Lebanon is our April Fools' joke, says Saudi daily

Lebanon is our April Fools' joke, says Saudi daily
Amid rising Saudi-Lebanese tension, a Saudi newspaper's 'joke' has irked many.
2 min read
01 Apr, 2016
Riyadh and Beirut have grown distant over Hizballah and Iran [Asharq Al-Awsat]
Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat caused a stir by publishing a picture that depicted the Lebanese state as their April Fools' "joke" in their Friday edition.

"April fools... The Lebanese state", the caricature read.

The joke sparked a backlash from outraged Lebanese journalists and broadcasters, who took to social media to show their indignation - and patriotism.

Lebanese journalist Ali Hashem tweeted "despite all its misfortunes and the failure of the government, despite the years of war and occupation, despite the current divisions... [Lebanon] is the most original truth in the region".

Condemnations of the cartoon also came from the Twitter accounts of several Lebanese media outlets, including Tayyar and An-Nahar.

The joke comes at a time when tensions are high between the Middle East's richest state and the nation that it once supported with billions in military aid.

In February, the kingdom announced that it would be cutting a $3 billion arms supply to Lebanon, and days later urged its citizens to leave the state after a rift related to Hizballah's influence in the country.

On the same day that Ash Sharq al-Awsat published its Lebanon "joke", the Saudi-owned news channel Al Arabiya announced the sudden closure of its Lebanon office.

While the TV channel cited security concerns and "challenges on the ground" as the reason behind the pull-out, Lebanese government officials had a different take on the matter.

"Of course there are no security grounds for closing the Al Arabiya office in Beirut. There may be political reasons for taking this step, but I don't know until I seek clarification from them," Lebanon's Minister of Information, Ramzi Greige, told Reuters.