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

Beyond an Archbishop and Sending Money and Medicine

Beyond an Archbishop and Sending Money and Medicine

Sunday, 24 July, 2022 - 07:15

Creating what has become known as the Maronite Archbishop Moussa al-Hajj affair after he was apprehended at the Naqoura Crossing in southern Lebanon sums up the entire country’s state of affairs: What mindset and kind of governance are intended for it? How the country is intended to be?

This incident could have played out in several ways different from the actual chain of events: The whole thing could have been avoided altogether. It could have served as a reminder of the situation we currently find ourselves in. Collaborators who had fled to the “occupation entity” sent money and medicine to their families in the “country of resistance.” The incident’s interesting symbolism could have been noticed amid the country’s sectarian stark polarization: a religious cleric carries money and medicine to compatriots from a different sect, as well as those of his sect...

What happened, once again, is that the incident was rendered an occasion for raising tensions, agitating, and slandering. Treacherous collaborators and spies are all over the place. Brute normalization is knocking on our door!

By the way, if one of the arguments for opposing normalization is that we must not benefit Israel and improve its economy, in this case, money and medicine are being taken out of Israel and sent our way! Yes, we do not want to benefit it nor benefit from it.

In other words, turning the incident into a closed case whose protagonists are conspirators takes us back to the start. This approach, as we well know, is the unrelenting objective of all the parties who do not see a national association or human association, as anything but a domain for mobilizing supporters, stirring hostility, and leaving us all on the brink of war.

The objective this time, as has already been noted by several Lebanese observers, is “sending a message to the Maronite Patriarch,” whose political stances have become explicitly divergent from the policies of those running the country. Here, we should keep in mind that previously, the circumstances surrounding the Amer Fakhoury (a warden at the Khiam Detention Center) affair allowed for him to be treated differently. Fakhoury was very respectfully taken from his cell to an American plane that flew him to Cyprus.

Today, we only have collusion and collaboration files opened against a particular community, whose spiritual leader is the Patriarch.

This ability to go back, time and again, to the same pattern of behavior stems from one of two things:

- Either the faction stirring the tensions and slandering its rivals is convinced of what it is saying when it claims that those who oppose it are nothing but a handful of agents and spies...

- Or it realizes that those who oppose it are solid civil communities, a broad segment of society that does not share its opinion and must thus be ruled by the boot.

In all likelihood, the latter hypothesis is more probable, as today, no one, be they with or against Hezbollah’s resistance, is under the illusion that there is a consensus around this resistance and its vision.

And so we are facing a community that wants to impose its opinion, domination, and views of the world on another community. This is the heart of the matter. The actual divergences among Lebanese blocs have always been bigger than those explicitly expressed by these blocs because a blend of timidity and attempts at appearing to be part of a non-existent consensus have prevented these divergences from being expressed as they are.

This difference is not ideological like that between left and right for example. It is between hard population blocs that will not change or wither away in the foreseeable future. Each of these blocs has its reading of history, and with it, its own experiences and subculture, which determine how they understand the nation, patriotism, the enemy, enmity, and the lengths they are willing to go to in this or that conflict. The fact is that a great many Lebanese simultaneously dislike Israel and do not want to be in a state of war with it. Their priorities derive from the national interest as far as they see it. As for the decisions they take based on a particular reading of their history, we find equivalent cases in countries whose national composition resembles that of Lebanon: In Syria, for example, the term “enemy,” for Syrian Kurds, applies more to Turkey than it does to Israel; in Iraq, this term applies to Iran more than it does any other country for Sunni.

This difference cannot be resolved through discussion because there are as many versions of the truth as there are communities that claim to hold the truth, and if there is a way to resolve this difference, it will come from lived experience.

In the meantime, however, if we want to succeed in our attempt to build national unity and allow citizens to live together in a single country, we must reach a compromise that combines all the communities’ readings of history and the sentiments they have about it together, and then extending this compromise between communities into laws and traditions.

Pre-1975 Lebanon witnessed the only attempt to build such a compromise by combining boycotting Israel with a military armistice with it, and it was far better than the alternative formula that uprooted compromises and imposed a single view on others.

Today, in any case, this is all long gone. Awaiting it is like waiting for it to snow in the middle of the summer. What exists is only the opinion of a single group; an opinion which is intended to be the only opinion, either through force in order of blackmailing or through the mere force of blackmailing.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks