Adonis Diaries

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Non, l’antisionisme n’est pas un antisémitisme réinventé

SYLVAIN CYPEL > 19 JUILLET 2017

« Nous ne céderons rien aux messages de haine, à l’antisionisme parce qu’il est la forme réinventée de l’antisémitisme ». (The ultra sionist French President Emmanuel Macron)

On ne sait si, par ces mots, le président Emmanuel Macron a simplement espéré gagner opportunément les faveurs de Benyamin Nétanyahou, qu’il accueillait aux cérémonies de commémoration de la déportation des juifs parisiens en juillet 1942, ou s’il a énoncé une conviction plus profonde.

Mais dans les deux cas, il a eu tort.

Espérer séduire Nétanyahou en cédant à son verbe n’est qu’un leurre — demandez à Barack Obama ce qu’il en pense.

Quant au fond, l’assimilation de l’antisionisme à une nouvelle mouture de l’antisémitisme est une erreur funeste.

Cette assertion est l’une des clefs de voûte depuis des décennies de la hasbara, la communication israélienne. Et plus Israël s’enfonce dans la domination coloniale d’un autre peuple, les Palestiniens, plus l’assertion « antisionisme égal antisémitisme » est répétée pour stigmatiser quiconque critique cette domination.

En soi, la méthode consistant à délégitimer la critique en démonisant son auteur est vieille comme la politique.

Ainsi Joseph Staline et ses émules assimilaient-ils toute critique du communisme soviétique à du « fascisme ». Si les fascistes étaient viscéralement anticommunistes, cela ne faisait pas de tous les contempteurs du régime soviétique des fascistes.

Mais les staliniens continuaient à vilipender leurs adversaires, sans distinction, sous ce vocable infamant.

Aujourd’hui, un Robert Mugabe, au Zimbabwe, qualifie régulièrement ses adversaires de « défenseurs de l’apartheid ». Que des racistes patentés figurent parmi les dénonciateurs de l’autocrate zimbabwéen est évident. Mais que tous soient des nostalgiques de la ségrégation raciale est une accusation dérisoire. On pourrait multiplier les exemples.

Il en va de même de l’idée selon laquelle l’antisionisme serait la version moderne de l’antisémitisme.

D’abord parce que l’antisionisme n’est pas une idéologie très définie. Historiquement, il a consisté à récuser l’idée d’une solution nationaliste à la question juive.

Aujourd’hui, il y a en Israël des gens qui se disent antisionistes par simple hostilité à une occupation des Palestiniens menée au nom même du sionisme.

D’autres se disent « post-sionistes » parce qu’à leurs yeux, l’ambition du sionisme étant la constitution d’un État juif, son existence annule d’autorité la nécessité du sionisme.

Je connais enfin des Israéliens tout à fait sionistes qui sont si révulsés par la politique de Nétanyahou qu’ils se disent honorés d’être traités d’« antisionistes » par un gouvernement d’extrême droite raciste et colonialiste.

Ces derniers remplissent par exemple les rangs d’une ONG comme Breaking the Silence, qui regroupe des soldats dénonçant les crimes commis par leur armée contre des Palestiniens et dont plusieurs des dirigeants sont des officiers et aussi des juifs pieux. Ils ne sont pas antisémites. Ils sont même l’honneur d’Israël.

Quant à moi, je considère le sionisme comme une question philosophiquement désuète. En revanche, si le sionisme, comme le prône Nétanyahou, consiste à exiger la reconnaissance d’Israël pour mieux empêcher le droit des Palestiniens à l’autodétermination, alors je suis antisioniste. Serais-je donc antisémite ?

Bref, que l’on trouve parmi les antisionistes d’aujourd’hui des gens projetant sur Israël leur antisémitisme atavique ou récent ne fait aucun doute. Mais que l’antisionisme soit en tant que tel une idéologie antisémite est une idée infamante et erronée.

