Monthly Archives: February 2006

Ethnic conflict

“A number of … domestic factors … affect the prospects for ethnic conflict. One problem, as Horowitz and Welsh point out, is the tendency in multi-ethnic societies for political parties to be organized along ethnic lines. When this happens, party affiliations are a reflection of ethnic identity rather than political conviction. Political systems organized along these lines contain few independent voters, individuals who might cast votes for different parties in different elections. Under these circumstances, elections are mere censuses, and minority parties have no chance of winning power. In countries where parties are organized along ethnic lines and where winner-take-all elections are conducted – not uncommon in many parts of the world – democratic forms might be observed, but minorities remain essentially powerless, victims of a ‘tyranny of the majority’.”

Source: Michael E. Brown, “Causes and implications of ethnic conflict”, 87.

So what do Horowitz and Welsh suggest? I bet they would recommend the ever-successful Lebanese “consociational” model. At least the Lebanonese would like to think so!

I wrote on Arend Lijphart’s model of consociational democracy in my research paper on the Lebanese Forces, so I will share:

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Whose God is it anyway?

bethleh.jpg

Photo by George Azar; at the Grotto of Nativity, Bethlehem

Source: A Walk Through Bethlehem, The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU)

And no, I am not a believer.

Shame, shame

The weather today is lovely. Sunny, warm, birds chirping. I love it. Although it’s really hard to breathe in the city on such days because of the pollution. At least it’s not that bad up in the mountains where I live, although even here urbanization (and hence pollution) is becoming inescapable. I am enjoying my job, although the real thing has not started yet. Yesterday I went to my ethnic conflict and peace-building class; it was really interesting; the class was a weird mix though, relatively quiet, although I know that there are quite a few “geniuses”! The rest are either clueless or just too shy. The former more than the latter, actually. As for me, I decided I will be really talkative this semester, although not to the extent that I would blurt out anything on my mind, because that would make me look stupid. Quite a few people like that in the class too. The other day I stayed on-campus the whole day because there was supposed to be a semi-formal meeting / workshop for an independent leftist group, but only five people showed up. The rest are hopeless cases. I am just curious though, what on earth do these people do in their spare time??? I’m sure as hell that they don’t read or do something productive for that matter. Stupidity is the norm when it comes to university students. Young people here are very sleepy, unproductive, and their faces only lighten up when you mention partying or watching TV. What I hate the most, however, is when people keep on saying that they’re going to do something and never end up doing that. To adapt the “like father, like son” phrase, “like [Lebanese] politicians, like [Lebanese] youth.”

I am currently editing a paper for one of the professors in the department. It’s sad actually because as much as I like doing editing work, I was hoping he would give me research work; in fact, that is what I asked him for, but I suppose he thinks I am not a good researcher. Whatever rocks his boat, I suppose. As long as I’m getting paid, it’s not like I am going to hold a gun to his head to give me something to research or a paper to review! All the better if he doesn’t; the reason I am annoyed is that it has hurt my ego. Today I bought the course kit (the first of the four, the rest will be ready as we go along) from Malik’s bookstore (outside the campus, but takes printing orders from the university) for the ethnic conflict and peace-building course. It made me want to cry. I mean, not the content exactly, but the cover of the kit: “Ethnic Conflect and Peace Building”. I quickly took out my white-out and turned the ‘e’ into an ‘i’. How embarrassing. Moving on, I think I have a fairly good idea as to what I will be doing my research paper on. I don’t want to do it on the Arab-Israeli conflict because that is already covered in the Palestine course I am taking. I will instead work on Azerbaijan, although admittedly I need to do a lot of readings on that because it is not exactly one of my chief interests. I feel like I am focusing too much on the Middle East (and in particular Palestine/Israel) in my coursework and I want to avoid that if possible. I was just looking at the readings in the course kit, and they cover many conflicts/(re)solutions, including Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Moldova, Scotland, Canada. The rest are theoretical pieces, which are even more interesting. At last a course that is worthy of being called “graduate course”! It’s sad that a lot of people refrained from taking this course because they prefered taking courses with professors they had previously taken courses with (and received good grades from). I would understand the point if the professor is really charismatic and just too knowledgeable to miss out on his classes, but if there’s nothing special about him I fail to see what’s so attractive about taking his course. Is there no spirit of challenge left in academia or what! Everyone seems more concerned with taking the easy way out, just take a couple of courses, write some thesis, smile a lot to your professors, and get your M.A.? Is that it?

