Perspectives on Lebanon, (2 October 1976) New York, NY

Speech Text

Mr. Chairman and my dear friends:

[1] We are meeting, this year, at the AAUG Convention at a moment of great tragedy to my small country and at a moment of great disarray in the Arab world. This is therefore, as Senator [indistinguishable] the best way of communicating [with] the Arabs is to tell the truth. Tonight, my friends, must be a moment of truth. What we have been witnessing in Lebanon for the last 18 months is not only the bleeding of Lebanese and Palestinian blood; it is the hemorrhage of Arab credibility. What we have been witnessing in Lebanon and experiencing is not only that the sectarian and vertical structure of Lebanon that has perpetuated our communal and traditional and feudal and obsolete and senile elites, intended to transform Lebanon into a republic of petty kingdoms, where each acts as petty a sovereign competing for small gains disrupting the country into a pathetic disintegration, where accountability ceases to function and everybody acts, in the elites, rampant with the destiny of the people. We are not only witnessing the outcome that when there is no accountability all forms of government cease to function, there is no separation of power except in name. There is no division of authority except in theory. In function, all has become in the hands of a small elite, governing the destiny of our country and transforming it into the volatile situation which breaks under the severest of challenges.

[2] Thousands and thousands and thousands of people have been killed in the ugliest and the most dirty of wars. Communalism has reached its rampant expression, attempts to divide the country along religious lines, has been one of the most shameful episodes of the Arab nation as a whole. The Maronites to which I happen to belong is group of dedicated and pioneering people. They have been at the conscience of Arab awakening. We constitute our heritage by people like Amina Rehani and Chiblish Mayim and—yes—Abu Shabaki and not by those who try to sell the Maronites as a form of the antithesis of the Palestinian and the Lebanese [indistinguishable].

[3] It is high time that we discover the truth, we discover the authenticity of our contribution. We realize that these identity cases are a diversity in unity, which we seek to enrich. We can be proud of our religious or even tribal affiliation. But when they become the exclusive criteria of divisiveness and fissiparousness in our society, then we are playing into the hands of those who seek to destroy Lebanon and destroy the Palestinians and destroy the Arabs. Let there be no mistake: that when one of these links is destroyed, all is destroyed. Our destiny is united. There are elements who are trying to play havoc with the unity of the Lebanese people because through the breakdown of Lebanon, what is being broken down is a series of humanistic values. Therefore, we in Lebanon must realize for the last many years the equation, the formula of the communal vertical structure, has been giving way to the new, organic, youthful, assertive, dynamic, secular, national forces. It is these forces which have found in the Palestinian revolution an echo of their own yearning, an expression of their own authenticity. The Palestinian revolution when it asserts the democratic secular content of the Palestinian state, when it seeks to liberate the Palestinians, it is also liberating the very enemies of the Palestinians from the shackles of Zionism; by the same token when we assert the secular content of Lebanese society, when we assert the affirmation of our commitment to the objectives of the Palestinian revolution we are liberating Lebanon from the communal feudal structure that has been [indistinguishable].

[4] Therefore, we are in this moment absolutely needful of our awareness of the big lie, the big repeated lie. That’s what it is. This is no conflict between Christians and Muslims. This is a conflict between the insurrectionist fighters who are trying to suppress and terrorize and brutalize the Lebanese people. We will not confront brutality with brutality. We will not echo the sinister notions of narrow-mindedness, of restrictiveness of theocratic constraints, by equally responding and mirroring their images. We will answer theocratic fanaticism with the assertion of our secularism. We will answer their campaign of hate with our humanism. We will not allow them to institutionalize violence in our midst. We shall fight them in order to break down their violent commitment.

