FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where Justice Seems Very Far Away

The summer break is officially over in Lebanon. At about 5pm yesterday, a roughly 40 kg bomb placed in a Mercedes was detonated in a bustling part of Sin el-Fil district of Beirut. The immediate target was member of Parliament (MP) Antoine Ghanim of the right-wing Phalange party and pro-government March 14 coalition, the fourth MP to be assassinated since former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s murder in March 2005 split the country and paralyzed the state.

Six other civilians were killed and over 50 wounded in the blast, with the vast majority of Lebanese both apprehensive and disgusted with a political class that has failed them politically, socially, economically, and security-wise.

The real target of yesterday’s assassination, however, was the apparently not-far-off consensus among key government and opposition players seeking to resolve the crisis enveloping the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for next week. March 14 currently holds a slim (though disputed) Parliamentary majority-now, tragically, made even slimmer-and has hinted that it could break from the traditional constitutional interpretation and elect a president by a simple majority rather than the customary two-thirds required quorum. This has infuriated opposition figures who consider the current pro-US government of Fouad Siniora to be illegitimate and supportive of US-Israeli desires to disarm the resistance.

Following several months of futile negotiations and bitter recriminations from both sides, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri recently launched a last-ditch compromise initiative which was widely seen to have achieved a break through. As former President Amin Gemeyal correctly noted: “This is how Lebanese politics work. At the last quarter-hour, everybody realizes that the bargaining time is up, and they would put all the papers on the table and agree on a compromise that would save the country. The alternative is disastrous.”

Berri’s compromise requires the opposition–which includes Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement lead by General Michel Aoun, the most popular Christian leader in Lebanon–to participate in a Parliament session on 25 September to elect a new President in return for explicit recognition by March 14 that a two-thirds parliamentary majority is indeed required for the election as per the Lebanese Constitution. After this, a national unity government would be appointed.

After receiving the blessing by the leader of March 14 coalition, Saad Hariri, Speaker Berri was due to meet with the Maronite (Christian) Patriarch, who serves as a power broker among the competing presidential candidates (who must be Maronite Christian according to Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement). Such a meeting, if successful, could have paved the way for a consensus Presidential candidate and, just maybe, the beginning of a wider resolution of the Lebanese crisis that has deepened since Israel’s bloody invasion of Lebanon last summer.

This week’s car bomb, then, must be read against this context. While we will never know who actually masterminded this murder-such cases stretching back many years have never been solved by Lebanese investigators, usually for political reasons-it did not take long for accusations to be bandied about.

Live on TV, several MPs and officials from March 14 stated clearly that “everyone” knows who is behind not only this heinous murder, but all the others of the past two and a half years: Syria. Saad Hariri even, bizarrely, accused Syria of assassinating Ghanim in retaliation for Israel’s recent aerial strike in Syrian territory. Some March 14 politicians also seized the opportunity to openly accuse any opposition MP who does not attend the 25 September parliamentary session of treason, and thus indirectly of being complicit with Ghanim’s assassination.

Lebanese opposition figures and Syrian spokesmen, who had all unequivocally condemned yesterday’s terrorist act, angrily rejected such logic and accused anyone who took advantage of this tragedy for political gains of fomenting discord and serving “foreign” interests. For them, these attacks on March 14 MPs always come conveniently whenever the momentum seems to be swinging away from US and Israeli interests and towards internal consensus.

It is too early to tell what the precise fall out from this latest murder will be. Alas, genuine statesmen capable of rising above petty interests are in short supply here, and Lebanese will now expect more assassinations as Lebanon head towards a worst case scenario, namely the formation of two governments (in case no consensus is reached before the current President’s term expires on 24 November) and the effective partition of the country, not to mention state institutions. If this is allowed to happen, the future could be grim indeed.

Yesterday’s events cannot be taken out of the larger regional context. Just as prospects for Lebanon’s unity was taking a beating-and Iraq continues its violent spiral towards partition-Palestine was being further divided with Israel officially declaring Gaza, now a huge prison with 1.5 million people living in atrocious conditions, a “hostile territory” (with American blessing). Leaving aside the obvious legal and humanitarian considerations of such a provocative move by Israel, as noted by the UN Secretary General, it is clear that the Arab region is undergoing yet another round of internationally-sponsored violence and perhaps even partition, redrawing the regional map along the line fantasized by some neocons. The objective of such policy is to establish a string of “pro-US” (and neoliberal) regimes across the region and punish the “bad guys,” those state (e.g., Iran, Syria) or non-state (e.g., Hizbullah, Hamas) actors who reject Pax Americana and Israeli regional hegemony.

It is customary to end such an article with a plea to sane people everywhere to ensure that just settlements are reached in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. However, my feeling today is that we have only just begun a particularly violent stage of our history here, and lasting settlements–let alone justice–seems very far away indeed.

KARIM MAKDISI is an Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Dept. of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut. He can be reached at: makdisi007@yahoo.com

 

More articles by:

Karim Makdisi teaches Political Studies at the American University of Beirut and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs. Makidis is a co-editor of two forthcoming volumes – Land of Blue Helmets: the United Nations in the Arab World, co-edited with Vijay Prashad (University of California Press) and Interventions in Conflict: International Peacekeeping in the Middle East, co-edited with Rami Khouri and Martin Waehlisch (Palgrave-Macmillan).

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail