Annahar al shabab: Contradictory ideological claims

This post is complete. Just added the italics under Tueni’s part

Between the ideological traces of a haunting Gebran Tueni that crystallizes a definition of the enemy (the Syrian, the other) and the isolationist, culturally essentialist Huntingtonian claims (there a different values and traditions in Lebanon) of a disgruntled Christian elite, it seems that the “Shabab” have a long way to go before reaching political maturity.

Sami Gemayel (son of ex-president Amin, brother of slain minister Pierre), leader of Loubnanouna (right wing Christian party), has a detailed interview in Annahar al Shabab where he calls for a federal system in Lebanon. Nothing new I know, but I would like to review this article, and actually comment on the whole initiative of “Annahar al Shabab” in this post.

Little parenthesis: I see that Loubanouna’s website has withdrew Bachir Gemayel’s (Lebanese Forces founder, slain president in 1982) picture from the front page, a thoughtful gesture.

Update: (1) Something to forward to Angry Arab: the Annahar al Shabab has a little article on how a ‘very important’ doctor (a certain Abbas Shamseddine) has won some medical prize in the US and that there was an article on him in a prestigious american magazine. Horribly enough and this is what the Al Shabab article say: the magazine forgot to mention that he was Lebanese, and thus show that Lebanon is the “Lebanon of civilization” (Lubnan al 7adara)! I will kill myself…
(2) There is a huge article arguing that demonstrating in public places ‘that long’ is not acceptable (or even legal) because violating access to public goods. Let me remind the historically amnesiac woman (Manal Chaya) writing this article that the whole project of downtown is a blatant violation of private and public property, and an ignominious farce in the face of the petty Lebanese!
(3) Rare investigative moment of the Mul7ak: A distinguished psychologist has very deep thoughts on why people follow leaders. Explanation (literally this is what she says…): because they need to identify to some form of authority. Thank you, I now can sleep.
(4) One need to read the ‘tawsiyat’ of Gebran Tueni to the ‘shabab’. It basically says: Syrians are your primary enemy. Don’t let them divide you (you the christians of course). There is no entity called Israel. There is no south of Lebanon for that matter, no contentious business over there. All in all, be good and brave little compliant subject following the principles i’m dictating, and you’ll be rewarded. What I say is not really that clear but what the hell, it is just marketing, plus I want to issue this newspaper to show that there is a facade of intellectual inquiry.

Update 2: I would not be exaggerating if I said that Gemayel’s party is an upper class version of the Lebanese Forces. His detached tone, his reluctance to engage politics betrays an elitist understanding that “we don’t mix with the petty politicians” that are present today. If the Lebanese Forces are a version of popular Christian upsurge (albeit a minority, I have already analyzed the difference in populism between LF and Tayyar, will try to find the link), Loubnanouna is its little sister, made of elites (or wanna be elites) with a far-right understanding to how societies are structured. In this sense, Loubnanouna is not made of thugs like the LF, i.e. people ready to go and shoot other people. they are the ‘tete chercheuse’ of the right. They want to think of what should be discursively permissible in order to create the ‘Lebanese’ subject. Gemayel’s statements replicate a lot of the ideas of a friend of mine (also part of Loubnanouna), that there is something undeniably and unbridgeably different between the different sects, or Majmu3at as would call them Gemayel in Lebanon.

Interestingly enough, Majmu3at (literally ‘groupings’ in arabic) because it can enable him to strategically lump-sum Christians across sects (maronites, orthodox, catholics, etc.), a depiction that is a political aberration, as orthodox and catholics were mainly affiliated to leftist or just ‘pro-arab’ trends, whereas maronites were more involved in isolationist ‘pro-western’ camps. But even this classification breaks down if we look at it through regions, as it was really the result of specific tribal or clan-based political choices that a specific political trend was followed. Anyway, this can be a long discussion, the idea I wish to go from is that one should always deconstruct our perception of social entities as embedded in political structures and opportunities as well as social change that is historically determined.

The main problem with the political Right is that it confuse political social and economic structures and practices with values, beliefs, and other more elusive terms when it come to understanding reality. Confusing both is in itself a political program as it permits the crystallization of monolithic entities that are pitted against each other because presumed to be inherently and innately different. Whereas in reality, practices, ‘cultures’, are much more shifty, built and reframed by the political actors in places, remolded by the dominant powers exporting the discursively permissible, and thus creating the different Lebanese subjects through the formation of new and the fixation of old institutions.

