Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle (Chapter 3, Post Lebanese War Class Struggle and Pre- 9/11)

In this section after shedding some light on the struggles of the bourgeoisie on the Proletariat in Israel and Lebanon. This chapter will focus on Class Struggle inside Lebanon after the Taef Accord.

The end of the Civil War: Truimph of Syria & United States

As the Lebanese Civil War came to an end, a new change on the bourgeoisie arena took place. A new form of power emerged. Syria adopted the Taef accord, and after the turmoil of assasinating President Rene Moua'wad, the political parties that are pro-Syrian dominated. On the international arena, United States sold Lebanon to Syria in return Syria supports the United States against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The last supporter of Saddam Hussein, who was General Aoun, was exiled to France to live in a five star hotel.

The Taef accord imposed that all parties should lay down their arms. Syria adjusted the agreement informally to manipulate weaponry hegemony to a single party: Hezbollah. Such monopoly was in the name of resistance. Hezbollah themselves were surprised to that decision and were mistrustful in the beginning as Syria twice intervined to save AMAL movement in its clashes against Hezbollah.

Class Struggle in the Post War

The anti-Syrian forces were limited to two major christian parties: The Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement. Syria already involved itself even to the details of the election of party members. The Lebanese Communist Party (1988), the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (1984), the Phalangists (Post 1990), and few others all suffered from interventions in their party elections.

The war witnessed the distengration of the secular forces, and mainly the Lebanese Communist Party (and other Communist Factions), and the SSNP. The formula was to end the presence of the anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon, while indirectly Lebanon undergoes "Free" elections which technically witnessed extensive Syrian extortion and blackmail. The plan was to enforce the Sectarian divide in order to isolate the Maronites traditional parties. The Phalangists for example had a Pro-Syrian leader called Mounir el Hajj, while the leader of the Lebanese Forces was the only leader to be punished for war crimes, after being framed, into prison. General Aoun was already in France while succeeded to establish the Free Patriotic Movement to oppose Syria. No matter how much the FPM tried to promote itself as a secular movement, it remained run by a one man show called Aoun, and as a movement it remained Christian in essence, just as the Progressive Socialist Party was supposed to be Socialist but remained a Druzi sect party in the core.

The plan is to keep the proletariat isolated according to Sects, and with weaponry monopolized by the ever growing Party Hezbollah, the Syrians invented a new formula to control the masses, other than playing on the fear factor that each sect would be eaten alive by the other unless they support their traditional leaders. The formula focused as follows:

1) To be anti-Syrian means to oppose resistance against Israel and the Arab Cause, which meant directly treason and indirectly a fanatic Christian. This equation was based on the fact that Syria supported Hezbollah extensively, while Hezbollah did indeed not direct its weaponry against any Lebanese civilian. Sadly Hezbollah became the not only the balancer of power, but Syria's primary path to vanquish most of opposition to take any real or effective actions against opposing Syria.

2) To be Pro-Syrian means to be pro-resistance, which means anti-Israel directly and a good Muslim or a good friend of the muslims unofficially.

Through this formula, the Proletariat were more and more divided, and class awareness took huge steps away from actualization. The Communist Party adopted the slogan of resistance and support of the resistance, although historically it was the Lebanese Communist Party and the Order for Communist Work initiated the "Resistance Front" when West Beirut* fell for 6 days against Israel.

The Sunni leadership became officially represented with Rafiq Harriri who later established a movement after his private TV station Future Television. The formula was supposed to be as follows in the trio top executive cabinet:

1) A Neutral Figure: That person was President Elias Harawi, who really didn't have any real ground forces.

2) A Pro-Syrian Figure: That figure was Head of the Parlaiment Nabih Berri**, who had allegiance to Syria since 1984
3) A Pro-Western Figure: That was supposed to be the Prime Minister Rafiq el-Harriri, who used to attend negotiations outside Lebanon with the Saudi delegations and had strong ties with United States and France as well. His plan was integrating Lebanon within the World Trade Organization.

The chairs of the Parlaiment were equality distributed 50% Christian and 50% Muslim according to the Taef accord. This led the Muslims to feel treated unjust, since they became the majority, specially through the Shiite Sect. The Shiites were mostly made of the Lower Class with no social welfare coverage whatsoever. As the majority coming from a lower class rural areas with minimum infrastructure (such as doctors, roads, electricity, schools,...etc) birth rate was high relatively to the other Sects. While an average of four to 8 children per family in general existed, the Sunni and other Sects had an average of 2 to 4 mostly.

