Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Lebanon is no stranger to disaster – but this is like nothing we’ve ever seen

Kim Ghattas writes:

The seismic event felt like an earthquake and an air raid wrapped into one. None of us in Lebanon have ever experienced anything like it, none of us have ever seen this type of utter devastation or can yet truly grasp the extent of what has befallen us and our beloved city, although we have been through more than any life could hold.

If you’re in your mid-40s in Lebanon, you’ve lived through 15 years of war, two Israeli invasions, 30 years of Syrian occupation, several rounds of economic collapse and currency devaluation, two Israeli bombing campaigns, a revolution, a wave of political assassinations that decimated the ranks of progressives, and, since the end of 2019, another wave of protests demanding the departure of the corrupt political elite – the same warlords who ran the war and then made the peace so they and their friends could continue to fill their pockets.

The revolution precipitated a financial and economic crisis, which was years in the making then compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns. And yet, we were still holding on, miraculously, not thanks to our leaders but despite them, thanks to private initiatives, incredible individuals running aid organisations, hospitals, clinics, schools, universities, the fabric that makes the country what it is: a place of incredible community that explains why, despite all the hurt, so many of us are unwilling to give up on Lebanon.

Our resilience is a blessing and a curse. We find ways to cope but it means we circumvent problems, we find solutions to everything but it means we don’t uproot the cause of the rot. We don’t want to die so we live by any means, we rebuild every time, as best as we can, but we’ve been unwilling to admit that we’ve been building on shaky foundations. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports:

Emmanuel Macron’s move to boost his country’s influence in Lebanon has shown a French president with the confidence, and political instinct, to seize his moment on the world stage.

Two days after the devastating explosion tore through Beirut Macron toured the site of the blast and some of the capital’s hardest-hit neighbourhoods.

Making the first visit by a foreign leader since the disaster, he was greeted with cheers in the streets of Beirut as he promised urgent international aid – but not without radical reform of a political class widely seen as corrupt and incompetent.

A vocal defender of liberal values and high-profile player in world affairs since his 2017 election, Macron relished the moment, prompting comparisons with a celebrated 1996 walkabout through Jerusalem’s old city by the late president Jacques Chirac widely seen as having cemented his popularity.

The president’s domestic opponents were quick to accuse him of neo-colonialist grandstanding, but analysts were generally impressed. [Continue reading…]

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