The Lebanese


Congreso Mundial Juventud Libanesa – JUCAL 2012  [World Congress Lebanese Youth]
Juventud Unida Cultural Argentino Libanesa. [Lebanese-Argentine Youth Cultural Union](Click Here)
Vivir el Libano en Argentina. [Living Lebanese in Argentina]
Buenos Aires October 2012

The Lebanese are arguably the most Westernized, and assimilated, of all the Arabs in the New World.

There are 1-1/2 Million Lebanese in Argentina, about 7 Million in Brazil, 500,000 in Venezuela, etc. Many, if not most, are Maronite (affiliated with Roman Catholicism) Christians. They have an enormously moderating effect in South America wherever Arabs have settled.

From what I have seen Lebanese Maronites are as not concerned as much about Arab or Muslim issues as other Arabs are. When they are concerned about these things, they tend to be muted. The Lebanese tend to be more concerned about becoming assimilated Westerners, evincing a love of Lebanese cuisine, music, and dance, yet maintaining a sort of quasi-Arab identity.

There are chiefly eleven (11) reasons for this:

1) For centuries, the French assumed the role of Protector of the Maronites In Lebanon. The Maronites, in turn, looked to the West as their protector.

2) Even, before that, going well back to the first millenia AD, and the church councils, the Maronite Church affiliated with the Western Church, not the Eastern Churches, when it came to Christian doctrine. Their religious orbit was to the West, not the East.

3) When the Crusaders came, not only the Muslims, but a lot of Eastern Christians were victimized by the Crusader forces. The Maronites, however, welcomed them, and affiliated with the Catholic Church. There was a degree of intermarriage with the Europeans.

3) For centuries, the Maronites, and other Lebanese Christians, had been oppressed by Druze overlords. Lebanese Maronite Christians were almost exterminated by Muslims in the 19th century. The French Army had to intervene to prevent a genocide. (Click Here).

4) Many Lebanese Maronites do NOT consider themselves as Arabs per se – though they speak Arabic, now. They consider themselves Phoenicians, who were overrun by the Arabs in the 7th century, but who remained distinct from the Arabs/Muslims (Click Here). The philosophy is called Phoenicianism; and I have seen Maronites get furiously angry if they are called Arabs.

notarabs

5) Until the 18th century, many Maronites spoke Syriac – similar to Aramaic, a language of the Bible – which indicates how distinct they were from surrounding Arabs. Once they did adopt modern Arabic, many spoke it better than the Muslims around them, by virtue of a Christian education.

6) Their religious affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church, and political connections with the French, gave them a Western mindset that was lacking in other Arabs. Though Arabic speaking by the 19th century, a few also spoke French. French contacts, such as priests, tended to prefer the Maronites over the other locals; and for all intents and purposes treated the Lebanese Maronites as if they were Europeans with a funny language. This gave the Maronites a leg up, not only over the Muslims, but also the Syrian Orthodox Christians, who tended to have a stronger Arabic center.

7) Unlike the rest of the Arab World, the Maronites were not as opposed to Zionism. Some such as Archbishop Ignace Moubarac of Beirut actually spoke in favor of Israel.

Source: The Jewish History Channel

In fact there was once a strong trend toward pro-Zionism within the Maronite Church of Lebanon (once the largest and most powerful religious community in that country) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries up untill the establishment of the state of Israel. The movement was spearheaded by the Maronite Patriarch Antoine Pierre Arrida and Archbishop Ignace Mubarak of Beirut. If anything, this was a marriage of convenience. After all the Christians of Lebanon and the Jews of (then) Palestine were both minorities (in the case of the Maronites this was slowly but surely coming true) surrounded by a hostile Muslim majority. It was only natural to form a sort of alliance.

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8) The Palestinian refugees were a major issue in the Lebanese Civil War. The Lebanese Maronite Forces and the Palestinian forces both committed massacres against each other’s communities.

9) Israeli intervention in the Lebanese Civil War, in 1982, may have prevented a major defeat of Lebanese Christians. The Christian leader Bashir Gemayel even considered an alliance with the Israelis. Some Maronites consider the Israelis to be the savior of Lebanese Christians.

