Editor-In-Chief: Charbel Baini

Reactions by Lebanese Catholics to World War I - Installment 2

                  By Dr Dennis Walker,  Researcher,
                  Monash Asia Institute, Monash University, Caulfield 3145. 
                   Email: --- dennis.walker@monash.edu
                   Phone: 9540 8441 (mornings).

 LEBANESE CONCEPTUALIZATION OF GERMANS
               Wilhelmian Germany became more and more unattractive to pro-clerical Maronites well before WW1 because of its tightening alliance with the central government in Constantinople that from 1908 was usually led by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP).  The new Young Turk elite gave much more scope to threatening secular ideas throughout the Empire than had Sultan ‘Abdul-Hamid with whom Maronite Patriarch Ilyas al-Huwayyik had built up a live-and-let-live alliance in which he conceivably may have helped the Ottoman government repress local Maronite secularists FN[[Dennis Walker, “The Relations of Catholic Maronite Patriarch Ilyas Butrus al-Huwayyik with the Ottoman Turks”, _IslamoChristiana_ 28 (2002) pp. 109-123]]FN.  The CUP also had centralizing impulses, and Germany was helping it improve its military capacities: as soon as they brought the Ottoman State into the War, the CUP militarily ended Mountain Lebanon’s autonomy.  After WW1, Christian authors in Arabic rapped “Germany, the aider of Turkey” for “allowing” sweeping violence by Turks, Kurds and Circassians against [mainly Syriac-speaking and Armenian] Christians in Mesopotamia and [in today’s Turkey] Diyar Bakr, Mardin, Tur ‘Abdin etc during the War --- criminality by association rather than having taken part FN[[Review of the 509-page book _al-Qusara fi Nakabat al-Nasara_ in _al-Mashriq_ January 1920 pp. 71-2.  Dr Gabriele Yonan of Germany was in 2000 researching links between Wilhelmian ministries and military and Ottoman attacks on Syriac-speakers during WW1]]FN.
              In most Catholic Arabic reviews of World War 1, the German side is portrayed as expansionist  --- it is led to attack by a materialist drive for resources and trade, but more out of some anti-human barbarism or by the personal despotic decision of the Kaiser, and is almost anti-Christian in this portrait that drew so heavily on propaganda in the French media.
             Generally, _al-Mashriq_ in the new particularist statelet rarely voiced nuances about Germany’s pre-War situation and her economic motives, but did very briefly glimpse an intellectually muscular pacifist counter-discourse in Britain.  This tradition was represented by pacifist Norman Angell, one of whose works in French translation was reviewed in _al-Mashriq_.   Angell had from the 1900s been urging Britain not to demonize the Hun Kaiser Wilhelm II, but rather to take his Anglophilia on face value.  While Angell had recognized that Germany’s 1914 thrust into Belgium and attempt to conquer France amounted to aggression, he interpreted it as motivated by her relentless population increase and pressures caused by the refusal of the Triple Entente states to grant industrializing Germany constructive economic outlets  In the wake of WW1, _al-Mashriq_ noted, Angell was arguing that the articles of the peace that the Allies concluded in Versailles “could expose Europe to terrible chaos because they have sentenced the Axis states to pressure, degradation and slavery, although their level of development and the extent of their economies and resources would suffice to rescue the states of the world in general from their economic crisis.”  The _al-Mashriq_ review concurred that even defeated milch cows, once even their teats are torn out, can never yield milk again FN[[Review by Fr G.  Levenq of Norman Angell, _Le Chaos Europeen_ translated from the English by Andre Pierre (Paris: B. Grasset 1920), _al-Mashriq_ July 1920 pp. 553-4]]FN.
             More forward-thinking voices from among even the ranks of the vengeful French themselves were nudging Lebanon’s Catholics to a more sympathetic understanding of the deep harm the late conflict had caused to Germany as well.  To be sure, an _al-Mashriq_ review of a 1919 French work by Dr Ambroise Got ascribed the continuing suffering of the German people as “completely the result of the pomposity of the deposed Kaiser Wilhelm and his transgression of all limits of moderation and equity”.  Still, the Alsatian-French author Got had reached the conclusion in his on-site researches with the French Mission in Berlin that Germany would never be able to lift itself to its feet again, however favorable the conditions, except after long years given the reparations it had to pay back to the Allies as compensation for everything it had destroyed in other countries. Thus, the Treaty of Versailles had to be revised.   As one of the sons of [marginal, bilingual] Alsace, Got had been well equipped to write an incisive overview of all the diversity of political parties, class conflicts and insatiable revanchist movements that had arisen since the deposition of the Kaiser FN[[Review by Fr Gabriel Levenq of (Dr) Ambroise Got’s _L’allemagne apres la Debacle_ (Strasbourg 1919), _al-Mashriq_ July 1920 p. 553]]FN.  (Got was overly pessimistic: the German currency was to restabilize in 1923, and the following year the Allies agreed to evacuate the Ruhr and grant Germany a more realistic payment schedule for reparations: by 1927, German industry had regained its 1913 high, but then the Great Depression hit all the world).
               _al-Mashriq_ apprised its readers of the debate between (a) John Maynard Keynes and others who argued that the terms imposed by the  Allied powers had not merely harmed Germany but the economy of Europe as a whole, _and_ (b) French authors who argued that the Germans had the means to pay the reparations they owed for the losses of life and property that their aggressions had cost France, Belgium, Rumania and Italy FN[[Review by “J.L.” (=Fr Gabriel Levenq?) of Keynes _Les Consequences economiques de la Paix_ (Paris: Nouvelle Revue Francaise 1920 --- 9th printing!) and of Raphael Georges Levy, _La juste Paix ou la Verite sur le Traite de Versailles_ (Paris: n.d.), _al-Mashriq_ December 1920 pp. 1031-1032]]FN.  But guidance from _al-Mashriq_ to critical and undecided European works on Germany and on the recent conflict and its ongoing effects in the 1920s were a margin constricted in the space allocated.   The stray items were almost drowned out by the tendency of Shaykhu and other clerical Lebanese writers to relay the French mentors’ hatred of Germany and its people. 

