The International Maronite Foundation represents the
feelings and opinions of Maronites around the world concerned with
issues and actions that impact the Maronite Church. Any actions
undertaken by the United States government or any other government
concerning the disposition of issues pertaining to Lebanon and the
rights of its people to self-governance and self-determination are
of great concern to us. We believe it to be in the best
self-interest of the United States and all other nations to ensure
that Lebanon remains a sovereign and effective politically
independent, western-style democracy in the region. To this end,
and based on the following document “A Maronite Role in Lebanon,”
the International Maronite Foundation does hereby proclaim its
Lebanon is a critical element in the geo-political
and economic future of the Middle East, and as such, must be engaged
in regional security, economic and political aspects of the region.
Lebanon must engage in strategic partnerships and
alliances within the region to ensure social, economic, and
Substantive action must be taken to improve economic
conditions to reduce the debt and create new jobs to retain the
educated leaving the country, creating a brain drain, and severely
jeopardizing the economic future of the nation and the region.
Lebanon undertake to establish a framework for the
development of a treaty of alliance with Syria to refine the Taef
Agreement and definitize a strategic alliance for defense and
security with Syria and redeployment of Syrian troops in accordance
and the complete departure of Syrian security personnel from
To this effect the Foundation proposes that:
No person or nation, other
than a Lebanese government elected free of outside influence, can
truly represent the people of Lebanon.
Only the properly elected government
can protect the sovereign rights of the nation and give proper
consideration to issues relating to its citizens and the nation’s
Lebanon, as a sovereign nation, has the
right to participate in any political process affecting the region
in general and itself in particular.
Only the Lebanese, free from foreign
occupation, can fully guarantee its borders.
The only way to
protect the Lebanese way of life is to ensure there are no
non-Lebanese forces in Lebanon, and to turn over the affairs of
state to the Lebanese government.
The Maronites of Lebanon and
the international community fear for the church and its communicants
as well as for the religious freedom of all Lebanese while the
nation is under foreign occupation and domination.
We support the consensus among all
Lebanese that no consideration be given to permanent Lebanese
citizenship of Palestinians living in Lebanon today. The economic
and religious balance extant today would be seriously jeopardized.
We strongly support active and
effective Lebanese participation in all discussions and talks
involving issues relating to its future.
We insist on the implementation of the
United Nations Resolutions 425 and 520.
The sovereignty and de facto independence of Lebanon
is a moral commitment the United States must undertake and ensure.
The International Maronite Foundation
recognizes the Patriarch of the Antiochan Maronite Catholic Church
as the father and head of the Church, and pledges to him loyalty and
commitment to his guidance while supporting his efforts on behalf of
people of all faiths, especially Lebanese of all faiths, and his
concern for peace, justice and the safeguard of freedom and human
strongly supports the concept of unity among all Maronites in
support of a free and sovereign Lebanon
We support the Patriarch in a call for
unity of all Lebanese and his condemnation of extremism.
A MARONITE ROLE IN LEBANON
Since the time, almost 1500 years ago when the
ancestors of the present church fled the plains of Syria for the
protection of Lebanon, the identity of this community of believers,
the Maronites, has been tied to the land of Lebanon. Lebanon and the
Maronites are linked by history and faith with an indelible seal.
The Maronites have known great persecution as well as great success
in Lebanon. Before the days of the modern republic, they were
persecuted and ostracized by the majority religion of the region, as
practiced by the Byzantine Empire, for their loyalty to the Pope.
They were persecuted by the Arabs at the time of the Islamic
conquest of the region (600Ìs AD) and subjugated by the Turks for
nearly the entire 500-year life of that empire (900Ìs AD). However,
they knew freedom during the time of the Crusades and later were
given almost total autonomy within the context of the Ottoman Empire
(1400-1900Ìs AD). They had their first taste of political freedom
in their land of refuge, Lebanon, but always tempered by the reality
that they lived in an occupied land in which they could be
persecuted and massacred because of the simple fact of the manner in
which they worshipped God.
Colonial Period Following World War I.
