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Jamal is from all over the place—Panama, Venezuela, Miami, South and East and West Lebanon. We met at a cafe in Beirut in March 2006. I had been reading—and was very amused by—his blog, which offered a satirical take on Lebanon’s sectarian political landscape, and pretended I wanted to interview him.
We soon began to collaborate producing radio features for a Pacifica affiliate in the US, and spent much of the 34-day war with Israel together (at a cafe in Hamra). I wouldn’t have survived that war without the Ghosn family’s generosity. Jamal risks getting bored without mischief, which is why he keeps me around. We have been running a nepotistic racket for the past eight years, and always find a way to get the other person a gig. Together we have passed through the halls and television studios of numerous media outlets. Jamal used to write the questions for the Arabic version of Jeopardy. He was managing editor for the English edition of the Beirut-based daily Al-Akhbar—a partner in the Wikileaks consortium. Recently, he left Beirut for Buenos Aires to dedicate himself fully to writing.
Jamal is a very astute political analyst and a bit of a math genius, but is decidedly shit at bets, which I—though far less knowledgeable—win every time. Over the years, he has paid for his folly in costly steak dinners, which is, I suspect, the real reason behind his move to Argentina. Here’s a new bet for you, Jamal: Given that Israel invades Lebanon during World Cup summers in which Germany failed to beat Italy (e.g. 1978, 1982, 2006), what will happen this year?

When Syrian Men Dance

29.05.14
3 min
Post

The “History repeats itself” saying comes in dozens of variations attributed to a lot of smart people. A lot of not so smart people will hang on to that principle and fish for historic parallels to try to prove a point. Here’s such an attempt. Baabda, Fayyadiyeh, and Yarzeh are a troika of towns just outside Beirut on the mountainous road to Damascus. Baabda houses Lebanon’s presidential palace, Yarzeh its Ministry of Defense, and Fayyadiyeh a large military base. There are also a bunch of bakeries, gas stations, and trees that double as urinals since many travelers use that stretch of the highway as a first pit stop on what could be a longish road trip. Technically, the eastbound lane can take you all the way to the Pacific coast of China, but realistically the longest trips undertaken by casual travelers end in Amman, Jordan. Truckers and religious pilgrimage buses reach the shores of the Persian Gulf. Of course, here I’m talking about in times of Peace. In times of war, most sane people tend to stay off the road. The 1975-1990 version of the Lebanese civil war ended after General Michel Aoun, head of one of the multiple Lebanese Armies and Governments at the time, lost his last stand in these 3 towns. Thousands of Syrian men armed with tanks and fighter jets took control of Baabda, Fayyadiyeh and Yarzeh, and danced in victory celebrations while carrying portraits of Hafez al-Assad. The General left the presidential palace in Baabda and sought refuge at the nearby French Embassy. He would later be exiled to France. Today, twenty five years later, the smog that hovers in this area just above Beirut is thicker, but that same dude is back from France and is a leading candidate to fill the top vacancy at the presidential palace in Baabda. Also today, and also twenty five years later, tens of thousands of unarmed Syrians–mostly men–filled the streets of Baabda, Fayyadiyeh, and Yarzeh, and danced while carrying posters of Bashar al-Assad, Hafez’s son. They went to cast their vote in the Presidential elections at the Syrian Embassy there. The crowd was called the largest Syrian gathering outside Syria. Ever. Unlike twenty five years ago, the tanks and fighter jets today are doing their thing on the other side of the border. It’s not exactly history repeating itself. It’s more of a bizarro universe remake of events. But hey, it’s desperate times. If this image ended a war once, it can do it again. With any luck, 25 years from now the Syrians– just like the Lebanese today–will be without a President.

When Syrian Men Dance

29.05.14
3 min
People
Jamal Ghosn
by Emily Dische-Becker