Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pot Pourri

Syria has withdrawn its troops from Lebanon, but its influence has remained constant. Nothing really important takes place without Syrian approval expressed through its subservient Lebanese allies. That President Lahoud retains his seat as President of Lebanon, despite an overwhelming majority of Lebanese Deputies, politicians and citizens who want nothing more than to get rid of him and of the Syrian presence which he symbolizes, is but an example of Syrian omnipotence.

Lebanon is a unique and strange country, where the President of the Republic, not the Prime Minister, goes to Sharm-El-Sheikh to attend a regional economic conference. The Prime Minister follows two days later to deliver a lecture. Nothing can be more ludicrous. They both return to Lebanon, in different planes.

We have said it before that Lebanon never existed as a nation within its current frontiers. It was concocted in 1920 by General Gouraud, the first French High Commissioner under the League of Nations Mandate. That parts of the province of Syria were added to this new Lebanon, has always rankled and continues to rankle with our Syrian neighbour. By 1943, the French had been pushed out of Lebanon by British forces. The Commanding Officer, General Spears became the virtual ruler of Lebanon. And thus a new country with eighteen different religious minorities came into being, of which the Maronite Christians were the largest of the different minorities. Since then the situation has changed. The Shii Moslems are now the largest single minority, and probably they constitute a majority of the total Lebanese population. The birth rate among Shii Moslems is beyond belief. A family of twelve children is not the exception. The other communities, with a higher standard of living are less prolific. Not to be totally overwhelmed, the Sunni Moslems have allied themselves with the Christians to maintain parity with the Shiis. This delicate balance is very fragile and tends to fracture under pressure. To add to this pot pourri, we have the Palestinian refugees, some four hundred thousand strong. Their camps, fully armed, constitute a state within a state.

Everyone talks of the sacred right of return to their former home. While we fully endorse this sacred right, the question remains, how do we translate this right into a practical and feasible plan of action. In 1948, when the Palestinians were forced out of their country by superior Jewish military forces, the Jews in Palestine numbered some eight hundred thousand. They are now five million, in addition to some one million two hundred thousand Israeli Palestinians. The Gaza strip is probably the most over crowded bit of territory in the world. It can hardly absorb the natural demographic increase of its own population. The rest of Palestine has become Israel with bits and pieces of occupied territory in the West Bank. Consequently the only means for the Palestinian Diaspora to return is by ousting the Jews from Israel. We do not see this happening within the foreseeable future. It might be argued that the Jews waited two thousand years before Balfour's Declaration of 1917 allowed them to return.

The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will continue to grow in numbers, and will sooner or later destroy the pattern of peaceful co-existence which has so far prevailed. It is imperative for the Lebanese Government to take the necessary measures to allow the Palestinians to lead a dignified way of life, if Lebanese society as a whole is not to disintegrate into so many confessions and communities.

There is no hope that the United States will exert in the near future sufficient pressure on Israel to resume serious negotiations with the Palestinians, be it the PLO or HAMAS. That the American Senate and House of Representatives should give eighteen standing ovations to Israel's Prime Minister Olmert is proof enough that the Palestinians are a negligible quantity and can be obliterated through hunger, as a result of the Blockade which President Bush, one of history’s assassins, has imposed without any qualms.

Bush has the arrogance and effrontery to stand before the world and talk of human rights. His simian looks can only indicate simian origins.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The current political situation in both Syria and Lebanon reflect a continuing tug of war between both countries and a similar tug of war between pro and anti Syrian currents in Lebanon itself, where national sentiment, within the real sense of the terms is only paper thin, such that it tends to explode whenever subjected to foreign pressure.

The 14th March, 2005 rally, following the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, gave rise to hope that a Lebanese consciousness, a sense of identity had risen from the ashes. Whether it has in fact been born is a matter for conjecture. Myth or reality, however, is the only possible hope for Lebanon. The alternative is a return to anarchy and foreign domination.

Alas, nothing new has appeared on the horizon. The Dialogue Conference resumed yesterday after a long adjournment. Hands were shaken and kisses were exchanged, but the Presidential issue, one of the main items on the agenda of the Conference remained suspended in mid air without a coherent majority, one way or the other. It now appears that President Lahoud will be allowed to finish his Mandate, which ends in Autumn of 2007.

The next topic on the agenda was the armed wing of Hezbollah (Party of God). The leader of the Party, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah presented a lengthy report over seventy minutes during which he outlined the strategic necessity for Hezbollah to maintain its armed wing, in view of Israeli aggressive territorial ambitions. He stressed the fact that if the Lebanese Army were to be deployed on the Lebanese-Israeli frontier, one sweep of Israel jets would be sufficient to annihilate such deployment, whilst in the case of Hezbollah, its fighters are not recognizable. They melt in the environment as simple peasants and cannot be targeted, in addition to the fact that Hezbollah’s arsenal of long-range missiles was well hidden and cannot be reached by Israel.

The presentation was well and positively received by one and all of the Delegates to the Conference, including Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader himself who went as far as to congratulate Sheik Hassan on his lucid and cartesian presentation of the issue.

