"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Politics and War in Lebanon

Lebanon remains a fascinating place: a country with substantial Eastern Christian (especially Maronite) and Muslim populations whose lives alongside one another are in some ways similar to, but in other ways vastly different from, comparable relations across the border in Syria and places further afield. The messiness of religion and politics that we see across the region is especially magnified in Lebanon, making it ripe for misunderstanding. Transaction Publishers just sent me their spring catalogue, and one title that stood out will be published in May and aims to help clear up some of the misunderstandings: Mordechai Nisan, Politics and War in Lebanon: Unraveling the Enigma (Transaction, 2015), 237pp.

About this book we are told:
Lebanon is an exceptionally misunderstood country; its religious politics are typically misrepresented and denigrated in Western political commentary. Politics and War in Lebanon offers a lucid examination of Lebanese society and politics. Mordechai Nisan examines Lebanon in its own terms, on its own cultural turf. He then points to the causes of political disintegration in 1975 and explores the capacity of Lebanon to recover and retain its unique national poise.
Avoiding disorienting Western stereotypes, Nisan presents Lebanon in its own native frame of reference, as a multi-ethnic country that operates according to its immutable and enigmatic political forms. Lebanon is different from other Arab countries, as demonstrated through its very complex electoral system, its tradition of cross-elite cooperation, and its special sense of Lebanese national identity that differentiates it from its overbearing Syrian neighbor.
Nisan explores intra-Maronite Christian feuds, identifies Syria’s occupation strategy, analyzes the violence of the Palestinians, and studies Israel’s failed policy strategy and the role of Hezbollah in the Lebanese power equation. Lebanon is caught between its special historical identity as a country with poise, creativity, and liberty and the interminable warfare in the streets and villages of the country. Although its future appears dim, its resilience enabled it to prevail in the past, and may yet do so.

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