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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Franjieh sets new record, Jumblatt loves the Ottomans

Suleiman Franjieh Jr set a new record for Lebanon in the number of contradictions per statement per made-redundant politician.

Following a meeting with wannabe president Michel Aoun, he "believed the (UN) probe has failed to uncover any significant information" but "stressed he did not have any knowledge of the probe's findings."

He also "revealed he was planning on transforming the Marada (a former militia founded by his grandfather President Suleiman Franjieh) into a registered political party that will be open to all the Lebanese", But "will have a Christian face."

He then said "we are secular and open to all the Lebanese," but "since confessionalism dominates the country we cannot deny our Christian identity."

Oh poor you. Keep using your "Christian identity" to bully people into supporting you.

He went on to pontificate about how it is "the full responsibility" of the government to maintain national security but did not take responsibility for the lack of security when he was interior minister. He also did not seem to think that disarming Hizbullah has anything to do with security.

Regarding Resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon, the former minister felt Hizbullah's arms should be held as a bargaining chip until a comprehensive agreement is reached with Israel.

In other words, keeping militias armed and active will not undermine national security which is the government's "full responsibility."

Fantastic logic. Oh, and the purpose of that meeting was to support Aoun's candidacy for president because "General Aoun best represents the Christian community".

Meanwhile, and to keep it balanced for those of you who eat balance for breakfast (but never lunch or dinner), Jumblatt praised "Turkish Islam" and said Turkey's democratic Islamic party is proof that "Islam in the Ottoman empire was tolerant and respected pluralism and continues to do so", while the Arab world wallows in "disintegration, sectarianism, tribalism and other manifestations of backwardness".

He stopped short of calling for enlightened Turkish annexation and revival of the Ottoman empire. I believe that's a case of historical idiocy.

Turkish empire was as much tolerant with Saudi Arabia, at least Saudi Arabia never massacred any minority.

I also agree on you about Frangieh, but I just love the guy! I am not from Zghorta but he's so funny I mean look what he said:

I didn't see anybody going to Paris with his wife. It looks like they like to travel without their women. All those who are going at Paris to see their girlfriends are saying that they are threatened in Lebanon.

Ain't he something?

Original version in l'orient:
« Je n’ai vu personne se rendre à Paris avec son épouse. Apparemment, ils aiment voyager sans leurs femmes. Tous ceux qui veulent aller rencontrer leurs amies à Paris prétextent du fait que leur sécurité est menacée au Liban. »
The kid from Zgharta must be talking from personal experience.Although divorces are not allowed in the maronite sect except in rare circumstances, what was he doing with the LBC broadcaster Rima Karkafi while still married to his ex-wife? By the way he threatened to kill his bishop because he was reluctant to divorce him, and he later married his sweetheart, not in Paris but in Zgharta

I especially loved when he said: he wants to form a SECULAR party with a CHRISTIAN face.

Someone give him a dictionary. QUICKLY.

And Jumblatt ... what can I say. He never fails to make me laugh.
Good one Kais.

As for Solly Jr. This is what happens when you don't go to school (and are appointed health minister instead).

Mothers tell your children.

Also, someone tell Joumblatt which way is up.
You forgot another contradiction, Kais. He said that he supports Aound for President, but he has stellar relations (alaka mumtaza) with Lahoud. Please, can someone explain to me this?

And yes I agree that his talk of Paris and girlfriends is so silly, so silly; it's not funny. I mean how can Hizbullah take him seriously when after discussing this silly issue he goes on to disccus 1559?
Who outside Zghorta takes Frangieh seriously?

AS for Jumblat, who today decided not to be an Arab nationalist, I actually have a soft spot for his remark on the Ottoman empire. I'd say it's a minoritarian impulse. But remember what the arrangement was in Mount Lebanon. Not bad...
And before you jump all over me for that last remark, go back and see what the arrangement was.
Not that I'm saying we should go back to it... But, as Raja said, disclaimers are in nowadays...
hmmm... somehow I knew you would appreciate his remark on the Ottoman empire, Tony. It was very Bernard Lewis.
Actually, his son (from the first wife) wanted to shoot daddy for leaving his mother.

Remember the time (after Hariri's assassination) when he said "I use Mustaqbal for my sandwiches". Or remember when he said that the washing machine (jellayye) is not working anymore between Hariri and Lahoud?

