Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

And They Tell You: Why Gebran Bassil and the Aounists?

And They Tell You: Why Gebran Bassil and the Aounists?

Wednesday, 4 December, 2019 - 08:15

It is difficult to separate the parts that integrate to eventually perform one action. But within the limits of separation, the parties to the Lebanese ordeal may be coded as follows: banks are the biggest looters, Hezbollah is the most repressive, and Gebran Bassil and the Aounist movement are the best to represent wicked politics and bad values.

Bassil’s Aounist movement, and the movement in general, is similar to those novels with many beginnings. But each of these beginnings strikes the other. Let's go back to the party’s history:

The “war of liberation” against the Syrian army in March 1989 required at least an invitation for unity among the Lebanese, beginning with the Christians. On the contrary, the war was accompanied by unprecedented shelling of Muslim-populated areas, and then “complimented” by the “war of abolition” against the Lebanese Forces. There was a 10-month difference between the first war and the second.

The French exile was also a founding beginning of Aoun’s emerging leadership. That beginning paved the way for positions and alliances with the more radical American and Western adversaries of Syria and Assad.

At the beginning of 2006, white turned black: the “Mar Mikhael Understanding” was signed, which associated the Aounist movement to Hezbollah, and then to Syria. It happened a year after the series of assassinations that started with the killing of Rafik Hariri.

In the summer of 2001, from his French exile, Michel Aoun called on his supporters to demonstrate in solidarity with members of the Lebanese army, who stood by him in wartime and were then unfairly tried.

The partisans’ sit-in was instrumental to the open public presence of the Aounists, especially after being ferociously suppressed. Fighters and cadres, who were screened by that experience, became in their majority outside the Aounist stream.

The Aounists introduced into the Lebanese political language issues of corruption and traditional ways of exercising power. It is another beginning.

But as the son-in-law of the leader and the subsequent president, Gebran Bassil became the man who delayed the formation of governments just to secure himself a decent government post.

He also became president of the Free Patriotic Movement and head of its parliamentary bloc. Today, amid fateful concerns, rumor has it that Bassil is the one forming the government, keeping for himself the ministry of Interior! Corruption is therefore just a tool of revenge.

The Aounists have resorted in all their political propaganda to the expression of “power”: they promised to make the Republic “strong” and the State “prestigious”. The opposite happened. In response, they said that the Taif Agreement prevented them from achieving their promises. They believed their pretext and were happy with it.

They talk a lot about secularism and poison space with sectarianism. Their wisdom: Secularism now; otherwise a maximum degree of sectarianism.

A catalog of contradictions… When Michel Aoun became president in 2016, he himself became a reflection of the rule and a mirror of its eagerness. On the other hand, one should acknowledge that these contradictions did not fall out of nowhere.

The most important element that intervened in their elaboration was the “quartet alliance”, which was forged shortly after the Syrian withdrawal and before the 2005 elections.

Back then, the Christians felt that they would be always deceived with or without the Syrian army. They believed that this was the will of the Lebanese Muslims.

This thinking widened the popularity of the Aounists as much as it made Aounism a frustrating movement. Since then, until the presidential elections in 2016, the party has only moved with the power of the triangular hatred towards the Lebanese Forces, the Sunnis, and the Druze.

It is, therefore, a policy of hatred. Exhuming past disputes with intensity, persistence, and stubbornness. It was the mentality of the civil war that led them to ally with Hezbollah and Damascus.

But the most dangerous thing about Aounism is precisely its past. Here, most likely, we fall on the fuller interpretation of the dilemma posed by Bassil’s followers in the form of an innocent and sacrificing question: “Why were we targeted by the revolution with insults, while we were not the rulers of the country and its economic policymakers in the last 30 years?”

Let us try to visualize the image of Aounism and Gibran Bassil in the eyes of the young men and women of the revolution: let’s imagine, for example, young men or women, in their twenties, aspiring to live in a modern, democratic, and secular country. Let us imagine them watching the political rise of Bassil, just because he is the “president’s son-in-law” and the way he exercises his royal power within his party…

Let us imagine that all what they hear from him or from his political environment is warnings against jeopardizing the “rights of Christians”, calls for the “restoration” of their quotas, positions against hiring Muslims in Christian areas, and daily incitement against refugees and foreigners…

Such a scene is more than enough for the aspirants to another future to cast the image of the enemy on Bassil and his movement. These young people, who are the best among us, find in him and his movement only the worst in us. They find in him the most aggressive voice and the bluntest attitude. Are they to be blamed for the insults?

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks