Reading Waleed Aly's opinion piece on Lebanon in today's Sydney Morning Herald (Nation with no real unity stuck as proxy for region's conflict) helps one understand the phenomenon of how an Australian of 'Middle Eastern appearance' and Arab name can find a prominent place in the mainstream Australian media - in Aly's case, the ABC (Radio National) and Fairfax press: offer plausible-sounding, but lame and simplistic, comment with little or no real historical context, and... shhhhh... no mention whatever of USrael.
His contention is that Lebanon has no 'real' national identity. He quotes Ataturk thus: "Nations which don't find their national identities are doomed to be the prey of other nations," concluding: "It's hard to imagine a more penetrating description of Lebanon."
Tellingly, however, he advances no historical reason for this state of affairs. The reader is left to presume that the Lebanese, unlike the Turks, simply don't have what it takes to create a genuine nation. The fact of the matter is that the modern state of Lebanon cannot be understood without clear reference to Anglo-French imperialist machinations prior to and during World War 1.
In 1916, after decades of interference in the Ottoman Turkish provinces of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Britain and France secretly decided, via the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, that once the Turks had been ousted from the 'Greater Syria' area, they'd divide the spoils, with the French taking the northern, and the British the southern, part. The French then set about dividing the 'Mt Lebanon' area from its 'Syrian' hinterland, and enlarging it in the process, to create the highly artificial colonial construct known today as Lebanon.
Why then, with French imperialism calling the shots in the area and laying the foundations for Lebanon's current 'confessional' democracy, is it any wonder that Lebanon lacks the kind of national identity referred to by Ataturk?
It is only at the very end of his piece that Aly refers vaguely to the Middle East being "crammed with countries whose national identities have never truly been resolved; whose borders have been horrifically drawn to capture almost nothing coherent." You'd almost think the Arabs had scored an own goal here.
Now look at this:
"[T]he Shiites - most actively represented by Hezbollah - take orders from Iran and the Assad regime in Syria, while Sunnis seek support from Saudi Arabia and embrace Syria's increasingly radical rebels."
So Lebanese Shiites are the mindless puppets of Iran and Syria, while Lebanese Sunnis, who are presumably capable of thinking for themselves, merely "seek support from Saudi Arabia"?
"The assassination [of "a former [Sunni] finance minister"] is most likely an order from Syria, reasserting Assad's will in Lebanon."
So "an order" from Israel is less likely? And Assad is secure enough in Syria to focus on "reasserting [his] will in Lebanon"? I guess the uncivil war in Syria must be all but over then.
Finally, there is also the assertion that Hezbollah's involvement in Syria "has merely encouraged the same international terrorist groups fighting Assad to start terrorising Lebanon, thereby exposing Hezbollah's claim to be 'resisting' foreign aggression on behalf of Lebanon as a sham..."
Why is there no acknowledgment here that LEBANESE Sunni jihadists were involving themselves in the war in Syria long before Hezbollah's intervention? And why is Hezbollah's highly successful role in RESISTING ISRAELI AGGRESSION in Lebanon from the 80s on written off merely as "Hezbollah's claim to be 'resisting' foreign aggression..."