The case of Salah Ezz el-Din, a Shi’ite Lebanese financier who has been accused of embezzlement and alleged to have defrauded Shi’ite investors, including Hezbollah officials, of hundreds of millions of dollars, has Lebanon in a stir.
Global News Journal
When Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud issued a memorandum giving Lebanese citizens the option to remove their sect from civil registry records, it seemed like a step towards removing deeply embedded sectarianism from Lebanon’s social fabric.
Lebanon’s beaches, ski slopes and nightclubs exude glitzy modernity. Its educated elite appears cosmopolitan and sophisticated. But beneath the gloss lie deeply traditional aspects of a society reluctant to shake off a sectarian power-sharing system in which loyalty to one of Lebanon’s 17 religious communities takes precedence over citizenship.
Lebanon, once a byword for violent anarchy, remains a country where the rule of law is patchy, to put it kindly. But Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, a youthful reform-minded lawyer who was appointed in July as part of a national unity government, is determined to change that, or at least to make a start. He has told the traffic police to do something about the cheerful but sometimes lethal chaos that pervades the roads.
In downtown Beirut, resurrected from the rubble of the 1975-90 civil war, one is spoilt for choice of smart restaurants, trendy bars and lively clubs. Performances by sexy Lebanese divas and belly dancers contribute generously to Lebanon’s gross domestic product by attracting Gulf Arab tourists enchanted with Lebanese talent and beauty — not necessarily in that order.
Hezbollah literally rolled out the red carpet to welcome home five prisoners released by Israel in a U.N.-mediated exchange deal. Securing the release of the last five Lebanese held by Israel was a major triumph for the group, which in turn handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in a 2006 raid into Israel.