Through these centuries of trial, the Maronites of Lebanon were
always able to survive. In 1919 at the end of the First World War
and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Maronite Patriarch,
Hoyek, traveled to Versailles, the site of the peace conference, to
inveigh upon the French, one of the victorious Allied Powers, to
petition for Lebanese independence. This was a historic time
following the end of the war of carving states from the old colonial
order, according self-determination to indigenous peoples. The
Patriarch was determined that Lebanon should emerge as an
independent viable state. He therefore petitioned that the new
Lebanon, to be carved from the old Ottoman Empire, have boundaries
that extended beyond Mount Lebanon, the Grand Liban, in order to
reflect the ancient boundaries of this ancient land. Lebanon was
thus established under the French Mandate to include Mount Lebanon,
the coastal cities of Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre, as well as
south Lebanon and the fertile Bekaa Valley. Under the French
Mandate, which ran from the early 1920's until November 22, 1943,
the date of Lebanese Independence, the Lebanese Christians, in
particular the Maronites, held a favored position due to the
demographic majority of Christians in the country and the Maronite
affiliation with the French colonial power.
In 1943, French colonial rule ended when the Maronites joined with
their Muslim countrymen in the formulation of the National Pact. At
the heart of the pact, was the understanding that the Maronites
would not resort to outside assistance from the West, and that the
Muslims of Lebanon would not seek to incorporate Lebanon into the
larger Arab world. From the Maronite side a clear commitment was
made to the principle of Christian-Muslim coexistence. A
confessional quota system of representation within the Lebanese
government was established in order to balance the religious
communities and guarantee the basic tenets of the National Pact
understanding. The Lebanese Presidency and Army Chief, which under
the French Mandate could be either Christian or Muslim, was to
become the exclusive province of the Maronites with other offices
established for various other religious sects and denominations
In May 1948, Israel was declared by the United
Nations to be an independent sovereign state, carved from the old
British Mandate over Palestine. With the establishment of Israel,
war commenced between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The legacy
of that war on Lebanon and the region was a massive influx of
Palestinian refugees and the reactionary rise of Arab Nationalism,
first manifested in the name of Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt. The
presence of such large numbers of dispossessed impoverished people,
to whom an emotional appeal was made to unite in order to better
confront the enemy, being defined as Israel, had serious
repercussions on Lebanon internally.
The 1958 Crisis and Its Consequences.
The Maronite leadership of the country in 1958 turned to the West,
and particularly the United States. to assist in putting down what
was then characterized as a civil war. The Marines landed and order
was restored. This crisis took place against the regional backdrop
of the rise of Arab Nationalism and the global backdrop of the
East-West Cold War. The Maronite leadership in Lebanon had chosen
not to take sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the time,
opposition to their leadership could be emotionally rationalized to
the Islamic sectors of the population by questioning Maronite
loyalty to the Arab cause of confronting the Israelis. Even though,
initially, the Maronites had a great deal of sympathy towards the
Palestinian refugees, a general feeling of empathy gradually
dissipated when the Palestinians moved to destroy the essential
foundations of the Lebanese republic.
The Interim Period 1958-1975.
The Arabs fought and lost another war in 1967, which sent another
flood of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon. In 1969, the Cairo
Accord virtually gave Palestinians autonomy within their camps,
The Melkart Accord soon followed allowing Palestinians to be armed
in their camps and free to engage in wars of liberation from their
Lebanese refugee camps. The agreements came as a result of a 6
months deadlock by the government of then Sunni Prime Minister
Rachid Karame. Lebanon was torn between two strongly opposing
tendencies: an inclination within the Christian community that gave
the order of priority to focus on the idea of coexistence while
keeping Lebanon out of the sphere of regional conflict, in contrast
to an overwhelming sense within the Muslim community that made a
higher priority of integration of Lebanon into the Arab hinterland
as a prerequisite to the destruction of Israel. Against this
backdrop, there was complete governmental breakdown; militia rule
arose as the various communities felt that they could no longer
depend on the legitimate internal security forces of the government
to protect their lives and property. Hafez al Assad, who had come
to power in neighboring Syria during Lebanon's descent has been
described, quite correctly, as playing the role of both arsonist and
fireman in Lebanon during this period. In 1973, Syria participated
in the October Yom Kippur War against Israel, from which Lebanon
refrained. In the aftermath of that war, the Kunaitra Disengagement
Accord was reached between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights in
which both countries agreed, under U.S. mediation, not to attack
each other's territory from their respective sides of their common
The Lebanon War 1975-1982.
From the date of the 1974 Kunaitra Disengagement Accord, Assad had
one obsession: to stay in power. This is a difficult task for him
given his Alawite minority status within Syria. Without being viewed
by the Sunni majority in Syria as an Arab liberator, or a champion
of the Palestinian cause, Assad's hold on power in Syria was
tenuous. Thus he sought to circumvent the requirements of the accord
by maintaining a status of low intensity military confrontation
against Israel through neighboring Lebanon. Assad first approached
the Maronite leadership of the Lebanese Government who declined to
involve Lebanon in such a confrontation or to condone such activity
from Lebanese territory knowing the destruction such activity would
wreak on the country. Assad next acted through Yasir Arafat' s
Fatah and PLO, bolstering their military presence in Lebanon through
use of units of the Syrian Army being infiltrated into Lebanon as
the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) to assist Arafat in his war to
liberate Palestine through Jounieh. By weakening the Lebanese state
and dividing the Lebanese Army, Assad was able to bolster his image.
This partnership with the PLO continued until 1982 when the Israeli
Defense Forces (IDF) invaded Lebanon and militarily defeated the PLO
and expelled them from Beirut. Ironically, the PLO, as a fighting
force, was finally defeated and expelled from Lebanon by the Syrian
Army at Tripoli in 1983.
Aftermath of the Lebanon War 1983-1990.
With the liquidation of PLO military power in Lebanon, Assad turned
to the local Shiite population of the south and the weapon of
Hezbollah to maintain the confrontation against Israel. Through a
regional alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the financial
and political sponsors of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad was able to
make Syria the logistics key to the military operations of this new
resistance and maintain low intensity military pressure on Israel.
With the opening of the Madrid Conference and the start of the
Middle East Peace Process in 1991, this capability was not only
viewed as strategically necessary to leverage Syria into a more
favorable negotiating position against the Israelis but as a key
factor for the political survival of both Alawite power structure in
Syria, and the growing power of the Shiite community in Lebanon, in
the midst of an overwhelmingly regional Sunni milieu.
During this period from 1975 to 1990, though the
Lebanese Maronites could not secure the liberation of all Lebanon by
virtue of the Muslim alliance with the Syrian regime, they were at
least successful in preserving a sector of Lebanon and some degree
of independent political decision-making from complete hegemony and
control by Syria or Israel, through maintaining a fairly united
1989-1990 saw the intra-Christian battles in the
Christian controlled areas of Lebanon and the total collapse of
independent political decision-making in Lebanon. The Taef agreement
was brought about only after the balance of power on the ground
resulted in a deadlock, leading to a large wave of Christian
emigration from the country. Taef was largely rejected in the
Christian community as a solution, but rather viewed as a means to
create a forum for dialogue between the warring factions, to arrive
at a fair and just solution. It garnered, for the first time, an
international endorsement and acknowledgement of Syria's occupation
of Lebanon and specified a phased Syrian withdrawal from the
Lebanese territories. However, the lack of political foresight and
diplomatic skills in the implementation of this agreement as a means
to start the process of withdrawal of foreign forces, and thus the
liberation of the country, set the Maronites on a course of self
destruction. Consequently Assad was able to use the division and
dissention within Lebanon as an excuse not to implement his
obligations and withdraw his forces from Lebanon.
The Effective Syrian Occupation of Lebanon - The War
Through a series of treaties entered into by the government of Elias
Hrawi in May 1991 and supplemented by Prime Minister Salim el Hoss
during the Fall of 1999, Lebanese security, military, diplomatic and
foreign policy has been ostensibly turned over to Syrian control and
direction. Though the treaties call for "coordination" between the
two governments, the reality is that Syria effectively occupies and
controls Lebanon. It appears that any "coordination" between the
governments requires that Syrian interests be met first. If any
trading space remains, then and only then are Lebanese interests
considered or accommodated.