[5] It has been said and repeated often that much of the problems in Lebanon is due to the presence of the Palestinians in our midst. Let me say: much of the problems of Lebanon—which has led to the explosion—is that the ruling elite of Lebanon has never conceived of its duty to the entirety of Lebanon. That is why we continue to debate whether Lebanon is a confrontation state or not. The state in its doctrine has plighted itself. That weakness of Lebanon is its strength. We have elevated submissiveness into a doctrine of power. We have therefore paralyzed our army. Instead of contributing to the defense of our southern borders against Israelis’ repeated aggression, in order to make our army an instrument of political narrow-mindedness, and therefore we transformed our army from the national institution that it should be into a partisanship and an instrument of an obsolete presidency.

[6] Therefore when the attacks on the south were repeated continuously, the people of the south, unarmed, incapable of resisting the onslaught of the aggression of Israel—on the south, of Israel. We therefore found that nearly 300,000 of the Lebanese population from the south moved into the surrounding parts of Beirut. And therefore constituting the cannon fodder by which the new capitalist industrial class sought to exploit instead of seeking to resolve their problems. Then, these few pockets of affluence in the traditional Beirut was coexisting amidst an ocean of misery, yet the ruling elite was indifferent and oblivious to the yearnings of these new emerging causes. We in Lebanon consider the south as part of Lebanon! The ruling elite never conceived of Lebanon, of the south of Lebanon, as an integral part of Lebanon. Therefore, instead of contributing to the defense, we allowed Israel to play havoc, and to mutilate the sovereignty of Lebanon. Sovereignty was perceived by the ruling elites—exclusively—as the sovereignty of the petty kingdoms within the republic. We, the people of Lebanon, perceived of sovereignty as the exercise of the fullness of Lebanon in our confrontation with Zionism. That is the basic difference, and that is the fundamental conflict.

[7] Yet, all this [indistinguishable] economic dislocation, all the institutional weaknesses, all the affirmation of our dislocations, all these tended to render our situation vulnerable for the explosion, but this does not excuse the extent of the violence nor the duration of this petty war. And it is in this light that the intrinsic weaknesses of the Lebanese system was read properly by the enemies of Lebanon, by the enemies of the Palestinians, by the enemies of the Arab nation. They found that this institutional weakness within the Lebanese society, this republic of petty kingdoms, and become the arena of the conflicts within the Arab world and by which the enemies of the Arabs can settle their accounts in this vulnerable area called Lebanon. Hence the compounding effect of the treachery.

[8] This is where we are today. Disarray of the Arab states contributing to the complication, the expansion of the violence, the looseness by which it is treated, the indifference that we have found, we have seen how, Tel al-Zaatar the Palestinians and the Lebanese, who fought in Tel al-Zaatar 53 days, not a single demonstration throughout the Arab world emerged—not because the Arab people did not want to solidarize with the people of Lebanon and the people of Palestine—but because they were not informed about the truth of the challenge, because of the coercive nature by which the autocratic regime suppress the freedom of information and democratic rights throughout most of the Arab nation.

[9] Therefore, this suppression of the democratic rights became another venue by which the Arab people were immobilized. Utilizing their prowess in order to act as the leverage which would constrain all the attempts at the destruction of Lebanon and the [indistinguishable] nation of the Palestinian revolution. And then, where did it start? And how come it has continued? And today the Arabs, the Arab people, have to witness the new tragedy that if there is to be a settlement of our internal Lebanese problems, we have to address ourselves to Paris, where a settlement might emerge, because we have declared our Arab bankruptcy. Therefore, we must ascertain—tonight—and every night, if the Arab people, the Arab nation, despite all the evidence to the contrary, is not bankrupt and its resilience will reemerge and assert itself.

[10] Where did it start? Has it started by the recent military attacks on an escalating level from that country which to every Arab is the anchor of Arab nationalism, which has been the spearhead, the Palestinian revolution? People everywhere are traumatized by witnessing the latest armaments, harnessed not to recover occupied territories by Israel, but harnessed to disseminate the Palestinians and divide the Arabs. We cannot allow future generations of our people to have this ugly chapter of our history expand beyond our reasonable [indistinguishable]. It is necessary that we try to close this chapter as soon as possible, because as I said, what is taking place is not the erosion of the Arab unity but the destruction of the credibility of the Arab nation. When a nation begins to lose its credibility, not only to the world, but towards itself, then it is on the brink of a new era: either a new era whereby we resign from being Arabs, or we revolutionize the Arab nation so that all that has contributed to its breakdown, breaks away in the face of an emerging Arab people. This is the question, and this is the issue, and we are today on the precipice.

