Who buys from who in Lebanon or Boutros Harb’s “religious cantonization law”

“They are taking over,” I am told all the time in regards to Hezbollah buying pieces of land through its NGOs and businessmen

The entrance in Aaramoun.

across Lebanon. The scare seized the Christian areas during the last few months.

It started with a piece of land in Jdeideh, a municipality a few miles north of Beirut, where after the civil war two Shia villages sprang on the tops of two neighboring hills. Most people came from villages in Bekaa Valley in search of better jobs. They were soon quite well established communities, and inevitably the political parties – in this case Hezbollah, as Amal is very far from exercising such a strong influence – marked their territory. The histo(e)rical (sic!) Christian parties, Kataeb and Lebanese Forces, kept Hezbollah’s influence under control in their marked territory, but when Christian Free Patriotic Movement allied itself with Hezbollah and won the elections in the municipality, the trouble started. Hezbollah felt free to hold its marches and commemorations in the what was a “Christina stronghold” before. Not a pretty sight for the Kataeb and Lebanese Forces offcials.

A land transaction between an ambitious FPM party member with plans of becoming an MP and an Islamic educational NGO headed by Hezbollah’s minister of Agriculture Hussein Hajj Hassan turned the other two Christian parties red with anger. The piece of land was located right in the valley connecting the two Shia communities that had settled in Jdeideh before the civil war. It was clearly a Hezbollah buy with the declared purpose to build an Al Mahdi school. The part never denied anything (what I’ve learned about Hezbollah in two years I’ve written about them is that they’d rather keep silent than be caught lying and losing credibility in the supporting part of the Shia community).

But the “Jdeideh affair” did not stay in Jdeideh, but went to politically Christian oriented MTV which turned it into national news thanks to its reporter George Eid.  And from there it turned into something bigger: a phenomenon.

“Hezbollah is taking Lebanon over,” I keep hearing from Christians. But I also hear it from the Druze in Aramoun, a village in Alley, Mount Lebanon, where a similar Shia community settled and where Hezbollah found necessary to put up yellow party flags and it’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah‘s pictures to show its presence.

I also hear it whispered by the Sunni people in Hasbaya who wonder how a new Hezbollah village just showed up in Burguz on top of a hill and nobody can get near it. Or the people in Hadath, where the real estate owners actually made a pact not to sell to Shia anymore because they want to “preserve their community”.

There’s your scare. From here to a minister like Boutros Harb, a Christian (mind that Christian here is a political statement, not how often you go to the church) lawyer coming up with a draft to stop inter-religious property sales is a short trip to make.  Most Christians (politically speaking) are hailing (even in secret) for Boutros Harb. Some Sunnis hail too. They want to stop Hezbollah. Not because it is a non-state organization with a trained army which could overtake the government in a few hours. But because it’s a strong political party which would win democratic elections in a secular French inspired electoral system.  But what would happen then? I’ve never seen a country where a military government turned out to offer a free country to its citizens. 

So, yes, it is scary. If I were a Lebanese Christian or Druze I’d leave Lebanon too. I understand. But I’d leave Lebanon if I was a Shia not supporting Hezbollah, if Boutros Harb’s draft becomes a law. I’d be confined to live in  a place where I don’t want to live. 

Why not let the Lebanese do what they want and decide for themselves who they want to sell to or who they want to buy from? That’s market economy.

(No, I did not invent sectarianism, I found it in Lebanon when I came here and I cannot ignore the fact that, yes, there is some sort of segregation when it comes to who lives in Ashrafieh or Dekwaneh, who lives in Dahiyeh or who lives in West Beirut. )

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