Why are Maronites in Lebanon demanding federalism? (1/2) | Articles archive

Why are Maronites in Lebanon demanding federalism? (1/2) | Articles archive
Why are Maronites in Lebanon demanding federalism? (1/2) | Articles archive

Without entering into an argument about the validity of the establishment of the state of Greater Lebanon, or that it was a historical mistake, the Lebanese state became a reality in the year 1920 that cannot be denied. However, this state was unique in its characteristics and components, as it included sects with identities, peculiarities, and dissonant historical experiences, and it will carry with it, from then on, demographic concerns, and a race for preference in governance and spoils, without turning into a homeland. The “National Pact” of 1943 would have been a good step and a factor of societal integration, had it been developed in the following decades to remove ambiguity about the issue of Lebanon’s identity and its system, activate the commitment to neutralize it, and a more equitable distribution of its wealth to its people through balanced development. Therefore, the country entered into two internal wars and crises between 1958 and 1990, while the non-implementation of most of the provisions of the “Taif Agreement”, the most important of which was the disarmament of militias and expanded decentralization, caused concern among the Lebanese about the fate of their country, at least since the liberation of the south in 2000, in light of the A ruling political system with militia roots that reproduces itself and divides corruption. All this opened the doors of Lebanon to projects for sects, which today have reached the point of publicly talking about federalism, in addition to Patriarch Al-Rahi’s call for Lebanon’s neutrality, while other sects “watch” the collapse of the country, and they do not have a rescue project, even with the old Lebanese mentality.

The hypothesis that I will prove is that what the Maronites are calling for today is a federation that does not differ, in our opinion, in its expected results, from the separation from Greater Lebanon (the return to Little Lebanon) that Emile Edde, Archbishop Ignatius Mubarak and others wanted, because of their fear for Lebanon of an Arab identity. – Islam creeping on them, and from a rising Islamic demographic with political, societal and cultural influences on Christians. The failure of the federation outweighs its chances of success, and may lead to the division of Lebanon, and then there will be no possibility to reunite what has been disintegrated.

I will approach the topic through a brief presentation of the relations between Christians and Muslims, then I will address two main issues: the first: the concerns, frustrations, and fear for the fate that make the Maronites incline today to federalism, noting that many Lebanese share with them most of those concerns that I will present, without adopting a project federation. The second approach is by answering the following question: Is federalism really a project for the future of a unified Lebanon, or will it lead to its division?

1- Christian-Islamic Relations: From the Dissonance of Two Identities to Two Weapons and Two Cultures:

It is known that Muslims, in the majority of them, rejected Greater Lebanon for considerations related to their Arab-Islamic identity. Between the years 1909 and 1920 they had to get out of Ottomanism after four centuries of Ottoman rule, to pan-Arabism at the Paris conference in 1913, which was a common denominator of their meeting with the Christians, and to be forced to accept the Lebanese identity in Greater Lebanon in the year 1920 and thus lose their Arab-Islamic space . How can a person change his identity three times in eleven years? As for the Christians, they were civilized for an independent entity since the era of the Mutasarrifiyya. Therefore, they came out of “Little Lebanon” to Greater Lebanon with a Lebanese identity, moving away, especially in times of crisis, from the cultural Arabism that they pioneered, while a Maronite minority demanded of them, at the time, to separate from Greater Lebanon and return to “Little Lebanon.” Emile Edde, Patriarch Elias Howayek, warned in the 1920s of the future dangers of the growth of the Islamic demography on the situation of Christians in Greater Lebanon.

