I recently started reading a book by Rani Geha, which has the speeches late Lebanese president Bashir Gemayel between 1979 and 1982, titled: “Words from Bashir.”
With the little time I have with Med School and all, my advancement with the book has been rather slow. But it’s still an eye-opening experience to see such speeches on paper and how true they reflect on Lebanese society and politics today.
In February 1979 and in a speech in front of a crowd in Jal El Dib, the main points Bachir Gemayel made are as follows:
1) There is a need for a radical change to move the Lebanese state from one that is subservient to Syria and Palestine to one that only answers to its own people.
2) We need a Lebanon where the foreign ministry is the foreign ministry of Lebanon, not a spokesperson for Syria or Palestine or any other nation.
3) The institutions in Lebanon need to be the property of the Lebanese citizen.
4) Lebanon is too small to be divided: one part for the Syrians, one part for the Palestinians and one tiny part for the Lebanese.
5) Those who want to grant the Palestinians a country, let them grant that country from their own share not from Lebanon’s share.
6) Let the West appease the Arabs as long as the Arabs produce oil. The West is losing its values and, as such, we cannot rely on it for support anymore.
7) Syrian entities in Lebanese uniforms, using Lebanese weapons, are not to be accepted as part of the country we want to live in.
8) In 1958, the Arabs had Abdel Nasser. Today (1979) they have Hafez Al Assad. The school of thought shared by these two men can bring nothing but a catastrophe.
9) From 1943 to 1975, we were ruled by a school of thought that never believed Lebanon to have a cause or anything to fight for. We were governed by a school of thought that supposed we should unconditionally align ourselves with whichever Arab nation proved to be the strongest, in a way to keep our heads, while internally we were ruled by apparatuses and typewriters. We were ruled my moral submission.
10) Many Lebanese do not have the faith and self-confidence that they have can change things on the ground, creating a de-facto situation that many nations around the globe take use of.
The fact that these 10 points are still as true today as they were in 1979 is not a reflection on our society but it’s a reflection on our region. The school of thought shared by Abdel Nassar and Assad is still alive and kicking today, actively patroned by their descendants. We even have a statue for one of them on Beirut’s sea promenade. There is constant talk about nationalizing the Palestinians in Lebanon, giving them a piece of a country they are not entitled to. There is constant talk about taking out Syrian intelligence and arms from inside Lebanon.
And it all stays as such… talks. Why? Because at the end of the day, there’s simply so much that a Lebanese can do in going against the current of what the big nations want. But you know what, for what it’s worth, and looking at the circumstances we’re living in, we’re not doing very bad for ourselves.
Until then, long live the memory of a president whose words resonate true 33 years later.