Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

How to reconcile Lebanon’s mutliple faces

Posted by worriedlebanese on 30/10/2006

That’s what I call a million dollar question. Lucky Janus, he had only to faces to keep up with.

Here are a few of the most dominant (and attractive) faces Lebanon is showing these days. They are obviously clichés, contradictory, questionable in many ways. Each has its negative side (or is seen negatively by the proponents of another face and its audience), but they’re all true, especially when taker together.

Open & diverse society: multicultural, liberal, democratic, cultured, Mediterranean… This attracts a Western audience. It’s strongly promoted by a cultured and cosmopolitan Lebanese diaspora which is envolved in the cultural and intellectual scene with good links to the media. It is mostly based in France and other western cultural capitals (London, New York, Berlin…).

Home of the Resistance: radical, proud, critical, controversial, tough, revolutionary… In the 1970s its two stars were Yasser Arafat and Kamal Jumblatt. Today the role has been taken over by Hassan Nasrallah who has gained the respect and support of a much large audience than the other two. This face appeals to many different kinds of radical groups: antiwestern, islamists, antiglobalisation, radical leftists, ex-communists… 

The Nightclub: free, year-round party, feisty, entertainment oriented, land of leisure and other earthly distractions… This face draws many tourists especially from the Golf area.

Lebanon has obviously other faces, it’s equally creative, dynamic, open to change, conservative, religious, consensualist…

This summer war has shown that these faces can help create a very large international support for Lebanon in the worst of circumstances. The help, assistance and backing the country received and is still receiving owes much to these multiple faces Lebanon has and its communitarian diversity. Would Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Kuwait have helped Lebanon if it didn’t have a strong Sunni community? Would they have assisted the country if it weren’t their elite’s playground? Would they have been able to do so if their countrymen didn’t see in Lebanon the home of the Resistance to America and Israel?
Would Iran have contributed so massively in the reconstruction if Lebanon didn’t have a large Shiite community and if this community wasn’t the promoter of the resistance image?
Would the West have been so favourable to this small country with no resources if it didn’t show such a westernised and cosmopolitan face that is much indebted to its old Christian elite?

Lebanon suffered for a month what the Palestinians have been suffering for months now but benefited from a support that they can only dream of. This is certainly due to the countrie’s multiple faces that brought the support of many different sides. But how can we continue to benefit from this support in times of Peace? How can 

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