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Among the many pending Lebanese projects is the writing of a unified history book for Lebanon. Many attempts were made to that end and failed, not for the lack of competent historians who possess the required skills, but for the absence of any political decision. Another obstacle is the conflicting views about Lebanon’s history, from its creation to the long civil war period (1975-1990), a deeply divisive subject.

Several initiatives have been taken in the past to tackle this sensitive issue, and almost found success, but political intervention had the better of them. Indeed, no regard was given to Lebanese national interest, or the education and training of future generations, so that they read history in the same way, away from conflict and division.

While some believe that internal dissent over a unified history book is linked solely to the civil war, whose memory is still “fresh” in the minds of people, many others remain deeply convinced that Lebanon has Phoenician roots, denying its Arab identity!

According to certain information, a project aiming to write a unified history book was in the works under Syrian occupation. It had reached advanced stages when the first part, titled “A Window to the Past,” was written and printed for distribution in schools and bookshops. But it was soon taken off the shelves, as the mandating Syrian authority deemed it “unsatisfactory.”

The initiative was taken yet again, only to be thwarted by political will a second time. This failure was made even worse by a sizeable issue; any decree on the subject must pass through the Cabinet, in which all political parties are represented. It is therefore difficult to make such a decision without prior approval of the content of the book itself. Simultaneously, forming a committee of “politically biased historians” would not be the optimal solution.

Hence, a question arises: can the country’s history be written in the present circumstances? And is there a “scientific way” to write the book in question away from political bias? How can one pick the right terminology to describe historical facts, when some view their martyrs as heroes, while others perceive these same victims as collaborators and traitors?

Presently, specific history books are being used in public schools, while private establishments choose their books regardless of Lebanese sensitivities. Some institutions even stopped teaching history to high school students, as the efforts to agree on one book seem to have stopped – or perhaps the current circumstances are not favorable for such an initiative.

That being said, a certain number of people are asking deeper questions about the purpose of writing a unified history book. Worthy of note is the fact that people in favor are pro-partition and care little about Lebanese national unity, even deeming it unviable. They go as far as to suggest the partition of Lebanon into sectarian cantons. Needless to say, the implementation of such a project would inexorably lead to civil war.

In Lebanon, this seldom-brought-up topic is the direct consequence of the country’s complex reality, at a time when the West is also debating better ways of teaching history. At the top of that list are the avoidance of senseless memorization in favor of analysis, as well as a better reading and social and political contextualization of historical events. Undoubtedly, Lebanon ought to follow suit.