The aftermath of the Ethiopian Airline crash has demonstrated how the events of the past five years — the targeted assassinations and the wanton bombings — have turned us as a nation into quasi-experts in collecting debris, bucketing body parts, taking samples, testing for DNA, etc… This is not to belittle the efforts being put into this by various state and other institutions, but it is truly sad how throughout the haze of collective mourning, the sweeping up took place rather automatically this time. Even as citizens many of us have become adept at collecting information, checking their sources, verifying them through various social networks, and weeding out rumors from a veritable media mess.

An article by Hassan al-Zayn in today’s issue of al-Akhbar managed to eloquently capture an aspect of this sad state of affairs. This is a quick translation of some parts:

This is the [Lebanese] political crew’s understanding of the state: […] a spectacle concealing behind it several realities; the reality about administrations, their capacities, and their black holes; the reality of disaster. Have citizens been able to observe how these administrations function and have functioned? It is almost self-evident to admit that the state is incapable of playing a role beyond collecting corpses and plane parts thrown up by the sea! What have these administrations done except wait and play the role of the mother of the bride  [i.e. soaking in the attention when it is not her day]. Circling aircrafts; spreading boats at sea; calming families; playing the role of a caretaker who is true to the slogan of honoring the dead by burying them; standing in front of cameras and playing the roles of technocrats; taking care to exonerate the airport control tower and stressing the unlikeliness of sabotage… And, lest we forget: singing the praises of DNA, this charm repeated by “officials” the way conjurers repeat their gratuitous phrases.


Despite the wizardry performed by the political crew and its success in kidnapping the disaster of the Ethiopian plane, it has not been able to cover up for the poverty of its understanding of the concept of state.


The political crew has performed a trick no less fragile and cruel than the racist and sectarian talk flying like sparks in a dry haystack. The national carrier is being discussed as if it were a Superman accused of sectarian preferentialism among the sons of a unified country. Having neglected some Lebanese and deprived them of peace of mind, they find themselves forced to fly with incompetent airlines hailing from inferior countries, according to the Lebanese racist pyramid.


The Black box that the Lebanese are looking for is “the Lebanese state” whose plane has not taken off, but is rather sinking. And the political crew are but ghosts in the forms of captain, survivors, and angels.


As most of this blog’s readers know, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed into the Mediterranean just south of Beirut a few minutes after take-off early Monday morning. This tragedy has shed some light on a well-known, but less discussed Lebanese connection to Africa. Many of the Lebanese on this flight, most of them men, were on their way to various countries in Africa where they had jobs or businesses. Most of them are from the south. 16 hail from the town of Nabatiyeh alone. So this tragedy is compounded by the sad facts of emigration and the “estrangement” (الاغتراب/الغربة) from homeland and family imposed by harsh economic conditions and government neglect. Many Lebanese politicians and citizens have commented on this phenomenon since the flight crashed. But few have managed to throw the nets of empathy wide enough to include another group of passengers aboard flight 409 who have also had to endure emigration, estrangement, harsh economic conditions, and much more. Most of the 31 Ethiopians who were aboard this flight were female domestic workers heading back home after a long, long stay abroad. One can only hope that this shared tragedy will also bring forth a shared humanity.

“Why do you Lebanese never treat us good?” screamed one Ethiopian woman as security forces prevented her from entering the governmental hospital in Beirut today to identify a body. “We are human beings like you. God created us. Why don’t I have the right to come in and see my sister?” (from The Guardian)

The list of passengers who boarded flight 409 can be found here (in English). You can also get to know some of the passengers on this Facebook group.