Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 20

That must have been her thousandth cigarette.

Fine, so she was smoking like a chimney. So who cared? You had to die from something didn’t you?

Granted, you were not forced to do so agonizing with your blackened lungs, but still. And in any case, smoking was the only thing that kept her balanced at the moment. You know, the usual addict excuse.

Jesus Fucking Christ, did these chairs need to be so rickety? Bread republic really was too shabby for its own good. Sacrificing comfort for some Old World Bourgois Boheme was not worth it. She tried to convey waves of aggression to the oblivious waitress, Melat, who always seemed to float several meters above the ground. Her slender figure seemed to gracefully slalom between tables, while her stare went beyond everyone’s head. Gabrielle sometimes thought that looking at her was like looking in a mirror: slim, sharp and eyes closed for no one to see what was behind.

Today, she quite simply hated everything. And everyone. But most importantly, herself.

Nina came, that dreadful Beirut Princess in tow, closely followed by a Lily who was looking quite disheveled. Quite a bit like someone who had just stumbled out of bed. With someone, that is, not from a deep slumber with Orpheus.

– Habibi, you look like shit.

Nina stated the unnecessary obvious.

– You should see how I feel inside.
– No need. It’s all there on your face.
– Thanks Nina my love, always a relief to see you. How’s the fucked up life of Little Yas?

– So i’m not stupid BP any longer? It’s so good to feel like I’m finally turning into a human being with you Gaby.

Lily was not joining the usual greeting banter.

– Lil! What’s up 3omri? Even looking and feeling like shit I indulge in our little uplifing dance. What’s wrong?

– Nothing.

– You’re like the worst liar there ever was, said Nina rummaging into her huge bag for God Knows What. AND, my delirious brother has stopped answering my calls altogether, so I’m doing an intervention at his place after our brunch here. I’m not overly worried, mind you, he’s probably deep in his existential angst, asking himself whether Trotsky really was right.

– I slept with him!

– Who,Trostky?

– VERY Funny Gabrielle! Ziad! I slept with Ziad! Nina! Say something, don’t sit there looking as if you saw a ghost!

– Gabrielle. Give me a cigarette, no but and don’t object, give me a cigarette right fucking now I need it.

Gabrielle obeyed. She knew when not to upset Mother Nina.

– Lily. Nina’s voice was dangerously low. It was the Icy Queen Tone she used with her friends, family and clients when they were being particularly unreasonable. Lily. My brother means the world to me you know that. And you mean the universe. But my brother is a stupid immature dickhead who still needs to find out who he is and he’s bad for you.

– I love him.

– Great, we’ll bring the violins some other time if you don’t mind, I’m not finished yet.

– Oh Goodie.

– Nina, let her speak. You’ll have all the time in the world to lay down your judgment and tell her what she should do.

Nina looked at Gabrielle as if she had lost an ally. Seriously, where was the world coming to if people didn’t listen to the voice of reason, aka, herself?

– Fine, she conceded curtly.

Lily sighed. This was not going to be easy.

– So, after I had taken the high road and decided I would wait and see, the events carried me away, if I may say so. He kept calling me,playing me music, stupid things really. Said his life was meaningless if I wasn’t in it. He said a lot of things, mouhem, he said that I was the only one that mattered. But I wouldn’t listen, or I would, but wouldn’t answer. And so. So he showed up one evening. He looked at me Nina, he just had to look at me, and something melted, deep inside. Next thing I know we’re kissing and clinging on to each other as if we were drowning. He carries me, he carries me and I let him, one look and I’m gone and honestly I kind of lost track of time, and space and everything. Just his skin is enough.

– Ewww that’s my brother we’re talking about ewwww

– And it has been like that since then. He comes, we have, yes Nina cover up your chaste ears, we have mind blowing sex, we share a cigarette, he looks at me, he opens his mouth to speak and I shut him up, with a kiss or my finger on his mouth.

– But why? The Beiruti Princess seemed puzzled. Mesmerized, moved, and very, very puzzled.

– Because I don’t want to spoil it with words. I know words. I work with them. I know they can spoil everything, they have that power.

– Speaking of words, I read the new and improved version of your column, it’s brilliant.

– Yes yes, thank you Nina, but for now my brain is frozen, I can’t think of anything else than your brother.

– That’s because of all the sex, volunteered Gabrielle.

The waitress was waiting for them to order, poised with her pen in her hand. God knows for how long she’d been there. She probably did not know it herself. All 5 women in a circle, none of their minds within.

– I’ll have a ginger juice please, thank you

– An raqwe please, no cardamom no sugar no nothing. I want it black please

– A double espresso

– A latte with extra milk and sugar

– This is disguting Yasmine, this isn’t coffee.

– Thank you for your input Gabrielle. I’ll have a double latte with extra extra milk and sugar please.

– D’you know darling, perhaps we might very well be able to do something with you

Melat floated away, leaving the four girls deep into their shared silence.

