Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Interviews, Lebanon, March 14, Reform, Syria

An Interview with Michael Young

Last month, I reviewed The Ghosts of Martyrs Square, Michael Young’s new book, for The Nation. Shortly after the review appeared, I got in touch with Mr. Young and invited him to expand upon certain themes from his book in the form of a QN interview.

Very much looking forward to the discussion that follows.


Q: You ended your book by saying that sectarianism, at best, can be “a way station on the path toward a Lebanon that is a common concern for all its citizens.” Elsewhere, you have spoken of the need for a new “social contract” in Lebanese political life. Could you describe what you think that social contract might look like, in broad terms?

MY: In Lebanon’s post-Independence history, there have been two broad agreements to define sectarian relations: the National Pact of 1943 and the Taif Accord of 1989. Both were the culmination of previous political developments, traditions, proposed reforms, interferences by outside powers, and so forth. For better or worse, they came to define political relations in Lebanon, at least in a formal way, though often, as during the years of the Syrian military presence, Lebanese political life was shaped by Syrian interests and by Syria’s ability to exploit Lebanese divisions and power relations.

The result was a further degradation of our constitutional institutions, adding to their already considerable degradation during the 15-year war. In that context, what remained of our social contract as something positive disintegrated. Left in its place was a negative understanding of social relations, whereby Lebanese society was no longer there as a common concern for its citizens, but as a place defined largely by a minimalist sense of self-preservation, usually communal self-preservation, with Syria serving as able manipulator of this very negative notion of statehood. Communal leaders calculated largely in terms of how their decisions might play out with respect to Damascus. When the Syrians left, the Lebanese were too divided to develop a new social contract, as well as being prevented from doing so, a reality infinitely complicated by the fact that Hezbollah has no interest in a social contract that offers it anything less than full autonomy to retain its weapons, mainly on Iran’s behalf.

What social contract would I welcome? We can go into the details later, but in general, and ideally, one in which sectarianism has been transcended, but also where the liberal impulses that sectarianism has created spaces for–paradoxical spaces, for sectarianism is often based on illiberal institutions–are preserved. What preoccupies me in Lebanon above all is liberty, and the ability of the society to block or avert the rise of a single party or coalition of forces that may seek to impose its will on all. The confessional system has, for better or worse, been the prime mechanism preventing this. But as you noted quite correctly, I see it only as a way station toward a system where the Lebanese define themselves not by their differences, but by their common desire to defend a pluralistic, democratic system.

To achieve this, and I’m speaking in very broad terms here, the Lebanese need to find mechanisms to gradually break down bastions of sectarianism, albeit within a sectarian context at first, because this bargain alone can offer the tradeoffs allowing the communities to accept change. Otherwise, nothing will be achieved; society will not suddenly agree to jump from sectarianism to a system shorn of sectarianism, nor is this even sociologically realizable. Resistance to such an endeavor would undermine reform from the start.

I must add, however, that I don’t see that any progress will be possible until a solution can be found to Hezbollah’s arms. No community, least of all the Sunnis, will engage in national negotiation on reform in the face of a militia that has made amply clear, above all in May 2008, that it will resort to violence against its fellow Lebanese to defend its autonomy. Hezbollah is an anti-state, in many respects, and it would block any efforts to surrender its weapons in return for greater power to the Shiite community–though, for what it’s worth, I have proposed such an exchange in several of my articles. My point was, let’s impose this choice on Hezbollah and follow the liar to his doorstep, as the Arab saying goes, and compel Hezbollah to admit that it views its partisan interests as more important than those of Lebanon’s Shiites. But Hezbollah knows one thing better than most: without its weapons the party would effectively cease being Hezbollah.

Q: You have frequently criticized various Maronite Christian political leaders (from Michel Aoun to the Gemayel clan and Suleiman Frangieh) for their “inability to come to grips with the sectarian contract of 1943… [and] the Taif Accord,” and you’ve characterized many of their proposals as leading towards “communal suicide.” To what extent are these leaders merely pandering to public opinion on the “Christian street”, and is there any politically viable way to sell deconfessionalism to Lebanon’s Christians?

MY: Certainly, there is demagoguery involved in the way many Christian, particularly Maronite, leaders have opposed political reform as laid out in the Taif Accord. That said, a parliamentary majority in 1989, as well as Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, were defenders of Taif, so I think we need to be careful when we say this.

The problem today is that it is very difficult to persuade the Maronites in particular that their surrendering sectarian quotas in parliament and the presidency may be the only way for the community to extract itself from an often debilitating sense of decline. To an extent I can understand this fear. The state the Maronites will surrender power to is hardly one inspiring confidence. What is necessary for such a reform process to work is a national dialogue that can address fears on all sides, but particularly on the side of the Christians, who have the most to lose from a termination of the 50-50 ratio in parliament.

On the other hand, I feel, perhaps idealistically, that only when the Christians liberate themselves from the belief that their role in Lebanon is intimately tied into the number of seats they hold in parliament and Maronite control of the presidency, will they begin to examine more carefully the vital role they play, or can play, in Lebanese society; and only then will Christians gain in confidence. If everything is reduced to numbers and shares, the Christians, naturally, will feel perennially weak, because the numbers and shares are not in their favor. But when we talk about the intangibles—the fact that Christians add a dimension to Lebanon not found in most other Arab societies, that they tend to form a cosmopolitan community with great depth in the diaspora, hence are more powerful than they know, that educationally and historically Christians have brought a lot to Lebanon—then the Christian self-image can change.

Alas, I see very little impetus for change among Christians today. The community, which is in most respects my own, for I’m half-Maronite by birth, is characterized by a lack of political vigor and imagination, of economic innovation and daring, and of intellectual dynamism when it comes to the community and its role in Lebanon.

Photo credit: the NYT's very talented photog in Beirut (and elsewhere), Bryan Denton

I think that Muslim leaders, at least those concerned with Lebanon’s future as a pluralistic, open society, would much prefer a confident Christian community to a depressed one. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not sensible to view Lebanon in a mechanistic, static way as either a Christian or Muslim country. This is a place with infinite and invigorating fault lines, but if we want to focus on sect, than the least we can say is that it is a country of Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians, each with their very different priorities, worldviews, histories, and so on. The dynamics between these three large groups (and granted the internal divisions within each community) are complex, and to me have rendered anachronistic the simplistic Christian-Muslim dichotomy of the past. In this context, self-isolation is disastrous.

But let me add one final thought, and a key one. The Christians are better off embracing political reforms now, voluntarily, and I mean by this the Taif reform process, than finding themselves one day forced to surrender sectarian quotas because the Muslims are in agreement that the time has come for them to do so–because after all that is what Taif mandated. Better to negotiate reform from a position of strength, rather than to clutch on to eroding powers, behaving as an increasingly isolated irritant to the other Lebanese communities.

Q: How would a peace agreement between Syria and Israel impact Lebanon, in your view?

MY: That depends on what basis it is agreed. During the 1990s, the principle according to which the Syrians, the Israelis, but also the Americans and the Europeans, conducted negotiations, was that Syria would recover the Golan Heights, and only then would a discussion be opened relating to Syria’s presence in Lebanon. In specific terms this meant delaying all discussion of Resolution 425 (1978), which called for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Lebanese territory, until the parties could resolve the Israeli occupation of the Golan under Resolution 242 (1967). Needless to say, this was effectively a way of saying that no one would challenge Syrian hegemony over Lebanon while peace negotiations were taking place.

This equation broke down in May 2000, when the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon, even though Syria and Hezbollah tried to keep the southern front open by literally inventing the Shebaa Farms pretext. I believe it was Nabih Berri who managed to dig the issue up from some dark recess. Hardly a soul at the time could find the farms on a map.

But until the Israeli withdrawal, when negotiations were still ongoing, the Syrian president, Hafiz al-Assad, believed that once an agreement was reached between Syria and Israel, no one would really challenge the Syrian role in Lebanon afterward, particularly if Damascus offered to guarantee the Lebanese side of a peace agreement with Israel and compel Hezbollah to go along with any final settlement.

In other words, Assad had managed to lock himself into a negotiation where he would be handed back the Golan, but then would receive Lebanon as an additional incentive, or should I say endowment. It was very cynical, a clever move on Assad’s part, and I am persuaded that that is still Bashar al-Assad’s aim–of course assuming that negotiations resume one day. Certainly, Bashar’s interest in re-imposing Syrian domination over Lebanon would indicate it is.

I don’t see a peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel before one that takes place between Syria and Israel. Nor am I persuaded that Syria will enter into talks with Israel without the Lebanese card in hand first as leverage for a favorable deal. Going even further, I don’t see that the Syrians really regard the Golan Heights as a priority; their priority is to win back Lebanon, which politically and economically reaps much more, even as they are far more interested in a process of negotiation than a settlement, which would force the regime to dismantle a substantial part of its security apparatus—which it doesn’t want to do, because it protects the minority Alawite regime.

By the same token, I don’t see that there is much interest in Israel to hand over the Golan, particularly in the absence of a comprehensive settlement that includes the Palestinians as well. And since Israel does not seem willing to give up anything on that front either, I think we can safely say that no serious peace negotiations are in store for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure if I answered your question, but perhaps in the grimmest way possible I have.

Q: What kinds of reform mechanisms might actually bring about real institutional change in Lebanese politics? When Nabih Berri proposed the creation of a national commission to explore the possibility of implementing the Taif Accord, the response from the Christians was instantly hostile, and they were abetted in their rejection of his proposal by their allies in the Future Movement (and to a lesser extent in Hizbullah). Similarly, the Boutros Commission’s draft law and subsequent electoral reform proposals from Interior Minister Ziad Baroud have been summarily dismissed. How does one move forward without a strong executive pushing reform through?

MY: I think you’re addressing several issues here: the nature of reform, the fear of the Christians, who will lose the most in any reform effort, and implementation of reform. I’ll look at the first and third, as we’ve already discussed the Christians.

On the nature of reform, I believe that Taif has outlined a mechanism that is specific enough to be a road map toward change, but also vague enough that it allows flexibility. Taif, as I said earlier, was an accumulation of ideas on political reform that had been circulating since the mid-1970s. I agree that ultimately Lebanon should move toward a deconfessionalized parliament, though I believe it necessary to establish, at least for an initial period, a Senate where all the communities can be represented, to reassure the groups who will be expected to lose the most power, above all the Maronites.

I think a rotation of senior posts between all communities, or even between the Maronites, Sunnis, Shiites, and Druze (if a Senate is created), if that is the best we can hope for, would be a step in the right direction. Yes, the proposal is sectarian in many ways, but it would also break the unhealthy bond that communities have tended to create with particular leadership posts. In this way it could widen the horizons for all the communities, particularly the Maronites, who cannot see that their insistence on retaining the presidency, the weakest of the top three posts, is marginalizing them.

Alongside this, I am also in favor of deeply changing social relations. Civil marriage has to be permitted, and the establishment of a non-sectarian sect is something to be considered. The religious establishments in Lebanon are stifling, and that is the problem. They will resist this, and the politicians as well as a substantial portion of the population that falls for the canard that greater secularization is somehow an abuse of morality will side with them. However, that doesn’t prevent Lebanese society from gradually striving to create secular spaces. Reforms aiming at deconfessionalizing the society may create the momentum needed to introduce significant changes in society, though we should not underestimate the difficulties.

Ultimately, will Lebanon be able to shed the confessional system? I think such a process will take much time, as it’s in our DNA, and it would be naïve to insist, in the name of political correctness, that this can and should be done rapidly. Nor do I believe it’s a good idea to enforce deconfessionalization by writ, since it simply would not work.

I will address only briefly the issue of executive power as mechanism for pushing reform. Which executive power do you mean? The president’s? The prime minister’s? The cabinet’s? Each institution reflects Lebanon’s sectarian contradictions. Either everyone must agree, which requires tradeoffs, or nothing gets done. Is this the definition of a dysfunctional system? Of course it is. But when you speak of a “strong executive”, what you’re really doing is creating a vicious circle: You need a strong executive to impose reform, but you need reform to create a strong executive… And the sectarian nature of the system has a tendency to neutralize both sides of that equation.

