MTV Lebanon: Ktir Racist

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Workers clean up the glass facade of the MTV building in Naccache, north of Beirut. (Photo: AFP - Ramzi Haidar)

By: Tania El Khoury

Published Saturday, February 4, 2012

Social media activists have been sharing a Youtube clip from a show on Lebanon's Murr TV (MTV) called “Ktir Salbeh” along with angry comments such as “shame on you MTV,” “such a disgrace,” “MTV being racist again,” and “another low for MTV.”

Salbeh means negative in Arabic. More than 15 years ago, kids started using the word as “cool.” It always sounded a bit daft since it is actually nonsensical in Arabic and doesn’t even sound “cool.” But to be used after the word Ktir (very) on a TV show more than a decade later, it might only be cool for grandmas.

Once one gets past the obnoxious name of the show, they will find the actual video disturbing in many ways.

The Youtube video in question shows young powdered Lebanese people walking in an olive grove (How symbolic) towards the camera and starting their masterful sentences with “Ktirrr salbehh that Palestinians have this and have that, while the “poor” Lebanese don’t have this and don’t have that.”

Ktirr salbeh, their logic goes, that some people are talking about the rights of Palestinians to own apartments while if a Lebanese found an apartment, they can’t even afford to pay for it!”

How are these two problems comparable? How can discriminating against people and banning them from owning property in a country where they’ve lived most of their lives be comparable to someone who at the moment can’t afford to buy a flat? They are comparable if “Palestinians” is a euphemism for “inferior,” the same way “animal” is often used as a derogatory term in Arab parlance.

MTV’s bottom line is: It is ktir ridiculous to talk about Palestinian rights in Lebanon when the Lebanese don’t enjoy their full rights. It is absolutely true that if the Lebanese had civil rights and a government that does not simply cater to the rich and powerful, it would have been easier to talk about the rights of the underprivileged, like Palestinian refugees, women, migrant workers, children, and homosexuals.

Graffiti condemning the channel spread all around Naccache, Bliss, Clemenceu, Hamra, Jal El-Dib and a few other places. (Photo: Anti Racism movement blog)

But no one is waiting for this to happen anymore. Feminist activists have recently been doing a great job of lobbying and campaigning. The same applies to the anti-racism movement supporting migrant workers specially domestic workers who die on a regular basis in Lebanon without retribution.

I could easily imagine one of these MTV characters trying to sound posh while shouting at a domestic worker who has hung herself from a balcony: “ktir salbeh that we now have to care about you while I don’t have enough money to buy a new outfit.”

One wonders if any of these people on MTV have ever entered a Palestinian refugee camp. As one tweep remarked “The way these people are talking on MTV you'd think Palestinians in Lebanon lived in palaces and it was the Lebanese who lived in refugee camps.” About 400,000 Palestinians live in overcrowded refugee camps all over Lebanon, while being denied their basic civil rights.

The most depressing thing is that this is not the first time that MTV has aired blatantly racist content. Facebook is full of angry people commenting on how MTV represents people from Lebanon’s city of Baalbak in the Bekaa valley as insane violent farmers.

Less than two months ago, MTV aired a distressing and highly dangerous report on how “foreigners” are the main reason behind crimes in the Christian neighborhood of Burj Hammoud. The report fails to mention that the Christians in Burj Hammoud, who are mostly of Armenian descent, were once foreigners and refugees as well. The area should have been celebrated for welcoming other communities instead of demonizing them and spreading sectarian fear and xenophobic hate.

Ktir Salbeh has recently made fun of migrant domestic workers. When interviewed by Now Lebanon this week, the show’s director Hani Khafsheh claimed that the critics do not understand the program’s sense of humour. He also tried hiding behind the double meaning of the word salbeh by claiming that here it was used as “negative.” As activists rightfully told Now Lebanon, “racism is not funny.”

MTV thinks they are being radical and the voice of “freedom” as their slogan proudly remarks. They think they are communicating with the middle class, well-educated people from the Christian suburbs who still use the word salbeh.

