Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hassan Nasrallah Superstar

The battle to win sore hearts and minds has gone beyond conventional and confrontational bashing. The latest PR trend tends to sex-up profiles in a Superstar - Groupie type of relationship. Some while ago, the Young Nasrallah photo has been widely circulated echoing a not so subtle 'Che'-ian revolutionary glamour pose. Arab newspapers boasted the politicisation of the 'brands labelling' in the Cairo dates market wich is the equivalent of an Arab 'Top Ten Popularity Charts'. Nasrallah has surely been pleased to know that his name has been given to this year's top date brand, making him the second Lebanese title holder after pop singer Nancy Ajram few years ago.

The 'Abaya appeal' surely contributed in nationalistic fantasies. A widely circulated video clip featured a funky young lebanese woman wishing that she would get hold of Nasrallah's abaya and rub herself with its sweat, and then distribute its pieces to people for some dignity. A serious newspaper article later confirmed that Nasrallah's abaya has been effectively sent this woman. She decided to keep it to herself though but welcomed any viewings by the public.

An improvised attempt to get into the PR race has quickly set in the other camp. An abaya counter-attack was launched by Saad hariri's sympathisers, as they ceremoniously wrapped him in one after his speech. One wonders if he received any fantasizing requests yet. but not to worry, newspapers will surely have updates on similarly vital news!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

'Million bomblets'

Up to a million cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah remain unexploded in southern Lebanon, the UN has said.

Read story on BBC

Monday, September 25, 2006

My 'martyr' is better than yours!

"We don't hide our martyrs. Throughout history, we have not done so."
Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Chief of Hezbollah in an interview to al-Jazzera TV Channel in 20 July 2006

Yesterday Christian Lebanese Forces celebrated its ‘martyrs’ day, a rally that the Christian militia-turned political movement used to organise during its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s until early 1990s while it controlled East Beirut and other Christian regions in Lebanon.

The practice of celebration of martyrdom and martyrs is not unique to one group in Lebanon. Throughout the period of civil war (1975-1990), all militias and political groups had their ‘martyrs’ and had some kind of celebration for them. A major reason was to use the memory of those fallen to show the groups role in the war (or struggle) and to mobilise support. Hezbollah is one of the leading parties to use the concept of martyrdom. Squares, streets and communal places where named after the party’s ‘martyrs’. It is rare not to find a street in South Beirut or in South Lebanon without a mural for Hezbollah’s martyrs. The celebration of martyrs is not only among religion-influenced groups but also a practice among secular political groups. The secular Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) has a long tradition in commemorating its ‘martyrs’ with its unique posters on the walls of Beirut; so is the case with the Communist Party.

But whose ‘martyr’ is better? It goes without saying that one person’s ‘martyr’ is another person’s ‘criminal’. And this is the essence of the problem.

Let’s take yesterday’s ‘martyrs’. Some supporters of the Aounists National Patriotic Movement see them as a bunch of thugs that were killed during their militia control in East Beirut. For Hezbollah and other pro-Syria and anti-Israel camp of Islamist, Arab Nationalist and secular parties, ‘martyrs’ of the Lebanese Forces were members of ‘isolationist gangs’ and Israel collaborators who deserved being killed. Reverse the formula, and you get similar answers for Hezbollah or SSNP ‘martyrs’.

The issue was unresolved in the post-war settlement process with the shy and ineffective efforts of reconciliation. The ideological roots of the schism were never tackled and the war of ‘martyrs’ is only its manifestation. Without a state-run initiative to commemorate all fallen victims during the war (militants and civilians) regardless of their religion or political affiliation, the schism will continue.

Picture of a Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) 'martyr' fallen in 1985 during civil war in Lebanon

Friday, September 22, 2006

Beirut's two DIVINE rallies

Two rallies are under way in Beirut. Two rallies that vividly reflect the current political schism in Lebanon.

Today will be the big day in South Beirut. The Shiite Party Hezbollah is organising a huge rally to celebrate the party's 'divine victory' over the Israeli Army. The rally will take place in a huge square that has been prepared for the occasion not far from the destroyed quarters of South Beirut. It is not known if Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, will appear in person or if he will deliver a pre-recorded speech. There are fears that Isareli Army may seize the oppurtunity to assassinate Nasrallah if he makes an appearance. Today's 'Divine rally' will be a show of force by Hezbollah and its pro-Syria allies in addition to Michael Aoun's Movement.

