This paper will argue that the Maronites’ indigenous culture in the 1930s and 1940s had enough elements to sustain membership in the Arab World and in a more intimate and integratable Fertile Crescent community within that world. Thus, we stand somewhat at odds with the school of Lebanese and Western historiography that explains away participation by Lebanese Catholics in Fertile Crescentic interaction and in the very loose pan-Arabism in the pre-1950 period as a compromise made under pressure with Muslim Lebanese. Some may dismiss Catholic Lebanon’s conjunction with other Arabic-speakers as a manoeuvre designed to roll with the pressure from that world in the period of the erosion of the power of the protective Christian great powers in the region, and thereby avoid entrapment by those wider groups of Muslims. The literature has stressed the disparities between West-influenced Lebanon and an Islamic-theocratic Sa’udi Arabia, much less developed in 1945, but some elements in Catholic high culture that we present could bridge the gap and facilitate interaction and exchanges, although not fusion, between Lebanon and fairly traditional Islamic Arab states. Against interpretations that dichotomize Lebanon against outside Arabic-speaking Muslims, the culture materials that we offer may help restore a more creditable picture of Catholic Lebanon as a constructive and active participant that belongs in the Fertile Crescent and the wider Arab World. Yet patterns of reservations, wariness and manoeuvring vis-a-vis the wider Arab World stressed by the traditional school do have to be threaded into a new compound and realistic portrait of Maronite Lebanon in the post-1930 era of the rise of pan-Syrian and loose pan-Arab nationalisms.
The age of post-modernist criticism is loth to take either ideologues or simple believers at their word. However emphatically the committed may define themselves in terms of a set of tenets, post-modernist analysts will always look for subtexts and supplements, for those alternative marginalized impulses that undo the official definition of self. This set of articles in reviewing the 1930s and 1940s must trace the growing assertiveness of pro-Western and particularistic definitions of Lebanon in dichotomization against Syria, the Arab World and Islam. Against those Maronite authors and Western researchers (notably Entelis) who formalize as historiography the overt theses of those who won, our more reflective study will show the diversity and many-mindedness of the Maronites upon whom they fastened their hegemony. Beyond the pluralism and ingrained disunity of Lebanon’s Maronites, we also aim to apply a richer and more sympathetic understanding of the traditionalist and insularist leaderships among them. A fuller projection of their Arabist-Westernist duality, of their uncertain relationships with a “Mother France” at such sharp odds with deepest values of their Eastern Christianity, offer so more rounded, human and interesting a portrait of these Fertile Crescent clerics and communalist politicians than can the threadbare pan-Catholic narrative they told about their group. While, against the mythology of a Christian protector and patron, our revisionist account presents the French and the Catholic Lebanese as two highly disparate groups, this does not rob their tense relationship of all value. If pan-Catholicism failed to actualize its prescription of transcontinental humane community, it still - although deformed by the imperial context - articulated (like pan-Islamism) some of the needs of the period of globalization the world was to enter forty years later.
This set of articles will refer to “Jesuit Arabism”. By this, we mean a vocabulary and an aesthetic culture that had been established among Lebanon’s Catholic clerics in the nineteenth century. This cultural term does not denote a pan-Arab political orientation, although it did recycle very old materials from the classical Arabs that could be interpreted to prefigure such a political successor-community. Or interpreted to prefigure a new union of the Fertile Crescent given that Umayyad Syria and ‘Abbasid ‘Iraq were the source of most of the old high classical Arabic literature in which the Maronite clerical classes steeped themselves.
The Social Divisiveness and Malfunctions
The 1940s saw Lebanon (1930 population 700,000), which the French had conquered during World War 1, finally become a polity distinct from larger Syria. It was only after 1930, and still somewhat shakily until the mid-1940s, that the state-unit of Lebanon, the confessionalist political system, and the society that the French had been striving to construct and structure since 1920, were definitively established. Yet, social and ideological contradictions that had sharpened throughout the 1920s now came to their head, from 1930.