Et puis, il y a plus grave. Il y a chez Nétanyahou non seulement cette utilisation abusive de l’accusation d’antisémitisme, mais aussi cette sidérante propension à s’entendre avec de vrais antisémites lorsque ça l’arrange. Au moment où vous-même, M. le Président, cautionniez sa thèse, le New York Times publiait un article d’opinion d’une journaliste et traductrice israélienne, Mairav Zonszein, accusant ouvertement son premier ministre de collusion avec celui de la Hongrie, Viktor Orban, un homme qui laisse proliférer l’antisémitisme parmi ses partisans.

Et de fait, de Paris, Nétanyahou a rejoint Budapest.

Depuis des années, le gouvernement israélien raffermit ses relations avec les gouvernements les plus réactionnaires d’Europe centrale.

Il a soutenu avec une grande compréhension l’attitude du régime hongrois dans la récente crise des réfugiés syriens. Nétanyahou soutient aussi la campagne lancée par Orban contre le financier américain George Soros, dont la fondation favorise les initiatives démocratiques.

Cette campagne est menée à l’aide d’arguments fleurant l’antisémitisme : Orban accuse Soros d’user de « l’argent étranger » pour nuire à son pays. Quant aux graffitis hostiles qui prolifèrent en Hongrie contre le magnat américain, beaucoup sont sans équivoque antisémites.

Ce lien entre la droite coloniale israélienne que Nétanyahou incarne — même si désormais on trouve plus radical que lui en Israël — et des organisations exsudant un antisémitisme plus ou moins manifeste n’est pas neuf.

Aux États-Unis, un polémiste d’extrême droite comme Glenn Beck, qui avait lui aussi insulté George Soros avec des relents antisémites, était venu se refaire une virginité en 2011 en visitant des colonies religieuses israéliennes extrémistes. Il y fut accueilli en héros (Beck est avant tout islamophobe).

Quant à l’invité d’honneur du dernier diner de la Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA), une formation américaine qui regroupe les soutiens à la droite israélienne radicale, il se nommait Steve Bannon, proche conseiller de Donald Trump accusé entre autres par son ex-femme de propos antisémites.

Le tollé fut tel dans la communauté juive américaine qu’il renonça à venir. Mais la ZOA afficha sa solidarité avec lui.

On assiste aujourd’hui à un phénomène ahurissant dans cette dérive israélienne.

À double détente, l’accusation d’antisémitisme y est désormais soumise aux intérêts contingents.

Un : les antisionistes sont tous des antisémites.

Deux : les prosionistes sont tous bienvenus, y compris quand ils sont antisémites.

Si vous défendez les droits humains en Palestine, vous êtes antisémite. Si vous êtes islamophobe, que vous soyez aussi antisémite revêt peu d’importance.

Le prix à payer à l’avenir pour cette folie risque d’être très élevé. Et l’avaliser aura été, selon l’adage, plus qu’une erreur : une faute.

A shared and useful illusion

Ask a frog or a housefly or a dog to describe the world around us and they’ll give you the wrong answer.

The frog will talk about moving objects, the housefly will describe things repeated hundreds of times and the dog only sees in black and white.

Of course, our vision of the world is just as flawed, just as fake.

We can’t see the smells, as the dog does, nor can we visualize things on the edges of the spectrum. We make up a reality based on our particular way of seeing the world.

But, here’s the good part: That made-up reality is shared by many people around us, and it’s useful. We can use it to make predictions about what’s next, we can avoid bumping into people, we can appreciate a sunset.

If the illusion is working for you, stick with it.

Where we run into trouble is when the vision isn’t shared, when we assume others can and must see what we’re seeing, but they don’t.

And worse, when the vision isn’t actually useful, when our narrative of the world around us isn’t working, when it’s merely a fantasy, not a tool.

If the way you see the world isn’t helping you make the changes you seek to make, consider seeing the world differently.