On Sunday, Christian Maronite Lebanese Forces will organise its 'Martyrs Day' in the church of Harissa to the North of Beirut. It will be the first time that the Lebanese Forces organsie a public event of this size after being banned for more than 10 years. Lebanese Forces with its anti-Syria allies are expected to rally for this event to show their popularity.

Two rallies organised under religous banners; Though the two rallies are attracting support from across the sectarian communities, they reflect the role of religion in shaping Lebanon's politics. Whatever comes out of these two rallies will contribute to the polarization of Lebanon's political factions. The political tug-of-war shall continue.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Moral Superiority, Sectarianism and Conspiracy theory: Al-Akhbar newspaper

Al-Akhbar newspaper brings the worst of Lebanese politics to the fore, as illustrated in the transformation of leftist politics into the cheapest form of sectarianism. In other words, it combines the defects of leftist analysis (conspiracy theory, bitterness, moral superiority) with the worst form of sectarianism.
A glance at today edition illustrates this point. The front-page article, by the editor-in-chief, exemplifies the bitter Marxist use of sociological analysis, attempting to portray all its enemies as opportunistic politicians whose political discourses can be mapped directly on their cheap attempts to survive politically. This trick, widely used in leftist circles, avoids having to engage with their discourse or to consider these politicians as having a different perspective. The moral superiority of the author, combined with the sociological analysis of his targets, transform these latter in the condensation of evil. The editor-in-chief would definitely not want us to apply this mode of reasoning on himself; this trick works in one direction. It is too bad because an as-credible narrative can be made, starting from the early career of this author to finish with his glorious following of Gebran Bassil. The narrative could be weaved around the attempts of the author to find a political role to himself, attempts continuously failing until the divine alliance gave him a role as the mouthpiece of this understanding. Of course, the conclusion of such narrative is that we do not really have to engage with his writings, since he is only in it for his personal political gains.
Moving to the inside pages, we find the illustration of this divine understanding when a very cheap form of sectarianism meets the resistance discourse. The specialist in Christian affairs in this newspaper has been following very closely, almost religiously, the trend of sectarian employment in the government and is shocked to discover that there are more Muslims than Christians. Of course, forgetting his alliance with the Hezbollah, whose latest war is one of the main drives of the renewal of Christian emigration, and the demographic change for the last 50 years, the author, in charge of the section ‘Christian sectarianism’, find the fault in the Sunni community, and the continuation of the Hariri policies, which as we all know and any decent conspiracy theorists would approve, was just aiming at controlling the lands in Kesrewan and Jbeil.
Continuing our trip, we bump into the transformation of leftism into a blind form of respect of tradition. The author, happy of his religious baggage, comments on the latest statement by the Pope. His secularism is conveniently brushed aside when he wholeheartedly supports the calls for apology, after his reading of the pope text. Where did all the secularism go and why do we have to cater for the ugliest part of religion is a question left unanswered. Leftists in Lebanon have always had a binary understanding of religion: either a lie or an unbridgeable gap. Everything in between is usually discarded. There is no place for nuances when one starts from this height of moral superiority.
As for the front page, the main story according to the newspaper is how PM Siniora is trying to block the help to the inhabitants of the south. According to their conspiracy theory, PM Siniora is currently punishing the inhabitants of the south by blocking the billions of aid, which are supposed to get to them, continuing the policy of collective punishment started by the Israelis. One would ask how did his policy of giving 30,000$ per house fits into this story? But these are just details. He is evil, and if he is not he is incompetent, and if he is not, he is a traitor, and if he is not, he is a sectarian bastard, and if he is not… In other words, he just needs to go.
Looking at this newspaper, one wonders how can these various perspectives coalesce into a political project. Actually, there is no political project. The only aim of this paper is to topple the government, and to realize this divine goal, all the tactics are permitted starting with the most potent, sectarianism. The main message of today’s edition is simple: the Sunnis dominate the Christians and starve the Shiites. Christianity, on the other hand, hates Islam as the Pope indicated. There is no possibility of sectarian understanding. Conveniently for the authors, the parliamentary majority is the quintessence of this sectarian evil. As for the non-sectarian components of this majority, well according to the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, they are only in it for the money, and they are incompetent at it on top. In other words, the only credible policy of this newspaper is to ignite a sectarian civil war to topple the government, the only conjuncture that could give them a role to play.