The Lebanese have been left out of the loop in the
managing of their nation 's international affairs for a number of
reasons. First, because the Maronites remain divided. Washington
places a premium on being able to deal with a party that can produce
results and Assad had shown himself to be a person on whom the
Americans could rely for results. The Israelis had a similar view
of Assad, as a person who could deliver. If he could deliver peace
with two countries, his own as well as Lebanon, then he was twice as
valuable to the Americans and Israelis. With the succession of
Assad’s son, Bashar, the leadership of Syria appears to be less
reliable. Second, there is no person within the Lebanese government,
with whom the Americans deal, who can deliver results for the
Americans. American diplomats believe the problem is that there is
no "go-to-guy". Therefore through a combination of abdication by
Lebanese authority and usurpation by Syrian authority, the fate of
Lebanon in the Middle East Peace process has been left in the hands
This is the recent history of the Republic of
Lebanon. Maronite Christians, who played such an essential role in
the creation of the modern state and a leadership role through much
of its history, after years of struggle to maintain its power within
the country, face the current reality:
1. A divided community represented by only a few of
its elements, some of whom, for mere personal gain, have handed over
an entire community to outside hegemony.
2. A state in which no indigenous Lebanese
constituency has sufficient credibility to manage the affairs of the
Lebanese Republic in a way as to maintain internal stability and to
make and keep international agreements.
3. One of the principle legacies of past Arab Israeli
Wars, that being the creation of Palestinian Refugees, is most
strongly felt by the Lebanese which is host to 342,121 refugees in a
country of only 3.5 million resident Lebanese, or 1 Palestinian
refugee for every 5 resident Lebanese citizens. Only Jordan hosts a
higher number of refugees per capita, and no other country hosts as
many Palestinian refugees in terms of density (per square
kilometer). In Lebanon the rate is 57/sq.km, while in Jordan, which
admittedly hosts the greatest absolute number of refugees, the rate
is only 13/sq. km. (UNRWA 12/31/94)
A little publicized fact concerns Lebanese citizens
as refugees within their own country. A study commissioned by the
Maronite League of Lebanon reported in February 1998 that there were
70,735 households displaced; representing approximately 400,000
4. Syria ultimately succeeded in destroying Lebanese
independence and winning control of the Lebanese government.
5. The Lebanese economy is subject to exploitation
by neighboring Syria as a result of various treaties and protocols
into which the government of Syria has entered with its proxies in
control of the Lebanese government. The Lebanese labor markets are
flush with low wage Syrian workers. Syria maintains a customs
office at the port of Beirut. The infrastructure of the two states
have, or are in the process of merging, in terms of power grids,
fiber optic cables connecting telephone service and data service as
well as water resources. Travel between the two countries no longer
requires a visa or a passport thus diminishing the significance of
an international border between the two states for commerce as well
as tourism purposes.
THE NEW REALITIES
Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Post
September 11, the United States has a new resolve in dealing with
foreign policy, especially the Middle East – war has become a viable
option and tool of diplomacy. The US has adopted a style of
diplomacy with more directness and less tact. Democracy has become
an important objective in the Middle East. Consequently, the US is
now into nation building, which it had avoided for so long.
There is intolerance to rogue states and for those
who support terrorism. The world is weary of the Middle East
conflict and the Bush Era is one that will see the US dictate the
way, such as the “road map” for the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
New Significance of Lebanon to the Middle East and
the United States.
It appears that the “Bush Doctrine” is to follow the
road to democracy in the Middle East. Lebanon has taken a new
importance because, historically, it is the first democracy in the
region and has the infrastructure in place. Lebanon has an ideal mix
of communities who have a long experience in accommodation and
negotiation. In spite of the long years of conflict, which many have
categorized as a “civil war,” Lebanon has not been “Balkanized.”
Lebanon can rapidly be restored as a functioning republic.
1. The lack of participation by the Lebanese
(Maronite, et al) leadership will lead to Syrian and Israeli issues
being resolved at the expense of the Lebanese
a. The Lebanese national leadership is so docile and
passive to Syria that they are more “Syrian” than the Syrians.
