x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Farewell to Ghassan Tueini, a great editor and statesman

Arab world media has lost a truly great editor and statesman in Ghassan Tueini, an Arabic language columnist writes in today's news digest. Other topics: volatility in Egypt and Israel's influence in Washington.

The celebrated Lebanese political figure and editor Ghassan Tueini, who was later publisher of Annahar newspaper, died on Friday in Beirut, leaving behind a journalistic and political legacy praised by many.

In an obituary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, Syrian writer Abdul Kareem Al Afnan said the man "kept in one corner of his heart all the secrets of the modern Lebanese state … and, in another, he harboured the secrets of his profession, which made Annahar newspaper such a flourishing and enlightening publication".

Tueini was 86, and had been suffering from weak health in recent years.

Besides being a heavyweight journalist, Tueini, a Christian, was a seasoned statesman, having held several ministerial and diplomatic positions.

He was trained in philosophy and graduated from Harvard in 1947 with a master's in political science.

He taught at the American University of Beirut for a couple of years before being elected to parliament in 1951, representing Mount Lebanon province. He served as Lebanon's ambassador to the United States, and later to the United Nations, until 1982.

Like many great men, Tueini was no stranger to pain, especially the kind of pain linked to the political machinations that have characterised Lebanese life for decades.

His son Gebran, an iconic member of parliament, was assassinated in December 2005.

What Tueini said during his son's funeral would stick in the collective memory of the Lebanese people:

"On this occasion, I'd like to call not for revenge, grudge and blood but rather for all grudges and all quarrels to be buried with Gebran's burial.

"I want us all to repeat, in one voice, the oath that he - Gebran - delivered in Martyrs' Square: We, Muslims and Christians, swear by God Almighty to remain united, forever and ever, in the defence of our great Lebanon."

His newspaper, Annahar, was feared by the Syrian regime, which has been deeply entrenched in the politics of Lebanon.

"It was a high-circulation newspaper in Syria, a country ruled by a regime that dreads opinions and would not waste a chance to counter them with bullets," the writer said.

"We Syrians used to joke about it in Damascene cafes: So which one scares the Assad regime most, Annahar or the Israeli defence ministry?" the writer recalled.

Tueini stopped writing in Annhar in the past three years, because of ill health.

With Tueini's death, Lebanon loses one of its "foremost theorists, a prophetic Christian community leader and a hero of journalistic freedom … which Annahar often paid for in blood," the writer concluded.

Verdicts, protests put Egypt at square one

Today's volatile Egypt is being shaped by two influences, Jalal Arif wrote in the opinion section of the UAE-based daily Al Bayan: demonstrations in public squares that have restored the spirit of the revolution, and courtrooms where judicial rulings are remoulding political life.

It was not the verdict against former president Hosni Mubarak that re-ignited protests in public squares, but rather the unexpected acquittal of his son, Gamal.

The main cause of recent popular fury, however, was the acquittal of the top police commanders who faced charges of complicity in killing protesters, although the interior minister was convicted and given a life sentence. Thus the "killers of the revolution's martyrs remain unknown."

The verdict caused such as mess: youth in the squares feel out of the equation despite their sacrifices. Some are on the lookout for the martyrs' killers, and other are trying to move the revolution away from the current polarisation between the religious and the military.

"It must be admitted that we are now back at square one, having started off on the wrong foot, with no map showing a course of action, and terrible management," the writer said.

There is a crying need for a real transition to put Egypt on the right track to achieve the objectives of the revolution. This involves a new constitution, restoration of security, the rule of law, and trial of old-regime figures.

Israel is the bridge to the White House

As long as the Jewish vote is secured in the US presidential elections, nothing else matters, the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej said in its editorial yesterday.

A candidate for the presidency becomes like "a candidate running for the Knesset … Israel and its interests become the top priority and the inevitable bridge to the White House."

Democratic President Barack Obama, who seeks another term, and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are "both vying to appease Israel by any means: pledges of unlimited support, absolute protection, funding, and all kinds of advanced weaponry."

"Candidates also vow not to annoy Israel politically over the peace process and settlement in the West Bank and Jerusalem", the writer noted.

"Israel must remain militarily superior to its neighbours, and should not be held accountable for continuing violations of Palestinians' rights."

The election is emblematic of Israel's clout in the US, and its ability to turn any candidacy for the presidency or Congress to its advantage.

"Candidates hankering for the Jewish vote become lackeys at the service of Israeli interests, with no ability to uphold the values of the founding fathers of the US such as liberty, justice and democracy," observed the editorial.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk