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.

5 comments:

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Anonymous said...

History does not begin in 1585 or the 7th century with the Arab conquest.

Syria is a Greek invention that never existed other than in the minds of the Greeks.

Anonymous said...

Total rubbish.