You mentioned the Boutros Commission. With all due respect for its work, and for many of those participating in its meetings, among whom I count several friends, that project was a pie in the sky. In no way would the political class have ever accepted such a scheme, nor did the Lebanese even understand it, so complicated were its proposals. It was the work of intellectuals and academics, individuals of high intelligence doubtless, but it went against the sordid grain of how Lebanese politics are generally conducted. It was never going to get very far among the politicians who had the final say on it.

It was a gamble, I suppose, to at least introduce new ideas into political practice, to get the ball rolling, such as allowing expatriate Lebanese to vote, which I think is necessary. However, beyond that it was dead on arrival. I agree with you that electoral reforms, particularly things like proportional representation or the direct election of the president, have the capacity to fundamentally alter the Lebanese political system. Yet that is precisely why the political class will undermine such measures at every turn.

Q: In your book and in various other writings, you’ve criticized the figure of the “statist”: the politician who has no regard for the sectarian system and tries to break it in favor of a more consolidated central hierarchy. Statists include figures such as Fouad Chehab and Bashir Gemayel, but also Michel Aoun and Hassan Nasrallah. In your view, was Rafiq al-Hariri not a statist? What about March 14th’s politicians today, with their calls for “building the state”? And is statism necessarily a vice?

MY: I would certainly not include Nasrallah in the category of “statist”, as I consider Hezbollah to be, almost by definition, a personification of an anti-state. Bashir Gemayel wanted to strengthen the state, certainly, but I believe he saw the state very much in sectarian terms, as the life raft of the declining Maronites, so I would greatly hesitate to place him in the same sentence as Fouad Chehab.

As for Aoun, he is no more than an opportunist when it comes to the state—a man who will fight the Lebanese Forces in 1989 and 1990 because allegedly he could not accept an armed militia, this in a time of generalized civil war; but who now advocates Hezbollah’s right to retain its weapons, at a time when there is a state, or some semblance of one. I believe that Aoun’s driving ambition always was to join the ranks of the traditional political class, and he saw the state as his ticket. Now that he’s succeeded, all he really wants to do is preserve a dynasty by handing the political and economic power of the Aounist movement off to his sons in law, because he doesn’t have a son of his own. Meanwhile he will say and do anything for or against the state to maintain his power, and keep this semi-filial venture alive.

What about Hariri? Hariri was a statist, but he also very much became a traditional politician. When he began his reconstruction effort in the early 1990s, he did two contradictory things: he revived those state bureaucracies he needed to advance his agenda, and in some cases tied them more rigidly to the prime minister’s office. For example, he revived and streamlined the Finance Ministry and gave new impetus to the Council for Development and Reconstruction, whose budget was attached to his office.

But Hariri also sought ways to circumvent the ministries and administrations he could not control, and in that sense his project could not really be called a project of national administrative resurrection. In some ways perhaps this was understandable, as it allowed him to move his program forward. But the state wasn’t the better for it. He tried an administrative reform effort, but all it really turned into was an administrative purge, one he was forced to backtrack on. So in that sense Hariri was a paradoxical statist, at best.

But Hariri also became a quintessential traditional leader. He devastated the traditional families in Beirut in the 2000 elections, effectively replacing them, though he had already made major political inroads in the capital as of 1992. He became the leading Sunni, and succeeded through his wealth and patronage networks in expanding his reach to Sunnis around the country, even if the Syrians always made it a priority to contain or undercut him, particularly in the North and Beqaa where their means of intimidation was especially efficient. By the time he became prime minister in 2000, Hariri was the main enemy to a powerful part of the state, particularly its intelligence and security services, and that year’s election was the first major revolt of the traditional politicians against Emile Lahoud.

But after this long introduction, let me hasten to correct you. I’m not critical of the statist, as such, despite my libertarianism. Some level of state presence is always necessary. Fouad Chehab, for instance, merits considerable admiration. Lebanon’s first major post-Independence institutional reform program occurred mainly during his mandate (though Camille Chamoun was not idle on that front), and I’ve always had great respect for many of those who rose from Chehabist ranks, such as Fouad Boutros, Elias Sarkis, and so on. Rather, I’m critical of the abuse that has often accompanied statism in Lebanon.

To simplify, there have been two broad power structures in Lebanon, even if that has changed in the last decade and a half. There have been the traditional leaders, whose power derives from such things as family, money, or some other form of primary loyalty; and there have been those seeking to challenge the traditional leaders, and whose only available instrument has been the state, and specifically the sticks of the state, namely the security and intelligence services.

At the time of Chehab, as you well know, the political system drifted into a conflict between the traditional leaders and the Deuxième Bureau, or the military’s intelligence service. We saw a lesser replay of that under Emile Lahoud in 1998, when he tried to use the various security services against Rafiq al-Hariri. But Lahoud was no Chehab, and Hariri benefited from the collaboration on occasion of the Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, Ghazi Kanaan, who saw an opportunity to cut Lahoud down to size, play Hariri and Lahoud off against one another, and ensure that Lebanon remained under Syria’s thumb.

In the past 35 years, after the war started, state institutions have gradually deteriorated, and the Syrian presence, particularly after the war between 1990 and 2005, exacerbated this, even if there was improvement in certain sectors. The judiciary is in urgent need of reform; the state bureaucracy tends to be inefficient, bloated, and corrupt; the army is a house of many mansions; the electricity utility is a cancerous mess, and so on. For one to defend the state in Lebanon imposes a question: What state are you defending? Certainly, the traditional sectarian leaders have contributed to corrupting the state, but so too have those within state institutions.

We can’t hide behind a wall of theory here. What practical means can Lebanon adopt to ameliorate the state? Unfortunately, the answer has eluded generations of political leaders, and in the absence of an answer, the traditional leaders have benefited.

However, I wouldn’t want to suggest that I defend the traditional leaders. They do, in general, allow for a more pluralistic system by default, because they balance each other out; and such equilibrium, or call it gridlock, has, historically, created wider spaces for free expression. But beyond that the political leaders, from all persuasions, have tended to feed on the state and derail all reforms. But to righteously raise statism as one’s standard is meaningless if the state is as bad or worse than the traditional leaders.
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304 thoughts on “An Interview with Michael Young

  1. And Quelqu’une: thank you for being above the fray and ignoring the initial insults which maybe (hopefully?) you were spared reading by QN’s timely deletions. If you did read them, then all the more power to your ability to ignore such epithets as unworthy of a response and ones that speak more of their author then of anyone or anything else.

    On the other hand, we’re still waiting for at least a philosophy or outline of a solution (with some practical description)…

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 23, 2010, 4:54 pm
  2. GK, ” I agree with 100% is myself ”
    You are such an agreeable person! I fight with myself all the time 😉

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 23, 2010, 4:56 pm
  3. quelqu’une said:

    I’m neither arrogant or naive enough to say i have THE solution for any conflict.


    Apparently you ARE arrogant and naive enough to believe that “so-called negotiations with Arab collaborationists” is NOT the best solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Another Arab rejectionist! Quelle surprise!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 23, 2010, 6:11 pm
  4. AP, patience! So far we don’t know what “quelqu’une” thoughts on what a solution would be ARE, never mind the thoughts on what the soution is not. I give the caution as always not to be swayed by individual positions. There are rejectionists on both sides. Let’s see what percentage they really represent and what solution they might offer other than perpetual conflict. Patience.
    The attitude you feel plays right in the hands of rejectionists. The easy thing to do is to be sarcastic and fatalistic. Patience and hard work in diligent, civil, and persistent questioning will yield, if nothing else, a clearer definition of positions and an exposure of those who simply say NO without offering a viable alternative.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 23, 2010, 6:53 pm
  5. ‘Hung’ of course…

    Posted by Amir in Tel Aviv | August 23, 2010, 10:39 pm
  6. AP,

    In your 203 post, you critisize Quelqu’une for her rejectionist position. On the surface, that is fine in my view. But what you and the AIG’s of the world and for that matter your esteemed PM bibi are only offering fake sincerity vis a vis the peace negotiations. You should be able to understand Quelqu’une’s skepticalism about israeli sincerity when it comes to the quartet negotiations.

    Basically, israel is saying to Abbas to tolerate continued settlement buildings in the WB and just sign up on the dotted line and certify the place as an israeli colony.

    In my view, and it is “an israeli doing”, it is way too late for a a two state solution. It is just not achievable on the land/ground as simple as that, given all the settlements and roads and army land areas.

    There are only two solutions. A binational state or a continued Apartheid situation.

    Pick your bitter medicine.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | August 24, 2010, 12:17 am
  7. Ghassa #153and #157.

    I don’t know how any one can be felt safe or welcome during a civil war, nor do I know how anyone can welcome or make someone safe in war that was targeting everyone.
    During and after the Israeli 82 invasion of Lebanon, Most Lebanese Jews had already left the country. Remembering Beirut during those horrible days, when the city was under siege, short of food and water, bombarded every day and night, and hundreds getting killed everyday, I can’t imagine what could have been done by the beiruties or whatever was left of the Lebanese authorities differently to make the Lebanese Jewish community feel safer. I doubt the authorities felt safe. Israeli bombs and missiles were not discriminating between Lebanese Jews and Muslims or Christians who where living in Beirut.
    I quote you in #157

    “Lebanon did not do anything to make its Jewish citizens feel safe and welcome during the civil war and after the 1982 Israeli invasion. But then the Lebanese government failed to take any measures that would make any Lebanese safe.”
    Your second sentence nullifies the first? If a states fails to makes its citizen safe, why would you emphasis on “its Jewish citizens” while you state that it failed to make any Lebanese safe? I Don’t see why I, as Lebanese have to be guilty when my own security and safety was not Guaranteed?
    In an ideal situation, where there is a functioning government that has full control of its security, and territory, I would think that; The Lebanese government was as guilty of not making me safe as it was for not making any other citizen safe, regardless of what faith I or the next citizen is. But that was not the case at all for Lebanon at that time. There was no functioning Government.

    Again, Ghassan #153

    ‘I have always been of the opinion that the Lebanese have failed to assure their Jewish compatriots that they have nothing to fear and that they enjoy the same rights as any other Lebanese. Lebanon failed to do that and thus we all became complicit in the act of injustice against our fellow citizens. I am sure that there are many Lebanese who share my feeling that we have committed an egregious crime”

    Without repeating what I Said already, you are blaming Lebanon unfairly for not assuring its Jewish community, when you had said earlier that” Lebanese government failed to take any measures that would make any Lebanese safe.” Why would you or any one have the “feeling that we have committed an egregious crime?” Are we as Lebanese citizens asked to feel guilty when we were victimized as much as the Jewish community or the Druze community or the Muslims or maronites communities?
    Lebanese Jews had enjoyed as much rights and freedom as any other Lebanese had enjoyed. Many of them felt uncomfortable living in a country which was bombed and invaded by another country that was fighting in the name of their Jewish faith. In other word, their Lebanese country was at war with a Jewish state that claims to represent them, fights for them, and fights in their name.
    It’s no secret that, during the civil war (75-7) the whole government was nonexistent. Not defending the government, but the Lebanese president himself was almost in Palace/prison environment himself. Between the PLO presence, Various militant factions, and sectarian parties who were shooting at each other and at every civilian in Beirut, Do you think the Lebanese Jewish community was being targeted more than the Muslim or Christian communities? I doubt that.
    Almost every business in Beirut was looted, burned, or destroyed. I doubt that looters would discriminate between businesses owned by a Jew or Muslim or Christian…

    Posted by Prophet | August 24, 2010, 12:24 am
  8. Well said Prophet. I echo your analysis.