Consequently, Hezbollah will retain its armed wing until such time as peace has been signed with Israel, not a likely event in the foreseeable future. U.N. Resolution 1559, like so many others before it will be consigned to the drawers, already full of resolutions relating to Israel which have never been fulfilled.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lebanon - Country or Myth

There is not a Lebanese citizen who does not complain regarding the performance, or rather the lack of performance, if not the very existence of the Lebanese Government on every level, social, political or economic. Lebanon is a country riven by confessional consideration, and is largely feudal in character. There is no such thing as national consciousness of loyalty. Stop any person in the street and ask him what he is. His answer, but for rare exceptions will be, I am Druze, or I am a Moslem, or I am Christian, but hardly ever, I am Lebanese. In point of fact, but for a short period under the famous Emir of the Maan dynasty, Fakhreddine II in 1585, Lebanon never existed as a country within the context of its current frontiers. Under Fakhreddin II, Lebanon achieved almost total autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. With the Chehab Emirs who were Moslem by faith and not Druze, some of whom became Christian Maronites at a later stage, Lebanon shrank in dimension. North Lebanon, encompassing the whole of the Tripoli area, and South Lebanon, the stronghold of the Moslem Shiite community, formed part of the province of Syria. This remained as the geo-political situation until 1918, when following the Allied victory in World War I, and in conformity with the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1917 which purported to divide the countries of the Fertile Crescent into British and French zones of influence, Lebanon and Syria wee handed to France under a League of Nations Mandate, while Iraq and Palestine and Transjordan went to Britain.

The first French High Commissioner in Lebanon proposed a small Lebanon, based on the historic collaboration between the Druze and and Maronite communities which had existed since Fakhreddine II, namely the territory extending from the river, Nahr-el-Bared in the North to the Litani river in the South with Mt. Lebanon in the centre and including a small portion of the Bekaa Valley i.e. Zahle and environs. North and South Lebanon were to remain as part of Syria. The plan was met with strong opposition from the Maronite Church, on the ground that the Church possessed large estate in South Lebanon. The plan was altered to include North and South Lebanon in Lebanon of today, thereby sowing the seeds of future dissension.

Lebanon which had flourished under the Maan and Chehab regimes became prey to ethnic and religious dissensions. The majority of the Moslems looked towards Syria and not Lebanon as their natural homeland, which gave rise to serious troubles in 1958 and to civil war as of 1975. Syria, on the other hand, never recognised Lebanon as an independent country within its current frontiers and has since 1920 fomented trouble to recover its lost territory which General Gouraud had generously awarded to Lebanon,

The current political situation in both Syria and Lebanon reflects this continuing tug of war. The end result of this situation is that Lebanese national feeling are paper thin. They tend to explode whenever Lebanon is subjected to foreign pressure.

The 14th March 2005 rally, following the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, gave rise to hope that Lebanese consciousness had risen from the ashes. We fear not. The same dissentions that were evident before 14th March, have returned to frustrate the birth of a new coherent Lebanon.

There can be no future for Lebanon until such time as the Lebanese become conscious of their identity as Lebanese and not members of a confession.

Friday, May 05, 2006

War but not peace

The United States has become an instrument of war, primarily if not exclusively for the benefit of Israel. In a recent press conference, the President categorically stated that Israel was the United States’ closest ally, and that it was the duty of the United States to defend Israel, hence the war on Iraq, which if allied with Syria would have constituted a potential threat to Israel. It was not the myth of the so-called weapons of mass destruction, which President Bush invoked as a reason of waging war on Iraq. Such weapons never existed and the United States was well aware of it. The war on Iraq was planned by the Zionist lobby in Washington which included such characters as Pearle, Wolfowitz and Dick Cheyney as early as 1998. As a potential threat to Israel, Iraq had to be eliminated. The United States is doing a good job in eliminating Iraq from the face of the earth. One hundred Iraqis were killed on 3rd May to add to the many tens of thousands that have perished. That some 2,500 young Americans have lost their lives for the sake of Israel does not seem to bother President Bush.

The atomic threat which President Bush invokes in the case of Iran is as fictitious as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It will be many years before Iran can produce an atomic bomb. Even then, it will not have the means to deploy such a weapon against the United States. On the other hand, Iranian missiles can reach Tel Aviv, which explains the campaign which President Bush has orchestrated against Iran and its Syrian ally.

So it all boils down to the Israeli tail wagging the American head, and we in the Middle East are paying the price to a point where the tragic Palestinian problem has been forgotten, or relegated to a non issue.

The irony lies in the fact that having insisted on Palestinian democratic elections, the United States which had monitored the elections, now refuses to recognize the results of those elections because the overwhelming winner, Hamas, does not regard Israel with friendly eyes. The United States has in fact imposed sanctions on a freely elected Government by cutting off essential funding, essential for the very lives of the Palestinian people, but who cares so long as they are not Jewish.

Added on 5th July 2006

Having destroyed by air, land and sea all essential services in the Gaza strip such as electricity, water, roads and bridges, and having imposed a total blockade of the whole area with the object of destroying an entire people through hunger, Israel has mobilized the media of the whole world for the sake of one soldier captured in battle, while hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian prisoners languish or die in Israeli jails.

End of addendum

If only Lord Balfour were to rise from the dead, he would be appalled by the misery which has been inflicted on the Palestinians as a result of his famous 1917 Declaration. Over the centuries, Palestine has been conquered and occupied by more nations that can be counted. In terms of history, Israel will also perish like so many other conquerors.