If they are so keen on entertaining this group exclusively while alienating the majority in Lebanon who feel racially and religiously discriminated by MTV, then it would be better for them to stop fueling the stereotype of obnoxious, selfish and posh sounding Christians.

During the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, I remember hearing on the radio a Lebanese woman crying while saying “get us out of here.” Her pleas broke my heart until I heard the rest of it: “even MY Filipino got evacuated.” By “her Filipino” she means the domestic helper who is from the Philippines. In her case as in the case of MTV, the woman was using the term as a euphemism for “inferior,” an animal.

It is a sad irony that those behind MTV programs think they are naming and shaming. They think they are pointing the finger at what is wrong with society, oblivious to the fact that they are a very clear reflection of everything that is wrong with Lebanese society.

كتير سلبي أنه الكل عم يحكوا عن حقوق الفلسطيني بلبنان، مع العلم أنه اللبناني ما حدا عم يحكي عن حقوقه
Ktir salbeh that everyone is talking about the rights of the Palestinians in Lebanon but no one is talking about the rights of the Lebanese.

كتير سلبي أنه تلت أرباع شبابنا مهاجرين وتلت أرباع اماتنا عم تبكي من شوقهن لولادهن
Ktir salbeh that the majority of our youth immigrated and the majority of our mums are crying because they miss their children.

بينما موضوع ملف توطين الفلسطينيين صار موضوع على نار حامية ويمكن صار أمر واقع... عرؤوسنا
meanwhile the issue of the settlement of Palestinians is now boiling and maybe it is falling fact.. on our heads.

كتير سلبي أنه فلسطين ما تعود للفلسطينيين بس اللي سلبي بعد أكتر أنه لبنان ما يعود بس للبنانيين
Ktir salbeh that Palestine stops being for Palestinians but what is more salbeh is that Lebanon stops being only for the Lebanese.

كتير سلبي أنه ينحكى عن حق تملك الفلسطينيين بلبنان شقة بالوقت اللي اذا اللبناني لاقى شقة ما معه يدفع حقها
Ktir salbeh that we’re discussing the right of Palestinians to own flats in Lebanon while when the Lebanese find a flat, they can’t afford to pay for it.

كتير سلبي أنه لبنان بس يحمل همّ الفلسطيني بالوقت اللي أكترية الدول العربية الباقية ما بدها تدفع فلس لأنها مش من هالطينة
Ktir salbeh that only the Lebanese worry about the Palestinians while most of the other Arab countries don’t want to pay a penny because they’re not made out of this.


I'm not going to argue about the article or the program. Yes it is in poor taste.

But as "racism" is used quite a few times here, and all erroneously, let me point out that you really need to understand what the word means. Racism is discrimination against people of different ethnicities. Xenophobia is discrimination against foreigners.

The lebanese can be racists towards Nigerians, but they can't be racists towards Syrians and Palestinians; they can be xenophobic towards them; we're the same ethnicity! Same goes for Caucasian Americans. They can be xenophobic towards Caucasian Canadians but not racists.

You might think this is nitpicking, but if word as big as 'racism' is to be thrown around like that just to make a point, at least use the right word.

Bottom line: In this case MTV: ktir xenophobic (but they have shown other news sections that are ktir racist when they talk about the African and South-East asian immigrants to Burj Hammoud.)

I keep seeing the term "racism" bantered about, what races are opposing each other? Anyone explain that?

Well in case you didn't understand anything that was explicitly written in the blog, the "racism" is targeting anyone who doesn't befit the white, "native" depiction. Ie, anybody who's black, asian, or non-Lebanese Arab is fair game. And btw, "race" is an ideological mechanism, it is not a biological reality. There's no biological evidence that "race" exists.

First off you're wrong; there is biological evidence that races exist. Does it matter? Of course not. (But go look up some DNA genealogy websites nonetheless.)

Second, you're also wrong. Search for the word 'racism' in a dictionary. If it's not a different ethnicity, it's not racism. Plus what's that nonesense about 'befit the white depiction.' So black or asian people can't be racists towards white people? This is way too ridiculous.

