Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanon, March 14, Reform

Thar’s Federalists in Them Thar Hills…

circling the wagons

Michael Young had an excellent op-ed in yesterday’s Daily Star about the dangerous course charted by Lebanon’s Christian leaders, particularly the young Sami Gemayel. I’ve disagreed with some of Young’s writings before in these pages, but I think that he is consistently among the most astute observers of Christian politics in Lebanon. Those who airily dismiss his articles as M14 propaganda would do well to read this critique of Gemayel’s isolationist politics. Here are the key paragraphs:

“An alarming number of Maronites today appear to have lost any sense of the collective nature of the Lebanese state. The Aounists, Sami Gemayel, Nadim Gemayel, even Sleiman Franjieh, have shown an inability to come to grips with the sectarian contract of 1943, the National Pact, and its successor, the Taif Accord. Taif is the real culprit to them, documentary proof of Christian decline – a decline they have all received with bitterness, even if their responses have differed.

“For the Aounists, Taif handed Maronite power to the Sunnis, hence their effort to reverse this by allying themselves with another rural community, the Shiites, to regain what was lost. For people like Sami Gemayel, the solution lies in greater Christian unanimity against the outside, which when you peel away the layers is really just a strategy bound to enhance Christian isolation. For Franjieh and not a few Aounists, the way out is through an alliance of minorities, with the Alawites in Syria and the Shiites in Lebanon, against the Sunni majority in the Middle East. Each of these notions is foolish in itself, an avenue toward communal suicide, and all have one thing in common: antagonism toward the Sunni community.

“There is no small amount of historical irony, and hypocrisy, here. For decades the Maronites took pride in saying that they were the true defenders of “Lebanon first.” Now that the Sunnis have adopted the slogan as their own, too many Maronites have reacted as if this were a threat to the Lebanese entity because Sunnis are extensions of an Arab majority. Ultimately, the message this sends is that the Maronites only defended a “Lebanon first” option when the Lebanon in question was one they dominated. Now that the community feels it is losing ground, the preference is for Christians to envelope themselves in a tight defensive shell.

When Sami Gemayel speaks about the Christians “being stepped upon,” what does he mean? This is the language of demagoguery, and in some respects of war. Who has stepped on the Christians? Judging by Gemayel’s actions and statements, the simple answer is “the Muslims” whoever that may be. Yet being stepped upon is a very different concept than accepting the reality of Christian numerical regression. It is very different than grasping that Taif, the hated Taif, hands Christians representation well beyond their real numbers. When one feels stepped upon, the world looks like the bottom of a shoe, and it becomes very difficult to follow a sensible path away from one’s resentments.”

samigemayelI agree with Young’s analysis. Listening to some of these Christian leaders — on both sides of the political divide — I often catch myself thinking: “What chutzpah!” Is it arrogance or naïveté (or a blend of both) that permits one to complain about the weakened powers of the presidency after Ta’if? In what sense is it reasonable to imagine that Lebanon could be governed today solely by a powerful Maronite president, when the Christians, as a whole, represent a minority of the population?

I recall meeting with Alain Aoun (Michel’s nephew) a few months ago, and discussing different potential electoral laws. He was a little bit cagey about what kind of law would be the FPM’s ideal formula, and when I pointed this out to him, he replied: “Well, obviously, we feel strongly about a law that maximizes the number of Christian politicans voted in by Christian voters.” I replied by asking him how this squared with the FPM’s purported desire to dismantle political confessionalism. His answer was revealing, particularly because of its subtle self-contradiction: “Yes of course the FPM’s goal is to bring about a nonconfessional state. By why not try to do this from a position of strength?”

Come again?

The notion of a “Third Republic” is not, in and of itself, a bad idea. But the problem with the FPM’s Third Republic was that it did not address the most crucial part of it — deconfessionalism — in a detailed enough fashion. March 14’s Christian leaders, on the other hand, have offered no meaningful discourse on this issue whatsoever, beyond support for administrative decentralization.

The current historical moment represents a rare window of opportunity for Lebanon. With the various foreign “sponsor” states seemingly recalibrating their relationships with the country as a result of a larger geopolitical reshuffling of power relations, a space has been opened up for a new grand bargain to be struck, or an old grand bargain to have its vows renewed (and fulfilled). However, the shared strategy of Lebanon’s Christian leaders — circling the wagons only to fight one another within a self-imposed confessional corral — does not inspire confidence in the future.

