According to Raphaël Lemkin, genocide does not “necessarily involve the immediate destruction of a nation” through mass killings, as it can “signify a coordinated plan of different actions aimed at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups,” such as “the disintegration of political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion and economic life (…), as well as the suppression of personal security, freedom, health, dignity and even the lives of individuals.”
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Between October 17, 2019, and August 4, 2020, Lebanon was struck by a dual calamity that fatally destabilized the country.
In 2019, the population was stripped of all its savings, and endured an unprecedented economic collapse. In 2020, the people of Lebanon witnessed a devastating explosion that shook their capital and annihilated their entire institutions. At a time when this afflicted population was in desperate need of international assistance, they found themselves subjected to a severe blockade instead. This blockade further strengthened the control of the pro-Iranian occupant, while billions of dollars kept on flowing to finance the ambitions of settling millions of foreigners on Lebanese soil.
Similarly, in 1915-1918, convoys carrying numerous vital essentials needed by the Lebanese people headed toward Syria, thus further entrenching famine, epidemics, and bloodshed. During that same period, the Lebanese were also stripped of their foreign currency savings, as they witnessed a 20-fold devaluation of their local currency. At the same time, Lebanese intellectuals were forcibly brought to military tribunals, judged, and wrongfully convicted, as Lebanese youth and families comprising half the population of Mount Lebanon were forced to emigrate, resulting in a white genocide* that can be described as a form of targeted violence aimed at wiping them out.
However, in 1915-1918, there were no foreign citizens ready to invest in the empty villages. Moreover, neither the United Nations nor the Convention on Genocide, or even the notion of genocide existed. Today, the question arises as to whether the world, which claims to adhere to the concepts of freedom and civilization, has the right to turn a blind eye to what is happening.
In December 1946, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 96, which states that genocide “denies the right of existence to entire human groups.” In December 1948, it further adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, clearly defining genocide as “a crime against human rights, contrary to the spirit and purposes of the United Nations, and condemned by the civilized world.” The problem lies in the significant margin of uncertainty that this supposedly civilized world has set while defining the criteria of a genocide. In this context, the question arises as to what happens when a variety of responsible stakeholders act on the same stage and what happens when such players endanger the same victim for different reasons.
The concept of genocide was clearly defined as early as 1944 by Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin, who extensively studied the extermination of Armenians and Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac people during World War I. In Chapter IX of Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Lemkin provides a precise definition that reveals the multiple facets of genocide, which is not invariably limited to Hersch Lauterpacht’s conception of murder. According to Lemkin, genocide primarily entails the annihilation of a “nation,” which can take the form of political, religious, linguistic or cultural destruction.
The National Group
According to Ernest Renan, a nation is a group of individuals who share the same interpretation of the past and the same aspirations for the future. To exist as a nation, this group is under no obligation to differentiate itself from its neighbors in terms of language, religion, geography, ethnicity or race. It forms a nation through shared will and common sentiment. Likewise, Lemkin believes that an entity threatened by genocide consists of a group he defines as “national minorities” or “population.” In other words, the threatened entity can be a full-fledged nation or a national group that stands out through its culture and a sense of nationalism.
Lemkin defines genocide as “the annihilation of a nation or an ethnic group.” He emphasizes that genocide “targets the national group as a whole” and will only target individuals based on their status as “members of the national group.” According to him, this does not imply “the immediate destruction of a nation” unless it involves mass killings, but it can “refer to a coordinated scheme of various actions aimed at destroying the essential foundations of the life of national groups.”
The Case of Lebanon
In its finest details, Lemkin’s enumeration of these actions aimed at suppressing national groups, painfully echoes the case of Lebanon. As early as 1944, he cited “the disintegration of political and social institutions, culture, language, national sentiments, religion and economic life” of these groups, as well as “the suppressing of personal security, freedom, health and dignity, including life.”
It is no secret that the Lebanese are threatened in their personal security, freedom, culture, health and dignity. International organizations, the European Union and a panoply of NGOs are refusing to support the Lebanese, at a time when aid is flowing in to assist the so-called Syrian refugees.
The national groups that are drastically suffering as a whole, the Christians more specifically, face an existential danger as a group. On top of all the challenges plaguing them, they were dealt a heavy blow due to the August 4, 2020 explosion that wreaked havoc on the country. The port explosion devastated their capital and its suburbs, along with all their major and medium-sized educational and healthcare institutions, barely ten months after they had lost their bank deposits. This dual calamity has sparked a renewed wave of immigration, reminiscent of Kafno, the 1915-1918 genocide-famine which forced scores of Lebanese to seek refuge in other countries.
The International Community
Today, we are facing an inhumane situation where drastic restrictions imposed by the global banking system are suffocating the Lebanese, as Hezbollah persists in its networks and illicit activities. We are also witnessing an overwhelming influx of unlimited aid to support over 2.5 million Syrians in a country that is 18 times smaller than Syria, while its two million Christians are exponentially dwindling since August 4, 2020.
We are currently witnessing a scenario where Western countries exhibit extensive hospitality towards young Lebanese university graduates. However, at the same time, we are confronted with a reluctance to support the return of Syrian refugees to their native villages and aid Lebanese citizens in remaining in their own country. Moreover, any attempt to engage in a meaningful discussion is met with a quick resort to accusations of racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, effectively stifling constructive debates.
*In this article, the term “white genocide” is not used in its recent definition of “genocide against whites”. It rather stands for “genocide without bloodshed,” either through emigration or assimilation.