Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Displaced and returnees, the saga continues – 1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/10/2006

“The bells will soon ring again in Kfarmatta, Abey et Brih” said Druze leader Walid Jumblatt from the front steps of the Maronite Patriarchal seat. He followed this statement with an open criticism against the FPM saying that some parties act as if the reconciliation of 2001 had not happened.

Here is an English translation of what he actually told the Lebanese journalists there:

“I’ve come here to reaffirm this historic relation and remind those who pretend to forget August 4th and 5th, Patriarch Sfeir’s visit to the ‘Mountain’. With him, we have consolidated the historic reconciliation in the ‘Mountain’. All bells had rung on that occasion, and shall soon, God willing, ring again in Kfarmatta, Abey and Brih, with the help of the Lebanese State and the divine blessing, the true one, of Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir” (Orient Le Jour, October 17th).

This extract is very interesting because it shows the way political actors deal with “Reconciliation”, history and geography.Reconciliation is seen as a ceremony that unites the representatives of the two communities that had battled: the Druze and the Christians (here reduced to the Maronites although Christians belonging to other denominations were equally expelled or killed and their churches, convents and cemeteries destroyed in the Shouf in 1983). As for the representative, there is a politician/former warlord, on one side (who actually gave the orders to kill, plunder and expel) and the head of a church on the other. And they are both considered representatives of their communities. Even though there are no representatives of communities in Lebanon. The Patriarch is the head of the Maronite church, not the political representative of the Maronites (even though the ruling coalition treats him as such) and Walid Jumblatt is an MP with three representatives in government, and even though he considers himself to be the representative of the Druze and is recognised as such by the ruling coalition of which he is part, there are no official representatives of communities in Lebanon.We notice that history is mentioned twice, and both times in relation to the speaker and his political and spiritual partner, who in other words makes history. The Patriarch’s visit to the Shouf following Jumblatt’s invitation in 2001 is considered as historic, and so is the relation linking Jumblatt and the Patriarch. In both cases, we find no explanation on why they are historic, what makes them historic other than the fact that they are done by two “leaders”. Nevertheless they are given (by those participants and the media) a high symbolic value because of the participation of these leaders in the ceremony. This gives it more than a symbolic value. The value is given a metaphysical dimension, and a magical one where words become action, and reconciliation is realised through words pronounced by specific people.

As for geography, Jumblatt refers to the “Mountain” meaning the district of the Chouf, Aley and parts of Baabda and the Metn. This terminology is foreign to the administrative divisions of Lebanon. I think it was introduced by Kamal Jumblatt after he territorialized his power (following the 1958 civil war), marking a region that was defined as Druze (although demographically, they were a minority in all districts except Aley) and it gained political significance when Jumblatt set up an independent government there during the war and banned the Lebanese anthem and flag from it. So it’s rather odd for an MP after the war to use a terminology that is linked to the war (like the word ‘Sharkieh’ and ‘Gharbieh’ used to define the Christian part of Beirut and its suburbs and the Muslim part of Beirut and its suburbs respectively) under the claim that it’s a historical region (although it only serves to hide the real words that define that region and that are clearly associate to it: Druze and Jumblatt).

One Response to “Displaced and returnees, the saga continues – 1”

  1. […] 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 Posted in Politics, Violence, Reconciliation, Pluralism, Lebanon, Political behaviour | […]

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