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Domestic Affairs

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 the values which should constitute the starting point for all 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.

When Sheikh Bashir Gemayel, the lawyer, left his barrister’s office in Hamra street in April 1975, he had a feeling that he was to become the staunch pillar of a nation confronted with all sorts of challenges from without, and intolerable excesses committed by foreigners within its borders. But what Bashir was unaware of at the time, was that Fate had chosen him to become, one day, the leader of the Lebanese people in their long march throuthout the most critical crisis of their history.

 In fact, the lengthy war, on that tiny battleground assumed divers forms, and the burden fell on him, at every stage, to think, to take decisions, and to act on them. For he was the popular leader in whom all hopes had been placed, and dreams had been built on his own ambitions. But he was careful to ensure that every step taken should be effective and produce the desired result. It was therefore necessary for him to be thoroughly acquainted with all the constituent elements of Lebanon, whether social, economic political, or cultural ; he would have to study their nature, and analyze their content. Then, he would strive to correct their course, to amend their deficiencies, and eliminate their imperfections.... and these reforms would be applied as a cure for Lebanon’s numerous ills. Bashir’s task was by no means an easy one, particularly when one considers the confused and involved nature of the relations between the various Lebanese individuals and communities ever since the proclamation of the National Charter in 1943 (just after Independence). In fact, it was this same muddled confusion that ignited the first sparks of war, and threatened to obliterate the country’s entity. What Bashir had to tackle, in short, was a complex political, social and geographical jigsaw puzzle, under which a lighted fuse was burning... It was first of all necessary to identify the multifarious elements, to diagnose their ailments, to reject the rotten parts, and to strengthen the sound ones, developing them into useful and productive components of a diseased whole. Bashir further considered it necessary to propose a restructuration of the relations between the disparate elements of Lebanese society, based on the factorial appurtenance of its constituents. Briefly, a redistribution of the political cards, and a remodeling of the demographic blend that would endure the test of time and at worst, be crisis-proof.

 These new relations between the individuals and the collectivities forming the Lebanese nation should, in Bashir’s view, be clear in their characteristic traits, well-defined in their aims, unified in their affiliation, and capable of ensuring the success of the Lebanese wager and its perennity.

 In addition to the numerous answers furnished by the Resistance on various matters of the hour, Bashir was also called upon to provide answers to the most sensitive and delicate questions which troubled the minds of most people. A good many Lebanese were outspoken, and aired their anxiety openly : Was there really one single Lebanese society? What is the Christian Lebanese community? What is the Muslim Lebanese community? How should these two behave with each other? What is the role of the State and the individual in this context?

In the following lines, we shall strive to discover the elements that Bashir considered appropriate for Lebanese society, basing our study on his own statements and the positions he adopted since the outbreak of the war in 1975, and right until the summer of 1982, when hope was kindled a new in the hearts of the Lebanese people. A review of these attitudes provides us with a clear picture of this leader, whose task was not only to defend Lebanon’s dignity and honor, but went much farther, to the reconstruction of a new nation, a stronger nation with a greater capacity to resist perils and difficulties.

 

 
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