_Connections through Catholicism to Germans_
             Catholic universalism finally reasserted itself over the French nationalism, given a Christian patina, to which their auxilliary language had drawn these clerical Lebanese.  In one brief note, Shaykhu did rap “some extremists” in the victorious Allied powers who were expelling Catholic German missionaries from their Third World missions “lest, it is contended, they misuse religious evangelization as a means to propagate… love towards their homeland”.  Shaykhu added his “weak voice” to that of the Pope and others to protest at restrictions that were further depriving a number of lands of the blessings of evangelizing “Christian civilization”, given that the World War had cut down so many missionaries.  The Allies could still try any Germans charged to have deformed the religion into an instrument for temporal aims, so alien to the thinking of Catholic missionaries FN[[Shaykhu, review of J. Neuhaesler, _Appel aux catholiques de l’univers pour sauver les missions allemandes_ (Munster 1920), _al-Mashriq_ July 1920 p. 554-555]]FN.  [As though some Francophone Western missionaries had not inculcated love of the French state in the Fertile Crescent!]
             In 1922, the science-aware Rafa’il Nakhlah al-Yasu‘i tried to supplement or modify the hostile image of Germany that the French language had so deeply implanted in the opinion-makers of “the Catholics of the East” whom he now addressed. Nakhlah voiced understanding of the hatred that came from all corners against the people of the “covetous” Wilhelm II from its brilliant triumph in the 1870 war with France to its igniting of the flames of the late World War that had spread death and destruction over all areas of Europe.  He took issue, though, with some who “have exaggeratedly dismissed Germany as in its entirety a purely materialist civilization that uses intellectual powers or the progress of the sciences and arts only to increase material prosperity and to expand the country by violating the rights of neighboring nations.”  In correction [to this particular Catholicist view of Germany in the Arabic lands], Nakhlah highlighted as an instance of “real eternal civilization --- justice, mercy [religion and ethics]” --- in German life the association of Catholic pupils in German secondary schools, the Neudeutschland or Young Germany, founded immediately after the War and which by 1922 now had 25,000 members. High Church clerics appointed all leading office-holders of the youth movement they had started.  Resolved to spread “Chastity” in “insolent” Weimar Germany, the students [as did the clericist Maronites] fought all that could foster promiscuity and prostitution in literature, cinema, theatre, public art, and fashions FN[[Rafail Nakhlah al-Yasu‘i, “Almaniyal-Fatat: aw Jam‘iyyat al-Talabat al-Kathulik” (Young Germany or the Association of Catholic Pupils), _al-Mashriq_ July 1922 pp. 626-641]]FN.  [Jesuits organizers inculcated the rational and intellectual side of Catholicism; but most of the middle class youths may have been drawn by the sports, country strolls and holidays the Association conducted, more than its spiritual retreats]. 
             Bismarck’s --- Protestantism-motivated? --- Kulturkampf against Catholic schools was in the memory of Lebanon’s Catholics when WW1 came.  The less France-bound Nakhlah, who had some real Catholic universalism, liked Young Germany’s stress on science beside religion.  This and its retention of Homeland at the side of religion helped shape predilections he passed on to the Maronite discursive tradition. (Some Germans were to assess long afterwards that such Catholic German youth movements and schools paved the way to the conversion of their middle-class youths to Nazism because they taught nationality and sniped at the urban, pluralist society of modernity emerging under Weimar) FN[[Friedrich Heer, _Revolutions of Our Time_ (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1974) p. 60]]FN.
