A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Independence Day

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 21, 2007

On Thursday, Lebanon celebrates 64 years of independence – kind of. On November 22, 1943, Lebanon became a sovereign nation-state, effective January 1, 1944. However, the country’s French masters, perhaps reluctant to bid the Mediterranean au revoir, held on for three more years, until the British pressured them into turning de jure independence into de facto reality. They finally pulled out on December 31, 1946.

Its a confusing history – why is November 22 the official independence day, rather than January 1, 1944, or December 31, 1946? – and apparently no less so confusing for some Lebanese. I recently spoke to a group of students in their late teens – well-educated, active, engaged.

… and next Thursday is a holiday, I mentioned casually (this was last week, when the election was 1) scheduled for Tuesday and 2) a less frightening prospect).

It is? one asked. What for?

Horrified, I couldn’t think of a good explanation. Its your national day – Lebanon’s national day, I sputtered, wondering: why isn’t anyone else jumping in to explain?

Perhaps because the national history they learn looks something like this:

From 1516 to 1918 Lebanon was under the administrative rule and political sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, the territory defined by the present-day boundaries became a state called “Grand –Liban” (Great Lebanon) by decree of General Gouraud, head of the French troops in the Levant. The state remained under French Mandate until November 26,1941. A constitution was adopted on May 25, 1926 establishing a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government. Effective political independence of the Republic occurred on November 22, 1943 (Independence Day). In 1945 Lebanon became a founding member of the League of Arab states, then of the United Nations. Departure of the foreign troops then on the Republic’s territory was completed on December 31, 1946.

Over the next 30 years, Lebanon became a melting pot with a diverse cultural heritage. The instability in surrounding countries caused Lebanon to experience large waves of immigration from neighboring countries and attracted thousands of skilled laborers, entrepreneurs and intellectuals. The economic force of the Republic has mainly revolved around its entrepreneurs. In addition, Lebanon’s democratic traditions, attachment to freedom of speech and expression and its educated population enabled the Republic to become the cultural, academic and medical center of the region.

This fascinating bit of wishful thinking, elision, and simplification comes from the “Kids Only” section of the Lebanese Embassy to the United States’ website. “Over the next 30 years” takes the reader to 1976, after which …. nothing, evidently, happened worth mentioning. Denial: its not just a river in Egypt anymore.

For those who are aware of Lebanon’s independence day, there are actually several ways to celebrate it. 123 Greetings offers two nice e-cards, while edHelper has an entire teaching unit devoted to the day, suitable for students in grades 6-9.

And Nobelcom, the calling card service I use, is offering a 10% discount for Lebanon calling cards:

celebrate_nc.jpg

I’d like to celebrate Lebanon’s independence day by welcoming in a new president and by resting secure in the knowledge that Lebanese people know their own history.

But both those desires seem unlikely to be realized. In the meantime, I’ll send e-cards and order new calling cards at a discounted rate.

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4 Responses to “Independence Day”

  1. Hassan said

    “However, the country’s French masters, perhaps reluctant to bid the Mediterranean au revoir”

    You will probably get this a lot, but the French have access to the Med from their own beaches 😀

  2. thanks Hassan – good point 😀

    I guess I don’t know what charm Lebanon holds for the French then – perhaps tu devrais poser la question a ton oncle Bernie :D.

  3. Moussa said

    Lebanese people know their own history.
    Diamond, we still don’t have one history text book that teaches one or at least a common version of “Lebanese history”. A text book was proposed in the 90’s by a group of historian, but was not approved because descendant of feudal grandfathers wanted their grandfathers glorified and their their feudal opponents ridiculed, to say the least. And even if that book was approved, it would have had gaps. Periods, like the 75-90 civil war, were not included because of the controversy about what really happened. Okay I’ll stop here before I go ballistic with cynicism and insults 🙂

  4. Hassan said

    Je lui demanderai l’un de ces jours 😛

    Maybe if they had heard my French, they would have run away! 😀

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