Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Christians of Lebanon in the Context of a Syrian-Israeli Political Relations

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Christians of Lebanon in the Context of a Syrian-Israeli Political Relations

Article excerpt

The author details the findings of a significant opinion poll surveying the attitudes of Lebanese Christians to the relationship of Lebanon with Syria and Israel, and the possible impact on Lebanon of any peace agreement that could eventually be reached between Syria and Israel. The poll was conducted in 1999, but writing in August 2001 he endeavors to assess possible changes of opinion that may have taken place up to the present time.

Key Words: Arab/Israeli conflict, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Palestinian refugees, Lebanese Christians, Maronites, Druze.

A comprehensive study of Lebanon's relationship to the Middle East peace process requires a fundamental canvas of the political opinions and sentiments of the diverse confessional groups making-up the country's shaky political structure. Primary to that structure has been the place of the Christians whose contribution to Lebanon 's political life has been essential. The Christians played a determining role in the formation of the modern state in the 1920s, in its independence in the 1940s, and in its renewal. Despite the large number of works dealing with the Lebanese Christians, and especially with its most important sub-group the Maronites, most of these works are historical and descriptive in method2. In fact most of these works are centered on internal group mechanism and communal political behavior. Hardly any attempt at investigating the basic political orientations of Lebanon's Christian groups - from a behavioral perspective - with regard to relations with Syria, Israel and views on peace are found in the literature. This gloomy observation is not intended to obscure the value of some meritorious works namely Hilal Khashan's studies on Arab Attitudes Toward Israeli. In the former Khashan based his study on an empirical inquiry into Arab respondent's attitudes toward Israel and Peace in the period from March 1993 to April 1995.Although the study included few Christians, the bulk of the data came from highly religious Muslim interviewees. In the latter, the data for which was collected between February and March 1999, did not include Christian respondents in the sample.

Statement of Objective

Utilizing comprehensive survey data, this study attempts to examine Lebanese Christian respondents views on issues central to national politics and to the Middle East peace process. The present study differs from Khashan's in some respect: first, the respondents' religious affiliation; it is based solely on a cross-sectional survey of Christian participants while Khashan's sample was limited to Lebanese Muslim respondents. Second, the objective of the study; Khashan's aim was to test Arab general attitudes toward peace. Accordingly, views on issues pertaining to Lebanon's domestic and regional politics or the impact of peace on Lebanese Christians were not included. This study seeks to examine what average Lebanese Christians think about the ongoing conflict in South Lebanon, their country's relations with Syria and Israel and their views concerning the prospects of an eventual peace deal with the Jewish state. In part, the author intends to determine if Lebanese Christians register any significant attitudinal change with regard to the conflict with Israel since the opinion poll was conducted before the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in May 20004. Previous results have shown that Christian Lebanese respondents rather discouragingly expressed overall negative views about their government policy approach to peace with Israel. The majority opposed the coupling of the Syrian-Lebanese peace tracks; the continuation of Hizbullah military operations and the launching of Palestinian commando raid against Israeli targets and strongly supported the deployment of the Lebanese army to control the international border. Apart from revisiting the previous findings, the present study aspires to establish the likely impact of peace on the sizable Christian community of Lebanon. …

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