Throughout the 1920s, the French mandatory had created the infrastructure for an entrepot economy that would serve the needs of the French metropolis: Lebanon was to be dislocated from the Syrian and Arab hinterland, but not by so much as to threaten its entrepot functions in international trade. The French had greatly accentuated confessionalism as the pattern for the institutions and government of the flawed parliamentarist polity they were building in Lebanon. In its theory, confessionalism purports to offer a system of government that represents the various religious sects in the state-unit proportionately according to the demographic size of each sect. This inherently divisive rhetoric thinly cloaked the ongoing elite formation: the consolidation inside each sect of the power and wealth of old landed families and of the attached upper sections of various clergies. The expanding ruling class in each sect would henceforth exercise class domination over its bourgeois and ordinary adherents, posing as their defenders against the elite-components that headed the other sects.
While greatly elaborating confessional patterns in political life, the French also built into parliamentary politics a “list” system that heightened a kind of feudalism. (This feudalism too, like confessionalism, had had its beginnings in the Ottoman period). Under the French, most electoral districts were multi-seat districts. Given the lack of genuine party organizations and that clan loyalties remained so salient, most lists centered around a strong clan leader, usually landed. Members of other, minority confessions in the electorate would attach themselves to the clan-boss’ list on a compromise or payment basis, and pledging complete political fealty. Money and clan influence, intimidation and violence were to dog Lebanese electoral politics during French rule and even into the independence period, although PM Rafiq al-Hariri has brought it to an end now. The list system’s promotion of the power and wealth of the strong, land-holding boss or za’im was to be denounced as “feudalism” by young pan-Syrian, pan-Arab and some Kata’ib radicals: yet, this set-up divided each sect unit while associating leaders from different sects in a single list. Thus, the list system, while it delayed the accession of the national bourgeoisie to power, helped contain and defuse the confessionalism inherent in the post-1920 Lebanese polity.
Social and clan divisions within the Catholic (and other) sects, only deepened by feudal parliamentarism, made it hard to integrate a Catholic nation or sub-nation in Lebanese political life. By 1931, al-Bashir wrote that “the party differences”, divisive day-to-day politics, had shattered the unity of “the sons of the single religion”, making it impossible for them to agree on ventures to realize “the interest of their [sectarian] nation” (ummah). This al-Bashir item evoked an [Islamophobe] sense that “the aggressors” could assail the Christian sects’ “religious affairs” and collective “interests” at any time: but no one thought of these, so preoccupied were most Maronites with their “worldly” personal and partisan-political aims. The item viewed Lebanon’s Christians as a threatened minority in relation to the mainly Muslim region: the pan-Catholic journal sought guidelines from Europe with a wrong image that England’s Catholic minority was a politically coherent entity to maintain its religious interests vis-a-vis British political parties. 1 A correspondent from Hammana in the Jabal lamented that young and old, rich and poor, were now thinking only of party politicking: “this beloved Mount Lebanon is fated to have its sons and interests destroyed.”2 The radical secularists around the semi-open Syrian nationalist party of Antun Sa’adah excoriated Lebanon’s clan-based “feudal” parties for their incapacity to address modern issues. Al-Bashir’s laments at parliamentarism’s fragmentation of the political sect-unit that might have been shows how even deformed parties that manipulated the sense that the sect was vulnerable, to some extent helped a Lebanese political society to form through small selfishness. In some al-Bashir items, ideological masks about a general Lebanon fell, and frank sectarian enclave-nationalism denied the theoretical Lebanese nationality. The latter was saved as an inclusive possibility for the future despite its weak appeal by the clan-fragmentation of rural Lebanon, coupled with the elections and their limited, divisive prizes. The struggles over the prizes between neighboring clan-bosses of the same sect, the resultant divisions in local society, and the need for a boss to conduct joint actions with bosses of other sects, delayed Islam or Maronitism from cohering as mega-community units in Lebanese politics. The small, corrupt, divisions in themselves enable Lebanese society to go on functioning and sometimes even in a way to cohere into something like a nation, for instance when feebly ejecting the French (only possible with British support).