    First off, and growing up in Ras Beirut in that era, I was very familiar with the jewish quarter. Unfortunately, the quarter was smack in the middle of the “Green Line” and bullets don’t discriminate. The Green Line dwellers left their homes whether they were sunni, christians, shi3a, or martians, no matter. We were somewhat safe in Hamra, but no one in his right mind, especially with children would stick around the green line areas in those days.

    It is a pure case of wrong time wrong place moment.

    Just my two cents. BTW, it was an israeli shell that destroyed the roof of the Synagogue in 82. Google it up.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | August 24, 2010, 12:48 am
  9. PROPHET #208,
    It would be so much simpler if you had read the whole post and not taken things out of context.
    (1) You were right to point to two separate posts but in the second one (#175) I made it clear that I was repeating a previous position for the benefit of a poster who joined the discussion later on.

    (2) My position was and still is that Lebanon ( that does not mean only the government, it means civil society) had the duty to assure a beleagered minority that they were welcomed and had nothing to fear Obviously that was not the case otherwise the 40,000 or so would not have decided to pack up and leave. The Jews of Lebanon were never totally trusted by the Lebanese authorities. They were not even allowed to join the high school programs of military training. But that is not the point. The point is we , as a people, failed to do the right thing but I went on to say this moral failure is not to be seen as a moral equivalence to the misery and mistreatment inflicted on the Palestinians. If you wish to deny any culpability for the decision of 40,000 ; a whole community; to leave then that is your choice but from where I am standing that is nothing short of living in denial.
    I wish that you had read the whole short post instead of just making critiques that are not based on the post in question.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | August 24, 2010, 1:30 am
  10. Some of you like to paint what befell the Jewish population in Lebanon as purely circumstantial to the civil war. this is simply wrong, this defense may work with someone that doesn’t know the Lebanese. But as Lebanese citizens and dwellers of Beirut in the seventies and eighties especially during the PLO rein you all know how dangerous it would have been to be Jewish in Lebanon, you all know as well the historical classical anti-Semitism that is an essential part of Arab or Lebanese life.
    God forbids the Jews were a number to reckon with in Lebanon! We would have showed them well the meaning of tolerance as we showed each other Muslims, Christians and Druze “Ta3ayosh” as we like to call it.
    so please don’t pretend that we all love the Jews in Lebanon and what happened to them was simply for being there in the wrong place at the wrong time in the middle of our lovely 15 or so years of civil expressions of tolerance and “ta3ayosh”,

    For once have the courage to pull your heads out of the sand and admit your faults.

    Posted by V | August 24, 2010, 2:01 am
  11. V

    Don’t hold your breath.

    Posted by i | August 24, 2010, 2:11 am
  12. For all the back and forth and opinions about what befell the Jews in Lebanon the only real authority to relate the real experience is someone from that community, someone who would say I lived in Wadi-Bou-Jmil and this is what I experienced and this is how I felt and this is why I left. It would be anecdotal, of course, but if we have enough such testimonials we would a far better picture than what has to be mostly biased guessing from everyone else.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 4:04 am
  13. Until such testimonials I can give you my own, having lived very close to (but not on) the Green Line during the early part of the Lebanon civil war. There were kidnappings and summary executions of innocent civilians based on their religion as shown on their id cards. Muslims killed by Christians, Christians killed by Muslims. I witnessed one such execution where, to avenge his brother’s death, the friends of one such Christian picked up a random poor chap and had the surviving brother execute him by revolver at very short range. The horrors of war, particularly civil war, may not make it to history books, but they are real. There was no government capable of protecting anyone. It was the law of the jungle. Many people who could find a way out emigrated out of Lebanon. Let’s not start academic positing on this. Everyone was trying to survive. For some, including me, survival meant getting the hell out of there.
    You want other accounts from folks who were warriors then (more like warrior leaders) then, look at this:

    While remorseful now, these are the folks who caused the exodus of many a Lebanese, Christian, Muslim, and Jew. Civil war horrors and psychological damage don’t discriminate.
    Until you have experienced what happened or can listen to somebody who did, academic guessing and/or biased interpretations based on belief are irrelevant.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 4:30 am
  14. You want facts? Let’s have a documentary on the Jews of Lebanon including testimonials, objective history, context, objective reporting. Detach all this from the intense emotions many feel about the myriad issues in that region. Now that the temple has been restored in Beirut, what a timely program this would be.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 4:34 am
  15. “Another Arab rejectionist!”
    This exclamation makes me smiles.

    Anyway, my position is rather close to Arendt’s in her Jewish Writings – which is more or less what Corm said in the interview, but from an Arab perspective – : the “agreement” between equals is definitely not an equivalent of the current grotesque “negotiations” between a colonial state (that keeps on colonizing) and a demilitarized archipelago whose corrupted authority has no electoral legitimacy or whatsoever – and whose population has been deported in camps & turned into refugees in the neighboring countries.

    About the expression “collaborationist” : there is no need to overreact ; it is a term used by any historian who studies the history of a country under foreign military occupation. Palestine is military occupied by foreign forces.

    I also think that an “agreement between equals” – which is the only viable basis for peaceful coexistence – is not possible if the Palestinian right of return is denied.
    Especially if, in the meantime, Jews who already have a national status of their own do their “Aliyah” to a land they are not even materially connected to.

    To HP – about Corm’s interview – it’s not at all the American people who are targeted in this text. “L’axe américano-israélien” represents a policy not a specific people that would be by essence oppressive. There is no people (not even one) oppressive by essence and I think the American people – especially the more destitute among them – pay the price for the choices of an administration continuously supporting the colonization of Arab Palestine.

    I will be very busy in the next weeks and unfortunately unable to visit this blog as frequently as did recently, so feel free to call me either “Arab rejectionist” or even ù%***!?!! – if one feels again in some sort of appalling trash can mood – but don’t interpret my silence as a lack of arguments and/or refusal of rational dialogue.

    Posted by quelqu'une | August 24, 2010, 6:18 am
  16. V, i,

    Which is why we Jews and Zionists cringe when criticized by the violent and the intolerant.

    In your 203 post, you critisize Quelqu’une for her rejectionist position.

    I think all rejectionists should be criticized.

    On the surface, that is fine in my view.

    Don’t dig too deep!;)

    But what you and the AIG’s of the world and for that matter your esteemed PM bibi are only offering fake sincerity vis a vis the peace negotiations.

    Please define “fake sincerity”. I think most of us here realize that the GOI is offering nearly all of the West Bank including parts of Israel inside the Green Line. Gaza is 100%Palestinian. Jerusalem is still a question mark, as well as other details pertaining to Palestinian national sovereignty.

    You should be able to understand Quelqu’une’s skepticalism about israeli sincerity when it comes to the quartet negotiations.

    I can understand skepticism because negotiations have gone no where in the past 15 years. But I only see negotiations as the only way to end the conflict. One is a rejectionist if they believe otherwise.

    Basically, israel is saying to Abbas to tolerate continued settlement buildings in the WB and just sign up on the dotted line and certify the place as an israeli colony.

    Abbas is also saying that Palestinians should have the right to return to Israel, that no Jews can remain under Palestinian control and will not be afforded police protection, and that Jews will have to leave the Old City up to the Green Line.

    In my view, and it is “an israeli doing”, it is way too late for a a two state solution.

    There already is a 2 state solution, however, the Palestinians could have more if they also are interested in peace and cooperation.

    It is just not achievable on the land/ground as simple as that, given all the settlements and roads and army land areas.

    Like I said, theer already is a 2 state solution. Israelis (Jews and Arabs) are totally forbidden to enter Palestinian territory.

    There are only two solutions. A binational state or a continued Apartheid situation.

    If the status quo is the best solution, then don’t complain about it.

    Pick your bitter medicine.

    A comprehensive peace treaty and well-defined borders.

    So far we don’t know what “quelqu’une” thoughts on what a solution would be ARE, never mind the thoughts on what the soution is not.


    Don’t play stupid. If every Israeli PM (Rabin, Peres, Barack, Livni, BB) calls for peace negotiations and Palestinians who engage in peace talks are considered to be “Arab collaborationists”, then they are rejectionists.

    It not that complicated.

    BB had a 9 month freeze, and there still wasn’t any face-to-face negotiations.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2010, 8:49 am
  17. Quelqu’une, when you’re back:

    – Still need to know what, according to you, a solution in general terms might be

    – The decisions of the American government are grown from the democratic process within the U.S. To change them or influence them, the methods and procedures are clear. Why can’t folks on the Arab side do that? In my opinion there are NO EXCUSES other than perhaps lack of competence and good will. Just complaining without being engaged and active and working within the system leads nowhere.

    – Where are the documentaries, well articulated, that make the case about what the situation in the occupied territories is, how certain proposed solutions don’t make sense, etc. There sure is plenty of money in the Arab world do document all this and present a logical case along with a proposed alternate solution.
    – The big issue with a single state and/or the unconditional “right of return” is a pretty obvious one. It amounts essentially to the elimination or eventual elimination of the state of Israel with a predominantly Jewish identity. Without addressing the a priori merits of such a goal (and I hope no one will try to argue that this elimination will not be the obvious consequence of one of those 2 options) it is a matter of fact that it simply is not going to happen. Sure, evolution of the societies may eventually lead to a homogenization of the people and a-ethnic a-religious types of states might be the eventual characteristic of some Middle Eastern countries but this is not going to be our generation nor, in my opinion, the next two. There is plenty of international support for the protection of Israel as a country with a primarily Jewish character and the balance of military power, if nothing else, will sure prevent any changes to this. Furthermore, one does not replace one injustice with another, as surely the elimination of Israel will leave its current Jewish citizens in very precarious (to say the least) situations.

    – The Clinton principles and George Mitchell are a powerful combination to provide hope. I find it extremely scornful to simply dismiss such efforts for a utopia that will not happen, not in the next 50 years, and where some of its aspects are of questionable ethics. The naysayers are outside the arena and will do best by supporting the arena fighters for peace or at the very least stay on the sidelines and not arouse the masses to be against such solutions.

    – I would say the same to any naysayer on the Israeli side, for example religious extremists who still want to reclaim the Biblical land from the Euphrates to the Nile and/or who fail to acknowledge the plight of the innocent Palestinian victims of all these recent decades.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 9:01 am
  18. AP,

    I am not playing stupid with Quelqu’une. I know where she’s coming from and understand the things she’s rejecting. It is important, I believe, to insist on hearing/reading what the alternative is in her opinion. The status quo does not make any sense. A single state solution does not make any sense either (as mentioned in my just preceding post). I’d like to hear Quelqu’une’s arguments as to why they WOULD make sense – if she believes so – or what other alternative is there. Without asking folks who just reject proposed solution to offer their own and defend it, one lets them off the hook too easily, and then the message propagates to and is adopted by the populace and the vicious circle starts again.

    You know and must acknowledge that PM Netanyahu has to play a very tricky balancing act because he has to cater to religious extremists in his block. These folks are just as bad as rejectionists. The messages that end up coming out are ambivalent and don’t help those on the Arab side who are trying to buck the rejectionists and move the peace forward. It takes two to Tango. Abbas on his side would likely be assassinated if went public at this stage with any statement that modulates the request for “right of return.” All this is going to have to be done behind closed doors at the negotiating table and only the full balance of compromises of both sides announced when it’s all ready. Such was done in Northern Ireland. It worked. Such should be done in the Middle East. It will work.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 9:12 am
  19. I am not playing stupid with Quelqu’une. I know where she’s coming from and understand the things she’s rejecting.


    OK. What is Quelqu’une rejecting? Enlighten us.

    The status quo does not make any sense.

    If negotiating is considered “collaborating”, than by process of elimination, Quelqu’une is promoting the status quo or armed conflict.

    A single state solution does not make any sense either (as mentioned in my just preceding post).

    It makes sense to those that believe the Arab population will overcome the Jewish population. I am sure there are a lot of Palestinians, including Israeli-Arab MKs and Palestinians who believe this to be true.

