Friday, March 23, 2007

Investigating Lebanon: The Ethnic Dilemma Part III (Final)

Check Part II and Part I

On Causes of Internal Conflict:

“In Brief, states are especially prone to violence if state structures are collapsing due to external developments (such as sharp reductions in international financial assistance, sharp declines in commodity prices), internal problems (new, incompetent leaders or rampant corruption), or some combination of above. Under these circumstances, states are increasingly unable to cope with societal demands”

Lebanon experienced began to suffer instability since 1967 which led chain reactions that led to the civil war. The swift Israeli victory over the Arab front left the Arab nations humiliated, and the concept of Arab Nationalism stomped to the ground. The Arab nations found no other means to compensate their humiliation but to support the fast growing PLO. The PLO were active in Lebanon and Jordan, till Jordan crushed and expelled the PLO (with Assad turning a blind eye to assist the Syrian Tank Brigades with airplanes, which made the tanks sitting ducks to the Israeli Air Force).

By 1967, the first missile crossed borders from Lebanese grounds towards Northern Israel. Israel’s logic of handling the PLO is similar to the current US policies in warfare: bomb the locals in order to “motivate” them into getting rid of the PLO. In 1968, Israel performed a commando elite strike which took off Lebanese owned Middle East Airlines planes and tanks. Confrontations between the Lebanese Army and the PLO occurred. By then Arab Nationalism peaked in Lebanon, which was spearhead by Kamal Junblatt. The PLO aware of their alliance to the left in specific and the Muslims in general, kept doing operations on Israel, while the South suffered from retaliations. By 1969, the Cairo agreement was imposed on Lebanon by almost all Arab States, which made the South an official stronghold for the PLO, and transformed the Camps into PLO ownerships. Syria had its own Palestinian Paramilitary Forces, called the PLA (Palestinian Liberation Army), whose elite units were called the Sa’iqa.

Whenever the PLO were in a tight position, according to Itimar Rabinovich, Syria supported them through artillery from cross borders, or by sending PLA units (which were legitimate according to the Cairo Agreement).

When Jordan crushed the PLO on their grounds, they were kicked out and were welcomed to the last country that offered the circumstances for them to be active: Lebanon. Syria had a role in it, and a large faction the Lebanese Left and Sunnis also welcomed them in order to balance against the Lebanese Army, which was biased towards the Christian Parties. Sham’oun was the first to start building his legendary Tigers Militia, according to Itimar Rabinovich, and the rest followed.

The Eastern European Socialist Camp was pumping weaponry to the PLO and their allies, the Lebanese National Movement.

When the 1973 war was over, it was clear that Syria and Egypt initiated such a war to attain bargaining grounds. Despite the fact Lebanon was not part of the war, the 1973 war changed Lebanon heavily. Syria and Egypt got deals with Israel via Henry Kissinger, while the PLO were left out to rotten, which is ironic because the Syrian and Egypt indorsed the Arab cause, which is the liberation of Palestine for Israeli occupation. The PLO left without a choice, had to bomb their way into the negotiation tables.

By 1973, the PLO were allowed to speak as observant in the UN, and Arafat declined demanding the whole Palestine Proper, rather demanded a faction of it (Gaza and West Bank), and gave the Israelis a choice in the matter, they rejected the offer: they chose the Bullet for the Rose. The importance of the PLO is that since 1948, there has not been an official spokesman for the Palestinians and the PLO won it. This does not mean the PLO are innocent virtuous fighters, they did their mess ups and transformed a lot of Lebanese villages as their local HQ while discriminating against the residents there, who were mostly Shiites. The main HQ was soon to become West Beirut.

By 1975, George Adwan was the first Lebanese to establish contacts with the Israelis. The Israelis started pumping captured Soviet weaponry (via Henry Kissinger again) to the soon to become the “Lebanese Front”. The route was Haifa, Cyprus, then Jounieh. Syria wanted the Lebanese National Movement stronger, but not too strong. They wanted a balance of power to take place. When the war broke, the Lebanese National Movement and the PLO dominated quickly 81% (according to Hassan Krayem) of Lebanon, which pushed Syria, the United States, the Lebanese Front, and Israel to coordinate Syrian entry towards Lebanon and disarm the PLO. El-Khaddam himself said that he will not leave with the PLO a kitchen knife.

