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Stop the pyromaniac!

Editorial
Issa GORAIEB | OLJ
04/07/2019
Last weekend’s violent incident in the Christian-Druze Mountain was nothing short of appalling and worrisome. Three decades after the end of the civil war, guns are still the preferred means of communication instead of political dialogue. Nearly a century after the formation of Greater Lebanon, and 76 years after independence, the tribes of Lebanon are still asserting and claiming their rights despite the existence of a supposedly indivisible republic, which theoretically placed no reservations on territories and guaranteed freedom of movement for people and goods. But this is purely an illusion, especially in the face of a premeditated dispute and deliberate provocation layered on top of traditional rivalries between and within communities.

In the past few years, there have been many incidents that could have sparked a broader conflict if the smallest slip up occured, including endless convoys of raucous bikers showing off and shooting their weapons in rival’s territories in Beirut and its suburbs. However, the latest incident is the first in Lebanese history that can be attributed directly or indirectly to one man, and one man only.

Gebran Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, unfortunately also happens to be Lebanon’s chief diplomat. But there is nothing diplomatic about him. He is an incendiary megalomaniac who violently attacks everyone around him, including his own allies. He is arrogant, aggressive and peddles unbearable nonsense. A fair part of his own community is outraged by him because he pretends to be an improved version of Bachir Gemayel, maybe even more charismatic and worthy of adulation. He upsets the Sunni community by challenging the powers of the prime minister. And he provokes Shiite supporters of Amal, and even Hezbollah at times, by insulting the speaker of the parliament and freely recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

Bassil’s sensational chatter and endless restlessness seems to be aimed at one thing, and one thing only: to permanently establish himself at the center of local news and discussion, without being concerned for profits and losses. What matters is that he is talked about, just like cheap pubs. Does he even realize the tone of how he is talked about?

Of all of Bassil’s achievements, his insolent inroad into the Chouf was definitely the most dangerous, as if on conquered territory, or one to conquer. Last Sunday’s thunderous convoy was not only a clear attempt to encircle Druze leader Walid Jumblatt (whose adversaries and community rivals helped orchestrate the event); not only did the bloody episode revive tensions in the Druze community fueled by Syria; but above all, the incident threatened to jeopardize the arduous process of reconciliation in the Mountain that has closed the wounds of the civil war.

How does one describe Bassil's persistence in unburying the skeletons of the past–and in reopening the wounds–by glorifying, as he did just recently, moments of a conflict that he himself has only experienced as a child? This man has become dangerous, and it has become crucial to contain him. But this is primarily, and maybe the exclusive, responsibility of the head of state. This public safety mission requires tying up this man if necessary; restraining him by force if needed. It is up to the President to put a stop to his behavior, not only because Bassil is his son-in-law and heir to the FPM’s leadership, not only because he is officially destroying a regime that celebrates him with pride, but also because it is in the highest interest of the country as a whole.

At a time when reforms are a priority, Lebanon is finally supposed to put its many inconceivable, destabilizing and disastrous setbacks behind it. It is imperative to remove the most turbulent and invasive of them all (no other words can be used).


(This editorial was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 3rd of July)


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Mill Linro

Sir,
Whilst I am not a fan of Mr Bassil, he & like any other Lebanese has the complete right to freely circulate even if his speeches are “incendiary” (because Walid Jumblat isn’t?).
Here in the U.K. we wouldn’t stop Nigel Farage from circulating just because he is going through a “remain” area.
Just like Mr Jumblat should be able to circulate in the keserwan freely so should Mr Bassil be allowed to circulate in the Chouf with “permission” from the local “socialist” feudal lord.

Mireille Kang

You hit the nail on the head. These are exactly the thoughts of many Lebanese regardless of ethnicity or religion. As an expatriate, I’m appalled at the inflammatory rhetoric of Mr. Bassil. If he believes he’s making the case to become the next President and is willing to burn the country to reach his goal, he’s very wrong. It is surprising that General Aoun is not attempting to contain him. He's childish, arrogant, selfish, self-indulgent, and immature. He should never become President. If the FPM is not able to elect another leader, it will crash and burn. We need to make sure he doesn’t get re-elected to Parliament.

L'EXPRESSION DE LA LIBRE ANALYSE

STOP THE PYROMANIAC IS THE WORD. STOP HIS EMANATIONS OF VICIOUS DANGEROUS GAZES ABLE TO PUT THE FIRE IN THE COUNTRY. STOP HIM FROM MAKING FURTHER DAMAGES.

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