The intra-Druze crisis is that of the whole of Lebanon

The wise thing to do is learn from previous mistakes. Perhaps the major lesson to be learnt is that Lebanon’s main problem is Hezbollah and its weapons.
Saturday 06/07/2019
Saleh al-Gharib, the state minister for refugee affairs, sits with Talal Arslan, a Druze politician, during a news conference, in Khaldeh, Lebanon July 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Saleh al-Gharib, the state minister for refugee affairs, sits with Talal Arslan, a Druze politician, during a news conference, in Khaldeh, Lebanon July 1, 2019. (Reuters)

The crisis in Lebanon is not the intra-Druze strife that some are seeking to ignite or at least to fabricate. It’s the crisis of Lebanon as a whole, of the country’s destiny, of the tension in every street and within each sect and in each region.

It’s been half a century since the Cairo Agreement, signed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Lebanese Army commander Emile Bustani.

Bustani could not predict the consequences of such an agreement. There has always been a kind of political blindness among many Christian leaders in Lebanon, which is explained by their unbridled desire to get to the presidency of the country at any price, even if that price was backing Hezbollah’s weapons.

What happened in Qabr Chmoun and Kfarmatta, two towns perched high on Mount Lebanon, is another example of the extent to which tensions have grown. The person who ignited the tension is Gebran Bassil, Foreign Affairs minister and head of the Free Patriotic Movement.

Bassil is good at using inflammatory discourse that stirs up Christian base instincts among ignorant members of the lower-middle class. This discourse is based on selling the Christian community the illusion that its members can reclaim the status of the privileged community in Lebanon on the grounds that Lebanon was created for its Christians in the first place.

Originally, there was no Druze objection to Bassil’s visit to Qabr Chmoun and Kfarmatta. The problem started when Bassil provoked the Druze, who constitute the overwhelming majority in the area, by bringing up in his speech memories of battles that had taken place in a high region of Lebanon in the 1980s or the events of 1860.

After the 1980s battles, the Christians were the biggest losers and a good number of them had been displaced from their towns where they had co-existed in peace with the Druze.

Kfarmatta was the site of a massacre of the Druze at the hands of Christian militias but the tables quickly turned against the Christians until the historic reconciliation on the mountain between Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, a wise man who objected to resorting to weapons and demagogic discourse. The reconciliation took place on August 3, 2001, when Sfeir went to Moukhtara to turn a painful page.

Bassil is not only resorting to populist rhetoric to appeal to Christians. He believes that by going to Qbar Chmoun and Kfarmatta, he was penetrating the Druze milieu. More than that, he believes that penetrating the Druze fief confirms the possibility of establishing a Druze leadership other than Jumblatt.

Bassil was putting on this show of bravado to prove he is a Christian leader, that he has the right to monopolise administrative appointments in the Christian quota and that he deserves some of the appointments in the Sunni and Druze quotas. Above everything else, Bassil was propping himself to be the next president of Lebanon on the grounds that he is the most powerful Christian and that there are no other Christian leaders.

Some parties are trying to accomplish in 2019 what they couldn’t achieve militarily through Hezbollah during the failed invasion of Beirut and the Druze mountain in May 2008. The Druze mountain stood up to Hezbollah then but that didn’t stop the attempts to subdue the Druze of Lebanon.

Interestingly, current attempts to subdue Lebanon’s Druze echo attempts to subdue Syria’s Druze, the majority of whom have refused to join in the sectarian war that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime are waging on the Syrian people.

It is impossible to ignore the war crimes that the Syrian Druze endured at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS). Over time, it turned out that by going after the Syrian Druze, ISIS was just one of the facades of the Syrian regime and, by extension, of the sectarian militias affiliated with Iran that were standing behind the Assad regime.

Every Lebanese Christian must realise that any attempt to weaken the Druze community is an attempt to weaken the Christian community. If the goal is to get into the controversies and complexities of the Mountain War and of the east of Sidon, which ended with the displacement of Christians from several regions in 1983 and 1984, then what this means is that some parties are seeking to start a game that is useless to Lebanon.

Part of the blame for those wars lay with the Christian militias that invaded the Druze mountain at a time when the Israelis were still in Lebanon. The other part lies with the Druze side that chose to take revenge indiscriminately by targeting every Christian in the region.

After all, what benefit there is for the Lebanese Christians to have a weakened Druze community in Lebanon? What benefit could the Christians hope to achieve by reclaiming their so-called spoiled rights by relying on Hezbollah? The Sunnis before them, as well as the Druze, had tried to achieve certain gains in Lebanon by relying on the Palestinian weapons and we all know the results of that.

The wise thing to do is learn from previous mistakes. Perhaps the major lesson to be learnt is that Lebanon’s main problem is Hezbollah and its weapons that are daily targeting institutions of the Lebanese state.

We know Jumblatt is not a saint. He has made many mistakes and will continue to make others because of his situation and the situation of his community in Lebanon and in Syria does not look rosy at all.

It is also undeniable that a giant political scam is being perpetrated in Lebanon by political midgets who do not want to understand two things. The first is that most of the Druze — and it is a big majority — support Jumblatt regardless of his qualities or shortcomings.

The second is that those who intercepted Bassil’s motorcade in the Druze mountain are mostly young people whom Jumblatt has no control over. These youth were expressing the mood prevailing among the Druze community and this mood exists regardless of whether or not it is endorsed by Jumblatt.