emigration of many Lebanese, especially Christians towards Canada, the United States and other countries.

The Saudi Impetus in the Pursuit of Peace
Randa Takieddin Al-Hayat - 07/02/07//
The Saudi endeavors to save the precarious situation in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories can be seen as endeavors that are in line with the sort of diplomacy that has consistently worked in the direction of peace and stability in the region and the world. In the same vein of its oil diplomacy seeking to shore up the stability of the world's oil market and economy (as it controls the world's largest oil reserves), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is currently working in an urgent and pressing manner to save the extremely precarious situation in Lebanon and push for reconciliation among the Palestinians.
In light of this vision, Saudi Arabia's decision to host a meeting by the leaders of both the Fatah and Hamas movements stems from its determination to spare the Palestinian Territories a civil war that would constitute a new calamity that targets the Palestinian and Arab people.
It could clearly be seen that the head of the Israeli government is not keen on establishing a Palestinian State; therefore, the deteriorating conditions in the Palestinian Territories are in line with this attitude. At the same time, Israel's 'divide and conquer' policy serves Israel's interests, as it violates all past agreements and deals with the Palestinian people with force, occupation and humiliation, leading to the consolidation of both extremism and radicalism among the Palestinian and Arabs as a response to such policy
This is the reason behind the focus of Saudi efforts on achieving a Palestinian reconciliation, as divisions and civil wars only serve those who wish that division, instability and wars dominate this part of the world.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia had previously launched a Middle East peace initiative during the Arab Summit in Beirut, which adopted the initiative proposed by the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
In parallel to the monumental efforts on the Palestinian level, Saudi Arabia is moving with the same impetus to spare Lebanon another civil war and spare the region a needless disaster.
During the Paris III donors' conference for Lebanon called for by French President Jacques Chirac, Saudi Arabia had also allocated substantial financial resources to boost Lebanon's economy. It had also mobilized its diplomacy in Iran's direction; seeking to harness its influence over Hezbollah, its ally in Lebanon, to resume dialogue with the majority.
Saudi Arabia was determined, nonetheless, to be impartial in its efforts and fair to all sides, as it has declared its support for the establishment of an International Tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the assassination of former head of the Lebanese government Rafiq al-Hariri, while at the same time, showing an understanding of the opposition's demands for a national unity government, that would, according to Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, lead to a fair settlement for all parties.
While Saudi Arabia continues to push toward peace, the Syrian regime is moving in the opposite direction with respect to Lebanon, as well as with respect to Palestine and Iraq, by taking steps counteractive to peace and security in the region.
Syria is alarmed over the possible establishment of the International Tribunal, as though it is responsible for the assassination and is confessing to it.
Since, after all, hasn't the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berry, on many occasions reiterated Syria's opposition to the Tribunal to interviewers who tried to persuade him to mediate between the opposition and the majority?
Similarly, the Iranian side has reiterated to Saudi that Syria has refused to discuss the International Tribunal, making it sound as though it was directly concerned with the issue.
As a matter of fact, Syria prefers chaos and undermining stability in Lebanon.
On the Palestinian level, Syria is using Hamas as a trump card in defying the international community and the US, as evident by Damascus' hosting of the head of Hamas' politburo, Khaled Mashal; while in Iraq, the Iraqi government has directly, and through its official spokesman, accused Syria of instigating riots and fomenting further destabilization of Iraq.
These Syrian policies cast significant doubts over Syria's true regional agenda, since, even though its ally, Iran, has come to realize that it should respond to the Saudi peace endeavor, Syria has managed to burn the bridges with the most important Arab State in the region. This is why the Saudi efforts are much needed, appreciated and highly hoped to succeed

The Colors of Lebanon
What would real peace mean?
Riad A. Kassis | posted 2/07/2007
I realized during my recent trip to the United States how many American sisters and brothers are sincerely concerned for Lebanon and particularly for the situation of Lebanese Christians. At the same time, I also noticed the confusion over the complexities of the current situation.
Since December 1, 2006, the Lebanese opposition movement has been campaigning and camping in downtown Beirut, next to the office of the Prime Minister, calling for an expansion of the Lebanese cabinet to include more Christian representation and for early parliamentary elections. The opposition movement could represent more than half of the Lebanese population. Two major Lebanese groups lead it: Hezbollah, which is Shiite, and the Free Patriotic Movement, which is Christian. Other groups in the opposition include the Islamic Call Front, the Maradat (A Christian Maronite party of northern Lebanon), and a faction of Druze. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has insisted that the street is not the place to make cabinet changes and, with local and international backing, remains with his cabinet in office even after the resignation of several Shiite ministers and a Christian minister.