The balance of power was broken, Syria's tactic to keep the Proletariat divided worked. No Sect would love or accept the other unless the Sect leader welcomed the other in the house and proclaimed officially there is an alliance.

The Shiites upper and lower classes were represented by AMAL and Hezbollah respectively. AMAL was involved in the political game and had ministers while Hezbollah were satisfied with the Parlaiment members, and focused on Israel and building the infrastructure of the South.

The Sunnites remained neutral. The leaders were business men and never focused on details of the competition between the anti-Syrian forces and the Pro. Harriri and his business machinary already been an empire, while the Sunni masses never been involved. Syria had the "Ahhbash" (extreme Sunni fanatics) and the dissolved Morabitoun (a small Sunni militia during the civil war) to be check point on the Future movement. Any time Harriri did not please Syria, those would be ready to demonstrate. Even though the traditional Sunni leaders such as Karami had some regional power, but it was simply limited to Tripoly.

The Druze were the biggest dilemna in the Post-War. The person who gathered most popularity was the son of Kamal Junblatt, Walid Junblatt. During the war, Walid sided with Syria even though it was the Syrians who assasinated his father after his father was politically isolated in Lebanon and attempted to establish contacts with Syrian Opposition against the Baathi regime. Walid Junblatt survived two assasination attempts, of which the first he blamed Amin Gemayel and sided with the Syrians during the war. In the post-war era, Walid Junblatt severely attacked the Syrians and kept accusing him as wanting to establish a "2nd Bureau Regime" in Lebanon. He did the famous reconciliation afterwards in Mt. Lebanon when he welcomed Patriarch Sfair in his homeland while prior to that the relations were tense as the Lebanese Forces and The Progressive Socialist Party clashed in the "Mountain War" as the Israelis were pulling out of that area. Plenty of Christian and Druze Proletariat were brutally killed in that clash.

After the Operation of Grapes of Wrath in 1996, Junblatt's position kept remaining vague. Sometimes he would support the Syrians and sometimes he would attack them. Afterwards, he fully adopted the Syrian speech that national unity is needed to face Israel. Sadly, the Druze followers typically followed their leader. Yet, Junblatt was not the only Durzi leader. A weaker Durzi feudal "prince" was present to rival Junblatt. The rivalry has been for centuries, but after the rise of Kamal Junblatt, the Junblatts dominated the majority of the Druze. Syria tried to Istablish this prince, called Talal Irslain whose family played a major role in the 1943 "independance", as a checkpoint on Junblatt. No matter, his popularity was not even close to Junblatt's. Even in the new millenium, Syria tried to put Irslain as a Minister of State and give him some political value, but without any success. Irslain was one of many miscalculated blunders that Syria did on the political level. Hence on a Proletariat level, Druze were divided mainly in allegiance to Walid Junblatt, afterwards few to Talal Irslain, while the secular Druze were in distributed between Communists and Syrian Nationalists. The Communists in that Section supported Walid Junblatt as the ex-strong Communist Party broke down to plenty of factions.

The Christians tried to unify their fronts and did the "Qornit Shahwan" where all Christian figures opposing Syria gathered there in this union. It had with it Walid Junblatt also, but withdrew his men after he switched allegiance to Syria for the next couple of years. That had some success as the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement participated extensively on it, along with Christian Clerks, and secular forces such as Nassib Lahoud and Boutros Harb. Later, Aoun would withdraw his own people from it. Later Aoun's movement would withdraw away from it.

The social life was totally suffocating to the Proletariat. At one hand, bureaucratic corruption followed as pro-Syrian parties occupied public sector jobs. Nabih Berri was the most famous of all in bringing his boys jobs at public expense. Michel el Murr (a Pro-Syrian Figure) built an empire in Matn area by recruiting his own boys to the public sector and secure more votes that way.

Whenever a demonstration occured and was organized by Pro-Syrian parties, maximum media coverage occured while at the same time terror and fear followed the leftists and Christian forces when they organized demonstrations against Syria, censorship, and corruption. Funny thing that plenty of the Anti-Syrian figures were part of the corruption one way or another. Activists' pictures were taken and they were traced. The intelligence, whether Syrian or Lebanese, would threaten them to remain calm, scare their families, or they would been the demonstrators directly. The Pro-Syrian parties enjoyed that scene since they feel they have been there and view themselves as the majority.

Nevertheless, Syria depended extensively on every single dimension. They attempted to censor as much as possible the media. Annahar, Saffir, and Daily Star faced several censorships. The Pro-Syrian youth were bluffed that the Public Sector file and Syrian Intervention topic should not be tackled till the Israeli invasion was cleared. Different scandals occured, and the Harriri block recieved a share of those scandals whenever the Syrians want to tighten the leech on the non-100% loyalists. The re-writing of history occured as Pro-Syrian Phalangist leaders (forced) recieved Baathi leaders and others in an attempt to isolate the Maronites.

