Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘grass movement for change

To earning the status of a citizen: What are to change in Lebanon?

What culture is needed for the Lebanese is worth diagnosing.   Lebanon was involved in a civil war as Jacques Berque said:  “Culture is the movement of a society seeking explanation and trying to be endowed of an expression. Culture is a project to assembling past, present, and future on a vast perspective designed to galvanize desires, and hopes; a project that is applicable to the environment, a product of medias and the immediate situation.”

For example, the Sepharade Jews, over 65% of the Jews in Israel, who came from the Arab States and carried with them the customs and traditions of the Orient were pressured in the Zionist State not to speak or learn Arabic, and to dissociate from their oriental culture as a heavy baggage for the development of a modern Israel.

Since the Ottoman Empire was defeated in 1918, the Lebanese were tentatively searching for an identity without taking any responsibility in establishing a central government responding to the wishes and dreams of the “citizens”.  The Christian Maronite clergy was relying on a foreign powerful nation (France) to guarantee its existence, while imposing a definition of a citizen defined by his religious affiliation.  Thus, it was not agreeable to the Maronite to working toward a strong secular central government.

The Moslem Sunnis were at a loss:  They wanted to rely on a Caliphate religious concept, but based in Syria (meaning current Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) instead of Istanbul. Thus, they were ever ready to support any monarch claiming to be from the tribe of Kuraich in Mecca.

Gradually, but steadily, the political system in lebanon converged toward a confessionally recognized 18 religious sects defining the Lebanese, from birth to death.  The election laws ensured that voting would be tailor-made according to religious denomination or the religious caste system.

Antoun Saaadeh wrote in 1940, “Islam (peace) in its two messengers: Jesus and Mohammad”, and proved that the fundamentals of these two religions do not differ and that, when thirteen years later Mohammad established firmly his message, he had to deal with the socio-economic and political divergences among the tribes and had to codify their behaviors and thus, interpretations were necessary and differences with evolving societies required fine tuning.

Lebanon confessional socio-political  institution is efficacious in imposing auto-censorship in media. This confessional, feudal, and isolationist political system exhibited since independence in 1943 fascistic pressures on cultural movements that might challenge serious threats to its survival.

In 1919, Father Henri Lammens summed up the historical evolution of the Syrian nationality in well defined geographical borders and tradition, which the classical Antiquity and the Greek, Roman, and Arab empires recognized the fact that the people within these natural borders constitute one nation.

In fact, the colonial powers recognized that the people in the Near East constituted a cohesive entity within natural boundaries linking the east and Africa with rich and qualified human resources,  natural raw materials, and might eventually disrupt the colonial trade and expansion.

The current political States, established by the mandatory powers, should not erase the fact that we are one people in history, geography and culture, regardless of political consensus among the political states to live as independent States.

It is true that Israel would like to divide these States even further, according to religious sects, in order to provide political legitimacy to its existence and also to be able to subjugate these tiny and helpless States, one State at a time.  The Israeli archives prove that the Maronite Patriarchs and the Maronite parties of “Al Ketlate Al Watania” of the Edde family and “Al Kataeb” of the Gemayel family were in constant negotiations with Zionism, long before its foundation as the State of Israel.  Many Maronite clergy and political leaders were in cohort with Zionism so that it might acquire some political legitimacy in Lebanon in the face of the Moslem majority.

It is true that genuine representative democracy should offer minorities, whether religious sects, classes, or professions, proportional representation in parliament, government and jobs.  Thus, our genius should be directed at easing the apprehension of the minorities and establishing a unified civil code that group us as one people under the law.

First, we should start by diminishing the powers relegated to the 18 recognized religious sects,  the de facto ruler of our lives from birth to death. For the central government to recover its responsibilities, over all the Lebanese “citizens”, it can start by taxing heavily the financial resources of these religious hierarchies and gradually recuperating the duties that the central government is entitled to in modern democracies.

Since our independence in 1943, the motto of the ruling class was that we need first to erase the confessional inclinations from our mind before putting in writing a civil code, as if it is possible to reach a civil society without first codifying our civil status as the law of the land.

The National Pact of 1943 for tiny Lebanon was not bad in itself if the intention was to represent the various communities constituting the Lebanese fabric, but it quickly degenerated into a confessional oligarchy of spoilage of the political privileges between the feudal and financial figures of the Maronite and Sunny sects, which dominated the urban centers and economic comprador infrastructure.

