Across the Bay

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Argument for Divorce

Back in February, Walid Jumblat made critical statements in an interview with Future News Channel. Jumblat spoke of the need for an "amicable divorce" between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanon, as coexisting with such a group is an impossibility.

Jumblat's comments resonated deeply as they didn't come from a vacuum. The brave An-Nahar columnist, Ali Hamade, for instance, had been consistently making that argument in his columns, as I've noted on this blog.

Jumblat's comments in that interview proved prescient, after Hezbollah broke all ties with the rest of Lebanon and literally invaded their homes and neighborhoods by force of arms. Such a situation is untenable, as noted by the NOW Lebanon editorials I blogged recently.

Indeed, a May 8 piece by Michael Young carried the same title and echoed that conclusion:

The Lebanese state cannot live side by side with a Hizbullah state.
If the party wants its semi-independent entity, it is now obliged to state this plainly. The masks have fallen. And if Hizbullah does decide to reject Lebanon, then we shouldn't be surprised if some start speaking of an amicable divorce between Shiites and the rest of Lebanon.

In that light, it was curious to hear former MP Mohammad Abdel Hamid Baydoun, a Shiite at odds with Hezbollah, declare today that the Doha Agreement was "the first step towards federalizing the Lebanese situation, meaning federalizing government and afterwards federalizing geography."

But yesterday, it was the turn of Hazem Saghieh, one of the most articulate writers, whose commentaries on Hezbollah and their weapons have been absolutely on the money. Saghieh dropped all pretense and spoke in brutal honesty:

There are, in reality, two peoples at least.
There's a Lebanese people that doesn't concede, and will never concede, that the state is the only side that monopolizes the tools of violence, regardless of the authority of this state or its nature and symbols. And there's a Lebanese people that will not accept the resistance and its continuation, regardless who this resistance may be.

In such a case, one could rely on domination and subjugation. But even if we morally accept domination and subjugation, they remain impossible in practice. For those who win by force in Beirut, lose by force in Tripoli. And those who prevail by force in the Bekaa, lose by force in Mount Lebanon. The interference of foreign sides does not change this principle.
It might be said that Lebanon's demographic makeup prevents putting this issue [i.e, partition] in practice. This is true. However, what is more true is that demographic intermingling in light of such a division is an invitation to a continuous civil war. Why then is it not accepted to start thinking about a difficult divorce and the ways to organize it, instead of spending all efforts on salvaging an impossible marriage? Suffice the Lebanese to stretch their necks to see the island of Cyprus, and how it is, with both its peoples, immeasurably better off.

Old nationalism alone insists on the unity of territory and people, regardless of all opposing considerations. The beginning and end of contemporary nationalism, however, is subscription to a certain way of life. In Lebanon today there are two ways that can never meet. Indeed, it is impossible for them even to intersect.

One of the lessons of the 1975-90 war was that by the mid-80s, a social, military and geographic reality emerged which was known as the "cantons" back then. The essence of that reality was that the warring parties could not penetrate, defeat and hold each others' "cantons" (see the latest NOW Lebanon editorial).

Ten years had passed, and countless dead, until we reached that consolidated, stalemated status quo. Saghieh's argument, it would seem, is to skip those ten years and move directly to that situation, where the "March 14" Lebanon, for lack of a better term, and Hezbollah's Islamic Republic in Lebanon, as it were, would go on their separate ways. Hezbollah can go on pursuing its endless "resistance" -- a "doctrine, culture, Jihad, and way of life, not tied to liberation of land" as Hezbollah officials have recently been putting it, flushing down the toilet about two decades' worth of clueless and fraudulent Hezbollah "expertise." The rest of us can then perhaps get a chance at a normal life.