New basket of taxes imposed on Lebanese, crumbling under this anomy system

ما يجب أن تعرفه عن هذه الضرائب الطائشة

علي نور|الخميس20/07/2017 (Ali Nour)

ما يجب أن تعرفه عن هذه الضرائب الطائشةالدولة لا تملك أي وجهة لسياساتها الإقتصاديّة (المدن)

هل يمكن لنا أن نحدّد الوجهة الإقتصاديّة التي تقودنا إليها الدولة بعد المصادقة على البنود الضريبيّة؟ لا بدّ أنّ نسأل، فأضعف الإيمان أن نبحث عن سياسة إقتصاديّة ما خلف أي اجراء مالي أو نقدي، خصوصاً في بلد حذّرته المؤسّسات الدوليّة من تركّز الثروة والودائع فيه في يد أقليّة صغيرة، ومن تهاوي المؤّشرات الإقتصاديّة التي تحدّد قابليّة النموذج الإقتصادي على الإستمرار.

وإذا كانت النظرة الأولى توحي أن السلطة تتجه إلى سياسات إقتصاديّة غير عادلة، فالأسوأ أنّ النظرة الأعمق تُظهر أنّها دولة لا تملك أي وجهة لسياساتها الإقتصاديّة.

ضرب الطبقة الوسطى
من يقرأ لائحة الضرائب يلفته أوّلاً أنّها في أغلبيّتها الساحقة من الضرائب غير المباشرة، أي تلك التي تطال الجميع بنفس النسبة بمعزل عن مستوى الدخل. ومن المعروف إقتصاديّاً أن هذا النوع من الضرائب يضرب كنتيجة طبيعيّة الطبقة الوسطى.

يقول الخبير الإقتصادي جان طويلة، لـ”المدن”، إنّ الحكومات التي تحترم نفسها وشعبها تقوم قبل كل شيء بدراسة للأثر الإقتصادي والاجتماعي لكل ضريبة تقوم بزايدتها أو استحداثها. وهذا الأمر يحصل في كل بلدان العالم. وثمّة دراسات تحدّد التأثير الذي سيطال المستهلكين لكل منتج في حال فُرضت ضريبة ما عليه.

لكنّ ما جرى في الحالة اللبنانيّة كان مختلفاً. فمثلاً عند فرض الزيادة على الضريبة المضافة لم تجر أي دراسة إقتصاديّة، وفق طويلة، وكنّا أمام إقتراحين فحسب: إمّا زيادتها على كل المنتجات الخاضعة لها لغاية 11%، أو إبقاءها على مستواها عند 10% وزيادتها لغاية 15% على السلع الكماليّة فحسب.

وفي النهاية تم رفع هذه الضريبة لغاية 11% على كل المنتجات الخاضعة للضريبة من دون تمييز. ويتحدّث طويلة عن دراسات إقتصاديّة تم إعدادها تُظهر أنّ رفع نسبة هذه الضريبة يؤثّر بشكل مباشر على حجم الطبقة الوسطى وقدرتها الشرائيّة، كما ترفع نسبة اللبنانيين الذين يعيشون تحت خط الفقر.

يضيف طويلة: “الضريبة على المستوعبات المستوردة ستحدث الأثر نفسه. فالتجّار يقومون بتسعير البضائع بحسب الكلفة. وإذا تمت زيادة هذا الرسم على المستوعبات المستوردة، فالذي سيتحمّل هذه الكلفة في النهاية هو المستهلك النهائي”.

وعلى هذا المنوال يعدّد طويلة لائحة الضرائب التي تنتمي في أغلبيّتها الساحقة إلى فئة الضرائب غير المباشرة، التي تؤدّي في النهاية إلى النتيجة نفسها. وحتّى ضريبة الدخل على الشركات، تم رفعها على جميع الشركات بالنسبة نفسها، أي 17%، من دون أي تمييز بين الشركات الناشئة أو المتوسّطة والصغيرة، والشركات التي تحقّق أرباحاً أكبر.

