Adonis Diaries

How Lebanese communities changed in over 140 years? Had they ever?

Posted on: August 31, 2012

How Lebanese communities changed in over 140 years? Did they ever?
This is an excerpt from William McClure Thomson in “the Land and the Book”.
Thomson visited Lebanon in 1870, and wrote a book to tell everyone about Lebanon. William M. Thompson’s wrote:
“Lebanon has about 400,000 inhabitants, gathered into more than 600 towns, villages and hamlets…The various religions and sects live together, and practice their conflicting superstitions in close proximity, but the people do not coalesce into one homogeneous community, nor do they regard each other with fraternal feelings.
The Sunnites excommunicate the Shiites – both hate the Druse, and all three detest the Nusairiyeh (currently the Alawit sect of Bashar al Assad).
The Maronites have no particular love for anybody and, in turn, are disliked by all.
The Greek Orthodox cannot endure the Greek Catholics.
And all despise the Jews. …

And the same remarks apply to the minor divisions of this land. There is no common bond of union.
Society has no continuous strata underlying it, which can be opened and worked for the general benefit of all, but an endless number of dislocated fragments, faults, and dikes, by which the masses are tilted up in hopeless confusion, and lie at every conceivable angle of antagonism to each other.
The omnific Spirit that brooded over primeval chaos can alone bring order out of such confusion, and reduce these conflicting elements into peace and concord.
No other country in the world, I presume, has such a multiplicity of antagonistic religions; and herein lies the greatest obstacle to any general and permanent amelioration and improvement of their condition, character, and prospects.
They can never form one united people, never combine for any important religious or political purpose; and will therefore remain weak, incapable of self-government, and exposed to the invasions and oppressions of foreigners.
Thus it has been, is now, and must long continue to be a people divided, meted out, and trodden down.”
Thomson must be describing the communities in Mount Lebanon in 1870, inhabited mainly by Maronites, Druzes, and a few Greek Orthodox. The current State of Lebanon was expanded in 1920 by the French mandated power. The northern region (including the city of Tripoli and Akkar),and all the Bekaa Valley on the east were part of Syria.  The southern region ( bordering Palestine) was also added. The area of the pseudo State of Lebanon increased 3 folds, still tinier than New Jersey, or the smallest of agribusiness in Africa…
Concentration of Sunnis in the north and the Bekaa Valley, as well as concentration of Moslem Shias in the south added to the confusion in allegiances and varieties of religious sects.
The pseudo successive governments since 1943 failed to allocated enough budgets and interest to the expanded regions, and focused on the Capital Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
When Israel was forced to withdraw unilaterally from south Lebanon in 2000, not all the Lebanese felt concerned.
And when Israel was defeated in 2006, after 33 days of constant bombing and shelling of all Lebanon, many religious communities felt this urge to attack the “reckless” resistance of Hezbollah, while the war was raging!
A resistance that brought all the nation leaders and ministers to pay visit to Lebanon.
So far, no occupation forces, small or big, managed to sustain its presence on Lebanese soil for over 3 decades: They all withdrew unilaterally, as if the devil was constantly after their asses.
Note: I got this excerpt from Joanna Choukeir via Rima Majed.

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August 2012

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