In the meantime, the Anti-Syrian forces became more and more racist towards the Syrians. They failed to distinguish between Syrian elites and people. The Syrian workers already were everywhere in Lebanon doing blue collar work mostly whether in the villages or the city. Some Syrian intelligence officers were hiding among those workers which brought more racism towards the Syrian Proletariat as it already existed for political factors.

Some left-wing activists attempted to organize a fresh new left against all political movements but gradually their radicalism became absorbed into bandwagonning with stronger parties.

A Major Obstacle and Threat

In 1998 - 1999, a major incident happened that shook the entire elites from place. I was specially active in those eras getting my skull bashed in demand for the implementation of such activism. That incident probably was the first block to trigger a chain reaction series to unify the Lebanese proletariat, which was Civil Marriage. The Lebanese President, the late Elias Hrawi, decides that civil marriage needs to be implemented. As leftists, we have been demanding Civil Marriage for decades and the abolishment of Law of Personal Affairs***. At first it was the Muslim Clerks who opposed Civil marriage, and the more fanatic ones called it as "Christian Heresy". Afterwards, the Christian clerks, and in specific the head of the Maronite and Catholic community Patriach Sfair, followed. Most of the leaders opposed it because they viewed Civil Marriage as a threat to bind the isolated sects, which meant the end of their Sect Leadership. All parties were threatened. The ones who hit the roads were the different forms of the leftwing, some members of the Free Patriotic Movement (Aoun's), the Syrian Social Nationalist Party at full scale, and few members of the Progressive Socialist Party. It should be worthy to note that in a survey for Civil Marriage, the Druze Sect most opposed Civil Marriage, jusst before the Sunna Sect. Demonstrations took place, while the Islamic Brothers and other fanatic groups attacked the peaceful demonstrations. In the end, the topic became so controversial that the executive and legislative powers decided to drop it.

Lebanon Wins Against Israel, but on what Cost

By the year 2000, the IDF withdrew from Lebanon as a result of Hezbollah operations against the occupied territory. The IDF could not tolerate any more casualties. This was a double edge sword for Lebanon. For starters, it had a unifying effect as all Lebanese political forces celebrated liberation and the end of the Israeli occupation to Lebanon. Lebanon in the year 2000, was the first Arab nation to win a battlefront against the Israelis, in a front that lasted for 22 years. The horrors of Israeli prisons down there were even condemned by the Red Cross. Lebanon as a whole celebrated this historical victory.

Yet the outcome was leading to a more severe dimension. The Anti-Syrians were happy also because now with Israel withdrawn from South Lebanon, they can finally tackle the Syrian presence in Lebanon. They demanded the full implementation of al-Taef agreement which included that the Syrians should withdraw. Demonstrations escalated, but so was military brutality. The anti-Syrian forces actually never gathered demonstrations of the size of Pro-Syrian parties who always kept celebrating the "Uniqueness of the relationship between Lebanon and Syria" or "Unity of fate and destiny of both people (Syrian and Lebanese)". Actually just when you think you heard it all regarding the art of lip service, you just have to be surprised the next day. For example the MP from Jib Jineen Firzli for example said: "Lebanon is lucky to have such a neighbor, after all, relations between Lebanon and Syria in terms of resistance dated back as far as the Romans. Togather we are stronger against Israel." The size of Anti-Syrian demonstrations were muh fewer in number for different reasons:

1) Fear to be beaten
2) Loss of Job and expose oneself to blackmail
3) Families lacking the motives to hit the street and express themselves
4) Never thought that Syria's withdrawal can occur as their sudden withdrawal would trigger a worse chaos in Lebanon as it already was.
5) Plenty also thought that Syria can never withdraw from Lebanon, specially the United States sold out on the Christians, hence why risk one's own neck to do so.

The Christians and few leftist student movements were active on that dimension. The Druze participated depending on the situation whether Walid Junblatt's position was Pro or Anti- Syrian. The Sunni street in general remained silent except for the appearance of Ahhbash and more fundementalist groups.

The Syrians kept their iron grip on Lebanon even though ex-President Amin Gemayil was allowed to return back in 1998.

