Just as there are many countries on this earth for each faith, countries with Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or Muslim majorities, so more than one location should be envisaged where Jews could grow and multiply without poisoning the lives of innocent Arabs with their threat (30 May 1953).
Israel, which provided Marxism with its founders and communism with so many of its leaders, is at odds with itself in its thinking and attitudes. Israel is on the left and on the right at the same time. It is able to move to the extreme left and the extreme right simultaneously (22 July 1953).
Israel's guilt will not screen from our view the guilt of others who permit Israel to commit such grave offences (17 October 1953).
As one of Lebanon's most renowned political analysts and strategists, Michel Chiha was an ardent Lebanese patriot and staunch believer in an open, plural and cosmopolitan political culture. Though he articulated views in support of Lebanon's liberal economy, he was fully aware that such a foundation rested on shaky grounds.
As a young man, Chiha had carried out some study in Britain where he must have developed his admiration for the resilience of the unwritten British constitution. This doubtlessly had an impact on the defining role he played in drafting the Lebanese constitution and in emerging as an astute political actor and a liberal intellectual with profound humanistic predispositions. Though he cultivated a passion for the refined arts, literature and poetry, he was not a disengaged man of letters or an intellectual recluse. In 1947 Chiha sponsored the establishment of the Cenacle Libanais as a free forum for rational and spirited public debate.
Chiha's outstanding legacy and credibility are, however, intimately linked with his career as a journalist. He was not only an astute and engaging editorialist keen on elucidating the prosaic and quotidian features of everyday life. He had a gift, as an intuitive and stylistic essayist, for depicting the distinctive elements of Lebanon's enigmatic political culture, its enchanting geography and landscape, its cosmopolitan and Mediterranean republican virtues but also its endemic blemishes and pitfalls. These are, after all, the uncontested attributes which endear Chiha to many of his admiring circle of colleagues and account for his enduring legacy. One can readily glean from his weekly editorials and journalistic forays more than just spotty and random features of Chiha as the probing and dispassionate scholar. Quite often he dons the garb of an academic social scientist bent upon making categorical propositions and meaningful generalizations of an abstract and conceptual nature. At other times, and often more critical and outspoken, he becomes the ardent and impassioned public intellectual.
Between 14 January 1945 and 15 December, 1954 (shortly before his death) Chiha wrote 116 editorials on the crisis and predicament of Palestine. My intention in this brief introduction is first to highlight the themes and issues which aroused his concerns and then move on, in the second part, to identify the unusual modes he employed to frame and elucidate his messages.
The Jewish State as the Monumental Error in Contemporary History
In most of his editorials, before and after the partition of Palestine, Chiha continued to deplore, often in the most disparaging prose, the ominous implications of what he had perceived as the most unfortunate and tragic situations of our time. Indeed to Chiha the creation of a Zionist Jewish State stands out as the gravest of errors of contemporary politics; "a foolhardy and hazardous venture destined to shake the world to its foundations."
As early as 1945, he was already alarmed about the incessant influx of Jews, especially East Europeans, into Palestine. The consequences of such influx, in his view, were grievous. Other than Tel Aviv, Palestine is such a mixed confessional entity, that it was problematic to attempt a division along faith lines. In April 1947, he asked perhaps one of the most compelling questions, and in unequivocal terms. The predicament that Israel started to face at the time was already awakening the conscience of all 50 states of the UN to confront some poignant and soul-searching queries.
Fifty countries will be obliged to ask themselves why the Jews, who everywhere avail themselves of citizenship, freedom, wealth and all forms of hidden power, who control finance, the press, the cinema and much else, want a State of their own and a replacement nationality on faith grounds: why the most widely dispersed people on earth, some 16 million people, for centuries scattered to the four winds and putting down roots in every part of the world, persist in behaving as if they were Stateless, even when they hold the most impressive of passports (April 16 1947).
