According to Joshua Landis, Lebanese Shias are "treated like slaves" in Lebanon. In a post that doubles as an argument for engaging Syria and as a visceral attack on Daily Star columnist Michael Young, he claims that Lebanese Shias are counted as "half human beings". He backs this up with his own reading of Hizbullah's motivation behind the downtown occupation, which he claims is to "ask for a greater number of cabinet posts".
Last time I checked, Hizbullah did not want more "Shia" cabinet posts, but posts for their allies—Christians and Sunnis allied with the Syrian regime. In fact, it is only Landis and others like him who invent false sectarian explanations for events brought about by the Assad regime. I would like Landis to run his slaves theory by Nabih Berri, and see if he agrees with him that Hassan Nasrallah is the Lebanese Shias' Martin Luther King Jr. The "president of parliament" (as Landis calls him), would scoff at the notion that the root of the problem lies with the "Taef agreement", which hasn't even been fully implemented. Berri is a staunch defender of that agreement, with all its faults, and despite his being on the side of essentially anti-Taef Hizbullah, he would never believe that the current impasse in Lebanon is only caused by a faulty consociational system which Landis seems to abhor so much.
Lebanon may indeed need a shakeup, but I doubt someone with the following perception of the country knows how to go about it. For Beirut, to Landis, is:
…perhaps a cross between the Vatican and Mecca on the Med. Sunnis and Christians enjoy the lion's share of power. The mellifluous and jolly sounding term "consociationalism" cannot hide the ugly fact that Lebanon is a religious state, in which Sunnis and Christians are privileged, politically and economically.
When Landis visited Lebanon during his stay in Damascus, was he followed by nuns and imams in white Peugeots, tracking his every move and recording his phone and other intimate conversations with his wife and acquaintances? Was his wife forced to observe prayer time, did he have to hide his sandwich during Ramadan? Were his Syrian homosexual friends, if any, hanged for being homosexual? Did men sport beards, rape women and hang them for it?
No, and Landis knows this, but this didn't stop him from calling Lebanon a "religious state".
Lebanon is not perfect, and all my readers know how utterly dysfunctional its government is. But to call Lebanon a "religious state" and compare Shias to "slaves" to essentially cover up the role of the Assad regime in opposing the tribunal and seeking to transform the country into a dictator's playground is inexcusable.
It's also irresponsible to act as port-parole for the Syrian regime's line and tell a large segment of Lebanese that their opposition to the Assad regime is a form of denial of "the real flaws of Lebanon's democracy", and then threaten that "the Lebanese obstructionist solution is to import violence into Lebanon and the region. They refuse to allow a 'typically muddled but non-violent solution to the impasse.' Importing foreign armies to keep the Shiites in their place will only lead to further war and extremism on both sides."
Are Michael Young and "other Lebanese" really war mongers while pro-Assad journalists and politicians are peace activists? And is Landis really more knowledgeable about the faults of "Lebanon's democracy" (or 'religious state') than they are? Their solution to the impasse may be wanting, but what is a "typically muddled solution" anyway? One that ignores Assad's crimes? And why is lobbying against Assad-regime violence considered by Landis a call for violence? Is this a threat?
Speaking of violence, who has been causing it over the past two years? Have Michael Young and his counterpart in politics, Walid Jumblatt (as Landis sees it), been fitting cars with explosives, arming fundamentalists and blowing up people?
Was Rafik Hariri killed by a Shia "slave" rebelling against his Sunni and Christian masters?
If "black slaves" in America had the weapons alleged Lebanese Shia slaves have today, had they launched wars on nearby states and laid siege to the White House and disabled Congress, I doubt Landis would be employing this analogy today.
As one of those Shia slaves, I hereby proclaim my emancipation from the forced identification with Hizbullah, whose undeniable fundamentalist aspirations Landis ignores in his confusion of the sectarian with the religious. And I thought it was elementary to know the difference.
That said, I would much rather be a slave in Lebanon than be connected to a murderous regime.
Update. Read Michael Young's excellent response to Landis.