DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 13,10-17. He was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, "Woman, you are set free of your infirmity." He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day." The Lord said to him in reply, "Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?" When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.
New Releases, Reports
Another dispute in Iraq presents an opportunity for reconciliation.The Daily Star.October 29/07
Displaced Iraqis: a tragedy in the making.By Sharouk Alabayachi and Robert Lowe.October 29/07
Latest News Reports From
Miscellaneous Sources for October 29/07
Kouchner Agrees to Meet Muallem. Did Paris-Damascus Agree on Lebanon's Next President-Naharnet
U.S. Denies Allegations about Military Bases in Lebanon-Naharnet
Hariri for Talks with Mubarak on Presidential Elections-Naharnet
Differences between Syria, France Over Lebanon-Naharnet
Britain Sends Strong-Worded Message to Syria-Naharnet
Aoun Puts Off Meeting with Jumblat-Naharnet
Israel Army Ready to Learn the Lesson-Naharnet
Moallem insists Syria has no favorite in Lebanese presidential sweepstakes-Daily Star
'Lebanon is in dire need of cooperation' - Sfeir-Daily Star
Siniora optimistic talks will lead to consensus-Daily Star
Paris, Riyadh see eye to eye on Lebanese crisis-AFP
Expect more assassinations - ex-military spy chief-Daily Star
Phalangists host Mass for slain MP Ghanem-Daily Star
Irish end long presence with UNIFIL in South-Daily Star
Israelis carry out maneuvers to 'learn lessons' of 2006 war.AFP
Robert Ghanem publishes presidential campaign platform-Daily Star
Lebanese insurers cry foul over draft law to revamp regulation-Daily Star
Stories sketch lives of Lebanese immigrants-Daily Star
Protesters demand new space for Beddawi students-Daily Star
South Korean peacekeepers reach out to locals-Daily Star
Crisis over presidency stirs fears at American University of Beirut.AFP
AUB students shocked by conditions at Nahr al-Bared-Daily Star
Greenpeace brings conservation message to Sidon-Daily Star
One man's bid to put Buddhism on Lebanon's map-Daily Star
Stigma of summer fighting adds to discrimination facing Palestinians-Daily Star
Turks kill 15 Kurdish rebels as diplomacy continues.AFP
Reformist MPs protest to Ahmadinejad over Larijani's replacement.AFP
ElBaradei: UN has no evidence Iran is making nuclear weapons-Daily Star
13 Palestinians found dead after boat sinks off Italy.AFP
more assassinations - ex-military spy chief
Daily Star staff
Monday, October 29, 2007
The former head of Lebanese military intelligence, Johnny Abdo, said in remarks published on Sunday that he did not expect the presidential election to be held before the constitutional deadline of November 24. "The Syrian regime's position is instability in Lebanon and a presidential vacuum," Abdo was quoted as saying in local newspapers. Abdo also said he expected the assassinations against anti-Syrian political figures to continue. Dozens of MPs from the anti-Syrian March 14 ruling majority have taken refuge in the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel for security reasons. He said car bombings, the most frequent killing method, would be replaced by shootings or mass assassinations targeting two or three politicians at a time. Abdo, who is also a presidential candidate but not taken seriously, advised Hizbullah "to revise its policies to avoid the mistakes of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas." He also said there should be a clear distinction between diplomacy and action. "There are a lot of moves but no real efforts," he said. Abdo also criticized French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran's visit to Syria on Sunday, when Cousseran met with President Bashar Assad and other top officials for talks that focused on the Lebanese crisis. "I don't understand why Mr. Cousseran has to visit Syria," he said, "as if the Syria position is still ambiguous." - The Daily Star
Agrees to Meet Muallem. Did Paris-Damascus Agree on Lebanon's Next President?
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has agreed to hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Istanbul this week, the French Foreign Ministry announced Monday. The announcement followed talks in Syria by Kouchner's envoy, Jean-Claude Cousseran. The Kouchner-Muallem meeting, the first since the French official refused to meet his Syrian counterpart during the U.N. General Assembly deliberations in September, will be held on the sidelines of a three-day conference on Iraq opening in Istanbul on Thursday. Kouchner cancelled a September meeting with Muallem in New York in response to the assassination of a Lebanese anti-Syrian MP. Lebanon's ruling coalition has accused Damascus of being behind the killing of Lebanese MP Antoine Ghanem in a car bomb in a Beirut suburb in September, a charge rejected by the Syrians. Ghanem was the eighth Damascus critic to be killed in Lebanon since the February 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri, and the fourth anti-Syrian MP killed since the 2005 elections.