    You know and must acknowledge that PM Netanyahu has to play a very tricky balancing act because he has to cater to religious extremists in his block.

    That’s what they said about Sharon and Gaza. Spare us the inaccurate Arab and Israeli leftist propaganda. The fact of the matter is there is no Palestinian leadership who wants a final settlement. Like Arafat’s decision to wage another intifada, and Assad’s decision to embrace the Iranian regime, Abbas can’t handle recognition of Israel. It’s too shameful to contemplate.

    A filthy-rich beggar will not work for money, especially when it involves “cleaning toilets” (aka “making peace with Zionist Israel”).

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2010, 11:13 am
  20. AP, let’s agree to disagree and wait and see.

    I did not say Netanyahu is not willing to make difficult concessions and create a peace breakthrough. I said (or intended if what I said was not clear) that, prior to the actual negotiations and comprehensive agreements, he is limited in the declarations he can make because of extremists in his coalition. I’m sorry but this is a fact. The same is true of Abbas. You, in fact, don’t know what he is willing to compromise on. He can’t declare things ahead of time because of rejectionists and extremists. This is a situation where, like it or not, there is (unfortunate) equivalency.

    Anyone who promotes the status quo or armed conflict is lunatic, in my opinion. Note that Quelqu’une has been careful to reject the offered solutions but not to say what her solution would be. I really want to read it. What’s the hurry?

    In my opinion, also, the elements of a final settlement are pretty much known and will work. It’s that barrier of posturing and positioning and catering to extremists on both sides that’s in the way. It is time for all the sensible folks to stop such madness and converge on what is known will be the solution.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 11:45 am
  21. HP,
    I have been trying not to rain on your parade so to speak but I must break my silence.
    Your constant reference to the “Clinton Principles” as if they were such a missed opportunity is not based on factual evidence. The plan was soundly rejected since it was not workable. It is the plan that Israel has been working for; a non viable swiss cheese of a West bank that has no sovereignty and no say on anything important. That plan is dead. It will not be resurrected unless major changes are done to it and then it is no longer the ” Clinton Principles”.

    Posted by ghassan karam | August 24, 2010, 12:04 pm
  22. GK, okay, maybe I’m using the wrong semantics and the wrong phrase. From what I’ve read, those Clinton parameters are broad enough in that they specify percentages and things like “maximize contiguity” and “minimize disruption of Palestinians” such that, if percentages were to be adjusted a bit and the details (the most important part) worked out in such a way that it is no longer a “Swiss Cheese” solution, along with other changes, etc., then things would be workable. I know it’s not easy and maybe in the end, for many reasons, no one will refer to the solution as based on the Clinton parameters.
    Nevertheless, the principles involved in maximizing this and minimizing that, mutual recognition, acceptance of the principle of return but not necessarily to Israel per se, generous compensation, security guarantees, etc., I thought the outlines of what an acceptable solution were known and recognized. I can try to dig it up but there was at least one major article several years ago that provided even more details about this in either Time or Newsweek.

    Now that direct negotiations are being restarted, they may well be the best chance of any time to devise this compromise. I dread to think what comes next if these talks fail. I’ll be safe from any consequences here in the U.S. but Oh! what suffering for the people in that region will ensue.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 12:34 pm
  23. Is the Status Quo Better?

    It is the plan that Israel has been working for; a non viable swiss cheese of a West bank that has no sovereignty and no say on anything important.


    I think if you dig a little deeper, you may not see “swiss cheese”. It may be more accurate to call it an ameba. And if there’s peace, the outline of the state may not matter.


    Check out the various maps and Olmert’s Plan…

    BTW, here’s Azerbaijan for reference…


    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2010, 12:37 pm
  24. Interesting article from the BBC:


    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2010, 1:08 pm
  25. AP – Do you have a sense how non-Arabic-speaking Israelis view this? Is it welcome or do some feel that it is an unfair imposition? What is your own perspective on it, if you formed an opinion? Just curious, and actually quite pleasantly surprised by this development (Not that I follow such news closely, so for someone who does this maybe is not a surprise and maybe was a long time coming).
    In any case, thanks for sharing the article.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 1:39 pm
  26. HP,

    I’m not Israeli but I have visited there many times and I lived there for 2+ years.

    First of all, many Israelis speak Arabic. Remember, half of Israelis are not Ashkenasi.

    Secondly, Arab Israelis are a large part of the work force and population. Therefore, Arabs and Israelis interact A LOT everyday.

    Thirdly, learning Arabic is important in terms of security.

    Fourthly, it may help to know Arabic if your getting your hair cut;) [my experience years ago]

    Anyway, if I were to guess, I would say the majority of Israelis would welcome the requirment to learn Arabic in public school.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 24, 2010, 1:56 pm
  27. HP,
    What is being currently discussed is the possibility of a two state solution. The idea of a two state solution is a very old one indeed and Clinton’s efforts during the last year of his presidency did not contribute much to the idea, if anything. When the two state solution became acceptable to the Palestinian side in the 1970’s the US, as is often the case, saw this as a threat to the state of Israel and vetoed the UN security council resolutions dealing with the issue. The first such resolution(1397) was not passed until 2002.
    I do not want to discredit the Clinton Efforts but it has always been known that a two state solution is not possible unless at least 4 seminal issues are addressed:
    Jewish settlements in the West Bank
    Status of Jerusalem
    Right of Return of the Palestinians
    Sovereignty of the new Palestinian state.

    The fact that Clinton had suggestions to deal with these issues is not a unique effort or an exceptional case except in the fact that it failed as it should have since the suggestions were not well thought out and since the US side was interested in the historical legacy for Mr. Clinton more than a fair and lasting solution.
    What is clear is that you cannot get there from here without passing through each of these four issues at a minimum and to judge by the reports about what the Israelis are offering is not encouraging in the least.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | August 24, 2010, 2:23 pm
  28. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clinton_Parameters

    According to the plan, the Palestinian State was to include 94-96% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), and around 80% of the settlers were to remain under Israeli sovereignty, and in exchange for that, Israel will concede some territory (so called ‘Territory Exchange’ or ‘Land Swap’) within the Green Line (1967 borders). The swap would consist of 1-3% of Israeli territory, such that the final borders of the West Bank part of the Palestinian state would include 97% of the land of the original borders.

    Now if the above is true, I can hardly imagine this as a nonviable Swiss cheese of the West Bank! 😉

    Posted by Badr | August 24, 2010, 2:37 pm
  29. Who would have imagined that the Al-Ahbash guys would be willing to take on HA? Lebanon is a strange place. The more you try to learn, the less you understand.

    Posted by AIG | August 24, 2010, 3:56 pm
  30. That’s cause you framed it incorrectly, AIG.
    More than likely, this was not “Al Ahbash taking on HA”. More than likely, this was a bunch of tough guys who got in an argument about something and called their buddies.
    Think of it as a neighborhood bar brawl, only with automatic weapons. I doubt there was anything political here.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 24, 2010, 4:18 pm
  31. BV,

    “Tough guys” with heavy machine guns and RPGs and the Lebanese Army afraid to go in? Not likely. But I hope you are right.

    Posted by AIG | August 24, 2010, 4:24 pm
  32. Ghassan#210
    I had read all of your comments (153,158and 175). I do understand that the discussion had started with the dir Yassin Massacre. I ‘m not in disagreeing with you on Dir Yassin. I noticed, and appreciated your distinction between the fate of the Lebanese Jews and the misery and mistreatments inflicted on Palestinians.
    It was our views of the facts and the differences in the historical accuracy that I disagreed with you on. I disagree with you on what befall of the Jews of Lebanon, and the circumstances that lead to their emigration. Basically, we disagreed on what those circumstances are, and whether we, as Lebanese mistreated and ran off our Jewish fellows out of the country. It was AIG’S description of “the extermination of the Jews of Lebanon was evil, total and exceptional” which led to my disagreement with your holding Lebanon responsible for” egregious crime”
    Describing the emigration of the Lebanese Jews out of Lebanon as crime is very dangerous description. .
    My opinion was, and still is that Lebanon’s Jewish community was a victim of many different circumstances that were beyond the control of Lebanese government or its people as a whole…
    I agree that it wasn’t easy for Lebanese Jews to feel comfortable, especially after the arrival of the PLO, and the subsequent civil wars that victimized all Lebanese. I also believe that many Lebanese Jews felt uncomfortable when their country was attacked more than once by another state that spoke in the name of their Jewish faith. That also may have made them suspects in the eyes of minority of Lebanese.
    None of these reasons could have been, by itself, a reason for Jews to leave the country, and definitely none could have contributed to a Crime that the whole Lebanese society should be responsible for.
    I ‘m not condoning any mistreatment of Lebanese Jews that may have taken place during the civil war or any other time by some ignorant people, or during the PLO dominance of Lebanon. I believe those were the exception, not the norm. Many Lebanese were mistreated by each other, by PLO, by Syrian presence, and by their Governments.

    There are quite a few books out there which talk about the coexistence between the Jewish community and its surrounding Muslim and Christian communities. Lebanese Jews were even members of the phalange party, one the biggest political parties at the time.
    I would refer you to “The Jews of Lebanon” by Dr. Kirsten Schulze, a professor at the London School of Economic.Shultz. Shultz describes a fascinating and detailed account of Lebanese Jew. According to Dr. Shultz, Lebanese Jews were highly integrated into Lebanese society and became the only Jewish community in the Middle East constitutionally protected in the proclamation of Greater Lebanon in 1920.
    Schulze explains that “Lebanon was the only Arab country in which the number of Jews increased after the first Arab-Israeli was.
    He describes , how during Passover celebrations which used to be held at Magan Avraham Synagogue , Lebanon’s prime minister and many affluent Lebanese politicians(Sami as-Solh, Abdallah Yafi, Rachid Beydoun, Joseph Chader, Habib Abi Chahla, Charles Helou, Pierre Gemayel and the Maronite Archbishop of Beirut )from all sects had attended and joined their fellow Jews in their festivities. This is just one example of the tolerance Lebanon had and the efforts Lebanese officials had made to make Lebanese Jews comfortable and safe.
    That same Synagogue was s till intact and in use by the remaining Lebanese Jews until the invasion of 82. Robert Fisk wrote in his book “Pity the Nation” that “incredibly, the Israeli shells even blew part of the roof off the city’s synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil where the remnants of Beirut’s tiny Jewish community still lived.”
    An Israeli officer who was born and raised in Lebanon, describes how he found the synagogue in the same condition it was when he left 36 years earlier. So the notion that the synagogue was looted and destroyed during the civil war isn’t accurate either. Our Fellow Lebanese Jew came back serving in Israel’s army to find it intact. How ironic is that?
    The decisive moment for Lebanon’s Jewish community was the Israeli invasion and occupation of 1982.Until then, according to Dr.Scultz, “the relationship between Jews, and Muslims, Christians had remained good despite the civil war”. He also states that ” the Jewish community had benefited from the Israeli presence which guaranteed their safety and opened access across the border to relatives living in Israel , many took the opportunity and left Lebanon, few settling in Israel, many more travelling via Israel to Europe or the united states.” And this is when their presence really ended. Many would have stayed, had Israel not invaded Lebanon in 1982. So would have many Christians and Muslims.
    I don’t know what anyone could have done to make a difference. The whole country was under attack, half of the country under Israeli occupation, the other half was under Syrian control. Most Beirut residents had fled. Our Government was confined to the presidential place. Destruction was everywhere. You tell me Ghassan, what could have been done under those conditions?

    I’m not in denial .You and I had exchanged opinions on more then one subject.
    I believe you know that I’m objective, and yes stubborn in defending my views, yet willing to Listen and admit mistakes.
    lots of respect to you GK.

    Posted by Prophet | August 24, 2010, 4:26 pm
  33. AIG.

    I laugh…

    No offense. But you guys have no idea what it’s like in Lebanon.