Therein lies the danger of relying on the current Lebanese
government to negotiate independence. An internationally supervised
election, free of Syrian supervision and influence must be conducted
before any honest negotiations can be conducted.
b. Lebanon must negotiate its own interests. For
Lebanon, there is a quid pro quo to the negotiation between giving
Israel security on its northern border and the repatriation or
resettlement of the Palestinian refugees currently in Lebanon.
However, for Syria, imposing control on Hezbollah military
activities in southern Lebanon may be needed as a negotiating chip
used to secure some Israeli concession to Syria, totally unrelated
to the Lebanese national interest with regard to the refugee
resettlement issue. Syria and Israel may both find common interest
in granting to Syria the role of securing peace along the
Lebanese-Israeli border. Such a result would leave Lebanon with a
permanent Syrian military presence, now sanctioned by the peace
accords, as well as saddle Lebanon with hundreds of thousands of
stateless Palestinian refugees for the foreseeable future.
2. Failure to participate will allow the Syrians to
broker Lebanese national interests. They should not allow their
fate to be negotiated by other parties.
3. Israel has no interest in a Maronite role in
Lebanon as long as they view Syria, as being able to deliver to them
what Maronite leadership in Lebanon could not, namely security on
4. Unless the Maronites stand
to reclaim their freedom and right to self-determination, their
future in Lebanon will remain bleak.
5.It is a peace guaranteed by the Lebanese Government
and the Lebanese Army, and no one else. It is a peace freely and
voluntarily entered into between Israel and Lebanon after the
conditions of each side have been fully subjugated to the
Lebanese National Interests - Essential to the
Success of the Peace Talks.
1.As the Maronite Patriarch in 1919 sensed that a new
order was being created in which Lebanon must have an identity, now
at the beginning of the 21st Century a new order is again being
created in which an independent national Lebanese voice must be
2.It is not in the national interest of Lebanon, nor
in the interests of peace in the region, that the peace talks
conclude leaving the Palestinian Refugees on Lebanese soil, being
dispossessed and with no stake in the peace: they will fight to
3.It is not in the national interest of Lebanon, nor
in the interests of peace in the region, that either Syria or Israel
or both maintain spheres of economic or security hegemony over
Lebanon: the repression and poverty that such a policy would bring
would radicalize the Lebanese population, making it ripe for
fundamentalism or some other radical ideology to take root and
destabilize any peace that could be agreed upon;
4.It is not in the national interests of Lebanon, nor
in the interests of peace in the region that a significant portion
of the Lebanese body politic be dispossessed of its rightful place
in the life of the nation: it would make of Lebanon the weak link in
the chain of peace thus weakening the entire regime of peace that is
attempting to be born in the region.
The United States cannot rely upon Syria to serve as
the Lebanese proxy and give expression to these interests, since
they are not the interests of Syria. Only Lebanon can make the case
for itself. Without Lebanon, no agreement between Israel and Syria
will prove durable.
Maronite Unity - Gathering of the Lebanese Nation.
The Maronites should unite behind the free independent voice of the
Maronite Patriarch in his articulation of these national interests
and bring their Lebanese brethren into the ranks behind these
national interests. The old suspicions purveyed against the
Maronites that they were not sufficiently ardent or loyal to the
Arab cause against the National Enemy, Israel, has become passé; at
a time when Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel; when
Israeli commercial interests have representatives in Riyadh Saudi
Arabia and in the Emirates; when Yasir Arafat embraces Israeli Prime
Ministers and calls them his brothers; and when Hafez al Assad is
discussed in the media as contemplating addressing the Knesseth in
support of an Israeli Ç Syrian peace treaty. The taboo is lifted.
It is time for the Maronites, the traditional keepers
of the Lebanese national flame, to come out of their long sleep,
chastened by the bitter lessons that they have learned from placing
reliance on any power other than the power derived from the
voluntary consent freely given by their fellow countrymen, gather
the Lebanese nation behind, not just Maronite interests, but behind
Lebanese national interests.
The Maronite Expansion in the World.
