Lebanonisms: a quick retrospective

This needs to be thought over more clearly, but it seems to me that “Lebanese” history could be read as divided into four phases:

1- Before and up to the national pact of 1943 that established Maronite predominance and Sunni ambivalent pragmatism. Bear in mind that up until this point, there is much opposition to the creation of this narrowly defined State, whether from the Syrian Nationalist party, pan-Arab groups, and last but not least, ultra-Christian pro-French groups that preferred a constant colonial protectorate, etc. Lebanese nationalism is Maronite/Christian fantasies.

2- Tensions till ‘civil’ war period: This is the period I would call colonial remnants euphorias and pitfalls. Most colonial and post-colonial societies witnessed these characteristics of horrible economic and social inequality, crony liberal capitalism, unequal share of power, euphoria and social-distinction practices of the ruling class and its projected constituencies. A lot can be said on this part, and if you need more detail let me know.

3- The Ta’if agreement that settles ‘civil’ war scores by giving equal voice to Sunni Muslim elites, and to some extent Shi’a, and consolidate the sectarian character of the political system under Syrian security-related supervision but not occupation (The system resulting is a complex interplay of crony politicking and cross-national alliances). During this period we witness the slow rise of an unconscious Sunni ‘nationalism’, that culminates with the assassination of Rafic Hariri. Harirism is Sunni ‘nationalism’ meaning the discovery that this institutional option “The Lebanese State” is actually a useful tool for managing resources. Pan-Arabist fantasies are knocked down on the walls of the actual State edifice.

4- Post-Ta’if, insuring that most power factions have what they want. At this point, Hizbullah is pushed out of its closet. The Syrians are not washing their laundry anymore, they have to do it themselves. The perception of the State changes once more. Lebanese players try to restructure the rules of the game to no avail. The institutional efficacy of the sectarian power-sharing approach remains the best for everybody, as exemplified by the Doha Agreement. The Doha agreement is in a way the realization of this fact by all Lebanese players once someone found the way to explain: Royal hospitality in a several star hotel in Qatar.

My point(s) here are:

1- that the more we advance in time and we consolidate the term “Lebanon” (which acquires an abstract empty feel, compared to first phase of explicit Christian national ideological constructions) the more Sectarian practices enter the most minute aspect of life. It is important to understand this symbolic dynamic as a two-level inversed movement. More on this later.

2- the resiliency of the institutional system in place. I’m not saying they are efficient, but as long as there is no drastic occupation, toppling of powers, etc players bend their initial enthusiasm to the demands of the institutions in place. Here the post-colonial State and its affiliates (army etc) even if so many parallel structures have emerged since then. Also, more on this later.

8 Replies to “Lebanonisms: a quick retrospective”

  1. “the more Sectarian clocks are arranged to decimals.”

    I dont understand this statement. Would also like to hear more about phase deux.

    Nice post — d

  2. kifak ya sheikh!
    hehehe finally, a post that lasts more than a day, enabling a bit of discussion.
    i would add the Lebanese war, but why wouldnt you? that i would like to know.

    second, the syrian presence in lebanon was “occupation”, you can just say that “ethically” you dont want to call it like that butyou cant justify it logically by describing its mecanism, for logically it is as much an occupation as that of the lebanese “state” over the land.
    The difference betweeen it and the israeli occupation is that it found more people to recognize its legitimity… for some time (wasnt the case of the lebanese state in the begining of phase one).

  3. If it is ok with Bech, I would like to respond to the comment posted by alhaqid.

    According to my reading to Bech’s post, I think he did not omit the “Lebanese war” from his division of the Lebanese history. In his post, he was not being traditional and “listing” events per se, he was rather “contextualizing” them, I think.

    One thing I think we should bear in mind as we read an academic-wise blog, is that while the author “reads” and analyzes an event, she/he does not intend to be “with or against” the topic he’s arguing for (or against); his only intention is merely and only the process of arguing.

    So for example he was not “justifying” the Syrian “occupation”, as you’ve put it, he was rather presenting his reading to it.

    Now, my reply to your comment start here: I don’t think you can compare, neither structurally, nor historically, the Syrian presence in Lebanon to Israeli occupation in the South; while we’re talking about a Syrian political and economical interference (in collaboration with Lebanese leaders) with Lebanese politics, we’re talking about an Israeli military occupation of lands inhabited by homogenous people, and there were no collaboration with Israelis compared to the Syrian one.

    So the “entrance” of Syria to Lebanon, is different from that of Israel. And the “reaction” of the Lebanese to their presence is fundamentally different from their reaction to the Israeli occupation even if we are to include individualistic collaborations as that of Lahad guys.

    I think while we cannot compare Syrian political and economical interference in Lebanon to the Israeli military occupation to the south, we can actually compare the early French political and economical interference (as well as to the late Saudi one and the newly-birth of the Qatari) in the Lebanese politics. In fact, let me use your words here: “The difference between the Saudi interference and the Syrian one is that the former found more people to recognize its legitimacy.”

    Finally, if we did not label the Syrian presence as “occupation”, doesn’t mean we should undermine its negative affect on Lebanon or on the Lebanese people.

  4. Haqid for the Leb war era it is included in phase two. “phases” here symbolize the beginning of new agreements or the breakdown of a previous one. Anyway this whole phase thing is not be taken very rigidly. The idea is to see some changes in the perception of community and state throughout its young history.

    As for the question of occupation, I think I agree with you. I don’t know how much Israeli practices were more ‘colonial’ than others, but I do think that more Lebanese were profiting from Syrian presence in Lebanon (than Israeli), creating a stable status-quo that lasted more than a decade. My point was to look at the local level.

    And Razan made me think of something: what propels me to write is a subjective urge (of course as it emanate from the subject, which is me) but my analysis is meant to establish objective analysis of realities albeit ephemeral and meant to change.

  5. hi razan, well, i think you did not give me the answer i was asking for in the first issue, and i surely did not see bech’s “contextualizing” as “being traditional ” (your words, not mine).
    Otherwise, bech gave me an explanation, that of these divisions symbolizing “the beginning of new agreements or the breakdown of a previous one”.

    As for the second issue, i admit your right, somehow, hehe
    i think we’re not in that much disagreement. since i was teasing a bit bechov here — academically teasing by the way — by going with the word occupation till its conceptual root, “purifying it” if i may say (if purity exists). And bechov agreed with me on that, thus prooving his fidelity to the scheme he had in mind about his blog “subjective urge” in order “to establish objective analysis”, he is willing t auto-correct himself, and thus learn from his blog like i am.

    for me (and bech) occupation is interference with other’s business and eman of surival, the lebanese state does that for example on the lebanese people. But i agree that some linguistic precisions must be made:
    the land of lebanon was occupied by the “syrian regime” (or baathist regime), so it wasnt “syrian” occupation since the syrian society did not benefit from it like the israeli does from the occupation of palestine, thus making it less tragic than the israeli occupation. It was “syrian regime” occupation, with syrian troops (like israeli troops). And by the way, the Lahd phenomena wasnt individualistic, unfortunatly. And the “aounist” demand lately for forgiveness of the lahdist is an example of “collective” demand.

    Nevertheless, dont worry, i wouldnt say “syrian regime occupation” on tv, for i know the ethical and symbolic implications of the words (beyond argumentation).

    But now, on this blog, and to be fair to some lebanese who complain about the “syrian” era, i would maintain my position and say, like those lebanese who didnt like syrian regime interference, and in order for the critique of that era to evolve, that this was “occupation” that benefited to both syrian-baathists and lebanese groups (FAR more to the latter, yes, but due to the former’s security apparatus).

    thanx bechov for your answer.

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