المسيحية خايفين يا اختي

Dear Mark -- the more you write the more you show how misinformed or misled you are. In the least you reveal that 1) your problem is essentially Muslim/Christian and that is not an issue in historical Palestine. Get to read the Palestinian historian Nicolas Ziadeh. 2) You seem to terribly ignore or most likely not know that some founders or leaders of Palestinian factions were Palestinian Christians.. So your theory of “Palestinian jihad on infidels” has no place neither in history nor in the present! As I have mentioned earlier, and I say it again, the vast majority of the Lebanese media has a role in who you are and what you think. The run video is one instance of generating ignorance as much as continuous conflict and fear.

dear jenan ,
if you think i cannot provide sources about the religious nature of the palestinian/israeli or the palestinian/lebanese conflicts think again because i have plenty.... but that is not the issue here.... in the above article, the word "christian" is mentioned 4 time. the word "muslim" is mentioned zero times....... i assure you that nobody is being fooled by these innuendo tricks... the true objective is clear and the camouflage is not fooling anyone.

But the word "christian" is not used to denote any sense of bigotry when it's applied in this article. And that's where your logic falls flat. Fact still remains you are a dogmatic racist with a misinformed perception of lebanese history. On top of that you're spreading easily refutable disinformation here. Give it up fascist, you're not fooling anyone

Ktir salbe enno l comments on this blog post are worse than the video itself! (Both types of comments).

dear Zaid ,

if they are better treated in jordan THEN LET THEM GO THERE... if they are prevented, then it is those who are preventing them who are racists.... the jordanians fought a war against them in 1970... the kuwaitis deported them because they sided with saddam.... the shiites bombed their camps in lebanon...... but did anybody called them racists???.... noooooooooo... because they are muslims.... only the christians are racists because they defended themselves against palestinian jihad on infidels!!!!..... give me a break... we gave the palestinians what we could... sorry we cannot give more... if it's not enough, LEAVE!!!! to jordan or to syria if it is better there.... we are not stopping them.... so those who are stopping them are racists.... i say to the muslims who are using this unfunny mtv clip to pour their anti-christian hate in a camouflaged way, i tell them: go solve your own problems first.. the muslims kept supporting hafez assad even after he murdered 40,000 in hama!!!. why? because he was also murdering christians in lebanon!!!. that's the moral depravity of the muslim world!!!.. those who supported a murderer like that have no business calling others racist!! they should look into the mirror and fix their problems!!!

Mark please don't talk in the name of Christians because you're really embarrassing everyone. Your speech is sectarian and offensive. How did you see that "Muslims are using this clip to pour their anti-christian hate"? The writer is clearly not a Muslim! If you think that refugees can 'just leave' but wouldn't because they love it here, then you have no idea! This mentality of the scared and victimized minority needs to stop. Let me break the news for you: the Christians in Lebanon weren't angels during the civil war. It wasn't all self defense as you claim it to be. We killed each other in the most horrifying way. I can name you battles if you like. If you think that Muslims sided with Hafez El Assad then first this is not entirely true because on many occasions, Lebanese Christian asked for Syrian intervention. Second, well Christians sided with the Israelis!! So maybe let's not talk about which sect tends to side with the oppressors and the occupiers in the region! And maybe let's stop talking in the name of our religion/sect/area/village and talk like humans, individuals. As I said you do not represent me so talk please in your name.

dear rosie ,
please read the article again... the word "christian" is mentioned 4 TIMES... CAN YOU TELL ME WHY?.... the writer as'ad abou khalil, who writes for al-akhbar-english, wrote a blog post on his blog about the issue, and the word "christian" is in the title... if you follow the discussion on facebook there are many attacks against the christians as racists.... if you follow the news, in august 2010, when the lebanese parliament voted on the law regarding the palestinians and most christian deputies objected, the next day in the newspapers the talk was about the "racist christians".... so i assure you it is _not my imagination_!!... there is campaign to portray the christians as racists... it is a CLEVER campaign because they chose a writer with an obvious christian name to write it.... it is an old trick.... for your information at the beginning of the war they called christians isolationists to justify killing them, and they gave prominent roles to christians on their side to call the christians as isolationists in order to camouflage the anti-christian campaign as non-sectarian.... but those on the ground knew exactly what was going on...