               Rafa’il  Nakhlah hoped, wrongly, that Germany could be redeemed into a polity in which Catholicism could flourish after the War.  Yet, many Maronites had swallowed whole French nationalism’s view of Germany under the stimulus of WW1, although with adaption to their own clericist priorities.
                The Catholic clerical media in Lebanon tended to support the most hard-line French positions towards Germany well into the 1920s.  In early 1923, _al-Bashir_ rapped strikes by miners, boycotts and passive resistance against the French occupation in the Ruhr, and claims that by seizing coal mines and factories France had paralysed commerce and industry there.  In refutation, _al-Bashir_ set out the assessments of the French ultrist politicians.  In occupying the Ruhr after WW1, France had only been matching Germany, which in 1870 occupied provinces of France that she only evacuated after getting reparations for her losses in that war.  France had to protect herself lest Germany catch her off-guard again.  _al-Bashir_ did not just approve France going beyond the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which had only approved destruction of fortifications on the left bank of the Rhine, for security.  It further relished all the harm France’s seizure for “reparations” of one of the few remaining sources of coal for Germany did the latter’s industrial economy, and connived at impulses in the French elite  to set up a puppet “Republic” of the Ruhr for the long term --- here, _al-Bashir did not consider any right of its 445,000 Germans to self-determination FN[[“Mushkilat al-Ruhr: Mal-Tariqah ila Halliha?” (The Problem of the Ruhr: What is the Best Way to Solve it?), _al-Bashir_ 24 March 1923 p. 1; “Fil-Ruhr” 24 March 1923 p. 1]]FN.  Militarism: _al-Bashir_ excerpted accusations by War Minister Maginot in the French parliament that Germany was trying to rebuild its forces.   Thus, France had to apply conscription to build a strong army of 52 divisions with “brutal” budgetary allocations FN[[“Faransa Turidu Jayshaha Qawiyyan: Innahu Khayru Daman li-Sawn al-Salam” (France Wants Her Army to be Strong: that is the Best Guarantee for Protecting the Peace), _al-Bashir_ 10 March 1923 p. 1]]FN.
                Culturally and in thought, the engagement of Maronites who preferred high Arabic with France was often glaringly superficial.  Yet, the high drama of France’s struggle for survival in WW1 implanted in the literate discourse of the Maronites and Melkites many anti-German motifs from French nationalism.  Some Lebanese Christian writers remained jumpy in the 1920s that the violence and mayhem of World War I could resume at any time.  They continued to worry about France’s safety from the expansionism of Germany, towards which they would remain suspicious and hostile in its Nazi period, in common with Muslim liberal intellectuals in Egypt and the Fertile Crescent FN[[An instance of the relaying of the most radical French nationalist hatred of Germany during Hitler was “Germany Has to Be Dismantled to Build a Peace that can Last: the French Press Warns About Repeating the Mistake of Versailles” (Yajibu Tafkik Jarmaniyyah li-Tawtid al-Salam: al-Sihafat al-Faransiyyah Tuhadhdhir al-Wuqu’ fi Khata’ Versailles), _al-Bashir_ 18 September 1939 pp. 1, 4.  The Lebanese Francophiles predicted a French triumph over Hitler too soon: Yusuf Natur, “Bayn Ghilyum wa Hitler: wa ‘alal-Baghi Tadur al-Dawa’ir” (From Wilhelm to Hitler: Only Catastrophes Befall Those Who Aggress), _al-Bashir_ 18 September 1939 p. 3.  _al-Bashir_ relayed some tawdry disinformation from Allied propaganda offices via a Damacus paper: “Across History Germany has always been and remains the Enemy of the Arabs and Muslims” (‘Abr al-Ta’rikh: Almaniyah Kanat wa ma Zalat ‘Aduwwat al-‘Arab wal-Muslimin), _al-Bashir_ 18 September 1939 p. 5]]FN.
                 By 1920, a friends-enemies dichotomy --- “liberal” France versus militarist, post-Christian Germany --- had been set for the long term in the Lebanese Catholic ethos.


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