    I’m not there. But I’m almost certain that I’m right on this one.

    Yes. Tough guys with heavy weaponry and the army afraid to go in. Wouldn’t be the first time. I know, it sounds surreal to anyone living in a civilized country (Lebanon is not). But this kind of crap is fairly common in Lebanon. Not a week goes by where there isn’t a headline on Naharnet about some “clashes” between members of the known clans in the Baalbek/Hermel area.

    Hell, look no further than the drug violence in Mexico, or in Colombia back in the Pablo Escobar days…There really are places in the world where armed gangs clash in public, with very little fear of the authorities and aren’t afraid to use heavy weapons. And Lebanon certainly surpasses Mexico in that department. Trust me.

    Not a week goes by that there isn’t some headline on Naharnet about armed clashes between the various Zoiater and whatnot clans out in Baalbek/Hermel. Family disputes often escalate and end up involving RPGs and the such.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 24, 2010, 4:34 pm
  34. BV,

    I of course know what you are talking about. But lately the Lebanese Army has interfered in such fighting, but not in this case which is a red flag.

    Posted by AIG | August 24, 2010, 4:38 pm
  35. AIG,

    Maybe you’ve forgotten this fine entry on this very blog 🙂


    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 24, 2010, 4:40 pm
  36. AIG,

    They did interfere (at least according to the news snippet I just saw).

    Typically, the Lebanese army tries not to interfere too directly.
    This has always been a cause of extreme annoyance to me. In the civilized world, the army (or security forces) would respond immediately to a “disturbance” (I’m trying to imagine the reaction of the LAPD to an RPG fight in Hollywood, for example).
    In Lebanon, however, the army has “traditionally”, waited for things to calm down before “deploying in the area” (typical news report wording).
    The sad truth is, the army needs political cover before “intervening”. It always has in Lebanon. This means that when shit like this develops, “officials” start calling each other. Sometimes, they get their guys to calm down and back off on their own. And only in cases where that doesn’t happen do these “officials” let the army or ISF know that they can go in and restore order.

    I imagine in this case, before any army unit came anywhere close to these thugs, several phone calls were made to concerned parties (Probably Hariri, someone in the HA political hierarchy, quite possibly Berri – who always manages to have his nose in these things).

    The ultimate example in the complete and utter failure of the LAF to intervene was the 2008 Beirut “coup”. Granted, that was not a bunch of thugs having a personal dispute, but rather a coup attempt. But the army was nowhere to be seen till after they were “allowed” to take over the positions that the SSNP and Berri’s gangsters had “conquered”.

    Like I said. It’s sad. And it’s surreal.

    I remember sitting here in the US, at that time – and i’ve been in the US long enough to take these civilized things for granted – and thinking “Anywhere else and the security forces would have sweeped in and cracked skulls left and right.” But no. Not in Lebanon. There, we let thugs burn down TV and radio stations, terrorize the populace, and strut around town for a week before “deploying in the area” (long after the thugs have left) and making pronouncements like “The LAF is the army of all Lebanese.” or “The LAF is a bastion of resistance and is here to ensure the safety of ever square inch of Lebanese land” (fine print: “as long as the aggressor is Zionist or European. But if he’s Syrian, Iranian or Lebanese, then we don’t ensure safety or shit”).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 24, 2010, 4:51 pm
  37. Sorry for the long winded post. But I wrote all that before I looked at the latest news. I think my “prediction” was pretty much on the money.

    From the NowLebanon ticker…

    Hezbollah official dies in Bourj Abi Haidar clashes

    19:40: HA official dies in clashes
    20:10: Clashes intensify
    20:46: Amal denies involvement. Army deploys in the area (verbatim what I said).
    22:01: Armed individuals burn down Diwan Supermarket
    22:41: President Sleiman calls officials in effort to end clashes.
    23:08: Heavy gunfire in some neighborhoods.
    23:09: Ahbash official meets with HA official.

    It would be hilariously comical if it wasn’t so damned tragic.

    I hate reading “President Sleiman made a series of calls to military and political officials to end the clashes”. Sounds too much like “Please, can you stop fighting! Pretty please?”

    In the real world, that would read “President Sleiman ordered Army command to put an end to the clashes and restore order.”

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 24, 2010, 5:01 pm
  38. …snipped from Naharnet…

    “A personal fight between a supporter of Hizbullah and another of Al-Ahbash erupted just after 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) in Beirut’s Burj Abi Haidar neighborhood and escalated into a firefight in which two men were killed, one of whom has been identified as a supporter of Hizbullah,” an army spokesman said.

    “The army has intervened and is trying to restore calm in the area,” he said.

    Witnesses said the clash began as an argument between Fawwaz and supporters Al-Ahbash over a parking space near a mosque frequented by Al-Ahbash.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 24, 2010, 5:03 pm
  39. AIG, #230: “Lebanon is a strange place. The more you try to learn, the less you understand.”
    Now, my friend, you have truly reached Enlightenment. Welcome to the club!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 5:43 pm
  40. Sorry for the late (and short) involvement, but I think quelqu’une has been falsely identified as a ‘rejectionist’ when she is doing nothing but espousing ‘realist’ sentiments. To give these current negotiations any credence would be an exercise in cognitive dissonance. If you peel away all the rhetoric, it’s easy to see that the facts on the ground have made a viable two-state solution impossible. There will be no Israeli Prime Minister with the political capital to remove the number of settlers/settlements it would take to create a viable contiguous Palestinian state. Certainly not when the settlers are making it more and more difficult by the day by changing the facts on the ground.

    How many soldiers did it require to pull the settlers out of Gaza? That was a cakewalk compared to what would be required to give the Palestinians a state in the West Bank. And in all honesty, why should the Israelis agree to a Palestinian state? They can keep up the charade for another hundred years, taking up more and more land while pretending to want peace, until all of a sudden we’ll look up and there will be nothing left to create a state out of. What incentive do they Israelis have to establish a Palestinian state? They have their security, they have their legitimacy…what’s the upside? Is peace really desirable anymore? Their biggest threat is a couple of rockets coming in from the Northern Border, and they’ve already established the rules on the ground – if Hizballah fires on us, we destroy Lebanon.

    Why do you call quelqu’une a rejectionist when she’s just laying out what’s so clear to see, if you just peel back the rhetoric? That’s just realism.

    Posted by Mehdi2 | August 24, 2010, 7:29 pm
  41. Mehdi, OK, so same question to you as to Quelqu’une, if negotiations are not the solution, what is? Nothing? Hamas? Iran? I’m really curious.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 24, 2010, 8:07 pm
  42. Are you asking what is the best solution, or what is the likely solution? The best solution in my opinion would be something along the lines of the Arab adopted peace initiative. 1967 borders (give or take to allow for the major settlements), East Jerusalem as a capital for Palestine, Golan returned to Syria, compensation offered instead of right of return, normalization between all Arab states and Israel. On principle, it’s difficult to find much objection to this plan – everyone gets what they want, to a degree.

    However, in reality, I see more of the status quo. Perpetual siege for the Palestinians, more settlement growth, further hard-lining of the Israeli government (vis a vis immigrants coming in from Russia), further normalization with the ‘moderate’ Arab states regardless of the Palestinian issue (we already see this happening in the Gulf, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan). Eventually the Palestinians will be relocated or relegated, and no one will care enough to do anything about it.

    We’ve known what the parameters are for an acceptable peace deal for years now. The only difference is, I believe we’re overestimating the Israeli incentive for peace. I still can’t see one downside to the status quo for the Israelis, beyond some grassroots divestment movements that will never go anywhere in reality. How much is ‘peace’ really worth?

    The Palestinians lost any chance of a state when there stopped being a legitimate debate within the United States about the level of support for Israel. Now, both sides are simply arguing about who loves Israel more. The one thing the Democrats and Republicans can agree on is the need to prostrate before the Israeli flag. (Comically enough, the only real fight against this is being waged by the Jewish-American left) Who is going to force the Israelis to make difficult concessions? They are secure, prosperous, and under no viable threat militarily or politically. In fact, a large part of their economic boom is tied to this state of perpetual fear: in the age of the Islamic terrorist (bogey man) who better to sell you security than the people who have been dealing with him the longest, and who have in all respects defeated him? Afraid of the brown man? Come take a look at all my cool gadgets!

    HP you’re asking a question that has no real answer. The question we should be asking is – how will the world react to the reality of Palestinian bantustans for the next 50-100 years?

    Posted by Mehdi2 | August 24, 2010, 8:29 pm
  43. Prophet #233,
    I am a realist, no one wins an argument 🙂 and so this brief response is to clarify an issue that I think is being lost on you.
    Technically, you are probably 100% correct when you say that Lebanon , in general, has not mistreated or discriminated against its Lebanese Lewery. At least I am not aware of any such explicit acts of violence and discrimination. But, and that is my point, mental anguish and non physical discriminatory acts can be more hurtful than physical acts, much more so. I guess I am suggesting that the school yard saying that “Sticks and stone hurt your bones but words never hurt me” is not true in this case.
    Jewish Lebanese lived in Lebanon and prospered in many sectors both before and after 1948. All of that seemed to come to a halt as of the late 60’s early 70’s. The Lebanese became suspicious of the loyalty of some of their citizens just because they pray differently than the rest. Then there is the issue of the media and the politicians both during the six days war and then the 1973 war and ultimately the 1882 war. In each case radio, newspapers and many private citizens spoke with nothing but vile and hatred abiout the Jews. Very rarely if ever did anyone make a distinction between being Jewish and being a Zionist. ( I happen to know many Jews who are very much ant zionists). Add to the above the culture the forbids dealing with a firm if it carries a Jewish sounding name and the fact that people would change the subject matter whenevr a Jew shows up. Jews were not welcome neither were they trusted. They were made to feel as pariahs, they simply did not feel as if they belonged. This is not a legal issue but an implicit discrimination, the one that cannot be proven and the one whose scars are very difficult to heal. We were all participants in this either directly or indirectly and as a result we have lost a part of ourselves. We diversity has suffered and there is no one to blame but us.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | August 24, 2010, 8:34 pm
  44. AIG,
    It occured to me a, a while back, that some light could be shed on the question of the reason that Lebanese Jewery left the country by finding what some of the actors themselves have to say about this matter. That is why I sent a brief e mail to the webmaster of Meghen Abraham in Canada asking him to find out if some of the Lebanese members of the congregation would like to write about their own experiences and what led them to leave. I am telling you this because it might be helpful if you would in turn send the same webmaster a short request for information also.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | August 24, 2010, 11:47 pm
  45. Ghassan#244
    Thank you.
    I hope that my humble contributions are an added value to the debate. I’m not seeking a trophy. Be assured that winning an argument isn’t a goal here. I’m just another miserable Lebanese who was dealt a bad hand, and can’t stop talking about it.LOL
    As briefly as I can, I accept the discrimination factor, as well as many, but not all, of your reasoning behind the mistrust and suspicion of Lebanese Jewish community.
    I don’t share your opinion that “The Lebanese became suspicious of the loyalty of some of their citizens just because they pray differently than the rest”.
    None of what I’ll say should be read as an excuse to any mistreatments by ANYONE toward the Jews of Lebanon, and other Arab countries.
    Muslims, Christians, and Jews have always shared same cities and neighborhoods, and always prayed differently. The differences in prayer could not have just become an issue all of a sudden in the 60’s and 70’s. It isn’t ‘just because’ they prayed differently.
    Israel’s behavior and arrogance contributed, in my opinion, to the misery that befell on many Jews, not only in Lebanon, but in most Muslim, and Arabic countries.
    Israel’s treatment of Palestine has been used by the media to inflame the feelings toward, not only Lebanese Jews, but rather toward Jews all over the world.
    Israel’s desire to be a Jewish state for all Jews around the world, fairly or not, created plenty of reasons for many people to view Jews in Arab countries as suspects.
    You pointed out correctly that the distinction between Israel, Jewry and Zionism was never realized in most Arab countries. Jews around the world failed or ignored to make that distinction.