Since then, the Lebanese state crumbled. The Lebanese Front leaders didn’t realize to give up their supreme political advantages and establish a fairer system, while the Lebanese National Movement were too engulfed with their alliance with the PLO.

Currently, we have France and the United States meddling in Lebanese Affairs to counter the interventions of Syria and Iran. Some Lebanese naively wrote logos: “Bashar el-Assad is the symbol of Democracy” while others raised the French Flag. Of course, all are demanding “Independent Lebanon” (go figure).

“Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence. The emergence and rise of exclusionary national ideologies, such as ethnic nationalism and religious fundamentalism, can be destabilizing as well. The emergence of dehumanizing ideologies, which literally deny the humanity of other ethnic groups, is particularly dangerous because it is often the precursor to genocidal slaughter. The emergence of power struggles between and among elites can be particularly problematic, because desperate and opportunistic politicians are particularly prone to employing divisive ethnic and nationalistic appeals.”

Probably Lebanon, in its political chaos, is summarized indirectly in this perspective. Both camps are aiming to cleanse the other politically and even in some occasions socially. The Sectarian blocks are divided into two reactionary camps, each aiming to dump the other in the sea. Each block claims to be “the real Lebanese” while accuses the other with treason. When violence erupts, regions with minority parties clash, and the majority within a certain block kicks out the other. Several Sunni people fled el Dahhieh region during the Black Thursday because they were worried from AMAL and Hezbollah while Future Movement burnt down to the ashes the SSNP HQ in Tareek el Jadeedi. Kornish el Mazra’a witnessed heavy collisions between supporters of both camps. On Black Tuesday, regions concentrated with Christians, witnessed clashes also from Christians belonging to both camps each claiming to be not only the “Real Lebanese” but also the “Real Christian”. I used the term Black, because civilians died for the greed of their politicians. Usually politicians in different minorities sections use the Ethnic card, in Lebanon, however, they use the Sectarian Card.

Importance of the Domestic Elites

Brown writes: “Although mass-level factors are clearly important underlying conditions that make some places more disposed to violence than others, and although neighboring states routinely meddle in the internal affairs of others, the decisions and actions of domestic elites often determine whether political disputes veer toward war or peace. Leaving elite decisions and actions out of the equation, as many social scientists , is analytically misguided.”

Elites in the end in Lebanon call for the Sectarian Card in desperate needs. That is why Archbishop Sfair would receive a group of mourning Christian women demanding the presence of real Lebanon. All politicians claim they are Secular, but in the end, Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri have Shiites as supporters, Walid Junblatt’s PSP has Druz, Amin Gemayel, Samir Jaajaa, Suleiman Frangieh, and Michel Aoun has Christians, and Saad Harriri in general has the Sunnis. Each sect loves the other when their leaders ally with each other. Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Nasrallah’s Hezbollah despised each other till they allied with each other. The Lebanese Forces were hated by everyone till Jaajaa allied with Harriri and Junblatt, and so the supporters blindly follow because they think that this is how they would survive towards “better life” conditions.

“Ethnic Minorities are often singled out and blamed for the country’s problems: ethnic scapegoating and ethnic bashing become the order of the day”

Taking away the term ethnic, and replacing it with Sectarianism, it will be more appropriate. I think the Lebanese elites have found a new academic field which is called: trashing each other. Each blames the overall and their personal blunders on the other.

“The more interesting question is: why do followers follow?...Two factors are particularly important in this regard: the existence of antagonistic group histories; and mounting economic problems. If groups have bad histories with each other and especially if they see themselves as victims of other aggressive communities, ethnic bashing and inflated threats seem plausible. If economic problems such as unemployment and inflation are mounting an resonate and more people are likely to accept a radical change in a country’s political course, including armed confrontation…but hostilities escalate only because of the existence of other underlying problems or permissive conditions – problematic group histories and economic problems.”

