Domestic Affairs and Foreign Policy

Domestic Affairs and Foreign Policy

Lebanon's foreign policy was the objective of as much attention by Bashir as its internal policy. In fact, it would be correct to state that many of his attitudes on domestic policy were dictated by considerations of foreign policy, of which he had a vast knowledge. One of his celebrated cries of anguish was : " All the world forces are settling their scores on our ground !" This expressed two things : the Lebanese Cause has deep-rooted universal origins and ramifications, and the Lebanese people have become an instrument in the hands of other powers to solve their own problems at the expense of Lebanon, land and people. Bashir's awareness of this fact led him to oppose any State that attempted to promote its own interests at the expense of Lebanon's.

He invited all the Lebanese to take stock of the situation,and to realize an immutable principle in internationalpolitics, to the effect that : " International boundaries arethose of world interests in the Middle-East. Whereas wewant our own borders to translate the interests of ourpeople and their welfare only." This statement by Bashir is merely a corollary to his previous cry of : " Every damn foreigner is fighting his battles on our ground!" , and it defines the context, the nature, and the aims of international politics, and at the same time, explains his own outlook as a pioneer of the Lebanese Cause and its chief defender.

Thus, the Lebanese question, in spite of its intrinsically Lebanese character, spills into the winder context of the Middle-East question, which, in its turn, forms part of a much wider framework at world level : the struggle of the Titans, viz. the superpower or the rivalry between East and West. Bashir expressed his attitude towards the Middle-East question in these words : "We will not have the problems of the Middle-East settled over our dead bodies, nor the settlement of these problems drawn on the map of our country !" He further defined his standpoint with relation to East-West rivalry as follows : "The West should understand that Lebanon is not a bridge towards the oil civilization, and the East should realize that Lebanon is not a gateway to the civilization of opulence..."

This is insofar as the context of international politics is concerned. As for the inherent character of violence of these struggles, of which the Lebanese war is merely one manifestation of the policy of violence in the world at large and in the Middle-East in particular, this is what he had to say: "Israel is bombing us because we are a Palestinian base. The Palestinians are shelling us because they believe that we are an Israeli base.

Syria is firing its big guns at us because it alleges we are an imperialistic base. The Arab conservative States have washed their hands of us because they consider that we have fallen into the Soviet orbit... and the radical hard-line Arab regimes allied to Moscow and with its blessing sing "Praise Allah and pass the ammunition!" And all these nice guys are perched on the trees, waiting for the stench of carrion...

Lebanon therefore is a victim of the international policy of violence. Bashir however, in his argumentative logic, does not exclude another aspect which characterizes international politics : that of détente. He warned his people about this, saying : "We do not want to be victims on the altar of East-West détente... and it is not logical that the region of the Middle-East should be the theatre of an exchange of peaceful settlements, while Lebanon, alone, bears the brunt of the military settlement!"


                  Domestic Affairs and Foreign Policy.

As Bashir explained on several occasions, the objectives of international politics take nothing into consideration but their own interests. Thus, no State will undertake any action or abstain from doing so, unless this is in their obvious interests.

It is therefore up the the Lebanese to promote Lebanon's interests alone, because, as Bashir said "The beginning of the end will come if we are divided upon ourselves. We should overstep all petty considerations. The enemy's only weapon consists in breaking our ranks and pitting us against each other... Let us rise above selfishness and partisan politics, and be one single united party, the party of Lebanon."

Bashir then defined the conditions required to enable the Lebanese people to realize their goals and safeguard their interests. The first of these was for the Lebanese to assert their existence as Lebanese, for, as he said "If we are not consequent with ourselves, and cannot assert our presence, then nobody will be with us...". The second of these conditions was that the Lebanese should know what they wanted, "otherwise, he said, we cannot go out into the world and tell people : This is what we want"... But if the Lebanese first assert their existence, it would be a simple matter for them to go anywhere and express their wishes chiefly among these to demand the restoration of their violated rights. There should be a clear and frank understanding between them about the constituent elements of the Lebanese existence, "so that the decision should be one; we must agree with each other on our Lebanese identity, and on what should be done in order to retrieve our soil...". Bashir summarized his own ideas and his concept of the contents of Lebanese identity. The cornerstone of this was the sole and undivided allegiance to Lebanon. And he repeated what he had said at a previous meeting : "None of us should try to have a foreign 'outlet' of cast a look across the borders, for this would cast doubts on his national loyalty and allegiance to Lebanon...".

And he assorted allegiance to Lebanon with two other principles, the first being the preservation of the country's unity and territorial integrity, and the second precluding the domination of one section of the Lebanese by another.

