Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Lebanese Army is Untouchable- Unless it is February 1984

Amin Gemayel, President of Lebanon, 1982-1988

The Lebanese Army is the national army of all Lebanese. Currently the army seems to be engaged in conflict with one segment of the population. In a country like Lebanon, with 18 confessional groups, using the army to confront groups that belong to one confessional group is fraught with dangers- especially when that group’s perceived adversaries enthusiastically support the use of force. The modern history of Lebanon shows that different groups have at times questioned the army’s actions. Prime Minister Saeb Salam one time demanded the resignation of the army commander and when it did not happen, he himself resigned.

 Below is a refresher course on the army, the use of force and confessional implications and consequences- an excerpt from Rosemary Sayigh’s Too many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon (1994):

The February 1984 uprising
All through the autumn and winter the Lebanese Army continued intermittently to shell the southern suburbs from positions both east and west of the ‘Green Line”. Displaced Shi’ites piled into beach huts along the sea and shacks around Shateela and the Sports City. More than once Amal leader Nabih Berri gave warning of his power to shake the regime if the army persisted in destroying Shi’ite-inhabited areas. Feelings came to a head when General Tannous insisted on moving into positions vacated by a French unit of the multinational Forces in Shiyah, right on the edge of the southern suburbs. This was a ‘red line’ for Berri. On 4 February he called on all Muslims in the Lebanese Army to lay down arms. Since at least 60 percent of ordinary soldiers, as well as many officers, were Shi’ite his call had a devastating effect. The army in West Beirut melted, leaving only hard-core Maronites to fight their way out in two days of the worst shelling the city had seen since 1982. As a result, Beirut was divided along sectarian line into Maronite, Shi’ite and Druze battalions. The uprising of 6 February effectively ended President Gemayel’s hopes of extending his authority beyond the ‘Maronite enclave’.

p. 138

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Lebanese Sunni Community: Bombed into Communal Consciousness

Much of the literature on Lebanon has focused on the Christian and Shiite communities. There is not much written on the Sunni community.  Today much of the attention to the Sunni Lebanese community is within the context of the “threat” of the so-called Sunni Muslim fundamentalism. One of the few books to focus on the Sunni Lebanese, albeit the Beiruti Sunni Lebanese is Michael Johnson’s Class and Client in Beirut (1986). Johnson’s is a thorough study of the Beiruti Sunnis, their zaims and the clientelist system of a bygone era. Johnson had access to the Sunni zaims, in his book thanking the father of the current Prime Minister Tamam Salam, Saeb Salam.

An interesting observation/conclusion that Johnson makes as to the Lebanese Sunnis is the following excerpt:
 “The Sunnis, by contrast, had not developed a communal consciousness comparable to that of the other major confessions. They had always tended to look to Arab nationalism for their political inspiration; and though this was still an essentially confessional orientation, the Arab community with which they identified was much larger, and therefore more nebulous, than the concentrated and parochial communities of the Maronites and Druze. Even the Shi’ites, who were fragmented spatially (the northern Bekaa, South Lebanon and Beirut) and also divided over their degree of commitment to the Iranian revolution, were mainly influenced by a parochial communalism which emphasized their grievances as a deprived and disinherited, specifically Lebanese community. The attachment of the Sunni menu peuple to the values of Arabism had meant that the divisions of the Arab world had become replicated in the damaging intra-confessional conflicts between their various militias, thus leaving them with a weak sense of communal solidarity at a time when a confessional balance of military forces seemed to be the most likely framework for an end to the civil war. Thus, in a political sense, the Sunnis were the war’s main casualty among the larger Lebanese confessions, and they had to accept a decline in power and status similar to the one they had suffered with the imposition of Greater Lebanon in 1920. But their political and socio-economic resources had been much stronger during the French Mandate than they were in 1985. With the rise of the Shi’ites to a position of prominence, it was likely that they rather than the Sunnis would be the major partners of the Maronites in any new Lebanon which might conceivably emerge from the long nightmare of civil war.”
Pg. 213-214
Communal Consciousness. Imposed.
The Sunni community, given the upheaval that started with the Hariri assassination, is a changed community. It is not a radicalized community. But there is definitely a growing communal consciousness that is the outcome of a series of setbacks and challenges that began with the assassination of PM Hariri and did not end with the October 2014 clashes in Tripoli.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jordanians, Palestinians & the Hashemite Kingdom

Adnan Abu Odeh

Jordanians, Palestinians & the Hashemite Kingdom in the Middle East Peace Process by Adnan Abu-Odeh (1999) is an excellent book on Jordan. Such an important book should have been translated and made required reading in Jordan, at least at the university level. Abu-Odeh makes an honest and frank assessment of the state of Jordan. However, unfortunately, the book has been treated as a divisive book. The book resulted in Abu odeh been ostracized by the Jordanian establishment for shedding light on inconvenient truths.