Two weeks later, in his typical evocative and trenchant style, he warns that "never before have dark forces been so much in evidence... We are dealing in fact with an unparallel combination of all that is quintessentially international and all that is quintessentially racist in the world; the people of Israel (30 April 1947). This arbitrary and pitiless dismemberment of the most sacred piece of the earth's crust constitutes in his view a "mental capitulation, an insult to intelligence, a detestable deal" (21 July 1947).
In anticipation of the fateful decision of the UN Committee of Inquiry in favour of the creation of Israel (and ironically Chiha bemoaned that the fresh and crisp air of the Swiss mountain where they had convened at the time could not have inspired them), he unleashed a series of vitriolic outcries against this detestable anomaly. His editorial of 5 September 1947 is suffused with such rancour. It merits a substantial excerpt:
The United Nations Assembly will decide. But the outcry from the Arabs and the clamour of the Jews can already be heard. Protests are being raised on all sides. Indeed the hateful possibility of the partition of Palestine appears to have been foreshadowed by the judgment of Solomon we mentioned before the news came out: the case of the living child whose real mother preferred to abandon it to the adventuress rather than see it cut in two. But this judge is not Solomon to be moved by the appeals of a mother's love.
Two states territorially joined in a jigsaw puzzle and a separate Jerusalem under the authority of the United Nations, Galilee disfigured, Christianity and Islam slapped in the face, what new transgression, what sin has Palestine committed to deserve such misery? All this to satisfy Israel's whims, its passion to return to a land it abandoned at the time of Titus and which cannot accommodate a sixth of the Jews spread throughout the world.
But are the raging Zionists, who under various guises and throughout their long history have so often set Jehovah against them and who were scattered by a curse, aware of what awaits them in Palestine if partition takes place? They will immediately be divided against themselves. Zionism in the Promised Land is merely a dust trail of parties and clans. There are 30 varieties of them at least and we hear tell of true Jews in Palestine, the heirs to ancient wisdom, who already tremble for their future and are contemplating leaving the Jewish State in the making. They already foresee strife and misery, linguistic confusion, the impossibility of assimilation, the predominance of extremist elements, the harbingers of hate and persecution. For them Israel’s inordinate ambitions are just one more catastrophe (5 September 1947).
Early in the inception of the Jewish state Chiha was fully cognizant of the goliath-like manifestations of its disproportionate global power. He also foresaw that the only strategy which could ultimately thwart its dominance was Arab resistance. On 5 July 1948, he was characteristically resolute and unwavering in disparaging its calamitous consequences.
It would be suicidal for the Arab countries to give way; like a deliberate journey into night. Because, and it can never be repeated enough, Zionism is not the product of miserable Jews seeking refuge, but of a truly global power with networks encompassing the whole globe, whose avowed or secret aspirations transcend all else (5 July 1948).
So adamant about the pernicious implications of the state of Israel bearing down on Lebanon's borders, Chiha never felt the need to apologize for returning time and again to remind his readers about its proximate presence behind the "shaky walls which separate us." Israel's desire for conquest is ferocious and boundless.
The Passover greeting openly or secretly exchanged by Jews all over the world is still: "Next year in Jerusalem". This universal dream conceals a limitless desire for conquest. Whilst purporting to be establishing the State of Israel, America is above all preparing the ground for the Jewish struggle for Jerusalem. An underhand struggle with no holds barred, including money, cunning, intrigue, allurements and worse if need be (14 July 1948).
This insatiable desire for conquest, given the indifference of the world, can only beget further aggression. This is the one dreaded and foreboding reality Chiha had no illusions about. It will never be quelled. "Israel's boundless ambitions are leavened with hate and discord. It has a plan which might endanger and destroy peace for a long time... As far as Israel is concerned, the whole world can perish provided the Kingdom of David emerges triumphant" (29 July 1950). Though Israel's venture, in Chiha's view, "is the greatest absurdity on earth", this state of madness is not likely to be wished away. Its effect will surely continue to haunt us.
