Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lebanese make me laugh sometimes!

I was watching a TV show the other day. It was on Future television. Six or seven guys 'n gals from different parts of Lebanon's political spectrum were brought on set to discuss the major differences between Lebanese. You all can immagine how lively that must have been! One guy said he doesn't percieve himself to be an Arab... another guy responded that he thought Lebanese were getting closer together, but after hearing that comment, he began to reconsider.

The one good thing that I percieved was that most of the guests appeared more inteligent and articulate than Future's special guest, Mr. Wael Abu Faour (the new big-shot spokesman for Jumblatt). Whereas Mr. Faour would spit out the regular, boring and incomprehensible rhetoric, I actually enjoyed listening to some of the ideas that the other guests were bringing into the mix. All of them were young - and I got the impression that most of them were in some form educational institution of higher learning. I wish the news covered more voices like theirs rather than what we hear every friggen day of our lives!

Something else in the show caught my attention. We all (as Lebanese) are only a few steps away from thinking we're God! When we talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict, we act as if the fortunes of that war depend on our own participation. We forget how small and irrelevant we are in the big scheme of things. We forget that there are players like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Europe, Russia and the United States that have vested interests in the region.

That is why I chuckle everytime I hear Nasrallah, or (recently) Jumblatt or any other "leader" scream that we will not "abandon" the Palestinians - as if we're really 'helping' them in the first place. I get furious when I catch myself reciting their lines. Hizballah is an extension of Iran, so when it says it will maintain a state of war with Israel, you can basically interpret that as "Iran is maintaining a state of war with Israel." But then other politicians go on and say it as if they mean it. They play on our egos: "we're never going to abandon the quds," "we should assist our brothers in Palestine," etc, etc... Then we buy it and think the fate of the world depends on us! C'mon guys!!! Do you really think you can take the Israelis on??? I thought so when I was 18... maybe 20!

Let's all just listen to those university students and forget politicians... it's much healthier! We can focus on fixing ourselves before fighting wars!

39 comments:

Doha said...

I watched the show as well. I wanted to note several points:

the students who took part in the show came from diverse political backgrounds. Some brought forth controversial statements (like when a student asserted that Lebanon is not Arab and that he does not consider himself an Arab, and when another student suggested secularism as a political system for Lebanon) and some were more insightful and thought independently (namely not regurgitating their parties' political rhetoric).

What struck me is that despite the diversity in thoughts and assertions about Lebanon (mind you that Future TV ensured that the students being interviewed came from diverse backgrounds) the students were very civilized. Each listened to the other and there were no arguments or heated disagreements.

I believe that this is what was interesting about the show. I believe that Abu Faour was proud of this bunch. Unlike what Raja claimed, Abu Faour spoke eloquently and was very inclusive making sure that he did not dismiss anyone's views. He was even challenged by one of the students when he told him that the PSP de facto is a sectarian party.

It's all good...the Lebanese can handle differences...the students almost agreed that there is a need for all the political forces in the country to sit together and talk about the next steps to take from the Taif Accord towards a better republic.

ThinkingMan said...

I missed that show, but to answer "Do you really think you can take the Israelis on?":
We take them on economically. I mean that we (and the Arab world) have to be stronger economically; that is the only way to be respected and to gain power internationally.
Recall that in 1950, Israel and Lebanon had about the same size economy and GDP per capita. Today, theirs is 4 times ours.
So, if we drop politics as a priority and focus in a selfish way on the economy from 2005 forward, we can make a difference.

Solomon2 said...

Why "take the Israelis on" at all?

Anonymous said...

Could someone explain to me what does "Arab" mean?

- Is it the language? In this case the US, Australia,... are english. And so are some spanish speaking countries, or..... you get the point.

- Is it the ideology of the "Al kawmiyyeh wa el we7deh el 3Arabiyyeh" ? hmmm... I don't want to start a rant here, but look around....
And I think we had enough, and probabably suffered the most of all along that line.

- I am sure it is not Islam, otherwise we would have been in the "Islamic Republic of Lebanon".
(here please skip the religious comments).



Now why not just Lebanese ?
Aren't we proud of our own identity and dying for our own independance?