MEMRI responds

Or something like it.

“Thank you for sending us your message. We read each and every one, but unfortunately, since we receive hundreds of emails every day, we are unable to respond to all of them.” (emphasis mine)

Duh, you just responded to it. Why not simply provide the link/document I was asking for and be done with it? Ahh I forget, you never had it to begin with.

Note: This was not an automated response.

Terrible

This is another personal entry, feel free to skip over it if you’re not interested. Tyger, I am sorry for not getting back to you on the Fukuyama piece; know that I am halfway through the article, but please bear with me because I have been very busy lately. I will post my reply to you either tonight or tomorrow morning.

I had a terrible day. On the academic front it was OK. Semester started, taking a course on Palestine, which is OK but not all that exciting after all… Prof is nice and friendly but frankly I did not enjoy the first class (but the rest of the post might explain that). Good news is, I got graduate assistantship; I will be holding writing/citation workshops for undergraduate students – a bit like a methodologies course. It’s not my passion in life, to be honest, but I will do it anyway. On the personal front, well, I have been feeling really down lately, but today was just the worst day ever. No, I am not PMSing; I will throw a Molotov cocktail (my favourite thing) at the next guy who says that. I will not elaborate, so don’t ask me what it’s all about, unless you want to have a Molotov cocktail thrown at you. The only thing that caught my attention on the (long) way home was a sticker on a car. It was a German flag with a swastika on it. A German flag with a swastika on it. In Lebanon. Not sure if I get the insinuation, but there’s a saying here, عيش كتير بتشوف كتير ; it translates to “live more, see more”.

Tales from the Crypt

Or should I say, tales from the “university”? My professor apparently misplaced lost my book review, which I handed in 17 days ago – one of the first to have handed in all the material that was due. What do I get in return? I get an “I” – for incomplete – on my transcript today. It means that I have not handed in one of the required papers. I call the professor at 5 pm – and luckily he is at his office – and he’s so calm; he tells me he was expecting my call. Expecting my call!!!!!?!! Expecting MY call?? Should I not have been the one to expect a call??? Especially that I had personally placed the review in his hands on February 3, and that I have been paying him a visit every week to ask him when the grades would be out??? He was expecting my call, he said. Oh how nice. How nice indeed. And given that tomorrow is the last day of late registration, I ought to be impressed. Give the guy some credit, at least he umm picked up the phone?? I feel so … lucky. Now for the other course, nothing surprising there, got an A (no A+ system here). I was expecting it. Not that I worked my ass off for the course, but I can say that I did a reasonable amount of research and – not to brag – did really well on the presentations.

Psst, fellow cryptites, I trust you will not pass on this link to the professor in question. 😉

Lebanese Forces

An excerpt from “The Lebanese Forces: From Non-State Actor to Political Party”

