Being Lebanese myself I can claim that I know how the Lebanese think; this is why I expect the initial response to the above question from the Christians among them to be: “Who are you to tell us what to do? Are we so unqualified or brainless that a non-Christian like you should lecture us about politics?”
Has the creative source of genius that breathes liberty (as chaotic as it is) and eats and drinks democracy (albeit selective, unfair and irresponsible) in Christian society dried up? That society which transformed Lebanon’s craggy mountains into gardens, its limited natural resources into impressive wealth, and forced emigration into success stories?
The fact is I have written this article for two reasons. The first reason is because Lebanon’s survival as a country is under great threat; and the second, is because I am all for the survival of the Christian presence that has given Lebanon the virtues of tolerance, coexistence and cultural interaction, and has enriched its political life and economic well-being for centuries.
However, what is worrying these days is that those who claim to be the sole spokesmen for Lebanon’s Christians, and loudly call for ‘justice in political representation’ and ‘respect of the spirit of fair coexistence’ are the leading cause of their misfortune and the biggest threat to the Christian community’s interests. As they falsify truths and ignore realities in order to achieve personal aims, they are intentionally turning a blind eye to the real history of the Middle East, which poses the most serious genuine threat to their community’s existence, as well as most other small regional minorities.
It would be wise for minorities, particularly Christians, not to take great risks with their well-being based on wrong or misguided political calculationsEyad Abu Shakra
The Free Patriotic Movement, led by Michel Aoun, MP, and chaired by his son-in-law Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, is an extreme version of a sick ‘political mentality’ that refuses to realize how costly its adventures are.
Such mentalities never learn; and unfortunately Lebanon’s history has had tragic ‘landmarks’ whenever such mentalities gained ascendancy within the Christian community. The outcome was always spiteful thinking, unbridled sectarianism, unleashed instinctive factionalism, contrived animosities, and mobilization of bigoted mobs, all of which pushed Christians to pointless and thankless wars.
No logical dialogue bears fruits here and if a proof is ever needed, let’s look at the PFM’s following contradictions:
– Being part of the government and yet opposing it and conspiring to bring it down.
– Claiming its belief in and full commitment to Lebanon’s ‘sovereignty’ and ‘independence’ while providing political cover to armed occupation and security hegemony over Lebanon by a religious militia that receives its orders from abroad through a useless ‘agreement’.
– Bemoaning others’ ‘disrespect of the spirit of fair coexistence’ while misrepresenting – on every occasion – the powers of the presidency, parliamentary speakership and premiership in order to justify its attempts to undermine the constitution.
– Lecturing about democracy and democratic institutions, while taking to the streets to agitate, sabotage, incite against public order, and paralyze political life.
– Calling for ‘the recovery of (lost) rights’ and ‘ending injustice’ while almost practicing racist and factional discrimination against what it regards as enemies, whether Lebanese or non-Lebanese. Their latest victims are Syrian refugees driven out by Bashar Al-Assad.
Aoun’s FPM, whose chairman Mr. Bassil found enough time as a Foreign Minister to condemn North Korea’s latest nuclear test in the Far East seems unaware of the Syrian tragedy which has thus far resulted in the death of more than half a million and displacement of around 12 million people, the destruction of dozens of cities and areas, and attracting all kinds of extremists and terrorists from all over the world to Syria.
But sweeping ‘causality’ under the carpet, the FPM continues to ignore the role played by Hezbollah militia – with its Lebanese façade but certainly Iranian core – in killing, maiming, brutalizing and displacing tens of thousands of Syrians; indeed, driving around a million into Lebanon. In fact, as the FPM ignores Hezbollah’s role, it directs its wrath and hatred towards its victims, as if they chose to become homeless refugees, not the militia it has aligned itself to begging for a powerless presidency under the sway of that militia’s Supreme Guide!
The FPM is now working overtime, under its chairman – the foreign minister – to ensure that generations of émigrés (mostly Christian) in faraway countries recover their Lebanese citizenship (or nationality). But he forgets how tens of thousands of Lebanese Christians are leaving Lebanon in pursuit of an honest living after Iran managed – through its tool and the FPM’s ally Hezbollah – to ruin the country’s service sectors, where Christians have always been dominant players, including tourism, education and health.
Furthermore, the FPM is overlooking the fact that by replacing them with others; and thus threatening the ‘Christian presence’ it is bemoaning and decrying. In this instant one could point out a similar mistake that happened in the past, when some Christians opened up to and cooperated with Israel against Palestinian refugees who were expelled to Lebanon by no one else but Israel. This was the case before the armed Palestinian ‘resistance’ movement, which was later penetrated and torn apart by several Arab governments through their intelligence agencies.
Refusing to learn from wrong adventures and the delusion of ability to manipulate international politics caused Lebanon’s Christians to commit existential mistakes in the past, and repeat them at present. This is explained by siding with Iran in its sectarian war across the Arab world, and the way some Christian leaders are justifying the ‘alliance of minorities’ against Arab Sunni Muslims by citing the threat ISIS, which is both an alien and dubious aberration.
As a researcher who is quite aware of ‘The Eastern Question’ during the Ottoman period, I acknowledge the fact that the current situation in the Middle East is threatening to ‘minorities, Muslims and non-Muslims. I am also aware that ‘little’ players cannot influence the game of ‘big’ players, nor change the maps they are drawing based on international interests. However, it would be wise for minorities, particularly Christians, not to take great risks with their well-being, based on wrong or misguided political calculations.
They need to keep in mind that Islamic extremism has always been a spasmodic phenomena occurring mainly during a period of weakness and the decay of the Muslim empires, while tolerance and moderation was the rule throughout times of prosperity and ascendancy.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 22, 2016.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949