I just want to know what does "Arab" mean ? as simple as that... la akthar, wala akkall...

The Sandmonkey said...

Arab:
1)Someone who resides or originates from the arab gulf region. The description is also forcibly applied to all the members of the countries that arabs invaded and proceeded to take over by having dozens of kids.

2)Someone who is opposed to doing things that are to his/her own benefit.

3)Someone who blames all of his failures/incompetences and shortcomings on Israel, the evil jooze, the crusading christians, the Bush family and the evil imperialist USA.

4)Someone who is more interested in slogans then in practical soloutions.

Is that cear enough for you mr anonymous?

Mustapha said...

Solomon:

"Take on Israelis" would be in the same legitimate context as in "America Taking on Europe (or China)" I.E. in terms of cultural, economical and -why not- military superiority,

I'm sure all sensible Lebanese don't talk of "Taking on Israel" in the same way Hamas or Hezbollah would mean it "Wipe them off the face of the planet"

hope that was helpful

Mustapha
The Beirut Spring

Raja said...

"Arab" means two things to me:

1. a legacy
2. a people

the Arab people, in my opinion, are the tribes of the gulf. the history books tell us that these tribes migrated, settled, and in a lot of cases, intermarried with the local populations of the Levant... (Just like the Persians, Greeks and Romans did before them)

the Arab legacy, on the other hand, comes to us from the era when Arabs were at the helm of the Islamic empire (i.e. when the capitals were cairo, bagdad and damascus).

This legacy includes intellectual luminaries like:

al Farabi
al Jabr
Ibn Rushd (Avicenna)
al Ghazali
Abu Bishr Matta
Yahya b. 'Adi
Saadia Gaon
etc...

Personally, I am biased towards philosophy and accademia... but people with other biases can probably find their own icons in that era.

I embrace this "Arab" legacy just as I embrace my Lebanese identity and the "Phoenician" legacy because it makes me that much richer.

But this is all personal. These are my personal beliefs and convictions. Very few people share my views, and I am not out there to convince anyone.

In Lebanon, every side wants to force the other to believe what it believes about its own identity. One group says they're phonecian the other says they're Arab. Both are angry because the other group doesn't believe what they believe.

this whole arab-Lebanon/phonecia question has turned into the intellectual version of "hey! what village do you come from?" You really can't convince someone he's from Saida if he's really from Zahle!

Doha said...

Sandmonkey, I don't think that anonymous was asking for a sarcastic answer.

Anyways, Arab means in essence to speak Arabic. My family, for instance, originally came to Lebanon from the Caucasus in the late 1800s. I consider myself as a Lebanese and then an Arab. I don't think that there is anything derogatory about being an Arab.

Let's remember that Arab nationalism was promulgated by prominent Christian Arabs (many of whom Syrian/Lebanese) who wanted to distinguish Arab from Muslim, which are two different notions.

Anonymous said...

Sandmonkey,
Thank you for your input, but I am seriously trying to address the first 4 words of Part (b) of the introduction of our constitution.

I watched the episode, and watched everybody kind of smiling (including Abou Faour) and the host as if this is a No-No to discuss. The host replied to him by asking him if he speaks arabic. I would have replied that half the african nations speak french.

Everyone is in love with Taef now. Syrian withdrawal is behin us. Can you imagine uttering these 2 subjects few months ago and for the past 15 years.
The list could go on and on.

If we don't discuss the hard issues, we will never achieve full national reconciliation....

Cheers

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your input.

Raja,
by no mean I am trying to replace arab by phoenician. I don't believe either should be in. imho, History is something and our constitution is something else. Especially if it is a controversial issue.

Doha,

I don't think that there is anything derogatory about being an Arab either. I just wanted to point out that when there is so much controversy about an issue that is not 100% clear, I would skip it.

I am old enough to remember the arguments over this issue at the start and during the war. I never understood why it matters so much.
Hassan Nasrallah insists in his current speech that first we should agree on the identity.
Why is he insisting so much ? Forgive me, but I just don't get it.

Cheers

Doha said...