The sense of general crisis, and the failure of the French and their client new elite to bring development that could make life in the homeland bearable for ordinary citizens, was in the air for Catholic Lebanese in the early 1930s. Though some Christian Lebanese elements continued to collaborate most fruitfully with the French, even they and the subordinate Lebanese government were not very hopeful that that partnership could truly make Lebanon’s economy viable enough to stop the migration of Lebanese abroad. The Lebanese Festival held by the US diaspora in Bridgeport, Connecticut and in Detroit, Michigan drew some ruthless reflections from those migrants, which the pro-French press back in Lebanon published. One Lebanese-American leader, Na’um Mukarzil, suggested that the Lebanese government establish a Department of Migration to make the departure of the Lebanese systematic, since it could not deliver the economic development to end it. Instead of trying to limit the migration of Lebanese, the Lebanese government should facilitate it. Mukarzil’s two speeches exhorted “patriotic” service of the Lebanese homeland: that “patriotism”, though, had to be expressed through economics. Thus, he voiced a hope that the Lebanese government would encourage diaspora Lebanese in the Americas to extend their stores and family businesses into the proper joint-stock companies able to then open branches in Lebanon and stimulate the economy of the homeland of provenance. In the same spirit of making US ethnicity’s relationship with the homeland across the seas economic, Mukarzil called for the annual Lebanese Festival in Connecticut to be contain an exhibition for Lebanese (and general Syrian) food products and manufactures, especially luxury textiles, carpets and handicrafts: the Festival would find markets in the USA for such imports. Mukarzil did have a vision of bringing Lebanon into a new stage of development, but knew that the Lebanese would have to transform the laissez faire Lebanese state for it: he felt that all post-1920 Lebanese governments had themselves caused the ongoing chaotic migration by not developing the “resources and facilities of the country” (marafiq al-bilad). He called for the Lebanese government to be made interventionist: not just to found a Ministry of Migration to spare diaspora Lebanese who came back to look over the possibilities the “claws” of private-sector “exploiters” (barathin al-muntafi’in), but that the government supervise electricity, lighting, irrigation, tobacco, and water supplies. It was the sluggish development of those that made the enterprising despair and migrate, and offered no openings for any capital they came back with. Mukarzil had a bleak vision that Lebanon would be unable to develop itself out of its own resource and skill base: thus, migration and the diaspora had to be made a resource: the diaspora was a “school” through which “the developed lands” trained prospective leaders who had to be enticed back to transform Lebanon with their skills and capital.3 Mukarzil delivered one of the speeches on which this article drew at the Lebanese Festival on 4 July 1931, while his brother read the other on his behalf before a function in Detroit on 6 and 7 September. Mukarzil must have been ideologically congruent with al-Bashir, which referred o him as “our friend”.
Mishal Shibli agreed with Mukarzil and al-Bashir’s editors that the Lebanese government had spent very little money to try to attract back the large number of Lebanese who had migrated overseas. He urged that a serious Department of Migration be established that would conduct economic propaganda to entice the migrants or at least some of their capital back to Lebanon. It could stress the modern judicial system and justice existing in the country, and Lebanon’s stability.4
Mukarzil in 1931 described the bureaucrats of the subordinate Lebanese particularist statelet as “officials who strive to realize their own interests instead of the public interest”. Discussions about the diaspora highlight that even the conservative Christian nationalist settings have always had pluralistic discussion about the functions of the government machinery. Some Maronite and Catholic circles have called for a more interventionist, bigger government machinery to meticulously engineer at least aspects of development and social change. Their recommendations would have modified the chaotic laissez faire and undirected entrepreneurial course that brought division and suffering to the Lebanese people.
Lebanon’s Catholic educated elite had in the past been narrowly drawn from the progeny of traditionally rich land-owning families. They had taken most of the places at French-medium schools and colleges. By the 1930s, some al-Bashir contributors were becoming disturbed that the limited Catholic school system and the public service were now being adapted into instruments to educate and employ the offspring of a widening range of less well-heeled strata: such baccalaureate graduates were forming the expanding middle class or lumpen bourgeoisies.