It is often argued that Geagea has not given up on his dream to monopolize the representation of the Christian community. However, it is also important to keep in mind that as the country was plunged into a series of popular uprisings and upheavals culminating in the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, the primary objective of the party was to free Geagea. From this strategic viewpoint it is not surprising that an electoral alliance was forged between the LF and other zu’ama. This alliance was and still is marketed as representing and safeguarding the unity of the Lebanese people. The slogan is paradoxical at least in a post-election milieu. While it is possible that the LF is truly interested in unity and democratic competition as claimed by Geagea, the argument that it is a serious force in Lebanese politics today is less than accurate, although admittedly the party has successfully reinvented itself from extremism as demonstrated by its quest for federation, to moderation as can be seen in its official statements and positions. The LF can be said to be going through a period of pragmatism, which would gain it enough time to reorganize its structures and strengthen its support base. One of the most interesting decisions of the party has been the removal the cross as the official logo. Geagea explains that this was done because of the necessity of separating religion from politics.1 Not unlike HezbAllah, its “reinvention as a movement with an entry into mainstream Lebanese politics cannot be considered an abandonment of earlier ideological … principles.”2 It is impossible to assert beyond any doubt that such a return to past ideological principles would take place especially that unlike HezbAllah the LF does not have an external ideological base, but given the position of Lebanon as a weak state subject to external interest and interference in domestic affairs and the personal and sectarian as opposed to national and governmental point of departure of its politicians, one can say that anything is possible. In fact, despite Aoun’s role in lobbying for the Syria Accountability Act and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, it is possible that the United States would favour the idea of strengthening the LF, although not to an extent that would enable it to pose a serious challenge to Aoun. A strong, secular Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) breaking the barriers of sectarianism and confessionalism would pose a challenge to American interests in more than one way especially in what pertains to using the sectarian-oriented media in Lebanon to threaten dictatorial regimes in the region with internal unrest. It is probable that the United States would prefer that another sectarian party rise in the place of a secular one, or at least to limit the freedom of the secular party as much as possible. Whether or not Washington is working on such a plan, it appears that Aoun is caving in to the pressures of political realities and moving from a secular to a sectarian diction. This movement only consolidates Lebanon’s absurd position in the region, accurately described by Hudson as follows: “When the Arab world shows signs of political unity, Lebanese policy makers fear that there will be a concerted effort to deprive Lebanon of its autonomy and its liberal economic system. Yet, when there is discord among the Arab states, competing factions pressure Lebanon to choose sides.”3 Lebanon of course cannot in any such circumstance choose sides as one entity or as a matter of fact remain neutral4. So long as there is no real national unity – as opposed to political unity, which is also uncommon – Lebanon cannot hope to have a position on any issue, internal or external. It will continue to be an amalgamation of the policies and positions of the different sects comprising it. Yet if this is true, then the objective of the LF should be to unify, secularize, and modernize Lebanon, a mission that according to Khalifah the Christian community had neglected and which resulted in its decline.5 Such an undertaking by the LF would coincide with the stated objectives of the FPM and remove all barriers to cooperation and real reconciliation between the leaders of the two parties. Moreover, a united Christian front pushing for the secularization of the system would most probably be met by approval from HezbAllah, which has on more than one occasion brought up the issue. The question is whether the LF and even the FPM would be able to set aside their own as well as their constituents’ fears of an Islamic Revolution in Lebanon.6 If both parties realize that secularization and deconfessionalization are unrealistic, the incentive to cooperate would be reduced to past levels, giving way to competition. As of January 2006, this is the ruling situation. It is possible that the inability of Aoun to bring about any change would push the Christian community to a reconsideration of Geagea as their representative, believing that Geagea’s position of political unity is preferable to Aoun’s seemingly unalterable isolation. It is also possible that Geagea is deliberately postponing approaching Aoun, hoping that a stronger and more organized LF would garner more support in a future electoral face-off. In case the LF and FPM do not find common ground between them, the discourse will probably become strictly ideological (as opposed to political) within the Christian community.

Notes: 

[1] Interview with Samir Geagea. Future Television. 15 December 2005. “The cross is our real symbol but it is a symbol in our hearts. We the Lebanese Forces are a political organization and we can’t put religious symbols on political slogans and political organizations… a political organization would carry political slogans and symbols… it is a conviction that we shouldn’t put a religious symbol over a political symbol or a political symbol with a religious one… especially for us, it’s clear that religion is one thing and civil and political organizations are another.”

[2] Ranstorp, Magnus. “The Strategy and Tactics of Hezballah’s Current ‘Lebanonization Process’”. Mediterranean Politics. 3.1 (Summer 1998): 129.

[3] Hudson, Michael C. The Precarious Republic: Political Modernization in Lebanon. (New York: Random House, 1968) 97-98. This description also applies to Lebanon vis-à-vis the non-Arab world.

[4] Moubarak, Walid E. The Position of a Weak State in an Unstable Region:  The Case of Lebanon. Emirates Lecture Series. 44 (Abu Dhabi: ECSSR, 2003) 3.

[5] According to Bassem Khalifah, “[t]he Christians lost the war not only when they carried the guns of others, but also when they neglected their peaceful national mission of unifying, secularizing, and modernizing Lebanon.” 143.

[6] As Phares argues, the evolution of the political culture in the region will greatly influence the internal scene, and in particular the Christian one. 222.