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Discussion

20 thoughts on “Thar’s Federalists in Them Thar Hills…

  1. Hi QN,

    Hope all is well with the dissertation and your move back to the US.

    Young is spot on in his analysis. The christians and more specifically the maronites would do well channeling their energies into supporting the creation of a secular state with a robust constitution that protects minorities and religious beliefs. All will be better served in the long run.

    Are there legitimate concerns and worries on the part of the christians? absolutely, especially if one looks at what happened to the christians in Egypt & Iraq for example. But one needs not to exagerate these fears to a point of paranoia and work with both sunnis and shia to affect the transition to a secular state that protects all citizens even if they are atheists.

    In my view, they will be pleasantly surprised as to the willingness of the majority of the lebanese muslims to affect that change. For the most part, they are tired of confessionalism.

    My 2 cents.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | July 10, 2009, 9:47 pm
  2. Wow. The best sense I’ve seen Michael Young writing. Ever. Thanks for highlighting it, Qifa.

    Posted by Helena Cobban | July 10, 2009, 10:47 pm
  3. Very good post QN.
    Timing can never be any better.
    But,where are the people of the time?

    You know where the irony is?
    The Lebanese are now being told by the same power brokers to go back home and look for a solution, or so it seems.

    Posted by majid | July 11, 2009, 3:20 am
  4. *When one feels stepped upon, the world looks like the bottom of a shoe, and it becomes very difficult to follow a sensible path away from one’s resentments.*

    This bit of wisdom is comic coming from Mr. Young, whose obsessive hatred of Aoun borders upon ‘clinical.’

    It might, however, be said that such self-awareness is an impediment to advocacy journalism, so perhaps I should not raise the bar quite so high.

    Posted by dadavidovich | July 11, 2009, 7:53 am
  5. The Christians have not figured out the Sunnis in Lebanon. On the one hand, it is uplifting to believe that a liberal non-sectarian Sunni middle class is emerging. On the other hand, how likely is that when the main ally of the Sunnis is Saudi Arabia? I think this is where the minds of the FPMers begins to not compute.

    It is also very difficult for anybody from the outside to make sense of these things. But putting all the blame on the Christians I think is not correct. What are the facts on the ground:
    1) The Shia are mostly allied with the Iranian repressive regime.
    2) The Sunni are mostly allied with the medieval Saudi kingdom.

    If I were a Lebanese Christian I would have zero belief that the Sunni and Shia really believe in a democratic Lebanon.

    Posted by AIG | July 11, 2009, 11:32 am
  6. QN,

    I usually shy away from reading Michael Young’s articles as he always succeeds in raising my blood pressure. Have to admit that your piece here managed to do the same thing.

    I won’t go through the several contradictions and mis-representations, but instead I listed a few questions:

    1. In what way(s) do the “Aounists” form an alliance against Sunnis in the country and against “Sunni majority in the Middle East” by reaching a common understanding on main national issues with the Shia, and by having repeatedly invited all confessions in the country including the Sunnis to embrace this initiative and amend it if need be?

    2. How come the quatret coalition in the 2005 elections was not perceived by Young and his likes as an alliance against the Lebanese Christians, particularly the Aounists?

    2. How does the notion of achieving “greater Christian unanimity” enhance Christian isolation? how can it be an “avenue to communal suicide”? or an “antagonism toward the Sunni community”? Excuse me! Wasn’t the likes of Young who forecasted the same gloomy future for the Christians of Lebanon as a result of their lack of “unanimity” and their split votes during the past 4 years and the recent elections?

    3. Who are the “too many Maronites” that have reacted negatively to the “Lebanon First” slogan, and acted “as if this were a threat to the Lebanese entity because Sunnis are extensions of an Arab majority”? Did Jumblat convert to Christian faith in the past week and am the last one to know?

    4. What are the official governmental studies or surveys that Young used to claim that “the hated Taif hands Christians representation well beyond their real numbers?” and where is the real proof that they are in such a drastic “numerical regression”? Did he take into consideration the Lebanese expatriates in the diaspora or they are only considered for selective voting campaigns that handed his employer the majority in parliament?