This is the situation as things are now; and, to be explicit, we do not see how the State of Israel, by becoming, on our border, the home port for all the world's Jews, could leave the Arab States, and in the first place Lebanon, to live and prosper in peace (18 July 1948).
In the face of such a flagrant miscarriage of justice, Chiha had no choice but to keep repeating its pernicious consequences. Jewish pressure on governments might momentarily ease. Sooner or later, however, it always finds the alibis to reinvent itself. He saves his most strident remarks when witnessing the Holy City being forsaken. In an unusually sharp and terse editorial (6 December 1949) he cried out: "One single atheistic or heathen voice amongst the nations of the world can determine its destiny." By heathen voices, Chiha was, of course, pointing aspersions at the USSR, which, in his view, has tenaciously sided with Israel.
Within such an ambivalent diplomatic setting, Chiha could be forgiven for continuing to view future prospects with measured scepticism. The failure of the UN to tame Zionist ambitions only compounded his fears. Indeed in Chiha's opinion the world was witnessing the sad spectacle of an unprecedenting buckling of moral forces (6 September, 1949). In the process, Christianity and Islam are allowing themselves to be treated as fugitives in the Holy Land.
America's Double Standards
Chiha was equally unsparing in lambasting America's historic uncertainty towards Israel. As early as 1945, he was already noting a profound shift in US foreign policy. Its proverbial even-handedness and the image it once enjoyed as a "righter of wrongs" was beginning to give way to a patronising stance which explicitly and avowedly favoured Israel's colonialist designs and ambitions. Perceptively Chiha was fully aware of America's patronising role in safeguarding Israel's interests. He rarely minced his words when he was dramatizing the evils inherent in such flagrant partiality and intellectual and political derangement.
To put it plainly, America continues to bring its considerable weight to bear in influencing countries for the benefit of Israel and all the decisions coming out of Lake Success show the effects of this. A United States representative in the Security Council has just been heard to state that, should one of the parties accept a prolongation of the truce and the other refuse, the latter would be liable to sanctions. In that case it would constitute truce by force. It is difficult to understand this interpretation, which does not reflect credit on American legal thinking (10 July, 1948).
This form of patronage is jarring on two counts. The State of Israel is not only its unlawful child, as it were. It was also born in the pain suffered by others. Writing his editorial of 18 July, 1948 on a Sunday, the Lord s Day, on which, as Chiha put it, we are called upon to be calm and reserved, he could not restrain his outrage regarding the explicit patronage the US bestows on Israel:
A disproportionate risk is being incurred for our neighbours and ourselves, an arrogant and brazen plan of economic, financial, industrial and commercial seizure which can only result in territorial and political encroachment, in a burden of debt incomparably heavier man the weightiest yoke; and finally in servitude. Hence an intolerable exercise in the overt or covert colonization and domination of the Asian Near East by Israel is being carried out under the patronage of the United States and with the fervent support of all Jews who have reached the age of reason (or unreason) (18 July 1948).
The power of Israel did not only penetrate the White House and take it hostage but the US, wilfully or otherwise, was transformed into an agency for Israel.
As it is, Western Europe, having been materially ruined and morally weakened by the war and doctrinal conflicts, is now dependent on the United States' assistance for its survival. And in return the United States compels Europe to adopt its viewpoint on crucial issues, as has happened with Palestine. The same applies to Latin America, albeit for different reasons. Thus western Europe is manifestly subject to moral coercion; of course to a greater or lesser extent; (the Belgians for instance, were it not for the United States, would feel less compunction in their attitude to Israel than the French; because in France the Jewish presence in politics is much more influential, all things being equal, than in Belgium) (30 August 1948).
Despite America's global lobbying on behalf of Israel, the converts were not always willing parties to such avowed pressures. Indeed, more than just a few countries in Western Europe, we are told by China, were quite reluctant in voting for the creation of Israel. As for Eastern Europe, following the lead of the USSR, it had no choice but to support Israel en bloc. Chiha could not in this regard restrain his moral outrage: "It is a fine way of behaving; to ferociously condemn racism and fascism verbally and then, at the first opportunity and with a singular lack of concern, act to the contrary" (30 August 1948).
The disastrous byproducts of such moral confusion on a global scale were immense and Chiha had no illusions whatsoever about their pernicious implications, particularly those inherent in its essential anomaly as a "faith-based" state. Throughout, he remained obdurate in his scepticism of America's occasional measures and predispositions, in the face of Israel's mounting belligerency and defiant violations, to impose any restraints on it. "The past," he bemoaned, "is full of examples of how far American blindness and indulgence towards rampant Zionism can stretch" (21 October 1953).
Yet, he never abandoned hope. One such watershed was the visit of John Foster Dulles to the Middle East, marking a probable shift in America's foreign policy in the region. Understandably desperately keen to see a turnabout in America's foreign policy in the region, Chiha had invested too much hope in Dulles's visit.
We very much hope that Arab-American relations will improve, as well as those of Europe and the Arabs. In the face of new imperialism, past imperialism, as it disappears, turns into a system of natural alliances (like the British Commonwealth) and becomes a safeguard for the future. That is how the world evolves. Nowadays political isolation in the world is madness (6 May 1953).
Chihas uncharacteristic optimism was not illusory, or an artifact of his wishful thinking. With the advent of the Republican Administration, he saw tangible manifestations of a decisive paradigm shift in American perceptions of the Arab World. Until the arrival of Elsenhower and Foster Dulles, as he repeatedly decried in his editorials, America embodied the most grievous forms of intellectual and political ambiguity.
Until the arrival of the Republican Administration, the Americans have wronged the Arabs in favour of Israel. They have wronged Christianity and Islam together. They have accepted and to all intents and purposes encouraged the impossible conquest of Jerusalem. They considered the Arab world in Asia to be living space for an Israel in expansion. It is this intellectual and political derangement which must come to an end (6 May 1953).
So, buoyed by such hopeful prospects, he could not contain his enthusiasm on the occasion of the presentation of Mr Charles Malik's credentials as Lebanon's Ambassador in Washington. His encounter with President Elsenhower was heralded as the dawn of a new age. Typically, he placed the moment in its proper historical context.
It is our hope that it resonate far and wide and that the truth can finally emerge from the pit into which it was cast, in the same way as the sons of Jacob cast their brother into a pit, and where it languishes in despair (6 May 1953).
The Habitual Weakness of Arabs
Chiha, certainly, did not absolve the Arabs, particularly with regard to their perpetual ineptitude and failure to resist Israel's military violations or mobilize effective diplomatic initiative on their behalf. In fact to him, the lethargy and weakness of the Arabs always stood in stark contrast to Israel's bold initiatives on virtually all dimensions of the crisis. As Israel mastered the diplomatic art of forcing the hand of all the great powers, the Arabs were "losing their way in futile lamentation and palaver... with one failure to act after another, one miscalculation after another" (6 August 1953).
Foremost, he lays blame on the divisiveness and blunders of the Arab League. They simply do what they have been doing for so long: indulge with futile palavers and illusory concerns.
Meanwhile the Arab League is engaged in palavers with illusory economic concerns as the main topic. They are firing up public opinion on internal quarrels. They are firing up public opinion on matters of pride, when even haughty Europe itself no longer cares about such things (30 May 1953).
He found it necessary to repeat "that the Arab League countries do not devote a fraction of the attention they should to Palestine in their policies and concerns."
Chiha, incidentally, became aware of such lamentable shortcomings much earlier. Indeed, as early as 1948, he was already telling us that there are no shortages of reproaches and regrets. Otherwise, "Arab refugees would not have replaced the Wandering Jews on the highways." He was always keen on adding:
...that the Arab countries, despite prior warning, have proved deaf to the strongest arguments and urgings. For months and years it was like crying in the wilderness (30 August 1948).
As usual, Chiha was keen on drawing parallels with other historic crises.
The current situation requires that, faced with Israel, the Arabs be in a constant state of alert and military preparedness. It is the exact equivalent of the West's position in the face of communism.
Indeed, it is a parallel which can be drawn, bearing in mind that, despite the risk of world war, the danger posed by Israel for the Arabs is no less than the West's fear of Moscow's initiatives. This is precisely what the Americans fail to see (30 May 1953).
He was also adamant as to where ultimate salvation is going to come from:
This is no longer the time for childish games. Let us obtain the international contractual guarantee of our frontiers and the internationalisation of Jerusalem.
At the same time, let us organize a collective defence with those towers which defend the freedom of the soul and the freedom of the seas (30 May 1953).
Fully aware of the patience of the US, the failings of the UN and the habitual weakness of the Arabs, Israel became adept, often with temerity and insolence, at exploiting such misgivings. Within such a setting, no armistice is going to enhance the chances of peace. Indeed, Chiha was persistent in warning us that the reverse was bound to happen. With each day the problem engendered by Israel became more difficult to resolve and every day a peaceful solution seems more and more untenable (1 October 1953).
II. A Probing and Dispassionate Scholar
Chiha has long been admired as an engaging and spirited essayist and as an astute analyst of his country's convoluted political culture. But one can easily extract from his editorials perhaps a more compelling role: that of an academic or empirical social scientist keen on making meaningful and abstract generalizations about human conduct and societal transformations.
Many of these assertions are extracted from lived historical realities. They are also perceptively and analytically stated and bear a prophetic tinge. For example, he ends his editorial of "Strange Behaviour" of 20 April 1948, by the following inference: "the more the Zionist position appears faith-based and racist, the less likely it will be tolerated." In the same editorial, and equally insightful, he advances the proposition that "Jewish solidarity in the world goes too far. It is clearly impinging on countries' right to legitimate self-defence."
A few weeks later, on 11 May 1948, he elucidates the probable association between the Jewish Diaspora and the growing hegemony of the Jewish State as a powerful colony and centre of global capital and banking magnates. In other words, more than half a century before contemporary observers were becoming aware of some of the unsettling manifestations of such global incursions, Chiha was already anticipating and decrying their foreboding consequences.
All the Jews of the Diaspora, naturalised everywhere, will overtly or covertly identify themselves with a homeland. In many countries the new State will be represented by powerful colonies and often by members of parliament and government figures. Using international finance a tight web of intrigue will cover the world's capitals, large and small; and Israel's diplomacy (doubdess more affluent than any other) will be conducted by illustrious high financiers and banking magnates of all nationalities (11 May 1948).
His remarks regarding the association between Zionism and Marxism are also revealing. He reminds us that the Jews were the main contributors to the revolution which consigned Russia to Marxism in 1917. More important, Marxists continue to exert considerable influence on the USSR. Revolutionary fervour, he maintains, suits their purposes everywhere and, doubtless, the collapse of Christian civilization as well.
As a deliberate but measured scholar, Chiha was always keen on distinguishing between Judaism and Zionism. We could live in peace easily with the former but Zionism, he tells us, was an altogether different species. "Like an incurable disease, heralding unbridled fanaticism", it is an invasive and aggressive human venture.
While he often employs stern and biting rhetoric in depicting Zionism, particularly its fanaticism and belligerency, as the greatest aberration in today's world, in no way could he condone any moral and political justifications for resurgent anti-Semitism. In this, as well as in depicting the anguish and human suffering of refugees, with his disarming erudition and refined use of prose, Chiha remains at heart a humanist.
A religion is a religion, he tells us. In other words it is a personal matter and a profession of faith. "To prosecute someone for their faith runs counter to natural and human law" (12 February 1953). Chiha goes further to advance the following historic insight.
