Political maronitism strikes back, and other considerations

There are several media campaigns being launched by the Lebanese Forces and some Phalangist elements. It is big showdown before legislative elections. The slogans and images leaves one to ponder. Take this one for example that does not look like it is sponsored by the Lebanese Forces or else they would have made sure to have their logo on it:

“We are the Lebanese Resistance”

What the hell are they talking about? It reminds me of the type of confrontational stance we had when we were kids that goes something like this:

– I was the first to play Lego
– No I was the first!
– My dad is the strongest
– No MY dad is the strongest

The “We” is an implicit ‘answer’ to Hizbullah they think are saying: “NO it is we who are the TRUE Lebanese resistance”. Pitiful to say the least. But in a way it is true, until very recently Hizbullah never claimed to be a “Lebanese resistance”, but an “Islamic resistance in Lebanon”. I won’t digress on the ambiguities of such statements especially that today Hizbullah forcefully argues that its resistance is ‘nationalist’.

Moving on to an explicit LF one:

This billboard is about the announcement of a mass that will be given in the memory of ‘the martyrs of the Lebanese Forces”. The top liner says: “we were brothers in martyrdom, let’s be brothers in life”. So I’m still trying to figure out what they mean by “we” but if it refers to the martyrs of Hizbullah then it is truly interesting to see how this martyrdom language has picked up like fire across all parties, especially such antagonistic ones as the LF and Hizb.

It is quite interesting to see that historically when it was Hizbullah who emerged in re-action to Lebanese Forces practices all around the country (in the 80s), now the reverse: it is LF’s discourse that is overclouded by representations of Hizbullah and it seems to ‘speak’ to them.

On another note, martyrdom has become a category as important as sect to identify with a specific imaginary collective in this tiny little geography called Lebanon. If you want to be politically relevant (or named) then you better show some martyrs. In this case, the legitimating instance is the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (good job sanctifying the LF) who’s going to give the mass in question.

So in a way the use of the dead for the purpose of distinguishing, separating, categorizing, and naming, is ironically used to reach out to the ‘other’. That’s the sectarianism system at its best: because we are different we need to reach out to each other. And also: Even in death when we resemble ourselves, what we symbolize by being dead permits us to live separate lives.

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Lebanese judges accuses Qaddhafi of ‘hiding’ Sadr

I forgot to write about that last week, but recently, the Qada’ (the Lebanese official juridical instance) has accused the Libyan president Muammar el Qaddhafi of having instigated the kidnapping (or disappearing) of the Imam Musa Sadr 30 years ago, commemorated on the 13th of August.

If I’m not mistaken, this event is highly important at the very least in terms of the politics of the international tribunal that the (has been) majority coalition tried to set in the backdrop of the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri. The opposition was all along claiming that the Qada’ was untrustworthy because of its all-too-Lebaneseness, and that the killing of Hariri was too much of a weight to carry. Right before the July 2006 Israeli murderous (and stupid) adventure, Parliamentary member Bahij Tabbara (a close to the Hariri family) opened a channel of discussion with the opposition (namely Hizbullah) to have a ‘mixed’ tribunal where Lebanon’s juridical instances would retain some sort of discretion on the legal process. Talks were quickly halted by the deteriorating local post-war situation.

Here is an opinion that asks why not an international tribunal for Sadr’s disappearance.

Well anyway, Sadr’s disappearance (and most likely assassination) is in the hands of those same untrustable instances, and fingers are being pointed on the highest authority of another country, which is strikingly similar to the Hariri case were the main (14 of March) culprit is the Syrian president.

This is the political power of symbolic acts: No one hopes that Qadhafi would ever be dragged in front of Lebanese judges but it partly means that, ‘See? we did it with our dude, you guys can do the same for hariri!’

The continuous downfall of political Maronitism

Or “Yet another morbid tale from the land of the free”

Anyone seen the latest billboard campaign of the Lebanese Forces? Check out how pathetic and empty their slogan is: “You are the Cedar and we are its red line”. What the fuck does it mean? Does it mean that this mostly empty-of-any-historical-signification-symbol the cedar is embodied in some “people” (of course The Christians, the actual real/authentic people of “Lebanon”), and they are going to protect this imagined entity?

I have been amazed by the particular types of nationalisms deployed in this little chunk of land that came to be called Lebanon. Old Christian aristocratic french-mandate nationalism is something, Kataeb nationalism is kind of different (trying to catch up with ‘aristocrat’ status but never fully succeeding), Tayyar today is also different, along with Hizbullah, or Mustaqbal brands. Anyway, one can talk a lot of all those imagined histories but let’s focus on this particular violent one, one that is born during the 75-90 war, a virulently isolationist type that lives on a dead-born idea, the one of the Lebanese forces. And their campaign is here to testify. Billboards show in turn different dead Lebanese famous political actors, some are obviously claimed by the LF, such as Bashir Gemayel (founder of the LF), and Pierre Gemayel (his father and leader of the Kataeb party). Others are less so, boys and girls, such as Charles Malik (a so-called human right activist who is actually a horrible anti-Muslim demagogue), and Camille Chamoun.

