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Lebanon: Shiite Clerics Say Call for Neutrality is ‘Treason’

Lebanon: Shiite Clerics Say Call for Neutrality is ‘Treason’

Monday, 1 March, 2021 - 09:15
Caption: Lebanese protesters carry the portrait of Lebanon’s Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rai ahead of his speech on February 27, 2021 at the Maronite Patriarchate in the mountain village of Bkirki, northeast of Beirut. (AFP)

A call made by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai for Lebanon’s neutrality and for holding an international conference to resolve the country’s crises has sparked a wave of political reactions.

While the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb party, and other Christian independents expressed full support to the patriarch, his proposals were rejected mainly by Hezbollah and the Jaafarite Dar Al-Ifta.

Grand Jaafarite Shiite Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan described neutrality in the time of the Israeli occupation and ISIS as "treason."

“Whoever wants to consolidate the Lebanese entity should accept a state of citizenship, with one executive head not with heads and sects… The renewal of the democratic system begins with popular parliamentary elections away from sectarian restrictions,” Qabalan said, adding: “Neutrality in the time of the Israeli occupation and ISIS is not patriotic. Rather, I think it is treason.”

In a statement, Qabalan said that balance of power comes “by abolishing the abhorrent political sectarianism and extending the state’s authority from Naqoura to Aqoura.”

“This requires a state without sectarian restrictions, not a state of sects and walls,” he remarked.

Hezbollah’s position was less severe. MP Hassan Fadlallah announced in a television interview his rejection of internationalization and the party’s acceptance of international support, as is the case in the French initiative.

“Our approach is different from that of Patriarch al-Rai, as we cannot ignore the Israeli factor and its ambitions, because internationalization is a threat to Lebanon, and we have seen what happened in Libya, Yemen and Iraq,” Fadlallah said.

“The solution starts in Lebanon,” he stressed, adding: “There is no objection to international aid, but according to the country’s priorities, dignity and the Taif Agreement.”

In a speech during a gathering on Saturday in Bkirki, the Maronite patriarch reiterated his call on the international community to “declare Lebanon’s active, positive neutrality, in order to purify its identity from the distortions… so that it can carry out its mission as a homeland of dialogue of cultures and religions.”

“This neutrality enables Lebanon to avoid regional and international alliances, conflicts and wars, and to fortify its internal and external sovereignty with its own military forces,” he added.

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