Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Why isn’t Mitchell on our side?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/05/2010

Please excuse me for sounding childish, but I’ve been around a lot of children lately and their influence is starting to show on me! And so I ask myself and I ask you. Why isn’t George Mitchell on our side. You’ve certainly noticed the US’ envoy to the Middle East criss cross the region trying to rekindle the flames of peace. And you undoubtedly know that Mitchell is of Lebanese descent. His mother was born in the southern tip of Mount Lebanon, and his adoptive father seems to have  also been Lebanese. The former Senator from Maine was raised a Maronite and served in a Diasporic Lebanese catholic church as an Alter boy; St Joseph Church in Waterville is attended by some 150 Lebanese families. So objectively, his ties with Lebanon are very much there. However, it doesn’t seem to influence much his approach to peace in the Middle East. He doesn’t speak much of Lebanon’s interests and I believe Beirut is the capital he has visited the least in the region. Why is that so? and can anything be done about it? Maybe you can help me answer these two questions. I can’t help but think of another person who held the same post as Mitchell a couple of years back: Dennis Ross. Dennis Ross was raised in a secular atmosphere with a non religious yet religiously diverse family but became religiously Jewish after the 6 day war. He never hid his zionist leanings and now works in a think-tank financed and operated by the Jewish Agency. The contrast between the two men is striking, don’t you think.

Can Mitchell defend Lebanese interests?

Now this is a difficult question. I don’t see why in theory he cannot do it. Didn’t Dennis Ross defend Israeli interests saying that they coincided with American interests. But when we look at the practicality of that defense we notice huge difficulties.

  1. What are Lebanese interests? No higher authority has ever defined Lebanese interests. Actually, one had… President Chamoun in the late 1950s, and President Frangieh in the early 1970s but on both occasions hell broke loose. After the first occasion, the Lebanese neutrality doctrine was established. If you look into it, you will undoubtedly find better adapted qualifications for that foreign policy doctrine (such as passive, incoherent, vacuous, fearful… and not really neutral: the state is directly envolved in the most destructive regional conflict and serves mostly as a willing punching ball or a coy catalyst). It seems impossible to define Lebanese national interests and even more difficult to determine what authority determine it. So how can George Mitchell defend something that isn’t even determined?
  2. Who promotes Lebanese Interests? The answer is rather simple: No one! A quick comparison with the israeli case is quite revealing: IPAC, the Jewish Agency, the Israeli government and the Israeli security apparatus all contribute in defining and promoting “Israel’s interets”. This is made simple by the fact that they invest much time and ressources in conflating Israeli and Jewish interests, and do it quite convincingly. Now if you look at the Lebanese picture, things appear much murkier (and messy).
    • On one side, one finds five strong communal perspectives (Christian, Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Armenian) supported by influential organisations. Each communal perspective has its own definition of both communal and national interests. These five perspectives are distinct but not necessarily contradictory. These different perspective influence both communal and cross-communal figures and spaces, be they local or diasporic.
    • On the other side, one finds state institutions that still haven’t found a way to cope with this diversity and put it to its service, and a political class and consciousness more interested in political bickering and winning in a zero-sum game.
  3. Can anything be done about it? Maybe you can help me out on that.

5 Responses to “Why isn’t Mitchell on our side?”

  1. Probably American Policy towards the Middle East will simply always be pro-Israeli, whether Georges Mitchell or Georges Castanza.

    Also, if there is a clear Lebanese Interest – Is Not be a battle ground for others. I think that would be a great start.

    • Pourquoi ce fatalisme Jester?
      If the American Policy toward the Middle East is pro-Israeli, it is the result of four voluntaristic elements (that are usually subsumed by one word “the ‘Jewish’ lobby”.
      – a clear definition of Israeli interests.
      – a strategy to advance these interests through mobilisation, persuasion, pressure.
      – a strategy to articulate or translate these interests with American interests (or at least give the impression that they are bound or identical).
      – mobilisation of ressources to implement these strategies.

      Instead of being fatalistic about it, I think it is more important to study how this is done and learn from it. The zionist groups have been very successful up to now, and one should really look into the reasons of this success and highlight its “mechanics” and “dynamics”. This being said, things are starting to change. There is no longer a clear definition of Israeli interests (one can already speak of two definitions: one made by the Israeli security complex, and one made by Diasporic jewish elites). This dissonance effects the definition and the implementation of the two strategies. I personally believe that we are entering a third period in Zionist history. At first, the zionist movement was a marginal jewish movement, far behind the isolationist and the assimilationist movements. After Nazism destroyed the foundations of the other two movements (with its segregationist and then genocidal policies), Zionism became hegemonic and monophonic to such an extend that what remained of the two other movements mostly integrated Zionist structures. Today, we are entering a new stage, one in which Zionism is becoming polyphonic, and in which one finds four distinct voices: the religious voice, the secular voice, the integrationist voice and the exceptionalist voice. And in such a context the Israeli security complex cannot operate like it did before. It has to deal with an increasing number of dissenting voices that are not only vocal, but also heard in both jewish and non jewish circles.

  2. lirun said

    hey brother

    interesting.. i had no idea he was a leb.. its funny how minority members act when empowered.. some carry a cross and others diminish their affiliation.. israel has almost forgotten about ram emanuel.. maybe its a similar case..

  3. lirun said

    please write.. your voice is needed

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