It seems to me that the real issue is lack of trust on both sides. The opposition believes that the present government did not handle the summer 2006 war or its consequences well, so it cannot be trusted to handle the future of Lebanon. Also, Lebanese citizens are facing many hardships, which the opposition feels are mainly due to corruption and mismanagement in the present government. The loyalists (the present cabinet and its supporters) feel that the opposition is carrying an Iranian-Syrian agenda, while the opposition feels that the loyalists are carrying an American-French agenda. The loyalists fear that expanding the cabinet as the opposition demands would lead to its fall, while the opposition believes that a cabinet with no Shiite ministers and not enough Christian representation is unable to govern and lead the country. The road to reconciliation is blocked until they realize that Lebanon is on its way to collapse and that they need to trust one another for the good of the country.
On Thursday, January 25, I was in Beirut trying to go home (60km east of Beirut) when I got stuck at a road blocked by opposition protestors and loyalists. The Lebanese army had announced a curfew, to begin in half an hour, and I was desperate to find a taxi. I saw dozens of tires and a minibus burning only a few yards in front of me and heard the shouts of the army, protesters, and loyalists. I was terrified. Finally, a kind driver offered to bring me home.
It's encouraging that both the opposition and the loyalists are against the idea of returning to civil war. However, I believe that if things continue to escalate as they did last Tuesday and Thursday, a form of civil war could be inevitable.
What is our role?
I am an ordained minister in the National Evangelical Congregational Church of Beirut, the first Arabic-speaking evangelical congregation. This historic church stands between the opposition movement camp and the office of the Prime Minister. If you walked around the streets of downtown Beirut, you might be surprised to read that several main streets were named after American evangelical missionaries: Bliss Street, Post Street, Van Dyke Street, and Evangelical Church Street. The strategic location of my church and the street names remind us that we, as evangelicals, are called to the ministry of mediation and reconciliation in a society that longs for genuine reconciliation.
The Rev. Dr. Ghassan Khalaf, chancellor of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, said:
For more than 45 years, I have been observing the Middle Eastern conflict that takes place among adherents of three religions. I did not find a well-developed doctrine of reconciliation except in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do believe that the only viable solution to the Middle East conflict is for us Christians to be ambassadors of reconciliation. This is the only hope for our troubled region.
A genuine reconciliation is one that recognizes the differences among the parties involved but insists that such parties are able to live together in harmony and peace. A genuine reconciliation is based on viable dialogue. Arab Evangelical Christians need to keep focused on bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to all, but at the same time, they should be working to reconcile their families, societies, communities, and countries. This is not an easy task.
Colorful Lebanon
Nowadays, the Lebanese people, divided, announce their politics with colors. Orange, green, yellow, and pistachio identify the opposition camp while blue, dark green, red, and white identify the loyalists' camp. Neighbors in one building display signs and flags showing various political opinions. Colors are displayed on flags, billboards, T-shirts, stickers, even caps of bottled water.
On my way to Beirut yesterday, I saw a new color on billboards and signs. It was white. The billboards with a pure white background carried writings such as: "We are fed up with colors!" "No more divisions: We all together make up Lebanon." "We're the Middle Way."
As I passed these billboards, I thought about Lebanese evangelicals, including myself. Where do we stand in the recent conflict? Are we taking a one-sided stand? As a Lebanese evangelical, I believe that I cannot stand wholeheartedly in either camp. I would like to seek another way, a middle way that is authentically Christian, based on biblical principles of respect, care for others, human rights, and social justice. Is our voice being heard clearly in Lebanon? Do we address actively, wisely, and intelligently the issues that face our Lebanese society? Do we dare to dream of a new Lebanon for our children and us? A new Lebanon where democracy is a model for other Middle Eastern countries, a Lebanon where Christians and Muslims are able to coexist in harmony, a Lebanon from which the light of the gospel shines throughout the Middle East, a Lebanon that is free of corruption and injustice, a Lebanon that interacts with the West and the East without being controlled by either?
Rabbinic tradition tells this story of how the rainbow was created: There was a fight between the sun and the clouds (waters). Each tried to assert its importance over the other and to show its might and power. After much discussion and disagreement, God spoke. He decided to bring the sun and the clouds together and formed the rainbow.
It is my hope that Lebanese people will come together in a real spirit of reconciliation to form a rainbow. It is my prayer that American and Lebanese sisters and brothers would come together in real partnership to bring God's peace, promise, and reconciliation to this suffering region. May the colors of disunity in Lebanon become the united colors of love and peace.
**Riad A. Kassis is Overseas Council International's regional director for Middle East and Eurasia. He is based in Zahle, Lebanon.

The 'Jesus Manifesto' for Lebanon
Rebuilding the soul of a shattered nation on the brink of civil war.