I'll tell you something anonymous: I think the true reason why everyone smiled when the identity issue came up was not because it's a no-no discussion, as much as it was opening "pandora's box." It's a controversial issue and as you said not clear.

The identity issue is not uniquely Lebanese; it is an issue that many countries face. The unique thing about the Lebanese, though, (as opposed to other Arab countries) is that we talk about identity issues openly and we also hold our diverse heritages so dear to our hearts that no politician or ideology could erase them from our historical memory.

Frankly, I find it very progressive and even post-modern if you want to say that Lebanon has an "Arab face", as opposed to being an Arab country. Because by that we are not being exclusive and we'd be recognizing the differences amongst us that might never be resolved...

But that's not a problem..look at America..it's a great example. America is a federation of many states and peoples. How do they get everyone to agree that they are American? The American civic identity is minimal but transformative—not based on blood, common faith, common sense of history, or shared culture and heritage. It is in effect based on the rudiments of language and political ideals that once an immigrant agrees to embrace, he or she becomes a member of society. Membership into society is two-tiered: public and private. At home, on the weekends, with affairs of marriage and death, people are allowed to be free and to do whatever one sees fit. As for one’s public life, loyalty to the American ideals (namely tolerance, equality, freedom, and opportunity) brings everyone together. The transformative part of the American civic identity lies in the fact that by virtue of living in a free, equal, and plentiful society and political system, one’s character is transformed.

Solomon2 said...

"Take on Israelis" would be in the same legitimate context as in "America Taking on Europe (or China)" I.E. in terms of cultural, economical and -why not- military superiority

In a global economy, no country "takes on" another to its exclusive economic advantage, because commercial trade is an activity where all parties benefit. I consider "cultural" superiority to be a matter of subjective judgment. What do Arab countries need "military superiority" for?

Solomon2 said...

Raja, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought philosophers like Avicenna were off-limits to practicing Muslims.

Doha: Amen. Too bad I'm already married!

Cheers said...

Doha,

I think the true reason why everyone smiled when the identity issue came up was not because it's a no-no discussion, as much as it was opening "pandora's box."

Wael Boufaour brief response was that there are still "some people left" who do not agree with the arab identity issue. This is much like saying that it is a concluded matter and forget about it. What is Raja's thought on the title of the current post?

if you want to say that Lebanon has an "Arab face"...

I don't want that either. The Arabic official language is clearly mentioned in the constitution and I fully embrace that.

Regarding the American example, I agree with you. At the end they're Americans. They're unique. There is no other American but Americans. And this is what Identity is all about. "Uniqueness". I am suggesting that being Lebanese is unique enough to create an identity.

This whole issue doesn't bother me as much as why some politicians are bringing this up now at the forefront of any dialogue.


Cheers

Raja said...

Solomon,

I have very strong emotions directed towards those armed peasants and street vendors who call themselves "religiously enlightened." Personally, I find it very dificult to listen to the advice, or the sermon, of an individual who stll believes that the world is flat and that the Apollo missions were all a part of a big Hollywood/Jewish conspiracy.

If it was possible to conduct a study that compared the socio-economic status of religious jourors today and the jourors that lived back in the Glory Days you'd probably discover a considerable difference. That difference may be a reason behind a lot of the problems in our part of the world. I'd say the solution if I had the guts... but I'm scared that some crazy fanatic will read it and kill me!

Raja said...

CORRECTION:

Ibn Rushd is referred to as Averroes
Avicenna is Ibn Sinna.

sorry for the mistake.

There's also an inconsistency I'd like to correct. I said the following, in my first post:

"the Arab legacy, on the other hand, comes to us from the era when Arabs were at the helm of the Islamic empire (i.e. when the capitals were cairo, bagdad and damascus)."

What I should have said is the following:

the Arab legacy...comes to us from the era when the capitals of the Islamic empire were in what are considered to be Arab capitals today (Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad).

I correct myself because I'm not knowledgable enough to know the extent to which Arabs (as I defined them) actually ruled during that era.

FINALLY, BACK TO LEBANON....