سياسات متضاربة
وإذا كانت الضرائب غير المباشرة تصب في مصلحة تعميق التفاوت الاجتماعي، تبرز مشكلة تضارب البعض الآخر من الاجراءات الضريبيّة مع الاجراءات النقديّة التي كلّفت لبنان وخزينته كثيراً حتّى اليوم. حتّى أنّ المشهد هنا يصبح أقرب إلى عربة يدفعها شخصان في اتجاهات معاكسة.

فكيف تنسجم السياسة النقديّة لمصرف لبنان التي تقوم منذ العام 2016 على الإنفاق بسخاء في الهندسات الماليّة لإستقطاب الودائع بالعملات الصعبة مع سياسة ضريبيّة تقوم على رفع الضريبة على الودائع؟ وهنا يصبح من المشروع السؤال عن فائدة سياسات نقديّة وماليّة متناقضة الأهداف، خصوصاً إذا كان بعضها مكلفاً جدّاً.

ومن ناحية أخرى كيف تستقيم سياسة مصرف لبنان القائمة على الإنفاق في سبيل إنعاش السوق العقاري وتحمّل كلفة خفض فوائد القروض السكنيّة من جهة، والسياسة الضريبيّة التي تسير في إتجاه معاكس عبر تحميل السوق نفسه ضرائب جديدة؟ وهنا يصبح علينا أن نسأل عن وجهة سياسة الدولة في المجال نفسه.

تشجيع التهرّب الضريبي
يذكّر طويلة بحديث رئيس الجمهوريّة ميشال عون عن زيادة مداخيل الجمارك بنسبة 6.4% في 80 يوماً، رغم إنخفاض الإستيراد بنسبة 15%، في إِشارة إلى نتائج مكافحة التجاوزات في هذا المجال. كما يذكّر بتقرير لبنك عودة يشير إلى بلوغ قيمة التهرّب الضريبي 4.2 مليار دولار من خلال ضرائب مختلفة. ليصل إلى نتيجة مفادها أنّ مكافحة 20% من التهرّب الضريبي كانت كافية لتمويل السلسلة.

أمّا مع هذه الزيادات، فإن المواطن اللبناني الذي لا يملك الغطاء السياسي ولا يملك القدرة على التهّرب الضريبي، وفق طويلة، سيتحمّل وحده الكلفة. بالتالي، ستؤدّي الزيادات الضريبيّة هذه بشكل مباشر إلى زيادة التهرّب الضريبي.

في الخلاصة، لا يبدو أنّ القرارات الضريبيّة الأخيرة تتسق مع الحاجة إلى اجابات على المشاكل الإقتصاديّة والاجتماعيّة المطروحة، لا بل تعمّقها. كما أنّها لا تتسق مع سياسات الدولة نفسها في أكثر من قطاع. فتظهر الدولة حاملةً لسياسات إقتصاديّة متناقضة.

هكذا، تكون سياسات الدولة الإقتصاديّة بلا وجهة.

على جدول أعمال جلستي مجلس النوّاب، الثلاثاء والأربعاء في 18 و19 تموز، بند تعديل واستحداث بعض المواد الضريبيّة، وفق مشروع القانون الوارد بالمرسوم رقم 10415.

وبمراجعة نص المرسوم المذكور يتبيّن أنّ مواده تنقسم إلى مواد سبق أن ناقشتها وعدّلتها الهيئة العامّة لمجلس النوّاب في 16 آذار 2017 (9 مواد، بينها واحدة قامت الهيئة العامّة بالغائها)، و11 مادة أخرى تنتظر المناقشة والتعديل قبل اقرار القانون بصيغته النهائيّة.

فما هي هذه المواد الـ11؟

– فرض رسم على المغادرين للأراضي اللبنانيّة عن طريق البر بقيمة 5 آلاف ليرة لبنانيّة (المادة 10).

