Thread by UssamaMakdisi: Some historical context for #Lebanon and its sectarian system. 1. The initial sectarian system was introduced in mid-19th century in Mount L…
1. The initial sectarian system was introduced in mid-19th century in Mount Lebanon when the Arab East was under Ottoman rule. The Ottomans regarded the novel sectarian system as a concession to European power.
2.European powers, however, regarded it as the key to “reforming” the Ottoman state. For Western powers, religious diversity in the Orient = sectarianism that had to be managed by “civilized” European powers.
3. Needless to say, these same Western powers did not view religious diversity in their own countries a problem that had to be managed by others, despite a long history of racism, antisemitism, and segregation in France, England, the United States etc.
4. After the Ottoman defeat in WWI, France and Britain awarded themselves “mandates” and partitioned the Arab East into various weak states, often along sectarian lines. Britain supported Zionist colonization of Palestine that eventually led to the Nakba of 1948.
5. Lebanon was thus created as a separate sectarian state by French colonialism in 1920—with the aid of local (mostly Maronite) elites and in the face of a rival project of secular nationalism in Syria that enjoyed considerable support of Arab Christians and Arab Muslims.
6. In other words, being Christian did not make one automatically support the separation of Lebanon from Syria. Religious affiliations are not and have never been automatic indicators of political ideology.
7. The original Lebanese constitution of 1926—unveiled against the backdrop the massive anti-colonial revolt in Syria that had begun in 1925—included an infamous Article 95.
8. Article 95 legitimated for a temporary period a limited sectarian formula for politics with the proviso that this formula did not trump the constiutional equality of all Lebanese irrespective of religious affiliation.
9. Virtually every Lebanese government after independence in 1943 paradoxically pledged to abolish political sectarianism at the same time as they entrenched sectarianism further and further across all branches of government.
10. From its outset, the sectarian system was unequal in distribution of resources and systematically privileged the elites of each of the “major” communities at the expense of ordinary people. Thus sectarian patronage networks were consolidated.
11. This unequal system was the major cause of the Lebanese civil war in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. The war involved a struggle between rightwing Phalangists and leftwing forces allied with the PLO. Syria and Israel both intervened in the civil war.
12. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 with tacit U.S. support. Despite U.S. assurance to protect refugee camps after PLO withdrawal, Palestinian civilians in Sabra and Shatila were massacred by Israeli-backed militiamen. Hizbullah was formed after this invasion backed by Iran.
13. Sectarianism was entrenched after civil war. Warlords become politicians. They amnestied themselves. Maronite elites lost some power; Sunni and Shi‘i elites gained—yet they all conspired together to dominate postwar Lebanon with Syrian, Saudi, and US. support. #Lebanon lost.