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A Lebanese nationalist ideology.

Phoenicianism is based on the idea that Lebanon is unique in the Middle East for its location, people, and mission, and therefore should not be bound in any arrangement to neighboring countries, which are seen as inferior. The ideology of Phoenicianism flourished early in the twentieth century, when decentralization parties proliferated in the Arab region of the Ottoman Empire. Many Christians were dedicated Arab nationalists, although some Lebanese Christians believed that their nation should not be associated with the Arab region.

Phoenicianism is based on the belief that the Lebanese political entity is, contrary to historical realities, not the product of the twentieth century. "Lebanese nationalists"a term that has come to describe the views of the right-wing Maronite Christian establishment and its allies in other sectsbelieve that Lebanon, both as a political entity and as a people, has been in continuous existence since Phoenician times. The Phoenicians are seen as ancient Lebanese, and Phoenician achievements are exaggerated to the point that the Greek and Roman civilizations are perceived as inferior to the "Lebanese Phoenician civilization." Lebanese nationalists argue that the Phoenician identity defines the Lebanese political identity. Other identities, such as those based on Islam or Arabism, are regarded as alien to the Lebanese historical experience.

The dispute over Phoenicianism is at the root of the Lebanese political problem. There is no consensus on the identity of Lebanon. Although the Maronite establishment has insisted that the Lebanese identity should be defined in purely historical terms (i.e., Phoenician), Lebanese Muslims and others who support their views argue that the Lebanese identity has been shaped by the Islamic Arab legacy. Arab nationalists dismiss the Phoenician claims and compare then to Zionist claims over Palestine. The political arrangement of Lebanon since 1943 has failed to settle this thorny political issue. The National Pact of 1943, for example, tried to please both sides by declaring that Lebanon has "an Arab face," leaving the determination of the identity of the "body" unspecified. For advocates of Phoenicianism, the only linkage between Lebanon and the Arab world rests in Lebanon's membership in the League of Arab States.

Phoenicianism has developed from an ideology into a full-fledged myth. Nobody has contributed to the nourishment of the myth more than Lebanese poet and ultranationalist Saʿid Aql, who traces most of the great discoveries of civilization to the Phoenician people. Even the discovery of America is attributed by Aqlamong others in Lebanonto Phoenician travelers who preceded Columbus. The great Greek thinkers are called Phoenicians. The school curricula in Lebanon reinforce the myths about the Phoenician people among all who accept a version of history promulgated by ideologues who have dominated the Ministry of Education since independence.

see also aql, saʿid; league of arab states; national pact (lebanon).


Kaufman, Asher. "Phoenicianism: The Formation of an Identity in Lebanon in 1920." Middle Eastern Studies 37 (January 2001): 173.

as'ad abukhalil

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