Since the time of the crusades

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By BRUNO BEAKLINI*

The Arab national movement, Arab nationalism and the uncompromising defense of free Palestine are ideas viscerally linked to the leaders of Christian origins in the Middle East

The specter of the pogrom of Christians in the Middle East is an argument used all too often to manipulate the loyalties of entire populations. From the times of the Roman and Byzantine crusades, through the French, Austrian and British attacks in the XNUMXth century, to the contemporary form of neo-Pentecostal Zionist discourse, the supposed “defense of Christianity” has been evoked. The formation of Lebanon, Syria and the Zionist invasion of Palestine imply this maneuver. Privately, like millions of Arab-Brazilians, I grew up listening to a falsified myth. On my father's side, I come from a Lebanese (Maronite) family and even though I was formed politically by a pan-Arabist and pro-Palestinian grandfather, the speech of the French chancellery entered the imagination of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the peddlers of the first wave that disembarked from immigrant ship.

In maturity (age at least), when I returned to researching the roots and formation of modern Lebanon, I rediscovered the obvious. In addition to sectarianism, there was peasant strife of epic proportions in Mount Lebanon. Earlier, an Arab revolt in Palestine led by peasants (fellahs) sealed the fate of the peoples until the Sykes-Picot-Sazanov conspiracy (https://www.riuni.unisul.br/handle/12345/11878). Let's look at the confluence of the European conspiracy, the incomplete Ottoman modernization and the just struggle of the Arab-Lebanese peasant families.

Sectarianism, peasant revolt and European intervention

In 1842, European representatives to the Ottoman Empire convinced the sultanate of Abdulmejid I about the need to divide the central and northern part of the territory that forms modern Lebanon into two local governments. The dual government, Qaimaqamate, in the name of the Ottoman authorities, precedes the concept of Mutasarrifate (equivalent to the government of a set of districts). This would be subordinated to a broader government, of an entire region (such as the Levant), called Vilayet (the second most important level of the Ottoman administration). This denomination, initiated in the administrative reform of 1861, marks one of the phases of the Tanzimat period – that of Ottoman modernization (http://www.revista.pucminas.br/materia/os-cem-anos-do-fim-do-imperio-otomano/) – where there was already a Eurocentric idealization in decision-making structures.

The government of a micro-region (of districts) used to take into account both the demographic profile and the permanence of the structures of territorial power, in which the peasant population guaranteed obedience to the local landlords, under the leadership of a kind of consortium of sheikhs owners. Two local governments were established. One in the northern portion of the former Emirate of Mount Lebanon, under a Maronite Qaimaqam (governor) and Melkite ally. Another, further south, with a Druze majority. Both formally subordinate to the government of Sidon, but in practice under the military tutelage of Damascus.

With the division into two sectarian governments with oligarchic and income-concentrating structures, the peasantry was not only exploited in its workforce, but also owed “obedience” to those who oppressed it. In 1834, the great Arab revolt in Palestine, led by fellahs and some leaders of rebellious clans, created the example that the Canaanites and the Levant needed (DOI:10.5743/cairo/9789774162473.003.0005). In 1858, the impact of this great rebellion materialized under the leadership of Tanyus Shahin, a mule driver and born leader of the payers of tribute to the “Khazen nobles” (https://medium.com/@rasha.elhallak/the-1858-tanios-shahin-revolt-and-its-implications-on-lebanons-pluralistic-society-10a6d187b301). The peasant mass and its irregular guerrillas managed to establish a Republic in the District of Kersewan (capital Jounieh), with a Maronite majority. When the struggle expands into mostly Druze territory, sectarian loyalty trumps class interest.

It doesn't stop there. At the beginning of the two Qaimaqam, the Maronite majority government had privileged relations with France. The Druze government was well connected with the British Empire and also had better connections in Damascus and Istanbul. Since 1523 there had been an “agreement” that assured France as the “protector of the Christian populations of Mount Lebanon”. As stated above, the peasant revolt when it reached “Druze mountain” territory increased sectarian tension and triggered external loyalties. In the year 1860, an unfavorable correlation of sectarian forces led to the great massacre of 1860, targeting the Christian population. France was seen as the only way out for the “Catholics of the East”. In the 1860th century, Napoleon III made the same demand, making it clear that the informal protection treaty ensured guarantees for the Maronite population and their power structures. Result: in August 12, more than 31 European soldiers invaded the Levant, under the endorsement of the XNUMXst Ottoman Sultan.

One “detail” is worth noting. The one who most encouraged the division of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon into two sectarian governments was the foreign minister of the Austrian Empire (home of the Habsburgs), Chancellor Klemensvon Metternich. Sectarianism prevailed, in addition to injustice in land control, taxation and conscription for war campaigns or defense of Khazen nobles. The peasant revolt is defeated in 1861, but leaves its example. The specter of intervention by crusaders in the Levant, on the other hand, remains operating as a stupid legitimizing discourse for imperialism. The Emirate of Mount Lebanon, dissolved to make way for the Maronite and Druze qaimaqan, although it maintained the power of the “Levantine nobility”, had suzerainty relations with Istanbul and, in the last phase, was governed by the Shihab dynasty, a non-sectarian clan. As always the maneuver is repeated. When Bush Jr.'s troops entered Baghdad in 2003, one of the first goals was to break the social fabric made up of more than a million families with a plural religious creed.

Stimulating sectarianism and trying to link Christians of Arab origin as supporters of the European invaders is part of the imperialist enemy's line.

The population of Christian faith in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine is fundamental in the resistance

We cannot deny the history of the Greater Middle East, Levant and Palestine. It would be incorrect to claim that there has never been sectarian conflict, just as the Zionist argument that Palestine was "a depopulated land" is absurd. The same is true of belonging to the Christian rites and communities of the East. It dates back to the year 1000 after the assassination by Rome of the prophet Issa (the Palestinian Brimo Jesus), so neither Byzantine Orthodoxy nor the Roman apostolate are older than Christianity, which later became Arabized.

The vast majority of the Arab colony in Brazil has Levantine and Christian origins, and the same is true of Latin America, including the vigorous Palestinian community in Chile. This Palestinian stronghold in the south of the world, affectionately called “losbaisanos”, the same nickname as the glorious Club Deportivo Palestino (https://palestino.cl/), is the target of a permanent external campaign trying to associate immigrant families from Palestine exclusively with escaping persecution and sectarian pogroms. As already stated in previous articles, the Arab national movement, Arab nationalism and the uncompromising defense of free Palestine are ideas viscerally linked to leaders of Christian origins in the Middle East. Being of Christian origin is not synonymous with supporting European imperialism, although, unfortunately, there is a historical relationship between Lebanese Phalangism and French power and, in recent times, with the Anglo-Saxons.

PS: Before finishing this text I discovered the Lebanese series Tharwat Al Fallahin (Peasant Rebellion or Peasants Rebellion, https://www.lbcgroup.tv/episodes/1154/thawrat-alfalahin/en) by the producer Eagle Movies, available on some content platforms, including the open You Tube. The 2018 work, by author Claudia Marchalian, is a dramatization of the peasant struggle in Mount Lebanon in the 1850s and should be watched by all Arab Latin American descendants.

*Bruno Beaklini is a libertarian socialist militant of Arab-Brazilian origin and editor of the channel Strategy & Analysis, political analysis for the leftmost left.

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