What trick? Are you going to deny how many Maronite clerical figures are indeed racist? You going to deny documented Phalange massacres in Lebanon? You're on a victimization crusade here but noone's calling to arms. Stop putting words in people's mouths. Obviously not all Lebanese Christians are racist, and obviously not all Lebanese Muslims are devoid of racism (far from it). And predictably, you go on a sectarian rant in the last few sentences of your post. Why are Lebanese racists so predictable with their rhetoric?

since you asked.... of course the phalange commited massacres... most notably sabra and shatila under elie hobeika... but hobeika was kicked out from among the christian ranks and he was embraced by the muslim side as their ally..and by the way the overwhelming majority of massacres were committed by muslims...i'm just saying that because you asked..... but let's go back to the subject........the issue in lebanon was and is never about race...NEVER... this is a LIE... christians muslims israelis palestinians are of the same race... the semitic race.... they cannot be told apart on a consistent basis...... the war was NEVER about race.... and the MTV sketch was NOT about race or racism.. it is about a valid issue that deserves to be discussed..... but those who are INTELLECTUALLY BANKRUPT.. like as'ad abou khalil for example.. they cannot hold a logical conversation they just scream "RACIST..RACIST..RACIST.." because they want to run away from the issue and they cannot discuss logically..... they did the same thing at the beginning of the war.... the christians made valid logical arguments against uncontrolled PLO militias and state sovereignty and their opponents screamed: "ISOLATIONISTS...ISOLATIONISTS..."...... saaaaaaaaaaame old story

Wow Mark, I like how you said "Most notably" Sabra and Shatila, in order to sneakily hide the fact that the Phalange committed MANY massacres besides Sabra and Shatila. Hell, they were more brutal than the Amal Movement when it came to Palestinians, so save it with this "Muslims committed majority of massacres" nonsense. There's no white european audience here for you to cater to with your sectarian victimization charade ;)

The issue in Lebanon is EXACTLY about race. You can ask every immigrant and refugee there if they their treatment and discrimination by "native" Lebanese (whatever that means). It's really as "intellectual" as that. Your semantics about logic and discussion is just a retreat from the fact that "foreigners" are treated like garbage in Lebanon. Oh and btw, there is no "semitic race". There's no such thing as "race", period. Race is an ideological construct, not a biological reality. Anybody with basic academic knowledge understands this. The european pseudo-science that invented "race" has long been refuted. Only supremacists revive it to serve their agenda... such as yourself... I also find it amusing how you claim that refugee camps are "sovereign", but then u turn around and whine about the "militias" they have.

This film insults me. I am a Palestinian Arab but luckily do not have to live in that insane country called Lebanon.

Mark & Danny you know Lebanese Christians are racist. I know because my ancestry is Christian & a few of my relatives have intermarried with you. I avoid your tribe like I do the Zionist racists.

Again to Mark and sympathizers: I sympathize with you because this kind of media "entertainment" is really dangerous. Public entertainment of this kind can also work as a tool that creates a climate of attitudes towards a certain community which can lead to committing harm. Are you ready to commit harm? Before you answer, let me ask you another question? Did MTV report to you and its viewers an important fact that helps sanely deal with the painful past of the civil war? Did MTV inform you that the Palestinian Liberation Organization offered a PUBLIC APOLOGY to Lebanon and its people in a very genuine speech acknowledging the wrongfulness of its factions’ past deeds? We borrow everything fancy from the west, but we are not aware that political apology is regarded in that dear west as a call for a process of communication between offending and aggrieved parties that can lead to reconciliation; that apology helps rectify past wrongs. Don’t you think that this is what is missing also in relation to the Lebanese themselves to overcome the residues of war? In short, the Lebanese media, entertainment or not, are still far from taking a mature action to help all communities start a genuine reconciliation process. Instead they continue to contribute to creating a climate of attitude that might lead to harm …. This is just something to help everybody reflect a bit.

dear jenan ,
we are the most forgiving people in the world but the civil war is not the issue... the issue is that lebanon has no control over the camps... so some people think that it doesn't make sense to start granting rights to the palestinians when we don't really control them.... maybe that's right maybe that's wrong but IT IS NOT RACIST.... some chose to make a sketch about the issue, maybe it's funny maybe it's not, but it's NOT RACIST.... in october the lebanese govt chose to waive the visa requirement to all iranians... saad hariri made a statement condemning the move... maybe he is right maybe he is wrong, but he is NOT RACIST..... there are many valid reasons to oppose certain policies that are not about racism....

