Monday, July 23, 2007

Qartaba welcomes Amin Gemayel

After having the great event of our priest being ordained a Monseigneur, Qartaba was again bustling with activity to welcome Amin Gemayel to town. He came here to open a local center of the Kataeb party and was also invited to lunch by former MP Fares Soueid.

Now, this blog always prides itself in being independent and transparent. However, a small disclaimer is in order since Brigitte and I are good friends of the Soueids. As such, we were invited to his house for lunch and were given the honor to sit at a table next to Sheikh Amin's table, his son Samy and the other Gemayels. So much for being an independent blogger”, but hey, the food was great and the company even better:-)

Photo 1: The scouts of Qartaba are practising for receiving Sheikh Amin Gemayel

Photo 2: A huge turnout in Qartaba for the arrival of the former president of Lebanon

The Gemayel family is often called the Kennedy’s of Lebanon, meaning that death and murder are no stranger to the Gemayel’s. The latest murder was Pierre Gemayel, an up-and-coming politician who was killed only recently, most likely because he was seen as too threatening because of his rising star. In a very strange and bizarre way, perhaps the best way to look at this is to see it as a hell of a compliment.

His father has announced this weekend that he will run in the by-elections to succeed his son. Very sad to realize that time has been turned upside down.

According to an earlier rumor, the brother of Pierre, Sheikh Samy, was going to run, but his father has prevented this. Most people seemed to be strangely relieved at this news: if they kill Sheikh Amin, it’s better to have at least one son left alive. Imagine to be faced with such decisions…it would make most people drop out of politics as soon as they can.

The Gemayel’s, however, are stronger than most and here they were in Qartaba, fully supported by their wives and kids. Amin Gemayel gave an emotional speech in which he stressed that his candidacy is not by choice but the result of a brutal murder and that a father should never have to succeed his son.

After that, Fares Soueid also gave a speech and said that the by-elections are not for the Metn alone, but for all of Lebanon. It will be a chance to demonstrate that the Lebanese choose life over death, freedom over domination and independence over slavery.

Put like this, it might turn out to be a good thing for the Kataeb that Michel Aoun’s party is also running in the Metn. More and more, Aoun seems to be in self-destructing mode and he doesn’t shy away from low-blows and mud smearing campaign. For instance, his calling Amin Gemayel the ‘inheritor’ is insulting, especially since it was the killing of Amin’s son that forced him into running again.

Also, the fact alone that he is contesting a seat that became available through tragedy, is something new to the Lebanese political scene. Normally, these seats go uncontested, like what happened with the seat of Gebran Tueni.

Finally, many consider Aoun once again as a divider of the Christian community and for what purpose? So his party can win a seat in an election he considers illegal? Why would he want to participate in illegal activities?

Still, it will be interesting to see how the elections will go. Aoun is taking a big risk with this as he could easily lose with humiliating numbers. If that happens, this will reduce his chances for becoming president even further. He should have taken the high road and have not contested the Metn seat: out of respect for his opponents and to preserve the Christian community.


Nicolien said...

Hi Riemer,

Although I know how easy it is to start 'blog wars' - opinions being misunderstood for facts since anything typed hardly shows the nuance it deserves - I will still try to reply to your post with a few comments on your words.
Please don't get me wrong: I find your blog well-written and very interesting, but I have never thought it was 'objective': rather March 14 with the overview of an outsider. I notice this because most of your analyses go directly against those of many of my friends, who are March 8/objective (same story: outsiders but embedded within a certain social circle).

Anyway, this might make you think that I am with March 8 and therefore my comments are politically motivated (and maybe they are, unknowingly, as objectivism is so hard to attain), so let me stress first that I think Aoun is one of the wackiest politicians in this country who certainly should not get into the presidential seat. That said, I will write what made me reply to your post in the first place: your two last sentences, in combination with Gemayel's speech last night (I don't know if it was live, but I heard it on TV last night).

You write: Aoun should "not [have] contested the Metn seat: out of respect for his opponents and to preserve the Christian community."
It may be that until now, seats that became available because of tragedies have gone uncontested, yet that doesn't mean this strange, monarchic-like practice is the way to go. People might find it hypocritical of Aoun to run in these elections (them being 'illegal' or whatever he thinks about them), but if this country ever wants to become a functioning democracy, it will have to be so at every instance, also at its most contested (when the election follows the extremely undemocratic act of a political murder). (If people want to show their respect for the slain Gemayel, they can do so by voting for his dad in the elections, like what happened in Holland after Pim Fortuyn was shot.)
Yet what I find more worrying is that you say he should not contest the seat to 'preserve the Christian community'. I honestly do not see why a religious community should be artificially preserved as a political entity if this is against the wishes of the people. If they want to be united, they can all choose the same guy. It's similar to the problem I have with Gemayel's words yesterday: he said Aoun is going 'against his nature' by allying himself with Hezbollah (meaning the Shi'ite community). Religion is not something that is part of a person's nature, and it doesn't create 'natural' bonds between people that are then artificially severed by alliances based on political interests. Giving the people of the Christian community only one option (alliance with March 14) is pretending that they are a unified entity, all sharing the same interests. Aoun running in the elections does not create disunity (breaking up the Christian community), it only shows that they are not unified in the first place. (And, in my eyes, they can't be, simply because religion never will be enough of a shared interest to override political differences - but this is a whole different discussion).
Of course we are dealing with a country in which politics are divided by sect, and all this talk of democracy is highly utopia-tarian (is that even a word?), but no matter how hypocritical Aoun's alliances are, they scare me less than Gemayel's nearly-racist ideas of religion being part of a person's nature and therefore any political alliance not based on this is inherently doomed to fail. This is a very unfruitful message in a country where people are increasingly divided along religious lines, yet they will have to find a way to live together.

Anyway, I hope some of this makes sense to you, thank you for giving me a platform to reply... And maybe we can go for a drink sometime soon so we can talk about all this (and about how you and Brigitte and the little one(s) are doing)? :)

Hanna said...

Our current state is no longer viable:
we must remain true to our past and to the sacrifies of our martyrs who have battled and lost their lives in defense of freedom and peace in Lebanon.
The pluralism of our society is a gift, and history proved to us that no dominant culture can impose its orientations on the others...
In order to live in peace and prosperity, we have to build a State that protects its various cultural entities, organizing harmonious relation between them:
The solution is in a new constitution formula, that combines the divergent interests of each lebanese culture, in one unique, united and powerful state!
"7allna ntawwir el nizam"...samy gemayel we are all proud of you,lebanese kataeb party will reborn again, you are the new leader of the christians in Lebanon. The real lebanese State will be established correctly...we are counting on you!!!