Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Oil and Water: The Unfortunate Reality of the Lebanese Divide

Why should I be upset about what happened when the people who have been displaced, whose country has been dismembered, whose houses have been destroyed and whose kids have been massacred, are boasting victory, and sporting Nasrallah's picture and Hezbollah's flag?

How do you deal with a people whose cause and beliefs are so deeply entrenched in their leader's mission and ideology that not death nor devastation is strong enough a deterrent to perpetual claims of victory and unwavering honor and pride?

The massive hordes moving back to the South are a loud and clear statement of how resilient and stubborn the people of the South are and have become. And while I wear my slightly fogged objectivity lenses, I cannot but admire those attributes in the face of such a humanitarian disaster.

This is not where the problem lies however. The problem lies in the victory-cost equation as perceived by different factions of the Lebanese community. I, for one, would compromise for peace. The safety and prosperity of my people is what takes precedence over anything else. Not because I am oblivious to the crimes committed around me. I do feel the pain of the Palestinian people, I see the criminality of the Israeli state and the atrocities Palestinians are subjected to every day. And if given a chance I will not hesitate one second to lend them a helping hand. I would do the same for any ailing group of people in the world. And I would most certainly be more inclined to help those with whom I have a common ancestry, common roots, and a common cultural background. But I also cannot forget that the same people I am now willing to help were ready at one point in time to bestow upon me the injustice they were subjected to, and rid me of my land to make it their own. In other words, when it came to their own interests versus mine, the unfortunate people of Palestine hesitated not for a single second to put their own lives ahead of mine and patch their plight with my own. Fighting injustice with injustice, no matter how breaking and unbearable the initial injustice was, is what I cannot forgive nor forget.

But let me go back to my initial point. In the wake of this ongoing, yet temporarily suspended conflict, I see at least two people. The people who's energy and brio is directed primarily towards fighting Israel and the Zionist plan at any cost, and protecting, in the Islamic and tribal tradition of the people of the peninsula, the pride of the Umma and its foremost religion Islam, and the people who see the brutal enemy that is Israel, and yet are willing to compromise in order to avoid devastating conflicts, and tentatively achieve peace and prosperity within their national borders.

These two political and ideological attitudes are sadly incompatible within the same community and under the same roof.

The worst part in this equation is that there is no right answer. And no matter how we approach this matter and attempt to solve it, the fundamental divide in concept and perspective within the Lebanese community as it is being dramatically affirmed by the current conflict, makes it almost impossible for me to see how common grounds of agreement will ever be reached.

And being part of the second group of people who are willing to compromise for peace, and in answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this post, yes I should and I will feel upset by the tragedies inflicted on Lebanon and the Lebanese people, because first and foremost they are suffering human beings, and also because they are my people and the bonds that tie us together are outside all conflicts and all disparate ideologies. But whether I can live with them within the same borders without eternally falling in the cycle of violence, hatred and retribution is what remains to be seen.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fouad, I don't know how many people would like to see others die the way 1200 Lebanese did. I am very sure that some people in Lebanon don't even care for all the death and destruction that took place. Why? For two main reasons. First, it their "areas" were not touched, or they are from different sects. This is Lebanon Fouad. We all dream of a one unified country, but sadly this is the reality. We are a NOT one people.

I am from the South. I never thought or dreamed of establishing an Iranian or Islamic style system in Lebanon. I am not a leftist or communist. I believe in God, and that is enough for me. Israeli tanks used to cruise around in my village and pick who ever they want to spend some years in their hospitality. Jumblat, GeaGea, Hariri, or any other political leader didn't protect us there. And I am sure that you are knowledgeable enough of the suffering of the South before 1982.We protected our selves. Not every southern is a member of HA, but they support them because they represent values that they were raised on. You love your land, so do we. We love to live in dignity and peace just like any other person in Lebanon. Death is not a hobby for us, neither is misery. The difference is that you have people who are ready to die for their land, families, values and cause. Not for Syria, Iran or Brazil. Again I ask you this question, Can you imagine if this culture existed in the whole Arab world what would happen?Maybe you would be studying and working in your beloved Lebanon instead of here. Just Imagine!!

Fadi

2:54 PM  
Anonymous LennyBruce said...

Fouad,
A good piece to read and maybe its a discussion I intrude upon because it is a very personal and internal Lebanese issue. But to hear you and the first commentator talking about the desire to live in dignity and peace, even after all that has transpired, this month and in the decades leading up to this month, gives me hope.