Im speaking from a Swedish-Arab perspective! If this was aired in Sweden, and the Palestinians where changed to immigrant in general. This would most likely be the works of the a Ultra-Nationalist-Racist-Right wing group/organisation/political party. NO DOUBT!!! There is a lot of racism in Europe, in all countries in fact. In some countries like Sweden, a political party has even risen to power (20 seats in parliament of 310). In France u have Le Penn riding the wave of xenophobia. In Denmark you have the "Danish Peoples Party" which had majority in parliament. So after seeing the clip, Im not only outraged by the profiling of Palestinians and how they are singled out. But by the fact that people in Lebanon are talking about how the Palestinians are not "their problem", that they should go back. Or that Immigrants are the cause of crimes in christian neighborhoods(?!). These notions are the EXACT same notions and discourses which are being used through out Europe against Blacks, Arabs, Muslims and other ethnical groups!! Please Wake up! Instead of talking about thats Ktirr Salbeh, you should be uniting all fractions of the beautiful Lebanese society and its cultural heritage! And you should fight against anyone who dares to divide you into fractions in the first place and having to battle each other over ethnicity,religious attributes,sexuality and so on.

To Mark and sympathizers on how the Palestinians were received in 1984 see the debate between two Maronite (with due respect to the community, after all people differ) on this link:

Or here is my translation: “In a public debate on the causes and consequences of the 1975 armed conflict aired by a French radio, former Lebanese minister Henri Eddeh noted that “we did not receive the Palestinians with tolerance… nor did we provide them with the minimal health and living necessary conditions. No water, no electricity, no sewage networks, no roads and no services. [Whereas for the distribution of the camps] it’s we who relocated them near the cities in accession with the desire of [Lebanese] businessmen who were in need for cheap labour.”

dear jenan ,
in 1948 many christian villages didn't even have sewage, electricity, and blablabla... many houses TODAY still don't...... besides, if we didn't give them electricity that's not a valid reason to form militias and start murdering christians!!!!!
the maronite church gave its land to set up the camps on them.... but of course that doesn't count, right?... of course we have to curse the maronites and the christians as racists and evil and all sort of lies just so we don't place the blame where it really belongs...

Do you remember who started the series of violence? who killed innocent people while coming back from work in the afternoon ?who collaborated with Israel ....er7amna

Very well said Mark. People fail to understand that the Palestinian problem has been forced onto Lebanon and was faced with global and arab neglect and indifference. This clip has NOTHING racist in it. It is a pure reflection of the truth and frustration regarding this topic. Yes, let the international and arab community handle the palestinian needs and issues and leave our government worry about its own citizens. If the opposite keeps on happening, the greatest victims are the Lebanese themselves. So give us a break and stop blaming us for a problem which we did not create or make worse. We should be applauded for actually keeping the Palestinians on our land and dealing with the security threats which they keep on exporting to our society every now and then

Mate you might want to cross Nahr El Kaleb tunnel sometimes.

Mr Danny Do you really KNOW What Racism means?? I am not really sure. However Have you asked yourself How many lebanes people lives outside of lebanon??

Most Lebanese are racists and sectarians.. If you are reading this, just think for 1 minute where you discriminated against another Lebanese because they are from a different sect. Remember once you ask them: "Min Wein??" to wear a mask that suits their way of thinking. If you have never done this, then you either live abroad or you are a superhuman that is not affected by your entourage. Remember how much you act racist in dealing with an East Asian who works at your home or a Syrian who works for your company.

This comedy show reflects YOU and how YOU think and deal with others on a daily basis.. If you hate racism and sectarianism, start with yourself, and with your home before criticizing others!!