Absolut Determination

Lebanon's heritage in danger

The Guardian, September 17

Monuments in two of the world's most important heritage sites are in need of 'urgent repair' as a result of the recent conflict in Lebanon, a United Nations mission to the region has discovered.
A Roman tomb in Tyre and a medieval tower in Byblos have been significantly damaged by the war, the official leading a survey of Lebanese archaeological sites told The Observer late last week.

At Tyre some of 'the finest examples of imperial Roman architecture in the world' had suffered direct damage, including the collapse of a fresco on a tomb only a few metres from the site's core. The official said that he intended to propose the commencement of urgent repair work in the area.

At Byblos the effects of an oil spill - which occurred after the Israeli government bombed a depot in Jiyeh, 15 miles south of Beirut - are more obvious. Bouchenaki said some of the archaeological remains from the Venetian period near the city's harbour were dramatically stained and would be difficult to clean. He said that a 'medieval tower' from the time of the Crusades had also been affected.

Read article

Watch video

Monday, September 18, 2006

The 5 preposterous things in Lebanese politics today

1: Al-Akhbar Newspaper keeping their irritating nagging on the ‘Marja’youn Barracks Incident’ where a police general surrendered to the Israeli forces and evacuated the place for them after offering them tea. The police force had only primitive rifles.

2: General Michel Aoun, head of Lebanese Patriotic Movement, lecturing on state building while distributing money, probably from Hezbollah, to Christians affected by the last war.

3: The fear and shame to name Hezbollah as a militia, whereas in its actions and organisation, Hezbollah embodies a militia that operates beyond state control.

4: Aoun’s Lebanese Patriotic Movement claiming to be a secular movement but at time and time again reminding the Lebanese that the movement got 70% of Christian votes in the last election thus representing Maronites.

5: Leftist, seculars and communists rallying after Hezbollah, a religious movement to the bone that is headed by a cleric and is built on a religious belief system. be continued

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hezbollah: strategy of containment or disguised coup d'etat?

To say that Lebanon is divided in two camps is a truism today. A cursory look at the Lebanese medias illustrates this unprecedented level of political polarization and sectarian tension. But the post-July war is not simply a continuation of the pre-war tensions, and could augur a more serious stage in the political division of the country.
In the period ranging from the assassination of PM Hariri to the beginning of the July war, the main division in the country was between the March 14 Movement and the ‘others’. What is meant by this distinction is that the division was between a well-defined political narrative on the one hand, and various opposing forces to it, coming from different perspectives, without a narrative uniting them or legitimizing them, on the other. The original event of the March 14 Movement was the assassination of PM Hariri around which a nationalist narrative of independence and sovereignty was weaved, structuring the domestic political field and the international relations into two camps. The effective culmination of this narrative was the international investigation, which was expected to consolidate the gains of the March 14 Movement by (probably) implicating Syria and (possibly) some of its local allies.
Faced with such a narrative, the opposition to the March 14 Movement, coming from different quarters, not the least being the Hezbollah, attempted during last year to slow down the rise of the movement. The critiques flowed from different corners, un-coordinated, contradictory sometimes, the goal being to mitigate the effects, rather than to eliminate this movement. The strategy of the Hezbollah, for example, was a series of contradicting positions aiming at disturbing the March 14 Movement without facing it upfront: understanding on the electoral law but only partial alliance, participation to the government but opposition to it, media attack on the government but meetings with MP Hariri, etc.
The July war offered these critiques a draft of a political narrative, around which they could unite and that could be opposed to the March 14 narrative. On an international level, the war offered a criterion for defining friends and foes, reversing the March 14 evaluation. Domestically, the war divided the political forces into two camps, the allies and the traitors. These two criteria were weaved around a narrative of resistance and honour, offering a fully formed counterpart to the narrative of independence and sovereignty presented by the March 14 Movement.
The new stage of division of Lebanon is reaching a dangerous turning point for two reasons. The first is the failure of the strategy of containment followed by Hezbollah and its allies in the pre-July war period. With all their critiques and weakening of the parliamentary majority and the government, the Hezbollah was unable to reverse the course of action: the international tribunal is expected to be ratified soon, the military infrastructure of the party is gradually being contained and rendered useless, the international investigation continued unabated, the internationalization of the country reached new heights, etc. Faced with this outcome, the Hezbollah could continue its earlier strategy of containment, which would practically amount to accepting these outcomes. Or the Hezbollah could offer his ‘resistance’ narrative as a national project, and with his allies, try to topple the current government.
Even though, the Hezbollah emerged victorious from the war, it is in a very tight spot, seeing its victory only accelerating the processes it attempted to oppose in the first place. The latest attacks by Hezbollah officials could be a simple exercise in rhetoric aiming at mobilizing their constituencies and disturbing, without toppling, the government. Or, they could illustrate the decision of the party to move from a strategy of containment to a strategy of coup d'etat. And in this case, we are heading for more troubles.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Politician, the Traitor and the Troublemaker