When Nasrallah says that "we are arabs," he is saying: we're going to continue fighting the Israelis. If Lebanon's population was entirely Muslim he'd be saying "we're Muslim". That's what it all boils down to. Politically, when you say you are Arab, you are saying that you are not only going to be the last one to sign a peace deal with Israel, but you are going to support Hizballah and allow it to play its military role.

Lebanese are funny because they buy into all this rhetoric. The issue becomes one of identity rather than one of policy choice. "oh, I am Arab, therefore, by default, I am for continued violence. I don't care about the details... I'll leave it to Seyyed Nasrallah. All I know is that I'm Arab." then the other side says: "hey, I'm Lebanese, and I'm against war with Israel. I also don't care about the details, all I know is that I am a true Lebanese and I want to take care of my country!"

i believe that if we actually sat down and discussed this issue for what it really is: a policy choice; we'd do ourselves a lot of good. this whole Arab/non-Arab dichotomy is ridiculous. Now if you ask someone: What does it mean to be an Arab, he'll say: it means to remain in a state of war against Israel. That's just plain nonsense.... It should stop!

Solomon2 said...

Lebanese are funny because they buy into all this rhetoric.

Raja, I think Henry Kissinger wrote in his book The White House Years that the Lebanese government vocally subscribed to extreme positions during the 1973 Yom Kippur War discussions because Lebanon was the weakest party and had the most to benefit from solving the Arab refugee problem.

What does it mean to be an Arab, he'll say: it means to remain in a state of war against Israel.

What a horrible definition. Think a moment: suppose Israel was wiped out, and every Jew as well. Such an "Arab" would still ravage the world, finding "Israelis" to kill, because he would have to remain true to his definition of himself.

Come to think of it, that really has driven a lot of Islamic history, yes? If such rulers really conquered the entire planet, what then? Would the Islamic world implode? Would "infidels" be discovered here, there, and everywhere?

Centuries ago, one Muslim ruler in Central Asia (I forget his name) climbed the ladder from slave to dictator. Everywhere he went, he conquered. But as soon as he and his army was far away, his Muslim subjects revolted, forcing him to chase from one end of his empire to the other re-conquering these "unbelievers" and executing their home-grown leaders. By the time of his death, his empire was devastated by war.

Is there any reason to believe that a world ruled by the likes of Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah or the PLO would be any different?

Raja said...

Solomon,

the immage in your mind is scary. I don't think any Arab is really like that - except for a few. You always have a crazy minority in all groups.

What I was trying to convey is something that a Lebanese will understand better. We understand because the "Arab" identity is so vague and contentious. Therefore, when I said:

"What does it mean to be an Arab, he'll say: it means to remain in a state of war against Israel."

I was alluding to how hollow the concept has become. It has reached that level of hollowness because of the degree to which it has become politicized! The only context Lebanese use the word "Arab" in is now the Arab-Israeli conflict... or the war against the crusaders!

Frankly, I felt good when I started hearing the term "enlightened arabism" is Lebanon's public forum. Unfortunately I haven't heard that concept in a while....

hummbumm said...

Hey Solomon, though i am not an apologist for Arabism etc..., and am not a muslim myself, I have to say that your views, how shall I say this, are a little tooblack and white. For example you question why seek military superiority over Israel, well, in lebanon we have the israeli air force violate our airspace daily, it would be nice if that did not happen right? I mean the US is explicit about maintaining military superiority, and there are good reasons for that, so it is reasonable to have people in the region espouse for parity at the minimum. Islamic history is no different than other history, I remember this christian ruler, let us call him ferdinand of spain, who forced conversion on the people he conquered, then went looking for gold in the new world and forced some more conversion etc... you get the picture, it sounds very much like that islamic ruler, or Genghis Khan or Julius Ceasar who rampaged around Gaul killing left right and center, or of course some of our modern european dictators who caused death and destruction on a crazy scale.What i am saying is by all means attack islamic fundamentalism, arab despots, etc... but attacking all islamic history and islam in general is a bit much. After all let us look at our new pope, a former Hitler youth, whose dogmatic views are very rigid and fundamentalist, does that make all catholics and catholic history suspect, of course not.

Raja said...

nicely said, hummbumm!

Solomon2 said...

you question why seek military superiority over Israel, well, in lebanon we have the israeli air force violate our airspace daily, it would be nice if that did not happen right?

Would it? Saddam and his Baathists mowed down demonstrators with helicopter gunships. Preventing probably isn't Israel's purpose, but almost certainly acts as a restraint upon such actions. Would Arab "parity" with Israel actually help Lebanon? And think back to 1982: long before Hezbollah, it was Israel who liberated Beirut from the PLO, or at least from Yassir Arafat. Was Arafat's departure not the beginning of the end of the civil war?

Islamic history is no different than other history

What a sweeping statement! Boy, I can just change all the names around in my history book and lo and behold, the USA conquered Persia in the seventh century! Of course, America didn't exist then, but we Americans are VERY clever!

Hummbumm, no Western country embraces a vision of turning back the political clock centuries to the days of rapacious religious colonizers and their armies, forced conversions, and conquests. But the Al-Queda types do, so we have to worry about them.

I did not "attack all Islamic history and islam in general"; I cited one of its episodes, and asked if it was representative of the whole. I then pointed out that there didn't seem to be a reason why such an episode could not be repeated in a future dominated by certain groups.

(Furthermore, you can't just equivocate Julius Ceasar with Genghis Khan. They were both military men, yes, but JC only wanted Rome to rule other countries, whereas Genghis Khan wanted to exterminate them, or at least eliminate agricultural civilization to provide more grassland for the Mongols' horses. China's greatest national hero was the scholar who convinced the Khans not to do that. The Pope? He's another "red herring" tossed into this argument for the purpose of obscuring or diverting attention away from the Arab/Islam issues.)

Raja said...

wow... this post was originally about funny lebanese!!!

Solomon: Hummbumm was basically saying what we all know (and what I've continually said): every civilization, every clan and every religion has its wacos.

I'm sure you're aware of the crazy rabis who want Israel to expand into a Greater Israel that spans from the Eurphrates to the Nile - the very same people who are threatening to kill Sharon for removing settlers from Gaza.

Hummbumm also pointed out the Crusades and the conquest of America. Both these episodes were in the name of religion; and had the intension of converting infidels and barbarians into the Christian faith. A consequences of the latter enterprise was what has been referred to as the "Native American Holocaust".

no one has a monopoly on fanaticism, Solomon...

Solomon2 said...

I'm sure you're aware of the crazy rabis who want Israel to expand into a Greater Israel that spans from the Eurphrates to the Nile

No, I am not aware of them. And it's obvious to everybody that the degree of the threat to anyone from such Israelis is negligible compared to the threat Al-Quaeda types pose.

no one has a monopoly on fanaticism

What are the political and security issues the world must face today? Universally applying dead ideologies of the past is not relevant, not unless Muslims and Arabs suddenly wish to return to an era when practically their entire population was confined to part of the Arabian penensula! Not all fanatics are a threat, but I don't worry about madcap Baltimore Orioles fans.

I apologize, Raja, for "hijacking" this "fun" post. That wasn't my original intention. I'll stop now if you wish.

Orit said...

OK, Solomon. You are the best, Arabs suck and they will end up killing everyone if they have the chance. Now, can we go back to the real discussion that was going on earlier?

I found the talk about Arab identity very interesting. Clearly many people in Lebanon do not identify themselves as Arabs as others do, just as some identify as Phoenicians, Levantine, Beirutis, or a combination of those. Each of these is as legitimate as the other and they are free to identify the way they want to.

But it seems to me from my readings (as an Israeli I cannot travel to Lebanon) that the confessional identifications constitute an additional layer over these cultural/heritage identifications and it is more rigid, in the sense that one cannot choose. As a Lebanese friend told me, when her priest asked why she wasn't going to church and she replied she was an atheist, his comment was "Wa-iza? This is still your community".

So, my question is to what extent is this true? And is perhaps the political discussion in Lebanon today evading the real issue by talking about sects and not addressing some very real fears that people have over losing their "Arab" identity to American attempts at reshaping the region. Or evading addressing economic inequalities (Shiite = poor = anti-US interference = anti-privatization of the region). I know Arabic (as an academic, not as a spy) and it seems that there is open talk about US plans between opposition members and French officials (according to Lebanese newspapers). Does anyone know anything about that?

Sorry if I am bombarding this blog with boring talk, but, like I said, I think the discussion that was going on earlier is very interesting.

Mustapha said...

Orit, i never thought i'd hear an israeli berating an American for his overzealous anti-Arabism, i must admit, that was fun!

just to point out one more racial group that both Lebanese and yourself belong to: The Semites

Cheers
Mustapha
The Beirut Spring

Raja said...

orit,

your comment about rigid sectarian identities could not be closer to the truth; but I'm not too sure people loosing their Arab identity is the "real" issue in Lebanon today.

economic inequality is a real problem that needs to be addressed... and the Shi'as have suffered disproportionately in that regard. but in order to address economic inequality, you need to address economic stagnation.

these are issues that will have to dealt with when the political situation stabilizes a little bit.

I'm hoping that now

hummbumm said...

Orit that was great. I will exercise great restraint and not respond to Solomon, though it goes against my irrational need to have the last word. in many ways this mirrors the racial classifications that dominate US thinking, for example when Tiger Woods explicitly says he does not see himself as simply black, he is still labeled as the first black golfer etc... In lebanon, we have how the individual views himself and how the larger group views him. The way I identify myself does not conform to the rigid group identification. If i recall 50% of leb's population living in Beirut but only 15% of parliamentary seats being allocated to beirut, as people have to return to ancestral villages to vote. the good thing is that should in fact promote more decentralization, the bad news is that at the village level, the group identity is much stronger. by the way Orit, i know it is a pretty common name but you don't happen to live in Cambridge, MA do you?? My next door neighbor when i was living there was called Orit.

Orit said...

hummbumm, I am afraid I never lived in Cambridge. I am also pretty sure that Solomon will dismiss me as a self-hating Israel-threatening Jew:
(www.masada2000.org/shit-list.html).

Why do you think the Shiites demonstrated in Beirut? I am talking about the people, not the party. I thought the accusation of "oh, they just follow their leaders" was elitist. There must be something more to it. And what about the view that if democracy were to prevail in the Middle East (in the case of Lebanon I suppose that means Shiites would get better representation) then Islamic fundamentalism will be the politics of choice for the people. Sistani in Iraq, Hamas in Palestine, the Brothers in Egypt, Hizballah in Lebanon. I am referring specifically to David Hirst's article in the Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1463725,00.html

Do you think that is true in the case of Lebanon?

hummbumm said...

Well of course, Hamas and IB in Egypt are Sunni. For Lebanon, I think we won't really know what the Shiites as a whole think, as long as Hizbullah is armed, but for sure, in general, they are from more rural communities, are economically more destitute, religiously more conservative, and have traditionnaly been neglected by the other communities. Prior to the war and the advent of hizbullah, the shiites in the south were under the thumb of feudal landlords, so i see hizbullah as lenism in russia with islamic underpinning rather than marxism, power to the people, but of course the organization is top down. In lebanon we do have safeguards to islamic fundamentalism, and it gets a bad name, but it is sectarianism. No single group has a majority in lebanon, and the christians and druze will not tolerate islamic fundamentalism, and neither will the sunnis tolerate shiite ascendency so those are the checks and balances. Plus within the shiite community, especially since the war there has been significant emigration to africa, and these guys have been quite successful there, and are coming back with wealth. This will also affect the status quo as well. the shiites in lebanon have been and are still looked down upon by other communities as peasants. so of course, hizbullah and its fight against israel provides the antidote by providing a point of pride to the community: we are strong, we drove out the israelis, you are weak and bourgeois etc... So as always these things are a mix of social, economic and ethnic tensions. We had a farm in the former security zone in the south and when i travelled there it is like another world, very much like someone from New york, going to deep south back in the 1950s. it is hard for me to really understand all that goes on. the thing i always harp on is not to look at these things through the traditional prisms: Colonialism, Capitalism, israel/palestine or anti/pro west (US)

Doha said...

Today a gathering by the name of the "Shiite Lebanese Gathering" met for the first time to make a statement, a statement that the Shiites should not be compartmentalized into simplistic generalizations, basically stating what I have wrote in a previous blog that many Shiites feel that they have been wrongly mislabeled as belonging to either Amal or Hizbullah.

