In today’s Asharqalwsat, the columnist Samir Atallah used a quote from the former Lebanese prime minister, and I might add a Sunni, a quote that made me stop to think about writing this posting. Dr. Salim Al-Hos, alumni of Indiana University, was quoted as saying that Lebanon is about lots of freedoms and little democracy. How can any one disagree with that?
Lebanese, like Israelis always brag about their “democracy” and how their respective countries are a light unto other nations. Well, let us not take such statements too seriously otherwise George Bush might get a new ideas about democracy at home, in the US.
The sad facts and in both cases, in Israel and Lebanon, are built around and are “designer” democracy where ethnicity and religious affiliation, sectarian loyalty are at the core of such democracies. We know about the Jewish State and its special and selective democracy, where generals, murderers and criminals rule the country just like a mafia. In Lebanon, it “families” that rule Lebanon and it is the sectarian affiliation that is the basis for such a state. How can both countries, in the 21st century meets the requirements of modern day democracy, where citizenship, its rights and privileges are not based on religious affiliations and ethnicity, but where citizens are equal in the eyes of the law irrespective of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin.
In Israel non-Jews are thirds, perhaps tenth class citizens with rights and privileges are exclusive of Jews and where indigenous people, the “natives” Palestinians are at the mercy of the Jewish state every day of the week, with the possibilities of losing their property and land if not their lives to trigger happy and new Jewish immigrants.
Lebanon was and will always remain, a sectarian state, where citizenship and its rights and privileges are always defined by ‘religious affiliation” or “taifa”, not simply with the birthright. Where loyalties even among the most educated belong to the leadership of the “taifa” and not to the state. Lebanon is also most famous for its “families” like the Jumblat, Shamoun, Jemael, Arsalan, Asa’ad, Frenjeih and recently Harriri. So far Sayed Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri did not try to build a ‘dynasty” where the mantle of power and authority is passed on from father to son irrespective of competence.
For a long time there was a collusion between the Maronite Christians and their Beiruti Sunnis where political and economic powers where shared between these two groups. The late Rafiq Al-Hariri changed all that being the son of Said and not Beirut. Lebanon is also the country, with the support of the late Hafiz Assad that appointed a criminal and mass murderer of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla as a minister. Also in Lebanon, leaders of militias responsible for the murder and killings of hundreds of thousands are the rulers and decision makers in the country, and where those responsible for the disappearance of tens of thousands roam free and are considered ‘socialites” invited to the best of restaurants and to national debates that determine the future of the nation.
Perhaps what Lebanon needs more of, is democracy to match its freedoms. Yes, there are lots of personal and social freedoms, but the most basic freedoms of all, the rights and privileges of citizens are dictated by old and rotten ideas of sectarian affiliations. Of course, unless and until such time, Lebanon gets over its “sectarian burden” Lebanon and its people will never be free and democratic. Of course Israel is a mental “Jewish” case and the only solution for Israel and its sectarian democracy is a one state solution, only then can the Jews reclaim the long stated phrase “a light unto other nations”. The only light now is the one coming from a tank and an F-16 killing and murdering people.