Hazem Saghiyeh

Their problem or ours?

One would wish that Lycée Français schools would observe a minute of silence for fallen Lebanese or Palestinian children, or that they would explain to their students how Israel is benefiting from the crimes committed by Al-Qaeda.

However, the Lycée Français schools are not doing so because they are French public schools and this is not part of their functions. By saying “French public schools,” we refer essentially to two things: first, the central role of lay schools, according to France’s historical experience, in fusing the people and the nation; and second, the ties linking these schools to France’s domestic and foreign policy, regardless of what we may like or dislike in this policy.

The criminal act carried out by an Al-Qaeda operative led to the death of three children and French nationals. It took place on France’s territory and was – first and foremost – a French matter. Accordingly, it is not comparable, in the eyes of the French state, to similar crimes committed elsewhere against other victims.

This is all but natural. For instance, would it be conceivable for us in Lebanon to require students to observe a minute of silence for innocent victims in Chechnya, Washington or Mogadishu?

Had we done that, of course, we would have demonstrated an exceptionally noble stance. However, government matters are unfortunately not run this way.

This issue, which has taken a sharp aspect, is not the first of its kind. In reality, Lycée Français schools have long been criticized for “westernizing” Lebanese students and teaching them more about the history of France than about the history of Lebanon or the Arabs. While this may be true, it remains nonetheless our problem rather than that of the Lycée Français schools, which are clearly and unequivocally lay French public schools.

Why, for instance, do we not establish national schools similar to these, where students would observe a minute of silence for Lebanese and Palestinian victims and learn Lebanese and Arab history?

Cheap instigators have risen to complain about “Lebanese students observing a minute of silence for Jewish victims.” This manner of dealing with things is the same one that depleted both minds and consciences in this part of the world. Schools similar to the Lycée Français have already closed down in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and others. And who knows? Lycée Français schools might do the same in the future and save us from such a hefty concern!

This article is a translation from the original, which appeared on the NOW Arabic site on Monday March 26, 2012 .