Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Mustafa Fahs

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : The Shiite Community and Greater Lebanon

More than a hundred years ago, Greater Lebanon had its premature birth. It was a difficult birth, and was completed by the 1943 formula, which has nurtured its natural and atypical growth up to this moment, to the extent that whoever took charge of it, i.e. its political class, grew old, but the formula did not.

The Lebanese formula, with all its features and requirements, was and remains the safe structure for the Lebanese components to live in their great homeland, after they were all convinced that it was their final homeland. The patriarch of Bkirki succeeded in convincing these groups to live together in a wide geographic zone, based on its diversity and not its area.

This was demonstrated by his refusal to be a patriarch of small Lebanon, a country that is isolated from its immediate neighborhood, or far from its natural depth. The 1920 borders are geographical features that distinguish it, but do not separate it from its large surroundings.

After more than a century, the small Lebanon that was rejected by Patriarch Howayek in 1919 is now longed for by some, who see that secession and the temptations of federalism protect their particularities. This old boy also suffers from those who are always driven by a longing for regional, national, or leftist integration, leading to projects of political Islam in both parts.

But all those who wanted it to be small or who saw it as smaller than their ambitions went to the far right and the far left, and then returned more convinced that it was a privilege that characterized them with its distinction.

In a moment of revelation, the authority in the Levant, Al-Sayyed Mohsen Al-Amin, recognized the peculiarity of Greater Lebanon as the meeting point of two mountains (Mount Lebanon and Jabal Amel). The elites of his sect saw it as their historic opportunity to obtain justice after a lenghty oppression at the hands of the successive Umayyad, Abbasid, Mamluk, and Ottoman sultans, under whom the Shiites of this mountain were marginalized.

In 1920, this sect was allowed to officially participate in the affairs of the state and experience governance. Gradually, its role expanded and its power increased, in parallel with the growth of other components, who preceded it in ruling this country. But none of them was able to control its formula.

Before 1948, the villages and cities of Jabal Amel were the link between the cities of Greater Lebanon and the historical towns of Palestine, and a commercial hub connecting them together. However, since the establishment of the Hebrew entity, these cities have turned into border villages. Merchants and travelers from Sidon and Bint Jbeil turned towards Beirut.

The Nakba of Palestine constituted a greater motivation for their national integration decision. The early Israeli attacks and massacres also drove the people of southern Lebanon to take the position of defender of their country’s frontiers. But the border line turned into an open confrontation, after Lebanon was chosen over the other countries of the encirclement to be the starting point for armed struggle. Thus, the South was exposed to wars, invasions, and loss of lives and wealth.

Therefore, the location and role of the Shiite component is crucial in the greater geography of Lebanon, and its location along the borders has turned it into a major player. The Shiite do not need to prove their affiliation through a blood test, as they are the ones who have the concept of Lebanon imbedded in their thoughts, in text and in deed.

Therefore, two points must be reminded: The first is the National Accord Document that was issued by the Supreme Shiite Islamic Council in 1977, which was described as the Shiite version of 77, entitled, “Lebanon is a final homeland for all its people.”

The second is the document of Islamic constants issued by the Aramoun Islamic Summit (Sunnis, Shiites and Druze) in 1983. The document stated that Lebanon is a final homeland for all of its people, Arab in identity and affiliation. This same equation was specified in the National Accord Document, known as the Taif Agreement, which remains the best deal that was ever reached between the Lebanese people, away from size and numbers.

The formula was and remains a balancing factor in the relations of the Lebanese groups, and a guarantor of the unity of the entity, against fragmentation, expansion, or the reinforcement of one party over another. We have gone through many experiences during which some people tried to dominate or monopolize the formula.

Excess power tempted these parties to prevail until they discovered that victory in Lebanon was impossible. Perhaps prudence will advise them to learn the lesson from their predecessors and realize that the formula is stronger than major or minor projects or axes, so they avoid falling into the forbidden, and use their minds, not their muscles.

From independence to the Oct. 17 uprising, passing through the formula and the Taif, all of these stations confirm the necessity of the Shiite community’s integration within the homeland - instead of siding with any special project, as their imam, Sheikh Shamseddine, recommended them to do. Therefore, we are doomed to a settlement, a historical settlement between all the Lebanese, not an interest-based bargain between the rulers.