If students studied the creation of a national subject in the different known countries today, one should reserve a special part to Lebanon where different national subjects are being defined by the confessional system. A federal system aims at crystallizing these (deemed to be) heterogeneous entities, and thereby foreclosing the possibility of molding the national Lebanese subject (it also invite foreign powers to be indispensable safety nets to the various ‘majmou3at’). One should not rely on federalism in the US or in Switzerland (the favorite example of Lebanese, especially because of its ‘civilizational’ symbolic undertone, plus the ‘banking’ elements) to push for the Lebanese federalist case, as the federalist case here will be based on the perception of difference at the ‘cultural’ level. It is built along these premises.

Whereas in the US and Switzerland, there are no perceived ‘cultural’ (as defined in the political sense of rigid systems of values and beliefs) differences, the federal system being simply a technically useful tool (there are other huge differences like the existence of a strongly centralized security system and a vibrant economy, two things Lebanon lacks completely, I advise everyone to check how powerful the Swiss army is and how stringent are its demands on its population, just do a google search). Basically, the Lebanese federalists are playing a dangerous game, and it is the “I’m Christian and I have a security dilemma” game. But that is a long story, and I shall post on it soon. Peace out.

Some of Lebanon’s power shifts

Now if you come to think about it, what happened in Lebanon in the last few years is a classical example of shifts in power poles. One need to look at changes happening at the level of organizations and institutions (of the state and related) that deal with security issues, especially if one wants to understand the political deadlock which we are slowly sinking in.

The main argument I wish to make is that, at the local level, Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon has provoked two main events: First, it has rushed Hizbullah to get out of its self-made ‘safe-zone’ and confront specific political choices it had to make at some point. This is prevalent in the fact that every institution in the party is trying to adjust to the new reality, and this can be seen clearly through its media organs, the new meanings used in speeches (borrowing from ‘Lebanese’ ideological material such as cedar, mountains etc.), and especially through the practices of the organization (denouncing more forcefully other Lebanese player for example), in the run up to the dialogue sessions, to its demands to have a share in existential national decision.

The second event is the frontal assault waged against Hizbullah, forcefully followed by the 14th of March heterogeneous political alliance. Of course both events are closely linked.

The security void has triggered many tentative seizing of coercive means. The Lebanese army stayed closely allied with the president keeping a close coordination with Hizbullah, one of the reasons why 14th of Marchers want the president down. Alternatively, some groups tried to seize other security-sensitive state institutions like the police forces or internal security forces (Hariri and the Amn el dakhili), while others, lacking easy access to the state have resorted to militia strengthening (Geagea and the LF, and probably the SSNP and various other smaller organizations).

Assassination rationales can be inscribed in the same context. Beyond their symbolic motives and repercussions in constraining elites to make specific political choices, and shifting public opinion in specific directions, the very strategic choice of assassinating would not have been that attractive prior to Syrian withdrawals because of the different security settings that prevailed.

The most important thing of it all is that Hizbullah has changed its political priorities for the second time (first time would be in 1992 by entering lebanese political life). How this will evolve is still a mystery. It will depend mostly on the regional brokered deals and how much Hizbullah will accept specific compromises. They seem to be ready to accept anything as long as their weapons are not dismantled under the Pax (well not pax if we look at Iraq…) Americana umbrella. This could have regressive repercussions on the capability of Hizbullah to contribute to a change in the Lebanese political system. Especially that in a sense, they may be the only group politically (practically) that can trigger long lasting change.

Why not the Christians? The way Christians are trying to squeeze themselves inside the new security formulas shows their profound weakness in being able to push for any substantial change. Divided between relying on Americans and alliances with Sunni and Druze oligarchs on the one hand, or strengthening the security system already put in place by the Lahoud-Hizbullah-Syria alliance, Christians are the most vulnerable target of all sects, and this is why it may be too soon to speak of a serious questioning of the confessional system. In both cases, Christians are very depended on other power brokers. In the first case, they want to go for ‘the whole nine yards’ a tradition set forth by their Phalangist and other isolationist antecedents. In the second, they accept neighboring political realities and want to work with it and have an already set institutional security structure to start from. In sum, Christian politics is still framed in the same security equations since Syria entered Lebanon in 1976. It is these security equations that first divided (to name but a few) the Qataeb (Phalangists), then the LF, and lately the various Christian groups picking and choosing from earlier political formations.

Is it also clear why political assassinations targeted Christians?

Brammertz’ surprises

Gee.. I wonder why is it that the countries not cooperating with Brammertz investigation on the Hariri assassination are mostly those who back the ‘we want the truth’ camp or are in one way or another under the same sphere of influence?

According to the latest Brammertz report countries not cooperating are: USA, UK, France, Brazil, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Iraq, and last but not least, Israel.

Addendum: The same newspaper reporting that a diplomatic source said that the above mentioned countries were not cooperating says today that actually they are cooperating. So either Brammertz wants to cool things down and presents a clean report, or Al-Akhbar got it simply wrong.

