Sectarianism and Inter-Communal Nation Building in Lebanon
‘In blood we write your history, Lebanon’ was a common sight on the walls of war-torn Beirut in the 1970s and ’80s. With the assassination in February 2005 of Rafiq Hariri, the godfather of the 1989 Taif Agreement for National Understanding, which put an end to years of civil war, this maxim has resurfaced. Sectarian conflict, foreign interventions and a constant search for inter-communal compromise have been dominant themes in Lebanese history and these are explored by Hanna Ziadeh. He draws together for the first time the entire corpus of national pacts and constitutional texts which have demarcated the major ruptures of Lebanese history. He explains how a constant state of communal tension regularly led to sectarian conflict, but his is a less bloody and polarised version of Lebanese history that we are used to, one in which sectarian ruptures are intersected with inter-communal compromise and where subversive foreign interventions co-exist uneasily with internationally sanctioned national pacts and functioning constitutional systems. All of which has contributed to form this unique Arab polity and multi-communal nation-state always in the making — and un-making.
Hanna Ziadeh is a senior researcher at the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute in Cairo.