Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘What socio-political reforms for Lebanon

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

What socio-political reforms for Lebanon? (Part 3, December 2, 2008)

 Any serious reforms in Lebanon have to be snatched through a grass root movement, working for the long haul.  With the failure of the secular political parties to making any headway, after over 75 years of their foundation, it is paramount that a new secular movement be created under fundamental principals.

Theoretically, we should discriminate among leaders, political and social; we should differentiate among the leader who is secular at heart but act confessional; the leader who is secular at heart but talks confessional; and the leader who is confessional at heart but talks secular.  The bottom line is that all our leaders never dared submit a secular law to the Parliament or tried to form a coalition of secular parties and associations.

The fundamental basis for this movement is to consider the common denominators that the new generations, in most religious castes, are ready to agree with.  The leading value is social and political equitableness, which is the under current of all the philosophical and moral concepts of equality, freedom, liberty, democracy, justice, security and the rest.  Citizens want to be listened to seriously and for their opinions to be considered at their just values after deep reflection and investment in time and energy.

 First of all, the new movement has to declare its loyalty to the recognized State of Lebanon by the United Nations.  This movement should not be used as a platform for discussions on whether Lebanon is a Nation or not a nation or what are the basis for being labeled, Phoenician, Syrian, Arab, Moslem, or the dozen other exotic sources for an exclusive and elusive identity.  Tiny Lebanon is one of over 170 States recognized by the UN that has no basis to be a nation in population or land sizes.

The notion of a nation is real and will still exist for years to come.  I suggest that the study of our nationality be done in study groups of individuals who are interested enough to read, invest time and energy to discuss and dialogue and analyze.  Failure to instituting serious study groups, it is tantamount to return to our current states of affairs of dogmatism and infantile demagoguery.

 Second, the movement should recognize plainly and bluntly the reality of our current socio-political system, analyze it clearly and then never bring that subject again.  The new movement should not be used as promotional medium for the confessional parties to inculcate our religious caste system, through repetition, into our psychic. Consequently, the members of the new movement are not to even indulge public challenges based on caste and confessional platforms or through the audio-visual communication media.  To the general public, we may confidently say that we studied the system, we acknowledged its shortcoming, we set it behind us, and we resumed the struggle according to programs and plans.

Confessionalism, feudalism, sectarianism and all the “isms” will be around for many years.  Approaching and confronting these realities should be done under serious study groups.

 Third, the members are Lebanese who are striving for a modern civil society and central civil status register and working to instituting civil marriage laws and inheritance programs.  Any program that tends to open up the communication lines among castes is good enough to start with.  Any program that facilitates inner trade and association is good enough for a start.

What socio-political reforms for Lebanon? (Part 1, November 31, 2008)

Note: This essay is of three parts.  The first part would investigate the facts and current realities of Lebanon’s socio-political structure (without delving into the details).  Part 2 is my version of Lebanon’s Republic and Democracy.  The third part develops on programs, processes, and resolutions.  Reforms have not taken place in Lebanon after 65 years of independence and these essays are screams for action.

Let us state the facts and realities of Lebanon’s socio-political structure.  Socially, Lebanon is an amalgam of castes enjoying self-autonomous structure, tightly related to religious sects.  Many would label these castes as tribes, feudal clans, oligarchy and so on, but caste is the correct name because it satisfies all the criteria for our communities. The successive Lebanese governments recognized 18 political castes with legal civil status laws and the right to administer their respective members from birth, to marriage, to inheritance and then death; they are to be represented in the Parliament and the higher State’s administration jobs according to what the latest civil war engendered in the power struggle among the castes.

It is obvious that this caste system has never appreciated a strong central government ,and the successive governments never tried hard to impose any serious reforms to unite a people under central civil laws, or modern citizens.  The “ideal” copy of our Constitution has never been applied since Lebanon’s “independence” of France in 1943.

The gross-brushed picture was that for the Christian sects (as a pool) and the Moslem sects to split the numbers of Deputies in the Parliament fifty-fifty, as well as their representations in the State administration offices.

Since the independence, demographic changes favored the Moslem sects ,which outnumbered the Christian citizens by a ratio of 70/30.  A civil war that started in 1975 till 1991 lead to the Taef “Constitution”, supposedly giving the Moslem sects firmer and wider executive powers; a constitution that was not actually applied as the original Constitution was not also applied.

The Dawha agreement in 2008, after a long stalemate in the government following the quick military coup of Hezbollah in Beirut, brought us back to the 1963 legislative election laws, which legally consecrated our socio-political caste system.  Up till now, the political process relied on a verbal agreement or consensus by the Maronite and Sunni caste leaders in 1943.

Many would like to embellish our political system by attributing to it a European notion of “conconferedracy or something of that kind”, where several communities speak different languages such as in Switzerland, Belgium, or Canada.  These communities in the developed States are open groups and communicate liberally and have no trade or social barriers, they obey to central government laws and have a unified civil status laws, and have developed into modern States.

This is not the case in Lebanon: we have closed communities with self-autonomous civil status laws that still refuse to have civil marriages, not even an optional one under a unifying civil law; Lebanon belongs to the under-developed States where juntas of theocratic castes dominate the political and economical spectrum.




March 2023

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