Adopting a tone of satirical vaudeville, a 1931 al-Bashir contributor intoned that Lebanon had now attained superior development, especially in education. Its current younger generation had become the most developed ever in terms of knowledge, qualifications, manners/literature and abilities. The parents of the middle and poor classes were now educating their children. This diffusion of education had been achieved at the price of severe overcrowding in colleges, which had had to refuse to accept more applicants. In emulation of the higher and middle classes, most fathers and mothers even amongst the poor and even in the smallest and most isolated villages - even blacksmiths working with their bellows - were determined to make sure that their sons got higher education. However, on graduation most only won administrative jobs in Government that barely met the interest on the borrowed money their parents had spent for their education. Some graduates were wandering between coffee shops and places of dubious pleasures awaiting positions that would correspond to their high certificates. The writer thought that the unemployment of graduates might not be so bad if more students chose courses in specialised sciences such as medicine, law and engineering that the country badly needed. He advised those without the solid wealth of their own to proceed to the end to just provide their offspring with enough education for a minor job in government.5
The scions of the Maronite families that had traditionally commanded wealth, land, power and education in Lebanon far from welcomed the shaky neo-bourgeoisie that was heading their way and expected to be admitted into the elite. They would have preferred that there were far fewer of those coming competitors, even if they couched their caste rejection in terms of their paternalistic concern for poor Christians who were going into debt for education. The middle class was growing: the open question was whether it would confront the Catholic feudal class and the French or try to incorporate itself into their respective power-systems.
By 1930, the French, by extending secular Francophone education while elaborating a confessional polity and society, had inflicted a paradoxical crisis on the Maronite community. On one hand, France’s policies had seemed to further strengthen the traditional Catholic clergy and feudal classes: but the secular modernity she offered or stimulated both (a) corroded the heightened Catholic identification and structures, and (b) was checkmated by them. The Maronite Church had continued to accumulate massive land-holdings under French patronage but the souls of the youth were slipping out of its grasp as practised religion lost its appeal. That Lebanon was suffering the social devastation of the Great Depression as much as any other part of the world made atomization in its society much worse. Halim Faris, in a 1931 cri du coeur lamented that the pursuit of material things now controlled the minds of individuals. He was happy for his people to “evolve/progress” (narqa), but why did individuals now have to fight each other for livelihoods with “this blind ferocity”? Were such models as London and New York (he didn’t name Paris) truly happy as well as rich? Faris remembered the lyrical beauty of Mountain Lebanon and the harmonious simple poor societies that had lived there. He called on the writers who churned out books for money, the lawyers, doctors and engineers to seek “spiritual benefits” and “love” along with material riches through their professions. These individuals - [really the overall West-influenced elite] - were engaged in “never-ending fighting among each other over material” prizes, which were their “idol”.6 The radical materialism and laicism of France’s establishment, media and curricula, and the advent of capitalism in society, were eviscerating the religious substance out of Catholic structures and elite strata, now getting reduced to politicized shells of their former selves (‘Adnan Qasamani). France and those Lebanese Catholic elements that went along with her were now using motifs from religion and associated custom and tradition - all carefully selected - as utilitarian emblems of group identity that would consolidate the power of great traditional families.
French colonial rule between 1918-1945 assured the connections that made European post-Christian and radical secular ideologies seep through all literate classes of the Maronites and Catholics, even the small working class. In its number of 4 October 1949, under the title of “Diwan al-Taftish” (The Inquisition) al-Bashir attempted to provide an elaborate historical defence of that institution, which Lebanese and other Arab World freemasons had long cited to stigmatize the Church as anti-rational and barbaric. Firing straight at the European sources of Maronite anti-clericism, al-Bashir refuted the charges of [outstandingly, French] “eighteenth century apostates”, given that these had been exhumed and locally propagated by “some defamers among the writers with little to say whose custom is to snatch up the goods that have proven unsaleable in Europe and thus came to be cast as items for trade upon the shores of our lands (amsar)”.