Martin Accad | posted 2/07/2007
On February 14, Lebanon will commemorate two years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Lebanon has only known a semblance of peace a few years at a time. But even in its tragic history, not many periods have been as violent and unsettled as the last two years.
In the course of this very short period, Lebanon has known 15 targeted bombings and 9 attempts at political assassination, 6 of which succeeded and 3 that led to maiming. Interspersed were the toppling of two governments, endless demonstrations, and sit-ins. To top it all, a 34-day Israeli military aggression beginning last July led to the near-total destruction of a freshly rebuilt infrastructure and the displacement of more than a quarter of the population. Now the entire country is ripped in half in political disagreement and once again on the brink of civil war.
One wonders how that is even possible. Did we not learn anything in our bloody, 16-year civil war (1975-1990)? Have we not learned that there are no winners in civil strife, only losers that end up weeping amid the ashes? Only last week, the escalation of opposition-led demonstrations reaped a handful of deaths and over a hundred wounded.
The issues are, of course, complex, and one could enumerate many causes behind the current deadlock, all of which would incriminate most of our Lebanese politicians. (I use the term "politician" only metaphorically, since it is quite obvious that our honorable "feudal lords" have forgotten—or perhaps never learned—that political office is a calling to accountability and civil service rather than to the exercise of despotism and partisanship). But I want to turn instead to a more profound and fundamental reality, which I believe to be at the root of the current situation.
Since the end of the civil war, successive Lebanese governments have applied themselves to rebuilding the stones—the flesh of Lebanon, rather than its soul, its people. The struggle has been to restore the economy by reviving the glory of Lebanon, the "tourist attraction," the Disneyland of the Middle East.
There is a seductive and compelling argument going around, which would have us believe that pouring billions of dollars into a country's economy will stabilize it politically. I point this out because the same erroneous belief is still the basis of the thinking behind Paris III, the economic summit for Lebanon held January 25 in France. The same fallacy is being perpetrated in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The reality is that drenching the economy of a post-war nation with fresh dollars manages to maintain a semblance of peace for a decade, during which the financial investments are so significant and the stakes of investors so high that economic voices are able to keep more revolutionary voices in check. However, the strata of society that have historically felt underprivileged will continue to feel so, never too invested in an economic stability with benefits they will hardly ever reap.
The results of this economic strategy have been unfolding in Lebanon between a more affluent Sunni-Maronite-Druze bloc striving for peace and economic stability, and a primarily Shiite opposition (represented by Hezbollah and Amal) that has little to gain from government economics. This time, however, the Shiite bloc is also joined by a considerable portion of the Maronite Christian population under the leadership of General Michel Aoun and his "Free Patriotic Movement" Like the Hezbollah and Amal parties, the Maronite position centers on an indictment of the government, which is seen as corrupt and representing the wealthy.
In this context, I read the words of Jesus:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has:
(1a) anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
(2a) He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
(3) and recovery of sight for the blind,
(2b) to release the oppressed,
(1b) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18—19, NIV).
With these words, Jesus defined his calling at the start of his ministry in Luke's Gospel with what one might call the "Jesus Manifesto." I have arranged the text above in order to emphasise Jesus' use of a story-telling device called inclusio. It indicates that he is, in fact, defining "preaching the good news" (1a) as his proclamation of the "year of the Lord's favor" (1b), which is God's open invitation of humanity into relationship with himself—particularly those who recognize their own poverty. The proclamation of "freedom for the prisoners" (2a) he defines as his mission to "release the oppressed" (2b). And the restoration of sight for the blind stands at the center of the statement to define Jesus' both physical and spiritual ministry (3). Not only is this an affirmation that Jesus would carry out this tripartite manifesto during his lifetime, but these three statements can also be seen as his very down-to-earth invitation for us as well to fight poverty, strive against oppression, and minister to physical brokenness.
Jesus was not lured by what political power and stability-based economics had to give individuals of the world. In fact, he rejected the devil's offers during his forty-day fast (Luke 4:1 - 13). He was not interested in the self-serving power of transforming stones into bread (vs. 3 - 4), or in the authority and splendor that riches could bring him (vv. 6-8), or in indulgently demonstrating his own importance in the political order of things (vv. 9-12). Instead, he was getting ready to engage with individuals, to help them realize in word and deed that poverty is only fatal when it is poverty in spirit, that a person that has experienced freedom of the spirit can never again be shackled with chains, and that what we should fear ultimately is not the decay of our bodies but the loss of our souls.
It is time for the community of Jesus in Lebanon, together with its worldwide friends, to carry out its unique mission. It is not one that can be accomplished by politicians or religious leaders or through traditional establishments.
