Is the international community all that could save Lebanon?
Human rights being put aside for the gain of a corrupt government and a terrorist militia. Can international pressure be the answer?
On the 4th of August 2020, Beirut witnessed a horrendous blast — the worst in the country’s history. 180 people died, 4000 were injured and 300,000 people were estimated homeless. Beirut looked like a war zone. In the absence of a functioning political class, Lebanese citizens upheld the values of fraternity and worked to rebuild their capital city indipendently. While some were laying the dead to rest, others volunteered to clear the shattered glass and rubble. The Lebanese government has been absent in the rehabilitation and rebuilding process.
In most countries, self-respecting politicians would visit the people on the ground, console survivors, and offer financial and material help; yet Lebanon is with a nonchalant and indifferent political elite who only care about lining their pockets with both the money of the people and the financial aid of the international community. The Lebanese have only themselves to count on. The 4th of August 2020 is a day to remember: when this greed and selfishness came to a test. Most of Lebanon’s politicians knew of the 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of Beirut. Yet, politicians chose to ignore this. In the aftermath, warlords-turned-politicians were unable to sympathize with the people. They could not even fake it.
In the absence of a self-respecting government, the international community stepped up its game to send money, food, medical supplies, doctors and nurses, firefighters and search teams to Lebanon. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, was the first to visit the blast site and speak to survivors. In fact, an online campaign which sought to place Lebanon under French Mandate for the next 10 years generated over 60,000 signatures. This shows the despair of the Lebanese people. Then came Charles Michel, President of the European Council and David Hale, the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, both of whom visited Beirut and offered support.
Pressure from the international community, through the leverage of international aid and the implementation of sanctions, would allow this Lebanese dream become a reality
Other high ranking political figures from around the world either visited Beirut or shared their grief and pledged to take part in the rebuilding of the city. With the help of the international community, Lebanon was able to raise 300 million USD but is still in need for more. Countries such as Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Brazil, Morocco, Poland, the Czech Republic, India, Bangladesh, Armenia and others have all sent aid to local non-governmental organizations rather than the government itself. Past experiences have proven that that aid going through the government will somehow find its way to politicians’ pockets and that of their partisans. Due to rampant corruption in the government, organizations such as the Lebanese Red Cross, Dafa Campaign, Arc-en-ciel, Rebuild Beirut, Lebanese Food Bank, Embrace, AGBU and Beit el Baraka took the initiative to receive the aid and distribute it amongst the survivors of the blast and those in need. The Lebanese people have been left dependent on help from abroad.
The strategy of bypassing the corrupt government might seem to be good for the country and its people, but let us not forget the awkward position the Lebanese government finds itself in and how embarrassing it must be for the political elite of the country. Even Gebran Bassil, probably one of the most hated Lebanese political figures, has reportedly hired a PR firm to clear his image. The international community must decide whether it considers this government as legitimate, since the uncertainty is detrimental for the Lebanese and unfair to donors. The international aid being sent to the country could be used as leverage to help implement the wishes of the people and exert pressure to establish a new transitional technocratic government and set a date for early legislative elections. All of this must accompany the disarmament of Hizbollah, a notorious terrorist group funded by Iran, which has established both direct and indirect control of the country. International sanctions on Hizbollah leaders, their Lebanese allies and Iran, would — hopefully — contribute to their demise and help establish a safe, just and egalitarian society.
The Hizbollah-controlled government is culpable; they put their interests and politics before the human rights and safety of the Lebanese people. A civic and secular Lebanon for all its people regardless of religious affiliation is the only way forward. Pressure from the international community, through the leverage of international aid and the implementation of sanctions, would allow this Lebanese dream become a reality — one which is void of corrupt sectarian leaders and run by just and secular technocrats.