chapter  6
34 Pages

The Confessionalism Tangle

Lebanon has often been described as a chronic problem; the explanation for this gloomy description lies in the social and political experience of the Lebanese state and the political system upon which it is based. The failure of the political system to contend with the fundamental problems Lebanon has long faced was proven by the bloody second civil war that lasted fifteen years. Nonetheless, and despite the known disadvantages of the confessional system, many still believe that it is doubtful whether a real alternative that would allow Lebanon to remain a pluralistic polity can be found.1

Different from most of its neighbors, Lebanon might be defined as a confederation of religious and ethnic groups in which the confessional system was found to keep the balance between its various components. The origins of the confessional system date back to the 1861 political settlement and it was legitimized by the 1926 constitution and the National Pact respectively. This settlement has been based on the conception formulated by Cheha that confessionalism has constituted the best available model for preserving stable and harmonic relations between the different communities.2 By this definition, confessionalism has become a fundamental foundation of the Lebanese state and its most prominent identifying mark. The Druze did not gain political advantages from this political system, within which they came to play a minor political role with few representatives in the parliament and one or two ministers in government. The National Pact’s marginalizing effect on the Druze community had not been an obstacle to recognizing the Lebanese state’s right of existence by the two factions within the Druze political leadership. But this was far from being the case when it came to the confessional system. Since independence in 1943, Lebanon has never seen a leader who struggled for the abolition of the confessional system like Junblat; one may even say that Junblatism became a synonym of anti-confessionalism. Given this, it is reasonable to open this discussion with an exploration of the political ideology of this Druze leader who devoted his life to leading all those Lebanese opposed the confessional system.