This article explains the endurance of sectarian identities and modes of political mobilization in Lebanon after the civil war. This is done by examining three case studies that demonstrate a recursive relation between sectarian elites and civil society actors: on one side of this relation, sectarian elites pursue their political and socioeconomic interests at the expense of civil society organizations (CSOs); on the other side, civil society actors instrumentalize the sectarian political system and its resources to advance their own organizational or personal advantage. These mutually reinforcing dynamics enable sectarian elites to penetrate, besiege, or co-opt CSOs as well as to extend their clientelist networks to CSOs that should otherwise lead the effort to establish cross-sectarian ties and modes of political mobilization or that expressly seek to challenge the sectarian system. The article fills a gap in the literature on sectarianism in postwar Lebanon and helps explain a puzzle identified by Ashutosh Varshney in the theoretical debate on ethnic conflict, namely the reasons behind the “stickiness” of historically constructed ethnic identities.
Authors’ note: The authors gratefully acknowledge the United States Institute of Peace, the International Development Research Centre (Canada), members of the Ninth Mediterranean Research Meeting of the European University Institute (Italy), Melani Cammett, Adam Chamseddine, Marlin Dick, Jordi Diez, Joy Farmer, Mona Harb, Jinan al-Habbal, Lara Khattab, Nadine Khayyat, Salwa Maalouf, and Hanadi Samhan for their help in the research and writing of this paper. The authors also thank the anonymous IJMES reviewers for their invaluable comments and suggestions.
1 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991). Other examples include Lustick, Ian, Arabs in the Jewish State: Israel's Control of a National Minority (Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1980); Laitin, David D., “Hegemony and Religious Conflict: British Imperial Control and Political Cleavages in Yorubaland,” in Bringing the State Back In, ed. Evans, Peter B., Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Skocpol, Theda (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 285–316; Vail, Leroy, “Introduction: Ethnicity in Southern African History,” in The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, ed. Vail (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1993), 1–19; Terence Ranger, “Missionaries, Migrants and the Manyika: The Invention of Ethnicity in Zimbabwe,” in Vail, The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, 118–50; Unterhalter, Elaine, “Constructing Race, Class, Gender and Ethnicity: State and Opposition Strategies in South Africa,” in Unsettling Settler Societies: Articulations of Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Class, ed. Stasiulis, Daiva and Yuval-Davis, Nira (London: Sage Publications, 1995), 207–40; Marx, Anthony W., Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of the United States, South Africa, and Brazil (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998); and Kalyvas, Stathis N., “Ethnic Defection in Civil War,” Comparative Political Studies 41 (2008): 1043–68.
2 See Varshney, Ashutosh, “Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict,” in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, ed. Boix, Carles and Stokes, Susan C. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 287; and Chandra, Kanchan, “What Is Ethnic Identity and Does It Matter?,” Annual Review of Political Science 9 (2006): 397–423.
3 See Varshney, “Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict,” 288.
4 Geertz, Clifford, “The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics,” in Old Societies and New States: The Quest for Modernity in Asia and Africa, ed. Geertz (New York: Free Press, 1963), 109; Laitin, “Hegemony and Religious Conflict,” 287.
5 See Makdisi, Ussama, The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2000); and Farah, Caesar E., The Politics of Interventionism in Ottoman Lebanon: 1830–1861 (London: I. B. Tauris, 2000). For one interpretation of how the Shiʿi community became sectarian, see Weiss, Max, In the Shadow of Sectarianism: Law, Shiʿism, and the Making of Modern Lebanon (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010).
6 See Johnson, Michael, All Honourable Men: The Social Origins of War in Lebanon (London: I. B. Tauris, 2001); Traboulsi, Fawwaz, A History of Modern Lebanon (London: Pluto Press, 2007); and Shaery-Eisenlohr, Roschanack, Shiʿite Lebanon: Transnational Religion and the Making of National Identities (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).
7 See Leenders, Reinoud, “Nobody Having Too Much to Answer For: Laissez-Faire, Networks, and Postwar Construction in Lebanon,” in Networks of Privilege in the Middle East, ed. Heydemann, Steven (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005), 169–200; Hamzeh, A. Nizar, “Clientalism, Lebanon: Roots and Trends,” Middle Eastern Studies 37 (2001): 167–78; , Bassel F., “The Limits of Electoral Engineering in Divided Societies: Elections in Postwar Lebanon,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 39 (2006): 635–55; Cammett, Melani and Issar, Sukriti, “Bricks and Mortar Clientelism: Sectarianism and the Logics of Welfare Allocation in Lebanon,” World Politics 62 (2010): 381–421; and Salti, Nisreen and Chaaban, Jad, “The Role of Sectarianism in the Allocation of Public Expenditures in Postwar Lebanon,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 42 (2010): 637–55.