    5. Elias, it is neither arrogance nor naïveté that “permits one to complain about the weakened powers of the presidency after Ta’if”, unless you truely believe that the majority of the Christians in the country are arrogant or naive, and btw what is so wrong about “the FPM’s goal to bring about a nonconfessional state from a position of strength?” Since when a weakened position brought about any change?

    6. “The notion of a Third Republic”? Aren’t we in the Third Republic already?

    Posted by PN | July 12, 2009, 8:15 pm
  7. Hi PN,

    Thanks for your comments. Perhaps, if Mr. Young happens to be reading, he would consider responding to your rejoinder.

    In the meantime, I’ll try to address the last three points, because they relate to what I wrote.

    4. What are the official governmental studies or surveys that Young used to claim that “the hated Taif hands Christians representation well beyond their real numbers?” and where is the real proof that they are in such a drastic “numerical regression”?

    Every study that I’ve seen estimates the Christian population at well below 50%. I recommend Mark Farha’s excellent article “Demography and Democracy in Lebanon”, which analyzes the results of several different population surveys and their implications. He argues:

    As has been the case intermittently throughout its history, Lebanon’s current power-sharing covenant is far out of step with demographic realities. Even the most conservative statistical conjectures leave Lebanese Muslims significantly underrepresented in the parliament and the council of ministers, an incongruity that will grow in the years ahead.

    Mark points to studies showing that the Lebanese in the diaspora are hardly overwhelmingly Christian, and may even be distributed equally (more or less) between the larger sects.

    But this is not the main issue that I have with the calls to strengthen the Maronite presidency. I’m against them because such a move would only further enfranchise the logic of confessionalism at the root of the Lebanese system. Instead of attacking Ta’if and trying to return to a presidential system (where the president MUST be a Maronite), why not move towards implementing Ta’if, and working to dismantle the confessional system altogether?

    5. what is so wrong about “the FPM’s goal to bring about a nonconfessional state from a position of strength?…

    Perhaps I was disingenuous in criticizing Alain’s statement; he probably did mean what you are saying he meant. But the problem is, to my mind, that political movements tend to get cozy with the status quo once they learn how to play successfully by its rules.

    Let’s say that the FPM won the election on the back of the 1960 electoral law. Do you think that they would have gone about trying to replace it with a new one, after it worked so well for them?

    6. “The notion of a Third Republic”? Aren’t we in the Third Republic already?

    How do you mean? I thought we were still nestled cozily in the 2nd republic?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 12, 2009, 11:58 pm
  8. Hey QN,
    this is the first time I read a disappointing entry on your blog. I honestly don’t understand how anyone can praise Michael Young’s op-ed, or find it “excellent”. It is one of the most appalling writing I’ve come upon for some time.
    If you scratch off Young’s western varnish, all you find in this op-ed is a massive dose of pure Middle-Eastern communal bigotry expressed through the systematic bashing of a community . All the 1960s on Maronite isolationism clichés (as expressed by Walid Joumblatt a couple of months ago) are back. I wrote something about that on my blog a couple of days ago, if you care to check it out.

    And I really don’t understand how you find him “the most astute observers of Christian politics in Lebanon”. Most of his articles are about Aoun-bashing. And he never comes up with new arguments. He rehashes the same things (hostility towards the FPM, and Children’s sticker distribution to politicians he approves of) all the time.
    When the neo-cons handled US foreign politics, I found his editorials interesting because they were ideologically in sync with the Bush administrations views of the Middle East. But even this factor is lost now.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | July 13, 2009, 4:53 am
  9. Off on a tangent: In what Republic are we?
    The answer is quite obvious. Why go for numbers when you can find a very adequate word for it?
    – The first obvious answer is Banana Republic. The BR.
    – But with a little more analysis one can come up with the “Martyrs of Sovereignty (Hezbollah’s) and Independence (March XIV®) Republic: The MSIR
    – A more socio-political approach will give us the “Zu’ama Republic” or the Quadripartite Republic . The ZR or the QR.

