10 Sept 2010

A truth universally ignored: on Lebanon's predicament - Guest blog

I received an interesting comment from a reader in response to Is Hezbollah Lebanon’s NRA? I thought I would share this comment on the blog because it addresses the hypocrisy of our discourse(s) in Lebanon. The comment dwells on the various aspects that manifest our disregard of universalism, shedding light on what is without doubt one of the main barriers towards our social and political development.

It’s very rewarding when what we write resonates with other people, and even more so when this gives us a glimmer of hope that we’re not alone in our discontent.

Fatima writes:

I did enjoy what seemed to be a pretty challenging mental exercise, citing the American example to counter the pervading claim that disarming Hezbollah's is necessary for state authority. But if we were to concede that we need all the "light" we can shed on this "thorny" issue, maybe I have to question one crucial statement you've made. Our inability to phrase this statement correctly has prevented us from finding a way out of the predicament we’re in. I am particularly concerned with the following:

"But the problem is that the right to bear arms needs to be applied universally for it to be meaningful." I think this needs to be amended in one of several possible ways: “The consistent disregard for the universality of the law in Lebanon weakens the credibility of the universal, and under different circumstances, logical argument that `Hezbollah must not remain armed because other parties are not equally armed.” Or perhaps: "For things to be meaningful in Lebanon it is not a necessary condition that they be applied universally". Etc.

Of course those two re-wordings are non-universal statements peculiar to Lebanon, as I try to recall the following (few out of many more) examples. At the basic levels of education, we have trouble "unifying" our history. We have trouble adapting our archaic language to express universal science and rules. That is as simple as it can get. Of higher complexity are the following hideous examples.

The Lebanese have always been unified against one single cause: Al-Tawteen, (naturalisation of Palestinian refugees) citing the effects this would have on the sectarian stratum (or balance, as they call it). However this did not stop the naturalisation of Palestinian Christians earlier on, or the naturalisation of Palestinian Shiites in the nineties. Another example: many Lebanese couples will strive for their babies to be born in western countries, knowing that they will be granted full citizenship and their rights will protected by law. (The UK is an exception.) The same people will however collude in denying babies born in Lebanon to non-Lebanese fathers the right to the Lebanese nationality.

A third example: the Lebanese complain about abuse of human rights, from silly incidents that they experience in western airports to the much more serious human right abuses perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians. You see them going on demonstrations when the tides are high, condemning human rights abuses. Those same people deny Palestinians the right to own a single, simple, flat, a permanent abode for their families and offspring. Of course I shall not even go near the issue of work permits (or else I'd be straying onto a different topic).

Fourth example: we speak about the war on terror and how it’s being waged against Muslims and Arabs only because of the actions of a "handful", whilst the Lebanese would not hesitate a single moment to engage in ethnic cleansing against each other, against Palestinian civilians, or against Syrian workers, when a few leaders are responsible for the crimes.

So what’s the conclusion? I would like to suggest that it is our incapability of upholding the universality of the law that is making Hezbollah's arsenal a thorny issue. We can’t negotiate our away around this issue, and we can’t engage in a meaningful dialogue that allows us to resolve it.

You hear people from one side citing years of state neglect against the Shiite population, as well as the struggle against Israel. You hear others citing state authority and the right to have Beirut free of arms and the need to abolish the monopoly over arms by one party. But I don't think any of this is relevant, or likely to help us resolve the issue. Perhaps it’s time to admit we are masters of double standards, twisted interpretations, and biased alliances, against all universal laws? That the rule of law and justice are secondary to our whims and our desire to dominate others? Perhaps…

1 comment:

  1. Interesting perspective. I think we need to go back to the end of he civil war to understand the weapons issue. The war ended with a defeat of the so called 'isoloationist Christian' camp. There are no two ways about it. While the Taef accord in spirit might have had a conciliatory value, the misimplentation that followed confirmed the new balance of power, which was of course firmly held by the Syrians and their allies.

    Hezbollah managed to keep its arsenal as it argued it served a primarily different purpose to those of other militias,. i.e resisting the Israelis. But this was never a priority for a significant proportion of the population. for the following 15 years the official discourse was forced down the throat of this section of the population that either ignored it (Hariri &Co), distanced itself from it (Joumblat&Co) or resisted it (the Aounists at the time and some elements in the Lebanese Forces). The assassination of Hariri shattered this false consensus and ended the Pax Syriana. The questions of the weapons resurfaced because in essence it is intrinsically part of the identity debate. Hezbollah is not the only party with weapons, if we judge by the events of May 7th 2008. In my view, Hezbollah despite its arguments is part of that identity problem and the poster-party for the federation of sects that is now Lebanon. It is the ultimate sectarian party...and the others are just envious of his privileged position.


Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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