    Posted by Prophet | August 25, 2010, 12:48 am
  46. Mehdi2,

    In 241 & 243 you were very articulate in describing the current negotiation situation. You get an A+ in my book. Wish the other side can see these visable points. If the israeli objective is to have an agreed upon colony, then what is the point for the palestinians to go for a two state solutions instead of a Binational state.

    If Israel wants a two state solution, then in my view Isarel better try hard to create a viable one. However, Bibi opposes limitting settlements growth while negotiating. That’s some peace confidence measure here, I’d say. Some unattached observants might call it as a “joke” or “fake”.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | August 25, 2010, 1:18 am
  47. Ghassan Karam

    History of the Jews in Lebanon


    There’s also list of external links and references at the bottom. Perhaps it can help you.

    Posted by i | August 25, 2010, 2:16 am
  48. I concur about the quality of the post of Mehdi (#243).
    I very much like the “best solution” in the first paragraph.
    As to what will change the status quo, it is not any of the subversive methods of violence. It is a Ghandi style activism coupled with effective and articulate messaging to the world and in particular in the US.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 25, 2010, 2:30 am
  49. I also agree with most of Mehdi’s assessment. It is a good description of the current situation. What he is wrong about is why the Israeli voters have moved to the right. It is not because of the Russian immigrants, but mainly because of the second intifada which created a huge deficit of trust between Jews and Palestinians. Also the lackluster returns of withdrawing from Lebanon and Gaza do not help either.

    I am constantly surprised by how good globalization plus the internet have been for Israel. It negates so many of our geographical disadvantages and has sustained robust economic growth. In some ways this works against a peace agreement also because the so called “peace dividend” is not so obvious.

    So yes, I agree that Israeli public opinion needs to change if an agreement along the parameters that Mehdi described is to be reached. On the other hand, as long as Hamas and the Palestinian diaspora continue calling Abbas a traitor and collaborator and keep calling any kind of deal a surrender, it is unlikely that Israeli public opinion will change. Because what is the agreement good for if it does not bring real peace? Why would Israelis jeopardize their security and grant the Palestinians sovereignty if this will lead to rockets on Tel-Aviv?

    Posted by AIG | August 25, 2010, 10:23 am
  50. Ya Mehdi, you brought us all together! Remarkable. I vote you should be the Prime Minister when QN becomes the President 😉

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 25, 2010, 10:45 am
  51. AIG – I don’t think Russian immigration has alone shaped Israeli public opinion. The Israeli mindset has definitely been impacted by the facts on the ground, a lot of it precipitated by the second intifada. But you have to recognize a demographic shift in tone spurred on by Russian-Jewish immigrants who bring with them the settler, almost millennial mentality that has led to a much more right wing, much more racist Israel than that which existed in the 90’s. For someone like Avigdor Lieberman to become part of the mainstream – that, in large part, is a result of a demographic shift that has to be accounted for when outlining Israel’s future.

    Having said that, I am no fan of the Abbas/Fayyad/Dahlan crew. Abbas especially, while his intentions may (or may not) be noble, has over and over again sold out the Palestinians for empty gestures from the West. It’s known exactly where he takes his orders from, and he has produced nothing in terms of tangible results besides effectively segmenting the Palestinian population. The attempt to overthrow Hamas by force was a blunder on so many levels, reminiscent of Sanioura overplaying his hand against Hizballah with the telecommunications issue.

    Going back to my original answer to HP – I naively held out hope that Obama would be able to pressure Israel (in the vein of George H. W. Bush) to accept a deal along the lines of the Arab proposal. For its own good, Israel needs a deal forced upon it by the Americans, because that can no longer be accomplished internally in my opinion. I do think that deal would be the best case scenario for all parties, because it ties regional normalization (the importance of which cannot be understated) with the Palestinian issue. In the long run, everyone would be better off with an Israel inside the 1967 borders, maintaining its Jewish AND its democratic identity, that gets along with its neighbors. It also puts an end to the Palestinian question in Lebanon and Syria, allowing those countries to move on with their own modernization efforts. There is no loser in that scenario.

    However, it’s becoming apparent that Congress is so beholden to Israeli interests, and both parties are so attached to the money from Jewish donors, that an American president is no longer able to exert pressure on Israel without sacrificing his own domestic agenda. That’s why I’m so pessimistic about a two state solution. If it can’t be imposed on the Israelis, it will never happen.

    Posted by Mehdi2 | August 25, 2010, 11:07 am
  52. HP – with a name like Mehdi, the best I can hope for is Speaker of the Parliament!

    Posted by Mehdi2 | August 25, 2010, 11:11 am
  53. Ah! but we’re talking about a post-confessional Lebanon brought about in part by the influence of the distinguished Lebanese (and those of Lebanese-origin) on this blog!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 25, 2010, 11:47 am
  54. Mehdi,

    You are misreading the map hear, believe me. The Russian immigrants are a different right than the settlers. They have no ideological connection to the land as the settlers do and a large majority of the Russian immigrants are secular. Lieberman supports land swaps which the settlers are very much against. I need to find the data, but if you look at the number of Knesset members the Likud got in the 90’s it is not much different from the sum of the members of Likud and Israel Beitainu (Lieberman’s party). Also, don’t forget that Lieberman was Netanyahu’s assistant/confidant for many years. The Russian immigrants are right leaning because they have an ingrained mistrust for Muslim societies/states which they brought over from Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union.

    Another point I don’t agree with you is regarding Jewish donors. Congress is not favorable to Israel because of Jewish donors. It is favorable to Israel because most Americans are favorable to Israel. The Jewish donors can easily be negated by Arab or other donors. The Arabs after all have much more money than Israel.

    Posted by AIG | August 25, 2010, 11:52 am
  55. In that case I’ll let everyone know now, unlike QN, I indeed can be bought!

    Posted by Mehdi2 | August 25, 2010, 11:52 am
  56. The last line should read “The Arabs have much more money than the Jews”.

    Posted by AIG | August 25, 2010, 11:53 am
  57. AIG – you’re probably right about the issue of the immigrants. You know much more about the internal structure of Israeli politics, so I won’t argue you on that point.

    With regards to donors in the US – look at how the Israelis approached their campaign to pressure Obama. They sent a delegation to Chicago to speak with his largest Jewish contributor, Lester Crown. You can look at a list of donors to any campaign, and it’s basically a who’s who of Jewish-American millionaires. Unlike the Arabs, they donate in droves, and they lobby hard for Israel. If we’re having a ‘realist’ discussion of the world, you can’t discount Jewish money in American politics. This is not some Anti-Semitic “AIPAC runs the government” conspiracy theory – I’m just pointing out the obvious. Jews in this country buy influence, and their number one issue is unconditional support for Israel. That used to be more of a concern for Democrats, but now the Jewish-American establishment has formed an unlikely (to say the least) alliance with the Christian Far-Right, so you won’t even see a Republican risk going head-on with Israel, as George H. W. Bush did in his presidency.

    Posted by Mehdi2 | August 25, 2010, 12:01 pm
  58. Mehdi,

    I am not denying that Jews are big donors. But Obama has raised so much more money from small donors through the internet than from “heavy” Jewish donors. If the American public were anti-Israel, some politician would have tapped that to raise money in alternative ways.

    Take for example the NRA. It has much more money than AIPAC. Yes, its money helps, but the the NRA’s strength comes from its grass root following. Without it, all the money in the world would have been useless.

    The Jewish donors are taking the utmost advantage of a favorable disposition to Israel that exists in the eyes of the US public, but they are not the cause of the favorable disposition. And if public opinion turns, all the money in the world will not help. You can see that in European countries.

    Posted by AIG | August 25, 2010, 12:19 pm
  59. Mehdi,

    Just to add one more thing here. In the framework of the Marxist dialectic that some on the left like Chomsky support, one would say that the Israel lobby’s interest are aligned with those of the American capitalist elites.

    I think as I explained above, that the explanation is much more simple. In general, Americans across all social classes tend to favor Israel. But notice how both explanations do not put money as the root cause of US policy.

    Posted by AIG | August 25, 2010, 12:25 pm
  60. To piggy back on AIG’s post 259 (Which I agree with). I remember reading a story going back to the 1970s or 80s, when Bibi was Israel’s ambassador to the UN (or the US, I forget) and made an appearance on some TV program, debating with some arab ambassador, I forget who.
    The story goes that Bibi was worried he didn’t come across very well to the American public. The reply: “You always had an advantage going in. You think Americans are gonna identify with a guy called Abdallah over a guy called Benjamin?”

    Yes. Jewish lobbying is a powerful force in Washington. But as AIG pointed out, for better or worse, Americans are intrinsically predisposed to identify with a “western” sounding country, filled with people with “western” names, over what a good number of Americans perceive as a bunch of ignorant savages wearing towels over the heads and riding camels.

    It’s a sad truth. And some of us, in our ivory towers, even here in the US, often lose sight of that. But I can guarantee you that the average Joe The Plumber types (remember that guy?) still think of “Arabs” in those stereotypical caricaturish ways.

    Ironically, to parallel the distinction between Jews, Israel and Zionist that was made earlier in this thread, Americans have a pretty similar mix up of Arabs, Muslims, and Islamists.
    Look no further than the current “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy. And that’s just one example of what’s really a pretty ingrained sentiment here in the US.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 25, 2010, 12:55 pm
  61. Hey AIG, this one’s for you.


    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 25, 2010, 1:00 pm
  62. Mehdi,
    There is do doubt that a two state solution based on the Israeli suggestions of Camp David 2000 or Tabba or all what has followed since then is a reflection of a lack of desire in finding a solution. I will even argue that the proposals are being made on purpose so that they will be rejected by the Palestinians. AIG is right to revive the idea that the Israeli did discover that the status quo is acceptable for them since events have demonstrated that the so called “peace dividend” does not amount to much monetarily speaking.

    If that is the case then why should the Israelis pursue a two state solution? For the sake of brevity for at least three reasons:
    (1) Occupation and colonization is wrong.

    (2) Both occupation and total integration will weaken the Jewish state.

    (3) Benefits from peace are not to be measured solely in money terms. Peace is not the lack of war.

    The Palestinian side has also a strong interest in a two state solution because it is time to accept reality and end the sufferings and uncertainty of the Palestinian people. All other options have been counter productive.

    Since I promised a brief post let me say that based on the above it can be argued that there is a solid case to be made for a two state solution, actually it is the only solution that is capable of satisfying both sides.

    But what about a bi National state? Wouldn’t that be arguably even better? Well, yes and know.I have argued for years that a binational state is an ultimate solution but it is not a solution that you just jump into. A Binational solution would have to be predicated on a relationship of equals in all fields, social, political and economic. Even then it needs to be phased in over a long period of time. The best simple example is the EU. The European countries did not decide to have an economic and political union and implement it in one week . They have been working at it for over 50 years. That is one reason that they might eventually succeed. The two state solution is an inescapable first step irrespective of whether the goal is total indefinite two sovereign states or whether it is a binational state. What is also obvious is that the Palestinian side is in a desperate need to improve the welfare of its constituents while the Israelis are blinded by the short term realities that are not as pressing for a resolution.
    That is the rub. A two state solution must be the next phase but that proposal must be for a viable Palestinian state with total sovereignty which means that all settlements must go with some possible exceptions for those at the 1967 borderline, a divided Jerusalem and an acceptable resolution for the right of return. Don’t conflate the need for a two state with an unacceptable proposal for a two state. The latter does not negate the former.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | August 25, 2010, 1:31 pm
  63. A couple of interesting articles:

    Arabs and Jews working together on the WB…


    John “The Neocon” Bolton …


    Posted by Akbar Palace | August 25, 2010, 4:36 pm
  64. BV, what does Vilbel mean?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 25, 2010, 5:08 pm
  65. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a random word.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 25, 2010, 5:50 pm
  66. AP – John Bolton never has anything meaningful to add.