– فرض رسوم سفر على المغادرين للأراضي اللبنانيّة عن طريق الجو بقيمة 75 ألف ليرة على المسافرين من الدرجة السياحيّة، و110 ألف ليرة على المسافرين من درجة رجال الأعمال، و150 ألف ليرة على المسافرين من الدرجة الأولى، و400 ألف ليرة على المسافرين على الطيارات الخاصّة (المادة 11).

– فرض رسم بقيمة 80 ألف ليرة على المستوعبات المستوردة من الخارج بقياس 20 قدماً، 120 ألف ليرة على المستوعبات بقياس 40 قدماً (المادة 12).

– غرامات بنسب مختلفة على التعديات على الأملاك العامّة البحريّة (المادة 13).

– رسم نسبي بقيمة 20% على جوائز اليانصيب الوطني واليانصيب الأجنبي المجاز الذي تفوق قيمته الـ10 آلاف ليرة (المادة 14).

– تعديل قانون ضريبة الدخل لرفع الضريبة النسبيّة على أرباح الشركات لغاية 17%، من دون الأخذ بالاعتبار حجم الشركة وحجم دخلها (المادة 17).

– تحديد رسم على عقود البيع العقاريّة الممسوحة بنسبة 2%، يحتسب بناءً على ثمن البيع المبيّن (المادة 16).

– رفع الضريبة على فوائد وعائدات الحسابات المصرفيّة لغاية 7% من دون الأخذ في الإعتبار حجم الحساب أو الوديعة أو مردودها (المادة 19).

تُضاف هذه البنود إلى البنود التي سبق وناقشتها الهيئة العامّة وعدّلتها، مثل رفع الضريبة على القيمة المضافة لغاية 11% (المادة 1)، ورفع الرسم النسبي لغاية 4 بالألف (المادة 2)، ورفع رسوم الإيصالات وخلاصات السجل العدلي والفواتير، ومن ضمنها الفواتير الهاتفيّة والبطاقات مسبقة الدفع (المادة 3)، بالإضافة إلى الرسوم على رخص البناء (المادة 4) وانتاج الإسمنت (المادة 5) واستهلاك المشروبات الروحيّة (المادة 6) والتبغ (المادة 7) والأسناد المصادق عليها لدى كتّاب العدل (المادة 8).

أما المادة 9 المتعلقة بالتعديلات على نظام ورسوم كتّاب العدل فتم شطبها خلال جلسة آذار 2017.

Do you TED Talk in sleep? Cartoons

Hilarious! check these out…some of them are spot on!

Do You TED Talk in Your Sleep?
Laughs Worth Spreading a collection of cartoons compiled from the Internet by Dave NB: all found via Google Image Search July 2017.
DOCS.GOOGLE.COM

In search of the minimum viable audience

Of course everyone wants to reach the maximum audience.

To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to have a huge impact.

And so we fall all over ourselves to dumb it down, average it out, pleasing everyone and anyone.

You can see the problem.

When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone.

And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.

The solution is simple but counterintuitive: Stake out the smallest market you can imagine.

The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve.

This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.

When you have your eyes firmly focused on the minimum viable audience, you will double down on all the changes you seek to make. Your quality, your story and your impact will all get better.

And then, ironically enough, the word will spread.

Focusing on the MVA is a key part of what we teach in The Marketing Seminar.  (Look for the purple circle).

It’s easy to talk about in the abstract, but difficult to put into practice.

Just about every brand you care about, just about every organization that matters to you–this is how they got there. By focusing on just a few and ignoring the non-believers, the uninvolved and the average.

The two fears of voluntary education

Voluntary education is different from compulsory, the kind we grew up with.

When you’re the victim/beneficiary of compulsory education, it happens to you. You have little choice.

Perhaps you choose to open your mind and do the work, but either way, here it is.

Now that we’re adults, though, we have choice. Endless choice. (Too big a claim)

Most people choose to learn as little as possible, while a few dive in and find more insight, wisdom and opportunity than they could ever expect.