8 Paul Kingston's work on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Lebanon is an exception in this respect. However, Kingston's work does not examine NGOs specifically seeking to challenge the sectarian system—the subject of one of the case studies in this article—which the authors feel provide a crucial case study for the examination of sectarian dynamics. See Kingston, Paul, “Patrons, Clients and Civil Society: A Case of Environmental Politics in Postwar Lebanon,” Arab Studies Quarterly 23 (2001): 55–72; and Kingston, Reproducing Sectarianism: Advocacy Networks and the Politics of Civil Society in Postwar Lebanon (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2013). The authoritative work on the history and evolution of associational life in Lebanon is Karam Karam, Le mouvement civile au Liban (Paris/Aix-en-Provence: Karthala/IREMAM, 2006).
9 For a brief historical overview of the GCL, see Baroudi, Sami E., “Economic Conflict in Postwar Lebanon: State-Labour Relations between 1992 and 1997,” Middle East Journal 52 (1998): 531–50.
10 Traboulsi, History, 166.
11 See Baroudi, “Economic Conflict in Postwar Lebanon,” 534; Secretary General of the GCL (1994–99), interview with Clark, Beirut, 26 June 2006.
12 Each federation, irrespective of its size, receives two votes in the GCL's executive council. For example, in 2000, the smallest federation, with 182 members, and the largest federation, with 8099 members, were equally represented on the executive committee of the GCL. See Muhammad Zbib and Ismaʿil Badran, “Tawarrum al-Raʾs al-Qiyadi wa-Hazalat al-Jism al-Niqabi,” al-Safir, 28 February 2002.
13 Baʿthist Abdallah Al-Amin (1992–95) and SSNP leader Asʿad Herdan (1995–98 and 2003–04).
14 See Baroudi, “Economic Conflict in Postwar Lebanon,” 543. Al-Amin established a total of eight new federations, and Herdan established two federations when he assumed the labor portfolio. The two ministers together established a total of 84 new unions, although the number of unions was already 269. See al-Jurdi, ʿIsam, 24 Nisan 1997: Mahatat al-Inqisam fi al-Ittihad al-ʿUmmali al-ʿAmm (Beirut: Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, 1998), 9, 15, 16; ʿAbbas Sabbagh, “al-Sulta Tuwasil Taftit al-Haraka al-ʿUmmaliyya ʿabr Tafrikh al-Ittihadat wa-l-Niqabat al-ʿUmmaliyya,” al-Nahar, 11 April 2005. This tactic has continued in the post-Syria era. In 2005, after the appointment of the Hizbullah-nominated Trad Hemadé as minister of labor, seven new licenses were issued, of which four went to Amal-affiliated federations and two to Hizbullah-affiliated federations.
15 See Adnan al-Haj, “Intihar al-Haraka al-Niqabiyya bayna Nisan 1997 wa-Adhar 2001,” al-Safir, 16 March 2001.
16 For the composition of this alliance, see Bilal Khbayz and Samir Abu Hawwash, “al-Ittihad al-ʿUmmali wa-Sinariu al-Inshiqaq,” Mulhaq al-Nahar, 3 May 1997.
17 The years 1992 to 1997 witnessed a growth in labor militancy. This was due to a deterioration in workers’ living conditions during the civil war and in the first few years following the end of hostilities (1990–92). It was also due to the election in 1993 of Abu Rizq and Yasir Niʿmi as president and secretary general, respectively, of the GCL. Baroudi, “Economic Conflict in Postwar Lebanon,” 536–37; al-Jurdi, 24 Nisan 1997, 10, 13.
18 See Khbayz and Abu Hawwash, “al-Ittihad.”
19 See Adnan al-Haj and Ismaʿil al-Saghir, “Intikhabat al-Ittihad al-ʿUmmali al-ʿAmm Taʾti bi-Hayʾatayn li-l-Maktab Biriʾasat Abu Rizq wa-l-Zughbi,” al-Safir, 25 April 1997.
20 See Adnan al-Haj, “Hal Taʿish Intikhabat al-Ittihad al-ʿUmmali al-ʿAmm Zuruf Intikhab Ittihad al-Janub?,” al-Safir, 17 April 1997; and al-Jurdi, 24 Nisan 1997, 86.
21 See Baroudi, “Economic Conflict in Postwar Lebanon,” 543.
22 The more politicized ISF units fall under the command of the Ministry of Interior, while army units come under the command of the Ministry of Defence.
23 See Husayn Ayub, “al-Habir Yastadhkir Tarikh al-Haraka al-Niqabiyya,” al-Safir, 25 April 1997.
24 Secretary General of the GCL 1994–97, interview with Clark, Beirut, 26 June 2006; al-Haj and al-Saghir, “Intikhabat”; al-Jurdi, 24 Nisan 1997, 87, 98.