Wait… what? Camille Chamoun? For those who don’t know, Chamoun was one Lebanese president who at the time (50s) symbolized the apex of political Maronitism under the auspice of British intelligence, struggling to distance the country from its ‘Arab’ color. But that’s not the point. Chamoun’s son, Dany, during the civil war had a militia of his own (the Tigers…) like all good grown up political feudal heirs, and he did his share of butchering, training with Israelis, and what have you. Now here comes the interesting part, early in the war, the Lebanese Forces, then a rising organization under Bashir Gemayel, proceeded into killing most of ‘the Tigers’, in effect removing potential rivals on the “Christian arena”. Dany Chamoun was spared till much later, assassinated along with his two little sons, wife, and dog, though maid and daughter could hide in closet. His daughter Tamara vehemently accuses Samir Geagea then and now leader of the LF of having perpetrated the act.

Dory Chamoun, the brother of Dany, who still tries to carve himself a space in Lebanese politics held the position that it was the Syrians who killed his brother and not Geagea, thereby making possible a rapprochement between this ill-fated family and the last bastion of violently isolationist Christian political formations. Look at how pathetic this last Chamoun is: allying with the most probable murderer of his brother for simple power equations. But then again, I want to ask a question. Lebanese politicking is so random in terms of the political choices made by actors. Why then did not Chamoun brother allied with Aoun? He was a fierce anti-Syrian, represented one political facet of Christian affirmation, and has most likely not killed his brother.

This is the viciousness of Lebanese politics me friends… And now, Lebanese Forces billboard can re-appropriate one symbol of Lebanese political Maronitism, Camille Chamoun, as another dead person repesenting this so-called red line circling the cedar. What irony that while browsing youtube, I found these videos (see part 1, 2, and 3) of unpublished footage of Dany Chamoun lobbying two Bkerke Priests, the clerical maronite authority in this little chunk of land called Lebanon, to pressure the LF to give their weapon to the Lebanese army (then under the command of Michel Aoun) and stop ruling over the Christian street. We’re in the late 1980s by the way. And that’s the best part: In these videos we hear Dany complain that Geagea LF is using his father’s picture and putting it up on Christian street while engaging in practices such as coming into his house, searching for papers, messing the house upside down and pillaging. The same picture is used for their campaign today, 20 years later.

So yes all this is very sad. So many layers of sadness piling up on each other: Traditional Maronite political elitism being succeeded by remnants of Maronite political dreams extracting their legitimacy, their ‘substance’, from antagonistic ghosts, that only serve the cause of building the imaginary Christian memory once they’ve been dead and can’t speak about these bloody antagonisms. All this put on the back of a tree, the cedar, inflated with notions of height, and cheap feelings of superiority.

Zionism’s symbolic struggle

I always find the best stories in Forward. Check this article telling the story of Israeli far-right political parliamentary members trying to push for a law that would actually strip Arabic of its official language status (alongside Hebrew).

Hegemony: an illustration

This just in:

CBNNews.com – JERUSALEM, Israel – Iranian missiles are making their way to Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorists via Turkey, according to intelligence reports.

Ok, let’s try something:

XXXNews.com – BEIRUT, Lebanon – USA missiles, cluster bombs, and uranium-rich weapons, are making their way to the Palestine-based Zionist terrorist army, via USA, according to intelligence reports.

Does it work? Does it make sense? If it does, it means you could escape dominant hegemonic discourse. If not, then you’re still unconsciously subjected to it. And don’t be too quick to say that it does, because you don’t know to what extent is the hegemonic insidiously ingrained in the very way you think. You’re never fully above it.

Why?


Yes why out of all instruments the Scottish bagpipe? This is at a Palestinian camp during demonstrations against the murderous encircling of Gaza. But there is a Hizbullah song that has it too, and in its video clip, there is a guy filmed dressed like a soldier, playing bagpipe on the top of a hill or something. Anyone who has an answer to this question will be more than welcome to comment.

Update: the comment section has mo explaining clarifying things..

The salience of the concept of martyrdom

Instead of a tree (as used by Hizbullah), the army seems to use its logo as a kind of schema to portray some of its combatants that died during the recent battles.
The concept of doing skeletons of martyrs if I may call it this way has the peculiar effect of constructing collective imaginaries (nationalism, etc.) around the crystallization of the militant deeds of these actors for the sake of the common cause.
Of course it does not mean that the army has exactly that in mind when doing it. It just signals how modes of expression travel well, and are empowered (given meaning) at various points in time. And here as this liner suggest (Lebanon triumphs thanks to the union of its army), martyrdom helps to create the idea that the Lebanese army is a living organism on its own feeding on the memory of those who died, strengthening the image of a unified institution, an image mirroring the projected dream of a nation.

By the way, I was at the Arabic book forum a couple of days ago, and saw that the Internal Security Forces had their own stand there, selling a huge book full of pictures about (and detailed account of), the ISF’s martyrs from the creation of this institution (before the independence and creation of the Lebanese state, during the French mandate) to this very day practically. It made sure to include the last year.