There is flagrant Lebanese insolence in terms of relations with Syria and Syrians. There is this sentiment that reaches the extent of suffocation by the large number of Syrian refugees while at the same time, there is a growing desire for “reconstructing Syria” as it offers great investment opportunities. There are calls to dump Syrian refugees beyond borders and at the same time there are demands to establish a “free trade zone” at the borders to help Lebanese businessmen who aspire to go to Damascus for negotiating “reconstruction” contracts.
In fact, those calling for dumping refugees beyond the border are the same ones who aspire to invest in “Assad’s Syria.” The emerging segments of the “businessmen”’ of the corrupt Lebanese system who have taken parts of Lebanese shores, destroyed heritage buildings in Beirut and established companies that benefit from close relations with officials are the same ones who aspire to have a share in the “reconstruction of Syria.” In fact, they are also the ones who own or fund the racist media discourse against the refugees.
Many Lebanese banks have started looking for “Syrian partners” to carry out activities for funding “the reconstruction of Syria” projects. Heads of construction companies, hotels and even schools have started visiting Damascus. “Reconstructing Syria would bring Lebanese business out of recession.” This statement is repeated by almost every businessman we meet in Beirut! Those who know who are the “the businessmen of the powerful republic” would no doubt remember their moral contradiction represented in the investment ambitions and their racism against Syrian people as reflected via their demands to dump the refugees beyond borders.
Lebanese businessmen seeking share in the “reconstruction of Syria” are the ones funding racist discourse in media against Syrian refugeesHazem al-Amin
It might be unrealistic and illogical to ask the Lebanese to be consistent when talking about Syria and Syrians but flagrantly adopting this contradictory discourse is also provocative. Today, everyone is focused on the “reconstruction of Syria.” Lebanese expats are no longer a source of revenue for the economy and tourism, since Hezbollah has taken control of the country, and the economy and tourism’s source of income is now limited to the Lebanese inside the country. Meanwhile, most oil and gas field projects have been deferred.
Thus “reconstructing Syria” is the only option left for businesses, but it too comes with conditions such as having ties with authorities both in Lebanon and Syria, along with what lies in between relations among “trading families” like Makhlouf, Bassil, Gomaa and Arab and what links these families in terms of familial ties. These relations always end up with being linked to the head of power in both countries.
Authority in our countries is based on corruption. Wars end in corruption and elections are just one more thing that reflects the appetite of the corrupt. Settlements are made out of greed as they want a share in the spoils of war. The obnoxious racism which has for long emerged from nationalistic and criminal tendencies is accompanied with a corrupt and elusive mood in our case. Deals follow the crime, and in many cases, deals are what trigger the crime.
We practice racism against refugees and make deals to trade with their rights. We steal the donations sent to them and want to send them back to the war in their country. Then we go to their country even before them to establish a free market zone on the borders. We await their arrival to “reconstruct their country” in the same way we have reconstructed ours.
We are waiting for them with the same aspiration we had while waiting “the return of the displaced” to our country! Do you remember “the return of the displaced” to Lebanon? Do you remember Wadi al-Zahab (Valley of Gold)? The corrupt returns of this latter project were the basis of a capital on which the revenues gained by those in power accumulated for three decades.
The same people are going to “reconstruct” Syria. New Syrian intelligence officers will be waiting for them there since most of the old team of officers who sponsored the “reconstruction of Lebanon” has been eliminated.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon's most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.