For at least a century, in all liberal regimes the proportion of Jews in the political life of the West has far and away exceeded their numerical strength. If the Jews, now that they have created the State of Israel, have no concern for reactions outside Israel, they are exposing themselves to the worst that can happen. They are exposing themselves to tragedy in many Western countries. This is something we have been observing and writing about for some considerable time and we are not alone in this. And it transpires that it is the Near East, where religious tolerance thrives at its best, which has to endure the dramatic effects of the West's ostracizing of the Jews (12 February 1953).
In much the same tone he reassures his reader that he takes the existence of Israel as an established fact. "It is not a question of throwing the Israelis into the sea. We have been saying for a long time that the issue of Israel is less one of presence than power (10 December 1952). It is this historic reality of Israel as a militant and warring culture which Chiha decried time and again. "The unfortunate thing is that the Jewish State was designed for indefinite expansion. In the minds of its creators it is the homeland of all the world's Jews and its intended purpose is a global one. This is a world power, to varying degrees both undisguised and secret" (10 December 1952).
Chiha's editorials, it must be recalled, were all written in the post second world war interlude, a time of unanticipated diplomatic turnaround and sudden shifts in regional and global settings. As an astute historian he was always perceptive and prophetic in assessing their nature and consequences. Much like a dispassionate academic, he gave the events the scholarly readings they deserved. For example, when the USSR, in February 1953, broke diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the attack on their consulate in Tel Aviv, Chiha was characteristically perceptive in framing the episode within its historic perspective. Unlike others, he was not taken by surprise. Given Russia's intrinsic anti-Jewish sentiments, the USSR to him was, all along, waiting for the right opportunity.
Here again, he does not spare a moment to cast aspersions at the "ruthlessness of Marx's disciples" who are now turning their belligerency on those belonging to his race (13 February 1953). Even more prophetic, he predicted that, given the United States' visceral suspicion and hatred of the USSR, they will now become more benevolent towards Israel.
Public Intellectual and Advocacy
Chiha was not only a profound and intuitive humanist, a dispassionate social scientist and an erudite essayist, he was also a formidable advocate and public intellectual. In this regard he was ahead of his times and served as a precursor to the roles renowned public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Ibrahim Abu Lughod and the like, assumed 40 years later.
The mild-mannered and peace-loving man lost his cool at times, especially when confronting the arrogance and outright fanaticism inherent in Israel's belligerency and expansionist designs. He alerted us repeatedly that Israel wishes to regain the land of the "Twelve Tribes". To Chiha that portends nothing but aggression and war in the immediate or near future. Nothing is to be gained, he warned, by talk of reconciliation and appeasement. Indeed, any appeasement considerations mean, in effect, falling prey to deception and delusion.
Lone before Israel started to amass its arsenals and enhance its military powers to become one of the world's formidable engines of war, Chiha was denouncing such foreboding.
This leads us to reiterate that Israel's particular policy has a wider reach than that of both the East and the West, it extends further than the policies of both the West and the East, so that the "chosen people" has a policy of its own, a policy which is virtually on a global scale, a policy basedon "sacred egoism" and. whose ultimate aim, regardless of the trials and tribulations of the East and the West, can only be the greatness of the "chosen people"...
The racist and tentacled State, which the United States by its acts and Britain by its omissions have created on our southern border, is increasingly looking like one of the world's most formidable engines of war. It will be said that it has become a vicious circle, but how can the Arab world not be expected to arm itself in turn and the Insane venture not end in a dark night of bombs and carnage? (21 August 1952)
The Arab world cannot possibly remain impassive faced with all the daunting threats of such a "racist and tentacled State". It is here that Chiha abandons his coolheaded and sober analysis to assume the more strident tone of a confrontational advocate. He implores Arab activists to become more aggressive in dramatizing the evils they are beset with. He goads them to emulate other such comparable instances of collective mobilization. He cites what the Jewish members of the British Parliament had done on 30 April 1946. As one collective body, they officially lobbied His Majesty's government on behalf of Zionism in Palestine. He wondered why the significantly more numerous Christian and Muslim parliamentarians everywhere do not, for their part, speak up and out for Arab Palestine or the Palestine of Christianity and Islam.
