Monday, July 6, 2020

"The reluctance shown by Paris is surprising"

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"Today, Lebanon is a bankrupt country which does not even have any more dollars to import, inter alia, medicines" (demonstrations in Beirut, December 15). ANWAR AMRO / AFP

Tribune. The popular mobilization that has been gathering hundreds of thousands of people in Lebanon on the streets for weeks is of unprecedented political importance. You have to understand its meaning: it is the radical questioning of a completely sclerotic community system that has been suffocating the country and its people for decades. Is this not a great opportunity for France to rethink its policy vis-à-vis the Middle East and bring a voice in line with the demands of the demonstrators?

The reserve, even the reluctance, which Paris shows in the face of these major events is surprising: the words most used in the Lebanese and also Iraqi streets are "Secular state" and "End of communitarianism", however, France keeps talking about secularism and defending its principles. Today it has a historic opportunity to support them in the Middle East, not because we like the idea but because it comes from people who have suffered too much from a community system that we have supported for so long.

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The implicit support that the French government still gives to Saad Hariri has been interpreted in the country as reaffirmed support for this resigning prime minister when he is rejected by the demonstrators, as is the entire political class.

Out of breath system

Instead of clinging to this old worn-out, out of breath system, which has demonstrated its dramatic inability to manage the country and above all whose populations no longer want, that France seizes this moment to match its principles and its policy and that it accompanies the demands of young people who express themselves in the street. This implies that it redefine its strategy by making choices and assuming them. Especially since Lebanon can be a gateway for other countries in the region: Palestine, Iraq, Syria.

If we do not help the emergence of a citizen and secular state, alone able to allow the emergence of strong public policies, those who can afford it will continue to leave

Western countries like the image of Lebanon, long called "Switzerland of the Middle East", the country where communities live together, without asking the question of the price to be paid for it. It is true that Christians are particularly affected in the region: how many are left in Iraq, Palestine or Syria? In Lebanon, they are afraid of the future. But the way in which France puts forward its role of protector of the Christians of the East carries the risk of stigmatizing them in the eyes of other communities instead of considering them as citizens in the same way as the Sunnites, the Shiites, the Druze … Only a state above communities will be able to protect all of its citizens.

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