Religion and Pan-Catholicism: Christian Piety
Although religious devotion may not have been as strong in Lebanon in the 1930s and 1940s as when the country had just emerged from the famine of the First World War, the Catholic press still sustained a substantial devotional life. The journal carried articles on Jesus’s crucifixion depicting him as a poor despised man whom the people had rejected and crucified, but who was also the all-forgiving merciful God of absolute Love. He was crucified on our behalf, taking onto himself the sins of the world.7 But the magazine’s projection of Christianity in its core religious sense, and of devotional life, tried to draw on the fiercely modernistic writings of Gibran Khalil Gibran who now had to be rehabilitated in view of his life-long broadsides against the local Catholic clergy and to some extent against religion itself, and of his pan-Syrianism - offered in bowdlerized extracts. The magazine carried extracts from Gibran that it titled “The Crucified Jesus”, insisting that some of his writings were an authentic expression of the Lebanese/Catholic sensibility.8 The arrival of the body of Gibran in Bayrut had been like a state funeral, with Maronite Archbishop ‘Aridah and the ever-Catholic French High Commissioner at least sending representatives to the mass in Bayrut cathedral: the Egyptian Wafd’s Christian heavy Makram ‘Ubayd also came. A slap-up Catholic funeral for the Maronite who had “raised up the name of the homeland abroad.” 9
Global Catholic Church
Whether the participants are Muslims, Christians or Buddhists, it may be eternally hard and precarious to actualize any global pan-racial community based on a shared religion. Yet, whatever the degree to which it could be actualized, it was very important for pious Lebanese Catholics to feel that they were equal, contributing members in a universal holy Catholic church that had the whole globe as its sphere for action and community. Al-Bashir mourned the death of the Lebanese Lazarite Niqula Barudi in China where he had been a missionary for many years.10 The identification of Maronite religion with support for the mandatory by Maronite patriarchs and their top clerics threatened to turn some colonized educated youth off Catholicism. Because of politics in Lebanon, al-Bashir wrote in 1931, “some Catholics in our land are swearing by their heads that they will become Protestants”. Al-Bashir therefore printed a translation of an interview of a French magazine with a Geneva Protestant who wanted to convert to Catholicism: Protestant doctrine was wrong, he was now realizing, that for an individual to read the Bible was on its own enough to offer salvation: he still needed crucial guidance from that universal Catholic Church which the Holy Spirit directed.11 The great gulf of language between Lebanon and Europe impoverished it, but the Lebanese Catholics always kept some sense of the religious issues and life, social problems and political crises that their co-religionists in the West faced in the 1930s and 1940s.
In a newspaper that was as integralist as al-Bashir in some ways was, contributors could fuse Catholicism and the political imperialism of states that still formally professed it. al-Bashir quoted a lamentable statement by Lyauty, the one-time French Governor of Morocco, as organizer of France’s 1931 Colonial Exposition, that imperialism and religion advance by side: Christianity is the mighty spiritual colonizer with the missionaries as its soldiers.12 In the 1930s at least, al-Bashir still interpreted pan-Catholicism as obliging Catholic Lebanese to stand with the colonialism practised by the European “Catholic powers” France, Italy and Spain in the Arab world and Africa. Al-Bashir carried egregious articles with such titles as “The Great Happiness of the Moroccans with France due to the prosperity of their land under her supervision”. At its most insensitive, this pan-Catholicism led al-Bashir to support the Italy of Mussolini in its repression of the Libyans, which in Cyrenaica entailed herding the population wholesale into concentration camps as the decisive measure to master the Resistance. The journal carried statements from a set of Muslims of Tripolitania thanking Italy for her justice and her zeal for the comfort of their people, and of course the scrupulous respect she showed local religion.13
In the upshot, though, both the cases of Italy and of France only underscored the marginalization of Christianity among the establishments in continental Europe. During a period of tension between the Vatican and Mussolini, al-Bashir termed fascism a dictatorship with an iron will that nothing can mollify: it always thinks of crushing any opposition.14 Al-Bashir also carried an item on repression by Mussolini’s government against religious institutions, colleges and Catholic learned and fraternal societies such as Catholic Action in Italy. 15 Yet, al-Bashir had considered that a good enough government to rule Muslim Arabs until its fist started hitting European Catholics also!