Asked at the time if he held Syria responsible for the attack, Kouchner replied: "I did not say that. I think they are very influential in the region."
Cousseran held talks with high-ranking Syrian officials on Lebanon in an effort to overcome the ongoing political impasse between the anti-Syrian majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition. Cousseran, who arrived in Damascus on Sunday, met with Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, the official Syrian News Agency, SANA, said. The state-run Lebanese National news Agency said the viewpoints were matching as to the need for a Lebanon-made solution and for a Lebanese consensus on a presidential candidate "…who would unite the Lebanese and achieve security and stability in Lebanon."
The Syrian daily Al Watan, however, said there were differences on what it said were "French-Syrian priorities," particularly with respect to France's single focus on the Lebanese problem. "Syria stressed the need to re-warm ties between the two countries," Al Watan said.
It said Damascus also stressed that Europe, with France on top, must play an "effective role" in the Middle East and exert common efforts to resolve all the regional issues and bring the issue of peace to the forefront through a fair resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Muallem insisted that "points of view were identical on a compromise president" agreed upon by the Lebanese people. Cousseran and Sharaa "reviewed bilateral relations and the recent developments in the region including the situation in Lebanon," SANA said. Sharaa emphasized on "Syria's attachment to the stability of Lebanon and to its security," according to SANA. He insisted on the necessity of "the Lebanese agreeing on the election of a future president without outside interference," it said. Muallem told journalists after his discussions with the French official that Damascus and Paris agreed on the need for the Lebanese to elect "a consensus president". "Neither Syria nor France are pushing a particular candidate," he added. Fears are running high in Lebanon that deadlock over the election of a new president could lead to two rival governments and a return to the final years of the civil war when two competing administrations battled for control. (Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 29 Oct 07, 08:38
Hariri for Talks with Mubarak on Presidential Elections
Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri is to discuss with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak efforts exerted to facilitate the election of a new president for Lebanon, a statement reported Monday. The statement issued by Hariri's press office said he is scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with Mubarak and Egyptian officials covering "latest developments in Lebanon and the region, especially efforts exerted by Egypt and a number of Arab states to facilitate the election of a president for Lebanon."The short report did not disclose further details. Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit discussed Lebanon's ongoing political crisis with Lebanese officials during a one-day visit to Beirut Thursday. Beirut, 29 Oct 07, 19:12
U.S. Denies Allegations about Military Bases in Lebanon
The United States diplomatic mission in Lebanon on Monday issued a statement reiterating denial of allegations about intentions to set up military bases in Lebanon, terming such reports "fabricated." "The U.S. Embassy in Beirut categorically denies all rumors, reports, and news stories about alleged U.S. intentions to build U.S. military bases in Lebanon," the statement said. "As we said last week and are reiterating today, there is no basis for this story," it added. The U.S. diplomatic mission stressed that "there has been no request from the Government of Lebanon for such action, nor has the United States Government requested such bases, and we regret that this fabricated story continues to be published." Beirut, 29 Oct 07, 18:53
from The general coordinator of the United Nations Security Council Resolution
1559 Mr Toni Nissi
October 29, 2007
The general coordinator of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 Mr Toni Nissi commented yesterday on the press release issued by the Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary block. This last press release considered the Weapon's arsenal of Hizbollah as a "destiny" as long as the Zionist movement exists and that this armory no longer needs to be recognized by anybody or legalized.
Mr Nissi said: " We have been hearing recently declarations from high ranking officers in hizbollah's militia and from their echoing voices in the infamous Opposition movement stating that the militia has been preparing to retaliate in case a president was elected by half plus one quorum and who, moreover, is not ready to implement their (hizbollah) agenda. This fact was also emphasized by the Hizbollah deputy leader Naiim Kassem.who said that the militia is ready to resist any election by the majority.
It is enough after a war which has destroyed half Lebanon and killed 1500 of its people to hear that a "divine" victory still have a Destined arsenal and to be preached that this very weaponry is "destined" to the Lebanese people and that the job of the weapon is to destroy Israel and eliminate it from existence and no one has the right to argue for that weapon is "destined" weapon and destiny is from God and therefore who is better than hizbollah in explaining destiny.