This is an era of engaged and bold activism, of individuals and groups who, in line with the model of Jesus, will not be satisfied so long as poverty, oppression, and poor health continue to breed anger, bitterness, and despair. There is no more fertile soil for these illnesses than Palestinian refugees living in the appalling conditions of camps in Lebanon and other neighboring countries, or among populations that have been oppressed by despotic rulers enjoying the support of Western governments.
It is perhaps not too late, though we have been witnessing the catastrophic consequences of ignoring these dynamics in the microcosm of Lebanon. But with every passing day, we are approaching a red line beyond which the entire situation will get out of hand, with a global cost.
**Martin Accad is academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon.

Syria waging war against us, says Netanyahu
Opposition leader: Golan must remain part of Israel in any peace agreement
Yaakov Lappin Published: 02.07.07, 19:39 / Israel News
Syria is waging an indirect war against Israel , Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday
"Syria is connected to the axis of evil and Iran . Planes in Syria supply Hizbullah , as do Syrian-made weapons. They are waging war against us actively, and giving refuge to twelve terror groups," he told a Tel Aviv conference organised by the Institute for National Security Studies. The opposition leader said that if Damascus were serious about peace with Israel, it would "first stop attacking us, throw out (Khaled) Mashaal, and disconnect from Iran."
"In any peace agreement with Syria, we must remain on the Golan," Netanyahu declared, adding that the "Syrians too would have to compromise if they want peace." Others on Syria
Former Shin Bet Chief calls for dialogue with Syria / Roi Mandel
Members of Forum of the Peace Initiative with Syria hold Sunday night meeting in Jaffa, call on gov't to take seriously Syrian president's declarations of willingess for peace
Full Story
Asked why peace negotiations with Syria failed when he was prime minister in 1996, Netanyahu said: "I'm not willing to give back the Golan, and therefore the negotiations with Hafez Assad collapsed. He demanded I withdraw from the Golan, and I refused." Most of Netanyahu's address dealt with the Iranian threat. He outlined a two-pronged approach to dealing with Tehran, "an internal effort, which at this stage there is no need to expand upon," and an "external moral, political, and economic campaign to isolate" the Iranian regime, which he described as "genocidal."
"For the first time in my life, I see a strange phenonemon. Most of the Arab regimes see that they need to change focus (onto Iran), while here it is not yet fully understood."
He described Hamas as an arm stretching out from the "octopus of Iran," and called for it "to be cut," leaving room for moderate forces to ascend to power in the Palestinian Authority. "Hamas must be overthrown, this arm must be cut off in Gaza," Netanyahu said. "It's a simple scissor cut to allow moderates to come in," he added. Netanyahu added that "without Iran, Nasrallah would last for two days, and Hamas for two hours perhaps.""If we deal with Iran, we can deal with the Palestinians," he emphasized, attacking what he described as a "mistaken world-view," which placed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the heart of radical Islam's confrontation with the West. In fact, it was the other way around, Netanyahu argued.
"Every territory we cede unilaterally becomes a base of attack for the forces of extreme Islam against us," he said.
Answering a question on the recent find by the IDF of explosive devices on the border with Lebanon, Netanyahu told Ynetnews: "I need more information before I can respond."
Open nuclear deterrence best option
Earlier, the conference heard Dr. Reuven Padatzur, of the Netanya Academic College, say that the best option for Israel to deal with Iran, should it go nuclear, was for Jerusalem to openly declare its nuclear capabilities, and make clear that for "every Iranian nuclear missile flying towards Israel, there will be an Israeli missile flying in the opposite direction, and within 14 minutes, Iranian cities would be wiped out."
Padatzur said an Israeli military preemptive strike on Iran to end its nuclear program would "be a strategic mistake," casting doubts on intelligence estimates, and the ability of weapons to reach deep underground facilities.
"If the program is set back by two months, that is failure," he said. Addressing the recent Sunday Times article claiming that Israel has prepared an option of striking Iranian facilities, Padatzur said: "I hope this is an invention by the Sunday Times. I hope no one in Israel is considering using tactical nuclear weapons to strike facilities in Iran."
He added: "I fear our political leaders may choose to order a strike, which would be a big mistake. It would immediately end international pressure on Iran."
Padatzur also said that to rely on a "US nuclear shield" was insufficient, and doubted the viability of an Arrow missile defense shield. The analyst challenged comments by historian Bernard Lewis, who described the Iranian regime as suicidal.
"He made those comments because he's 91," Padatzur said. "I don't accept that view."
"Since it's not up to us, our best option is open nuclear deterrence," he said. "It's not good, but we'll have to do it once we are faced by a hostile nuclear threat."