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Ayoon Wa Azan (A Pleasure That I Can Only Find in Lebanon).

Most people know only one line of work that they practice, and know no other. I for instance have worked in journalism since my university days and know no other line of work, while bearing in mind that some readers do not believe that I am adept, be it in journalism or any other line of work.

Compare this to my friend Taher al-Masri. This gentleman, during the time that I knew him, worked for the Central Bank of Jordan, was the ambassador to London, Paris and Madrid, and then occupied the post of Minister for the Occupied Territories and Minister of Foreign Affairs. After that he became Deputy Prime Minister, then Prime Minister and after that Speaker of the Parliament. Now he is the President of the Senate of which he was a member, and the Chairman of the National Dialogue Committee. And between this and that, Taher al-Masri was the head of the Board of Trustees of the University of Science and Technology.

I had sat by Taher's side after being invited by Prime Minister Najib Mikati with friends to a luncheon at the Grand Serail. I started thinking of the posts Masri occupied throughout his career, and I think he probably has enough titles to compete with the Duchess of Alba, who I read has 50 titles that range between Duchess, Marquise and Countess, in addition to dozens of other titles.

During the gathering, the pertinent Arab issues were tackled, as we bade farewell to an eventful year, and welcomed a new year which most of us expected would be as significant as the outgoing one, as it picks up where the latter left off. Masri also elaborated on the efforts of the dialogue committee in Jordan and the proposals it has reached. All of us got involved, and we exchanged views, agreed and disagreed, without anyone anathematizing the others.

The meeting was private and the conversation is not for publication so I shan't publish it. But perhaps I can leak some ideas in this column in the near future, while pretending they are my own brainchildren.

There is something in common between Masri and the Prime Minister: Both men are cautious and weigh their words carefully as though they were ounces of gold, and try not to make any gaffes, or say things that they would regret and would have to subsequently retract or apologize for. Perhaps this is the secret of their successes, as Mr. Mikati seems to be rather reserved when it comes to information and extracting it from him is as difficult as extracting a tooth, while Taher occupied all those political posts only because he was the politician who was the least prone to error among his generation's politicians.

I always found that political meetings as such are a pleasure that I can only find in Lebanon. A few days ago, I had mentioned such sessions I had with MPs in cafes around Parliament Square, and today I continue talking about the last meeting I had before I returned to London, with my friend Ghazi Aridi, Minister of Public Works, and my colleague Walid Choucair. We talked openly and comfortably, as there was no one else with us, about Syria, Egypt, Iraq and the implications of the events there for Lebanon.

Truly, Ghazi Aridi represents me in the cabinet, even though he hails from the Shouf while I come from the Southern Metn. The reader may consider that my opinion of him is biased by virtue of our friendship, as I always found him to be privy to significant private information, owing to his post, and in possession of a shrewd capacity for analysis, by virtue of his background in journalism and writing, and having also once been the Minister of Information.

Ghazi gave me his book "Palestine, a Right that Will Never Die". The book is a collection of essays written between early 2003 and late 2011, published by the Arab Scientific Publishers and it falls in 527 pages. The essays were published along with their dates of original publication, but did not mention where they were published.

Palestine is an issue that no Arab or Muslim disputes, and Aridi's essays reflect his pan-Arab nationalist commitment, along with an analysis based on a breadth of information that no one can access except those who are in a political position such as the author's.

He, like all of us, is infuriated by the fascist Israeli practices against Palestinians and other neighbors, and by Western bias, especially that of the United States, in favor of Israeli aggression against the victims. Aridi also expressed his disappointment with Barack Obama's stance at the UN last year, especially when in 2010, he had expected that Palestine would be a member of the General Assembly before he came to lead a campaign against the Palestinian bid for UN membership.

Nonetheless, Aridi's anger did not prevent him from calling a spade a spade, and he thus condemned the dispute and split between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza.

Ghazi Aridi wrote as I expected him to write - and the Arab reader must no doubt find the book rich in useful information and views.

khazen@alhayat.com

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 4, 2012
Words:883
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