Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pot Pourri

Syria has withdrawn its troops from Lebanon, but its influence has remained constant. Nothing really important takes place without Syrian approval expressed through its subservient Lebanese allies. That President Lahoud retains his seat as President of Lebanon, despite an overwhelming majority of Lebanese Deputies, politicians and citizens who want nothing more than to get rid of him and of the Syrian presence which he symbolizes, is but an example of Syrian omnipotence.

Lebanon is a unique and strange country, where the President of the Republic, not the Prime Minister, goes to Sharm-El-Sheikh to attend a regional economic conference. The Prime Minister follows two days later to deliver a lecture. Nothing can be more ludicrous. They both return to Lebanon, in different planes.

We have said it before that Lebanon never existed as a nation within its current frontiers. It was concocted in 1920 by General Gouraud, the first French High Commissioner under the League of Nations Mandate. That parts of the province of Syria were added to this new Lebanon, has always rankled and continues to rankle with our Syrian neighbour. By 1943, the French had been pushed out of Lebanon by British forces. The Commanding Officer, General Spears became the virtual ruler of Lebanon. And thus a new country with eighteen different religious minorities came into being, of which the Maronite Christians were the largest of the different minorities. Since then the situation has changed. The Shii Moslems are now the largest single minority, and probably they constitute a majority of the total Lebanese population. The birth rate among Shii Moslems is beyond belief. A family of twelve children is not the exception. The other communities, with a higher standard of living are less prolific. Not to be totally overwhelmed, the Sunni Moslems have allied themselves with the Christians to maintain parity with the Shiis. This delicate balance is very fragile and tends to fracture under pressure. To add to this pot pourri, we have the Palestinian refugees, some four hundred thousand strong. Their camps, fully armed, constitute a state within a state.

Everyone talks of the sacred right of return to their former home. While we fully endorse this sacred right, the question remains, how do we translate this right into a practical and feasible plan of action. In 1948, when the Palestinians were forced out of their country by superior Jewish military forces, the Jews in Palestine numbered some eight hundred thousand. They are now five million, in addition to some one million two hundred thousand Israeli Palestinians. The Gaza strip is probably the most over crowded bit of territory in the world. It can hardly absorb the natural demographic increase of its own population. The rest of Palestine has become Israel with bits and pieces of occupied territory in the West Bank. Consequently the only means for the Palestinian Diaspora to return is by ousting the Jews from Israel. We do not see this happening within the foreseeable future. It might be argued that the Jews waited two thousand years before Balfour's Declaration of 1917 allowed them to return.

The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will continue to grow in numbers, and will sooner or later destroy the pattern of peaceful co-existence which has so far prevailed. It is imperative for the Lebanese Government to take the necessary measures to allow the Palestinians to lead a dignified way of life, if Lebanese society as a whole is not to disintegrate into so many confessions and communities.

There is no hope that the United States will exert in the near future sufficient pressure on Israel to resume serious negotiations with the Palestinians, be it the PLO or HAMAS. That the American Senate and House of Representatives should give eighteen standing ovations to Israel's Prime Minister Olmert is proof enough that the Palestinians are a negligible quantity and can be obliterated through hunger, as a result of the Blockade which President Bush, one of history’s assassins, has imposed without any qualms.

Bush has the arrogance and effrontery to stand before the world and talk of human rights. His simian looks can only indicate simian origins.

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