Nearly one month after the cease fire, Lebanese politics are back to business as usual. Lebanese leaders and citizens are engaging more than ever in their verbal sparring to mark political territories. As they engage in this risky exercise, they redefine conceptions of citizenship and democratic representation into alarming hate-brewing reservoirs.

One can tell how politicians perceive their constituencies from their communication with them-and there has usually been hardly any, apart from the usual populist rallies. It took the July war with all its victories and defeats for politicians to address some unfortunate commons who happen to be caught under fire. Nasrallah primarily appealed to the support of the ‘Lebanese people’’, an imagined cohesive mass with no room for divergent opinion. Other politicians called on the solidarity of ‘the Lebanese’ and its variant ‘all the Lebanese’, probably referring to the various Lebanese sectarian groups rather than individuals. The media referred to them at times as ‘civilians’, only when they fell victims of the frequent Israeli attacks. More interestingly, they were hardly never consulted or even addressed as ‘citizens’. Once the war was over, got back to their self-centred paranoid bickering, after money-talking citizens into hundreds of thousands of splashed US dollars (ironically enough) handouts and promises of mass local and Arab donations.
The Lebanese version of citizenship works on a pre-packed basis. Under the multiple patriotic banners of Lebanon’s best interests, politicians make decisions for citizens, require their cooperation, and promise rewards or punishment accordingly. In this way citizens are stripped from their basic citizenship status, and loyalty overpowers accountability. Thus, politicians and citizens hang on to their patrio-meters and take to discrediting others as either traitors or troublemakers-depending which side they are on.

The labeling craze has taken its toll when anyone can be called a traitor for deploring physical damages, regretting human losses, or object to being thrown into war. Similarly troublemakers are accused of exhibiting excessive nationalist pride, expressing anger at an impotent international community, and believing in popular resistance.

This partisanship hell has been so much taken by scoring points and blindly justifying stands, at the risk of hindering self-reflection and silencing any questioning voices. Apart from the fanatic supporters of either camps, many people seem to agree with bits of both sides of the arguments. It is time move beyond the traitor/troublemaker dichotomy and debate priorities of public and citizens interests. Otherwise, such a vicious cycle would only lead to a situation of continuous political and social standstill, if not to the very recent troubled climate of assassinations and repetitive conflict.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

IDF commander: We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon

Haaretz, 12/09/2006

"What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.

In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war.

Read article

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

hubble rubble

Three men smoking shisha or hubble bubble in a destroyed neigbourhood in Beirut .
- courtesy of -

we are the children.... we are the victims...

"children should never be the victims of armed conflict... "

An estimated number of 1400 children were killed during the 38 days conflict.
Children children children.... 'You go a bit crazy when you see little body after little body coming up out of the ground'

"children should never be the victims of armed conflict... and for those children who become victims of armed conflict, their security and access to quality health, education and recreational facilities and services should still be a right..."

"The children of southern Lebanon are trying to return to normal life. But the challenges are enormous..."
They might need their dreams to survive...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lebanon fails to cure Blair's homesickness

The heated debate surrounding Blair's visit is probably down to a hospitality clash.

It is indeed rude not to welcome Tony if he feels a sudden urge to pass by, on his way to the area, after a long errrr -surely justifiable- oblivion.

However, protestors should have been allowed to escort him closely in the same excitement that he has been lately used to with every public appearance in the UK.

The Alchemist Ibrahim Al-Amin

The Alchemist Ibrahim Al-Amin has found the philosopher’s stone of Lebanese politics. In his column in today’s daily Al-Akhbar, Al-Amin has discovered the plot the 14th of March Coalition and holder of Parliamentary majority are engineering to maintain their control of Lebanon’s political scene. And the main plotter is Walid Jumblat, the charlatan of Lebanon’s politics.