The integration of Muslims into the new state was gradual, without abandoning their Arabism, which they preferred over their Lebaneseness. Signs of this include the entry of leaders among them into the administration during the twenties, the candidacy of Sheikh Muhammad al-Jisr for the presidency in the year 1932, the declaration of Islamic leaders at the Third Coast Conference in the year 1936 of their belief in Greater Lebanon, and finally the involvement of Muslims in the settlement of the National Pact in the year 1943 that established the foundations for coexistence. sectarian on the basis of “consensual democracy”, but with an ambiguous identity. Accordingly, the Maronites considered that the agreement on Lebanon had become unchangeable or modified, while the Muslims clung to their Arabism, embodying this by their attraction to the Egyptian-Syrian unity. This caused mutual intimidation between the two groups: Christians from Arabism creeping on them with the robe of Islam (confusing Arabism with Islam), and Muslims fearing for their Arabism after Lebanon joined the alliances, with its closeness to the circles of the “Baghdad Pact” and its entry into the “Eisenhower Doctrine” in March 1957, from without being threatened by communism.

From the “Cairo Agreement” in 1969 until the Taif Agreement in 1989, Lebanon’s doors were opened to the outside world. The Muslims, with the shift of demography to their advantage, and with them the Lebanese left, strengthened the Palestinian resistance on their land in order to wrest gains from the political Maronites (presidency of the republic and command of the army). The Palestinian factor and the dispute over identity were behind the internal conflicts and their exploitation by the outside, and thus the outbreak of the Lebanon War in 1975 and the obituary of the Charter. The Maronites looked to Syria first, then to Israel for their help, and their calls for a return to “Little Lebanon” through federalization or partition (Pamphlets of the Lebanese Cause and the Monthly Action Magazine) escalated. This project evaporated after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when the balances changed again, so the Maronites returned to the project of ruling all of Lebanon.

Until the “Cedar Revolution” in 2005, frustration spread among Christians and among many Lebanese, as a result of the failure to implement some of the provisions of the “Taif Agreement”, such as the application of expanded administrative decentralization, the disarmament of militias, in addition to the violation of the constitution and the dominance of the Syrian regime over the state. He sucked its economy with his Lebanese followers. It is true that the Syrian withdrew from Lebanon in 2005, after an occupation that lasted three decades. However, the arrival of Muslims and Christians to the squares, after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, behind the slogan of Syria’s departure from Lebanon, did not turn the “revolution” into a concerted national project of change that crossed sects. Despite the adherence of an Islamic majority to a Lebanese identity under the slogan “Lebanon first”. After the last date, the country moved to a stage in which a political struggle prevailed between the March 14 bloc and the March 8 bloc, in the presence of two weapons and two cultures (the Lebanese army’s weapon and the weapon of “Hezbollah”, a Lebanese culture and a Persian culture that the party is working to spread), in addition to the party’s project to seize Lebanon. and its institutions and society for the sake of the “guardian of the jurist.” The state gradually lost its sovereignty over its land, its people, its borders, and its sovereign decision, while the Lebanese society was divided among itself, and Lebanon became a hostage to Iran’s politics and the conflicts taking place in the region between its poles.

And with the political, economic, financial, monetary and social collapse that began brewing since before the “Lebanese Uprising” (the protests in 2011 on the occasion of the Arab Spring, and “You Stink” and we have been holding accountable since 2015), and in light of a corrupt ruling system that misleads the people (the safety of the lira is fine, while The reserves are collapsing and the deposits of the Lebanese are fading away). Maronites started to talk about a divorce between them and Greater Lebanon, through calls for a federal system, as a response to frustration and the collapse of the Lebanese state and the establishment of a stronger state alongside it.


2- The reasons for the inclination of Christians to federalism and separation from Greater Lebanon

Fear for the achievements, the future, and the fate of Christians comes at the forefront of their fears, that their contributions and roles in Lebanon will be completely eliminated. Christians feel that they have lost the state that they founded or that was established for them, and that it no longer performs its tasks, sovereignty, borders, institutions, constitution, economy, army, judiciary, security, services, and the situation in it; From the quota of ministries and positions, the plundering of public money, theft of the deposits and dreams of the Lebanese, humiliation by the repercussions of inflation and the collapse of money, the deterioration of living conditions for known reasons, in addition to the collapse of the middle class and the increase in the percentage of the poor. The Christians’ complaint also focused on stripping the powers of the President of the Republic under the “Taif Agreement”, without mentioning the “parity” that they obtained according to the agreement (Rafik Hariri: We want to stop counting), despite the decline in their demographics, and the aforementioned parity turned, deliberately, into a fictitious one during The stage of the Syrian occupation.

