Contours

The Maronites of Lebanon, perhaps more than any other Arab Christian community in the Fertile Crescent, were for centuries able to maintain some form of autonomy amid the surrounding sea of Muslims. In the age of revival this provided the grounds for the elaboration of a distinct conception of nationality based on what might be called sectarian territoriality — which eventually led to the emergence of the idea of a Lebanese nationality.

In contrast, the political orientation of the Greek Orthodox Christians, the largest Christian Arab millet in the Fertile Crescent, took on a somewhat different character. This was in great part due to the demographic diffusion of Greek Orthodox Christians throughout Syrian and their lack of concentration in any one area. They mixed more easily with their Muslim surroundings and were consequently able to accommodate themselves to Arabism in a way that most other Christian groups could not. An independent, specifically Greek Orthodox conception of nationality was hard to evolve under these circumstances. What did develop in fact was a distinct Greek Orthodox conception of Arab nationality which made it possible for Greek Orthodox Christians to identify more readily with their Muslim Arab compatriots than any other Christian group was ever able to do. It is therefore not surprising that the Greek Orthodox Christians assumed political attitudes that were generally much closer to Arabism than they were to political sectarianism.

From Arab Intellectuals and the West: The Formative Years, 1875 – 1914, by Hisham Sharabi, The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1970, pgs. 113-114.

[This might help to explain to some the views of the late George Habash, co-founder of the Arab Nationalist Movement and the PFLP. He has been known as the “Arab Guevara“, the “Doyen of the Resistance” the master “terrorism tactician“. He passed away last week in Amman, Jordan. He was buried there on Monday.]

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