Another story : a few years ago Sleiman invited a few guys on his yacht to reconcile. But actually, naughty Sleiman didn't want to reconcile or they told him something he didn't like. So he threw them in the sea (without killing them, it wasn't his intention, he only wanted to have a good laugh and the shores weren't very far from the boat). Or the time when Slimmy's bodyguards shot Nabih's bodyguards in the BHV because they were annoying a casheer from Zghortha (fools!). My cousin was almost beat up one time for saying Sleiman Frangieh (senior) instead of El Rais Sleiman Frangieh to an ex-Marada (nothing intended, but he wasn't aware of local customs). Thank God he had a local friend with him: basically, he told them that he came from Beirut (like it was a disease).

It sounds like Far-West, but don't get the wrong ideas, it's only anecdotes. You have plenty of educated men in Zghorta and most people are very peaceful.
Actually, Kais, to me it's more Elie Kedourie. Bernard Lewis is more Turkophile. I mean, I think there was a lot of problems with our lives under the Ottomans, and I certainly am not advocating a return to that (besides, it couldn't be recreated it even if people tried. So much has changed.). But one thing Kedourie got right is that Arab nationalism destroyed the one good thing about the Ottoman arrangement, which was the relative cultural autonomy of the various millets. As such, Arab nationalism was a completely destructive force with nothing good to offer.

But see this book:

Engin Akarli, The Long Peace: Ottoman Lebanon, 1861-1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

Besides, I thought my post on Ottoman music (which gave birth to my nick name) would've been cited, as opposed to Bernard Lewis. A bit too cliche, don't you think!?

Best regards.
But I don't take Jumblat too seriously, even when I think there is a shred of truth to his quasi-nostalgia. After all, despite all his Arab nationalist posturing, in the end he's a minoritarian Druze. He can't help it. I'm sorry to sound so deterministic, but I don't think I'm too off the mark.
By the way, I've mentioned this reference before on my blog, but you should take a look at it to see what I mean. It's by Kemal Karpat, who has written much on this subject. "The Ethnicity Problem in a Multi-ethnic Anational State: Continuity and Recasting of Ethnic Identity in the Ottoman State," in Ethic Groups and the State, ed. Paul Brass. (Totwa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1985).

See also his "The Ottoman Ethnic and Confessional Legacy in the Middle East," in Milton J. Esman and Itamar Rabinovich (eds.), Ethnicity, Pluralism, and the State in the Middle East (Ithaca and London, 1988), pp. 35-53.
That's "EthNic Groups and the State."
Oops I meant that Turkish empire wasn't so tolerant (sorry for the purist, but it was Turkish, even if its official ideology was panislamism). And when it was tolerant, it was because it was forced to be, not because they believed in multi-culturalism.

But modern Turkish Islam is tolerant, I'll hope that they continue keeping Saudi money out of the system.
I think that Jumblat is trying to say that Turkey should join Europe because it is a good thing for Lebanon and I share his point of view (I am not sure if it's a good thing for Europe, but who cares, Lebanon first ).
Tony is the expert on Jewish and Israeli historians and a tireless promoter of their writings. I find his blog a good window to view their latest writings.

The Arab Rebellion was a destructive force.It was the tool to dismantle the Ottoman State to make way for the European occupation under the League of Nations Mandate and the Zionist project.

The Arab Nationalists that followed were by and large cut from the same cloth as Sharif Hussein and Abdul Aziz. They just represented different classes and were anti-monarchists.

They too were by and large in the service of the same masters but had to fit in the post war anti- colonial system. They were anti-Islam, anti-Communist, dictatorial and lacked legitimacy in their artificial states. They used socialism to expropriate the wealth of the state and the private sector for themselves and their cliques. Arab states today are just a front for family businesses.

I agree that we were better off under the Ottomans. There was freedom of movement, stability,and cultural autonomy. However, I agree with Vox that it was forced upon them by the Europeans and I might add the expediency of war.

We are headed towards a new uncertain order with new borders in the region that will again be dictated by outside powers. Maybe that is why Jumblat ,the chameleon, pines for the old days of the Ottoman Empire.

Frangieh and Aoun are natural allies against the LF.

Ahhh… I am familiar with some of the readings Tony suggested (how I wish I was back in Beirut right now, where they all are). Sometimes I actually miss academia.

The millet system is not completely dead, it’s still alive in Lebanon at least, isn’t it the basis of our much vilified sectarian system, each sect (millet) has its own court, etc. Ok so the sects are no longer autonomous and collect their own taxes, but we have a national identity now (initially imposed but oh well, we had time to get used to it). Perhaps a federal system would be one way to partially restore the autonomy, but I’m not about to advocate something I don’t believe will ever work, not after all those years...

I am not sure the Greeks and the Armenians would exhibit nostalgia for the millet system (calling it a system might be a stretch, arrangement as Tony referred to it since it varied from millet to millet). Mount Lebanon might have been a special case (spared the Sultan a headache) with its feudal autonomy. But life wasn’t always rosy in Mount Lebanon and power and wealth were concentrated in the feudal lords initially then in the aristocratic class. And if the millet system worked at some point, it worked for the new class of westernized aristocrats, and that was probably due to European protection which gave certain sects superior status (and consequently access to Europe and wealth) and eventually bred hostilities with the Muslim populations. Thanks to that, the Ottoman “reforms”, the civil wars of Mount Lebanon, and the stupid sectarian Qa'emmaqamiya system which divided a mixed Mount Lebanon region into Christian and Druze cantons, by the 20th century the region descended into a sectarian hell (at least as far as the non-merchant, poorer classes were concerned).

Just to be clear, we are talking about 19th century Ottoman empire, a weak, crumbling old man with gaping holes filled by powerful European interests and missionaries bent on “civilizing” the non Muslims (the Millets). I don’t think the ottomans did any good to the region in the long run. Their empire partly self-destructed and the Europeans took care of the rest.

As for Arab nationalism being responsible for the destruction of cultural autonomy, well, I am having trouble understanding what we mean by that. I guess I don’t see the region as composed of culturally autonomous entities. Politically maybe depending on how the vilayet boundaries were drawn, but there was a free flow of ideas and goods, with some areas more prosperous than others. And even if that was true, cultural autonomy (which in the 19th century probably meant westernized vs. regular illiterate Ottoman Muslim), why would that be a good thing for ALL (and not just the millets)? It is good if we think in terms of Muslim seas or oceans and other paranoid concepts. And if we are to blame a force for destroying that autonomy, is it necessarily Arab nationalism which was a binding (though some might argue delusional) force that never really saw the light of day anyway (later Nasserism and Baathism don’t really count)? And what is Sykes Picot’s role here in creating artificial boundaries and countries without consulting the people?

We’re getting into a huge debate here. :)
Hysterical write-up of Franjieh!
However, Jumblatt's comments are more serious.

The only thing that can historically unite the entire territory of modern Lebanon is Fakhreddine, our fabled Druze prince. In fact, Fakhreddine controlled much of northern Israel.

Interestingly enough, Fakhreddine went from being an Ottoman vassal, to an Italisn vassal, to a lord of all of Lebanon, to being put to death in Constantinople in 1633.

Also, interesting is that he fought the originally Kurdish Ottoman-sponsored Janbulat clan - which some claim is the origin of the Jumblatt family - while allying with the divided Baalbak ruling Harfouche family - which remains divided by sect today.
(For more on this, see Abu Husayn's Provincial Leaderships in Syria).

Jumblatt seems to be harkening back to the words of his father - that Lebanon is a non-entity. If we take him seriously, then he is endorsing the slaying of Fakhreddine. Since Jumblatt is playing history, I would love to see some Druze organization through his words back at him and accuse him of dishonoring our national hero.
LP, explain something to me. Why do we confuse the history of Mount Lebanon with the history of modern Lebanon? So Fakhreddine came close to ruling an area that roughly corresponds to post 1926 Greater Lebanon. But are the two entities related in a way that allows us to claim historical, political and cultural continuity?
I don't have time to go through all your comment (a lot of which I disagree with and is incomplete, if not distorted), but you leave out (conveniently) the mutasarrifiya (!) and the majlis and its composition, despite the actual demographic distribution. Now THAT is certainly in continuity.
Tony- I understand, there is no time for this here, and it's a very complex discussion, though I'd be interested in reading your interpretation. Perhaps another time.

In the meantime, the continuity is there if we assume that Lebanon's history is only the history of the Christians (and to an extent the Druze) of Lebanon. Many would say that Lebanon was intended to be a Christian country, but that's not the case anymore. Even those who were not enthusiastic about the idea of Lebanon seem to be on board now, even if they still have different political visions. Thus their history and role in the territory that is now Lebanon needs to be worked into a more inclusive historical narrative. That's all... a more inclusive historical narrative.
Again, you missed the point about the majlis. What was the make-up of the majlis, IN LIGHT of the demographic make-up of Mount Lebanon? That is key. What was the distribution of sects in the majlis? I put it forward BECAUSE of its inclusion. You decided to stick to the cliche of a "christian country." That's not my point at all.
The very first arrangement was such that "each of the six major communities was allotted two seats on the twelve-member administrative council that helped the [non-Lebanese, appointed] governor rule." This was regardless of the actual demographic of Mount Lebanon. Then the numerically superior Maronites objected and the deal was redrawn, and the council then consisted of "four Maronites, three Druzes, two Greek Orthodoxes, one Greek Catholic, one Sunni Muslim, and one Shi`a Muslim. Proportional communal representation thus became the norm."