According to Al-Amin, Jumblat is drawing vicious plans and giving orders left and right to strengthen his grip of the post-Syrian political scene. The plot goes like this:

Jumblat maintains his alliance with Saad Hariri, head of the Sunni Future Movement and majority leader and together they pave the way for the ‘international community’ and the UN in peacekeeping South Lebanon. The 14th of March Coalition keeps their discussion with the head of the Maronite Church, Cardinal Sfeir, to support the Coalition’s policy against Hizbollah and its Christian allies, namely Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement. The 14th of March Coalition will also support Aoun’s rival, Samir Jaejae to maintain a power base among the Maronite community. The Coalition will also back Nabih Berri, Speaker of Parliament and head of Shiite Amal Movement, in gaining some ground among the Shiite community vis-à-vis Hezbollah.

Am I impressed by Al-Amin’s unearthing of this 'plot'? Not at all.

Al-Amin has probably missed the basics of political processes and power-sharing in democracies or quasi-democracies. The tenets of political practices in democratic or quasi-democratic polities are ‘decision-making’, ‘agenda-setting’, ‘preference-shaping’. And this is politics 101.

Al-Amin is probably used to other types of political processes. The ones that involve a coalition between the One-Party, the Dictator’s family and the Intelligence Apparatus. Until Al-Amin becomes critical of the one-party, one-family, one-general rule; and until he gets used to the democratic process his philosopher’s stone is cracked.

Meantime Harry Potter looks more readable.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The problem of the Cluster Bombs

Yesterday 2 Lebanese Army soldiers were killed in Bint Jbeil while removing an unexploded cluster bomb. Civilians are also among victims...
The total number of killed and wounded since the ceasefire on the 14th of August reached 63.

Read more about cluster bombs, and whether their use conforms to international standards, as the Israelis claim, or not:

The Washington Post, by William M. Arkin
"... The problem then is that the cluster bombs themselves, to be militarily effective, have to be used in large quantities. When they are used in large quantities, they leave behind unacceptable levels of unexploded bomblets. These bomblets are also highly volatile -- that is the way so many can be affordably packed into larger containers -- which is why they are particularly a menace to civilians.
A military spokesman in Israel says: "All the weapons and munitions used by the Israel Defense Forces are legal under international law, and their use conforms with international standards."
If there is a country that has developed those standards, it is the United States...."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lebanon, etc.

civil war, assassinations, death, destruction, tension, reconstruction – constant tension, one assassination, demonstrations, many assasinations, demonstrations, tension. Another war, death, destruction, tension, reconstruction again and again, today an assassination attempt...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"From under the lebanese ground, more than 1500 people are wondering... Why?"

By Mazen Kerbaj at

e-caravan, before and after

Another casuality of the July 2006 War:

'The E-Caravan, a fully equipped mobile computer school that began only last January to roam clusters of villages introducing information technology to rural communities in South Lebanon' was another casualty of the latest war. The private sector-funded and the United Nations-operated 'mobile computer school was struck down by two Israeli missiles in the village of Ayta Al-Shaab.'

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bad neighborhood

Walid Jumblat is best known for his quick reception of geopolitical changes. This time he was slow. In a recent interview, he declared that the situation in Lebanon is strongly related to that of the region. Jumblat argued that whatever the settlement for Iran’s nuclear question, Lebanon would be affected.

But Lebanon’s organic relationship to the region’s troubles is not new. Lebanon has been in a 'bad neighbourhood’ since its inception in 1920. In 1920s, it was the conflict of Arabism vs. Lebanism; in 1950s, it was the Nassersit Arab Nationalism vs the US-backed Baghdad Pact; in 1960s it was the pro-Palestinian struggle vs. 'isolationism'; in 1982-85 it was Israeli supremacy vs Syrian dominance; in the 1989, it was Iraqi vs Syrian role in the region; in 1990s, it was pro or against Pax Syriana. Now it is about the role of Iran as a regional power.

What a bad neighbourhood!

It would be simplistic to only endorse the ‘Guerre des autres’ thesis of the conflict in Lebanon and to discredit the many internal causes to Lebanon’s conflict(s). But the ‘neighbourhood effect’ is central to Lebanon’s current predicament. From Qandahar to Rafah, the whole region is in mess. To a large extent, this is because of failed American policies in the region. Failure in Afghanistan, mess in Iraq, death of Middle East roadmap, lip service to democratic movements and support to Arab dictatorship, to name a few.