10)  The Maronites love wine/arak (alcohol), and will eat pork and shellfish.  They are not bound by Muslim, or Jewish food laws.  This further distinguishes them.

11) While there are other Lebanese Christians, most tend to be of a Christian Orthodox persuasion, with a historical Eastern/Arabic outlook. Contrast this with the Maronites, who boast of being the ancient Phoenicians who settled Italy, Sicily, Spain, and who made it out to the British Isles. They seem themselves as all but proto-Westerners. So they have little or no problems assimilating into a Western culture. It is their destiny. It is where there ancestors went … to the West.

So the Lebanese tend to assimilate very well into the Western world. Almost seamlessly.

The Lebanese Christians tend to be moderate to Western in their views regarding the Mideast; and can, at times, be pro-Israel.  This does not mean they are necessarily thrilled with Israel; but they have enough bad experiences in their history fighting Muslim forces that they tend to shy away from getting as involved in the Palestinian cause.

Some Maronites are downright hateful of the Palestinians. Some consider the Palestinian refugees to have started the Lebanese Civil War, and to have destroyed Lebanon. The Palestinians often share an equal, but counter-aversion, to the Maronites; and consider the Maronites to have started the Lebanese Civil War. But sides committed atrocities.

I have noticed that Argentina’s and Brasil’s Arabs tend to be less contentious about Israel than Chile’s Arabs, who have a more Palestinian ethnic bedrock.

Why?

Because Argentina’s and Brazil’s Arabs are top heavy with Lebanese Maronites, while Chile’s Arab’s are top heavy with Palestinians.

This is noticeable when studying the Arabs of South America.

To see this in effect, look at these former logos on two similar websites.

FEARAB – Argentina
(Note : the Website is now down)

FEderación de Entitades Arabes (Federation of Arab Groups) – Argentina

fearab_argentina.jpg
Notice the Argentine flag. Notice that one of the changing images is of a Gaucho

The Arab-Argentine society laid emphasis on the Gaucho. They are emphasizing and embracing an assimilated Argentine/Western identity.

Now look at a former logo on the Chilean Site!

FEARAB – Chile
(Note : the Website has changed its logo)

 

FEderación de Entitades Arabes (Federation of Arab Groups) – Chile

fearab_chile.jpg
Israel is erased from the map!

The Arab-Chilean society laid emphasis on the struggle against Israel.

Why the difference?

Chiefly because 60% or more of the Arabs in Chile are Palestinian.

In Argentina, the opposite is true where roughly half the Arabs in Argentina are Lebanese, and the number of Palestinians is far smaller.  The Lebanese also predominate among Arabs in Brazil.

So in Argentina, the Western leaning Lebanese set the agenda, while in Chile the Palestinians set a different agenda.

The Western-leanig Maronites seek assimilation, while the Christian-Palestinians in Chile retains an ethnic identity of struggle.

This is all the more amazing when one realizes that Christian Palestinians have been in Chile in large numbers since 1890.   What distinguishes them is that Christian Palestinians tend to be Syrian Orthodox Christian, which is an Eastern Church, while Maronite Catholicism is affiliated with Rome in the West. So, the Christian-Palestinians retain their Arab identity, while the Maronites are all but wannabe Westerners.

From their insistence on Christianity, to affiliation with Rome (rather than the local Eastern Churches), to their alliances with the French, to their friendly dealings with Israel, the Maronites are so Western that their Muslim neighbors have considered them on more than one occasion as traitors to the “Arab nation,” (the UMMAH), which ironically has a germ of truth, as many Maronites do not consider themselves Arabic, but Phoenician.

So Westernized Maronite Lebanese are NOT a Myth.

In Latin America, the Maronites/Christian-Lebanese often blend in without a hitch. Where Maronites predominate in the Arab community, they smooth the Westernization of the Arab community.  In Chile, their moderating influence is weak, by virtue of a smaller demographic, in competition with a very organized and determined Christian-Palestinian community.


May 11, 2017 – Edited – Massive changes, and updated links.