The Pro-Syrians were also happy about the defeat of Israel in South Lebanon. For starters, the speech and formula they formulated about Syrian Presence and how they combined it in facing the Zionist terror paid off pretty well. Syria capitalized on Hezbollah's victory to make it an Arab Victory in general, and Syrian in specific (other than Lebanon). This victory also meant that Syrian presence assisted the Lebanese to win and that is how it was promoted over here back in 2000. This victory caused the anti-Syrians to be isolated.

This sudden withdrawal of the Israeli outside South Lebanon did not mean it did not stirr trouble for the Syrian Government. The Syrian bourgeoisie were bargaining on keeping the front open in S. Lebanon while preserving the Golan Heights as peaceful even though Israeli forces been there since Sadat's war. There bargaining chip was get Golan Heights liberalized from Lebanon as also using the weaponry of Hezbollah as means to close an iron grip on the Lebanese, even though Nasrallah clearly stated taht Hezbollah's weaponry is directed towards the invading Zionist. Once Israel withdrew, and after a month, Hezbollah declared that the Sheba'a farms* are still occupied. With time the arguement gradually shifted from liberating the Shebaa farms to defend Lebanon's security. The sad part is that the people there of this tiny spot are being used as bargaining chips for the political elites in order to accomplish military, political, or both victories. The simplest way if everyone really cared about Shebaa farms was to do a poll for its people.

When 9/11 occured, things took a different turn.

Notes:

* When the War was declared in 1976, Beirut was divided supposedly to Christian East Beirut and Muslim West Beirut with a border line to seperate both. During the Israeli Invasion East Beirut was living normally as if there was no war and welcomed the IDF while West Beirut was silent like a ghost town as Israeli artillary bombed West Beirut and with no lights to appear. West and East Beirut were re-united in the early days of the election of Amin Gemayel as President, but again the split of two Beiruts occured as Amin Gemayel almost signed the peace treaty with Israel when Syria returned to the Political Arena of Lebanon after being kicked out by Israel, and the return was spearheaded by AMAL movement who shifted sides from the support of the Government and anti-Palestinian logos to Arab Nationalist slogans and Pro-Palestinian... which took the Israelis themselves into surprise as they tried to build Shiite and Christian militias more than once except the only success was the South Lebanese Army. Beirut was re-united after the Civil war was over, but technically it remained concentrated sectarian wise into three blocks:

1) West Beirut: the Cosmopolitican Area which had all Sects in it and were interactive
2) East Beirut: the Christian dominated Beirut
3) Subburbs of Beirut (al-Dahhieh): Shiite dominated area of Beirut which has been Shiite concentrated ever since Urbanization took place in the late 1960s. It is worth to note that the Suburbs used to be Communist populated, till AMAL with the help of the Syrians put the iron grip against the communists in 1983-1985 clashes.

** Nabih Berri: During the reign of Imam Moussa el Sadre, the leadership of AMAL was made of Shiite clerks and Shiites civilians. Nabih Berri was the leader of that Movement, who at first suported the Chistian dominated government at first, but when his rivals were given legislative power to his rival, he switched to Syria.

*** Law of Personal Affairs (in Arabic: Qanon el Ahhwal el Shakhsieh): is an official law that governs people according to its Sect. Even though in a lot of circumstances the Civil Law has dominated, but when it came to marriages and so on, that law always existed instead of Civil Law. For example, the Greek Orthodox are allowed to divorce while the Catholics are not allowed to. It seperates inheritance according to sect. Each sect inherits differently than the other. As leftists, we opposed such law as believing that Civil Law should dominate all perspectives of life and in the end it is a legal judge who should be in charge of such affairs such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance since Religion belongs at home.

****Shebaa Farms: Supposedly to be Lebanese and exists between Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. It had a a Syrian post after Syria withdrew from the 1948 war, but the UN did not officially approve whether the land is Lebanese or Syrian. Suspicions toward the Syrian elites is as follows: If Shebaa is designated by the UN as Lebanese, Israel would withdraw in defecto according to the UN resolution 425. Later, Israel took over the land, and remained a dispute whether the land is Lebanese or not. The Syrian government accknowledged that the land is Lebanese but refuted to sign on that fact, or else Hezbollah would lose its excuse to fight invadors. The UN refuted to consider the Shebaa farms as Lebanese and considered it as Syrian. Lebanese government (current Siniora government) still argues that Shebaa Farms are Lebanese and not Syrian in order to facilitate national unity between the different political parties.

See Chapter 2: Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle (Chapter 2: Dwelling on the evolution of Societies) link

See Chapter 1: Lebanon, Israel, and Class Struggle (Chapter 1: Background of the Bourgeoisie) link

2 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

This post is quite interesting. It exposes complexities, not ordinarily spoken about, as Hezbollah and Syria.

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