The Cabinet of Indecency on the Day of Lebanese Fires

Hazem El Amin
Lebanese Writer and Journalist

Looking at what is happening in Lebanon, with the influx of Aounists onto the stage, one gets a sense not so much of an imminent collapse as an unavoidable ending.

The end of Lebanon as a state,  and its factions, and the last threads binding its people together. During the past 24 hours, the statements of leaders of the so-called “Strong Era” astonish and boggle the brain. The day started with the Aounist minister Fady Jreissati, scolding the Lebanese for not sorting out recyclables at home, “I don’t want to hear your voices,” he said, although separating plastic and paper at home is useless, since it all gets mixed again in landfills. 

MP Paula Yaacoubian

As the day went on, the fires were eating up what is left of our forests, amidst the “strong era’s” inability to extinguish them. Instead, Aounist lawmaker Mario Aoun decides to throw in a shattering question: “Why is the fire burning only in Christian forests?” The Lebanese spent the rest of the day pondering that question. Who is he accusing? Are Muslims setting Christians’ forests on fire? Maybe.

But our bewilderment over that accusation gave way to yet another Aounist scene, with the minister of immigrants Ghassan Atallah appearing on a TV show spewing hate at representative Paula Yacoubian. How easy it is to silence a woman. Just mention “her honor!” The Aounist minister did so in the presence of all the Lebanese, including his own wife and his President’s wife and daughters. This is how we treat women here. They are to be silenced. Of course, Yacoubian did not remain quiet. But Attalah’s behavior came to crown a long “Aounist” day and represented the epitome of the Movement’s escalating rhetoric. We returned home that day having almost forgotten the great economic collapse awaiting us, in this “strong Lebanon,” with its “strong era” and “strong president,” whose three daughters have, like every other Lebanese woman, been insulted by this minister, who is still in his position as of these lines.  

Tuesday was an Aounist day par excellence, but this time its happenings came to crown a recently accelerating series of events that saw us Lebanese on the verge of an economic and financial collapse, with looming international sanctions threatening our currency, banks and savings, while Gebran Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (the Aounists,) minister of foreign affairs and son-in-law of the president, carried the files of our crisis into a meeting with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, that lasted seven hours. The Aounists’ decision to discuss the sanctions with the very party whose presence among us brought those sanctions on us, sends a clear message to the world on where we stand regarding those sanctions, and our plans to try to avoid them!

But enough with sarcasm. Let us put things back in context. For there is another context to the meeting with Nasrallah, despite the statements issued afterwards that said it tackled the budget, corruption, and the economic situation. The meeting comes at a time when the Movement needs a new heir. Bassil entered the meeting in possession of all the credentials he needs to be made into his father-in-law’s successor. Whatever other consequence the meeting may have doesn’t matter so long as Bassil wants to be president. Never mind that the meeting was a message, sent by Lebanon to the whole world, saying that we are in Hezbollah’s custody and that, when it comes to sanctions, the distinction between the government and the party is meaningless. Here is our whole nation placing its budget, economy and finances in the hands of the leader of Hezbollah. 

The Movement had tried it before and succeeded. It had placed itself and its Christian constituencies in the custody of the Secretary General. As a result, Lebanon crumbled, but Aounists got the presidency. Today, Gebran is doing the same thing. He went and publicly discussed the economy with Hezbollah’s leader, at a moment when the country is being closely monitored by entities threatening it with sanctions. But none of this matters so long as the young politician wants to inherit the power, a goal that he would probably achieve. For Bassil knows quite well that Hezbollah needs the economy card. To the party, sanctions are but means to bring into the open a proclaimed solidarity with Syria, Iraq and Iran.  

President Gebran Bassil’s ministers would be those selfsame who believe Muslims are burning their forests and a woman like Paula Yacoubian would yield to attacks on her “honor.” With men like these, Lebanon will soar high! Its economy would be controlled by Hezbollah. The nation will draw its values ​​and morals from Aounists. Their ministers will open our days with a passing scandal, like the one caused by the Chouf representative who blamed the fire on Muslims. And it will close with a shameful ethical fall that would cease to be so since it will be part of the state’s discourse and the president’s speech. 

Hezbollah snorts indifferently at his ally’s fall. The party got what it wanted. Its representatives will be distributed across the parliament’s blocs. Sure, they will act surprised at the “allies’” indecency, but “our hands are tied,” they will tell their colleagues. 

In the meanwhile, the “strong state” declares that the exchange rate remains fixed at 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar. But in the market, the Lebanese are buying the dollar for 1,700 … Lebanese pounds.

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