    Posted by Nasser V | August 26, 2010, 10:23 am
  67. Well, on John Bolton’s article, given Nasser V’s comment I went and read it and I’m left wondering as with so many other commentators: critique, critique, say this is not the way to go, but then, what are you proposing as a solution?

    Without answering this question, regardless of what the proposal is, then one is simply a critic.

    And you know what they say about critics: “If all the critics in the world were to die tomorrow, there will still be too many of them.”
    That goes for critics on both sides.
    At least Obama is trying to do something.

    And for those who try to compare attempts at negotiations to the appeasement of a Maréchal Pétain or of a Neville Chamberlain are simply, in my humble opinion, wrong. For to do so is to advocate World War III. Does anyone really think a World War III is warranted here? Does anyone really think we have a Nazi Germany in any of the countries or people involved?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 26, 2010, 12:40 pm
  68. Why doesn’t a one-state solution make sense? After all, Arab Jews and Palestinians are genetically identical. That’s what the science says and that’s what makes this such a perverted conflict. The Ashkenazis hijacked the legitimate claim to the holy land that their religious brothers (Arab Jews) had, and now basically run their own state there.


    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 2:09 pm
  69. Nasser V, I’m no advocate for Israel nor would I be accepted as such, nor am I an advocate for Jews, whether the designation is understood or adopted to refer to a nation, a race, a religion, or a combination thereof. HOWEVER, I have developed a practical appreciation and understanding of the fact that – at least in the near term (by which I mean several decades, at least!) – a single-state solution where what is now Israel along with Gaza and the West Bank become a Israline or a Palitsrael or such is just not feasible.
    Arguments abound, of course, and I don’t know whether it’s worth reciting them and arguing back and forth. The danger is of course that some folks start interjecting emotional outbursts and quote history-this or history-that, etc.
    A distillation of the arguments is indeed possible, at least, as I mentioned, in terms of the practical feasibility of something like that in the next few decades.
    I haven’t answered your question yet, but here goes for an initial attempt (bracing for irrational responses from both sides). Maybe this is worth a separate discussion forum but such forum must start with clearly defined rules of debate to avoid its degeneration into something that’s unhelpful.
    – Rates of population increase are understood by Israelis (Israeli Jews) to lead, within not too long a time frame, to an overwhelming of the Jewish population by the non-Jewish Arab population in such a single-state, and, as a result, creates the fear of an eventual reverse discrimination against the Jews as payback for the past suffering of the Palestinians. This fear is deep and is part of the survival instinct that can be summarized by what is often stated as “Never Again!” Failure to understand this is simply being blind to reality and to history. Regardless of the philosophical arguments that try to deny the rationale behind it, it is a fact; it is a fact on the ground; it cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the military balance of power ensures, for now, that it is not ignored. The Arab countries have tried and failed to impose their view by military force. Anwar Sadat, wisely, concluded that any struggle to impose such will is essentially a war against the U.S.A. and is not winnable, so he made peace. King Hussein did the same. Those who insist otherwise (including Iran) are simply deluded and fanatical.
    – Okay, there are more, many more arguments, but I’m not an expert nor a Harvard PhD in a field of Humanities, so I’ll stop.

    GK and others have articulated nicely what the logical resolution can be (which requires accommodation and sacrifice on both sides). It is a necessary first step. What happens after peace is established should be left to the future generations. Allowing societies and countries to thrive in peace will yield miracles and maybe a single state in the long (very long) run. But it’s not something conceivable now. Again, in my opinion.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 2:27 pm
  70. I find myself agreeing with basically everything you say; but, in my opinion a 2-state solution is neither just or feasible. Not just for obvious reasons (the Palestinians deserve EJ as their capital) and not feasible because of the current Israeli settler situation and sub-par Israeli peace offers, as well as the obvious percieved lack of incentives for peace by the majority of the Israeli population.

    I believe it was AP who p osted that article (5 or 6 posts ago) about the Palestinian supermarket in the West Bank. Sure sometimes tensions rose in the grocery store; but the very fact that they were coexisting is enough proof – to me at least – that a one-state solution is possible. Campaigns spreading awareness of the genetic fact that Jews (I disagree in using this word as though it were a race but whatever) and Palestinians are truly brothers.

    I believe Palestrael/Israestine can become a reality someday, and it truly would be the greatest thing to ever happen to mankind. Maybe this romantic aspect of it clouds my judgement, I hope not. I pray & believe this is the path we’re on.

    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 3:09 pm
  71. Meant to say: **Campaigns spreading awareness of the genetic fact that Jews (I disagree in using this word as though it were a race but whatever) and Palestinians are truly brothers could make 1 state closer to reality.**

    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 3:15 pm
  72. The Lebanese and Syrians are much more closely genetically related than the Jews and Palestinians. I think a campaign to make people aware of this is needed so that finally Syria and Lebanon will become one country. I don’t know if it would be the greatest thing that ever happened to mankind, but it will certainly bring more stability to the region and Wiam Wahhab will finally shut up which is the greatest thing that could happen to mankind.

    Posted by AIG | August 27, 2010, 3:23 pm
  73. I also want to say that I realize the supermarket is just a microcosm of what Israestine would be, and that in reality things would be much more complicated. But I’m sure there are many areas throughout EJ and the West Bank where Palestinians and Israelis are coexisting peacefully. Recall how quiet the West Bank has been lately. Now, I suppose that could be because of an increase in the Palestinian security forces (collaborators :), but peaceful resistance is now very mainstream among Palestinians and is gaining steam all the time. Peaceful resistance obviously hurts Israel a thousand fold over violent resistance, draws condemnation upon Israel from the international community, and….. I was about to say pushes the agenda for a one state resolution but I’m not so sure this is the case – because i’ve always felt that whatever increases the stubbornness of settlers makes the reality of a one-state solution nearer. I know this post is just a bunch of thoughts scrambled together but hey, I’m on a roadtrip and testing my new iPhone 4G!!

    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 3:43 pm
  74. AIG, DON’T get me started!!

    You’re smart and you know what you’re doing in your post. Given that I basically argued against a one-state solution, at least in the short term, even though your post is aimed in a (oh so powerful) allusion type argument against those arguing FOR the one-state solution, still you know very well how it raises the hair of at least some Lebanese. Now, I won’t refuse the fact that, with time, this too may come to pass (Syrbanon or Lebria or something like that), but not now and not any time soon – either.

    And hey, the argument that it’s the same people in Lebanon and Syria is not fully settled (even though I myself have relatives in Syria, my father (God rest his soul) was born in Damascus [from an Armenian/Tukish father and a Syrian mother] and my mother (God rest her soul) was Lebanese, and so I would be a good example of a “one people”). First part of what drove me out of Lebanon is the Lebanon civil war, but more importantly, part of what motivated me to stay away is the fact that from 1990 to 2005 Lebanon was essentially a Syrian colony and we (a subset of expatriates) resented that and did not want to go back to it and so laid roots elsewhere. Second, remember that there’s a decent fraction of Lebanese who claim — with some acknowledgement from scholars — Phoenician ancestry, quite different from Syrian ancestry.

    Anyways, we have to recognize that Nasser V’s expression of the context of a single-state (in Palestine/Israel) is well articulated and he does concede its short-term difficulty. He and others also correctly point to the difficulties ahead for a two-state solutions. On the other hand, I am of the belief that the difficult choices that need to be made by Israel will be made (as I think you, AIG, believe as well), if, and only if, an ironclad perfect guarantee is obtained that it will not be a first step towards the elimination of the Jewish character of Israel. As part of this, I don’t expect, and the facts bear this, that Israel will announce ahead of time what it’s willing to do. The sacrifices needed to achieve peace with Egypt were significant at the time in Israel. And they happened. The same will happen here. Me thinks.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 3:47 pm
  75. Nasser V: “Peaceful resistance obviously hurts Israel a thousand fold over violent resistance, draws condemnation upon Israel from the international community”

    Except that I wouldn’t necessarily say “hurts” Israel. On the contrary. It helps everyone and every country, because once the arguments are laid out in a logical manner with reference to fundamental human rights and a commitment to real peace and a rejection of fanaticism and terrorism, then prospects for a just peace become closer and public opinion in Israel shifts towards accepting the land-for-peace swaps and other accommodations required.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 3:50 pm
  76. Okay, even though we Lebanese (at least some Lebanese and some of Lebanese origins) make jokes about Syrians (no offense puhleez) like the Americans make jokes about the Poles and like the French make jokes about the Belgians, I will say this:
    The day that separation of church and state becomes part of the constitution in both Syria and Lebanon, and full democracy with one man one vote is guaranteed in both countries, civil marriage is instituted, and measures against any religious involvement in government are put in the constitution, and this lasts for 25 years and a new generation has lived under it, adopted, and proven how it leads to prosperity, that day I’ll be the first to sing the praises of unification of the 2 countries.
    Dream on…
    The first step before any of this happens is the emergence of Islam 2.0 (in the nomenclature of Thomas Friedman). How long is this going to take?
    I’m not saying any of this will take forever, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. Any talk of a single-state solution in Palestine/Israel or of a Syria-Lebanon unification is premature by several decades.

    And let’s give it to AIG. He inserted a short post which ended up generating arguments in his favor. AIG stands for Another Inventive Guy.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 4:02 pm
  77. Why do you accept the emergence of “Islam 2.0” as fact? Wasn’t that AIG’s theory, or are you humoring him?

    AIG – You could say the same thing about half the countries in the world that were once colonized. As you know, the boundaries are mostly all arbitrary. The difference here is that the vast majority of those countries aren’t locked in a bloody perpetual conflict rooted in apartheid. Not sure why I’m arguing tho, it’s not like I didn’t recognize the aim of your post.

    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 5:15 pm
  78. AIG said “Wiam Wahhab will finally shut up which is the greatest thing that could happen to mankind.”




    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 27, 2010, 5:28 pm
  79. HP, NasserV,

    The point AIG was making is simply in agreement with HP’s post 270 re: the one state solution.

    Basically, the HP’s point is that a one state solution for Israel/Palestine is a great thing to aspire to, but will remain a pipe dream for at least one or two more generations after any kind of peace is signed, because of the fear (rational or otherwise) of a group (regardless of their genes) about being oppressed by a majority (in this case, Jews, being oppressed by a non-Jewish majority). Fears like that are often irrational and primal, no matter what logical argument you may make for the benefits of a one-state solution, or what genetic studies you bandy around.

    The same exact logic applies to Lebanon/Syria, and that was AIG’s point. Lebanese and Syrians may both be arabs, may both be majority muslims, and all that…So in theory, there is every rational reason for a one-state “Greater Syria/Lebanon”. But just look at HP’s reaction in post 275. Lebanese mistrust and fear Syria because of the recent past and will never accept such a union (not in our lifetimes).
    That’s the exact same reaction you will get from most Israelis at the mention of a one state solution.

    So, let’s get our feet back on the ground and talk reality…There will be 2 states: Lebanon and Syria, for the foreseeable future. And there will be 2 states Israel and Palestine, for the foreseeable future.
    The question now is how do we get these 4 entities to all coexist in peace and prosperity. That’s a daunting enough task as it is without the talk of one-state solutions.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 27, 2010, 5:39 pm
  80. The “Islam 2.0” expression was coined, I believe, by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman (www.thomaslfriedman.com) somewhere around 2005 or so, although I can’t seem to find the reference to it at this moment. I’ve often used this expression to denote, borrowing from Friedman, the evolution of Islam beyond the frozen interpretations of the 12th century. What I did find is another article by Friedman which maybe has some similarities to what he then later (or contemporaneously) expressed, perhaps in an interview on NPR or maybe in another column/article that I’m unable to find now:


    The expression seems to have been used more recently (2009) in what seems like a religious book about Islam: http://www.islamctr.org/islam2.0.asp

    It is not meant to be disrespectful in any way but rather a comment on how Christianity and Judaism have evolved in their interpretation to somewhat adapt to the times (at least by some of their sects) whereas Islam has not done so, at least not nearly to the same extent.

