May be it would be wise for the Lebanese people to stop commemorating the 13th of April 1975, the day the Lebanese civil war, which started 41 years ago and lasted for 15 years. Most newspapers in Lebanon called on the people to use the occasion to “turn the page”. For once, the media prescription for this small almost fractured country is right.
The Lebanese people have failed to move toward a post-war era while the state has failed to build national consensus since the end of the war in 1990 and to uphold the basic rule of law for all countrymen. The military in Lebanon came second to the influence of the Syrian stabilization force, which turned into an occupation after the end of the war that claimed more than a quarter million Lebanese lives.
Since 2005 Hezbollah militia won the upper hand over the Lebanese authorities under the guise of fighting Israel, therefore tipping the balance of power in the country toward one sectarian group that penetrated all aspects of decision making in the state.
Lebanon’s post-civil war situation was further tested when Hezbollah took the country to war with Israel for 33 days hoping to release three Lebanese detained in Israeli prisons. It dealt the country a further blow a decade later when Hezbollah’s men crossed the border into Syria.
The organs of the state and its military failed to stop the flow of fighters and arms across the border. Hezbollah played a vital role in keeping the regime of Bashar al-Assad in power, reportedly following orders from the Iranian regime, which amounts to breaking of all rules and international laws related to interference in the affairs of neighboring countries.
Even the 15-year civil war did not prevent election of a president. The post of the president in Lebanon remains vacant for the second year running. Its parliamentary elections have been postponed indefinitely as various parties continue to squabble over the laws to govern the polls in an attempt to design it in favor of one party or religious sect.
Even the Lebanese government which should – as per the constitution’s basic interpretation – take over the executive when the post of the president is vacant, the ministers in the government prevent any action no matter how small unless it is agreed by all 30 ministers.
The garbage crisis
Away from politics, if such a thing is possible in Lebanon, residents of Beirut have been suffering from a bad smell, from stacked rubbish the municipality and the government have failed to clear for 10 months. An invasion of mosquitos has made life miserable in the city and carries potential health repercussion never witnessed before.
The country already struggles with insufficient power supplies, scarce water supplies, and a chaotic transport system. Then there is the impact of more than one million Syrian refugees who decided to rise against the Assad regime and had to flee from their villages and cities to Lebanon.
The Lebanese people have failed to move toward a post-war era while the state has failed to build national consensus since the end of the war in 1990Mohamed Chebarro
Since the inception of the state more than 70 years ago, the Lebanese people have had the habit of blaming someone or the other for their miseries. They continue to do so even now. Lebanon in its heydays was, in the eyes of the nationalist romantics, the Switzerland of the Middle East. Today it could be better known as the joke of the Middle East as it has been overtaken by business and destination hubs such as Dubai.
Yes, Lebanon suffered from regional instability, a fervent Lebanese would retort. Yes, the Palestinian Israeli question is one dimension that affected all Arab states. Yes, that coupled with Nasserism, questions of Arabism divided its people in the 50s and the 60s. Yes, the many movements of Palestinian resistance have declared south Lebanon as an open front to liberate Palestine until 1982.
Yes, the Arab countries helped broker Taif agreement that ended the civil war in 1990, and some think that Taif gave the Syrian regime full control of Lebanon until 2005. This was when Lebanese people rose up and pushed peacefully the 30,000 strong Syrian army inside Lebanon to return following the assassination of prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Withdrawal and polarization
It is the withdrawal that led to further polarization as Lebanese were divided this time between anti and pro-Syria factions, and later between those who favor an independent Arab Lebanese republic and those who were with Iran and its many adventures in the region using sect as a tool to interfere in regional affairs.
Hezbollah fighters were caught fighting proxy wars from Damascus and Iraq to Bahrain and Yemen all in the name of protecting Shiite Islam, or more accurately doing Iran’s dirty work in the region and beyond.
Insanity is not a pleasant term but could be used to describe the Lebanese people’s perpetual failure to end their many disputes. Insanity becomes the order of the day when someone chooses to repeat mistake, expecting different results. The people of Lebanon are not insane but they cannot keep commemorating the beginning of the war and not its end.
The war started in 1975 and ended officially in 1990. Yet the country appears to have continued to be at war this time with itself, amid failure by all to understand that nation building and unity is an occasion that history offers people, and Lebanon’s people seem to be experts at committing blunders.
The country cannot continue to commit hara-kiri in the name of an idea called Arabism, or solidarity with the Palestinian, or for creating a Christian state, in the name of resisting Israel, or saving the Shiite in Damascus, Manama or northern Yemen.
On the 13 April of every year Lebanese must not celebrate the end of the war but try to make it an occasion to reflect and look at their country in a non-biased manner. They should try and understand why their country continues to be known for insecurity, instability whose youth seek to leave the country as soon as they are able to.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London. He tweets @mochebaro