Hazem Saghiyeh

What is permissible and what is not

The Lebanese authorities and government are entitled to justify their “neutral” stance on the Syrian crisis by invoking Lebanon’s traditional nature and the current nature of divisions in it. Indeed, the country cannot afford getting involved in an extraterritorial conflict in its immediate neighborhood. Furthermore, the Lebanese are equally split between those who support the Syrian uprising and those who support the Syrian regime. Since this division has taken place alongside sectarian ones, one may say that any conclusive stances—be they about support or opposition—threaten to undermine the country’s balance. This holds even more true knowing that pro-Syrian Hezbollah’s strength is way greater than that of the state and its army.

Regardless of one’s stance vis-à-vis the Lebanese authorities, one must say that based on the aforementioned considerations, some circles of power are keen to abide by neutrality. This explains why March 14 and March 8 hardliners, including those represented in the cabinet, are both displeased with President Michel Sleiman and PM Najib Mikati.

The above words represent an attempt at being objective, even as they contravene with the political convictions of the author of these line. They also contravene with what ethics dictate regarding a repressive regime that is indulging in bloodshed in Homs and calls for worldwide condemnation and boycott.

Yet in order for this “neutral” stance to be honest, balanced and somewhat respectable, it should coincide with constant principles pertaining to national sovereignty and international humanitarian laws and customs.

This brings up four important headlines:

First, Syrians fleeing their country should not be handed back to the Syrian regime, which is known for its oppressive character.

Second, no kidnappings—be they of Syrian or non-Syrian nationals—should be allowed to be perpetrated by any party whatsoever.

Third, it is absolutely necessary not to gloss over the Syrian troops’ violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and borders under the pretext of going after suspects.

Fourth, it is necessary to provide all popular and peaceful activities in support of the Syrian uprising with protection. Of course, the same holds true for peaceful activities in support of the Syrian regime… even though they do not need any official protection.

Actually sticking to these headlines makes the policy of “keeping away” from the Syrian crisis becomes more acceptable and coherent. It also lays the foundations of traditions previously unheard of in Lebanon, traditions that are easier to establish given the current weakness of the Syrian regime so that they become, in the future, an acquired benefit for any Lebanese authority regardless of its political affiliations. The current official manner of dealing with the Syrian uprising since it started last March is, however, something else entirely.

This article is a translation of the original, which appeared on the NOW Arabic site on Monday February 6, 2012