    What’s the story behind the numbers? It all started with the Taef agreement. Some political analysts wanted to show that Lebanon was making a new start, institutionally speaking. So they followed the French academic system that distinguishes between 5 different republics. The only difference is that the French have very strict rules for counting republics:
    – They only count constitutions (or laws that can be considered as a constitution in the case of the third republic)
    – They exclude all “non-republican” forms of constitutional documents
    – They only look at the promulgation of a new constitutional document, and do not see if this constitutional document was actually followed (the constitution of 1793, the first Republic, never was!) or if major institutional changes were made to it (i.e. the form of government during the third republic changed from crypto-monarchic to full-fledged parliamentarian, and the form of government in the Fifth Republic changed from parliamentarian to increasingly presidential).

    If we follow the same rules as in France, Lebanon is still living through the troubling times of the FIRST Republic, the one that was established with the promulgation of our one and only republican constitution, that of 1926!
    If we want to device our own rules of calculation, and consider that each major institutional change or amendment of the constitution warrants the naming of a new republic, then we have to admit that the Taef Accords and constitutional reforms that followed it have established the Third Republic: the First starting from 1926 and ending in 1943, the Second republic starting in 1943 and ending in 1990…

    Posted by worriedlebanese | July 13, 2009, 6:48 am
  10. Hi worriedlebanese,

    Walla, if I made it this far and this is the first disappointing post on my blog, then I should feel really good about myself!

    Can you explain where you see “pure Middle Eastern communal bigotry” in this op-ed? It’s not bigotry that he’s expressing toward the Christians of Lebanon, but rather criticism of the political strategies of certain Christian leaders.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 13, 2009, 7:41 am
  11. Hey QN, thanks for the quick editing. And yes, I am a fan.
    Back to Michael Young’s article. I honestly think it’s a mess, an analytical mess. But I honestly don’t want to waste too much time discussing its logical flaws because there are too many of them. Unfortunately, they are also quite commonplace. But that’s another issue.
    Why it is pure Middle Eastern communal bigotry? The answer is fairly simple: because it indulges in an extraordinary number of communal generalisations that are unfounded and abusive. Michael actually not only reinforces prevalent clichés, but he does exactly what he accuses others of doing.
    What the hell is a “rural community”?! How can you describe any Lebanese confession as being rural?! and what exactly does that mean? What is “communal suicide”?! How do communities “adopt slogans”?! It’s essentialism at its worst.
    And honestly, look at the number of times Michael Young says Maronite Leadership or Maronite leaders, and the number of times he speaks of Maronites being this, and Maronites being that.
    Here’s a selection of quotes from this article that I find extremely disturbing:
    “An alarming number of Maronites today appear to have lost any sense of the collective nature of the Lebanese state”, he tells us. They are suffering from “rural Maronite insularism”. The “resentment, bitterness, isolation, hostility, communal self-absorption” they express “are qualities of a community mired in mediocrity, with no sense of the constructive long-term impact it might have on its environment”. And to finish it all off, Michael Young adds that Maronites are following a “strategy bound to enhance Christian isolation”! Yes, he is accusing them of “isolationism” (all though a couple of weeks ago, he accused them of selling out to Iran and Syria… go figure it out).
    I honestly think that the Maronite League should press charges against the Daily Star and its editors for publishing such a racist piece. That would be a useful taks for a useless institution.
    My question is how come people don’t find Michael Young’s article bigoted and offensive. Could it be that we’ve grown too accustomed to this type of language, accusations and generalisations?
    Try to replace Maronite and Christian with Druze, for instance, and tell me if you still think the article is not offensive. Or replace all references to Lebanon with references to the US, and then substitute “Maronite” with Black. And offer this piece to any American and ask him what he thinks of it.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | July 13, 2009, 12:40 pm
  12. Hi QN,

    I honestly could not care less whether/how Mr. Young would respond to my rejoinder. I addressed my questions to you because you mentioned that you agreed with his analysis!

    The population survey(s) you referred to could be accurate. However, in the past few years, a couple of studies refuted similar estimates. I can not recall the names, but I read one of them in Al-Diyyar newspaper in 2007 and another one was posted on Tayyar.org earlier this year. If my memory is not failing me, the latter one was conducted by an archbishop taking into consideration baptism registrations in Lebanon and abroad. The single fact is that there has been no official national census since 1932 and no one really knows.