    To me, Islam 2.0 is represented by the devout friends I have who condemn terrorism, reject the killing of innocents or even of oneself as anti-Islam, and show, not by rhetoric nor by preaching, but by their behavior and action, how admirable a muslim can be in terms of self-discipline, honesty, modesty, charity, and all the myriad qualities that a true practice of Islam engender.

    It is also represented by the more modern folks who are less religious but still adhere to the principles of honesty and self-discipline and pursuit of education that Islam also guides a person towards. There was a time when muslim scientists preserved the world culture, innovated, and led the scientific world. Recapturing those times is also part of what I think of as Islam 2.0

    Voila,… maybe the reference I’m using is subject to misinterpretation but above is what I mean.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 5:47 pm
  81. The “Islam 2.0″ expression was coined, I believe, by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman (www.thomaslfriedman.com) somewhere around 2005 or so, although I can’t seem to find the reference to it at this moment. I’ve often used this expression to denote, borrowing from Friedman, the evolution of Islam beyond the frozen interpretations of the 12th century. What I did find is another article by Friedman which maybe has some similarities to what he then later (or contemporaneously) expressed, perhaps in an interview on NPR or maybe in another column/article that I’m unable to find now:


    The expression seems to have been used more recently (2009) in what seems like a religious book about Islam (Google islam 2.0 and the book pops out or search for it under Amazon.com)

    It is not meant to be disrespectful in any way but rather a comment on how Christianity and Judaism have evolved in their interpretation to somewhat adapt to the times (at least by some of their sects) whereas Islam has not done so, at least not nearly to the same extent.

    To me, Islam 2.0 is represented by the devout friends I have who condemn terrorism, reject the killing of innocents or even of oneself as anti-Islam, and show, not by rhetoric nor by preaching, but by their behavior and action, how admirable a muslim can be in terms of self-discipline, honesty, modesty, charity, and all the myriad qualities that a true practice of Islam engender.

    It is also represented by the more modern folks who are less religious but still adhere to the principles of honesty and self-discipline and pursuit of education that Islam also guides a person towards. There was a time when muslim scientists preserved the world culture, innovated, and led the scientific world. Recapturing those times is also part of what I think of as Islam 2.0

    Voila,… maybe the reference I’m using is subject to misinterpretation but above is what I mean.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 5:52 pm
  82. BV was there some kind of hidden code in aig’s post that allowed you to decode all that information?

    It is not a point and there is no logic to it: Syria and Lebanon are not murdering each other. Israel and Palestine are, so they can deal. However, aside from that, the one state solution would be democratic of course. Those fears of discrimination by the majority would be felt by both sides, but it can be combatted through public awareness (it’s the only way as I see it). You say a two state solution must come first before one state can be formed, but how can that come about when every Israeli action on the ground pushes for unification? It will not happen, and once everyone is fed up with the bloodshed, one state will be formed.

    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 5:57 pm
  83. BV, we get it, believe me. Hence the praise for AIG’s genius.
    This is true most of the time of AIG. When it’s not I get into a (friendly) fight with him.

    I also have the sneaky feeling that if folks who contribute to this blog were all that was needed to move things forward, peace (and prosperity) would have happened a loooong time ago. Problem is the extremists on both sides and we get into fights here when one of us starts to defend or otherwise praise or justify the extremists’ positions.


    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 5:59 pm
  84. Thanks HP, I was just a little curious.

    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 6:01 pm
  85. Nasser V, in principle you are right, but reality is unfortunately different. Primal fear – as described by BV is real and present. It will take time to dissipate. It has a very long “time constant” and there is no way to “sharpen the pulse.”
    Sorry for the tech-nerdy expressions. Readers who can picture this stuff will appreciate the clarity of the statement.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 27, 2010, 6:01 pm
  86. It will take a while for the paranoia to dissipate, I just highly doubt peace or a two state solution will come first.

    Posted by Nasser V | August 27, 2010, 6:07 pm
  87. Nasser V,

    AIG’s statement was not very hard to decode. Telling 2 very distinct people (Israelis and Palestinians) that their best bet is a one-state solution is real easy for you to do from the outside. But neither of them can even conceive of that at this point in time, any more than Lebanese and Syrians can conceive of a union (or France and Germany, for that matter).

    Speaking of France and Germany, and the EU in general. I still think that the idea of a EU-like entity in the Middle East is the way forward.
    Obviously, this would not be possible until after some kind of peaceful settlement is reached. But putting oneself a few decades in the future, and assuming (for the purposes of this exercise) that some kind of peace is made, I think Israel and Palestine would be best served in having some kind of dual-state system that preserves their national identities while providing each with the perks of a joint economy and so on.
    The same can be said of various Arab countries.
    Culminating, in fact, with a EU-like Middle East (Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, etc.)

    Of course we are a LONG ways away from that.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | August 27, 2010, 7:40 pm
  88. AIG,

    Some people argue that if you don’t reach a two-state solution, then Israel would be in danger of evolving into a binational state, apartheid or not, specially with the Jewish settlements (or colonies, as some of your foes prefer to call them 😉 ) keep growing. Do you have anything to say about that?

    Posted by Badr | August 28, 2010, 5:14 am
  89. I thing that the two state solution is immposible,as long as the hate between the two sides exist there will be no hope for the soulotion,I love lebanon but I’m tired of the
    idea that many groups have more weopens than the lebanese army,Ipray for a soulotion to the palastinians but not at an expence to the lebanese people,we had enough violence,for our kids’s sake let’s get a long.

    sincerely george

    Posted by george zorab | August 28, 2010, 2:06 pm
  90. Badr,

    Look at what happened with Gaza and learn. The lesson is complex but once you really understand the players and dynamics of what happened in Gaza (on both sides), you will have gained great insight into what may happen if there is no two state solution. For whom is the situation worse? That is also part of the lesson. Hint: No Palestinian with real understanding of Israelis and Palestinians will ever give up on the two state solution.

    Posted by AIG | August 28, 2010, 4:06 pm
  91. AIG,

    I’m not arguing who will lose more, if a two-state solution is not reached. But nonetheless, you’ve not made it clear what you think of the statement in my last comment. I’m not sure whether the consequence for Israel would materialize or not.

    Posted by Badr | August 29, 2010, 5:08 am
  92. Badr, again, I don’t speak for AIG but I do remember earlier discussions covering this point and my recollection is that the point made at the time is that Israel is confident that with the measures it has taken and continue to take in controlling in-flows from the occupied territories (the wall, withdrawal from Gaza), encouraging in-flows from worldwide Jews wishing to do Aliay (evidence abounds), and instituting measures to develop and encourage the economic progress of its Arab population, there is no danger of any diminution (not to mention disappearance) of the Jewish character and nature of Israel if the status quo were to continue.
    AIG makes the point, probably correctly, that they will be OK with the status quo, although a two-state solution is preferable.

    I’m familiar with the argument that without a solution of some kind, the Jewish percentage will diminish within Israel to the point of eventual disappearance. I suggested the point also at various times to gauge the response. And the response was what I relate above, albeit in my own words, which may not reflect fully the reasoning but captures, I think its essence.

    OK, now that I posed the question in a more elaborate way, I’m sure we’re all eager to hear AIG’s comments (or restatement) of his views on this.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 29, 2010, 9:08 am
  93. sorry for the typo — that is aliya

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 29, 2010, 9:09 am
  94. Two state solution is the only solution. Even if More and more Jews will come to Israel.

    For example Israel is now flooded by Jews from France who have created an unblivable real estate boom. In north Tel Aviv you hear French as in Lebanon or even more. So Jews are comming to Israel.

    Still, if there will be no Palestinan state, even with a clear Jewish majority, the friction between the two population will increase, it is not a good way to live.

    Two states is the only way to assure some kind of humane future for both population. That is why the enemies of peace from both sides are fighting this option.

    Strange, the powers who are creating a bloody future for Lebanon: – Syria and Iran are the ones preparing the same for the Israelies and the Palestinians.

    Posted by Rani | August 30, 2010, 1:31 pm
  95. I agree with Rani (not that anyone cares about my opinion ;-)). Still, with this hiatus thingy at QN, it’s Oh So Nice to be able to pontificate most of the time with no challenge. And yes, I’m taking vacation and time off too. Just need my fix of QN-blog. For now.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | August 30, 2010, 3:01 pm
  96. Rani – And the friends of peace are pushing for a two-state solution? Give me a break.

    Posted by Nasser V | August 31, 2010, 10:35 pm
  97. did you hear?

    Michael Young is gay and he has an israeli lover!
    Is this true?

    Posted by g rizk | September 5, 2010, 6:41 pm
  98. G rizk,
    You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You must be assigned to Dantes inner circle of Hell. What an abominable character.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 5, 2010, 6:58 pm
  99. @ g rizk :

    No offense, but you remind me of my concierge – and of the fact that I really hate her.

    I fully agree with Ghassan.
    Who cares about Michael Young’s lover?
    Leave him alone : you’d rather challenge his arguments on a rational basis – if you want to be credible – instead of stupidly trying to humiliate him by being judgmental about his private life.

    Posted by quelqu'une | September 5, 2010, 8:20 pm
  100. # correction :
    in case my dear concierge reads this blog 😉

    It’s not “the fact I really hate her” but the fact that I really hate HER MENTALITY.

    Posted by quelqu'une | September 6, 2010, 5:51 am
  101. Good thing you cleared that up.

    Posted by Nasser V | September 7, 2010, 9:23 am
  102. I am not sure about the view that the Syrian government is more interested in controlling Lebanon than it is in regaining its occupied territory in the Golan.

    For geographic reasons, no Syrian government is going to be disinterested in developments in Lebanon so long as there is a Syrian-Israeli state of aggression – Lebanon is too strategic to the militarily very weak Syrian dicatorship not to pay attention to everything that happens on Lebanese soil.

    But I think it is easy to imagine an Israeli-Syrian agreement over Golan – a demilitarized, UN-monitored transfer back to Syria in return for a full peace agreement like the Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan agreements.

    I think that could happen as Israel and the U.S. governments make preparations for the big war on the Iranian regime.

    Syria, Jordan, Egypt – all those governments have in common no representative institutions and they can deal with Israeli governments.

    Lebanon will be the last government in the Arab League to sign a peace treaty with Israel – and the reason for that is because the Lebanese president and cabinet have to win the endorsement of 51 per cent of the (elected) Members of Parliament.

    That is perhaps 100 years away – it won’t happen until every Christian and Muslim in Hebron and Beit Jallah has the right to vote for the Knesset, freedom to speak and right to assembly etc. – the same rights that their next door “settler” neighbours enjoy i.e. when Israel and its territories cease to legally discriminate against Christians and Muslims in Judea & Samaria, that is when a majority in Lebanon’s parliament will win the confidence of a majority of Lebanese to begin friendly relations with Israel.

    I don’t think it will be in any of our life times!

    Posted by Jean | September 15, 2010, 5:07 am
  103. Jean,

    Forgive my ignorance but since you mention voting rights I’m assuming you know what the rules in Israel are. We read our Israeli contributors here vociferously argue that their democracy does not discriminate and everyone has the same rights. Yes, others claim it’s an apartheid state. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between?

    What would help some of us who are not experts nor heavy readers of the history and politics is if you would state where and what these discriminatory policies are in Israel.

    My question is really one of request for knowledge and does not carry any hidden intention or message whatsoever. Maybe this is better done as an article on this or another blog but a Comment with the information would be just as good. Let’s see what the facts are and we can make our own judgment about whether this is a pure and fair democracy or an apartheid state or somewhere in between with the degree determined by someone having his/her own opinion based on facts.

    Thanks in advance.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 15, 2010, 11:00 am

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