Below are excerpts:

On Communal relations:

"A survey conducted in September 1994 by the Center for Strategic Studies of Jordan University indicated that strong affinities still exist between Palestinian-Jordanians and Transjordanians. Among a nationwide sample, 64.9% of Transjordanians and 72.3 percent of Palestinian-Jordanians believed that the interaction between the two communities had molded them into one people. Interestingly, while the division of opinion among Palestinian-Jordanian opinion makers closely mirrored the opinions of Palestinian-Jordanian as a whole (62.5 percent of opinion makers considered the two groups to have been molded into one people), opinion makers in the Transjordanian community were significantly less likely than other Transjordanians to subscribe to this view (the figure for Transjordanian opinion makers was only 47.8%). This finding is not surprising when we consider that a large section of the Transjordanian elite has been involved for more than two decades in encouraging exclusivist attitudes toward Palestinian Jordanians." P. 274

De-Palestinianization of the public sector

"Trans-Jordanianization of the public sector developed in the late 1970s into de-Palestinianization- a process defended on the grounds that it constituted no more than an equitable division of labor, given Palestinian dominance of the private sector. The Transjordanian elite did not seem concerned about the long term ramifications of this unwritten policy- namely that it would aggravate and institutionalize the communal rupture.  Nor did they expect that they would lose control of Transjordanian nationalism." P. 276  

On Confederation between Palestine and Jordan:

"The confederal formula, which allows both Jordanians and Palestinians to maintain their identities, seems an ideal means of promoting mutual confidence and healing the rupture between Transjordanians and Palestinian-Jordanians.  Confederation would make it possible for a large number of Palestinian-Jordanians to vote for a Palestinian parliament while they are still residents of Jordan. Though each country would have its own head of state, the presidency of the confederation could alternate between the king of Jordan and the president of Palestine. (Should the king find such an arrangement unacceptable, the Hashemite supraregional monarch might assume the role of reigning head of the confederation.)" P. 281

Thursday, October 2, 2014

AHRC Expresses Concern Regarding the State of Human Rights in Egypt:

AHRC Expresses concern regarding the state of Human Rights in Egypt:
[Michigan, October 2, 2014]: The American Human Rights Council (AHRC) joins the US and international human rights groups expressing serious concerns regarding the state of human rights and the ongoing violations of basic rights for Egyptian citizens, visitors, journalists, NGOs, international human rights aid missions and groups compromising the basic foundation of democracy. In Egypt there is a pattern of ongoing violations of people's basic rights to live and function normally without fear, censorship, arrests, detentions and intimidation.

In a report published by Amnesty International on September 29, 2014, it noted, that   "According to official statistics, the Egyptian authorities continue to hold at least 16,000 detainees, in prisons and police stations since the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi. Their conditions of detention frequently fall far short of international human rights standards and may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Often the detainees face trumped up or politically motivated charges and trials that fall far short of international standards". 

According to media reports and several human rights groups as well as the US State Department and the European Union, the Egyptian government executed mass arrests against those who practiced their right of association and assembly.   The vast majority of these arrests involved peaceful citizens and activists.  Most of these detainees are being held against their will without any form or shape of due process and without any adequate legal assistant or facing any formal charges. Among the several human rights violation is the continued arrest of Mr. Mahmoud Abu Zied, A free-lancer journalist who has been held without any process for over a year.  The rise of mass arrests including children and torture is a growing challenge in Egypt. Thousands of detainees are still pending any formal process and face nothing but continued renewal of their detentions without any evidence of any crime or violation.

AHRC is deeply concerned with the situation in Egypt as to the rights of perceived opponents of the regime and the rights of Egyptian women. The Egyptian government continues its incessant campaign of persecution of peaceful protesters through the use harassment, violence and discredited military tribunals. As to women, the Egyptian government is failing at its obligation to counter the harassment of women and girls in public places.  Egypt still lacks laws that deal with the serious issue of domestic violence. This situation is intolerable.

AHRC calls upon the Egyptian government to respect human rights. As a UN member, Egypt has the legal obligation to respect the UN charter and the united declaration of human rights among other of Egypt's international obligations.  AHRC demands that the Egyptian government respect the Egyptian people's basic human rights.

"Egypt is the biggest Arab country and arguably the most important. The abuses the Egyptian government is inflicting on the Egyptian people, regardless of the pretexts, are inexcusable and should shock the conscience of the world, "said Imad Hamad AHRC acting director. "We call upon the Egyptian government to respect human rights and to obey international law and for the human rights community to engage in a sustained campaign to defend the victims of human rights violations in Egypt" continued Hamad.