Across the Bay

Friday, June 10, 2005

Terzo-Mondisti on Steroids

Forget Annia Ciezadlo. Meet Gwynne Dyer. This makes Annia's terrible piece look like child's play. I cannot believe people publish this garbage. First, remember the quote from Theodor Hanf's book:

"The lack of census figures stimulated not only political, but also social fantasies. And the products usually correlated with the analyst's political convictions. From the mid-1970s onwards, a number of authors more or less equated social class and community in Lebanon, and interpreted conflicts between these communities as class struggles. Of course, this thesis was an effective mobilizer. It also satisfied the desire of some media for simple explanations of complex situations. The cliché of 'rich Christians' and 'poor Muslims', has had a brilliant journalistic career -- and it may not be over yet."

Now, listen to this:

There has not been a census in Lebanon for 73 years, because counting the Lebanese would demonstrate beyond argument that the whole electoral system is a lie. In reality, about three-quarters of the population are Muslim and fewer than 25 per cent are Christian. Moreover, while the rules assume that most Muslims are Sunni, the fact is that most are Shia. Indeed, Shia Muslims, generally the poorest Lebanese, may account for almost half the total population just on their own – but they get just 23 of the 128 seats in parliament, and none of the great offices of state.

Beyond the typical "poor Muslims/rich Christians" mantra, and beyond the stupid numbers (Christians are now fewer than 25%! It's the same error Ciezadlo made.), he can't even get a basic fact straight. The Shi'a don't have any of the "great offices of the state"?!?! What the hell is Nabih Berri, the speaker of Parliament, doing then? His powers were shown this election, when he forced upon Parliament the Syrian law of 2000!

I mean, come on! Do your damn homework before laying all your ideological junk all over us. Seriously, I can't tolerate this garbage anymore. As for the numbers, I advise you to consult William Harris' Faces of Lebanon for a level-headed discussion. But beside the stupidity, nowhere is it mentioned if the Sunnis (who also happen to be mostly "rich," i.e., certainly not much different from the "Christians." See Theodor Hanf's Coexistence in Wartime Lebanon for stats and graphs on socio-economic issues. But also, consult Harris for an excellent discussion on the Shi'a, their emigration, birth-rates, finances, etc.), or the Druze for that matter, are willing to reshuffle the current system for the sake of the "poor Shia." But that would disrupt the ideological matrix that governs Dyer's pathetic worldview.

Speaking of which, his bias gets him to completely, yet typically, overstate, and misstate, the colonial angle (see Efraim Karsh's Empires of the Sand). Listen to these insanities:

After the First World War both Mount Lebanon and the rest of Syria became French colonies, and Paris forcibly expanded Lebanon to include practically the entire Syrian coast. It did so because its mainly Muslim subjects in the big cities of the interior like Damascus and Aleppo were often on the brink of revolt, whereas the Maronite Christians of Mount Lebanon were loyal subjects of the French empire.

The entire Syrian coast?! What, no Alexandretta? Why not, while you're at it?! I'm not going to even get into how easily he jumps back and forth between holding Syria as a non-political entity (and only an Ottoman province) to adopting the Syrian myth about Lebanon being "torn" from it by the French. Instead, I'll just turn to this slice of crazy:

But to guarantee Lebanon’s loyalty, France imposed an electoral system that guaranteed half the seats in parliament to the Christians in perpetuity, and decreed that the president must always be Christian. (The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim.)

France imposed the system!? Really?! And it "guaranteed half the seats" for Christians!?!? Really!? A note to the ignorant: the ratio of 1943 was 6:5, not 5:5. The Christians, starting in 1976 by the way, agreed to amend that to 5:5, and indeed, this formula got enshrined in the Taif Accord. "To maintain Lebanon's loyalty"!? With that line, he completely obliterated the meaning of the National Pact! And notice, once again, the complete (at this point, likely consciously dishonest) omission of the Shiite speaker. And by the way, the distribution had nothing to do with France, and it wasn't "decreed." As for the perpetuity, how about the Taif Accord? Did the French "impose" that too? Read a book Gwynne.

Then the romanticizing of the Shi'a (actually, I should say Hizbullah, which is then taken to mean "Shi'a") hits full throttle:

[T]hey emerged from their 22-year ordeal, when Israel was finally forced to pull back behind its own frontier in 2000, as a well-organised and heavily armed community with little patience for the Lebanese constitution and a strong affection for Syria.
The Shia shunned the mass demonstrations in February and March in Beirut that, together with foreign pressure, forced Syria to withdraw the troops that had effectively controlled Lebanon since the civil war – except once, when they put their own million-strong, pro-Syrian demo on the streets. Their political parties, especially Hizbollah, are also armed militias, and they will not disarm because the threat of force is their only real leverage against a rigged political system that excludes them. (One Maronite vote is worth about three Shia votes.)

This kind of irresponsible trash is simply not acceptable. Leaving aside the doubling (at least) of the conventional number of the pro-Syrian demonstrators, the statement about threatening to use force against the Lebanese in order to get leverage "against a rigged political system that excludes them" is flat-out obnoxious. The pseudo-bolchevik romanticism is nauseating. So, let me get this straight. Being identified as "Shiite, Sunni, Maronite" etc. is repugnant for Dyer, and makes Lebanon's democracy a pre-modern sham, but the "little patience for the Lebanese constitution," coupled by "the threat of force" to maintain "leverage," is laudable "democratic" practice? Or is that the brave "revolution" to achieve "social justice"? (Of course, the stupid statement about "one Maronite vote being worth three Shia ones" was also "brilliantly" pointed out by Ciezadlo. But hey, she used the term "millet"! Please applaud his depth!)

Is it too much to ask not to suffer reading Che Guevara romantic Third-Worldist "revolucionarios" in journalism? Please?! If not, is it too much to ask that editors actually do their job if the writers don't seem to want to bother?