At the heart of the solution is the gathering support
of the Maronite expansion in the world. There are more than three
times the number of Maronites in the rest of the world than there
are Lebanese in Lebanon. The recent International Maronite Congress
and the Patriarchal Assembly are heartening signs of the stirring of
the Maronite Church worldwide.
Lebanese Unity – the Key to Peace.
After reaching out across the barriers artificially placed between
our people by years of bitter war and recriminations, the Maronites
will have to unite with fellow Lebanese to make the case to the
Americans who are driving the peace talks to conclusion, that no
agreement that they can cobble together which ignores or
subordinates Lebanese National Interests will long last. There can
be no peace for Israel or Syria sharing a common border with a
weakened and subjugated Lebanon. The enemies of peace will attack
it from its weakest point, Lebanon, and the war will continue.
For there to be peace, the consequences of war must
be addressed and reconciled. The Arab - Israeli wars produced
occupation of Arab land and dispossession among Arab populations.
Restoring the land to the Arabs without restoring the Arabs to the
land is not the stuff of which durable lasting peace is built.
During the Arab - Israeli Wars, Lebanon has served as
a pressure relief valve where the warring parties could maintain
warfare against each other through surrogate forces in a proxy war
zone. It has served as a dumping ground for Israelis to expatriate
undesirables from Israel and the Occupied Territories. It has
served as an economic iron lung by which the Syrian leadership could
survive in the face of the loss of its communist patrons in the
As the region moves from an era of military
confrontation to one of economic competition, a successful
transition is made less likely if the consequences of the war on
Lebanon and the enabling use of Lebanon by the parties to prosecute
the military confrontation between them is not reconciled and
dismantled. Should a peace be concluded that does not address this
consequence of the war, then the continuing availability of Lebanon
as a place where the parties may revert back to military
confrontation will eventually cause whatever is negotiated to fail.
In the final analysis, Lebanon can only exist if the
Lebanese abandon the traditional feudal type associations and
allegiances; this is the only way to create a truly united Lebanon.
The assumption of the label "Lebanese" (Loubnani), from the heart,
the mind and the soul, , represents the only salvation for Lebanon
as a free and sovereign nation, fully recognized in the community of
nations, respected by others for the loyalty and allegiance of its
people to a “nation”, rather than to a politicized sect or religious
label which has proved to be divisive. It is now time to speak of
unity with a capital "U". Without the unification of each and every
group under its own label, and then the abandonment of the political
mantle in favor of a national mantle, the future will be bleak.
Though it may seem to be heresy, the Lebanese must all assume the
mantle of nationhood and reach out together in the spirit of trust
and understanding in order to assure a Lebanon for tomorrow:
stronger, tolerant, and free.
It is a basic premise of any political strategy of
a demographic minority that "United we stand, divided we fall".
While it would appear evident that Lebanon has survived as a country
to this point, there yet remains the existential struggle over the
identity of the country. With Maronite Christian influence
essentially repressed and silenced in Lebanon, the interests of
Syria in Lebanon will take precedence over the age old values of
freedom, tolerance and independence, dear to the hearts of
Maronites, and indeed, to all Lebanese. Though the Syrians maintain
a brutal grip on this indigenous Lebanese leadership, the path yet
remains open for the constructive engagement of the Maronite
Patriarchy. In its secular role, it is one of the last uncorrupted
symbols of Lebanese national unity. The Patriarch's voice cannot be
silenced or repressed and his consent is necessary to the integrity
and credibility of any negotiated agreement that affects Lebanon.
The time is ripe with the conclusion of the Peace Talks at hand, for
Lebanese National interests to reassert themselves. No other
Lebanese constituency can fill the vacuum in this area: it is the
role of the Christian political forces to assume the leadership. It
must unite all the interests of all the constituencies in Lebanon,
and create the Lebanese identity. As Syria has now moved into
position to make peace with Israel in an irreversible way, Lebanon
is freed to pursue its interests without fear of Syrian reprisal or
resort to military means. There is an immediate need, a case for
which can be made with the American negotiators, for this
reassertion of traditional power in Lebanon to play this essential
role at this critical time.