In the case of Lebanon, everyone butchered everyone in the Civil War. Bad economies, corruption of the Christian Parties, the Rise of the Lebanese National Movement, fear of other, and finally the disintegration of Lebanon almost caused everyone to shoot on everyone (at least on the militia standards) while most of the civilians indirectly supported them because they were convinced that is the situation. Each has bad memory of the other. The problem is currently the elites stir up parts of the war memories against the enemy camp leaders and neglect the others. For example, AMAL supporters only remember how the Lebanese Forces welcomed the Israelis despite the fact they supported the Lebanese Front indirectly from 1978 – 1982, and till 1984 they declared war, when Amin Gemayel preferred a puppy Shiite feudal lord rather the movement. The Lebanese Forces supporters think that the Muslims and the Palestinians wanted to demolish Lebanon. Hezbollah want to impose themselves as the image of a pious party, trying to erase the reign of Tfayli, and AMAL are trying to rewrite history as they played a crucial role against the Israeli resistance in 1982. Worse, the Lebanese Forces still denounce the fact Bashir Gemayel invited the Israelis to come over and install him as a President, while Harriri Sr. is being shoved as a man who always resisted the Syrians. Aoun wants to convince his supporters that (first he is sane then) he has been always fighting for the independence of Lebanon while neglecting the fact he had an alliance with a Syrian supported elite called Elie Hobeika (who drove his family towards the embassy when he was kicked out of Baabda Palace.

Too much hatred and only certain details are highlighted by the elites. Bad economy always is an excuse to blame the other and refresh into the memory of their supporters parts of the war as an excuse to attack their opponents. The case of Lebanon, that as a country, no reform can fix Lebanon’s economic problems, and not to forget the budget deficit and loans. The United States once offered to give the Palestinian refugees the Lebanese citizenship in return of canceling their debt that of course was rejected. The Free Market can never solve Lebanon’s problems; in fact, the only country to get rid of its debts has been Chile, due to US investments in it. All other countries have been buried and buried with debts (due to previous colonial reasons and entering the free market rather late). Immigration has increased, and even the Democratic Left idiots think that the service sector can solve everything. Yet the Service sector can never contain that entire labor source, as previously agriculture for example contributed 40% of labor even though it barely contributed 10% to the overall GDP. Tourism is probably the most imbalanced of all. With the threat of another war with Israel or political turmoil (as well as assassinations and riots), tourism directly hits bottom.

Leaders would blame each other, and Sectarianism is increased in time of trouble, just as riots break, a tip of an iceberg appears, while leaders are trying to maximize their own personal profits.


Lebanon’s case is not ethnic. Its groups may have some ethnic qualities, but they are sure not ethnic. Probably the only three who would be ethnic are the Lebanese Forces, who want to revive Phoenician Nationalism, and have a Marounstan in a seperatist manner, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party who dream of a Greater Syria. The Armenian Tashnaq are the third category who preserve Armenian nationalism, and encourage their members to remain isolated. They still dream of returning back to Armenia. All other political actors want to “win it all” scenario, and would use the Sectarian card to escalate against the other as a warning.

As Marxists, we do not believe in “Sonum Bonum” (Latin: Meaning: Values existing by themselves). The Lebanese Forces for example still believe in Christian Supremacy over the rest. The problem is with the elites and sectarian system. They give values for others to follow, while enforcing amnesia that the leaders need their people and not vice versa.

Each Sect claims to be correct. Within each camp, frictions are present, in a term how each Leader would remain in an alliance and increase his sphere of influence among his/her people. Each camp wants to dump the other while both are inviting the other “for National Dialogues”, which is nothing but a waste of time.

All of this is class struggle. The fact that the masses are mobilized like sheep by their leaders shows that the leaders have been on this stage winners, and the people are lacking class awareness that they do not need anyone but themselves to get rid of their chains and dump their leaders into the sea. The Proletariat are being abused by their leaders for their power struggle.


Renegade Eye said...

It reads like a manifesto.

Puppeteer said...

The most plausible theory I read about Lebanon is actually the most far-fetched of all: it said Lebanon was founded as a fiscal-off-sore-arms-smugling-drugs-dealing-money-bleaching heaven. The sectarian instability might just give the right coverage for all the underground hardcore deals.
No, realy, I'm only saying this out of any plausible other solution or cause to the perpetual state of war in Lebanon.

MarxistFromLebanon said...

Dear puppeteer, I think it is about time we should contact each other via msn.

Second, I still say it is the opposite, and to a certain extent it was at a tip of an iceberg in Syria as well... remember the french mandate came to our nations under the banner of protecting the Maronites - Druz - Alawites - others (Palestine as well, I just read a certain memo dating back to 1919 which the Brits are pissed off about France arguing Palestine was part of Syria according to Sykes-Pico, and the Brits used their excuss that they are defending the Jews (9% of Palestine then)

Puppeteer said...

Back then Syria had more Jews than Palestine. But I'm writing something about the subject, also influenced by Renegade's last essay about "The non-Jewish Jew".