04 December 2006

A Nation Divided Against Itself

In two months and 10 days, Lebanon will certainly commemorate the death of Rafik Hariri, whose assassination marked the beginning of the turmoil that has gripped Lebanon for the past two years. From the beginning, it was assumed that Syria was to blame for Hariri’s death. One month after the assassination, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese descended on Beirut’s central district to express their anger at the Syrian-backed leadership of their country. They called for the immediate withdraw of Syria from Lebanon. With the help of the international community acting through the United Nations, Syrian troops were removed from the country, but their influence lingered. If the UN investigative body is to be believed, Syria’s influence in the country has been evidenced by a steady trail of assassinations spread over the past two years.

Why then, is the current political climate pro-Syrian? Why are there hundreds of thousands of Lebanese demonstrating in favor of the very leadership that was blamed for Hariri’s death? Well, lets not forget the summer’s war. Although the United States was quick to express concern for Lebanon when Syria was seen as the culprit, they turned a blind eye when Israel came knocking. The UN peacekeepers at the boarder did not prevent or intervene in the hostilities. There they were, doing nothing.

So Hezbollah was the closest thing to a defender that the south had. There was every appearance at the beginning that Israel was going to do to Lebanon what it had been doing to Gaza for weeks—strangle, starve, and suffocate. And it didn’t happen. Israel essentially gave up the fight. No wonder Hezbollah has claimed a divine victory. No wonder so many Lebanese see it that way.

But there are many others who don’t. Every day, I see people in number heading downtown to continue the ongoing protests intended to bring down the western-leaning government. And every day, as I walk or drive through the city, I see Lebanese flags hanging from balconies—the sign of those who despite the war are still against Syrian interference.

Recently, the New York Times reviewed an art exhibit here in Lebanon, aimed at identifying what it is to be Lebanese and what their country ought to become. The author observed, “all of the main . . . confessional communities (Christian, Sunni, Shiite, Druse), want a Lebanon united by their definition of what Lebanon should be.” Each sect believes they are the real Lebanon.

The article made some valuable observations on contemporary divisions within the country, and for that it was worth a read. But I’m not sure the art at the center of it would be worth looking at. There were only a few, bad photos of the show and the descriptions given by the author were lifeless.

1 comment:

Dad said...

I used to think that things that appeared this complicated were really more simple if you get just take away all the junk that clouded the main issue but I think this situation is truly complicated and there is no simplicity to it. It is overwhelming and no wonder that the leadership cannot make any sense out of it and a mutual standoff is probably going to be the only realistic option. It would be so easy to just get along but that is not able to happen within these dynamics. Post some easier stuff you are doing too much thinking for this old brain.