The Lebanese and Iraqi uprisings, and recently those in Algeria and Sudan, have shaken up the gloom and doom discourse following the first wave of the Arab Spring in 2011. Following the Iranian-Russian-Assadist “victory” over the Syrian revolution, Hezbollah pundits and pseudo-leftists declared it fruitless to replace more than half a century of Syrian tyranny with a democratic system. Those same pundits have recently demonized the second wave of Arab protests in Lebanon and Iraq, portraying them as the outcome of imperialist conspiracies and predicting for them the same fate of the first wave in Syria. Unlike previous conflicts in Lebanon that divided the country along confessional lines, the current revolution includes all sects, both Christian and Muslim – a remarkable historical change. While sectarianism is deep-rooted in Lebanon, and in fact enshrined in the confessional apportionment of state power, the current uprising has united ordinary Lebanese against the corruption of the powerful.
The counter-revolutionary militias of Amal and Hezbollah have assaulted the peaceful protesters in downtown Beirut and other cities. Lebanese counter-revolutionary pundits also adopted Syria’s playbook by pitting Alawites against Sunnis. In mid-December, a sectarian video defaming Shiite religious figures circulated on Lebanese social media, possibly prompting an attack on the protestors, who had no relation to the video. The counter-revolution also waged narrative wars to misrepresent the uprising – easy enough given the compromised nature of the Lebanese media, and though these narratives bordered on the ridiculous, they still influenced segments of the population. After the recent tragic consequences of the economic crisis (including numerous cases of suicide), Lebanese historians started to draw parallels with post-WWI starvation and its related deaths. The country is on the verge of economic collapse, a prediction shared by both the revolutionaries and the ruling elite. This rare agreement is due to a long list of indisputable facts, including unemployment approaching 35%, commodity shortages, inflation, layoffs, and slashed salaries.
These are excerpts from Elie Chalala’s Editor’s Notebook “Lebanon’s Tide of Change: Revolutionaries vs. Predators” in the current issue of Al Jadid, Vol. 23, No. 77, 2019.
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