Lebanese Forces Discover Arabism

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Samir Geagea’s transformations in the last few months are an indicator of his ambition and intention to become president of Lebanon. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

By: Nader Fawz

Published Monday, April 2, 2012

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea seems uncharacteristically open to Muslim and Arabs in the region these days. Yesteryear’s bogeyman of pan-Arabism has become a mainstay in his political rhetoric.

On the 18th anniversary of the dissolution of their party, after their leader Samir Geagea was convicted of bombings and political assassinations in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Lebanese Forces (LF) are in a different place. Animosity toward Muslims and Arabs is no longer part of their rhetoric.

They listen attentively to a veiled Libyan woman recounting the tragedies of Bab al-Azizia, Tripoli, and the barren forest of Muammar Gaddafi’s Green Book.

They do not recoil when a young Egyptian man says “bismillah” (“in the name of God”) while telling tales about the revolution in the land of Egypt’s Arab nationalist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

They could have easily burst out chanting “Allah Akbar Fawqa Kayd al-Moatadi” (a popular Nasser-era song). Yesterday’s “bogeyman” is gone.

The leader of the LF is also elsewhere. His ambitions have grown from a Christian Republic in Mount Lebanon to the whole of the Republic of Lebanon.

Bigger still. He is now speaking to Christians throughout the region – in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Words such as “Arab” and “Arabic” are omnipresent in his oratory.

He seems convinced that Lebanon cannot be detached from its environment and that circumstances are the same “in Beirut, Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi, and Sanaa.” And now “Damascus get ready: every blood-stained hand knocks on the door of red freedom.”

Samir Geagea’s transformations in the last few months are an indicator of his ambition and intention to become president of Lebanon.

Geagea is now speaking about the Christians, their position in Lebanon, and its surroundings. He is stepping out of the box of “injustice against Christians” and opening up to Arab countries.

These impressions were shared by many who participated in the commemoration ceremony or watched it on TV. But Geagea’s Arab turn has its flaws: some are fundamental and recent, others date back to before the Arab Spring.

For example, who can forget his exceptional relationship with the regime of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak?

It is certain that Geagea kept this relationship alive until the whole regime of the National Democratic Party had fallen. He even visited Cairo during the revolution and met with then Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Therefore, there are several question marks about Geagea’s changing position toward the regime in Egypt. Today he insists that he supports the Arab Spring. But, even today, he pays no attention to what is happening in Bahrain.

Geagea – not unlike other March 14 officials and personalities – speaks about the events in Manama saying they are confessional above all. If he had added Bahrain to his commemoration speech, he would have struck two birds with one stone.

He could have mentioned Bahrain and suggested the need for a political initiative to solve the crisis. His justification could easily have been the protection of the Bahraini people, in addition to safeguarding the Arabian Gulf from Iranian influence.

He could have saved face in front of both his allies among the Arab regimes and the Arab masses who are demanding change.

It would have been an opportunity to pave the road for dialogue with the other confessional side that he considers responsible for the Bahraini mobilization.

In the commemoration, Geagea appeared powerful, sending messages to friends and foes alike. He entered the hall as never before. Behind him, his wife Strida scrambled to catch up.

He went through those in the front seats greeting them one by one. He hugged former president and Phalange leader Amin Gemayel, patted his son Sami on the shoulder, and gave his nephew Nadim a firm grip of the hand.

Future Bloc head Fouad Siniora was absent, although 12 of the party’s MPs attended. All of March 14 was present, its parliamentary blocs, former ministers, officials, and activists.

It seems the LF were intent to teach their allies a lesson in organizing celebrations. The auditorium was overflowing with people, all in neckties. March 14 had only managed to attract a few of them on its 7th anniversary this year.

Guests were ushered to diligently numbered chairs. A far cry from the chaos of February 14 and March 14. Here was an organized party running the show.

The LF outmaneuvered its March 14 allies once again and invited activists that participated in the Arab revolutions to their ceremony.

They had the courage to allow representatives of the Syrian revolution to speak, while March 14 ran away from the issue in their February 14 commemoration of Rafik Hariri’s assassination.

Then, March 14 had refused to invite a representative of the Syrian National Council under security pretexts. They also dismissed the idea of a recorded televised speech, so as not to compete with Saad Hariri’s screen presence and to prevent comparisons.

The LF broadcast a statement by a Christian woman activist in the opposition representing her community in Syria.

In turn, Geagea expressed his well-known opinion, accusing the Syrian regime of responsibility for the bloodshed and driving elements in the Syrian opposition into taking extremist positions.

“Nothing of what’s happening will benefit the regime – nor those who stand behind it or in front of it – except in increasing extremism,” Geagea said.

He called for “a true popular referendum sponsored by the Arab League and the Security Council on whether the regime should stay or leave.” Outside this democratic course, he said, there is nothing but “more blood, destruction, and death.”

He called on Syrian Christians to remain on their land, participate in the political process, be inclusive, and expand their alliances.

As for the Lebanese government, Geagea again appears more solid than his allies. He counted the mistakes made by the government in various fields and criticized its reforms.

“The only change they achieved was changing Charbel Nahas. He was the only minister with reformist ideas, although we disagree on most of them,” said Geagea.

Geagea’s appearance at the commemoration could have borne the title of “What’s Right is Right.” It is as if he was saying: I was shackled and ostracised, but now I am free to fight my political battles.

He summarized this by remembering that “in 1994, they disbanded the LF and in 2005 they dispersed from our land and skies.” He continued, “I am full of hope that in the near future they will get off the Syrians’ back, God willing.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

The LF is trying to present itself as a model to all christian parties or cummunities in the middle east, in both organization and stratgic positionning. LF realized that Lebanon is in the middle of the Arab world and there's no way it can gain credibility and strength without being involved in what's happening in the region.

I don't believe that Samir Geagea's main goal is to become president, it might just be a tool in order to strengthen the christians position in lebanon by having a president who has the support of his sect (at least half of it), support of muslims (mainly sunnis) and the support of most Arab countries.

Ideologically, the LF didn't change. Its main goal was and will always be to defend and preserve the christian presence in lebanon. The Arab Spring is an opportunity to position the LF and therefore the lebanese christians as true defenders of freedom regardless of political calculations (i.. fear of the muslim brotherhood and the salafist movements)

Samir Gaegae and his supporters will NEVER accept being Arabs - they should just move to France, their Mother Land!

What about the excellent relation of Tunisia's Dictator Ben Ali and Iran?????

no no no.... the lebanese forces are NOT embracing arabism.... it is the arabs who are embracing freedom, which is the ideology of the LF... unlike the baath and hezbollah whose ideology is about one man at the top who controls the whole country.

So you're saying the LF will never embrace Arabism? They're just freedom loving Phoenicians. Right?

I'm afraid you don't know the way logic works. Pan-Arabists aren't trying to seek Samir Gaegae's approval, it's the other way around.

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