Wednesday, November 14, 2007


They ask me why I like Al-Akhbar. Here's the reason: in addition to its politics (it is a leftist daily newspaper that is not under the control of the House of Saud as Angry Arab would put it), on top of its support for the resistance against Israel, of its campaigning for the rights of the Palestinian people, of its innovativeness in addressing local and regional issues; its policy is to systematically highlight the plight of the exploited, the oppressed and the underserved, while avoiding the oversimplification trap. It is also one of the few to address seriously the productive sectors, especially agriculture. Look at today's issue: In the economics page, an excellent analysis of the Export Plus program initiated under Hariri to subsidize agricultural exports. The article points at the not-so-subtle difference between subsidizing agriculture and subsidizing long distance trade and export. It reveals that the program did not result in the revitalization of agriculture, but in enriching the big exporters, who buy the produce at the lowest prices, store it and then export it. It addresses the issue of triangular trade, the re-export of cheap farm imports. It shows that the program has encouraged export mostly to Syria and Egypt and not to new markets because Syria and Egypt is where money from the transport subsidies can be easily made. Farmers are asking for this subsidy to be limited to periods where there is excess production (and I agree with them) rather than being a blanket subsidy, and to be specific to certain crops.

A bit further, what promises to be a long reportage on the issue of drug crops in the Bekaa and Hermel. This is part 1 of 4 and I will be blogging the others as they are published. This is the report of the special committee appointed by Sanioura to deal with the issue of illicit crops in the Bekaa. The report states the conclusion of the committee early on: nothing can replace illicit crops (have you ever tried smoking sugar beet? yuckkk). There is also what appears to be decent situational analysis.

Al Akhbar, unlike what people say, is no unconditional supporter of the opposition: read this serious criticism by one of the editors (Khaled Saghiyyah) about Hizbullah's social policies. I like Saghiyyah: today he called Kushner a buffoon.

But that's not why I like Al-Akhbar. I like it is because it is not afraid to take risks, and to step outside the box. For 4 days now, it has published a series of cartoons drawn jointly by the talented Mazen Kerbaj and two Danish cartoonists, Jenz Koudahl and Ib Kjeldsmark (I have a soft spot for Danish cartoons: they move the Muslims more than any amount of Israeli and US bombing, more than the invasion of Iraq, more than thousand children deaths, more than 60 years of occupation of Palestine. Those Danes pack some punch). The first one was hilarious. The others are also very good. I tried copying them, but it comes out too small. here's the link for the first one, they're all on the last pages. It's called "Two blonds and an arab". Today's was about jazz and even had the word "fuck" in it. One wonders what the editors are doing.

And of course the fact that I write in Al-Akhbar does not at all affect my objective analysis.

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