I dont think this sketch in this TV show deserves that hassle. anyway this show is targeting certain audience, and unsurprisingly those audience are not listening or watching something new; that's how majority of the lebanese think!!!! by magnifying it, u will be serving the evil will in it, if there were any.

At the end, the anomaly is there, in us, and by denying it, we will not be correcting it; the way is to tackle it directly!!!

Mark - your comments are contemptuous. Christians "welcomed" palestinians in 1948? How, by forcing them to live in refugee camps, by denying them the right to work in even the most meager professions? You write: "if the muslims think that the christians are racist then let them prove they are better by granting the palestinians citizenship in muslim countries". You obviously don't know anything about this issue: Jordan is home to the largest number of palestinian refugees by far, all of whom have jordanian nationality. Also - in Syria, Palestinians don't have nationality, but they can work and own property; i.e. they're treated like normal people.

finally, your point on what is happening in Syria and Iran is just crazy. apparently, in your view, Palestinians in Lebanon have it great because they aren't being massacred on a daily basis. If that's what u really think, maybe you would like to move to a refugee camp yourself and experience the pleasure of being a Palestinian in Lebanon.

this is purely sick, for no other reason but the lack of creativity, such programs are a pure waste of time and are only failing ridiculous amateur attempts to produce local TV programs, don't even try, you are not capable...know it and stop polluting our eyes with your crap. what's more sad is the TV stations that offer them airtime, TV standard has stooped so low in lebanon, that it became a whole grid of school standard projects imposed on us. Tele Liban used to produce much meaningful and rich-in-content series some 30 years ago. I’m sure those morons think they’re changing the world with their so meant to be humor. Well, YOU ARE NOT. Go get a fu-----g life you morons.. enjoy your home videos at home, your home, not ours.

this is purely sick, for no other reason but the lack of creativity, such programs are a pure waste of time and are only failing ridiculous amateur attempts to produce local TV programs, don't even try, you are not capable...know it and stop polluting our eyes with your crap. what's more sad is the TV stations that offer them airtime, TV standard has stooped so low in lebanon, that it became a whole grid of school standard projects imposed on us. Tele Liban used to produce much meaningful and rich-in-content series some 30 years ago. I’m sure those morons think they’re changing the world with their so meant to be humor. Well, YOU ARE NOT. Go get a fu-----g life you morons.. enjoy your home videos at home, your home, not ours.

palestinians are a race now?! that's news to me.

oh please, there is nothing racist about these jokes (that are not funny actually). they have full sovereignty over their cities (that some still call "camps"!) which the govt cannot enter. so it simply doesn't make sense for a government to start granting rights over something it does not control. simple logic, nothing racist here. how the heck does a govt grant rights to something it has no sovereignty over?!!!

this whole affair is an anti-christian hate campaign, and it's obvious. the christians welcomed the palestinians in 1948 and they set up camps on church-owned land. the palestinians thanked them by declaring jihad against them a few decades later... if the muslims think that the christians are racist then let them prove they are better by granting the palestinians citizenship in muslim countries. but noooooo, they need a pressure tool against israel.. so they keep people living squalor for 60 years to accomplish that... wow, the morality!!! wow, the non-racism!!... go take a hike and see what is happening in syria where they are raping children, or in iran where they rape women prisoners so they don't go to heaven. get off your anti-christian obsession and go fix your problems for heaven's sake.

Mark - you are an idiot

Funny how you characterize the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon. I'd love to see a racist ignorant like you spend one day in those camps, and then come brag to me that it's a "sovereign" city. And please save it with this "anti-Christian" victimization nonsense. That rhetoric got worn out by Phalange and Maronite fanatics who cried wolf but carried automatics to kill children in the 80's. Lebanon is a squalor of sectarianism and people like you prove it.


The sarcastic thins is that this does not come in times where Palestinians are highlighted or are part of any form of dispute nowadays.
It just comes out of PURE HATE.

Those are young folks who do a funny show, they know nothing about what they are saying. It is just , again, Pure Blind HATE.

I think it is scary.

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