Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Intercommunal bridging

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/11/2006

chartouni.jpgSamir Chartouni, Pierre Gemayel’s bodyguard shot dead on Tuesday, was brought back to his native village of Chartoun (in the Aley region) for his burial. The convoy that transported him was stopped in Aley by PSP militants, who took his coffin draped in the Kataeb flag, and carried it on their shoulders to Chartoun. The image was quite striking because these two parties had fought each others in 1983 and the war that ensued resulted in ethnic clensing and the expulsion of the Christians of Chartoun by the Druze militia (PSP) that attacked them from Aley.

This image seems to translate the intercommunal reconciliation that Walid Joumblatt mentions so often: Druze and Christians, PSP and Kataeb, comming together, accepting one others, admitting their political differences and uniting nevertheless.

But how does that reconciliation operate? How can one explain that Druze villagers and PSP partisans accept to carry a coffin wrapped in a Kataeb flag, the symbol of their ‘traditionnal ennemy’? Are bygones really bygones? One can only hope that they are, but it seems quite unlikely.

One must keep in mind that the reconciliation process was State funded and Zaïm operated. No tribunal or commission was set up to estimate the damages incured by the ‘displaced’, and the authority that was incharge of the file chose a very personalised manner to conduct the process. Instead of working on indivudual bases, it decided to operate on collective ones, village by village, through a ceremony in which the reconciliation was solemnly declared.

One must keep in mind that the reconciliation process was State funded and Zaïm operated. No tribunal or commission was set up to estimate the damages incurred by the ‘displaced’, and the authority that was in charge of the file chose a exceedingly personalised manner to conduct the process. Instead of working on individual bases, it decided to operate on collective ones, village by village, through a ceremony in which the reconciliation was solemnly declared. Through this means, the returnees who had been ethnically cleansed out of the region, and their former foes (who had participated in their expulsion, or profited from it).
Through this mean, the populations of the areas that suffered the displacement were not given ownership of the process. This was left in the hands of their political leader. It is true that the two communities are brought together, but through the mediation of a Zaïm in the beginning, and then several. In other words, a distance is kept between the two communities so that the Zaïm could keep on “bridging” them together. But what happens when he decides to break with one community? Would the flock that he controls through varried means keep the ties or follow him?

For other writings on the national reconciliation debate in Lebanon:
Displaced and returnees, the saga continues – 1
October 17th, 2006
Displaced and returnees, the saga continues – 2
October 24th, 2006

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