While a regional settlement is afar, Lebanon has to consolidate its peace. It is most likely that Lebanon will be back to the never-ending and non-productive national dialogue sessions in Parliament.

Until Qandahar gets its bazaar back and Rafah gets its schools running, Lebanon has to wait.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Media Excerpts

The Oxford Business Group investigates the reconstruction of Lebanon and the role of the government, while the Financial Time is worried that Hezbollah might be “rearing an uncivil society”. The Guardian warned from a ‘brain drain’, in Lebanon it is called success. Naomi Klein on the privatization of the relief and the state-in-the-state … in the US. So for US leftist, it is ok in Lebanon but not in the US.
Joseph Bahout asks whose Lebanon will it be now, in bitterlemons’ special issue on Lebanon. Paul Rodgers ponders on the fragility of the cease-fire. As for Slavoj Zizek, the solution to the whole Middle East problem is easier than we think.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Stencil Graffiti in warzone Beirut

Arofish stencil artist has added to Beirut's most bombed neighbourhoods some joy with the images of kids flying kites on the ruins of buildings.

He writes:

"Dahyeh, August 25, 2006. one of the most bombed out areas in Beirut. I was asked by local people to paint something happy, to reflect the spirit of the community. Before starting I banged up a piece of explanatory text on the wall, for which thanks go to Ghassan for the translation into Arabic. It reads: "When Ramallah, in Palestine, is put under curfew by the Israeli Army, nobody goes outside for days. The streets look completely deserted. But from a tall building, if you look out over the city, you can sometimes see hundreds of many-coloured kites, flown from the roof-terraces by the children of Ramallah.
The children you can see here are flying kites to celebrate the spirit of the people of Dahyeh. Some kites you can see are flying away. These are for the children who are no longer here; they are no longer held down to the Earth."

More pictures here

It is a bad day to be a Shiite: Sectarianism in post-war Lebanon

The reconstruction process is turning into a competition for the hearts (and houses) of the Shiite population. After Hezbollah’s 12,000 US$ grant for each house destroyed, the government announced this week that it will pay 33,000 US$ for these same houses. Yet, the battle for the hearts is also a battle for the minds of this population. Two choices are being fashioned for the Shiites, each trying to impose a unique definition of what is to be a Shiite in the post-Iraq Middle East and post-war Lebanon.
The first presents the Shiite Lebanese identity as being incompatible with its regional dimension. Favouring a logic of space to a logic of community, this perspective builds on the Shiite Lebanese authors to draw a wedge between the Lebanese experience and specificities of the Shiite community and its regional political allegiance. This spatial reconfiguration is usually grafted upon a modern/traditional opposition presenting the Lebanese Shiite identity as a tolerant, open and liberal belonging. The political conclusion of this refashioning is that the Lebanese liberal Shiite identity will not support the regional plan of Iran and its war, and will, instead, focus on purely domestic matters.
Opposed to this view, an alternative identity is being fashioned, one that reduces the Shiite identity to its role as a resistance group. Negating any specificity associated with their Lebanese identity, this view locates the Shiite in an Arab masse perspective, being the Lebanese instantiation of the resistance against Israel. The raison d’être of this community, according to this view, is their resistance to Israel, as represented by their support of the Hezbollah. Threaten by any divergence of this community from the Hezbollah, this approach portrays war and resistance as part of this community identity.
These two competing views of what it is to be Shiite are being hammered on the Shiite population, in a series of opposition: security vs. resistance, prosperity vs. honour, Lebanon vs. Iran, daily concerns vs. half a century of conflicts, Khatami vs. Ahmadinejad, Shamseddine vs. Nasrallah, modernity vs. nationalism, democracy vs. occupation, 33,000 US$ vs. 12,000 US$. By presenting the Shiite identity as being torn between two irreconcilable poles, the current competition for the minds of the Shiite is obliterating all the nuances of sectarian belonging in Lebanon, nuances that serve as the security valves of the Lebanese system.
Any redefinition of a sect’s political identity is a painful process, forcing the sect to redefine itself, redraw its boundary, shed some of its tradition and adopt new positions. With each redefinition, some members find themselves outside of their sects, other become traitors. With each redefinition, a sect’s relation with its environment and other sects is altered, with new geographies being redrawn and new enemies emerging. Propelled into this process after the war, the Shiite population is being subjected to competing demands: on one hand, continuously proving their Lebanese identity without a say in it while on the other, proving their commitment to the resistance without a say in it.