Why do so many people hold back?

  1. “This might not work”The truth is that you don’t need a license, experience or skill to run a course online. You can post videos, write blog posts and generally just show up and announce you’re teaching something.As a result, there’s a lot of reason for the buyer to beware. The student who spends time and money on a course that doesn’t work feels stupid, even stupider than they did before they began. Hopes aren’t realized and the disappointment in being ripped off is real.

    The second reason is a bit more surprising…

  2. “This might work”This is real, it’s disappointing, and it’s also the biggest reason people hesitate. We hesitate precisely because the course might deliver what it promises. Because a new experience, a workshop, an event might show you something you can’t unsee. It might lead to forward motion, to new opportunities and to change.But change brings risk and risk brings fear. Those new horizons, those new opportunities, those new skills–they might not be as comfortable as what you’ve got going on right now.

And so the challenge. We choose not to learn because it’s either going to fail (embarrassing and expensive) or it’s going to work (frightening). We get ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place of inaction.

The door is open to be heroic.

To go on the journey from a place of fear. Not to wait for the fear to go away before you begin, but instead to begin precisely because there is fear.

Those that have successfully come before us have figured out how to make this leap.

To feel (and embrace) these fears, not to deny them, and to dig in because and despite.

The biggest hesitation is the fear of an open door.

The biggest challenge is the question we ask ourselves: Then what will I do?

That’s why we’re so eager to tweak the little things. Because the little things give us a little more of the same thing that we’re already used to.

Setting the Agenda: Sectarianism and Consociational Democracy

June 12, 2017. Lebanese Center for Ploicy Studies (LCPS)

An Interview with Dr. Bassel Salloukh 

As part of our series on sectarianism in Lebanon, LCPS sat down with Dr. Bassel Salloukh, associate professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, to discuss the historical roots of sectarianism, modern manifestations of sectarianism, and the nature of governance under a consociational system in Lebanon.

Below is a transcript of our conversation with Dr. Salloukh, which has been edited for length and clarity.

What is your understanding of sectarianism in Lebanon today?
The way literature on ethnic conflict on Lebanon deals with sectarianism is too narrow. The debate is usually framed between primordialists, instrumentalists, and constructivists.

I have always positioned myself against the primordial approach because it does not explain the timing of sectarian conflict. Instrumentalists emphasize strategies deployed by ethnic and sectarian entrepreneurs, but do not tell us why people follow them.

The constructivist approach unpacks the historical and material origins of these identities, but does very little to explain why they persist and harden over time. (Why explain if the facts and details are extended?)

I argue that the best way to understand the durability and hardening of sectarian identities in postwar Lebanon is to unpack the ensemble of institutional, clientelistic, and discursive practices that structure sectarian incentives.

A big part of this ensemble has to do with institutions, whether they are state institutions, family law, electoral institutions, or clientelistic institutions, but is not limited only to institutions.

So, instead of looking at sectarianism as an aberration, you study how this ensemble—these “practices of governance” to borrow from Michel Foucault, at different levels, from the individual to the geopolitical—creates a veritable political economy that undergirds the ideological hegemony of sectarianism.

It is this dynamic ensemble that best explains why sectarianism persists and why it is so difficult to undo. (Where is the explanation?)

How has the sectarian power-sharing system evolved in Lebanon since the prewar period?
I think there have been a number of structural transformations.

The first has to do with the architecture of the postwar power-sharing arrangement itself, the Taif Accord, and how it redistributed the sectarian balance of power and the sectarian quota. But there is another transformation that is no less important.

In the pre-war period, the sectarian elite was not the economic elite of the country. There were interrelations particularly at the Maronite level, such as with Beshara al-Khoury or Michel Chiha. But Saeb Salaam, Kamel Asaad, and Sabri Hamadeh were not economic elites. Their power was based on traditional clientelist networks, access to state resources, and the provision of services.