– I’m in love with a man who doesn’t want to become one.

– I’ve never really been in love.

– Shut up Yasmine, you’re like 12, you have all the time in the world.

– Fuck off Gabrielle I was almost married.

– Good girl, you’re learning to fend for yourself.

– And why were you looking ashen when we came?

– Grace wants us to leave Lebanon.


Lily’s outcry was overpowered by something none of them had seen before.

Nina was crying. In itself a sight more distressing than the last visit of the Pope, which, let’s face it, was extremely disturbing.

– Nina, Nina stop this, stop this this minute, Jesus Fucking Christ, Lily do something, Yasmin, bring her water, Nina I’m not going anywhere, khalas, I’m just fighting with Grace at the moment We’re not leaving, khalas habibti dakheelik if you stop crying I’ll even be nice to Beiruti Princess over here, shou fi, lek shou fi, redde! Is it the shop?

Nina smiled between her tears.

No the shop is good, I wanted to tell you about this, but no, it’s silly, I just, I met someone.

The girls took a collective intake of breath. Nina’s private life was usually kept very private, as in, she worked all day all night and did not seem interested in anyone, even though lots of men, and women, seemed very interested indeed.

– And I think I’m pregnant. Except I’m so scared I’m in complete denial and don’t want to take neither the test, nor his calls and I’m petrified and this is why I’m not smoking this cigarette you gave me, that’s because I’m so scared, and I’m not sure I want it if I really am pregnant. My mother will die.

They all looked stunned.

– What?

– The Fuck?

– Jesus. Jesus.

Gabrielle couldn’t bring herself to finish off with Fucking Christ. A couple of meters away, sitting at a nearby table, Hamed from Mashrou3 Leila was writing down lyrics for a new song while humming Imm el Jacket. Beirut lived on, its noise filling the deathly silence of their table.

Une Réponse à Ziyad Makhoul

Cet article est une réponse à Ziad Makhoul dans L’Orient-Le Jour

Cher Monsieur Makhoul,


Votre billet dans L’Orient- Le Jour m’ayant caressée dans le mauvais sens du poil, je vous prie donc de bien vouloir m’excuser de ma réponse, qui ne vous plaira sans doute pas.

Votre ton condescendant à l’égard de la décision prise par le groupe Mashrou3 Leila d’annuler sa première partie au concert des Red Hot Chili Peppers masque à mon sens une absence totale de compréhension de ce qu’est la campagne BDS. C’est dommage d’avoir recours à des stratagèmes agressifs alors qu’ouvrir une page web me semble à la portée de votre infinie sagesse. Mais enfin, passons.  A toutes fins utiles, merci de consulter la page de la campagne, sait-on jamais, vous pourriez éventuellement apprendre des choses : www.bdsmovement.net.

Avant toute chose, je vous prie de garder vos insultes sectaires pour vous : j’étais parmi les personnes demandant à Mashrou3 Leila de s’abstenir d’ouvrir pour les RHCP. Non Monsieur Makhoul je ne fais pas partie du PSNS, non Monsieur Makhoul je ne fais pas partie du Hezbollah (et soi dit en passant, ces groupes politiques sectaires ne détiennent pas le monopole de la solidarité avec le peuple Palestinien) et j’ai le sens commun de ne pas me définir en tant qu’intellectuelle, et quand bien même je le ferais, je vous prie encore une fois de vous abstenir d’y ajouter ‘de pacotille’. J’ai tout de même un Master en droit humanitaire, ca m’embêterait que mon pauvre papa ait payé ces études pour qu’ensuite l’on vienne me gratifier de ce genre d’épithètes peu affectueuses vous en conviendrez.  Laissez-moi ajouter que l’extrême majorité des personnes demandant à Mashrou3 Leila de s’abstenir de jouer ne font partie d’aucune des catégories que vous avez créées : il serait donc de bon ton de votre part, et bien, pourquoi pas, de les garder pour vous.

Les choses étant ainsi posées, je me permets de rentrer dans le vif du sujet : vous admettez vous-même que seuls les Palestiniens qui ‘pourront se le permettre’ seront fous de joie à l’idée de voir les RHCP en concert. Il n’est pas clair si vous entendez par là financièrement ou autre, mais permettez-moi d’attirer votre attention sur ce point, car il est crucial à la décision de Mashrou3 Leila. Le fait est que de nombreux Palestiniens, indépendamment de l’ampleur de leurs moyens financiers, ne pourront tout simplement pas écouter les Red Hot, car l’Etat Israélien réduit leur liberté de mouvement au-delà de tout entendement. Selon les permis qu’ils possèdent et que le gouvernement Israélien prend un malin plaisir à changer à tour de bras sans aucune autre forme de procès, les Palestiniens ne peuvent pas circuler entre la Cisjordanie, les Territoires de 1948 et Gaza. Cette absence de liberté de mouvement est couplée d’une violation quotidienne des droits humains du peuple palestinien : arrestations et détentions arbitraires, harcèlements au point de passage et par les colons, torture et traitements inhumains et dégradants, appropriation de terres par les colons et j’en passe. Voilà donc les politiques de l’Etat Hébreu à l’encontre des Palestiniens : des politiques d’apartheid, ni plus ni moins.

