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Nothing seems able to end Lebanon’s social divisions and struggles

April 29, 2020 at 11:09 am

Medical personnel treating patients suffering from coronavirus (COVID-19), in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 7 April 2020 [JOSEPH EID/AFP/ Getty Images]

Nothing seems able to bring an end to Lebanon’s social divisions; neither financial nor economic collapse, not the coronavirus pandemic, and not even the enemy lurking at the border. In this, the Lebanese are just like the Palestinians. Moreover, their currency has lost nearly two-thirds of its value, causing many citizens to lose their income and standard of living.

None of that is important. What is important is that the governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salamé, who is affiliated with the opposition movement, remains in the position he has held since 1993. He is called upon now to demonstrate full disclosure and transparency; to speak to the people openly and honestly about the reasons for the economic collapse; and to provide accurate statements of what state finances have been spent and what have been diverted abroad.

He is also required to explain what was stolen from the state deposits which, by right, belong to the Lebanese people. According to ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri this is effectively a military coup, even though the governors of central banks around the world are — or should be — simply government employees, not heads of shadow or parallel regimes.

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The political class which the masses kicked out of power still prioritises its return at any cost, even if that cost is the pain and ruin of others. For such people at the top, ruin begins the minute that they lose power. They don’t really care that they had been in office for three decades but have no significant achievements to show for it; they have not even provided regular water or electricity supplies. Yet, they still view their ousting as a conspiracy and believe that their return would be the just and right thing for Lebanon.

The sectarian quota system has protected fools and thieves, and enshrined a pleasure-based relationship between capital, especially corrupt capital, and the political class, which is even more corrupt. Warlords and sectarian chieftains are in charge, interspersed with the heads of the security services.

As for those responsible for the country’s financial affairs, they are given all bids, monopolies and major projects. No one else is allowed to share the profit. They have stolen all that belongs to Lebanon, but display no shame in presenting themselves as symbols of salvation. They even claim that their symbolism goes beyond the geography of Lebanon and spreads across the region and the world.

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These people leave power only to come back to it. They can only leave their rich seats to their sons and daughters. Political feudalism allows the renewal of the political class only from within the same families. Nepotism is rife and has turned the country and the people into a state full of feudal cantons to be inherited from one generation to the next. As soon as there is a security shakeup, they rush to reset the borders of their fiefdoms.

Coronavirus spreading in the Middle East - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Coronavirus spreading in the Middle East – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Now it is not their internal wars alone that drive them to demarcate the boundaries of their sects and creeds. The Covid-19 pandemic made each look to their own safety, starting with themselves and their families. One of them covered the personnel in his motorcade of four-wheel drive vehicles and tinted windows with masks that were made especially for them. This shows how cowardly and villainous these people are; how they view themselves as superior and above all others, as if life begins with them and has no reason to go on without them.

READ: Lebanon: More than 300 people wounded in Beirut clashes

Even before the global recession, oil price collapse and coronavirus pandemic, Lebanon was in the midst of its own economic and financial crisis. The virus has worsened and complicated matters, with unemployment, poverty and hunger spreading across the country, encompassing more and more social classes along the way.

This, however, is also not important. What is important is for Hariri, Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geagea to return to government, and for Michel Aoun, Hassan Diab and Nabih Berri to get out of their plush offices.

Not all of those in power are thieves and demons, although most of them are. Not all of those who are not in power are angels and political seers, but a few of them are. Corruption affecting sects and creeds is also affecting state authority and the opposition, and so are sectarian quotas and political feudalism. In the end, poor people of all sects and creeds are paying the price, with no exception.

Translated from The New Khalij, 27 April 2020

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.