Thursday, October 28, 2021

Lebanon: The impossibility of cantons via the Georges Cordahi debacle

Bilad Ma Bayan Al Tunnelayn - Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

OK, so how many times have you heard it before? Too many to count. Lebanon, according to the idea, would be divided into cantons - much like Switzerland. Considering it was called "Switzerland of the Middle East" it seems fitting - har har (though anyone who has read my writings knows that I do not subscribe to the notion of "golden age" - see here).

The drill is simple, each sect (not religion, sect) would have its own canton. I guess the Shiites would take South Lebanon, the Druze would settle for the "jabal" or mountain, and - not sure where the Sunnites would be, but guess we are talking "west Beirut" and/or Akkar. Well, depends who you speak to, the "Christian canton" would either be called Marounia (in reference to the patron saint of the Maronite Christians - or St. Maroun) or "Bilad Ma Bayn Al Tunnelayn" (country in between two tunnels - ergo the Nahr el Kalb tunnel but also the Chekka tunnel, in a very fitting riff on "bilad ma byan al nahrein" - country in between two rivers, or Irak. The suspicious origins of the sentence seem to go back to Patrick Chemali - no relation - but 1) I have never heard him say it 2) I picked it up elsewhere). 

But, naming aside, there's one very big glitch.

Switzerland is a neutral country, all cantons have decided not to take any sides when it comes to their foreign policy. Try applying this to Lebanon and then let me know.

Latest example? The George Cordahi, former TV personality and currently minister of information in the present government. Apparently, in his private capacity as a citizen last August Cordahi expresed his view that the people of Yemen were defending themselves, something that goes against the leading narrative of Saudi Arabia. Cue: everyone went up in arms either defending or condoning Cordahi.

Remember, the views Cordahi expressed were his own, as a citizen. Granted he is a known as a media personality (and an "investment specialist" see here). Actually, Cordahi - with all due respect to his stature is nothing but a small chess pawn in a much complicated game - the bigger question is: How much are our current politicians, journalists, and TV personalities subservient to the Gulf rulers?

Because this is what is causing the rift. To test how much Lebanese politicians and journalists are ready to bend backwards to accommodate the official narratives of the Gulf countries about their stories and policies (or rather whims as things seen to happen and then thought about later when consequences arise).

So much about being neutral.