Le boycott est une action pacifique visant à affaiblir le régime d’apartheid Israélien et les mécanismes qui lui permettent d’améliorer son image au niveau international. Cette stratégie a été utilisée en Afrique du Sud avec beaucoup de succès, et est donc utilisée pour la Palestine. Israël a identifié le BDS comme étant la deuxième plus grande menace à sa sécurité après l’Iran, signe du succès de la campagne s’il en est.

Les RHCP ont refusé l’appel au boycott : ils n’ont donc aucun problème à fermer les yeux sur ce qui se passe en Israël et dans les Territoires occupés (et au Liban, juste pour un petit rappel, Israel n’a jamais vraiment montré énormément de respect pour nous il me semble).  Mashrou3 Leila a décidé qu’ils ne pouvaient en faire autant : que danser et chanter pour un groupe qui se moque des droits humains de tous les peuples va à l’encontre de ce en quoi il croit. Ils ont donc annulé, pas parce qu’ils sont à la botte de Hassan Nasrallah, mais parce qu’une position de principe équivaut à toutes les ouvertures de tous les groupes du monde.


Et laissez-moi vous dire une chose : Mashrou3 Leila ne s’est pas suicidé. Nous ne les aimons que plus, ils nous donnent l’impression et l’espoir qu’un Liban solidaire et conscient est possible, chose que l’élite politique actuelle et ses sbires et supporters nous ont enlevé il y a bien, bien longtemps. 

A letter to Mashrou3 Leila

Ya habibi,

You rocked me to the sounds of your ballads.
You made my heart beat a little faster when your words seemed to speak and whisper to me only.
You danced with me, you got me drunk with joy and happiness while I was twirling to the sound of your voice and violin.
You asked me not to forget you: my heart skipped a beat. I smelt the Jasmin and heard the abuse 3al 7ajiz. Like so many Palestinians.
You were the musical arm of our voices, or at least I wanted you to be. We don’t always get what we want, no point in being a brat now.
You inspired me, you dared to utter words that proved your courage, the courage to challenge an obsolete establishment. You did so with humor and laughter and melancholy in your voice. It reflected my state of mind, I was grateful a public figure dared taking this step, I was grateful talent and opinions mixed.

Soon, You are scheduled to open for a well known band. I can understand your excitement and sense of achievement. It really is a seal of your success.
But habibi, this band will be going to entertain apartheid. It will make oppressors dance and jump, it will be oblivious of the People who could not get there to see them, because they’re Palestinians, and because Palestinians need papers and permits and procedures to circulate freely in their own country. In their own land. It will turn a blind eye on the daily human rights abuse and violations Palestinians have to endure. It will turn a blind eye on the occupation, in Lebanon and in Palestine, and on the sufferings of people who have to endure its consequences.

In your hands, you have tremendous power: the power to say no. No, we will not open for a band that prefers avoiding the truth. No, we refuse to be part of the normalization of atrocity.

In your hands you have the power to say yes. Yes, we will play and open to the Red Hot Chili Peppers if we manage to convince them to cancel their show in Israel. Yes, we have the power to enforce what we stand for, to remain politically aware of our actions.

Habibi, do you realize the amount of power you hold in your beautiful hands? Use it. Use it wisely.

Jeel al Thawra

Who are you what do you want don’t speak don’t scream don’t run we will find you we will curse you we will beat you. We have the means to scare and terror and coerce don’t speak don’t scream don’t run.
Pleased to meet you, you didn’t know us, do you? No, no you wouldn’t. We’re people of this land. We live and breathe and try to work even when there isn’t any. Every day we pound the streets of what you call your cities, we walk along the bright avenues alight with despair feeding on our hopes and dreams we survive, we live half a life, we curse you in the little privacy that we have let in the growing insanity of our minds.
We hate and resent and fight you, you are contempt you are fear you are shame and we can’t abide anymore we can’t submit anymore and we can’t carry on anymore. We refuse to carry on watching how you sell our very souls, we refuse to participate in the massacre of our humanity.
Who are you, we don’t know you,what do you want, why are you screaming why are you speaking why are you running?
We are pride and joy and wild hope and faith and solidarity. We have integrity and flaws and contradictions. We love our country to death, and yeah we mean than literally. We live to feel the pulse of free life running through our veins, even if it’s only for a split second.
You don’t know us now do you? No, no you wouldn’t .

We are Jeel al Thawra. The Revolution Generation.
And we will speak and we will scream and we will run until you’ve screamed and ran and ran and never come back, until the bullets you send us stop hitting our chests, until we pound the streets of what you can’t call your cities.

Until we are free at last.