Who remembers the decades that preceded the two-year war (1975-1976) in Lebanon?
The forces calling for political and social change at the time were neither few nor unpopular, no matter what kind of change they advocated. These forces have left the shell of a single sect and a single region. This is the case of the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which maintain a presence, albeit unequal, among all sects and all regions.
Other groups calling for an end to sectarianism and its polity that addressed individuals and groups across sectarian lines also emerged in the run-up to the Civil War. The Democratic Party and the Awareness Movement, for example, fall into this category. Even a very Christian party, the Lebanese Kataeb (Falangist) party, saw the emergence of a “youth wing” or “Kataeb left”, which also called for overcoming sectarianism and reforming the political system through development.
These aspirations were not unrelated to the developmentalist bent of Shehabism, which left behind personalities who continued to defend it and see it as the weapon with which sectarianism could be eliminated and reform achieved. Many clubs in the cities as in the countryside, intellectuals, a panoply of cultural initiatives and some social personalities are also part of this wave.
The Lebanon that existed before the outbreak of the Two Years’ War, which we constantly despise – and some of that contempt may be justified – could nevertheless contain all of this.
What happened after 1975-1976? Some of these phenomena have disappeared, while others have contracted. More and more people are returning to their sects and regions of origin. Parties described as secular and non-sectarian have begun their journey to extinction. Many who called for change and were stunned by sectarianism and war lost hope and emigrated.
The reason is simple: weapons, the first source of renewal of sectarian awareness, of broadening its scope and strengthening its effectiveness: fear of the other and the triggering of distant memories of this fear accompany forced displacement and ethnic cleansing, arbitrary bombings and massacres on the basis of identity… All of this has repelled anti-sectarian sentiments and beleaguered the forces that believe or defend these sentiments.
The cruel irony of this painful experience was personified by those who bore arms or called for them as they called for political and social change. But in the end, they are the ones who changed, becoming micro-forces. Subsequently, falling under the wing of this or that security agency became imperative to staying alive. Their trajectory was akin to suicide.
Why evoke this experience today, especially after the last legislative elections? Because many good intentions want to discuss change and the paths to it without discussing weapons.
The last elections, which followed a peaceful revolution, a crushing economic collapse and an explosion of near-nuclear proportions in the port of Beirut, brought young reformists to parliament who did not enter politics through their sect nor sought to emancipate their sect above the others. .
All of this is generally positive, even if it is far less than one would expect after such massive developments.
Nevertheless, two remarks are in order. First, the “law of the two-year war,” so to speak, still applies; that is to say, weapons remain the greatest maker of renewing sectarian consciousness and sharpening it. Second, the ability of weapons to disrupt politics and elections is incomparably greater than the ability of politics and elections to disrupt weapons.
This means that ultimately, sectarian affiliation determining political allegiance can turn the demand for change itself into a sectarian demand, as was the case in 2005 with calls for the dismantling of the security regime, the he opening of an investigation into the assassination of Rafic Hariri and the expulsion of the Syrian army from Lebanon have turned into sectarian demands.
The point is, we can forget Arsenal, but Arsenal can’t forget us. Hezbollah’s position is quite understandable: it can only cover itself with democratic institutions that reject arms on principle, a position that transcends politics and popular will. The party has no choice but to resist the shift of attention to civil and social reform.
Indeed, what Hezbollah’s secretary general said recently about the country having coexisted “with the weapon of resistance for 40 years” is simply untrue. It was a bitter coexistence that came with heavy human and economic costs, the paralysis of the state and constitutional institutions, and minor and major wars in the south and east that preceded and followed July 2006.
It has also created a disparity among the Lebanese in terms of the degree of power they feel they exercise and the rights they feel they enjoy, which was clearly reflected in May 2008. It also established a state, a culture and parallel values and fractured the country’s foreigner. relations, both Arab and international.
Change and weapons will always contradict each other, a fact Hezbollah knows full well, as it constantly proves that it is smarter and more aware than its supporters from the left demanding that it support reform or concern itself with economic issues. and social.
This, however, obviously doesn’t involve supporting suicidal silly decisions like confronting guns with guns. Nevertheless, pacifist naivety should not be the only alternative to suicidal idiocy.