Demystifying the Cedar Revolution and warning of future nightmares

Etienne Sakr’s Group “The Guardian of the Cedars”, an extreme right-wing group based in Lebanon (next to the three four cedars that we have left) announced their program for the year 2005 that pledged every Lebanese “to kill Palestinians”.
Whether it is an old scratched disc or an acid flashback, these people really asked for extreme fascistic goals a week ago, and it was all over the press.
Joseph Samaha (Lebanese daily AL Safir main columnist, and only relevant opinion journalist in Lebanon) wrote lengthly on the phenomenon basically saying that we should not be that surprised as the Guardian of the Cedars are but the “Bastard offspring of the 14th of March Cedar Revolution”.
What an insightful and closely read account of the main events that shook the country since the death of the former prime minister Rafic Hariri.
The Cedar Revolution (as it was labeled at the time) presented any political analyst or intellectual for that matter with all the facts needed to understand that the 14th of March was sum of isolated aggregates that are at odds with how to “lebanonize” the country.
Even if the Mustaqbal party and the Lebanese Forces united for the legislative elections, they are divided on several issues, as the Lebanese Forces is an open advocate of a federalist Lebanon with a tiny Christian enclave whereas Mustaqbal’s profound mercantile culture would not know what to do with a smaller economy.
In any case, sparing you a detailed analysis of the political goal of each party in Lebanon, whether Aoun’s party, to Hezbollah and others, all of them are at odds on how to define the “identity” of the country.
However, one important aspect is often ill-observed. The current regional events taking place are cleaning the Middle East from the last remnants of Arabism.
Phenomenon like Guardian of the Cedar resurgence, “Cedar Revolution”, Anti-Syrian feelings etc. are consequences of an embryonic formation of a “nation” built on a reaction to other ill-defined entities like “Syrians” “Palestinians” “Islamists” etc.
The region is being divided and nobody is talking about it.
All events that are taking place from the killing of an influential Sunni politician (Rafic Hariri) to playing with the electoral process in Iraq, to arming Gulf States with expensive weapons they can’t use, to spreading the rumour that there is a Shiite threat on the horizon, to putting bombs in Christian areas in Lebanon, to ,to,..

The Maronite International League (i think based in the US) just condemned the last explosion that took place in Getaoui a Christian neighborhood of Beirut and has put the blame on Hezbollah “and other illegal armed organization”.

And the media! the media is sleeping blocked in “we want the truth” speeches. The media is blinded by ideologies that are of no use to understand real political conflicts. No wonder why! the media has been fed with intellectuals that preach “democracy” and “independence” and “free Lebanon”, and “security service is the most horrible creature for you right now”.
No one preached about how entities were being created, divisions were being nurtured, how creative (although difficult) ideologies are being displaced for destructive ones.

I blame this on Leftist organizations. They should have been the bridge. They should have understood firstly the plight and rationale of Islamic movements, they should have saved the popular constituency from lining up with right-wind groups with isolationist principles. Unfortunately, they preferred to stay at home and in conference halls having obsolete dogmatic debates on how to understand socialism here and there. They also began espousing vague nationalistic causes, precipitating the very discrimination waves they were supposed to fight.

But the truth is in front of you. It is in the facts that are taking place. Connect the dots and write about it. Lebanon is especially in a very difficult situation. And nobody seems to care.

10 Replies to “Demystifying the Cedar Revolution and warning of future nightmares”

  1. Well said, Bech, but I would not put too much stock in the re-emergence of Abu Arz and his ilk. Like most events in Lebanon and elsewhere (at least what I can gather from media accounts) mundane realities take the back seat to good political theater. So I think the “kill Palestinians” statement is more a passing symptom of what you properly identify as a larger structural change in the political discourse of the Middle East — a process that has been going on since the advent of Arab nationalism in the middle of the last century. I am also concerned by the rise of these atavistic and reactionary ideologies, but it is political rhetoric must only be understood as a tool of understanding changing economic and political relationships. I offer Jumblatt as exhibit A. Do we really care whether he is carrying the flag of Arab socialism or relying on the language of sectarian politican identities? The result seems the same either way: he protects his turf. Meta-narratives are great fun and make for good speeches and opinion pieces, but where do they get us really in understanding the underlying political and economic relationships. Take Hizballah for example, here we have a party that has moved from a strictly sectarian formulation of its political goals to one that now carries that mantle of Arab liberation. Does this change tell us something about Hizbullah or is it better to understand how its role in Lebanon has changed in the last 15 years according to the shifting political and economic terrain. I think you would agree and I think I agree with most everything in your post, but don’t let your mood swing so wildly, things are not so different from as before…

  2. I do not like the CG, but what happened in that conference is not clear at all. It’s not a mystery that they are no palestinian-lover, but I would wait a little bit before throwing accusations.

  3. The problem is that we need a secular political movement that is also efficient. But facts show that the leftist policies cannot resolve the economical problem of a country. I really regret the fact that there’s no secular right.

  4. I would like to add something in response to ‘anonymous’ last statement.

    When I criticize leftist movements it is because they are failing where they are needed. So they have to reform in order to lead and be represented. For now they aren’t.
    For now they are living a contradictory political dream being allied with the most vociferous confessionalist of all Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt.

    I am not a rightist personally. I kneel more to the left and so I deplore the ineffectiveness of leftist movements to answer contemporary demands.

    You want rightist secular movements in Lebanon? Well, you have the Syrian Nationalist Party… That leaves you with interesting conclusions to draw.
    Now, there is no such thing as a rightist party that has popular roots unless it is built on a conservative understanding of identity. Meaning that in the case of Lebanon, you cannot be to the right of the political spectrum and not care about confessions.

    Only specific individuals or elites or leaders etc. be economically to the right, while political more secular. Aoun can be considered as secular inasmuch as a maronite can be secular while understanding the political stakes of being a maronite in Lebanon. But his constituency is majoritarily definitely not secular.

    In any case, you raised an interesting question that I think leads to existential concerns facing the ‘Lebanese People’.

  5. Don’t worry Davidovich, I don’t worry that much based on ideology or the rethoric of the extremist.

    But I do think that the social foundations of this rethoric is worhtwhile and needs to be taken into account.

    But the link between ideology and perception of the social, economic, and political surrounding is much more perverse than one could think.

  6. I understand what you want.

    but SNP is right wing and democratic (you should read their program), and above all is Lebanese!
    the founder is Lebanese and their headquarters are in Lebanon. The majority of their members are Lebanese.

    In any case, I was just hinting at the fact that you cannot have a right wing party that is not secular unless it puts identity configurations at stake (denying the legitimate existence of Lebanon) or respect the confessional divide.

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