    Having said that, I fully agree with you that “this is not the main issue”, so why then Young made it an issue in his article? In my opinion, it is exactly such statements that drive more Christians to worry about the limited powers of the Maronite presidency.

    Simply put, it is a LACK OF TRUST. For Mr. Young or anyone else to single out Christians or Maronites on this notion would be so unfair since mistrust plagues most relationships in between confessional groups in Lebanon and in some instances within groups in the same confession (and that does not apply to Christians only). I believe that you and me (and perhaps many of your readers) would like to see the “dismantling of the confessional system altogether” a reality one day, but articles like Young’s only make things worse. Not only it portrays Christians, and particularly the Maronites as being “bitter” and anti-Sunni(so you can only imagine the impressions it may leave on its Sunni readers), but it makes a non-Maronite Christian like me wonder/ worry as to why he was asked or at the least permitted to publish such a piece especially if his employer is really genuine about national unity as we keep hearing day in and day out. In other terms, this article succeeds in 2 things; spilling negative energy and raising my blood pressure.

    “Let’s say that the FPM won the election on the back of the 1960 electoral law. Do you think that they would have gone about trying to replace it with a new one, after it worked so well for them?”

    YES, I DO. Give us a chance. We might exceed your expectations.

    “Walla, if I made it this far and this is the first disappointing post on my blog, then I should feel really good about myself!”

    As the Lebanese saying goes, “ghaltit el-shater b-miyeh”; Elias, it is gonna take a lot of impressive work to compensate for this one.

    Worried Lebanese,

    Thanks for your feedback, but what is it with the “Banana Republic” you mentioned, or “The Potato Republic” and “The Hummus Republic” that Professor Assad Abu Khalil keeps referring to?

    Best.

    Posted by PN | July 13, 2009, 9:35 pm
  13. “Try to replace Maronite and Christian with Druze, for instance, and tell me if you still think the article is not offensive.”

    I still think it is not offensive. 🙂

    “Or replace all references to Lebanon with references to the US, and then substitute “Maronite” with Black. And offer this piece to any American and ask him what he thinks of it.”

    Ok, so when did Maronites become a race unto themselves? I feel that “racist” is a term that gets thrown around a little too liberally in the context of Lebanese politics.

    Worried Lebanese,

    I think the reason that I don’t find this article to be bigoted or offensive is because he is talking about the political outlook of a confessional community. And even if Young paints with a broad brush when he talks about “the Maronites”, I think his point is that there is a significant convergence among rival Maronite political leaders on a common track vis-a-vis how they relate to the other sects. I’ll explain more in my next comment, which will be addressed to PN, who is very angry at me.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 13, 2009, 10:56 pm
  14. PN,

    I don’t know how I’m going to redeem myself in your eyes, bas ma3lesh. I’ll give it a shot. 😉

    What I have a problem with — and what I think Young addresses in this article — is the discourse of “Christian rights” that have been trampled upon as a result of Ta’if.

    I don’t undestand what this term means, and yet, Christian politicians refer to it as if it were common knowledge. How exactly have Christian rights been usurped? Of course, the political will of the Christians during the Syrian era was largely suppressed as a result of gerry-mandering and crackdowns against the proto-FPM and other parties. But today we have an electoral law that allowed a much higher proportion of Christians to directly elect their representatives. So what is the problem?

    Furthermore, what is the problem with a Christian politician allied to a majority Sunni party? Just because the vast majority of that politican’s constituency is Sunni, why does that disqualify him in the eyes of other Christian leaders?

    These are not rhetorical questions. I seriously do not have answers to them and I am at a loss when I hear people (Gemayel or Aoun or Frangieh) talk about “restoring Christian rights”. This kind of discourse is bewildering to me, and also kind of dangerous. What rights do they want to restore, and how do they propose achieving this restoration? How would a Maronite president with greater executive powers make a significant difference to the Christian community?

    Let me be clear, however: I don’t think that the FPM’s Memorandum of Understanding falls under this rubric, and this is one place where I actually do disagree with Young. But, to me, calling for “restoring Christian rights” (without every specifying what this means) contradicts the spirit of the MoU, which is a step in the right direction: creating inter-party bonds on a nationalist basis, not a confessional one.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 13, 2009, 11:19 pm
  15. This WorriedLebanese is astounded (but maybe I should act angry to ensure a reply).