Enough insulting the intelligence of the people and enough of abusing of God and its sacred entity as we all know that it is the weapon to protect the government of the scholars (wilayat al Fakih) in Lebanon and it is a weapon for violence, terrorism and for export of the Iranian Revolution to the world and this weapon was never a resistance weapon but a weapon directed inside to the other co patriots: who took the decision to fight the Kataeb i.e. the Christians (in your mission statement), who committed the camps war, who killed other Chiites when you tried to finish the Amal movement as a first step to control the Chiite movement and who kidnapped, in the Bekaa, South Beirut and Mount Lebanon, high ranking officers from the Lebanese army, the destiny of whom is still not known till now. Who did clandestine court martials and executed Lebanese without going back to the Lebanese state. The list goes on and on and the reference is none but the books written by your leaders and deputies.
Enough using the name of Resistance, you have kept this mascharade going since the Taef Accord as a reason to keep your weapons so that you can hijack the Chiites decisions, representation, voting and to even control the enormous spaces and Lebanese lands which amounts to be more than half of the Lebanese territory and through it to control the government decisions and to occupy Down town Beirut to finish off the Lebanese state.
Differences between Syria, France Over Lebanon
France's Middle East envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran held talks with high-ranking Syrian officials on Lebanon in an effort to overcome the ongoing political impasse between the anti-Syrian majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition.
Cousseran, who arrived in Damascus on Sunday, met with Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, the official Syrian News Agency, SANA, said. The state-run Lebanese National news Agency said the viewpoints were matching as to the need for a Lebanon-made solution and for a Lebanese consensus on a presidential candidate "…who would unite the Lebanese and achieve security and stability in Lebanon."
The Syrian daily Al Watan, however, said there were differences on what it said were "French-Syrian priorities," particularly with respect to France's single focus on the Lebanese problem. "Syria stressed the need to re-warm ties between the two countries," Al Watan said. It said Damascus also stressed that Europe, with France on top, must play an "effective role" in the Middle East and exert common efforts to resolve all the regional issues and bring the issue of peace to the forefront through a fair resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moallem insisted "points of view were identical on a compromise president" agreed upon by the Lebanese people. Cousseran and Sharaa "reviewed bilateral relations and the recent developments in the region including the situation in Lebanon," SANA said. Sharaa emphasized "Syria's attachment to the stability of Lebanon and to its security," according to SANA. He insisted on the necessity of "the Lebanese agreeing on the election of a future president without outside interference," it said. Muallem told journalists after his discussions with the French official that Damascus and Paris agreed on the need for the Lebanese to elect "a consensus president". "Neither Syria nor France are pushing a particular candidate," he added. Fears are running high in Lebanon that deadlock over the election of a new president could lead to two rival governments and a return to the final years of the 1975-1990 civil war when two competing administrations battled for control. (Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 29 Oct 07, 08:38
Britain Sends Strong-Worded Message to Syria
Britain has officially informed Lebanon that it had sent a strong-worded message to Syria urging it to play a 'positive role' in Lebanon as well as in Palestine and Iraq.
The daily An Nahar on Monday said the letter was conveyed after it was certain that Damascus not only did not carry out its role in any of the crises gripping the three countries, but also did not help facilitate the arrival of a compromise president by means of convincing "local allies" to soften their stances in order to facilitate the election process. An Nahar, quoting ministerial sources, said Michael Williams, UK's Middle East envoy, informed several political and religious Lebanese leaders of Briton's wish to help Lebanon overcome its ongoing political crisis. The sources said Britain was coordinating efforts with the United States and France in this respect and away from the media's spotlight. An Nahar said Williams deduced from his meeting during last week's visit Beirut that the opposition "strictly rejects" U.S.' intervention in Lebanese politics, when at the same time, various anti-government leaders stressed that the opposition was not for Syria's nor Iran's meddling in domestic issues, particularly in the presidential election. Beirut, 29 Oct 07, 12:39
Aoun Puts Off Meeting with Jumblat
An impending meeting between anti-Syrian Druze MP Walid Jumblat and Christian opposition leader Gen. Michel Aoun has been put off, Jumblat announced.
Jumblat said Aoun was scheduled to meet him over dinner at his residence on Monday, "but it looks like he wants to postpone dinner."