Solidarity with Italy and France against Muslim/Arab populations that the two were repressing had consequences for the context of parochial Lebanese social life. A faction’s hardened lack of empathy for the suffering of fellow Arabic-speakers who happened to be Muslims, the resolve to defend nominally Catholic imperial states whatever they did, entailed further conflict with the compatriot Muslim neighbors of the Maronites. In effect, the magazine was acting as a PR auxiliary of for example the Italian consul in his reply to the boycott of Italian goods that Muslim Arab nationalists had attempted to mount in Tripoli.16
The Tense Relationship
By 1930, many Catholic particularists feared that France might become a somewhat shaky ally. The pro-French interests that amplified themselves through al-Bashir were sharply attuned to the damage World War 1 had done to French will-power, a loss of nerve worsened by the economic and political disorder into which the Great Depression had plunged most European parliamentary states. The hard core of residual Catholic supporters of France felt their own morale plummet as France’s eroded further as the Great Depression tightened its grip. In October 1931, al-Bashir published rumors that France intended to withdraw from Syria and Lebanon in view of the exorbitant costs of maintaining the mandate and wanted to conclude a treaty with Hinterland Syria. Al-Bashir objected to such “premature” independence and reminded the French of all the money, schools, Christian charitable works and indeed the “blood” France had sunk into Lebanon.17 It gave lip-service to the ideal of a peace treaty between France and Lebanon as a substitute for the mandate on the grounds that a treaty would force the party surprises that inter and overnight changes of administrations the systems can produce in French policy, which might lead to the sudden withdrawal of the mandatory power from this country. The pro-French loyalists were by the 1930s still on the defensive as they had been in the 1920s. Because much of even the Christian bourgeoisie remained hostile to any French presence and the self-confidence of the French had been shaken both as imperials and as economic builders as a result of the chaos of the Great Depression.
As in the early 1920s, the Maronite clergy, particularly the lower village-level clerics, remained riddled with Arabist-nativist priests who disliked the Church elite’s interactions and linkages with foreigners. This division in the Church led to Byzantine in-fighting. The veteran radically secular pan-Arab Amin al-Rayhani had even miscalculated in the early 1930s that the top Maronite clerics, too, could be induced to step forward and head an anti-French movement. He started to call his old enemies the Maronite clergy “the best-organized force in the East” and in a speech before Archbishop ‘Aridah called on “the religious heads” to dispense with the foreigners - conceding them the political leadership his radical secularism had previously denied to clergies.18 All the tensions between the nativist and the relatively France-accommodating factions in the Maronite Church were focussed by the election of the new Maronite Patriarch, Antun ‘Aridah, in 1931. Al-Bashir complained that an opposition group among the clergy had been calling for “no foreign intervention” during the election, a reference to the Vatican. Al-Bashir splutteringly replied that “the religious homeland has neither borders nor any distinction in it between races and colors” - the importance of which in Lebanese Catholicism of course prompted the newspaper’s rage. The Jesuit-founded paper recalled the xenophobes of the early 1920s who, while France was still battling to impose its initial authority, had demanded the homeland’s “development and its independence”: now once more, in 1931, “some brethren of this beloved [Catholic?] nation” [especially Bayrut’s Maronite journalists] were again dichotomizing “independence” against any roles for foreigners in Lebanon. The article lanced its formal pan-Catholicism synthesised with modernity against nationalism as such: “the speed of the communications of this era has almost eliminated the borders and distinctions among even the most developed countries best equipped to be self-sufficient from others.” As a poverty-stricken country, which had to accumulate capital from its entrepot roles and tourists, Lebanon needed foreigners much more than European states did. Intervention by the Vatican in the patriarchal elections was only like “a father intervening in the affairs of his son”.19 In regard to foreign influence being exercised to get ‘Aridah elected, he came to the patriarchate in the image of a defender of the absolute need to keep the “kind” French in Lebanon: he had rejected the calls of al-Rayhani and other secularist Maronites for their evacuation.20 ‘Aridah’s role in defending France against thinly-veiled attacks from within the Maronite camp itself remains central to the long-term image of him in Catholic literate discourse. A 1986 popularizing history of the Maronite patriarchs excerpted ‘Aridah’s stand that his Patriarchate was the House of France in the East, that the French did not come into the category of “foreigners”: “we are in need of France to guarantee our independence, and develop our country culturally and economically” to her own profit (the French were no selfless monks to spend their time and capital without a financial return). The Lebanese had to be ready to die for French-Lebanese friendship. There was a margin of ambiguity to France in ‘Aridah’s references to her drive for profits in Lebanon and to “deviant, exceptional” (shawadhdh) Frenchmen who brought secular disbelief or indecency: he and other clerics had always resisted such.21
By the 1930s, although pagan antiquity was becoming more important, the political community for Catholics was mainly defined by homeland - the expanded Lebanon - although Arabic had some implied importance for intimate identity. There was a certain tension between the new quasi-religious devotion to the territorial nation and waning traditional Maronite high religion. A 1931 communication to the young people of the homeland urged them to “make your homeland the dearest thing to you after God”. Every hand that assailed the dignity of the homeland was “sinful”. The piece indeed displaced onto the homeland a blend of religious and erotic terminologies and emotions. It harangued young people to “throw yourselves into the sea of love of homeland... and give it a kiss of piety”. Most of this piece, though, was really traditional Catholic pietism: it included religious guidelines by al-Ikunumus Mishal Ghusn of Zahlah to a promising 13 year-old boy on how to order his life in accordance with [Lebanese traditionalist] Catholicism. In its tone of extreme emotionalist devotion to the homeland, the piece may have imitated the religious level of love Egyptian groups were urging towards the Nile Valley.22
Catholic Lebanon After 1930
State Unit Consolidation, High Culture and
the Crisis in Identity
Dr. Dennis Walker
Despite the gradual incorporation of themes from pagan antiquity, Lebanese nationalism in the 1930s continued to try to focus on the modern historical past, which offered symbols that might integrate the Maronites and Druze at least. The rapid change that had followed the imposition of French rule in 1918 was threatening to sweep away most relics from the Otttoman period, and in 1931 Minister of Education Gibran Tuwayni issued an urgent appeal to the government to allocate resources to repair the Bayt al-Din palace, the cracked ceilings of which were threatening to collapse. He hoped that once his ministry had repaired the building, the government would move the offices it had installed there and turn the palace into a museum that would house all traditional Lebanese handicrafts, furniture and costumes from the beginnings of the rule of the Ma’nites until the final collapse of Ottoman authority. He wanted functions to be held from time to time in the palace to duplicate those that had been given by the Amir Bashir with the aid of specialized artistic associations. This was definitely a golden age periodization of Lebanese nationalism that focused on the Arabic-speaking period rather than pagan antiquity. The “ancient Lebanese festivals” to be observed in the palace were to be a reinvention of those that had been current under the Druze amirs, although including modern anniversaries such as the 1st of September on which the French proclaimed Greater Lebanon in 1920. This enterprise was not a conservationist one in the strict sense, but more a nationalist process to bind together the links of the present with the past so as to symbolise the continuity of the independent Lebanese entity through all developments of the ages.