    I used racism for lack of a better word. But this being said, when I criticise the dominant israeli discourse on Arabs, I denounce it as racist, even though I don’t consider Arabs as constituting a race. And frankly I don’t think there is such a thing as a race, but this doesn’t mean that racism doesn’t exist either. Don’t you agree?

    What I found abundant in Michael Young’s article is the prejudice and antagonism he professes. And frankly, I find it echoed in many of the comments I read under this posting (ex: AIG’s hopes on the emergence of a liberal non-sectarian Sunni middle class… or saying that Christians are this, and Sunnis are that… and Shiites are this…).

    All this blather is grounded in my view in the confessional mindset. This Middle Eastern sectarian bigotry is obviously based on prejudice, but it the past decades it has gained ground in academia and has become so common place that people do not even shy to express it in a newspaper. Interestingly enough, this mindset is totally independent from our “confessional” system because it is quite prevalent in countries that do not share our system, and locally, those who suffer from it usually advocate quite sincerely the abolishment of the confessional system.

    Posted by worriedlebanese | July 14, 2009, 1:12 pm
  16. Hi QN,

    Your political savviness exemplified in most of your posts makes me wonder as to whether the questions you’ve put forth in this particular post are merely intended for provocation or whether the Lebanon you know and the Lebanon I know exist on two different planets. Anyhow, I think that there is a slight chance of either one of us misinterpreting what the other one is saying, so please don’t consider my comments directed against you. Besides, no one is angry at you; disappointed would be a better term.

    1) “I am at a loss when I hear people (Gemayel or Aoun or Frangieh) talk about restoring Christian rights. How exactly have Christian rights been usurped?”

    QN, it is common knowledge that the Christians of Lebanon, particularly the Maronites, have long enjoyed a privileged status in governance from the days of the French mandate and throughout the Second Republic. The Taif Agreement attempted to balance the status quo by transferring vital executive powers from the Maronite President to the Sunni Prime Minister and by making the latter directly responsible to the legislature, which in itself was amended to achieve a better representation of the demographic distribution of the Lebanese population (before the Taif Accord, the number of Christian MPs exceeded the Muslim ones). FAIR ENOUGH. In essence, I believe most Christians have no problem with this scenario.

    The problem however has been in the implementation of this so called “National Reconciliation Accord”. As you pointed out, “the political will of the Christians during the Syrian era was largely suppressed as a result of gerry-mandering and crackdowns against the proto-FPM and other parties”. TRUE, so why not also mention that the gradual loss of Christian rights during the 16-year period of the Syrian occupation (1989-2005) was mainly a byproduct of the beneficial collaboration between the occupation and the ruling elite back then; i.e. today’s neo-independents who saw this occupational presence as “darrouri, sharei, and mouakat”. The occupation ended in 2005, but as of today, much of those Christian rights are yet to be regained.

    2) “What rights do they want to restore?”

    The scores of speeches, academic lectures, press conferences, and published studies detailing the answer to your question are countless. My select takes on this include GMA’s speech during the FPM annual dinner on 05/31/08, and MP Abi Nasr’s speech during the FPM Keserwan dinner on 07/06/08. I am aware that some may be allergic to both of them, so if you prefer more scholarly references, I recommend you check the synopsis and the numerous counts on this matter by MP Dr. Farid E. el Khazen, and by Mr. Edmond Saab of Al-Nahar newspaper.

    Among the many facets of “tahmeesh” that have hit the Lebanese Christian community until this day, I think that two are of utmost importance and lie at the core of the Christian existence or lack thereof in Lebanon:

    a. It has been TWENTY FIVE YEARS plus keep counting…, and many Christians affected by the waves of “tahjeer” from East Saida and el-Jabal are awaiting the return to their homes and lands. And please, it would be an insult to my brain cells for someone to suggest that those people have been unable to return simply because of the objection of the Syrian patron. As long as this open wound keeps on bleeding into the Christian psyche, you’ll keep on “hearing Gemayel, Aoun, and Frangieh talk about the restoration of the Christian rights”.

    b. Genuine and fair participation in the political and decision making process

    Now that “we have an electoral law that allowed a much higher proportion of Christians to directly elect their representatives”, “so what is the problem?”