25 Namely, Ali Hassan Khalil and Husayn Tamim.
26 See al-Nahar, 25 April 1997; and the report by Judge Hatim Madi published in al-Nahar, 27 February 2001. The division of the GCL into two camps was felt almost immediately after the election, when the two sides held competing May Day events approximately one week later.
27 See Ghassan Salibi, “al-Haraka al-ʿUmmaliyya: Azmat Istiqlaliyya am Azmat Dimuqratiyya?,” Mulhaq al-Nahar, 1 May 1999.
28 See al-Haj, “Intihar al-Haraka al-Niqabiyya.”
29 Hizbullah Representative to the GCL, interview with Clark, Beirut, 17 January 2005; General Syndicate for Public Drivers in Lebanon, interview with Clark, Beirut, 31 March 2005.
30 Each of Lebanon's thirty-seven labor federations sends two representatives to the GCL, comprising a seventy-four-person central committee, which elects a board of twelve members representing the five provinces; the board follows a quota between Muslims and Christians similar to that of the parliament. Hizbullah representative to the GCL, interview with Clark, Beirut, 17 January 2005.
31 Hizbullah supporters were hurt the most by the ban on diesel, as most van drivers are from the Hizbullah-dominated southern suburbs.
32 Representative of the GCL, interview with Clark, 26 January 2005. While Hay al-Sillom is a relatively mixed area of Amal and Hizbullah supporters, the majority of its residents support Hizbullah.
33 See al-Safir, 17 June 2004.
34 Co-vice-president of the GCL, interview with Clark, Beirut, 21 June 2006; Hizbullah representative to the GCL, interview with Clark, Beirut, 17 January 2005.
35 14 March refers to the political coalition headed by Saʿad Hariri and his Sunni Future Movement and supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia, while 8 March refers to the political coalition of Hizbullah, Amal, and the FPM and is supported by Syria and Iran.
36 See Sabbagh, “al-Sulta Tuwasil.”
37 This was compared to eighteen federations in 1999. See Rasha Abu Ziki, “al-Haraka al-Niqabiyya Tusab bi-ʿAdwa al-Tawafuq,” al-Akhbar, 15 May 2009.
38 See Adnan al-Haj, “al-Awwal min Ayar 2010: ʿUmmal bi-la Niqabat am Niqabat bi-la ʿUmmal?,” al-Safir, 1 May 2010.
39 See Kingston, “Patrons”; idem, Reproducing Sectarianism.
40 See Karam, Karam, “Civil Associations, Social Movements, and Political Participation in Lebanon in the 1990s,” in NGOs and Governance in the Arab World, ed. Nefissa, Sarah Ben, al-Fattah, Nabil Abd, Hanafi, Sari, and Milani, Carlos (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2005), 316.
42 See Sami Baroudi, “Conflict and Co-operation within Lebanon's Business Community,” Middle Eastern Studies 37 (2001): 86.
43 See Bernhard Hillenkamp, “Civil Society in Lebanon,” Qantara (2005), http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-593/_nr-8/i.html (accessed 25 August 2011).
44 See Joseph, Suad, “Civic Myths, Citizenship, and Gender in Lebanon,” in Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East, ed. Joseph, Suad (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2000), 107–36; Zalzal, Marie Rose, al-Nizam al-Qanuni li-l-Tawaʾif wa-l-Hayat al-Munbathiqa ʿanha (Beirut: CRTDA and IDRC, 2009); and Baladi, Andre, Sarkis, Reine, and the Springhints team, Le Printemps de Interrogations: Au coeur des reformes. Enquete dans les universities et sur internet (Beirut: Springhints and Mind the Gap, 2007).
45 As Kingston notes, many interest-based NGOs are vulnerable to sectarian elite attempts to control them through clientalist practices as they lack professionalism, secure financing, and a strong membership base. See Kingston, “Patrons.”
46 Representatives from the LCW, interview with Clark, Beirut, 26 May 2010; Lara Khattab, “Civil Society in a Sectarian Context: The Women's Movement in Post-War Lebanon” (master's thesis, Lebanese American University, 2010), 103–104. Khattab's research confirms an earlier study on the LCW conducted by Iman Kabara Charani, past and present president of the LCW. See Charani, Iman, Dirasa hawl ʿAmal al-Jamiʿyat wa-l-Muʾassasat li-l-Majlis al-Nisaʾi(Beirut: LCW, 1996).
47 See Khattab, “Civil Society,” 105. The LCW has, for example, several Hizbullah-affiliated NGOs. Representative of Shahid and director of finances on the LCW, interview with Clark, Beirut, 24 November 2004. These divisions are exacerbated by the demographic distribution of the faith-based organizations. Given that the headquarters of the LCW are located in Beirut, it is easier for Sunni and Christian NGOs to become active members of the LCW. Ultimately, this has meant a clear dominance of NGOs from the north rather than the south, where Shiʿa predominate.