If you read memoirs of people from the pre-war era, you notice that they were not talking about sectarianism. The main dividing line was confessional. I

n the pre-war period, those who happened to be making certain political demands to change the system came from disadvantaged socio-economic classes and they happened to be Muslim. Those who were defending the status quo came from privileged economic backgrounds and they happened to be Christian.

Today, the sectarian and political elite is itself the economic elite in the county. (The anomy system where all permanent politicans managed to own all businesses and infrastructure) 

What is interesting in the post-war period is the emergence of an overlapping sectarian political and economic elite. And it is not in this overlapping elite’s interest to have a civil war because it would jeopardize their political economic interests.

But it is the emergence of this postwar overlapping sectarian and economic elite that makes political reforms all the more difficult.

Why has sectarian identity trumped socioeconomic identity in the postwar period?
Sectarian identity obviates socio-economic identity in postwar Lebanon because of what I have called a sectarian political economy and its concomitant ideological hegemony that incentivizes people to embrace and favor their sectarian identity over other identities that are available.

I always ask my students why poor Shia, poor Sunnis, poor Maronites, poor Greek Orthodox, poor Catholics, poor Druze, poor Armenians, etc., have not formed their own party.

Why don’t they think in class terms?

How come the Lebanese Communist Party in the last parliamentary elections received 8,000 votes in a country that is devastated economically?

The primordialists have an easy answer: Lebanese are sectarian because they are born sectarian and possess a sectarian political culture, which is nonsense really.

Instrumentalists explain this in terms of elite instrumentalization of sectarian identity.

These are not good enough explanations.

Once you have a whole political economy with its consequent ideological hegemony, a holistic ensemble operating at different levels, to reproduce sectarian identities, then we should not be surprised that people behave as nothing but docile sectarian subjects.

But if the incentive structure were changed, people may then stop adopting sectarianism as their primary mode of identification and mobilization.

Do you see examples of institutions and civil society groups prioritizing sectarian identity and perpetuating sectarianism?
Lebanese are immersed in an infrastructure of sectarianism from the cradle to the grave.

The whole institutional and ideational makeup of their everyday practices are demarcated by sectarian limits. Just look at the battle for civil marriage, and the resistance it has elicited from almost all confessional and sectarian officials, and you get a sense of the sectarian system’s subtle but real disciplinary violence. Of course, there are other examples.

Take elections as a case in point.

Is it surprising that most people vote along sectarian lines? (If the election laws pressure the citizens to vote in a biased fashion?) We must begin from the assumption that we should expect people to vote along sectarian lines when they are incentivized to think that it is the clientelist political economy of sectarianism that best serves their interests.

Look also at the practices of everyday life.

How come people are allowed to park their cars on sidewalks and engage in all kinds of illicit acts? Part of this has to do with the weak Lebanese state and the dislocations that come with stark income disparities in developing countries.

But I think there is also something intentional operating here. There is a will to defeat any effort that leads to transparency and accountability because if you have the latter people start asking the big questions. The logic of sectarianism is the rejection of anything called accountability and transparency.

Of course, all this does not mean that there are no “practices of freedom”, to borrow from Foucault again, where people resist the political economy and ideological hegemony of sectarianism. Whether it is women fighting against domestic violence or for more inclusive citizenship laws, teachers struggling for fairer wages, or Beirut Madinati and its different permutations in the recent municipal elections, these are all different forms of resistance against the political economy and ideological hegemony of the sectarian system.

But the problem is that genuine anti-sectarian and cross-sectarian civil society organizations are either ignored or fought by the sectarian elite. Those who want to resist are either coopted, fought, come to play a small role, or ultimately exit. It’s not as if there is no resistance, but the sectarian political economic elite is always ahead of them. The result is the perpetuation of the ideological hegemony of sectarianism, and mobilization continues in the name of the sect.