    The electoral law you mentioned was not handed to us on a silver plate and certainly “mish karam akhlak” from the ruling majority. What are the chances that the 2000 Kanaan – Hariri electoral law would have been swapped with the fairly acceptable electoral law and the latter one approved in the Doha meeting if it weren’t for the strong supportive stance of the Shia MPs in the opposition?

    3) “and how do they propose achieving this restoration? How would a Maronite president with greater executive powers make a significant difference to the Christian community?”

    Please, refer to “watheekat el tourouhat” that resulted from the expanded Christian dialogue meetings that took place in Dec 2007 and the subsequent press conferences.

    4) “This kind of discourse is bewildering to me, and also kind of dangerous.”

    MAYBE, yet the rhetoric in Mr. Young’s article (that you seem to agree with) can only amplify the risk for pushing this discourse forward.

    QN, the sense of mistrust among the Christians of Lebanon and hence the constant need to be on the defensive mainly stems from their experiences since Ta’if till this day, but it is also very much fueled via the continuous efforts by the likes of Mr. Young to falsify and make mockery of our communal legacy. Between 1989 and 2005, the majority of Christians resisting the Syrian occupation and the resultant imposed system, were automatically tagged along the American-Israeli axis. From 2005 and till this day, simply because a significant fraction of these “lost and confused” Christians reached out to another large sect in the country and dismantled mistrust barriers that have long existed between them, suddenly the two have been hooked to the Syrian – Iranian axis. Then, you hear of “Christian loss”, “Christian confusion”, “Christian split votes”, “the Sunni Christians”, “the Shia Christians”, “Christian lack of unanimity”, “Christian unanimity”, “Christian isolation”. GIVE ME A BREAK! Find me a regular Lebanese citizen who is not intrinsically confused or is at loss of how the political alliances tend to switch between day and night. So, how come we’re singled out? Besides, isn’t it clear that the Christian divide is not a confessional one but rather a political one? And what is so wrong about this? What is so wrong with the split votes? Isn’t this what democracy is supposed to be about? When Aoun had an overwhelming majority of Christians rallying behind him, he was described as the bad shepherd herding the lost sheep; now that his support declined to near 50%, we’re described as being confused and split. Walla ihtarna? Then, whenever 2 Christain figures happen to meet each other 1/2 way on a wise day, the initiative is blasted as
    “commual suicide” or “anti-someone”!

    QN, what I find appalling and offensive in Young’s article is not the criticism per say but more so the timing and the double standards. Why this bashing of Sami Gemayel came only after the elections were over and less than a week after his visit/luncheon with MP Frangieh? What is so wrong with Gemayel reaching out to Frangieh to achieve more Christian unanimity? How is it communal suicide? How come the reaching out between MPs Jumblat and Arsalan was not perceived as Druz communal suicide? How come the reaching out among the opposing Sunni factions in Tripoli was not described as communal Sunni suicide?

    Finally, wasn’t the lack of Christian unanimity between the previous generations of Gemayels and Frangiehs what lead to the sad events of June 13, 1978 which were nothing short of communal suicide? Can you look into the eyes of innocent 4-year old Jihane Frangieh whose life was cut short 3 weeks prior to your receipt of the blessing of life and still think that Young’s bashing of Christian attempts at unanimity is not offensive?

    Posted by PN | July 15, 2009, 9:17 am
  17. PN

    You said: “The scores of speeches, academic lectures, press conferences, and published studies detailing the answer to your question are countless.”

    I tend to tune out when I hear people talking about the loss of Christian rights, so could you just provide a very basic list of what they are? Besides the tahjeer issue, what else is at stake? You add “genuine and fair participation in the political and decision making process”, but I’m also not sure what this means.

    Give me a simple list of ten areas where the Christians have lost their rights and how they should be restored. Should we have a directly elected president? What additional powers should he/she have?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 15, 2009, 9:58 pm
  18. ya Elias, maoul!

    So, you “tuned off” and avoided most of my question marks in my 3 posts, and you still expect me to send you a list…helweh minnak, shou am tisleba a3layeh?

    Posted by PN | July 16, 2009, 6:37 pm
  19. PN,

    Fair enough, I will try to address your questions. But yalla, come up with a list of 10 things first.

    😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 16, 2009, 10:50 pm

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