He expressed these principles clearly, saying : "We are against any form of partition of Lebanon, and against any combination that might grant one party domination over another... for the essence of the Lebanese question is that every person in the Orient suffering from persecution should find a haven of security and freedom in this country."

Bashir was not unmindful of he values which should constitute the starting point for al Lebanese in

their quest for the fulfillment of their aspirations. He also specified the means to attain these, after he had defined the principle of Lebanese identity. It was up to the Lebanese to be frank and open with each other, bearing in mind that nations are built on principles. And honorable principles should be proclaimed publicly and openly, not hidden under a bushel...

A clear outlook combined with frankness, wisdom and truthfulness would pave the way for the Lebanese to their national objectives. These values led Sheikh Bashir to say : "We have always been accustomed to proclaim what we want loudly, and to take the straight path towards the clear objectives that we seek to attain. Let us shun the crooked path and devious methods, and not look for noon at sunset. Especially in view of the fact that our actions and our behavior contain nothing that we should be ashamed about, and should therefore not arouse suspicion in others. We have always spoken the plain unvarnished truth, and avoided prevarication and deceit." It is clear that the presence in Lebanon of citizens who believe in this country, whose absolute allegiance to it is undoubted and undivided, who know their national duties and aims, and who pursue these aims honorably, is an asset , and constitutes a basis for their dealings with each other. Such qualities in the Lebanese citizen also forms a basis for their dealings with other countries, and with groups concerned by the Lebanese question. Such a desirable position would enable us, alone, to "save Philip Habib from the quagmire in which he has been wallowing for so long," said Bashir. "Indeed, said Bashir, it would also save Israel, Syria, Palestinians, the Lebanese Muslim, the Christians, and all those involved in this crisis from the pitfalls into which they have fallen. Only we can save ourselves and others from the quicksand's that engulf them here..."

Thus, it is true to say that many of Sheikh Bashir Gemayel's attitudes in domestic affairs can better be understood when correlated with some factors of foreign policy of which he was fully cognizant. But it would similarly be correct to say, by juxtaposition, that many of his attitudes in foreign policy were inspired by Lebanon's internal situation... for in this matter did Bashir elaborate his principles of foreign policy, to form an extension of domestic affairs and events occurring on the local scene. In this, he also contrived to defend his internal policy through his contacts abroad, and to put across the true picture of events in Lebanon. Bashir wanted Lebanon to remain united. But he realized that those who wanted to solve the Middle-East problem at the expense of Lebanon were doing their level best to partition it. So he fought partition by unification. In this connection, he expressed his views frankly, saying : "We are in a position today - and I say we, alone - to proclaim a separate State. This is a fond hope entertained by others, in order to justify their establishment of a 'settlement state' within our borders... but this hope has been dashed to the ground. We shall not make such a move, not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Bashir further realized that the provocation of sectarian strife could be one of the means  used by the enemy, in fact, the only means, to partition Lebanon by creating 'mini sectarian states' on part of its soil.

To forestall this, he called on all the Lebanese to ensure and safeguard the basic right to existence of every citizen on Lebanese soil, regardless of his denominational identity or creed.

And first and foremost, the right to exist means that no Lebanese should attack another Lebanese just because he belongs to a different religion than his own. Expressing this principle in clear terms, Bashir said : "Lebanon belongs to the Muslims and to the Christians equally, but within the framework of the Constitution, and this should prevent the recurrence of sectarian massacres such as those we have already endured."

Expounding his views on Lebanon's internal problems, on the basis of the above principle, Bashir added a brief review of the situation of religious minorities in other countries surrounding Lebanon : "Whenever the Copts are persecuted in Egypt, the Shi'ites in Iraq, the Sunnites in Iran, and the Christians generally in the Orient, we can say that the model Lebanese formula has failed in those countries."

In this context, Bashir's logic rested on the following considerations : Firstly : There exists a problem in the Middle-East, which is the Palestinian question. In the opinion of some people, the solution to this questions lies in the partition of Lebanon.

Secondly : According to others, the partition of Lebanon cannot be achieved unless this country is disintegrated into small ethnical and sectarian entities.

Thirdly : According to Sheikh Bashir, the only effective means of countering the nefarious aims of the others, is to eradicate religious persecution in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Fourthly : The salvation of Lebanon and the preservation of its unity can only be achieved by separating the Lebanese question from the Palestinian problem, and by giving it the highest priority on the agenda of all the problems of the Middle-East.

This standpoint was proclaimed to a vast local and international audience at a Conference held in Beit-Mery on April 2, 1982. The International Conference for Solidarity with Lebanon.

At this conference, Bashir assured his guests that peace and security in the Middle-East could only start from Lebanon, by dissociating the Lebanese question from the Palestinian problem in particular, and the Middle-East problem in general.       

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