Could one make the argument that sectarianism is preventing Lebanon from descending into a serious conflict?
Not so much sectarianism but the postwar corporate power-sharing arrangement, and the overlap between the sectarian and economic elite, does go a long way in explaining why post-Syria Lebanon has not descended into all-out civil war despite the spike in sectarian agitation and violence since 2005 and the spillover effects of the war in Syria.

Let me unpack why this is so. Consociationalists have always been very cognizant of the fact that consociational democracy is a special kind of democracy. It’s not your regular liberal democracy, it’s not your majoritarian democracy, and they accept that it hardens ethnic, tribal, and sectarian identity over time. Basically, it’s a trade-off between civil war and political instability. Lebanon is a perfect example.

Many ask the question: “Do we want civil war or are we happy with the instability we have now?” Consociationalists, to their credit, are realists, and are conscious of the fact that consociational power-sharing agreements might become immobilized and lead to protracted political crisis, but their argument is that this is always far better than civil war. I am afraid that the kind of corporate power-sharing arrangement we have in the form of the Taif Accord, and the postwar political economic structures it has given rise to, does indeed protect against a slide to civil war, but makes the quest for political economic reforms all the more difficult.

Are there ways to move away from a conscociational democracy?
The main debate in the literature on how postwar, deeply divided societies can rebuild themselves is no longer about consociational democracy per se. It is rather within consociationalism, namely, between corporate consociationalism and liberal consociationalism. This is the debate that [Brendan] O’Leary and [John] McGarry address in their work on Iraq, which stems from a critique on how consociational democracy actually contributes to the hardening of sectarian or ethnic identities.

The argument is that instead of building a corporate consociational power-sharing arrangement, postwar states would be better served by a liberal consociation power-sharing arrangement, one that does not predetermine the identities peoples would choose to mobilize around.

If you look at the Taif Accord, it contains the kind of short-term consociational modalities that were needed to end the war; middle-term cenentripitalist institutions, such as the stipulations about the need for a new electoral law, decentralization, and a unified history textbook; and in the long-run, Taif does speak about integrationist deconfessionalism. But this is just on paper. Due to the long pax Syriana and the interests of the sectarian elite, in practice what we ended up with in Lebanon is an extremely tight and immutable corporate consociational power-sharing arrangement.

The question now becomes the following: If the postwar power-sharing arrangement is in crisis, then what should be done? Given Lebanon’s confessional demographics and given the sensitivity of the issue, nobody is going to open up the Pandora’s Box of renegotiating sectarian quotas. By contrast, implementing the changes Taif hints at what could help the country move from corporate consociation to what I call hybrid consociation; not corporate but also not liberal because the latter entails the abandonment of the postwar confessional and sectarian quotas, a nonstarter under present domestic and regional conditions.

Instead, some variation on PR voting, combined with a measure of real decentralization, could unleash hitherto repressed counterfactual anti-sectarian, trans-sectarian, and inter-sectarian identities. This may also begin to change the incentive structures under which people operate.

To be sure, the sectarian political elite will only implement PR in the context of a mixed electoral law, one that predetermines the results of the elections in their favor. My argument is that some variation of PR is needed to open up the political system to new voices and new forces.  Similarly, some kind of decentralization would go a long way toward containing sectarian demonizing by creating new forms of intra-sectarian competition.

However, because of the history of the civil war, people in Lebanon think decentralization is tantamount to taqsim [division of regional governance by sect]. LCPS has done a lot of work on this theme and has shown that if you actually take substantial powers from the central administration, decentralization increases accountability at the local level and helps unleash new socioeconomic or regional alliances and identities beyond sectarianism.

At the end of the day, there is a nineteenth sect of polyglot inter-sectarian and trans-sectarian citizens in this country battling to make their voices heard. If moving beyond consociational democracy is a recipe for disaster at the present time, why not engage in some institutional creativity and allow these citizens to express their own “vision of Lebanon”, to borrow from Albert Hourani, but from within state institutions? This stabilizes the political system and makes it a bit more inclusive.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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