Lebanon's Identity, could not be but Lebanese
By: Elias Elias Bejjani


Reuters 4/3/04: During the annual people's general conference session at the city of Sart, Colonel Moammar Ghaddafi, in the presence of an American delegation, called on the Libyans to cooperate with the USA and Europe. He said: "These countries were not our enemy except for the sake of others", pointing that "There is no permanent enmity, and no permanent friendship", and noticing that "Those whom Libya helped surpassed it and fixed their matters with those whom Libya boycotted". He added: " Abu Amar (Yasser Arafat) entered the White House and therefore will not be more Arafatian than Arafat himself (....) We have boycotted the countries that recognize Israel but the Palestinian and Israeli Prime Ministers drink together and toast".

We wonder if Ghaddafi's comments have been read and their logic understood by many of Lebanon's officials, politicians, clergy, and the "hatched-in-Syria" parties who fanatically promote the forced Arabization of Lebanon and its people. We wonder also if those self-proclaimed Lebanese "heroes" of liberation who claim to have "triumphed" over the Zionists have learned anything from Gaddafi's repentance!! Is there any kind of reasoning that would make these people see what is going on around them, save themselves and their country, and adopt Gaddafi's role model in repentance before it is too late?

Lately we have been witnessing a renewed vicious media campaign in which the rhetoric is against Lebanon's identity, history, multi-cultural traditions and values, as well as its mosaic of ethnicities, languages, and civilizations. This Syrian-Baathist orchestrated campaign is carried out by numerous Lebanese officials, politicians, prominent clergymen and journalists. They allege that Lebanon is an Arab country with an Arab identity rooted in affiliation, language, culture, education, civilization, history and fate. They deny and negate the legitimate rights of the Lebanese people that are safeguarded by both the International Human Rights Declaration and Lebanon's Constitution, including the right to the freedom of preserving Lebanon's distinctive mosaic culture that is different from its neighboring countries and peoples, and its values and the many faiths that are at the heart of its identity.

The efforts to impose a supposedly Arab identity on Lebanon is part of a long standing fascist imperialist hegemonistic campaign aiming at eliminating Lebanon's historic diversity under the falsely blended banners of Islam and Arabism.
In many ways, this campaign is identical to Germany's campaign at imposing an imperialist and fascist German identity on the Swiss, the Austrians, the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Poles, and the rest of Europe under the banner of a supposedly higher Aryan race that was at the core of the Nazi movement. Similarly, Soviet Russia attempted a similar fascist program to forcibly "russianify" a large number of other nations and countries for much of the 20th century, only to see it crumble in the face of the unquenchable thirst that nations and peoples have for the freedom to live, believe, think, and speak whatever they wish.

The actual irony in the dilemma facing the proponents of "Arabism" lies in the fact that those mercenary "Arabists", braggers and preachers, are mortgaging Lebanon's deeply rooted heritage, identity and pluralism for the sake of personal material and status gains. Those are the same individuals who, though entrusted to protect and defend Lebanon's scared values and national convictions, they instead have betrayed and abandoned the people's interests and the country's identity and its foundations. Most of these people got their posts through the Syrian Baathist occupier and against the will and wishes of the Lebanese people. They are doomed as stated in Ezekiel 34: 8-10, "My sheep have been attacked by wild animals that killed and ate them because there were no shepherds. My shepherds did not try to find the sheep. They were taking care of themselves and not the sheep. So listen to me, you shepherds. I the sovereign Lord, declare you enemy. I will take take my sheep away from you and never again let you be their shepherds; never again will I let you take care only of yourselves. I will rescue my sheep from you and not let you eat them".

Yes indeed, to a rock bottom we have descended because of Trojan shepherds whose presence is actually an absence. The Lebanese people generally respect and honor their leaders whom they see as role models.This kind of respect and honor is, however, not applicable to the majority of Lebanon's current leaders who are taking care of their material interests while betraying the people and the country. Any comparison between those mercenaries and the leaders who made Lebanon a country that the world has known for thousands of years, is akin to equating evil with good.

How could Lebanon's current leaders sell out the nation's identity, its deeply rooted history, heritage and culture? How could they sell out their own people's welfare and the sacrifices of the thousands of men and women who gave their lives to safeguard Lebanon's freedoms, independence, human rights, dignity, honor and distinctive identity? Those leaders are not shepherds. They are wild wolves devouring the people and destroying the country and knocking down its foundations as an independent entity. They are ignoring the plain fact that not one leader or ruler, in the whole world, no matter how powerful, is able to continue on deceiving his people. History teaches us that the ultimate triumph has always been to the people and not to the oppressive rulers. The current imposed status quo in Lebanon is not going to last forever, while the fate of the rulers who are protecting this status quo and oppressing the people would not be different from that of the Baathist Saddam Hussien or the German Nazi Hitler !!!

Those who are promoting the "Arabization" of Lebanon and the Lebanese, should look around themselves and see what is happening in Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and in the other so-called "Arab" countries. They should also learn from what happened to the former USSR after almost 70 years. They should understand once and for all that nations can only survive as free and sovereign, and never through oppression, fear, persecution and the imposition of false identities, faiths and ideologies that the people reject.

As far as Lebanon is concerned, it should be by now crystal clear for all the Arabists, Baathists, Wahabi fundamentalists, Khomeinists, and the rest of the one-ideology, one-faith mentality that their endeavors will end in vain and shall be defeated. Lebanon's identity is not Phoenician, Arab, French, Armenian, European or any other. It is also not Christian or Muslim; Lebanon is all these and even more. Lebanon is the synthesis of all the civilizations of the Mediterranean basin. Lebanon is just Lebanon and its identity is only Lebanese. It cannot be given any other name or any other identity. Lebanon is a pluralistic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnical and multi-religious mosaic whose society is composed of 19 recognized communities. There are many Lebanese of Arab descent as well as many others of non-Arab descent such as Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Copts, Europeans, Turks, Phoenicians, etc. All these cultures and communities should be very proud to be Lebanese and should be given the freedom to maintain their identities and be proud of their distinct ethnicities, languages, and faiths, provided that their foremost basic loyalty is to Lebanon.

No one can claim that the Lebanese are only Arabs or only Phoenicians or of any one ethnicity, because in fact, they are not. Yes, they are all Lebanese, but of different descents, faiths, civilizations and cultures, exactly like Canada, the US, Australia and many other multi-cultural countries in the world. No one can force me, I, the Canadian of Lebanese descent,or an American of Arabic descent to be English with an English identity simply because we speak English. Millions of people around the Globe as in India, Australia, Nigeria, and the former countries of the British Commonwealth, do speak English, but this language factor does not make any of their people Englishmen or subjects of the British crown, any more than the millions in many countries who speak Spanish to be Spanish.

It is time for all the Lebanese to be Lebanese, and only Lebanese. Enough is enough of playing the cultures and religions games in Lebanon, and allowing others to use Lebanon as an arena for their dirty fights and for their fundamentalist and religious ideologies. The time has come to legally deter parties, organizations, associations, and individuals from playing the game of Lebanon's "Arab" identity, or freely promote any other identity, except the Lebanese one.

It is time for all the Lebanese, especially for those who still have no loyalty for Lebanon as an independent nation to wake up, look around them and stop day-dreaming. It is time for them, and before it is too late, to understand that they cannot force their religion, ideology, culture, identity or lifestyle on anybody.

It is time for them to live, let others live, respect the rights of others, so others can respect their rights, get out of their hideouts of hatred , start learning and practicing tolerance, and honor the right of others to be whoever they wish to be.

Elias Bejjani
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)