A Review of The Politics of Sectarianism in Postwar Lebanon, by Bassel Salloukh, Rabie Barakat, Jinan S. Al-Habbal, Lara W. Khattab and Shoghig Mikaelian.
(London: Pluto Press, 2015), 230 pages.
The Politics of Sectarianism in Postwar Lebanon, co-authored by Bassel F. Salloukh, Rabie Barakat, Jinan S. Al-Habbal, Lara W. Khattab, Shoghig Mikaelian and Aram Nerguizian, is a refreshingly comprehensive look into the factors that make up the sectarian stalemate in Lebanon, and that have made it impervious to the Arab Spring uprisings since 2010.
Ever since the start of the revolutionary wave in the MENA region, governments have been challenged, and in some cases, toppled, from Tunisia and Libya to Egypt and Bahrain. The civil wars still raging in Syria and Yemen were sparked during this same period, and the Arab-Israeli conflict has flared up multiple times since. This book describes how Lebanon's sectarian political system, institutions, and social systems have so deeply ingrained confessional vertical cleavages that they have collectively made revolutionary change in the direction of democracy and stability almost impossible.
Recent protests in Lebanon over the government's inefficiency in trash collection simmered out with disappointingly little effect on the Lebanese government or its services, but they have reminded many of us of the fact that Lebanon has been without a president since 2014. However, even this has not thus far provoked any such revolutions as those seen in the rest of the MENA region. The authors of this book argue that this is due to the government's subversion of the people by keeping them and Lebanon's institutions interdependent and simultaneously divided along sectarian lines, in both the public and private spheres. In other words, national unity has been crippled by locally and internationally reinforced sectarianism, and has successfully prevented the Lebanese people from developing the type of solidarity and collective identity required for a united national movement. (1)
Lebanon has often been the site of instability: a bloody civil war from 1975 to 1990; Syrian and Israeli occupation; awfully managed Palestinian, and now Syrian, refugee influxes by the millions; the 2006 war; and other skirmishes between Hezbollah and Israel have all been politically and religiously charged, and the Lebanese people were never united on one front in any of these situations. The authors brilliantly deconstruct the military-civil...