By the early 1930s, the ever-increasing economic and educational integration of the Fertile Crescent, and increased movement across the region, was under way. It fostered among the Maronites and Catholics of Lebanon many commercial and other interests in Lebanon that would resist any strong stance against pan-Syrian or pan-Arab tendencies. One such field was education since the growth of schools and colleges was stimulated by the fees paid by students from other Arab countries. In 1931, al-Bashir mentioned Syria, ‘Iraq, Palestine and Egypt as the main sources of such students. The paper enthused that Bayrut was becoming a legal and medical center again as in the era of the Romans that is gaining its prosperity from its schools. While the article was well aware of the stimulus the Lebanese economy derived from summer tourism from such countries as ‘Iraq and Egypt, it noted that such tourists rarely stayed more than a few weeks and some stayed only for a few days. In contrast, students in Lebanon’s schools and colleges stayed over the long term and were constantly spending to the benefit of hoteliers, landlords, merchants, and restaurant owners. Sometimes their families would come to visit them and spend on their own account.23
1“al-Din wal-Ahzab”, al-Bashir, 3 Sept. 1931.
2“In Hammana”, al-Bashir, 2 April 1931 p. 4.
3“Fil-Mahjar: al-Mahrajan al-Lubnani”, al-Bashir, 13 October 1931, p. 1.
4“Da’irat al-Muhajarat al-Lubnaniyyah”, al-Bashir, 20 October 1931, p. 1.
5Ilyas Rababi, “Nasihah bila Thaman”, al-Bashir, 9 November 1931.
6Halim Faris, “Jihad al-Yawm”, al-Bashir, 1 December 1931, p. 1.
7“al-Masih Mahabbah wa Salam”, al-Bashir, 31 March 1931, p. 1; cf. F. Abi Nadir, “Sulliba ‘anna - al-Hamil Khatayal-’Alam”, al-Bashir, 2 April 1931 p. 1; and Fr Niqula Dahbar, “From the Cross to Glory”, al-Bashir, 4 April 1931 p. 1.
8“Kitabat Gibran”, al-Bashir, 7 Sept. 1931.
9“Istiqbal Gibran min al-Marfa’ ilal-Katidra’iyyah”, al-Bashir, 4 April 1931.
10“Wafat Mursal Lubnani fil-Sin”, al-Bashir, 8 January 1931, p. 3.
11Al-Bashir, 8 October 31 p. 1.
12“al-Ma’rid al-Duwali al-Isti’mari: Qism al-Risalat”, al-Bashir, 23 May 1931 p. 1.
13“Takdhib Faza’i’ Tarabulus”, al-Bashir, 2 June 1931 . 1: this item draws the Libyan journal Barid Barqah; cf. “Fi Tarabulus al-Gharb”, al-Bashir, 21 May 1931 p. 1.
14“al-Vatican wa Hukumat al-Fashist”, al-Bashir,16 July 1931.
15“al-Ihtijaj ‘alal-Fashist”, al-Bashir, 13 June 1931, p. 1.
16“Hawl al-Muqata’ah: ‘Ibrah min al-Waqi’”, al-Bashir, 30 June 1931; “Muqata’at al-Italiyyin”, al-Bashir, 13 October 1931.
17“al-Intidab wa Tariqat Ilgha’iha: Siyasat Faransah fi Suriyya wa Lubnan”, al-Bashir, 23 October 1931, p. 1-2.
18“al-Ajanib! al-Ajanib! al-Ustadh al-Rayhani fi Hadrat al-Batriyark”, al-Bashir, 16 January 1932, p. 1.
19“al-Ajanib wal-Istiqlal”, al-Bashir, 14 January 1932, p. 1.
20al-Bashir, 26 January 1932, p. 1.
21Fr Butrus Fahd, Batarikat al-Mawarinah wa Asaqifatuhum: al-Qarn al-Ishreen (Bayrut: Dar Lahad Khatir 1986) pp. 224-225.
22Mishal Ghusn, “Ila Fityan al-Watan: Nasihah”, al-Bashir, 29 October 1931. An Ikunumus in the Malkite Catholic church in Lebanon is a priest who also attends to Church finances and assets and thus has some of the functions of a Monsignor reporting directly to a Bishop.
23“Ma’ahid al-’Ilm: Fadluha ‘ala Bayrut” , al-Bashir, 11 August 1931, p.1.