Lebanon and the Arab countries_header

Lebanon and the Arab countries

Many have taxed Bashir Gemayel with having adopted a hostile attitude towards the Arab Countries. Such suspicions stem from the fact that many of those who believe this did not distinguish among the three levels of Bashir's policy related to Lebanon's relations with the Arab States. The first of these levels was based on a historical retrospective of Lebanon's relations with its environment in the past. This outlook can be correlated to history and civilization, for Bashir considered that Lebanese civilization was among the oldest in history, dating back six thousand years. He said : "We Lebanese are six thousand years old; and we are proud of our civilization and ancient heritage. We know what we shall do to defend them and preserve them."

One can therefore conclude that Lebanon's civilization is anterior to the appearance of both Christianity and Islam, which followed much later... And Bashir, as a Christian, cited facts in history that start with the emergence of Christianity. Speaking of the persecution by the Roman pagans of Christians, he said : "We, who are witnessing here today for all the Christians of the world, confirm that it is logical for us to die , as the early Christians died at the hands of the Romans, witnessing for their Christian Faith and beliefs..."

Bashir was not ignorant of the fact that Christians had been subjected to religious persecution throughout history, and of the atrocities that had been committed against them, especially during the Ottoman rule. He therefore firmly believed that Lebanon should be a haven of peace and a refuge against all forms of persecution. "A country, he said, where we can live without bowing our heads to the ground, a place where nobody can come and tell us : 'Wear a turban or die' as they did during the rule by the Turks..."

The second level at which Bashir considered relations with the Arab countries was the legal level, governed by International Law, and by a set of protocol clearly defining the relations of the Lebanese State with its Arab neighbours. In this respect, one should not forget that Bashir had legal training and a barrister's background. Once, during an interview with a reporter of a local newspaper, on June 23, 1981, he was asked : "would you have liked to be another person?" with his customary frankness he replied : "Yes, Bashir Gemayel the lawyer!"

The State is defined as 'a moral personality', deriving its power from the Legislature... It is, as men of Lay say in legal jargon, 'The institution of institutions, meaning by that of course that the State is the higher authority which organizes the affairs of all the other social institutions of the country. Among the State's prerogatives as an Institution are : unity and authority over its territory, and sovereignty with regard to all other nations.

Those are the three attributes of an independent State : Unity (territorial integrity), the exercise of authority, and national sovereignty. And upon these basic principles, Bashir developed his dealing with all other States, whether Arab or non-Arab. He rejected all plans to splinter the State into mini-sectarian enclaves, and adamantly refused to allow any other authority in Lebanon except that of the Lebanese State itself, or to tolerate that any State should flout Lebanon's sovereignty or slight its dignity in any manner... These were the immutable principles which guided all Bashir's actions and policies. He enlarged upon them in a speech on the occasion of the celebration of the forty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Kataeb Party, in which he stated :

"The restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty and territorial integrity over all its land, and the re-instatement of the State's complete and inalienable authority over every inch of that territory, and finally, the creation of circumstances that will enable the State to exercise that authority in a stable, decisive and absolute manner henceforth constitute the essential factors and prerequisites to any solution of the Lebanese crisis".

Within the context of this outlook, and contrarily to what many people believed, Bashir assured everybody of "Lebanon's integration into its environment and the affiliation of the Lebanese State to the League of Arab Nations"... ( of which it was one of the founding members).

Bashir did not stop at that: in a speech delivered on August 27, 1981, he assured his audience of Lebanon's opening on to the Arab World, and its close links with it. Now, what are the issues that formed the bone of the contention between Bashir and the Arabs? In his dealing with the Arabs, Bashir flatly rejected any intervention in Lebanon's internal affairs. He declared : "we have never interfered in anybody's affairs, whereas everybody is interfering in ours!" ... similarly, he was very sensitive about the State's dignity and authority, and hated any country -Arab or otherwise - that committed an affront to that dignity ; he stated : "The whole of Lebanon's territory is included in the principles of sovereignty, unity and independence." And naturally, he energetically rejected any form of trusteeship or guardianship over Lebanon from whatever quarter it might come.

"We insist on being really independent in our own country, he said, and that means that no foreign minister of any Arab or non-Arab State can take the liberty of setting himself up as our guardian or custodian..." (an allusion to Abdul-Halim Khaddam, Syrian Foreign Minister, whose comings and goings were notorious...).

As for the third level at which Bashir conceived his policies, this was the practical level, i.e., the level of practical and rational solutions. In these, Bashir considered that the greater part of the remedies for Lebanon's ills existed. For during his long struggle Bashir had always avoided nebulous forms of thought and fought political prevarication and expediency. He used two weapons to combat these chronic vices : a standpoint based on principles, and practical solutions. When he was asked one day to define his ideology on the basis of a specific trend of thought, he answered : "I am not a thinker, I can describe myself as a practical man of action. I feel close to the human outlook on life... to the individualistic philosophy, which distinguishes a dignified and upright person." If we give preference to the rule of practicality in Bashir's statements, rather than to that of principles, we will see that in practice, he effectively tried to realize the humane aspects of man and his dignity on the basis of a moral criterion : the criterion of righteousness. This is a fact that many people have not grasped in Bashir, especially those who accused him of÷hostility, because they wished to foster their own interests at the expense of Lebanon's interests, and in disparagement of the dignity of its people. They consequently accused Bashir of being 'a valet of imperialism', a 'stipendiary of such and such a power', and many other similarly ridiculous charges. It was common knowledge that Bashir was the promoter of a Cause, the defender of his country's dignity, and a man of principles; as such, he could never have been a 'valet' or a 'stipendiary' to anybody, as all his actions were dictated by the interests of Lebanon, and Lebanon alone. He proclaimed this principled standpoint more than once, and with utter frankness, in and address on June 27, 1980 :

 "We are not anybody's agents or valets. We are Lebanese, and the path we follow, and the actions we undertake will be solely dictated by our national interests. We are not inhibited by any complexes, and we fear nobody. We are Lebanese, and as such, we shall seek to foster our interests."

Here, it should be specified that Sheikh Bashir never antagonized anyone just for the sake of making an enemy, but on the other hand, he was quick at seeking confrontation with anybody who threatened the country's interests, whether consciously, or inadvertently. In his opinion, those who harmed Lebanon consciously were dastardly knaves, and those who did it unawares were bloody fools... and the former were as guilty as the latter, of "crimes against the nation".

His good nature however made him quick at resuming friendly relations with those had previously shown hostility, and had then come to their senses and revised their attitude towards the Lebanese cause, displaying sympathy and comprehension for it. This applies to the Arab States, the Palestinian problem, Israel, the European States (including France and the USSR), the States of the American Continent and chiefly among these, the United

 States. Bashir's attitudes of cordiality and hostility were selective : they were dictated by the extent to which such or such a group, party, or State had inflicted harm on Lebanon or slighted its dignity. He therefore opposed all those who were against Lebanon, and extended a friendly hand to those who supported it, or, at worst, did nothing to harm it...

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