Peace and love

3:16 PM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Fouad, I found your blog by way of CafeDA. Your stance is very pragmatic and it sounds like you can seperate that which you feel, with that which is necessary to live, which always ALWAYS in life, marriage, raising kids, mean..compromise! It's not the bravura attitude of 'giving in' or being a coward or whatever people might throw at you, it's as you say, a reality if you want to live right and in peace. And it is very interesting to hear Fadi mention the lack of unity because that is what I have been thinking as well. Most Arab nations I believe (and correct me if I am wrong, this is my view only) do not have a real common identity, national self identity. There are people who will still see them affiliated either by religious delineation, or part of this tribe or that group. Somehow, I think forging a real national identity that will not be usurped by an all encompassing, Ummah, even if you are a believer, will help in bringing compromise and multiculturalism as an accepted way of life and tolerance of one and other. I know there are huge differences in histories, but Christians do not just back 'each other up' (except for those scary fundamentalist ones) just because they are Christian. What do you think Fouad?
hope this ceasefire will give some needed healing, I am sure living in fear of being bombed is traumatic enough,
Ingrid

3:51 PM  
Blogger Fouad said...

yes lennybruce, we all want to live in dignity and peace, although different groups have different approaches to that common end.

Fadi, I hear you and I fully understand what you mean, as I am fully aware of all the pain the southern people have unnecessarily endured. Everybody hailed Hezbollah for freeing the South from Israeli occupation. There has got to be a time though when things are weighed and evaluated with care, for losses can largely outweigh the gains. It seems to me that the Southern people have reached a point where they feel they have nothing to lose except their dignity, so much so that defeat is no more part of their lexicon, as long as they resist and as long as they try to make their enemies pay for the crimes they committed against them. But I would like to believe that this is not the answer, because this would deny them prospects of a bright prosperous future. We cannot live indefinitely in war. When we have achieved most of what we are asking for, we need to settle in order not to lose everything. That is what I think, though from the comfort of my temporary self-imposed exile, I might not have the credibility or the persuasive power of someone burried under the rubble of war.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Fouad said...

I totally agree with you Ingrid, which is why I have always been a proponenet of a Lebanese identity above all. Borders drawn by the french and the english or not, we all share a common cultural, ancestral and geopolitical identity which makes that I, being from the north, have friends from all parts of lebanon who are as close to me as the siblings I never had. Which is also why, when asked, I say am lebanese, and talk about my beautiful country, its great people, its history, its importance in the region, even its delicious eclectic food. Which is also why I support anything related to Lebanon and fiercely defend it. That is the only common denominator that should bring us all together no matter how seemingly varied and multicultural we are. Our religious and regional identities are fine and we should be proud of them, but first we have a country to safeguard, just like everyone of us has a home and a family to safeguard against all dangers as much as possible.

So yeah, I completely agree with you Ingrid. And if more people adopted that view, I think it would be much easier to reach a common state of unity and communion.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

You are a small country to begin with, how could you possibly subdivide further? And yet I read that many of the Shia refugees from the southern part of Lebanon were recently received with open arms by their Christian / Sunni / Druze countrymen while fleeing to the north. Perhaps you're not quite as divided as you think...

10:18 PM  
Blogger Fouad said...

People help each other in times of need. It is when the dust settles that differences reemerge. But you're right Mike, maybe we're not as divided as I think. Maybe it's all a figment of my imagination, and I sincerely hope it is.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Perhaps sometimes, when people are in need, they're more likely to discover the divisions between them are less deep than they supposed?

11:00 PM  
Blogger Akiva M said...

Fouad,

I think the worst thing about the dichotomy is that it is only a dichotomy. In your world view, it seems, there are people who want to see Israel destroyed and believe it is worth whatever losses may be necessary to that goal, and people who want to see Israel destroyed but don't think it is worth the cost.

There is a third group, I believe, from speaking with them: people who don't have any dream of seeing Israel destroyed and want to live in peace not because it is the practical thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, until many more join that third group, peace will continue to be far off.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sick of grouping people based on their suffering or their religion or which ethnic groups they hold in the highest importance. I'm a member of humanity first and foremost. I don't want to see another person physically hurt or put out of their home, Shiite, Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, it doesn't matter. And I wish Shiites would have that attitude despite what they've experienced and the same goes for Israelis. Whatever happened to rising above and being better than those who hurt you? If your child was hit by another, would you teach them to hold a grudge against that child's entire family and devote the rest of their life to hurting them?

