Panelists Discuss Democracy in Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine

Article excerpt

The Council for the National Interest held an Aug. 23 public hearing on "Democracy in the Middle East" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The event featured Dr. Ziad Hafez, an economist at the International Finance Corporation; Mohamed Elmenshawy, editor-in-chief of the weekly online journal Taqrir Washington; and Mubarak Awad, founder of Nonviolence International.

Speakers were asked whether recent "reforms" in the Arab world have been the result of internal or external pressures. After providing an overview of Lebanon, Hafez was skeptical that "such change remains in the interest of the Arabs." Describing the recent elections there as a "giant step backward," Hafez said they had spawned increased sectarian tensions, adding that the rampant factionalism that has occurred since the Feb. 14 assassination of Rafiq AlHariri assassination is "antithetical to democracy."

Claiming that the Lebanese people are "not innately sectarian," Hafez blamed the "intellectual and moral bankruptcy" of the country's leadership. Individual rights are held hostage in Lebanon, he stated, and its sectarian system serves as only the "veneer of democracy." Instead of individuals counting, he explained, sects are represented politically. Hafez attributed this "acute disunity" in the country's political make-up to its former control by the French.

Lastly, Hafez commented that the Lebanese people "still have to agree what the state is or should be," arguing that the sectarian narrative should be replaced with a nationalist one. …


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