Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Futility and Hope

Few people understand the Lebanese. t galls many how we can call for democracy and freedom while at the same time cowering in front of Hezb and the liberated “Hero” of the “resistance”.

The many paradoxes of Lebanon were indeed laid bare for all the world to see, and few understood us. It is however rather simple; we have to constantly reconcile our real aspirations with the realities of a tough neighbourhood.

The needs of RealPolitik...

Lest we forget, we are a weak country stuck in a tough neighbourhood, with powerful neighbours led by greedy clans. I am convinced most Syrians and most Israelis want peace. However, their respective leaderships are driving them to war.

Syria does not recognize us and continues to snatch away at our little piece of the Levant.

The Syrians are given little choice; through brutality and intimidation, they are dictated by an uncompromising mafia clique. All the ambition that went into an otherwise grand ambition for the establishment Greater Syria has been reduced to secure the survival of a parasitic regime.

Israel does not recognize the Palestinians, and continues to snatch away at their little piece of Palestine.

The Israelis give themselves little choice; through fear and misinformation, they are manipulated by an uncompromising paranoid political class. All the ingenuity that went into an otherwise grand ambition to “make the desert bloom” has been diverted to colonize an already inhabited “Judea and Samaria”.

Renan’s Lebanon

But the neighbourhood is only half the story.

Yes, we Lebanese are not without fault. Many of our politicians allied with those foreign powers to perpetuate their local prerogatives, often switching sides, but never taking Lebanon’s. But all this crassness and greatness are together mixed in the same national crucible. As the perceptive Ernest Renan once put it (H/T BeO);

My Dear Friend,

If you want to see a nature whose charms can be equaled nowhere, a wonderful sea, an incomparable sky, the most beautiful mountains of the world, a hideous race in whose midst emerges the most wonderful types, a society which has reached the lowest level of disorganization that one can reach before regressing back to savagery, come here.

The shorter version; we’re FUBAR beyond repair, fodder for Lebanese comedians. Yes, we wasted a historic opportunity.

But it doesn't mean we will not get (yet another) chance.

Quod Erat Faciendum

So, there’s no sense crying after spilled عيان; this Cedar Revolution has run its course, and another thing will come along to get us out of this mess.

In the immediate, we now have to contend with the changed regional realities, and wait. Either the interests of bigger (but not greater) powers are realigned with ours, or our “current” enemies will make a mistake.

We’ve been lucky before. I am confident we’ll be lucky again. But our only option now is to wait this storm out, till better climes come. And they will Better times will come.

It may be a year, or it may be more. Some of us will leave, other will stay.

But all of us will remain.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jeha, yes Lebanon lives in a tough neighborhood. But so does Israel. in 1948 Israel and Lebanon were on somewhat same footing with Lebanon having a distinct advantage.

In 60 years Israel has built a democracy that can provide its citizens a Western European standard of living.

Lebanon could easily have done the same and it would have been just as strong as Israel or maybe stronger. The reason this did not happen is SOLELY the responsibility of the Lebanese. No one else. The Syrians were just as much against Israel as against Lebanon and Israel had to fight ALL the Arab countries.

Jeha said...

To: LaPoutre
Signed: LaPaille

You have a point. But you're not completely right.

Yes, Israel was fighting ALL the Arabs. But this sad tango had two dancers, and there's plenty of blame to go around all... And Yes, Lebanon had a few distinct advantages. It still does have a few, since, at least, we're upfront about our own society's sectarianism. Not that it's much to be proud of, but at least we're past the "Denial" stage, unlike ALL our neighbours.

But it is worth nothing that, whatever the copious local blame, Lebanon's woes also reflect the deeper, lingering Arab disease. Yes, our stupidity makes it worse, but there is much evidence of Israel adding fuel to the fire, especially by playing the Syrian card. I have cited some recent activities, and now there's AIPAC "affiliate" singing along.

As I pointed out above (and many times before, often to the ire of my fellow Lebanese), we Lebanese are no angels. But we're no devils either. The same applies to Israel.

So, take a good look in the mirror before you even think you can presume to lecture us.

Doodad said...

Lebanon's biggest problem right now is the swelled head it has gotten from all its "divine victories." The mouse that roars.

Ecce Libanus said...

Jeha, Fouad AjamiFouad Ajami seems to have a different, less somber, reading. Granted he hasn't been on the money a whole lot lately--perhaps even not at all. Should we still listen??

and btw, Renan's letter needs to be read in its entirety, and placed in its historical context. What he was saying to his editor was not exactly what you and BO made it out to be.

Nobody said...

The Israelis give themselves little choice; through fear and misinformation, they are manipulated by an uncompromising paranoid political class. All the ingenuity that went into an otherwise grand ambition to “make the desert bloom” has been diverted to colonize an already inhabited “Judea and Samaria”.

You seem to be a follower of that school of thought that holds that at birth all people possess that inherently pure and uncontaminated buddha nature that makes them naturally cosmopolitan, loving and sharing creatures. Given the incredibly strong internal urge experienced by human creatures towards turning their lives into totally selfless and altruistic enterprises for the sake of other human beings, it's absolutely unlikely that on their own wars, ethnic conflicts and other shit can be produced. So, reasons that school of thought, the intervention of dark forces: elites, big oil, economic interests, is absolutely required to create such a mess. Otherwise humanity tends naturally to slip into its natural condition of spontaneous communism.

Without dwelling on the more general aspects of this line of thinking, it should be enough to mention that during Oslo Shimon Peres has succeeded to sway an absolutely disproportionate share of Israeli intellectual elites, political class and even general public with his concept of the new Middle East which he envisioned as a sort of a regional European Union without WMDs, borders and other stuff, of which Oslo was supposed to be the first step. My impression was always that ordinary Israelis were by far more skeptical and restrained in their use of imagination than Shimon Peres and co.

Anyway, what dealt a mortal blow to this parade of silliness were not fear and misinformation manipulations by the cunning elites (never mind that the elites seem to have been more affected by this delusional way of thinking than Israeli society as a whole), but the second Intifadah and its particularly brutal campaign of suicide attacks on caffes and buses. As Tomy Lapid has once correctly noticed, during the second Intifadah the Palestinians have broken the back of the Israeli left.

Those Israelis who still remained skeptical could then watch Iraq to understand that suicide attacks and other savagery practiced in the Arab world have little to do with occupation, colonialism and discrimination but are a part of parcel of the cultural legacy of the region and the Arab nation that dominates it.

As to those Israelis who kept fancying themselves with the possibility of existence of pockets of sanity in some corners of the region, those had their illusions put to rest by the latest show in Beirut.

crazyman in nyc said...

The second Intifadah may have done a number on the israeli left but what really killed most of them and "proved" that they were wrong was the Gaza experiment.

Yes, their should have been more negotiations with the Palestinians. Would that have made the gaza experiment any more successful? What is really happening currently in Gaza. There is not much written about the current Gaza politics in english. Why does it mostly seem to be coming from a Chinese website and seems to be pretty biased against Israel?

Anonymous said...

To: LaPaille
Signed: LaPoutre

I am not lecturing you, just objecting to how you partition blame to Israel for Lebanon's situation.

Israel is not an angel but it started in worse condition than Lebanon in 1948 and now it is a democracy and and on average its citizens are 6 to 7 times richer than the Lebanese.

Call us sectarian (based on what? Are there quotas for Ashkenazi Jews) or whatever you want. What does it matter? We have many flaws. What matters is that Israel is an established liberal democracy with a high standard of living, and Lebanon could have been the same and in fact had many advantages over Israel that it did not exploit.

Syria is such a brittle and corrupt country that Lebanon could have easily put Syria in its place.

I have no idea why Lebanon failed and how to fix it. Therefore I would never lecture you. But the success of Israel proves that it is not the neigborhood that is the problem.

Anonymous said...

Hazbani commnting.
About the Israelies on this blog. Why dont you listen to J.? The greatest danger to Israel is a multi cultural multi national state. A question : if the Arabs are so bad why do you want so much to live in an Arab Israel? if not next year than in twenty. The settling of the whole whole and even more whole sacred land is 100% Isreli idea no Israeli can blame any body for this foly but Israel. So when an Israeli is blaming all the Arabs including the poor Iraqies for the situation in Palestine/Israel I feel like J. that this Israeli should go and get a mirror. I am a 100% zionist and my family have been here in the ME since times immemorial and the wisdom of Zionism was that when an Arab be it J. or alpha or omega tell things as they are we should listen and learn and not preach sanctimonial sermons.

Nobody said...

Anonymous said...

Hazbani commnting.
About the Israelies on this blog. Why dont you listen to J.? The greatest danger to Israel is a multi cultural multi national state. A question : if the Arabs are so bad why do you want so much to live in an Arab Israel? if not next year than in twenty. The settling of the whole whole and even more whole sacred land is 100% Isreli idea no Israeli can blame any body for this foly but Israel.


Dunno about other Israelis posting here, but I would agree with what you are saying. But the point Jeha is making is much more than this. Basically he is trying to embellish the M14 movement (even though he says he is not) and to blame everybody from US to France to Israel for its failure.

The fact of the matter is that probably no other political movement in the Arab world has ever elicited so much sympathy and readiness to help in the West. In fact I am sure that at the peak of the neo conservative drive the US could have been even persuaded to send marines in to fight a war of independence for Lebanon.

Actually most of this sympathy was undeserved and there was a lot of confusion and misconceptions in the West and Israel about the real nature of the M14. As far as I can see now it was all hopeless from the beginning because M14 happened to be a motley crew of all sorts of forces, a great part of which were driven by some sectarian anti Shi'te, anti Allawite and anti Syrian sentiments. These sentiments are hard to fathom for an average non Lebanese outsider but their presence is damn too obvious for anybody who tried to read Lebanese media and blogsphere.

Many outsiders have been persistently confusing this regular Middle Eastern sectarianism of the bulk of M14 supporters with something else, mainly with their presumed pro Western orientation in the form of support for modern free market democracy. The truth, as I see it now, is that M14 had tried to be all things for all people, both for its more Westernized supporters and for its more traditional and conservative Sunni support case. As a result it was very ineffective if not paralyzed. It could not be helped because it could not even properly ask for help. Like a duck it was trying to practice several skills at once: to fly, to walk and to swim, and it was doing badly all of them.

Anonymous said...

our only option now is to wait this storm out, till better climes come.

You're gonna build a bomb shelter and hope neither Hezb nor Israel finds out? Pathetic as well as ineffective, but it is a self-serving approach that doubtless salves an otherwise-guilty conscience.

Anonymous said...

we’re FUBAR beyond repair

Yes. And to make omelets you break eggs. Think really hard, Jeha.

- Solomon2

Jeha said...

OK. Cancel the Omelette, then. Unless you really like this restaurant. But I'll pass; their suppliers are less than reputable...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, can't read those links at my current location.

Jeha, there is a way out of the current mess - or at least a path that offers hope - for Lebanon, but you guys really have to break your old habits of thinking first.

- Solomon2

Black Ubuntu said...

Nobody
I think the school of thought you are referring to ("naturally cosmopolitan, loving and sharing creatures") has more to do with Locke and Rousseau than the Buddha. I think that many Westerners read Locke's Tabula Rasa and Rousseau's 'Noble Savage' into Buddha. I met very few pious Buddhists in China/Japan/Thailand who made these sort of assumptions of human nature that Peres and some leftists do.