We should not fall in the trap of keeping on thinking that the Shiites are looked down upon, or are marginalized. I don't believe that many Shiites would like us to describe them as such.

I just read an amazing opinion piece by a young Shiite guy in Al-Mustaqbal newspaper. http://www.almustaqbal.com/stories.aspx?CategoryID=26&IssueID=754
the piece exactly reflects what i said, and the author confessed that he is tired of being compartmentalized into being a religious fanatic just because he's a Lebanese Shiite.

hummbumm said...

That is great, because the less marginalized they feel, the less support hizbullah will have. Of course, I certainly am no expert on the shiites of lebanon, but at least i hope that the more integrated any community in lebanon is, the less legitimacy any extremist element within the community has, this goes for the christian as well. I am glad that other voices are speaking out, given the hizbullah presence, and their arms, they do drown out the rest, and I should not fall into the trap of Hizbullah's illusion, namely that they speak for all the shiites in lebanon.

Cheers said...

Doha,

Thanks for the link. I am a regular reader of Nassir el Assaad, and I always wondered whether there is a popular base for his views.

Raja,

Politically, when you say you are Arab, you are saying that you are not only going to be the last one to sign a peace deal with Israel, but you are going to support Hizballah and allow it to play its military role.

Lebanese are funny because they buy into all this rhetoric. The issue becomes one of identity rather than one of policy choice. "oh, I am Arab, therefore, by default, I am for continued violence. I don't care about the details... I'll leave it to Seyyed Nasrallah. All I know is that I'm Arab." then the other side says: "hey, I'm Lebanese, and I'm against war with Israel. I also don't care about the details, all I know is that I am a true Lebanese and I want to take care of my country!"

i believe that if we actually sat down and discussed this issue for what it really is: a policy choice; we'd do ourselves a lot of good. this whole Arab/non-Arab dichotomy is ridiculous. Now if you ask someone: What does it mean to be an Arab, he'll say: it means to remain in a state of war against Israel. That's just plain nonsense.... It should stop!


I couldn't agree more on that.

This is the plain issue that Nasrallah and others are trying to shove down our throat behind the "Arab" term, when arabs are reaching for peace.

imo, this is sad ...

Cheers

Cheers said...

...and along that line, "Iran" should have a lifelong chairmanship of the "arab" league...

Cheers

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

The Arab identity is a cultural one (like France who was divided into unrelated regions before being forged around a language and a culture). So you can dismiss the ethnical criteria as irrelevant.

The problem is that this culture is deeply linked to Islam and that christians have problem identified with it. Druze and Alawis consider themselves arabs but not arab nationalists... Minorities tried to create a common identity through a partially secular and modern arab nationalism but this has failed because the Islamic identity prevailed.

As long as arabity is not truely (and not formally as it is in Syria) decoupled from religion, non-sunni minorities will feel that arabism is a vast joke which aim is to deprive them of their rights.

And if you are objective about what's happening in the Arab world, you can't blame them for that.

Bosniac muslims, croats and serbs have the same ethnicity and language (though each one used to use its own alphabet for this). Don't mix nation and ethny or nation and language. Sometimes it's related, sometimes it's not. If the Arab world can create an identity that is not only about religion, minorities will be glad to join. Otherwise you can't ask them to dig their own grave.

Don Cox said...

"scream that we will not "abandon" the Palestinians - as if we're really 'helping' them in the first place."

I thought you were being used by them rather than helping them.

Raja said...

don,

they used us in the 70s and early 80s, but then the Israelis and Syrians combined forces to finish them off. This de-facto alliance was, of course, not announced, but its no big secret that the Israelis expelled the PLO out of Beirut, and the Syrians finished the job when they annihilated them in Tripoli.

Ever since then, we've been the ones "helping" them!

Anonymous said...

I've asked this question before on beirut2bayside, but are there any ideological differences between Hizbullah and Amal?

I'm ignorant.

Raja said...

anonymous,

Hizballah is a religious party, and Amal is not. That's the fundamental ideological difference.