Mideastwire's translation of Khaled Saghiyeh's piece in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar. In his piece yesterday, Saghiyeh writes of the "colonial understanding of human rights" that the very honourable MP, Mrs. Gilberte Zouein, adheres to. According to Zouein's rationale, human rights come gradually and it's not first-come-first-serve, it's a matter of who ranks higher, who deserves them more. Saghiyeh compares between the colonial stratification of rights and peoples (the state's rights, then the white man's rights, then women's rights, then anyone else) with that of Gilberte (the state's rights, then the human rights of the Lebanese man followed by those of the Lebanese woman, children and only then can we start thinking of Palestinian refugees or Ethiopian domestic workers or labour migrants from Syria, Egypt or elsewhere.
Perhaps Saghiyeh is right in claiming that MP Zouein and her likes don't really want to end political sectarianism or give women their right provided they can pass the persecution unto the Palestinians "and perhaps hit the maid." This is far beyond a personal critique of Mrs. Zouein - isn't this how many Lebanese people think? Don't the Lebanese hide from their troubles and refrain from addressing their ills as long as they practice racism and persecute Palestinians, South Asians, Ethiopians, Africans, Egyptians and Syrians? Perhaps that makes Mrs Zouein yet another "good MP" in that she represents and reflects a Lebanese reality!
On June 17, Khaled Saghiyeh wrote the following opinion piece in the pro-parliamentary minority daily Al-Akhbar: “Palestinians in Lebanon must cool off a bit. It is true that they did not win any rights, but they did succeed in something more important. They succeeded in inciting MP Gilberte Zouein to speak. Her Excellency, the MP, has spoken. She made her first statement after the renewal of her term in order to comment on what took place yesterday in parliament.
“She spoke and said that if all the projects pertaining to Palestinian civil rights in Lebanon are to be executed, then this will send Lebanese society back to “its instincts.” This is of course a disaster. Indeed, Lebanese society currently enjoys a wealth of rationality. The proof is that Mrs. Zouein was re-elected after the un-paralleled success that she achieved in her previous parliamentary term.
“Her Excellency the MP cites impossible conditions before being able to grant Palestinians some of their rights such as “the State being able to unite Lebanon’s sects and groups within one Lebanese entity,” i.e. eliminating political sectarianism, and that “the Christians of Lebanon should recover their rights.” But the really “cute” [in English in original text] condition is the last one: “It is not right to legalize any right of any people in the Lebanese State, while the Lebanese State is absent and un-concerned about the rights of women and children.”
“We conclude from this that Mrs. Zouein respects Human Rights, but is getting to this gradually: The State’s rights first, Christians’ rights second, Women’s rights third, children fourth…[ellipses as published] and then we can look into Palestinian rights. This is very logical. Indeed, as we speak about Human Rights, humans must be divided into categories before looking into [providing them] with their rights.
“Without her knowledge, Mrs. Zouein is loyal to the colonial understanding of Human Rights. The State’s rights first, white people's rights second and women’s rights third. Then, we look into what we should do for emigrants and the blacks…[Ellipses as published]. She is playing the part of the victim who enjoys her situation as long as she is capable of persecuting others.
"Indeed, Zouein is not looking for a civil State. She wants to keep the sects’ game running and her constant nagging about her status as a minority, on the condition that she can persecute the Palestinians and perhaps, hit “the maid.” Mrs. Zouein is not a mere MP. She was yesterday speaking in the name of a large group of MPs and people that she represents. Gilberte Zouein: remember this name. All of Lebanon will start repeating variations of her statements starting this moment.” - Al-Akhbar Lebanon, Lebanon
Fouad GM is a social scientist, and researcher in Middle Eastern affairs. His writings have appeared on several websites, blogs, newspapers and publications by think tanks and research centres. Follow him on Twitter