Jumblatt parading in the Neocon’s nest

As sectarian tensions mount, AEI [American Enterprise Institute] will host Lebanese parliament member Walid Jumblatt, a leader of the Cedar Revolution, who will talk about these pressing issues.

That’s being held today at Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Maybe you could go Apo and tell us what absurdities our Druze ex-warlord-still-oligarch-exploiting-sectarian-divisions has to say on the “future of Lebanon”?

The Non-Aligned

Funny how Lebanese don’t lack creativity to come up with solidarity movements, petitions to sign, political stands, etc. that glorifies their independence of affiliation. The “non-aligned” movement is the most interesting of all, because in reality, it slides inadvertently towards one side (the government, 14th of March). I’ll explain why in a minute.

I have been receiving, since the end of the July-August war, a series of forwarded emails about websites to check, created by either advertising company employees (who happen to have the creativity required to come up with new brands), or some random well to do Lebanese who thinks his point of view could reach any where further than the Gemayze street.

Check for example the “Awareness campaign on sectarianism“, clearly an elitist title in the first place, as if people did not know that sectarianism exist and needs to be corrected. They seem to say: “Let me tell you about sectarianism, I got enough money from the World Bank and the UNDP, to tell you the obvious”. What they do, is they choose a village that’s really poor like Akkar, and then they

aim to encourage youth participation in local governance, reach remote and marginalized communities and react to the non-existence of municipal authority in the target region. The approach also advocates democratic values through education and training, empowering local communities & encouraging sustainable development.

So what does this have to do with fighting ‘sectarianism’? All they do is incite student (a selected few) to get involved in public matters of organization (whatever that means). Then the rest
of the campaign is subcontracted to Leo Burnett and the like in order to do cheezy ads like “I am english, je suis francais, ana shi3eh, ana sunneh”. I really love it when banks, and media companies want to teach political lessons!

It gets even trickier when you learn that I received this email by a guy who always sends me anti-Aounist forwards and actually declares to be a huge Samir Geagea fan. For those interested in conceptual frameworks and the social sciences, this is a pure instance of ideological behavior. The distortion of representation in the face of a socio-economic reality (I am simplifying the definition of course). Although Aoun on the ground has presented an effective mode of action to fight confessionalism, he hates the guy, and when another guy is clearly being sectarian in all his actions (Geagea), he loves him. yet he boasts about ‘awareness against sectarianism’. Socio-economic environment? He works for Leo Burnett and belongs to the upper strata of Beirut’s population. Meaning that there are no reasons to relate to a movement like Tayyar or like Hizbullah.*

I give you one final example: Another guy sends me his ‘cced’ deep thoughts on the Lebanese situation. He also works in advertising, so you can tell that he’s a shrewd political commentator. His emails are the most naive texts I have ever read in my life. In any case, Here is his latest thing: “Resove it. Solve it”. So they come up with shiny slogans, that are completely empty of content. They’re used to it because their job is about creating unnecessary needs with shiny slogans, creating meaning from complete emptiness. In this case, they want you to sign a petition that you’re sick of conflicts and war and you want the ‘politicians’ to ‘resolve it’. This is the stupidest thought I have ever heard uttered. As if, first of all, you signing this useless petition will change anything, second of all, as if change has to do with them ‘resolving’ things. I mean don’t these people understand anything about power, interest, rivalries, regional situations, etc?

Now why are phony intellectuals who claim to be non-aligned are actually mostly in line with government policies? Simply because by saying you reject American interference in Lebanon in words doesn’t make you REALLY reject it. You have to reject it factually, on the ground, in reality. If you oppose yourself at the only force capable of rejecting it (namely Hizbullah), then you’re off from a very bad start. Living in denial of how reality actually is makes you a tacit apologist of what you reject in words that are not verified by practices. It does not mean you are with Hizbullah, but at least you understand, comprehend the fact that they are the best entitled to confront US Middle Eastern destructive foreign policy.

If you think Hizbullah is an Iranian import and you cannot understand the mechanism behind affiliation with Hizbullah (as a genuine social process of change) than you’re already being biased in the way you think your political affiliations. In the “resolve it, solve it” case, the fallacy is thinking that you need these people (the Lebanese political factions) to agree, when actually you need to have one party (the government, and the ‘majority’) to accept that the other has an important role to play in the affairs of the country (Hizbullah). So go scream at the destructive governmental policies instead of acting hip and elitist and thinking you’ll be interesting acting “different” because you’ll only be pushing for the preservation of the current oppressive status-quo. Unfortunately, because it never oppressed you (Harirism was a gold mine for the service sector), you’ll never understand shit about things.

* I will soon post on how sectarianism in Lebanon is closely related to the phony liberal system, that actually has created a militia economy and culture among the service sector of the country.