Friday, May 15, 2009

June 7th Elections in Lebanon Threaten Christians' Existence in the Middle East

Elza S. Maalouf
That threat does not come from Islam!

It is an existential threat that can jeopardize the progress that Muslim pragmatists (both, Shia and Sunni) have made in the Middle East. In this region of the world where Iran is trying to revive the Persian empire with a new ideology based on their brand of Shiism, power brokers like Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria are forming an unholy alliance that is guaranteed to keep the region behind. On the surface, the message of this alliance appeals to many in the Arab world as the defender of Arab honor against the assault of what is surely viewed as the Zionists and their American sponsors. The disgruntled Arab street that is suppressed by archaic and dysfunctional regimes, is looking for the next step beyond the stalemate of political corruption, high unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. Ahmedinejad has more supporters among Arabs than among Iranians. The Arab street that saw many US administrations siding with Israel and corrupt Arab regimes over many decades, see a hero in the president of Iran.
In Spiral Dynamics integral Memetic speak, the unhealthy Orange value system-(Enterprise) that represented the West's hunger for oil kept Red Arab regimes in power to control the flow of oil. Red-Power centered regimes oppressed their people, offered mediocre education, no jobs and beefed up their own Swiss bank account while the Arab masses in their respective countries lived in abject poverty. Hezbollah, Hamas and even Ahmedinejad represent a much needed Blue value system that gives structure and a sense of purpose while at the same time providing the Red-Pride of identity. Regardless of what the West thinks of these rogue movements, they fill a vacuum that Arab regimes have created themselves by not addressing the needs of their own people while the West looked the other way.
Politics in Lebanon is never local, it is always regional if not international. Lebanese democracy since its inception in 1943 was always a proxy field for the regions' feuds. Now that Khamenei, the Qum spiritual leader of Iran, is aiming to establish Wilayat Al Faquih, or Islamic Imarat in the region, he is achieving his aim through Hezbollah and the popularity of its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah has an army of 50,000 soldiers ready to take over Lebanon at any minute. However, the Hezbollah leader who studied Sun Tzu' the Art of War knows better than to attack his compatriots and loose his popularity. He masterfully formed an alliance with defeated leaders of Christian, Sunni and Druze clans who were rivals of March 14th movement, the pro-government, pro-West alliance. Hezbollah's new allies are lead by General Michel Aoun the former head of the Lebanese Army who lived in exile for more than 10 years. By creating such alliance, Nasrallah was able to split the Christian leadership between loyalty to the Shia crescent Hezbollah-Syria-Iran under Aoun, and loyalty to a Lebanese identity and pro-Western movement under Sameer Geagea.

With Christians facing discrimination in Egypt, and fleeing Iraq and the West Bank, the survival of Christianity in the Middle East relies on one man winning in this election- Samir Geagea. Geagea, a fearsome Christian militia leader during the 17 year Lebanese war, went through a spiritual and philosophical transformation during his 11 years in prison. The pro-Syrian government at the time of his imprisonment offered him a seat in the cabinet or else he was to be prosecuted for his war crimes and go to jail. Since he was a staunch enemy of the Syrians who occupied Lebanon for more than 30 years he chose the latter.

I myself was never a Geagea supporter, nor a supporter of Aoun. As a resident of the Bekaa, I always felt that the Maronite militias of Beirut and Mount Lebanon did not care about the rest of the country. But this is 2009, and the fight is no longer among local parties and militias in Lebanon. It is the nuclear threat of Iran against peace and progress in the region. These regional and local dynamics that are directly destabilizing Lebanon's democracy and the role that progressive Christians and Muslims play in the development of the country and the whole Middle East.

Nasrallah, speaking at a university graduation ceremony in Beirut said "I tell those who are betting on the [Hezbollah-led] opposition's failure during elections: The resistance that defeated Israel can govern a country that is 100 times larger than Lebanon." He was speaking of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah where Israel destroyed Lebanon's infrastructure and Nasrallah sacrificed the lives of 1000 Lebanese. With Hezbollah's ideology of death and power-god mindset, my brother in Lebanon warns me "prepare to wear a hijab when you arrive to Beirut's airport next time, if Hezbollah wins."

When we talk about elections Lebanon style, we are talking about bought elections. More than 10,000 Lebanese from the diaspora were issued plane tickets mostly by Hezbollah to go to Lebanon and vote for the opposition. A single "paid" vote can represent a full month's salary for some families. Paying for medical supplies, children's private school tuition, and providing a guarrantee for employment is how you get votes in Lebanon. Of course, cash is always king and the candidate who shows the voter the most, wins. I couldn't help but laugh when I read that the envoy of the UN in Lebanon, Michael Williams, assured the only woman candidate from my t
own Zahle in the Bekaa valley-the hub of Hezbollah- that he will make sure the elections are fully transparent. The woman candidate herself , Magda Breidi a competent lawyer, is paying more than 1 million dollars to secure a seat in the Parliament.

Former Secretary of State
Madelein Albright, visited the leaders of March 14th last week to convey the support of the Obama administration, and promised to come back and monitor the elections. Secretary Clinton also made a stop in Lebanon on her way from Iraq to assure Prime Minister Seniora the US' full cooperation with the pro-west movement.

My fear is that the hearts and minds of more than half of the Lebanese are with the opposition. Again, because they are not getting the services they need from their government in a country beaten down by years of wars and constant Syrian-Iranian interference.

Does our US administration understand the Memetic dynamics in Lebanon? Do they understand that voting is not based on principles in most cases, but based on which Zae'em (Feudal leader) puts their son in school, helps them get the loan they need, secures jobs for their college graduates and paves the roads they drive to their house...
Why should the world care about Lebanon in memetic speak or about the progressive Christians and Muslims? It is because Christian thinkers originally brought Blue-Nationalism to the Levant area, and now progressive Christians, Muslims and Druze are the one who are keeping Blue-Nationalism and Orange-Enterprise alive!
Time for the West to understand Memetics and start intervening in the region based on what the region needs developmentally to help it emerge. The responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of Middle Easterners themselves, but the West must work with them systemically to pry the region out of the hands of these false prophets.

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