"I have no problem with Aoun. He is welcome. I'm waiting for him (to come) anytime he wants," Jumblat told reporters after talks with Prime Minister Fouad Saniora at the Serail late Sunday. Jumblat said the meeting has been delayed for the second time by Aoun. "I have no idea why. Ask his (Aoun) allies," Jumblat said.
Also Sunday evening former President Amin Gemayel discussed with Saniora the presidential election. Over the weekend, Gemayel held talks with Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah at his Sin al-Fil residence as part of efforts aimed at finding ways to "settle the ongoing political crisis." Resigned Hizbullah Energy and Water Minister Mohammed Fneish on Sunday reiterated the group's demand for a compromise president, on condition he "supports" the resistance. "The right president will bring together the disputed factions and will unite the country ... and would not get rid of the resistance," Fneish said. The daily An Nahar on Monday quoted a senior Hizbullah official as saying the party supports "any presidential candidate unanimously agreed upon by the Christians." Beirut, 29 Oct 07, 12:59
is in dire need of cooperation' - Sfeir
By Maroun Khoury
Daily Star correspondent
Monday, October 29, 2007
BKIRKI: Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir urged Lebanese politicians during in his Sunday sermon to work together in order to ensure the country's best interests. The Maronite Church has been trying in recent days to help rival political camps agree on a consensus candidate for the upcoming presidential election.
Two parliamentary sessions were postponed after MPs failed to agree on a compromise candidate, and Speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled another electoral meeting for November 12. With President Emile Lahoud's term expiring on November 24, many Lebanese worry that the country will end up with two rival governments and possibly violence if the feuding factions fail to find consensus. With the date for the next Parliament session rapidly approaching, the divided sides have yet to progress to debating specific names of candidates in their negotiations. "Lebanon is in dire need of cooperation among its people, especially in the political field," Sfeir said during his sermon. He added that Lebanon needed good management "to prevent people from emigrating in search of a better country that provides them with stability and a good living."Sfeir said he hoped the efforts underway to help the Lebanese reach a deal would yield a positive result. In addition to his appeals, Sfeir has been leading rounds of meetings with politicians from the March 14 majority and the March 8 opposition. A four-member committee, with two representatives from each camp, was created to follow up on these meetings. The committee ended its mission on Saturday and filed a report to Sfeir in which it urged all MPs to participate in the November 12 election session, according to media reports. Sfeir was expected on Sunday to meet with MPs from the March 14 Forces. As The Daily Star went to press, it was still unclear whether the meeting was going to take place.
By Christian Porth
Special to The Daily Star
Monday, October 29, 2007
BEIRUT: A veritable cornucopia of ecclesiastical beliefs, Lebanon is home to one of the most diverse religious landscapes in the world. The Lebanese Constitution officially recognizes 18 different religious groups, accounting for 98.7 percent of the total Lebanese population. Among the many unrecognized religious groups in Lebanon, Buddhists represent a unique perspective, a dovetailing of East and West. They are a tiny community, however, comprising an estimated 0.1 percent of the country's population. Enter Paul Jahshan, Lebanese Christian by birth, professor of American studies at Notre Dame University, world traveler, fluent in Chinese, and author of two books: "Henry Miller and the Surrealist Discourse of Excess," and "Cybermapping and the Writing of Myth."
In 2006, Jahshan established the Buddhist Society of Lebanon, and recently he created what he describes as a new school of Buddhist thought - "Progressive Buddhism" - in an attempt to provide a forum for Lebanese and other Buddhists. "What we're doing with Buddhism is stripping it of a lot of its rituals, its more archaic principles, in an attempt to create a more modern and usable 21st-century Buddhist thought," Jahshan said.
Being a Buddhist in Lebanon is certainly an interesting proposition, but is there a Buddhist following in Lebanon? "I am sure that there are a lot of 'closet' Buddhists in Lebanon, but nobody has gone as far as openly professing it. Not that they would be persecuted or anything; it is just something that has not been done," Jahshan said on the Web site www.bsolleb.org. "Most Lebanese don't know what Buddhism is about, so it's relegated to the status of just another exotic religion of the East. It's a new thing to them," he added. What is Progressive Buddhism? According to the society's Web site, "Progressive Buddhism is not a new fad. In it, there are no rituals, no conversions, no initiations, no sacred books, no chanting, no exotic foreign languages, no esoteric teachings, no secrets, no surprises. Progressive Buddhism is only a convenient term ... to describe how the advice given by the historical Siddharta Gautama can be practically and usefully adapted to any contemporary environment with the aim of producing awakening. Progressive Buddhism restarts every time a historical change takes place and is therefore not tied to a person, time or place. As such, Progressive Buddhism is and should be constantly changing." Buddhism is not a religion, said. Instead, "it is a way of life, a way of seeing things, a philosophy and mainly a psychological tool to attain enlightenment."With themes of adaptation and awakening, perhaps the Lebanese, plagued by cyclical crises, may want to take a closer look at Progressive Buddhism. The philosophy, Jahshan said, is about "knowing yourself and focusing on the present and also compassionately dealing with your fellow human beings."