The flawed electoral systems, heavily biased to the religious castes since independence, meant the hegemony of the leaders of the two sects. It is so true that leaders in these two sects had to run in the districts of Bekaa, Akar, and the south in order to win a seat in the parliament as they failed in their own districts.

The various alternative electoral systems prevented a normal evolution toward a stable democracy because political secular parties and associations were unable to be represented and when they had the popular support then the governments managed to cheat them out of their due rights; this political system could not generate a stabilizing effect in our multi-religious society.  Lebanon suffered two “military coup d’etat” simply because the system refused to recognize the election of secular figures.

My opinion is that it seems that the Lebanese intelligence is not so far working toward a stable and secure State after over 65 years of independence from the French mandate.  What is needed is to create a bi-level parliament; one parliament would be constituted by political parties, professional associations and syndicates in a proportional quota and the other parliament represented by one deputy for one electoral district so that all religious minorities will be represented. The latter parliament would have a certain level of veto power over specific legislations by the former parliament and would also cater specifically to the individual districts.

It is hoped that the combined number of deputies in both parliaments should never exceed 128 deputies who are taxing heavily our resources and providing largess to their descendents in amenities and political privileges.

The issue of national resistance against the successive aggressions of Israel on Lebanon and the neighboring Arab States has been discussed.  The author mentioned the articles of Michel Chiha in the daily “Le Jour” where he warned in 1948, four days after the foundation of the State of Israel, that resistance is a question of life and death for the Near East and Egypt.

Again, either the author, Maitre Phares Zoghbi, in his “Lebanon: Saved by its culture” wanted to restrict his references to articles written in French and didn’t want to venture into translating from Arabic manuscripts, or he just wanted to select articles that appeared in the daily “L’Orient Le Jour”, or most probably the auto-censor is working against the teaching of Antoun Saaadeh.

The leader Saaadeh has founded a party in 1937 for the purpose of uniting the people against the Zionism development; he warned that if an organized force is not formed to counter the ever expanding forces of Zionism then the State of Israel will be founded and we will have to suffer the consequences of precarious existence for centuries.

Sa3adeh also was the first to warn that oil is an international weapon that was not used to counter the schemes of the Western nations in Palestine.  Actually, Sa3adeh was summarily executed because the British and American were anxious to have the oil pipeline “Tapeline” contract ratified and Habib Abu Chahla, the appointed Lebanese lawyer for Tapeline, was the force behind convincing the President of the Republic Bechara Khoury to get rid of that Saadeh nuisance to the comprador economy.

Since every single one of our problems is current from the time of our Independence, and getting worse, it is worthwhile to discuss the immediate quagmire about the election of a new president to the Republic.  And since the President is elected by the members of the parliament it would be fair to suggest that the timing of the election to the Chamber of deputies be done four months before the end of the term of the President in order to correspond to the wishes of the people.

Obviously, the terms of the deputies must be modified from four to three years or one third of the chamber should be renewed every two years.  The President should be given the right to dismiss the parliament once in his term and also to dismiss the government once in his term so that the system can avoid these gridlocks so very frequent in our history and go back to the people for referendums.

If we have any intelligence left to organize our society, it is about time to re-think a Constitution that has learned from our constant and frequent political troubles and insert any revised national pact into the one an unique Constitution as the foundation for our survival and progress.

Note 1:  I wrote this article as a response to the French book “Lebanon: Saved by its culture” by the Lebanese Maitre Phares Zoghbi, who summarized our situation by five problems:

1. Islam admits the idea of a State-nation. It is nowhere mentioned in the Koran or in the hadith that when Moslems are part of a nation that Islam should dominate or be the religion of the State.

2.  The Christian religion should not be confounded with the periods of inquisition since Islam experienced long periods of tolerance and the sourate of the Table is an example.

3.  Historically and sociologically, the culture of any community cannot dissociate from its surrounding.

4. If the West is presently our primary source of cultural nourishment, the East is our lot, our beginning and our destination.

5. It is an enterprise of long-term cultural osmoses and synthesis, it should not entitle any constraints in religion, ethnic particularities, any refusal of differences as long as the communal effort is preserved.

Note 2:  I posted 4 years ago a detailed program for a grass movement for change in Lebanon




March 2023

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