As an advocate on behalf of human justice and sovereignty, he was often sparked by the impulse to dramatize the evil. So keen not to entertain anti-Semitic sentiments or leanings, he turns at times his sharp and acrimonious pen to decry the wickedness inherent in Zionism. Depending on the circumstances, and depending on what Israel deems expedient, it can wilfully make dissonant diplomatic stances without any moral reserves.
Its policies are sui generis, peculiar to the chosen people; fundamentally monarchic and royal in memory of King David, theocratic and by divine right in memory of the Judges, in other words policies which can turn anarchic when required to unsetde the world. Depending on the circumstances, depending on what is expedient at the time, Israel draws closer to the USSR or moves away from it, courts the West or defies it (22 July 1953).
It is Israel's horrendous diplomatic schemes and shenanigans which, however, continued to outrage Chiha. Within this entangled morass, there is to him but one way out, not two: the effective internationalizarion of Jerusalem and the contractual guarantees of frontiers. Even when Chiha started to entertain the prospects of negotiation with Israel, the starting point can be nothing other than an international presence in Jerusalem.
Palestine, a land sacred to three faiths, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, is for this reason and others, indivisible; the international trusteeship formula must be retained for it so that none of the protagonists can dominate the other or others; 100,000 European Jews must now be allowed to enter Palestine; and, as for future immigration, nothing definite can be considered; the future will show the way...
A wait-and-see solution, a solution which bides time. On the one hand, the weight of 100,000 newcomers and on the other hand, nothing; because no Arab settlement from outside is foreseen for Palestine.
Palestine in the Political Thought of
The reason given by the Committee in favour of the partial immigration they recommend is first and foremost an emotional one. We, for our parr, respect the impulses of the soul which underlie it; impulses steeped in humanity, a reaction and response to the terrible fate of the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe. But behind the emotion let us not forget to look for the unspoken motive. 100,000 reinforcements would be significant even in a large country, pity and politics make strange bedfellows... (3 May 1946).
One cannot help but ask, given Chiha's penetrating and prophetic analysis, what he could have said and done had he been with us today. He wrote unceasingly, often with bitter irony, but always with the erudition of a formidable essayist. His texts were replete with intuitive and profound humanistic sensibilities but, on occasion, also peppered with terse, pithy and refined prose and inflections.
Calamitous as the disaster has been, he would have been the least surprised. After all, he had alerted us long before the State of Israel was established - and often as a lonely voice in the wilderness - that Israel's boundless ambitions as a Zionist entity is leavened with hate and discord and that its plans are destined to endanger and destroy peace for a long time.
With the same trenchant but humane voice, he also decried the discordant and inconsistent perspectives and policies of the United States and Russia, the failure of the UN and the lethargy and timidity of the Arabs. He certainly did not spare the foibles of his own beleaguered country. As an outspoken public intellectual he never shied away from disclosing these blemishes. They were most lamentable perhaps in the indifference which characterized Lebanon's reactions to Israel's strategic designs over the Litani River. We have the tendency, he bemoaned, to "treat the serious lightly. We have often sold or risked selling our birthrights for less than a mess of pottage" (17 March 1951).
Chiha can be easily enlisted posthumously to disclose and decry all the cruelties engendered by the creation of the Zionist State. By changing a few names and episodes, we can make his denunciations our denunciations; his despair and alarming forecasts a motif for our own lamentations and apathy; his insights a beacon for our darkness. Just as Chiha was uncompromising in decrying the evils of Zionism, the moral incongruity of America and the ineptitude of Arabs, we can heed his sense of outrage to transform such inspiring epiphanies into programmes of action and reform. Above all, he understood the insidious aspects of political and moral detriment and the debasement of a cosmopolitan cultural heritage.