Stigma of summer fighting adds to discrimination facing Palestinians
Some analysts see reconstruction of camp as opportunity to improve relations with Lebanese
Monday, October 29, 2007
BEIRUT: Denied access to social services, education, adequate housing and employment, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon continue to suffer discrimination and marginalization. More than half of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been forced to live segregated in refugee camps since they were forced to flee their lands and homes after the creation of Israel in 1948. "Palestinians just want security, freedom and justice," says Fatima, a local resident of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in North Lebanon. "What happened to my grandfather, my father and my brother is happening to us now. Do the youth have to experience the same situation as our parents?"
Daily life for Palestinians involves dealing with the pains of living in exile and systematic discrimination.
"We are homeless, so let us live in freedom and safety," Fatima adds. "Is this treatment only for the Palestinian people? Is it because the Palestinians don't have a leader? It's a shame."All 12 of the official refugee camps in Lebanon suffer from inadequate infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty and high unemployment.
"Lebanon has one of the highest percentages of Palestinian refugees who are living in abject poverty and who are registered with the agency's special hardship program," the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Rights in the Near East (UNRWA) has said.
Lebanon, as a member of the Arab League, officially recognizes the state of Palestine. But the reciprocity law, which permits foreigners to work in Lebanon only if they are nationals of a state that opens its labor market to Lebanese nationals, has created obstacles for Palestinians in finding employment - they are stateless.
"The continuing restrictions which deny Palestinian refugees rights to work, education and adequate housing and health are wholly unjustified and should be lifted without further procrastination or delay," says Amnesty International (AI).
At a press conference in Beirut last week, AI released a 31-page report "Exiled and Suffering: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon." AI urged the Lebanese government to protect fully and uphold the basic rights of Palestinian refugees. "We urge the Lebanese government to take immediate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against Palestinian refugees in order to enable them to exercise their economic, social and cultural rights on the same basis as the rest of the population of Lebanon," the report said. In 2005, Beirut lifted a ban on 50 of the 70 professions declared off-limits to Palestinians, but only a few can afford the $700 work permit.
Since the 15-week Nahr al-Bared conflict broke out in May, many Palestinians have reported being abused and threatened by soldiers at checkpoints.
Earlier this year, fighting erupted between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam militants at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. The conflict, which began May 20 and ended September 2, left at least 400 people dead, including an unknown number of Palestinian civilians, and about 170 Lebanese soldiers.
Some 31,000 residents were forced to flee, with slightly less than half finding shelter at the nearby Beddawi refugee camp near the port city of Tripoli. The infrastructure, water and sewage systems at Nahr al-Bared were largely destroyed.
Speaking at a donor conference in Beirut on September 10, Premier Fouad Siniora requested $55 million from international donors to see Palestinians and Lebanese affected by the conflict through to August 2008. Estimates released at the conference said rebuilding the camp and surrounding areas, as well as emergency relief, would cost more than $400 million.
"Failing to rebuild Nahr al-Bared will mean catastrophic consequences," said Siniora. "We cannot risk chaos and violence in any of Lebanon's 11 other camps. If we fail to rebuild, it will not only be tragic, but the dangers will be limitless. This was a wake-up call." Reconstruction, however, would still leave fundamental issues unresolved. "The Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces are basically looking upon Palestinians as a threat," says Rania Masri, an assistant professor at the University of Balamand. Many Lebanese blame the Palestinians for allowing Fatah al-Islam into Nahr al-Bared and say reconstruction and the refugees' return could reignite violence. But some analysts believe there will be a renewed cooperation in rebuilding. "This is the first time that the Palestinian leadership is working with the Lebanese government to improve security in the camps. This should turn a new page in the history of Palestinian-Lebanese relations in Lebanon and ease hostilities of the Civil-War years," says Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. "This should also coax the Lebanese government to grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon social and economic rights."