[11] What has happened? We have witnessed how this breakdown and the disjoining of the Arabs has taken place. We witness today, how the whole impact of the looseness of Arab relations amongst themselves is affecting and feeding the hemorrhage in Lebanon. We have seen how Arab states go so called progressive and conservative give priority to the so-called requirements of their individual countries’ development, over the prerequisites of Arab national mobilization. We have seen how each country on its own, as a consequence of the master plan whereby we were disjointed on the anticipated false promises that the step-by-step diplomacy has enumerated, came and responded. We are being told and we are believers—that the imperialist conspiracy has sought to bring about this disjoining among the Arabs, insulating us from each other, breaking us from each other, making us put forward the priorities of our narrow parochial interests over the interests of the national mobilization not only of our efforts and of our people, also of our potential wealth—we have seen all that taking precedence, and yet that is not only an imperialist Zionist conspiracy! What is more damaging is not the fact that our enemies plan—it is that we fall into the trap.

[12] The Israelis and the imperialists will continue to plan. We must develop an immunity. And this immunity means that we have to revolutionize our perceptions and our attitudes. We can no longer allow the concentrations of wealth to perpetuate an economic hierarchy throughout the Arab nation. We must allow and enable the oil within the Arab states to be at the service of the Arab people. We cannot allow to have an excessive investment of nearly 10 billion dollars of Arab money in the United States and Western Europe when the concentrations of Arab populations have to go begging around for a few hundred million dollars. It is high time that we abandon the vertical bilateral relations that individual Arab states are having and begin to reassess our position and emerge into new inter-Arab relations. What is the most embarrassing thing today is that the obvious has become problematic. All these are problems that have come in the wake of our response to the so-called American initiative, the step-by-step diplomacy which did not only lead to a very limited disengagement, but it has disengaged the Arabs amongst themselves. What is our task, and what the unity of the Lebanese and the Palestinian people have shown, is that we are the nucleus of the reengagement of the Arab people amongst themselves.

[13] And at this juncture, when our Lebanese people, our Palestinian comrades, who have sought to avoid the battles that have been imposed upon them—deliberately, consistently, and at the expense of the erosion of their own positions—because in our basic national consciousness we realize that our enemy is Zionism and imperialism, while those who are striking at the roots of the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese national conscience were on the basic premise that the basic enemy is that the Arabs are the enemies of themselves. We cannot allow ourselves to be pawns by our death wish; we have a commitment to life. And at this particular juncture in our marked history, the Arabs must know that we cannot continue along the marginality and the indifference shown to the tragedy of Lebanon. We must examine how is it possible that 18 months of mis-ceasing war in Lebanon, of what is considered the most vital constituency for the whole Arab nation—namely the Palestinian constituency—that what is taking place in Lebanon today is, in a way, equal to the establishment of the Zionist state and in many other ways more damaging because Zionism was inflicted from the outside. What is taking place in Lebanon is broadly inflicted from within.

[14] You in the AAUG are a symbol, an expression of the cross-fertilization of ideas. You come from all the Arab countries. You blend, you merge, you are a national expression of what is natural. Yet, your corrective role is to prove the artificiality of what is going on today, to throw your weight for the beauty of Lebanon along secular lines or the notion that the commitment to the Palestinian revolution to maintain its independence, its independent will, not because the Palestinians are entitled to any kind of Palestinian parochialism, but because the maintenance of the Palestinian independent will is the precursor of Arab unity. This is the challenge. This is the tragedy. Shall we become addicted? And therefore disenfranchised? Or shall we reengage, and participate? Lebanon is the test. We are at the crossroads: either total disintegration or the revolutionary reintegration. Thank you very much.