48 See Khattab, “Civil Society,” 104–105.
49 Vice-president of the LCW, interview with Clark, Beirut, 20 May 2010; representatives of the LCW, interview by Clark, Beirut, 30 March 2005; representative of Shahid and director of finance on the LCW, interview with Clark, 24 November 2004.
50 See Elinor Bray-Collins, “Muted Voices: Women's Rights, NGOs, and the Gendered Politics of the Elite in Post-War Lebanon” (master's thesis, Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 2003).
51 For examples, see ibid.
53 Representatives of the LCW, group interview with Clark, Beirut, 26 May 2010.
54 See Bray-Collins, “Muted Voices,” chap. 5.
55 Khattab, “Civil Society,” 108.
57 See ibid.
58 Members of the LCW, interview with Clark, Beirut, 26 May 2010.
59 See Pamela Chrabieh, “Breaking the Vicious Cycle! Contributions of the 25–35 Lebanese Age Group,” in Breaking the Cycle, ed. Youssef Choueiri (London: Stacey International, 2007), 69–88. One survey of 2,322 university students found that 57.4 percent support political deconfessionalization, 55.4 percent support civil marriage, 58.6 percent support a unified personal civil law, and 60.4 percent support the complete separation of civil and religious affairs. See Baladi, Sarkis, and the Springhints team, Printemps, 108–15.
60 Aman05, interview with Clark, Beirut, 9 April 2008.
61 See Ghassan E. Moukheiber, “A Brief Report on the Freedom of Association in Lebanon,” unpublished report, 2009, http://ghassanmoukheiber.net/ByCategory.aspx?sid=9&mLang=E&Lang=E (accessed 25 August 2011).
62 Ghassan E. Moukheiber, “Freedom of Association as Condition for an Effective Civic Society,” unpublished report, 2009, http://www.ghassanmoukheiber.com/showarticles.aspx?aid=28&mlang=A&lang=E (accessed 25 August 2011).
63 Assi, Khaldoun Abou, Lebanese Civil Society. CIVICUS Civil Society Index Report for the Republic of Lebanon (Beirut: CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, 2006), 74.
64 See Moukheiber, “Brief Report.”
65 Ibid. See also Abou Assi, Lebanese Civil Society, 73.
66 Moukheiber, “Brief Report”; Abou Assi, Lebanese Civil Society, 77.
67 See Moukheiber, “Brief Report.”
68 See Abou Assi, Lebanese Civil Society.
69 Representative, Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, interview with Clark, Beirut, 20 May 2009; LADE policy analyst, interview with Clark, Beirut, 23 May 2009.
70 Samidoon representative, interview with Clark, Beirut, 25 May 2009.
71 Representative, Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, interview with Clark, Beirut, 20 May 2009; LADE policy analyst, interview with Clark, Beirut, 23 May 2009.
72 LADE policy analyst, interview with Clark, Beirut, 23 May 2009.
75 Samidoon, group interview with Clark, Beirut, 25 May 2009; Samidoon representative, interview with Clark, Beirut, 9 April 2008.
76 See http://www.nahnoo.org/aboutusen.html (accessed 25 August 2011).
77 Nahnoo, interview with Clark, Beirut, 5 April 2008.
80 Nahnoo, interview with Salwa Maalouf on behalf of Clark, Beirut, 14 March 2009.
81 Nahnoo, interview with Clark, Beirut, 5 April 2008.
82 Nahnoo, interview with Maalouf on behalf of Clark, Beirut, 14 March 2009.
83 Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, interview with Clark, Beirut, 20 May 2009 and 4 April 2008.
84 Mustaqillun, interview with Clark, Jounieh, 11 April 2008.
85 Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, interview with Clark, Beirut, 20 May 2009; Samidoon, group interview with Clark, Beirut, 25 May 2009; Intizarat al-Shabab, interview with Clark, Beirut, 9 April 2008.
86 Tayyar al-Mujtamaʿ al-Madani, interview with Clark, Beirut, 8 April 2008; Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, interview with Clark, Beirut, 20 May 2009.
87 Tayyar al-Mujtamaʿ al-Madani, interview with Clark, Beirut, 8 April 2008
88 Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, interview with Clark, Beirut, 20 May 2009.
89 Aman05, interview with Clark, Beirut, 9 April 2008; Union of Lebanese Democratic Youth, interview with Clark, Beirut, 9 April 2008; Bila Hudud, interview with Clark, Beirut, 10 April 2008; Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, interview with Clark, Beirut, 3 April 2008.
90 LADE policy analyst, interview with Clark, Beirut, 23 May 2009.
91 See Varshney, “Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict,” 289–91. See also Posner, Daniel N., Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
92 See Waldner, David, The Limits of Institutional Engineering: Lessons from Iraq (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 2009), 16.
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