Stories sketch lives of Lebanese immigrants
Author Evelyn Shakir's anthology looks in on the intimate experiences of Arab women in America
By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie
Daily Star staff
Monday, October 29, 2007
BEIRUT: A father admonishes his rebellious daughter for interrupting his stories with her smart-alecky questions. Another daughter casually mentions a romance to her father, who from then on refuses her phone calls and burns her letters. A third daughter sits begrudgingly at a kitchen table, listening to her relatives repeat their oft-told stories of immigration and adjustment, until they strike an unexpected taboo and reveal a long-buried account of intra-family molestation.
The 10 stories collected in Evelyn Shakir's "Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America" deal primarily with the difficulties women historically endured as first- and second-generation immigrants from Lebanon to the US.
Shakir's characters grapple with maintaining old world appearances of chastity and honor and experiencing new world realities of self-reliance and sexual freedom. They struggle with the knowledge that to be born female is to bring sadness to their families. They fret over which fashions best express their femininity - prim and proper or, several of these stories being set in the 1960s and 1970s, loose and liberal with beads, tie-dies, daisy chains and sandals.
They fight, most illuminatingly, with men who treat them as exotic as other, even if those men are also the descendents of Lebanese emigres. Throughout, they agonize over whether or not to marry within the tribe, whether or not to marry blonde Irish or Dutch foreigners seemingly so at odds with their customs, indeed whether or not to marry at all. More cloyingly, they deliberate over whether or not to eat chocolate bars, when to pierce their ears and how to keep up their looks.
"Remember Me to Lebanon," published this year by Syracuse University Press, is Shakir's second book in the same vein. Her first, "Bint Arab: Arab and Arab American Women in the United States," was published in 1997, the culmination of 10 years of research.
Shakir is herself the daughter of Lebanese immigrants. She studied at Wellesley, Harvard and Boston University, taught literature at Bentley College and now lives in West Roxbury. As such, both "Bint Arab" and "Remember Me to Lebanon" are particularly imbued with the Lebanese-American experience as it unfolded in Boston's South End and through the activities of what was once called the Lebanese-Syrian Ladies' Aid Society.
For "Bint Arab," Shakir collected copious interviews with mostly Lebanese and Palestinian women and their daughters. She also incorporated her own mother's story into a study of migration, its consequences and its occasional malcontents, from the early 19th century through the late 20th century. Her work in this and previous endeavors earned her recognition as a pioneer in the scholarship of Arab-American literature.
"Remember Me to Lebanon," however, rests uneasily between fact and fiction, between oral histories recorded for sociological purposes and acts of an unfettered imagination. Shakir's preface condenses the many waves of migration from Lebanon to the US, from the 1870s to the present day, into a page and a half. Her acknowledgments thank scores of people for their stories and their contributions to the book's veracity. The flap copy asserts the "agile humor and emotional truth" of Shakir's narratives.
Yet it remains difficult to determine what exactly one is reading here. Selections such as "The Story of Young Ali" and "Oh, Lebanon," both set within relative proximity to the present, capture the frustrations of young women living on their own, seeking educations and careers, and grappling with family elders who prefer them obedient and silent rather than hardworking and forthright.
"Oh, Lebanon" in particular has the arc of short fiction, structured by narrative suspense and a final plot twist. The story "House Calls" orchestrates one brilliant surprise in the discovery of old letters. But elsewhere, the action falls flat, restricted as it is to table talk and straightforward recollection and lives that go nowhere.
"Remember Me to Lebanon" also puts forth a certain speech pattern that is, for this reader at least, both hokey and unlikely. It begins with the story "Remember Vaughn Monroe?" and carries through "Power Play," "Name Calling," "Not Like Today" and "The Trial," characters who speak in "folks" and "fellas" and "gals," who construct their verbs as "I got me" this and "I got me" that. Where are we? Clearly in past times, but geographically the accent is unclear. Shakir's book is an interesting account of immigrants in America, one that may complement the rich literary history of, say, the Irish and Italian experiences in the US. It also provides a compelling account for readers in Lebanon, explaining, for example, why the offspring of those who migrated never learned Arabic and opted for assimilation over the strict preservation of their culture. In terms of general interest audiences, "Remember Me to Lebanon" is most suitable to young adult reading lists.
**Evelyn Shakir's "Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America" is published by Syracuse University Press