Across the Bay

Monday, May 23, 2005

Onward Third-Worldist Soldiers!

The Lebanese Political Journal has a nice fisking of a truly poor article on Lebanon. How poor? The Angry Hair (As'ad "weird Al" AbuKhalil) thought it was good. So there you go!

I salute "lebanon.profile" for taking the time, and having the patience, to point out the innumerable errors and biases in that pathetic piece. I thought about tearing into it myself but was too furious (and too busy) to actually sit down and rip it to shreds. These people take on mantels and missions and they understand aboslutely nothing about their subject matter. Not only that, they get their facts wrong too. Pathetic.

For one, the author claims that the DoS estimates Lebanon's population at about 70% Muslim and 23% Christian. As "lebanon.profile" points out, the fact book actually has a breakdown of 60% to 40%. If only she took the time to actually do some research. But at least she didn't follow that moron Angry Hair and claim that the Shiites alone were "at least 55%" (or Cobban's "just below 50%"). She also confused the numer of Christians with the number of Maronites.

As for the electoral law, it's a law that was pushed for by Hizbullah in order to marginalize other Christian and Shiite opponents in the south (see also my previous post)! And, as "lebanon.profile" said, it discriminates against Christians!

Which leads to another faulty impulse, shared by people like Cobban et al. All these people end up assuming that Shiites=Hizbullah. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask the "Lebanese Shiite Gathering" and the Asaad family among others (not to mention Amal).

But such is the Third-Worldist premise. Christians (who reflect on "us" Westerners) are somehow screwing the "native" Arab Muslims (a process that reflects on "our" screwing with the Orient). You see this in the writings of Robert Fisk, William Dalrymple, Cobban, etc. (see the first part of my incomplete post, "The Truth about Dalrymple" for quotes). People with similar leanings in the State Department are called Arabists, and they're masterfully profiled in Robert Kaplan's excellent book The Arabists. Here's a quote from that book that says it perfectly:

"Arabists have not liked Middle Eastern minorities. Arabists have been guilty in the past of loving the majority and the idea of Uruba, which roughly translates as 'Arabism.' I remember once going to a Foreign Service party and hearing people refer to the Maronite Christians in Lebanon as 'fascists'." (p. 306).

Bingo. Same applies to the author, Annia Ciezadlo. She understands nothing about the Lebanese political system, consociationalism, compromise and coexistence, history of the region, and the fact that the system prevented the rise of authoritarian rule found all around in Lebanon's neighboring (and far away) Arab states where non-Muslim, and indeed non-Arab minorites have been repressed and treated like second class citizens (before the new Iraq that is), the fact that the Sunni PM has more powers than the Maronite President (as "lebanon.profile" notes), and that the Shiite PM is the longest serving official in Lebanon today, etc.

Who has time for these details?! She just took on a Third-Worldist mission and decided to share it with the world, errors, bias and ignorance notwithstanding.

Addendum: Add the following excellent review essay by Michael Young of a book by Douglas Little to the quote from Kaplan's The Arabists:

For instance, most Arabists’ deep revulsion for Arab Christians, particularly Lebanon’s Maronites, was legendary. One explanation is that the mainly Protestant Americans couldn’t abide the Eastern Christians’ attachment to Catholic France, or their devotion to the outward trappings of religion at the expense of spirituality. That may be true, but it misses the point: What pro-Arab Americans couldn’t stomach was that the Christians were often estranged from their Muslim brethren and from the Arab nationalism the region engendered (though minorities were among the first theorists of the ideology). The Arabists believed, particularly during the heady days of "national liberation" in the 1950s and ’60s, that archaic Christians were stubbornly resisting the Middle East’s future. There was something very American in their reaction: a righteous indignation that the Arab consensus was being bucked, but also a romantic identification with a dogma regarded as modern and progressive. Ironically, a similar motivation shaped the Arabists’ outlook on Israel -- always perceived as a foreign body interrupting potential regional harmony.

Addendum 2: I've written this before, but let me say it again here. The categories of "Muslim" and "Christian" are all but meaningless politically in Lebanon. The system is not based on the representation of "Muslims" and "Christians." This is legally wrong, and assumes that "Muslims" are a monolithic, coherent political cluster, and the same goes for Christians. In reality, each one is divided into several sects, which are in turn divided into subcategories (families, regions, political inclination, etc.). Those are the divisions that count and are reflected in parliament and in the elections. The corollary to that are the alliances in the election and in parliament, which create what's known as "real representation." In part, this was the complaint of some in the Christian circles, that some "Christian" candidates on certain lists were really the choice of the dominant political figure or alliance in that particular district, as opposed to being the choice of the Christian voters (or certain Christian parties). In that sense, that particular Christian candidate will for the most part be allied in parliament with the non-Christian figure/list on which he ran. Of course this fluctuates, as evident for instance with the MPs Bassem Yamout and Nasser Qandil who ran on the late Hariri's list only to stab him in the back (and those are both "Muslim" MPs). Meanwhile, the "Christian" MPs on Hariri's list (like the late MP Fleihan for instance) were loyal to his line, thus giving him, a Sunni Muslim, a larger "real representation" in parliament, even if they were Christians. The other corollary of course (a positive one) is that this way you get Christians voting for Muslim MPs and vice versa, thus rendering the entire notion of "sectarian bigotry" meaningless (cf. this article by Archbishop George Khodr, which touches on this issue, and this related article by Hazem Saghieh). It also makes Ciezadlo's claim that "Muslim votes count less" even dumber than it already sounds. Is that clear? Apparently it wasn't for Ms. Ciezadlo, and those who think like her.