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Middle East and Africa

Lebanon: Why Should the Lebanese Identity be Reinvented?

To deal with the impact of the events which are shaking the Middle East, Lebanon is called to reform its institutions abandoning the confessional logic on which they are based and rethinking the pact of cohabitation of the diverse communities which form it.

The latest developments of the Lebanese scene (the enormous difficulty in forming a new government, problems with Syrian refugees, the aggravating of the social and economic crisis, endemic insecurity, divisions between Sunni and Shiites Muslims, the persisting involvement of Hezbollah in Syria) are not an accidental fact but depend on the endless crisis of the political confessional system. They show with their incidence that the Lebanese must quickly find a way out of the political crisis which was caused by the combination of two factors: a system in which a confessional logic prevails among the different Lebanese communities which are hostage to politicians of all kinds with the complicity of some religious dignitaries and secondly the explicit solicitations to intervene addressed to generally antagonistic external forces which simply exasperate the reciprocal contrasts and accusations among the Lebanese.

 

 

The anchor of salvation can only be a reinvention of the Lebanese identity, or better the famous ‘Lebanese-ness’, a concept coined by Choukri Ghanem, a famous scholar at the beginning of the XX century (1861-1930). Today this identity is nothing less than an ‘Ark of Noah’ outside which the Lebanese would probably overwhelmed by the deluge spread over the regions and which is beginning to leave traces both on the future of souls as well as social relations.

 

However, adhesion to Lebanon and the integration of the Lebanese identity within each community calls for a change of direction of the existing political forces. It is necessary that the member of the ‘March the 8th’, especially the Shiite parties, accept to be integrated into the State and to trust the security forces which have recently made important decisions formulating a clear position with respect to the future of their military groups and their political requests. The political willpower to negotiate in good faith is necessary at this level. They cannot repeat the example of Baabda declaration which published on the 11th of June 2012 by the participants at the table of dialogue among Lebanese had placed the basis for a new political understanding and a shared roadmap, but which was denied after it had been approved by all.

 

 

It therefore becomes inevitable that the 14th of March, above all its Sunnite components, accept a profound reform of the state institutions, which includes also a more rational reorganization of power besides Taef agreements, thus overcoming the model which was applied under Syrian protection and which made the Lebanese political system a simple hostage in the hands of a big brother or a big sister. It is no longer sufficient to proclaim the obligation of adhering or belonging to the state. It is necessary to present the vision of a state capable of functioning and realizing the interests of the Lebanese.

 

Christians are called to give “a contribution open to the future” to their historical choices because they cannot rest on their laurels based on the merit of having founded modern Lebanon. The unswerving attachment of Christians to Lebanon, fatherland of the present, must be elaborated into a project for the future. This must be based on a clear and courageous choice based on the legitimacy of power, overcoming attachment at all costs to the confessional division of power and opting for a consensual citizenship which is at the heart of the claims of the Arab revolution in spite of the more unhappy deviations. The strong will of Christians, towards all and against all, to establish power on the simple adhesion of all to shared social and political values will make their choice a challenge for all.

 

Christians have managed in spite of regressions to incarnate the principle of power based on consensus and to continue to propose it to all their fellow citizens. This is a choice that for a long time had to go against the power of minority and totalitarian power: the strong noises of sirens which defined our region for a long time in name of causes where false and true realities are confounded.

 

The Syrian drama is a tragic proof of the dangers of such a choice and their sinister horizons. The implications of the Syrian torment for Lebanon and in Lebanon must urge the political powers to rethink of their choices. The involvement of Lebanese in Syria can only come about through the state and thus not be partisan. It must be centered on mediation and therefore exhort to reconciliation and renewal of the nearby state.

 

 

The political forces should abandon the chimera of victory of one of the two sides in the Syrian civil war based on the idea that such a victory could constitute a resource within our internal political game. Independent of the impact that the intervention of a group of Lebanese in this slaughter it would be better for Syrians to remember, both in the near future and in the distant future, that their neighbors acted simply to save them from this awful descent into hell. Lebanon has every interest in acting in this way to diminish the burden of the Syrian refugees in its territory and to help them to return as soon as possible to their own cities and villages. What would Lebanon become if the wave of Syrian refugees settled in Lebanon, when Lebanon was never able to take on the Palestinian refugees?

 

Lebanon has an historical mission to which it must be faithful: to remain a country where living together with respect to the differences and the rights of each one and each community. It is important to help the Lebanese to pave the way which will lead the institutions of the State from the confessional phase in which they are now to a modern State of law.

 

It is a complex path which involves educational and social aspects, the evolution of customs and political behavior, especially in younger generations. It is also necessary to make sure that the Lebanese community without exceptions enjoy the political and constitutional guarantees associated with their rights and their future.

 

Again Lebanon, yes! Because its role is more important than ever for the regions and for the need to leave war and violence behind. And that’s why it must move towards the new spring.

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