The weekly ACRPS seminar for Wednesday 31 October 2018 was presented by Dalal Al-Bizri, a Lebanese social scientist, who gave a lecture entitled, “The Lebanese and the Great Divide”. The lecture explored the historical background of the polarization of Lebanese leftists and their political disputes in Lebanon.
Al-Bizri argued that the leftists had been divided into two groups: one which prioritized fighting imperialism and Zionism, and one which prioritized fighting authoritarianism. Her study focused on the year 1996, as the year that saw the intersection of a book and an event. The book was Dawlat Hizb Allah, Lubnan Mujtami'an Islamiyyan (The Hezbollah State: Lebanon as an Islamist society) by Wadah Sharara, at the forefront of anti-Hezbollah literature. The event was the Israeli aggression on southern Lebanon, and the sharp dispute that resulted between what would later become two opposing camps. She then turned to the year 2000, when the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon launched another wave of debate about the need for a militarized Hezbollah. She argued that the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005 and the Cedar Revolution, represented the fourth landmark and the peak of this divide.
In 2006 came the first official announcement about a Syrian Lebanese trend, between the Leftists, “The Damascus Declaration” and the opinion on the ruling structure in Syria and the relationship of Syrian guardianship to a militarized Hezbollah. Following this announcement, the July war broke out, which further split leftists. The Syrian revolution beginning in March 2011 solidified the dispute, becoming nearly the only premise upon which left-wing intellectuals would formulate their political positions.
In the second part of the lecture, Al-Bizri presented the characteristics of the leftists concerned, and the nature of their intellectual activities, their representation of opinion or a trend, and the variety in their intellectual careers. Then she explored the parties to which those intellectuals belonged, and the reasons for excluding other parties from the study, despite being self-described leftists.
It is notable that the aim of this study is a reading of the texts of these intellectuals and their interview dialogues. Evoking the origins of their idea and the incentives for their transformation and drawing a framework of historical thinking for the Lebanese left will be a part of Lebanese history across one elite dynamic, starting in 1967.
Al-Bizri proposed that the dispute between the two parties is not influenced by potential changes or regulation, unlike other debates between left-wing intellectuals and parties, which have led to changes in mentality, intellectual or cultural orientation. Concluding the lecture, Al-Bizri presented the difficulties faced by the study, including the difficulty of objectivity, which manifests in the negative impact of the political rivalry in research, Lebanese societal chaos, and the lack of sources and technological knowledge.
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