Now think these two arrangements through, and think of them in light of modern discussions about Parliament, Bicameralism, electoral law, and proportional representation, and the demands of the Shi'a. Before I give my opinion, I'd like to hear yours.
In other words, you'll find that the qa'imaqamiya -- which essentially resembles to a large extent the de facto "federalism of sects" enshriend by the Syrian-imposed (and Jumblat-Hizbullah-Berri supported) 2000 electoral law, which destroys variety within sects, and creates spheres of influence, which then are transfered to parliament -- that arrangement led to problems. The non-majoritarian, power-sharing agreement (mutasarrifiya) did well. I would say, its first incarnation was even better than its second. But the two can be combined if one adopts bicameralism.
Read what he says at the end of this column, and relate that to what I said above.
Tony, somehow we ended up arguing about two different things. Hmm... Thanks for the info. I was talking about the need for an inclusive historical narrative and not disagreeing with the potential benefit of importing a past arrangement and working it into a viable electoral system.

There's hope.
What I'm saying is that the arrangement carries in it the factual seeds of an inclusive historical narrative.
Besides, history is history. Certainly, the historical roots of the European pilgrims coming to America and the Mayflower is certainly not an "all-inclusive" story of America, but it's a historical cornerstone anyway, regardless of its "exclusivity" (if you want to use this term).

But if this history carries in it the seeds for inclusion, which is my point about the Majlis, then we don't need to really make this such an issue, as some have. You just reread the past, without obliterating it.
Kais and Tony,
The mutasarrifiya does never included Tripoli or Akkar. I don't think it included Hermel or Baalbak either, but I am not sure on that.

The only time in Lebanese history in which the country was a unified entity with boundaries similar to those today was under Fakhredine. That's an important part of our history, which is why it is taught in our schools and we are all taught to regard Fakhredine.

That also undercuts the Qawmy Surie and Jumblatti arguments that Lebanon never existed and is merely a figment of modern colonialism.

Tony is right to point out the mutasarrifiya to manifest a previous period of independence and confessionalism. However, the modern state of Lebanon would be a much different place if only Mount Lebanon was a part of the state.

One could also point to the Marada coalition as another example of historical independence from external entities. And, Tony, you probably know much more about this than me, but I believe Mount Lebanon was autonomous during the Byzantine period. The heretical Monophysites lived in Mount Lebanon, and I believe the people who became part of the Marada were Monophysites from Anatolia.

These arguments are significant in opposition to Jumblatt's declarations. Fakhredine, a member of Jumblatt's own sect and a European vassal, was killed by the Ottoman authorities.
For him to make claims about the pluralism of the Ottoman Empire and tolerant Ottoman Islam is to create a distorted history that he is trying to apply to the modern context. Yes, the Ottoman Empire was pluralistic, but Lebanon was always the exception.

Then again, he might just have been saying that he wants to be semi-autonomous (as during the Ottoman period), but to be part of an Empire that will barge in and try to make peace when troubles flare.
I think LP is reading too much into Jumblat's statement. But again I must clarify what I said. I'm not really addressing all this stuff. This particular discussion (as opposed to the general one about the Ottoman legacy and pluralism) started as reminder about the mutasarrifiya after Kais left it out and focused on the qaimaqamate. My point about the mutsarrifiya is that the Sanjak of Mount Lebanon, regardless of its actual demographic make-up (predominately Christian and Druze, with a Maronite majority), had a remarkable system of equal representation for all six major sects (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Shiite, Sunni, Druze) in the administrative council. This meant overrepresentation for non-Druze and non-Maronites. The reason why I mentioned this was in response to Kais' view on inclusion and historical narrative. I think that aspect of the history of Lebanon is indeed very positive and very relevant today, for obvious reasons.
Actually Issam, the Turkish were becoming nationalistc also and the relations with the Arabs were really worsened because movements like the young Turks tried to impose the Turkish language in the empire.
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