Electronic Intifada, an excellent website focusing on the plight of the Palestinian people, has recently started an Electronic Lebanon section. This provides regular press overviews with English translations of the Arabic-language papers, which are by far the more interesting ones in Lebanon. Today the overview include this translation of part of an opinion piece written by As’ad Abu-Khalil in al-Akhbar:
Al-Akhbar , 17 November 2007, As’ad Abukhalil, “The primary absentee: Social justice in Lebanon”:
One topic remains absent from the cacophony of disagreements, talks and mediations dominating the interaction between the pro-government coalition and the opposition, namely the goal of achieving social justice.
The subject of social justice is a political one in Lebanon even if one doesn’t adopt a Marxist framework. And the issue of social justice has become intertwined with that of sectarian conflict due to the link established between sectarian mobilization with that of class struggle (and vise versa) during the pre-Civil War period. During that period, the National Movement [the broad coalition headed by leftist forces] championed in its mandate the concerns of the poor and the suffering, and this was behind the movement’s success in infiltrating the ranks of the various sects. But class worries were soon forgotten during the Civil War, and many of the movement’s leaders enriched themselves during the war. The movement failed to establish a social services network (the same way the PLO did, albeit under extreme corruption aptly managed by Yasser Arafat).
Social justice dropped from the official radar during the Hariri period in the wake of the “Taif Reforms” that officially acknowledged the rights of the different sects rather than the rights of the different classes of society. Backed by a Syrian regime that entrusted him with the management of the economy, Hariri was able to further impoverish the poor and to reduce the government’s social services network. And during this particular period, Hizballah struck a “Faustian” alliance with Hariri under which the latter took total control of Economic policy while the former the burden of resistance and liberation. By granting Hariri a free hand in managing the economy, Hizballah refrained from fighting the battle of liberating the individual that goes in tandem with the fight to liberate the land, and people are more valuable than land.
Incidentally, they also have an Electronic Iraq site.