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although this is an extreme analogy, supporting Hezbollah simply because they provide social services to you and defend you against a perceived enemy is the equivalant of supporting the Nazis during the WWII bombardment of Germany. Look at their ideology and what it supports --- certainly not freedom for all. When Hassan Nasrallah allows his followers to riot in the streets and shut down the airport simply because of a COMEDY SKETCH on television (on Bas Mat Watan), that says quite a lot. Beware of extremism before it dwarfs us all, Shiite, Druze, Christian and Sunni alike.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Fouad said...

Akiva, of course living in peace is the right thing to do, have I not made that clear yet? I don't want to see Israel destroyed, I don't want to see anymore suffering and death anywhere in the world. But peace with Israel cannot come without a compromise, because of all the unwarranted atrocities Israel has committed against my people over the past few decades. LIke I said a number of posts ago, I neither want to destroy nor be destroyed. I just want the evil destructive hands to be off me and leave me alone.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Poul said...

and the funny part, if you only were able to get over all those imaginery "unwarranted atrocities Israel has committed against my people", israel would forget that you even exist. as it gladly would forget that you exist 6 decades ago.

it's the same cycle - first you attack israel, then get beaten up badly, then cry about "atrocities", then attack israel again.

the definition of "idiot" is one who repeats the same actions but hopes for a different outcome. that's exactly what you're doing.

don't you see that it is not imaginery "unwarranted atrocities", but your own obsession with israel that continues to bring destruction on your people?

israel is not going anywhere and is not going to tolerate being attacked. only you people can break the cycle that you perpetuate.

2:38 AM  
Blogger Zee said...

poul,
you have fallen into the trap that Fouad so consistently tries to avoid ...

2:57 AM  
Blogger redfox said...

Fouad
I agree with you 100%. I want peace with Israel and I am willing to compromise to get it. As Ghassan salameh said the other day, one has sometimes to choose between bad and worse. In any case, I don't see how 2 contradicting ideologies can live as one and I do not not believe the Lebanese'national' unity ever existed...nor will. My mistake was to come back to Lebanon after the completion of my studies abroad. Don't do the same Fouad. Do not come back.

As for anonymous, I understand you pain but why won't you give the right to be in pain too? My area was not 'touched' but that doesn't mean that I didn't suffer. Sorry if it wasn't as much as you. have you considered those who have lost and will lose their jobs in 'untouched' areas? The lebanese economy affects every Lebanese. If the Hezb AND the goverment are paying for your losses, who will pay for mine, for others'. If the situation in Lebanon stays as is, a volcano in flames, where is the people of Lebanon, all its people heading? And I'm not just talking about economic aspects but about dreams, progress, education...lives.

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

zee,
Poul's response has nothing to do with fouad, he keeps commenting with the same paragraphs on all the blogs he reads regardless of the original post.

Poul,
If you are going to take the same paragraphs of meaningless hate and post them in all the Lebanese blogs you know of, at least read what you ae writing and make sure it has a meaning.

I know you are just a troll, so I won't bother more...

4:32 AM  
Anonymous Gil, Israel said...

Fouad,

There is an ancient way, not perfect but good enough, to bring two different ideologies under one leadership – it's called Democracy.

Each side tries to convince the other side he is right (but not by using guns and terror). Than they all vote and accept the choice made by the majority. The side that lost can act within the boundaries of politics and get ready to try and win the next election.

Sounds simple doesn't it?

The problem is no Arab country has truly chosen democracy so far. You are very close in Lebanon but not there yet. Hope for you (and for us) you'll get there soon.

Good luck.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

A peace treaty with Israel is not realistic. There's just too much internal opposition. Look at what happened to the May 17 Agreement. Events the past 23 years have only made a separate peace treaty (i.e. not in conjunction with the Palestinians, or with the rest of the Arab world) less likely.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Eunee said...

Oil and water obviously don't mix.... But once poured in the same container, how do you separate the two? Both are pourable liquids.... Something must be done to the liquid in order to separate them back to one container of oil and one container of water....

It is sad, but it's true....that there is no right answer in this situation.... Where does one begin? And who must we bypass in order to instill what most perceive as the "right" answer? At whose cost?

Another truth, though: injustice cannot be fought with injustice to resolve differences and problems. And it can go on.... an adult's debate. But what of the children? What of their future? What kind of future are we leaving to them?

Reality aside, I hope we can continue to hope and dream that there are things to be done and can be done, not simply for the immediate peace of our generation, but for the peace and prosperity of those who will follow....

9:00 PM  

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