During the Lebanon War, the Maronites unified politically under the umbrella of the “Lebanese Front”, and militarily by force of arms (unification of the gun) and in a dangerous and bloody manner at the hands of Bashir Gemayel. Since General Aoun’s return from exile in 2005, he has personally led a “new political Maronism” allied with and supported by “Hezbollah” (the Mar Mikhael agreement of 2006), working to reduce the other Christian political components represented by the old “political Maronism” (the forces, the battalions, and the Marada). ), while the word Bkerke became unheard, both Christian and patriotic. Gradually, a large part of the Maronites sensed the disadvantages of the “Mar Mikhael understanding,” and then the “presidential settlement” in 2016, in which Saad Hariri and Geagea participated indirectly through the “Maarab agreement” with Aoun, and its impact on the reversal of internal balances in favor of “ Hezbollah” and its hold on institutions, which increased the conflict within the Maronite camp, instead of uniting it. Since then, the first and third presidencies have been under the cover of Hezbollah, while his ally, Nabih Berri, has monopolized the third presidency without interruption.

The rift between the Maronites led to the erosion of the Maronite community from within, coinciding with the transformation of political Sunnism into “looseness” during the era of Saad Hariri, and Jumblatt was subjected to “siege” in his mountainous lair by the “Free Patriotic Movement” and “Hezbollah.” The most powerful Shiite-political figure appeared on the domestic scene, even its explicit demand for a founding conference (Declarations of Nasrallah 2012, and Mufti Qabalan 2020 rejecting the Taif and the Charter), or for the “triangle” that diminishes the roles of other sects (Saint-Cloud Conference 2007), and is translated today into the Ministry Finance. It is an indication that Rafik Hariri monopolized the Ministry of Finance for the Sunni community for the most part. The argument that the large sects alone have the right to monopolize the sovereign ministries is absurd, and indicates a backward Middle Ages mentality that has nothing to do with the modern state based on competencies.

Among the fears of Christians and the Lebanese and their frustration is Hezbollah’s weapon after the liberation of the south in the year 2000, which was legitimized by the Lebanese governments in their ministerial statements, according to the saying “A people’s army of resistance”, thus making the party superior to the legitimate army and society, and thus the state loses its sovereignty over its lands and borders. While the party did not translate its promises to hand over its weapons to the Lebanese state after liberation. How can a strong Lebanese state be established under the arms of a state that is stronger than it? The Lebanese state can no longer impose its sovereignty over its borders and lands from the east, especially in the south of the country, in compliance with UN Resolution 1701, in light of Arab and international indolence and external consensus at the expense of Lebanon, which the party benefited from to return its weapons to the region after 2006, and to control the peace decisions. And the war with Israel.

It is true that the invasion of “Hezbollah” and its allies in Beirut in May of 2008 did not include Christian areas, but it constituted a threatening message to everyone that its weapons are used inside Lebanon, and not to defend Lebanon’s borders from the Israeli aggressions that invade the Lebanese airspace and waters as it wishes. It is an indication that President Aoun used to cover these weapons through statements (at least his clear conversation with US Ambassador Feltman on March 13, 2007 that the weapon does not constitute a threat to the Lebanese interior), and so did most of the political class, even Saad Hariri himself on some occasions.

Simultaneously, the armed terrorism that struck Lebanon since the end of the last century, affecting its north and south by Islamic fundamentalism, the expansion of Turkey’s influence there, the talk of the “Fatah al-Islam” terrorist organization about establishing an Islamic emirate in the north of the country, and the dangerous military clash between the Lebanese army and the last organization, in the summer of the year 2007, to raise the level of Christian fears of a project to Islamize Lebanon.

Academic and researcher on Lebanese affairs



PREV “When the judiciary of Lebanon is ruled by Riad Salameh, we say other words”… Wahhab warns: Lebanon does not extradite its citizens
NEXT The fate of Riad Salameh is in the hands of the Lebanese judiciary |